Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

 

Claire*, a 26-year-old professional in an accounting firm is an only child, the daughter of an unmarried mother. Her mother was ‘her mother’ until about 8 months (or more) ago when, out of nowhere, she turned into someone Claire couldn’t and still can’t recognise.

Claire’s mother runs three high-end dress shops. Two of the stores are located in Nairobi while the third is located at the Coast. Her life revolved around Claire and the clothing stores. Now it doesn’t. She has not been to the stores for about five months and she manages them remotely.

The last time she was at their apartment in Nairobi was three months ago. Claire runs the house. In-between, her mother makes an appearance, two days, three days or a weekend and then she is gone, to be seen again after a month.

Her wardrobe, previously that of a mature woman in her late thirties, has recently morphed into something Claire can raid, snatch a piece of clothing or two, and not feel awkward after she is dressed.

Half-the time, Claire does not know where her mother is. It is happening for the first time. The two of them lived an open life before. She admits that her mother had a boyfriend or two in the past. She knew about them.

In the last eight months however, Claire thinks her mother has had three boyfriends, and she never introduced them to her. She would talk about them on those random weekends that she’d pop up and then disappear, when she came back, she’d be talking about a different man.

“It is crazy,” she says. “I don’t not know what is happening to her mother anymore.”

What Claire’s mother is going through, according to Dr Karatu Kiemo, a sociologist at the University of Nairobi Sociologist, can be classified as mid-life crisis.

“Claire’s mother’s life has had form all along. But now, the businesses are stable and can run themselves, Claire is all grown up and has basically left the nest.

So, the question she is grappling with at the moment is what to do. This is one of the main characteristics of a mid-life crisis. When one starts feeling uneasy about his/her situation in life,” Dr Kiemo says.

He adds that once you’ve launched your children socially, once your career is stable and you are financially secure, once your marriage or relationship has reached that platonic near stale state, women tend to want to expand and improve their horizons and influence.

Strange behaviour

Naturally, they won’t do this with their regular partners. According to Dr Kiemo, mid-life crisis is about getting the best out of life before it ends or before you are unable to — permanently.

“The strange thing, is that women rarely know or understand what they are going through. Since menopause also causes behaviour change, most women assume that what they are going through, or what their friend is going through is just menopause but sometimes, it is not menopause, it is mid-life crisis,” he says.

But isn’t mid-life crisis something only men go through? Shouldn’t we be looking for the signs in our fathers and not our mothers?

“True, it is a life stage for men,” Dr Kiemo says. “mid-life crisis has not been looked at in detail as an issue affecting women. But that does not mean that it does not exist or that it does not affect women. There is a growing body of study and research on this as we speak.”

So could it be that mid-life crisis, aside from being the period when 42-year old men buy motorcycles and chase 24-year old female models, is also the period when women at 35 suddenly make drastic career changes or a married woman at 39 unexpectedly develops lesbian tendencies?

According to Dr Kiemo, mid-life crisis in women just manifests itself differently from men. The motivations for women tend to be a bit different from those of the men.

On that point, Dr Catherine Syengo Mutisya, a consultant psychiatrist agrees.

“On top of the physiological and physical changes and experiences that are brought about by the onset and continuation of menopause, women experience anxiety, depression and an acute sense of self-evaluation — thoughts of stagnation or failure,” she says.

Dr Mutisya adds that she has handled such cases on her counseling couch in the past. Coming in on their own, saying they do not understand what is going on in their lives, questioning the choices that they have made, wondering if they are really happy or are just going through the motions of life or brought in by concerned members of the family who are worried that their aunt or mother is going off the rails.

But they need not be worried. The aunt or mother is not going off the rails. She is just experiencing her case of mid-life crisis, probably combined with menopause, and characterised by severe body changes, physiological changes, hormonal changes and behavioural changes.

Lending a hand

When your mother, aunt or elder sister starts staying late nights at the office, begins traveling to lands where people speak languages she doesn’t speak or understand, starts seeking new relationships, begins withdrawing from the public or starts having endless and sometimes meaningless conflicts with the spouse, she is not going off the rails. All she needs is helpfulness and understanding and she will be fine in no time.

Dr Mutisya advises that it is proper for those concerned (and the woman in question) to keep track of the situation.

“People keep changing. It is good to track who they are. Sometimes the changes occur so fast, even the lady in question may be confused about who she is.

“Obviously, these stages are accompanied by physical and physiological changes, they need to consult doctors and counselors to get to understand each and every change that they are going through,” she says.

Modern studies on mid-life crisis have largely been building up on the findings of Erik Erikson, the 1950’s psychologist who explored the stages of human development.

The one thing that has kept changing in these studies is the place of women in the mid-life crisis conversation, the reaction and response of women to mid-life crisis and finally, how the society is responding to this new frontier in mankind’s sociological study.

By the looks of things, the society, in this case, the Kenyan society, is not responding how it should.

“People misunderstand women who are going through this stage. There are those who believe that these women are simply being naughty or that they want to take advantage of this stage to get away with age inappropriate behaviour. That is so not true,” Dr Kiemo says.

“These are not individual or conscious decisions. Mid-life comes with hormonal changes for women. There is nothing deliberate in how they act, it is the hormones that could be exciting them,” he adds.

The good thing is that this stage of anxiety and confusion does not last for long. If handled properly, the person can be back on their feet and on proper grounding in under five years

By

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

By Aimee Picchi

If you’re a woman looking forward to a comfortable retirement, well, good luck to you.
Women deal with three issues that don’t affect the majority of their male counterparts, according to financial education company Financial Finesse, which on Tuesday released its annual report on the gender gap in financial wellness. Women not only earn less than men during the careers — making it tougher to save as much for their retirements — but they need to make those dollars last longer because of greater longevity. Lastly, women are more likely than men to take a career break to care for family members, which can also hinder their retirement planning.

How women experience retirement — and the societal and workplace issues they face in building a nest egg — is gaining attention from both lawmakers and economists. In old age, women are more likely than men to live in poverty owing to a lifetime of accumulated disadvantages such as the gender pay gap or when women are paid less than men for doing the same job.

Although the financial gap between men and women is narrowing, there’s still a lot of distance to close, said Liz Davidson, the CEO and founder of Financial Finesse.

“Women have challenges that men don’t have,”she said. “Women should actually be ahead to overcome the structural challenges of life expenses, health challenges and career breaks.”

Davidson added, “You used to hear, ‘The numbers are the numbers’,” meaning that certain retirement goalposts, such as an investment’s rate of return, won’t vary depending on the demographics of who’s investing. Yet that ignores the fact that “variables are different” for women, she said.

Aside from the gender wage gap, career breaks also impact women more than men, since the former are more likely than the latter to take time out of the work force to care for children or elderly relatives. While more men are increasingly taking on the role of caregiver, it remains predominantly a role taken on by women.

A career break can seriously set back a woman’s retirement preparedness. For instance, a woman who chooses a mid-career break — meaning a break from her career between the ages of 45 to 55 years old — may end up with a retirement savings shortfall of $1.1 million, the study found.

Even more harmful is taking an early career break between the ages of 35 to 45, which is when many college-educated women are starting families and also hitting their highest annual earnings. Taking a break at that age leads to a retirement shortfall of $1.3 million, the study found. The financial hit is larger for younger woman because they end up missing out on compounding interest over the course of their lives. Putting away more money earlier in a woman’s career can help close the gap.

“The vast majority of women don’t contemplate” the impact that career breaks will have on their retirement income, Davidson said.

Women (and men) who take time off from their careers to raise children or care for elderly relatives may be more concerned with whether they’ll be able to cover daily expenses, rather than their comfort in retirement. But financial planning for the future should be part of the discussion when a worker is considering taking a career break, she recommends.

It’s clear that women are ending up in a more dire situation than men when they hit retirement age. A 2014 report issued by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) found that women older than 65 have annual median retirement income that’s $11,000 below that of men in the same demographic group. Women not only need to make that income stretch longer, due to longer life spans than men, but have higher medical spending, as well.

Aside from losing out on income, career breaks can also prove financially harmful because workers miss out on years of salary gains or promotions. A survey from financial firm Ellevest in 2015 found that one in five women suffered a pay cut of at least 20 percent after taking a career break, for instance. Women need to be aware of these issues and, if possible, plan ahead, Davidson noted.

“The optimal scenario is that women look at it say, ‘Here’s the reality: We are more vulnerable, and career breaks need to be funded,” she said. “Let’s plan ahead and be conservative in our planning, so they have all the choices on the table because they have taken steps to protect their wealth.”

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

by Mary Saracino

Howling from the mountaintops
wailing from the riverbanks
scooping the moon into their waning wombs
the old women know that lies kill,
distortions maim, hope isn’t enough to feed starving
babies, school the ignorant, put and end to war.

Like Furies, the old ones rise,
clench their furious fists against the blazing sun;
like Harpies they roar, casting dire warnings
upon the winds of change; soothsaying Sibyls
decipher omens, portend the future, speak in baffling koans.

With dakini wisdom they cut through
illusion, vote in primaries, attend caucuses,
raise their voices against power, shatter
the corrupted ceilings that chafe the crowns
of their wizened heads.

The wandering Maenads cry: “This is no country
for old women.”

Medea calls down her midnight powers,
prays for revolution, strengthens the tired tongues
of memory. Eloquence isn’t enough to heal
a wounded country; sequined celebrities
can’t mend a nation’s odiferous past. Kali avenges
her sisters, the long-patient Queens & Crones,
Maidens & Mothers. The forgotten ones
wait and watch and warn: “Beware the hubris
of ages. Beware the greedy hand that grabs the golden fleece.”
Mary Saracino is a novelist, poet and memoir-writer who lives in Denver , CO . Her most recent novel, The Singing of Swans (Pearlsong Press 2006) was a 2007 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist. Her short story, “Vicky’s Secret” earned the 2007 Glass Woman Prize.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

by Kiran Manral

We have a much better sense of who we are but perhaps, we’re just that little bit confused about where we’re headed to

I had my mid-life crisis circa forty, and that’s around five years before the norm. But then I was always early on my crisis milestones. I believe I had my first teen rebellion when I was nine. The good thing that came out of the mid-life crisis was that I wrote my first book. This seems so much more acceptable than saying I coloured my hair pink and had an affair, even though, those were complete possibilities given how utterly panicky I was at that point about life having passed me by and given me the cheeky middle finger to boot.

Circa the age of 45, it’s not just the men who stop battling the comb-overs and get hair plugs, a power bike, a sports car or an affair, but the women too struggle with this sudden intersection of all that represented hope, glory and youth, and then sudden and inexorable decline into old age and ergo, invisibility. The rebellion, the refusal to accept this point where the graph suddenly does a volte face and morphs into decline and then eventual death, is where the mid-life crisis emerges

It is a strange age. We can still bear to look at ourselves in natural light without wincing. The body, give or take some cellulite and stretch marks, is still resisting the dulcet calls of gravity with stoicism. We realise we’re now on the fast track from ‘Pretty in Pink’ to ‘Driving Miss Daisy’. We keep shifting the goalpost for being old. “40 is the new 20,” we tell ourselves. We try to reclaim ourselves and our lost passions, self-esteem (or fill with whatever you think fits best).

I read somewhere, a mother’s advice to her married daughter, which still holds good. “At forty,” she said, “You can either change your career, have a baby or have an affair.” To quote Michelle Obama on her mid-life crisis, “I couldn’t get a sports car. They won’t let me bungee jump. So instead, I cut my bangs.”

I saw variations of this when friends hit middle age. Some had discrete cosmetic procedures. Some had their last-chance babies. And yet others had affairs. A few switched sexual preferences. More power to them, if this is what they wanted and had been frogmarched by society into the conventionally acceptable marriage with 2.5 offspring.

The most public figure we know to have announced this is the author Elizabeth Gilbert who went from divorcing her hot Brazilian husband to announcing her love for her best friend, female. And we do know now that sexuality is not carved in stone but is in fact rather fluid.

The female mid-life crisis. It comes with the good and the bad. The bad are none of my business, but the good are worth mentioning. We have less to prove, and less four-letter word beginning with an F to give. We have a much better sense of who we are but perhaps, we’re just that little bit confused about where we’re headed to.

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.