Mother Nature can play some pretty cruel tricks. Engineering things so that I am hurtling towards the menopause at the same time as raising teens is perhaps her biggest trump card of all.
Everyone told me to brace myself for the teenage years. No one warned me that they would happen when I was going through some pretty significant changes myself. My daughters’ adolescent journeys are happening at a time when the most is required of me but when I feel least able to cope. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.
One of the biggest things I’ve noticed over the past few years is the way my periods now hit me with a force that I’ve never felt before. Mood swings are heightened, cramps are more painful and for a few days each month I am a raging mess of hormones. With two teenage daughters, there are times when there are so many hormones in the house you can almost see them crackling in the air and bouncing off the walls.
When hormones are raging then we clash with a ferocity that is short lived but hits hard. I sometimes worry about what the neighbours must think when we are in the eye of a storm.
The unexpected symptoms
I always presumed that ‘the change’ was some mysterious thing that would happen when I was about 60. What I hadn’t realised is that the peri-menopause would start throwing up symptoms for years before that happened.
All the changes make me feel unbalanced and unshored. It’s like someone is slowly pulling the rug out from under my feet. I’m constantly trying to find my balance.
With two teenage daughters I quickly learned that the best way to deal with the turbulent teenage years is to remain as calm and even as I can. My job is to be the steady rudder steering my girls through the choppy waters of their teenage years. This is so much harder when I am feeling all at sea myself.
The terrible teens…
I wouldn’t go back and relive my own teenage years for all the money in the world. They were times of intensity and insecurities. I never quite felt comfortable in my own skin. I was never quite sure of who I was and who I was supposed to be.
Nothing seemed to stand still. There was always a new high followed by a crushing low. A spot erupting on the night of a party would make me want to cry and hide in the shadows. Breasts swelling before all my friends grew them made me want to shrink into my skin. Fall outs with friends would make me question whether I fitted into the world and was good enough.
And as my girls go through this I am going through similar changes, which leave me feeling just as unsettled.
My teenage girls peer in the mirror despairing about their skin breaking out. I peer in the same mirror in alarm at a wiry thick hair that has suddenly sprouted from my chin.
My girls look at their tummies and their breasts, worrying that they are too big or not big enough. I pinch the new folds of skin around my hips and hoik up my sagging breasts, worrying that the beauty I once took for granted is now fading.
But as I shuffle towards the menopause there is something bigger happening too. When they were little I was the centre of my girls’ world. They needed me to be close and to be there – all the time. We were always joined together with a little hand reaching out to hold mine, a small body climbing onto my knee, an impatient child clutching my leg to get my attention.
As my girls are growing older, that physical close bond is loosening. They are striding out into the world away from me. They shrink if I try to kiss the tops of their heads and roll their eyes if I speak in front of their friends.
And as they need me less I suddenly find myself looking up and thinking ‘What about me?’. It’s like the ‘Mummy-plug’ that tethered me to nurturing my children and tending to their every needs is slowly coming loose and I feel impatient to carve something back for myself.
I feel a new impatience to be more than ‘just a Mum’.
When my daughters ask me to pick them up from town without even checking that I am free I find myself sighing and muttering under my breath. When they leave wet towels on the floor and dirty cups strewn round the room I feel like shrieking at them. Sometimes when they come to me for a hug late in the evening I have to stop myself from bristling because I’m so tired that I just want to go to my bed.
It’s a time when we’re all trying to find ways to feel OK with the changes happening to our bodies and minds. We’re all finding ways to fit round each other as we grow older. And it’s not always plain sailing.
But through all the hormonal clashes, the impatience and insecurities, there is something wonderful happening too.
My daughters are beginning to see me as not just their mother but as a woman too. A woman who has her own thoughts, feelings and, yes, hormones too. Gone are the more simple days when I was Mummy who was just always there and could fix everything with a cuddle. They are being replaced with a new relationship on a more adult footing.
My girls talk to me about everything. And through our chats about everything from puberty to politics they are finding out more about me and me about them.
As my girls are growing up and away from me, preparing to make their own way in the world I think, perhaps, there is a method in Mother Nature’s madness. It’s hard to let go of my baby girls.