If your identity has been wrapped around a certain role in your life how do you move on in midlife when a phase ends and another starts? This question could be asked of those who have retired but miss their working life, become divorced after a long marriage or, even, of those who have lost a parent/s. In my case it’s about reimagining the meaning of my life as an empty nester.
This blog post is inspired by a chance meeting I had recently with an acquaintance whose children attend the school which my daughter (now 23 years old) went to. Listening to her talk about her children’s experiences brought memories back. Afterwards, I felt rather melancholic.
I miss the everyday identity of active mothering. I miss the pro-active ways in which I mothered. Making sure that she took her 5 a day intake of fruit and vegetables, ensuring that she had drunk enough water and that she didn’t miss her favourite show, The Simpsons. Yes, I was a helicopter parent but that’s another story.
It has been exactly 1.8 years since I became an empty nester. It’s quite a long time but every so often I stop and ask myself what the meaning and purpose of my midlife is.
The mantra, ‘It is good to talk’, on loneliness and mental health is helpful up to a point. People in their haste to make you feel better will throw suggestions that don’t actually fit everyone’s circumstance. As an example, I am constantly told that I ought to ‘keep busy’.
I have just had a third promotion at work in two years, enjoy blogging and have made many new midlife friends but, when your identity morphs rather suddenly, it’s only normal to take stock and ask big questions of the universe at certain junctures in life. There is nothing negative about this.
Don’t give in to the pressure of having to be optimistic all the time. The self-help industry has a lot to answer for when it endlessly pushes the rhetoric that people have to immediately see the silver lining in every situation. Sometimes, one has to walk through grey and black clouds before getting to the pastures of hope. It is entirely down to each individual how long it takes to transition from one phase to another. It is possible to feel sad and hopeful at the same time.
That is life. Midlife, to be exact.