Saturday, 6 August 2011

Watch out for women in their 40's

Many years ago, whilst chatting to a group of friends about marriage, divorce and affairs, I remember someone making the remark “watch out for women in their 40’s”.  I was in my mid-thirties at the time and it struck me as a curious remark.  I didn’t really get what it meant.

And then finally, I hit 40!  And all of a sudden – I got it!

Throughout my 20’s I was totally focused on my career.  I met my now ex-husband and got married.  We bought a house together and made plans for a family.

Like many women of my generation, I had my first child in my early 30’s and gave up my career to be a full time mother.  And so life ticked along.  I spent my days changing nappies, taking the kids to parties, making endless meals and clearing up after everyone.  Then, by the end of my 30’s life started to get easier.  The kids were more independent and off at school during the term time.  I had a chance to exercise and get fit again and started to wonder what to do with myself whilst the kids were at school.  Not just anything, but something meaningful.

During this period of time, I came to reflect on my whole life.  I realised that the sense of identity I had had during my 20’s had gone.  I was somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife and somebody’s mother.  I was worn out and I’d had enough.

And so I decided it was time to focus on me. 

The problem was, my then husband didn’t seem to “get it”.  I had made his life very comfortable at home.  When he got back from work there was always a meal on the table.  The kids were well looked after, washed, teeth brushed and ready to play with “superdad” until he’d had enough and I took them to bed. 

I organised our social life, cooked for our friends, arranged our holidays and sorted out the car insurance.  But having had everything done for him on a domestic level for so long, these things I did so seamlessly had become invisible to him.  And because it was invisible, he didn’t see or value it.   

I started to think about things I could do.  Freelance work, setting up a small business, re-training.  I had lots of thoughts, but whatever it was going to be, it needed to be done my way and in my own time frame.

I talked to my ex-husband about the various ideas I had.  What I wanted was support and encouragement.  But what I got was an opinion. 

“I don’t think that’s a good idea because…..”

“No, that won’t work because….”

“I think you should do xxx because….”

And so it went on.

My ex-husband really didn’t get it.  Like many men, he was at a stage of his career where he was the one giving the orders.  And when he got home, I found myself being spoken to like a low grade employee.  Having had me as his social and domestic flunky for so many years, he had forgotten that the woman he had married all those years ago had had her own career, her own opinions, the ability to make her own decisions – oh, and a brain.

And that’s when I started to rebel.  And the more I rebelled, the more he tried to rein me in and control everything.  It was as if I was an unruly member of his team, not obeying his rules.  And to him, that was clearly unacceptable.

Finally, after much soul searching and heartache my rebellion ended in divorce. 

I knew then that my ex-husband simply couldn’t let me be myself and set me free, within our marriage, to regain my lost independence, feelings of self-worth, and identity.  Divorce was not a decision I took lightly – but now, a few years down the line, I have begun to get my ‘old self’ back.  Countless friends have commented on the change they’ve seen in me.  And friends who have only known me since I have had children, have started to see a whole other side to my personality. 

I feel very sad that I couldn’t have had this within my marriage – and that is why I decided to write this all down.

Men, whose wives stay at home when they have children, have pretty much the same weekday life after children.  Hang on, I shouldn’t say that…  there are of course a great number of men who have given up their career path to be the full time child carer.  What I should say is, the person in a marriage who stays in their career has continuity in their life.  The partner who gives up work and stays at home, has their life completely changed.  When that person at home gets to the point where the kids are older and the chaos of young children has subsided, there is a point at which they want something for themselves again.

If people understood this better, I really believe it could save a lot of marriages. 

So, watch out for women (or men!) in their 40’s.  Listen to what they have to say.  Remember what it was about them when they were younger that drew you to them and allow them to reclaim their identity.


  1. This is amazing because this is not unique at all in the fact almost all women (and many men) go through this "it's me time" identity crisis in their 40s, Like they've lived out there youth and have to 'start something fresh'.

    Talk to the older generation. They get it, they've been through this as well. You'll reject it because your in that semi-wisdom stage in your 40s. Older people remember they had 'odd' stages in their 40s, then as they matured back in their 50s they remembered it's important to not always think about yourself but for the future of your children.

    "So, watch out for women (or men!) in their 40’s. Listen to what they have to say."

    I'm sorry I just had to comment because I was discussing this was my mother who, in her 40s had VERY similar circumstances (almost identical). In her late 50s now and we've talked about those times (divorce etc.). Couples married into their 60s (the few who've made it that far) will almost universally describe 'the rough time' in their 40s.

    Maybe things will work out for you, I don't know, but just a warning. Have you thought about retirement? How divorce would affect your children? What your going to leave behind for your children? Are you going to be a burden on them in old age? These are things parents in their 40s don't fully consider during their identity crisis stage.

    1. Well said!!! It's not always about me me me, you know! Your full time working spouse also sacrificed his/her life for you and the children. Your sacrifice and contribution does not give you moral high ground, and automatically make what you did 'right'.

  2. Sounds like your husband worked his butt off and you hung out at home. Then one day, you had a identity crisis. You divorced him and he paid you child support. My question, now that your children are raised, what did you do to help your husband financially? So sick of deadbeat women in their forties. Tip to all men: don't let your wife cry to you when you have children and she wants to stay home, it's a recipe for disaster. She will have issues when they are in school fool time and the man and children suffer, while the ex wife runs around like a child. I need to write a book about women in their forties. Also, a tip to men, if you remarry, sign a pre-nump.

    1. I have never been man-bashing. It's a shame that you seem to be so woman bashing and bitter. How sexist and presumptuous to question what I did to help my ex-husband financially. I don't feel I owe it to you or anyone else to justify myself. On a brighter note, you say that you should write a book about women in their forties. Go and do it. I look forward to it. In the interim, I will just entertain myself with the thought of your "pre-nump" [sic] and the thought of my children being in school "fool time" [sic].

  3. I grew up with the fondest love for my mother(today she is like my best friend!), and yes she was a stay at home mom during the time me and my sister were born (we were 6 years apart), and by the time I entered school she was out of the workforce for little over a decade. I know that she gave up a lot for us, she has an IT bachelor's degree. She made the decision to sacrifice her career to raise us, I'm not saying that is the best choice but it was her choice to make and my father never asked it of her.

    My father has a Masters in Engineering and he made enough so that our family didn't have to worry about finances, a luxury many families don't have today. Looking back on it all, one of the main things that stood out for me was the family dinners around the table. My parent's main focus was always on the family. At one point my father lost his job and my mother entered back into the workforce, something that I'm sure was very difficult, but my father never complained about it. He found work again and my mother decided to stay in the workforce even though she didn't need to.

    There came a point where my parents missed having so much time together (Lets face it, work can over time even if you enjoy it, will drain you...), so they talked about it and together they decided to create a business together in real estate. Which today, they made their retirement on the business and it brings an income far greater than what they ever made while working. My family has always remained intact, and faced struggles together. It always saddens me to see when family starts to shatter.

    I don't know what your ex husband was like, or anything about your marriage or the standing of how your children felt about your divorce (something I will never know). I've always in my mind thought it was best for the family to stay together and to build together, communication is always key. I'm glad you are doing well today, you have overcome so much and I know without a doubt you are truly blessed. ^_^


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