Back in January 2011, I read a feature by Joanna Moorehead in the Guardian, about the menopause. She talked about oestrogen, “the hormone that courses through our veins throughout our childbearing years, which is the lifeblood of our willingness to perform our tasks so selflessly” and how its depletion “causes previously caring and loving “mummies” to turn into monsters overnight”.
Something in that feature struck a chord and I kept it on my pin-board for months, unwilling to let it go. I felt the stirrings of rebellion and I knew it might come in handy to help me fight my cause in the future! And how right I was.
Over the last year, this perfect fruit salad making, nit removing, bed time story reading, Calpol dispensing, mountains of washing doing, bedroom tidying, lifts to anywhere with a smile delivering, Halloween/Christmas play/end of term show costume making, school trip attending, classroom helping, nutritious breakfast, lunch, dinner and tasty snack making mum has had enough. *SHOUTS* ENOUGH I SAY, ENOUGH.
As my oestrogen has depleted (can anyone else feel it just draining away?) I have very slowly felt the need to care for my families every need, ebb away with it.
It started quite gently, as I began to feel less inclined to rush home from work to cook nutritious meals for people who either didn’t care what they ate (MAD) would only eat meat (teen son) or wanted a four course, gourmet, vegetarian meal by candle light every night (teen daughter). I had quite simply had enough of trying to get everyone to eat the same meal at the same time and appear grateful that I had shopped for the ingredients in my lunch hour, lugged them home on the bus and cooked something vaguely nutritious by 8pm.
The “what times dinner?” “I don’t really fancy fish” “Not sausages again” texts and comments had become too much for me to bear and along with the constant moaning and groaning and very little helping, I was close to the edge! In fact I was so near the edge I was teetering dangerously on the brink and had I been born in the 1800’s, would almost certainly have been burnt at the stake or committed to an asylum.
Factor in the constant request for lifts, clean clothes and money etc etc, not to mention the debris left all over the house, constant overwhelming washing basket and piles of washing up – I started to fantasise about living alone – well with the dog too, obvs and maybe even MAD if he behaved himself, I’m not a complete freak!!
I also started working longer hours and thinking less about what was going on at home while at work! Which in itself was liberating. Having spent the last 18 years negotiating flexible hours, freelance work and child care, it felt great to devote my whole working day to actual work, rather than constantly obsessing what was going on at nursery/school/home, negotiating play dates, picking up from swimming, ballet, football and trying to get home in time to do homework, bath and bed.
School holidays no longer felt like a huge issue and starting a meeting at 5pm no longer sent me into a blind panic about how I was going to pick the kids up from after school club, without making myself look bad – actually that rarely happened as I have always worked with understanding people, but you know what I mean!
As my priorities have started to change and life has become a bit more about me and less about everyone else’s needs, things have started to slip. I now forget dentist appointments, to sign letters for school, book university open days, to leave lunch money, get everyone up for part time jobs, etc etc, because tbh *SHOUTS AGAIN* they are old enough to do it all themselves! I figure if I keep the cupboards stocked, dole out cash and provide a shoulder to cry on every now and then, I am doing my job. Any more would be irresponsible!
Of course the teens really don’t like it, years and years of having me at their beck and call means they have come to expect me to there for them all the time. And for once I don’t feel guilty, not one bit – oh no, my diminishing oestrogen levels are turning me back into the women I was before I had children. Ok, so I’m two sizes bigger, have lots more aches and pains and am hotter than the hottest person from the hottest place on planet earth, but I’m full of excitement and optimism for the future and have a renewed energy for work, that I haven’t had for years. Mainly because I’m not using it all doing things for other people.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love my children, would lay down my life for them and don’t in any way think my work is done. I’ll worry and care about them till the day I die but I feel like the relentless “doing things” for them part of my life is almost over.
After the initial “mums gone mad” shock of the new oestrogen free me has died down, we have settled into a new kind of normality and more and more they seem to be rising to the challenge. They can cook their own dinner when needed, do their own washing and every now and then even pick up a towel. They know better then to ever ask what’s for lunch and very occasionally I come home to a lit fire, tidy house and a tasty dinner on the table.
Maybe the menopause isn’t so bad after all! Oestrogen is so overrated!