Adapting to the different life stages

Midlife brings many profound and complex changes that take time to come to terms with.



As a new parent, there is a big focus on the different stages of development. From the early days of night wakings [unless you’re very lucky] to teething to crawling and toddling, no sooner have you adapted to one stage than another comes along and you have to adapt all over again. And then there is the transition to school, from primary to secondary school and puberty.

That’s all about adapting to the changes the child is facing, but life generally is made up of a whole series of transitions.  There’s no doubt that having a baby is a huge one, but there are many others. Midlife is another time of enormous change, and not just hormonally.

Women in their 40s or 50s face a cocktail of all sorts of things which affect how they feel about themselves generally. There may be all sorts of things going on in their personal lives, from coping with older parents to dealing with ageing and what that means in a world that is ever more obsessed with youthful looks to the menopause or health issues, either their own or those of other family members.

But another big change is facing the prospect of your children growing up and becoming independent. Of course, there is a high likelihood that the kids, if they do move out, say, to go to university, will be back a few years later with big debts and no money to afford to live independently, but in the interim, there is a process of adjustment to go through, with the hope being that all the love and attention you have put into the last 18+ years will set them up for a life where uncertainty seems to be the norm.

Your whole life will be upended because so much of it, as a parent, revolves around your children’s wellbeing, including, for many, the way they work and the job they do. So many parents, particularly mothers, change their whole working lives around to accommodate children, getting a job nearer home, working different hours, setting up a business or all manner of other changes. It’s a time of a million questions about who you are, who you were and what comes next.

It is commonly referred to as empty nest syndrome, often dismissively, but it is real and it is a bigger deal than we perhaps recognise, especially when combined with all the other life changes going on. Even if only one child is leaving and you have others still at home, there will be a reconfiguration in the house. Different dynamics will come into play.

Time never stands still.  In a world that is driven by marketing and a focus on positivity, we are brought up to think of this as a mark of its preciousness, but really much of life is about coming to terms with a series of losses, albeit there are some gains along the way. Some losses can be a chance to do things differently. Others simply have to be endured somehow. Each needs to be fully acknowledged. We need time to take them on board and move to the next stage.

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