What menopausal women & teenagers have in common (you’d be surprised!)
On the face of it, my teenage son and I don’t have that much in common. His idea of a fun night is staying up for most of it, hanging about with his gang of friends, no doubt getting hold of the odd can of beer when he can. Mine is curling up on top of my electric blanket with a good book. In a slow but very definite manner, he has moved away from me towards his peer group – just as he should. And whilst we still enjoy the odd film together and chat away, our roles have changed dramatically over the last couple of years. But watching his rapid development, I realised that teenagers and menopausal women share a whole load in common.
First, there are the hormones. Yes, we all know that teenagers are full to the brim with hormones raging through their body, which are changing their brain in a myriad of ways. Some of these changes are almost too much to keep up with for the average teenager, whose body and mind are changing quicker than their rate of knowledge and understanding. And it’s exactly the same for women going through the menopause.
So what does all this hormonal and neurological development actually mean? Firstly, it means that THINGS HAVE CHANGED. A menopausal woman is no more the same to her thirty year old self than a seventeen year old is to his or her eleven year old self. Child bearing years are characterised by what Christiane Northrup calls a veil of hormones – hormones which are designed to encourage women to care for others. When that veil is removed, and replaced by a new hormonal cocktail, the woman is changed.
How this change is perceived at a societal level in Western culture is very different between teenagers and menopausal women. Whilst it is generally agreed that teenagers can be ‘trying’, teenage years are viewed as a time of opportunity to pursue careers, go travelling and engage in creative pursuits. Menopause has traditionally been viewed as a time when women stop or slow down, relegated to the status of older women, portrayed as old crones and vicious mother in laws. In reality, hormonal changes prompt women at this time to a journey of self discovery, creative output and the pursuit of interests and careers which may have taken a back seat during the child bearing years.
Another thing which menopausal women and teenagers share in common is a questioning of their life, their surroundings, their role. In addition to life transitions – such as empty nest syndrome and career developments – hormonal developments encourage women to take stock at this time, much like the teenager who moves from accepting their childhood to a burgeoning adulthood full of questions and conflicts about their current role. Many women begin to question their role in life during the perimenopause, partly as a response to shifting circumstance and partly as a response to those hormonal shifts which act as reminders that some things need attending to. Often, women who experience difficult menopausal symptoms are those who have unfinished emotional business from the earlier part of their lives. If emotional issues have been buried and repressed, it is often during the menopause – and given a hard nudge by those hormones – that these issues are brought into sharp focus.
Just like the teenager, this is a time of tumult and turmoil for many menopausal women. Change, self awareness and readjustment don’t happen easily. Most parents of teenagers accept that, although this is a difficult time for many, their child will emerge stronger at the other end. It is exactly the same for menopausal women. Trusting in the process of change, listening to those messages your mind and body are sending you and engaging in creative and fulfilling activities will ensure that ‘the change’ is one which takes you to new depths of self awareness and growth.