Middleagedmum.com: oestrogen who needs it?

Joanna Moorehead

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!



  • A way of this yet – but great positive read.

  • Anna says:

    Great read – finally something to look forward to about the menopause! x

  • mary says:

    it seems to be that mum’s are expecting the kids to help out less and less. Its no wonder women are exhausted and kids so dependant until they are older. Is it just me who has noticed this?

  • Lea says:

    I’m not a mum but I totally identify. My work colleagues and my partner no longer benefit from the people pleasing me and I do find my launguage has got a lot more flowery of late. I love The Womens Room, thank you for your great work X

  • jill says:

    I too remember that article last year, and it struck a chord with me, As a mother of 4 who baked for england,made their clothes, redecorated the bedrooms,was always first to provide cakes,costumes, raffle prizes for school college etc, I suddenly notice a difference in my attitude. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it all became less important. I worried I was turning into one of the loathsome working mothers who didn’t care and always provided shop bought cakes to the school fair! Hormones were certainly not something that I considered would make this happen,after all I have been too busy blaming them for hotness, weight gain (yes, Dr. I DO blame my age for this!) and thinning hair.
    Ihave reached my fifties and have,without realising, starting looking after ME! New boots? get them. Trendy hairdresser? yeah! after years of putting my lovely children first I feel OK treat myself….and guess what they encourage me! Perhaps I should have started earlier,but then the oestrogen said No.

  • Michele says:

    Jane, you took the words out of my mouth. I am at the beginning stages of the dreaded M and still have an eight-year-old to contend with – although he seems to only want his dad now – and a teen and suddenly feel as if I am an alien in my own home as I contend with these changes. MAD in my house doesn’t help! I am really looking forward to feeling a reduction of guilt and total frazzledness (‘Can you make me a cake tonight, Mum, when you get home from work?’) and starting to put myself first more, although I am also aware of my increasing feelings of annoyance and anger! Look out, everyone!

  • Nicola says:

    Oh yes…. Definitely recognise shades of moi in your post today!!!! Offspring (2 teenage boys) haven’t quite realised the implications of the fact that mum can no longer be arsed. They still need to ‘cowboy up’ and take more responsibility….. As for me…. Gap year anyone?

  • Janey says:

    I think you have explained what has happened in my family.

  • Dee says:

    I’ve just hit 50 and this THING has been slowly creeping into my life for roughly the past 5 years. My two boys are thankfully in their early twenties and away at Uni. Sometimes the migraines and physical sickness go over a week; I can’t sleep, I can barely keep anything down including tea, other times it’s just minor aches/pains tiredness and feeling a bit off etc. I simply couldn’t imagine having to DO anything for anyone (including myself) during the worst of it. So the thought of actually having to do mummy duties as listed above …no, no, no… This THING is far too debilitating – it should be taken much more seriously in society – I’m no slouch believe me but it brings me to a dead STOP – completely knocks the stuffing out of me. I simply don’t have the energy to feel GUILTY.

  • Alison Brown says:

    What a fantastic blog! Love it! As a 52 year old who is now POST menopause *fanfare and flag waving* I can totally identify with all Jane writes. Having been through the whole perimenopause (why did no one tell me about this BEFORE I started to go through it) and survived, I am now on a mission. My mission is that the taboo surrounding menopause is removed, we all start to talk about it and when we do that all women will be well informed and refuse to be catagorized as old, unworthy and ripe for medicalisation by the big pharmaceutical companies, medical profession and the equally grotesque ‘anti-ageing’ corporations! I have spent over a year researching ‘The Change of Life’ and the facts that women really need to know and will be publishing the world’s first monthly on-line magazine dedicated to the phases of ‘menopause’ before the end of this year :-D Embrace the strong wise independent woman you were born to be xx

  • Jane says:

    Thanks for all the brilliant comments, it feels like its defiantly time to start speaking out about the menopause and how it makes us feel, good and bad.

    Alison we need to talk more? J x

  • mary says:

    Allison, I’m 43. I vaguely feel I should start preparing for this momentous event but I don’t know how.

  • Osnat says:

    Great post, Jane. Menopause should definitely be talked about more often and not be associated with all the negativity it gets. It is not a sickness, although it feels sometime like one, but the thing that helps me the most when I feel down about all the symptoms that come with it is to talk to other women friends who are going through it. Then you know you are not alone with it, and all those weird sensations are just a normal part of it. The feelings of heat, the forgetfulness, moodiness, cravings, lack of sleep, of focus,Indigestion, and many more…are something we have to cope with but on the hand there is a sense of emancipation,a creativity and renewed energy, freedom, and self discovery and in my case a willingness to fight any cause I feel I need to,something I would never bother with before. No we would not want a life without kids, but reaching an age where our kids are not the main focus anymore perhaps allows us for the first time to be really who we are.

  • Melina says:

    Wonderful article. Never having had any of those classic menopause moments…no idea why not, not even a single night sweat…..I certainly felt a bit light headed for a few years. My sense of balance was ever so slightly affected. However, I am 56 and certainly over it and secretly loving this side of life. OK, so my hair doesn’t shine so much, my eyes still sparkle, but not quite as brightly, I’m permanently 1 or 2 sizes bigger in my clothes, I prefer not to focus on my neck when I look in the mirror, but honestly, I feel wonderful. Both our children are now at boarding school and I have managed to claw back some of my career and I’m loving it.
    I LOVED every moment doing all those intense mummy jobs for all those years.Treasured memories for ever. (I can only remember all those good bits! ) My teenage boys are loving their time now. That piece of something that attached to me to them has become elasticated. They are stretching it further every day.
    Life feels good for all of us.
    A few thoughts…Forget fad diets. Eat well. Eat tons of fruit.( I still eat an avocado each day.) Don’t compare yourself to anybody. Find your own style. After a mad moment be gracious and always kind.. Love who you are.

  • Linda says:

    Please TWR!! Consider women who don’t have children of their own, but nonetheless are women, who endure the pressures of life, work, the menopause, etc., etc. – just like any other woman!! I’m so tired of reading this type of article which assumes ALL women have naturally borne children!! Spare a thought for those of us who never have had the opportunity to do so. There IS life outside of having children …..get on with it!!!

  • Jane says:

    Indeed Linda there certainly are women without children who endure pressures, menopause etc and we hope that we do respect this, as our blog is targeted at all women. That’s why we really only talk about kids in our Middleagedmum posts. All stages of life have their challenges and in Middleagedmum we focus on what its like to be a mum at our stage in life. We dont assume our readers have children and know lots of them don’t, but we also cant ignore that those who do and the impact they have on their lives.
    We would love to look at menopause and womens health issues in more depth using experts, as this is something that really isnt tackled seriously enough. We hope to be able to do this in the future.
    Thanks for reading J x

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