The Queen of My Self


I recently received a call from one of my Midlife Midwife™ counseling clients. She had been divorced for quite some time and this autumn both of her teenaged kids left home for school and work. So now she found herself on her own after 25 years of caring first for her husband and then for her children.

She called me on her cell phone from an aisle in the super market, sobbing hysterically. This was her first food shopping excursion since her nest had emptied and she was panicked because she had absolutely no idea of what to buy. None whatsoever.

You know how it is when you are cooking for a family — this one is alergic to this, that one won’t eat that, this one will only eat something else. And now with only herself to consider, she was lost. It had been such a long time since she had considered what she wanted to eat for dinner.

This is a sad story, a bit more extreme than most perhaps, but an empty nest can be very traumatic for many women.

With our family grown and our kids off creating lives of their own, women in our mid years now face the future with an empty nest. Now the departure of our chicks leaves us with huge amounts of unaccustomed time to use as we please. This would be extremely liberating if it didn’t also make us feel so lonely and insecure.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard women exclaim in jubilation as their 24/7 mothering days run out, “And now, it is my turn!” — the common mantra of middle age. Then they stop in their tracks, dumbstruck, as they realize that now, free to pursue their deferred dreams, they have no idea any more of what it is that they want for themselves.

After a couple of decades of serving the needs and desires of others, we have lost sight of our own. Many of us have sacrificed our early aspirations on the altar of nurturing others. Our once-upon-a-time dreams murdered by self-denial, dashed by adversity, and starved by neglect and lack. Lack of time, of energy, of financial resources, of moral supoport, of self-esteem, of courage.

Not only do we “lose” our children at this stage of life, we also often lose track of our sense of Self. As Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis poignantly put it, “What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren’t supposed to work if they had families. What were they going to do when the children are grown — watch the raindrops coming down the window pane?”

Our generation’s story is different from Jackie’s in that most of us have worked out in the world. But then, of course, we came home and worked a full time job there, as well. Now, with our responsibilities substantially reduced, we finally have the time to dote on us.

So take this opportunity to do what it is that you always wanted to do — someday. Take that half-finished novel out of the drawer. Take that class that has always intrigued you. Take that long-deserved trip.

If not now, when? Someday is today!

With blessings of a nest filled with Self discovery,

I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find – at the age of fifty, say – that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about…It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.

–Agatha Christie


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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


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