Many people think of menopause as the end of a women’s fertile years, the time she can no longer have children. But what if being a mother has never been part of your journey? How does that impact on your experience of menopause?
This summer I led a discussion about moving into the third stage of a woman’s life in a positive way. And one way we can help the people around us embrace their newly powerful position in society is by using positive language. This means refusing the often-depressing language of lack and failure and replacing it with a language bursting with energy, power and competence.
However, one striking element that arose from that discussion was the confusion experienced by some of the women who, by choice or happenstance, had not borne and/or raised children.
Perhaps they were born into a body that didn’t allow for birthing a child, their experiences meant a family wasn’t an option, they didn’t want to have children. They never met the person they wanted to have a family with. They were so busy having a wonderful life they whipped past that phase without noticing. How did they feel about embracing a ‘third stage’ when in some cases they felt the second stage of mothering had passed them by?
The discussion took place within the pagan community, where the feminine archetypes are strong. But what is stronger is a campaigning heart of acceptance for what is not usual, for a life that sees other possibilities, and the women present were an exciting mix of younger, middle aged and older, with a very different range of experiences.
A unique experience
However as the word menopause ceases to be something whispered behind our hands and gains its own share of publicity, women everywhere are asking why their experience needs to fit into someone else’s pigeonhole.
Moving through your fertile years and out the other side can be a cause for celebration when you have completed a family and are accepting your possible impending role as a grandmother. It can also be a time of worry if you are likely to embrace a new caring role for elderly relatives.
But not every woman’s life fits that template. Women need not be defined by caring roles and it’s time that this was understood and accepted. It’s generally assumed by society that the ‘mother’ phase is the most important in a woman’s life as it is when she creates new life.
However, there are other aspects to creating, some of which I’ve outlined below. Nobody needs to be pigeonholed into one category – we might be and do all this and more. We might have children and also create in other ways. The key is to looking at ourselves and our achievements as we move into the next phase of our lives.
The business woman. For some women, creation comes in the form of a career spanning decades where they have created not only business opportunities but become a role model for other women. They have forged a reputation and challenged the status quo.
The campaigner. For others campaigning has been at the heart of their creative years. Feminism, the environment, human rights, animal rights and so many other issues. Growing the awareness of others and creating a better world is an essential act.
The artist. There is nothing more profound than the production of art. Whether that is visual art or physical sculptural forms, music, dance, performance, acting or writing, art is creation. It changes the way we see the world. Great art can make the difference between life or death and can inspire a whole generation in many ways.
The scientist. The energy of scientific enquiry and discovery gives birth to new understanding and helps us perceive the world around us more fully.
The healthcare professional. Doctors and nurses and all the the myriad of caring professions change the lives of the people around them. They are nurturing by their very natures. Nurses, carers, alternative therapists, herbalists. Yoga teachers, meditation practitioners and educators. The list is endless.
The grower. Gardeners and farmers. We all grow and nurture a better world.