Posts Tagged ‘midlife crisis’
There’s a popular notion spoon fed to us by barbie media…willingly embraced by the conservative woman, vehemently rejected by the liberal woman, yet, on some level, wrestled with by every woman. Open wide! The notion of “happily ever after.” A studly white knight on a horse who whisks us off to the land of eternal bliss. Rescues us from…reality? As “Sex and the City’s” most beloved princess, Charlotte, so shamelessly put it… “Women really just want to be rescued.” Now chew on that. According to princess pop culture and every wedding coordinator taxed with the job of creating “happily ever after,” women do indeed want the fairy tale. A prince charming who will sweep her off her feet, wed her in an over-the-top elaborate princess style shindig her friends will never match, give her to-die-for genetically endowed cooing babies, and take care of her forevermore, forevermore… forNevermore?
This notion proves to be very enticing…that is, until the honeymoon is over, she ages, her prince charming drops the charm, her adorable grown “babies” are mouthing off to her, fighting, and turning her into a screaming referee with a “Your face is gonna get stuck like that!” complex. Add to this dwindling romance and escalating financial stress. And suddenly, she doesn’t feel so princess-esque anymore. In no “happily ever after” does mass media suggest the princess will later be spending her days cooking, cleaning, and refereeing while dragging the tired exhausted shadow of her formerly hot ass around the house in a sloppy pony tail and holey sweats! As if! Cinderella was rescued from her shabby clothes and household chores. Hmmm…now that she thinks about it, she’s not feeling so rescued after all. The media has patronized and misadvised her. What the hell happened to her fairy tale? Or was the fairy tale just…a tall tale?
From the moment we take our first step or utter our first syllable, we’re slammed with one fantasy of “happily ever after” after another. The Disney animated princess…Barbie…or better yet…the animated Princess Barbie! Blurs of blond-haired blue-eyed beauties winning over their prince with one flutter of their exaggerated eyelashes, one toss of their synthetic hair, and not one ambitious bone in their “made in china” bodies. All hail the media! As little girls, we aspire to be “pretty in pink” princesses. Why? Because we’re encouraged to, of course. This parent trying to “out-love” that parent by indulging us in over-the-top princess birthday parties. And our parental crowning doesn’t stop there. In case the metaphorical crowning wasn’t enough, we’re encouraged to tan up, wig up, and dumb down to walk “beauty” pageant runways straight out of the womb. All in hopes of being adorned with the awe-inspiring symbol of beauty itself…the over-sized tiara…the bigger, the glitzier, the better. As we grow into young women, we aspire to find our handsome prince charming, become Mrs. Charming, and live “happily ever after” …replacing the tiara with a diamond ring intended to represent just how “BIG” he loves us. Finally, as newlyweds, the pressure is on to help populate our tragically underpopulated planet. One baby, two, nineteen...and counting? It’s our privilege…our duty, no?
When we do finally get word that the stork is circling overhead, we rejoice over the success of our dutiful whoopee. Baby on board! It’s at this moment that our fairy tale is complete. Or at least the one set in motion by June Cleaver and popularized by the mass media.
No sleep, dirty diapers, and non-existent sex life aside, there’s a flaw in Cinderella’s perfectly stitched gown of happily ever after. Ambition! Today’s woman goes to college, becomes educated, and adds successful career to her dreamy fairy tale checklist. She dreams of all the things princess pop “cult”ure has washed her brains with. But princess pop culture has an elephant in the room…and that elephant is college educated and dreams of changing the world…one poopy diaper at a time. Apparently. She wants to marry the perfect man, raise the perfect children, and attain the perfect career. She can have it all, right? When she first embarks on this feat, she fails to see the practical conflict of her maternal and professional ambitions because she’s young…because she has no concept of “can’t” …and because no one warns her…no one exposes the “fairy tale” for the lying sham it is.
Happily ever after is a myth.
It is an elusive sasquatch creeping into our adolescent psyches touting its over-sized existence, yet failing to produce cold hard proof. But experience will educate her…reveal the truth. She CAN marry her prince charming. She CAN have 2.5 kids. She CAN have a reputable successful career. Disclaimer: The simultaneous combination of the three may cause spontaneous combustion! And extinguishing the problem will leave the bigfoot supermom drowning in the puddle of despair she fears most…Failure.
The working mom tries to do it all. Rushes the kids to daycare, drags into work, tries to be all she can be professionally while juggling the disapproving sneer from her boss and phone calls about sick or misbehaving kids, scrambles to pick up the kids on time..and races home to complete homework, baths, dinner, laundry, dishes, bedtime, and sex like a Stepford wife on speed. A forced smile through it all. But behind that robotic smile lurks a bottomless pit of guilt, self-doubt, exhaustion, and a persistent sense of failure. For no matter how much she does… it’s never enough. So, she pushes herself to the brink of insanity, and then she dares to push a little more. As she continues to spread herself too thin, she begins to feel her world crumbling around her. She loses her bearings. She feels…lost. But lacks the “me” time to find her way out.
Maintaining a full-time successful career while trying to slay the child-rearing dragon is a feat that will eventually leave her charred and begging for mercy. Consequently, some modern moms are opting to put a career on hold, stay home, and take on the dragon full time. Seems the easier option…for now. But is the dragon’s head the only trophy she seeks? The reality: a stay home mom may slay the child-rearing dragon with ease…but it’s the demon in her own head that proves to take her down…the struggle between herself and her myth.
The college educated stay-home mom is riddled with unfulfilled professional ambition. Her own personal fairy tale hell threatens to bring her sanity to its knees. On one hand, she weighs the commitment to her children…to be available whenever they need her…as a nurturer, a teacher, a playmate, a friend. On the other, she weighs the desire to work, have an identity, make her own money, be successful, and make a difference in her corner of the world. All the while, the weight of both relentlessly crushing her.
How does she do both…and do them well?
If she opts for the 9 to 5 career, she sacrifices fleeting time with her kids. They miss out on parent-child events at school, afternoon soccer, baseball, dance, help with homework. They become latch-key kids. They see her for two chore-filled hours a day before they must sleep to prepare for the next day, another in which she will play a minor role. They act out because they feel last in her list of daily priorities. Guilt consumes her. However, if she stays home and forfeits her career, she sacrifices herself. Disappoints herself on a daily basis. Begins to drown in her own pity pool of missed opportunities. Watches the professional life she planned and dreamed of in college slink off into the night robbing her of self-confidence and leaving her a stranger to herself. Mid-life looms…she wonders… “What now? Who wants to hire a mom who has been at home for so long…college degree or not. I have a resume filled with diaper duties and fending off cooties…and Dora the Explorer as a reference.” Her struggle continues.
Regardless of the choice she makes, her maternal side and her professional side remain in a perpetual tug of war.
Ambition proves to be her double-edged sword. She struggles daily not to disappoint the supposed “fairy tale” she’s created…and, at the same time, not to disappoint her “me” she’s yet to create. But at the end of the day, it’s her “me” she’s yet to create that seems to be falling by the wayside. She wants it all, damn it. A prince charming. Happy kids. Love and success for them all. But she also wants…HER. Her career. Her success. Her happiness. She wants to look in the mirror and recognize her once ambitious face. To be proud not only of her family, but of herself. To make a difference in the world she’s introducing to her children. To set a feminist example for her daughter…convince her she can do anything she sets her mind to. The sky is NOT her limit, for beyond her sky lies an unknown and unexplored universe. But a paradox presents itself. As she preaches unbridled ambition for the taking, she does so as a mother who has done the opposite…
telling her daughter to take on the world and let nothing stand in her way, but showing her to sacrifice it all to raise a family.
So she wonders…is she teaching her to be all she can be? Or is she simply perpetuating the fairy tale hell?
How can she possibly teach her kids to raise their hands and reach for the stars when she’s tied her own hands behind her back? How can she manage to satisfy the dreams of both herself and her kids? How can any mother?
Mirror, mirror, on the wall…
What DO women want? DO we want the fairy tale? Or does the fairy tale want us?
“Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.” ~ Eugene O’Neill
Midlife crisis. It’s simple utterance conjures up thoughts of 50 year old men wearing pathetic synthetic rugs to cover those shiny bald spots, candy-apple red sports cars intended to represent his youthful, virile speed and attract just the right combination of bimbo and daddy complex in a girl half his age, desperate affairs to reaffirm his manhood, and divorce followed by remarriage to that bimbo who is, albeit disgusting, perhaps a savvy financial planner taking advantage of her sugar daddy’s newfound zest for life. Movies, sitcoms, songs, jokes…all had a helping hand in creating the commercial image of the notorious midlife crisis. A crisis previously dominated by men. But isn’t it a logical assumption that women suffer the same insecurities, fears, and regrets…only in different ways? That she, at some point in her life, begins to wonder what she’s missing? How life may be passing her by? Men get more power, more prestige, more money, freedom from child bearing, not to mention PMS…must they also be the only ones allowed to ponder a midlife do-over? Somewhere in our 30s, we may find ourselves wondering what happened to that fabulous life we had scrapbooked together in our mind. We may wonder why pieces are torn, tattered, or missing all together. What happens when we find ourselves slowly sinking with no life vest in sight? When we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a mid-life, what-life, crisis?
Past generations of women have burned bras, led women’s rights rallies, juggled picket signs, and paved the way for our present day freedoms as women. We finally caught up with men. We can have it all, can’t we…dreams, families, careers, deadlines, asshole bosses, parent-teacher meetings, after-school activities, crushing pressures, insecurities, and…the Big Daddy every daddy faces sooner or later…the midlife crisis. Wait…women can have a midlife crisis? A “crisis” is a form of drama, right? Women own the copyrights to anything of, or relating to, drama. So, yes. Women can and do have midlife crises. But her crisis is defined differently from that of a man, has never been talked about, and is only now beginning to stick it’s never-before-seen, repressed head out of the closet. Here’s another shocker…women are going toe-to-toe with their midlife meltdown much sooner than men…as soon as 30. Girls mature faster than boys…and apparently… fall apart faster. In theory, we CAN have it all, but in reality “it all” becomes relative, and quite simply…unrealistic.
Lia Macko and Kerry Rubin, prominent journalists and co-authors of the book Midlife Crisis at 30 , have hit on a topic that has women everywhere taking notice…an epidemic that, until now, remained unnoticed and unidentified. Their findings…findings resulting from pondering their own manic panics… have earned them book deals, guest spots on major morning news and talk shows, and the attention of every desperate housewife, working wife, and mail-order wife with a pulse. Macko and Rubin interviewed over 100 college educated women ranging in age from 25-37… and found that around age 30, the average woman found herself at a crossroads…a crossroads at which marriage, motherhood, and career were overwhelmingly colliding and threatening to mow her down like knee-deep weeds. Studies showed 75% of these 100 women claimed their professional lives interfere with their personal lives. A woman finishes college around age 25, spends the next few years trying to jump start a career, marrying, and beginning a family…3 things that together, form a perfect storm. That storm unleashes sometime after 30, once she’s had a chance to attempt them simultaneously. Upon entering college, she had it all figured out. She knew exactly how her life would play out in the next decade. She’d have the perfect husband, amazing children, promising career, blah, blah, blah. But as most balloons do, this balloon of expectations gets manhandled and pops…only to wither to the ground in wrinkled, defeated shreds…each shred representing a sliver of her ex- expectations.
Midlife crisis is defined as “a period of dramatic self-doubt that is felt by some individuals in the ‘middle years’ or middle age”…typically triggered by the realization that one is running out of time to accomplish the things he had hoped for. Women are hitting this malicious milestone a decade earlier then men. Why? Men panic after the fact…women before. While men in midlife crises tend to focus on regretted decisions, strive to regain their youth, and wonder where all the time has gone…women in midlife crises look ahead. They wonder how to get back on track, what lies ahead, and where the time WILL go, rather than where it HAS gone. Society implies that we SHOULD be able to juggle everything — marriage, motherhood, and career. But when we find we’re unsuccessful at triply duplicating ourselves and conquering all three, we blame ourselves… not the system. Rather than reexamining the system, we wonder what’s wrong with us… “Why can’t we handle it? Other women make it look so easy.” It’s not easy…women are just great at covering, want to be perceived as perfect, and indirectly lead ourselves right into the arms of the Midlife Mangler in our 30s.
She could be the woman who graduated college, married, and chose her children over her career…temporarily, or so she thought. Once the kids are older, she can pick up right where she left off, right? Ignorance is bliss, huh? Fast forward several years. Her kids are in school, and her husband has the impressive career she dreamed of with a resume that makes her question the last decade of her life. She has no idea how to begin a resume…because no one cares that she’s been “mommy” for the last several years. She has no marketable skills, no experience, and to top off this working girl wannabe’s attributes…no confidence. What now? She has a degree, but when asked for references, experience, or skills, she can proudly say… “I can wipe a mean ass…just ask my kids!” Then, she can kiss that job goodbye. So, now, she’s left to wonder… “What now?” “Who am I?” “How do I find ME again?”
A midlife meltdown could also belong to the woman who has devoted the last decade of her life to her career, works 70 hours a week, has no prospects for a husband, and no foreseeable future surrounded by a family of her own. She may wonder “How can I maintain success at work and find time to have a family too?” “When I do come home, what will I have to come home to?”
Then again, she may be the woman who’s happy in her job and her marriage, but ready to start a family. Only, she wonders “How will I manage everything?” “How will I be at every board meeting, anniversary, BBQ, first step, first word, and school play?” The realization that she can’t is the nudge that sends her into panic mode. And she may be the woman who already has a husband, family, and career, but struggles to keep it all together. She may be so run down from starring in the amazing 8-armed one-woman show that she finds herself fantasizing about doing one thing…running…running to find solitude…running to find peace…running to find herself.
A midlife crisis is a natural transition in our lives…an inevitable one. It’s a transition that proves personal growth on our part, rather than failure. A transition from young adulthood (when we feel young, unstoppable, and immortal) to middle adulthood (when we realize those youthful feelings are as quickly fleeting as our twenty-something supple tush.) Midlife crisis shouldn’t be a time to sink, but a time to reassert ourselves, redefine our goals, and redirect our expectations. We learn, grow, and change along with the world around us. What we wanted in our 20s may not necessarily be what we want in our 30s. Society tell us we can have “it all.” Redefine “it all.” Maybe “it all” is overrated. Maybe having “enough” is what we should be striving for. A healthy balance. A mix of nourishing what we’ve started, taking charge, and redefining what’s to come. Get out of the passenger seat and take the wheel. But, stay within the speed limit or you’ll find yourself spiraling out of control once again.
Whatever her situation, the average 30+ year old woman will one day wake up to find herself waist deep in unfamiliar waters, as her ship has sprung a leak. Her marriage, family, and career will butt heads, form the perfect storm and slowly sink her. If her ship sinks, not only will she go down with it…but her husband, children, and career that represent her passengers will go down as well. The only way to patch that gaping hole is to admit to her co-captain — a.k.a. her husband — that there is, in fact, a hole threatening to take them down, ask for his help in patching that hole, and chart a new, more exciting course. Expect the unexpected. No sailing adventure is complete without the occasional squall, overboard upchuck, or attempted pirate takeover. So, batten down the hatches, hold the upchucker’s hair, and fend off the pirates…all in a day’s work for the modern woman.
She is woman…hear her roar.