“Snot, Sass & Silliness; midlife mum to a 6 year old”
Diane, age 47
“Today my 6 year old daughter Lola asked me what she could be when she was a ‘Grown Up’. Sensing my opportunity to (not so) subtly push the ‘Girls can Rule the World’ mantra, I began my spiel about how she was going to have these amazing adventures and ‘be whoever or whatever she wanted to be’.
“Maybe an astronaut” I suggested “Or a lawyer? An engineer, a teacher or. . .” She shook her head and interjected “ . . . or a Rainbow Sparkle Fairy?”
A Rainbow Sparkle Fairy. Abso-freakin-lutely. Who the hell in their right mind would choose to be anything else giving the choice?
I loved the certainty in her voice and the brilliantly, bat shit crazy world she inhabits, where this and pretty much anything and everything else is a possibility.
Conversely at 47 I am wading through the perimenopause and my own confidence and certitudes can get railroaded by fears of anxiety or self doubt. As my estrogen and the ‘happy’ hormones levels plummet my previous positive outlook can also take a nose dive. But at the risk of sounding #Blessed, witnessing Lola’s wonderment while I explain why trees are simply amazing or seeing her mind being blown that we can turn corn kernels into actual popcorn, it’s hard to maintain the melancholy. You get carried along by the excitement and newness of it all and remember ‘y’know what –the world is a pretty awesome place’.
Having a small child keeps you very much grounded in the moment whereas midlife and in particular the onset of perimenopause can be a time of anxious reflection; looking to the past and dissecting the choices we’ve made or contemplating the future and the uncertainty of what happens next. The exhausting reality of dealing with a 6 year old bundle of snot, sass and silliness negates some of this hand wringing. I often feel I should be having a mid life crisis or at the very least some sort of perimenopausal panic. Maybe I am? but am too busy Googling ‘how to do ‘The Floss’ or building a ‘Café/Disco/Sleepover Hotel out of Lego to notice.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not all unicorns and glitter.
I worry that some of the negative physical and emotional effects of the perimenopause may impact on my ability to be good parent. I don’t expect or aspire to be perfect but I sometimes fret that I am too ‘shouty’ as my tolerance levels and temper are significantly shorter these days. I get concerned that my erratic sleep means I often feel worn out and I don’t have the same energy of the younger, non ‘geriatric’ mums.
Then there are times when I wistfully recall my younger ‘London’ days sans kids when I wore heels and drank white wine on sunny Saturday afternoons. Or look enviously at my friends who are either childfree or with grown up kids, as they plan their long weekends away or float about their (immaculate) homes lighting Diptyque candles in cashmere pyjamas.
Worst are the dark moments when I allow myself to think about the distant future. I am 4 decades older than Lola, she is an only child. I don’t want her to be lonely or on her own. Ever. I agonise over becoming frail or ill. I don’t want her to shoulder any burden of an aged parent. Ever.
But for now, to Lola, age is literally a (birthday) badge of honour and time is a concept she hasn’t yet grasped. You are either a ‘child’, a ‘grown up’ or a ‘wrinkly’. I currently reside in a subcategory of ‘mum’.
She delights in counting my wrinkles “You haven’t got that many, except these really, really big ones near your eyes’ *sigh* and describes my ageing boobs as ‘long’ and ‘flat’ *sob*
Then – just when my self esteem is face down on the deck, she’ll make me a card where she draws me with yellow hair and fabulous earrings and writes underneath ‘To mummy, you are the bestest, most beautiful queen” *melt*.
These visceral emotional highs and lows are part and parcel of my experience of motherhood. Each morning I buckle up ready to withstand the emotional turbulence of the day ahead; Lola has the capacity to make my chest constrict with absolute love in one moment and then clench my knuckles with abject rage and frustration the next.
I am never sure if these erratic mood spikes are due to hormonal chaos or are just a by-product of being a parent. I expect we will find out when the menopause and puberty collide in a few years time (my husband is booking in his own midlife melt down for around the same time!). But in the meantime, in the here and now, this yellow haired ‘Mummy Queen’ is embracing every transient moment of this sparkly rainbow roller coaster ride.”