Confessions of a Mid-Life Mama

Mid-Life Crisis — the phrase conjures up the image of a forty-something man who suddenly feels his life slipping away from him,  wonders if this is all there is, and reacts by getting himself a flashy new sportscar, or a maybe a hot young girlfriend.  There’s no corresponding paradigm for the female mid-life crisis. Most of us are just too darned busy managing our families and careers. But the experience of looking at one’s life and longing for something more is not limited to men.

Some suggest that the typical female mid-life crisis is fundamentally different from the male version. Mid-life men, it is said, are afraid — of aging, becoming unattractive to women, not achieving their goals — afraid of death. Women, it is said, experience more confusion — about what they want, how to be make themselves happy after half a lifetime spent focused on meeting the needs of others.

I’m inclined to think the differences are overstated. In either case, though, mortality is at the root of the experience. As we age, a growing awareness that we will one day die lends greater urgency to the question: how should we live? If we let ourselves ponder this question, many of us — regardless of gender — feel confused and afraid.

So here’s my confession: I look at my life and see that I have achieved many of my girlhood dreams: married to a good man I love, with three healthy and happy children, a nice house, work I love, good friends. So why does it often seem so hard and stressful so much of the time? When will I get to relax and enjoy it? Will I have to work this hard all my life? What will become of my husband’s and my relationship while we are both working so hard and raising our kids? What is the broader impact of my life?

If all the stuff I wrote in my gratitude blog is true (and it is), why don’t I feel happier more of the time?

There, I said it. And though I haven’t even posted this yet and I am already afraid of being accused of being a whiner. I’ve got it so good, how dare I be dissatisfied? And yet I do long for more, and I suspect that many of us — both the more and less fortunate of us — long for more.

Do you? I would like to begin a dialogue about what I suspect to be shared mid-life confusion before it becomes an out-and-out “crisis.” I invite you to post a comment below about your confusion, fears, or learned wisdom about how to live now that you’re not a kid anymore.