The phrase “midlife crisis” for many brings to mind clichéd images of men quitting their unfulfilling jobs and leaving their wives to ride off into the sunset with younger women in their shiny new sports cars. Since the term was first coined, in 1965, by Elliot Jacques, much attention has been paid to this psychological phase of life, yet even today, that attention seems to focus almost exclusively on men. Daniel Levinson, the researcher who rooted the idea firmly in the popular imagination, demonstrates this in the very title of his well-known book on the subject: The Seasons of a Man’s Life.
In a blog post on Scientific American, research psychologist Jesse Bering discusses whether the midlife crisis is even a real empirical phenomenon. Yet even this article, written only a few years ago, barely gives lip service to the experience of women in midlife. (Approximately ages 40-70.)
None of this is much of a surprise when you consider that research into such crucial subjects as heart disease has only recently begun to focus on women, only to find that heart disease does indeed affect women differently, that you can’t generalize a man’s experience to a woman’s. Is the same true for the midlife crisis?
Let’s get real. We are the first women in mass numbers to enter the unchartered menopause passage– many of us at the same time. We are clueless as to its impact on women will be at work, as consumers, in our personal lives and relationships. This is true for those of us who embrace Bio-Identical Hormones, herbals or other such protocols to lesson the downside symptoms of pre-post Menopause. True we don’t have to deal with fuzz brain, no sleep, swinging emotions, and libidos in absentia, etc. bt there’s much more to this life passage for women. Protocols or not, the midlife spiritual, psychic, and developmental shifts will come, whether they show up as a “crisis” visible to all or to none. Some of us will have more than one “midlife crisis” as we move through midlife and into early old age. The best news is that we don’t know yet what’s truly possible with our elongating longevity…adding 20 to 30yrs across our expected life spans, changes everything. Don’t you think? So what we experience and are open to in midlife truly gets us ready for the “main meal” of life, our early and middle-old age. Only to be followed by our just deserts in our last Age of life. No doubt there are other life “crisis” points along the rest of the way, as yet undocumented.
What would we find if we delved more into the unique experiences of women? Would the difference be generational more than anything? Do women in midlife and beyond today have different longings, regrets, and views on the time they have left than their mothers and grandmothers did? What are the differences for women moving thru and out of Menopause versus the men in our lives? Or are the dichotomies still essentially the same, the choices we make in how we split our time between nurturing others and nurturing ourselves, independence and dependence, work and family?
I propose that we don’t wait for the research to catch up. Women need to share their experiences and define themselves now more than ever. If we intend to have even more of a presence, to make a difference in the world, we need to start by being present to ourselves and to each other. We can’t decide where we’re going next, where we want to lead ourselves, our communities, our world, if we don’t know where we stand in the first place.
I’ve written a #1 Amazon Best Seller book (kindle & print) eBook exploring these subjects, especially where we go from here to unleash our potential to be truly great. It’s called “The Greatness Challenge”. If you are seeking indepth coverage of women and the road ahead, I invite you to also check out my #1 Amazon Best Seller, “The Ageless Way”.
I would love to hear from you in the comments. Do you “believe” in the midlife crisis? What has your experience been in midlife? Are you moving through midlife with a clearer sense of purpose? How do you think your experience as a woman is different from that of a man in the second half of life?