Parenting teenagers is an emotional rollercoaster. Throw puberty and the menopause into the mix and you have a toxic cocktail of hormones which is guaranteed to involve a lot of tears, tantrums and door slamming.
There is something quite cruel about the twist of fate that places the two biggest rites of passage in a woman’s life side by side simultaneously.
The optimistic stance is of course that both phases are about new beginnings. Adolescence and midlife are there to be embraced with equal gusto – or at least so we are led to believe.
The flip side, however, is that these two symbolic chapters in a woman’s life are marked by puberty and the menopause. The former with its emphasis on growing up and blossoming and the latter with its concurrent focus on growing old and ageing. They mark the beginning and end of an era and each comes with its own challenges.
I speak from a position of experience as such has been the scenario in our house for the last five years as my daughter and I hit puberty and the peri-menopause simultaneously, transforming our home into a veritable maelstrom of hormones.
Wails of “It’s not fair!” and “Leave me alone!” from my daughter and I were largely indistinguishable and invariably my husband and son found themselves caught in the crossfire, as the collision of her rising hormones and my falling ones proved to be quite explosive.
”Why are you so mean to me?” was the regular plea from my daughter.
“Why are you so rude?” was mine.
Despite our lives essentially playing out in reverse, the bald facts were that aside from the obvious factors of our age and appearance there was little to distinguish between us emotionally. We were both equally irrational, anxious, tearful and irritable.
My daughter was locked in a teenage battle with her changing body shape, acne, growing pains and fatigue and I was locked in a midlife one with my wrinkles, aching joints, expanding midriff, forgetfulness and exhaustion.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was a lot of humour too. I am grateful for the close bond we share and invariably, as is the way with all good girl battles, we would find ourselves at the end laughing and commiserating with each other about the trials and tribulations of being a woman.
In hindsight our familial tendency to communicate saved our household. It is common for parents to bemoan the withdrawal of their teens as they pass through puberty but that has not been our experience with either our son or our daughter. If anything, we found we talked even more.
My teens saw me as the imperfect human we can all be sometimes. Not everyone agrees, but I think it is important for us to acknowledge our own weaknesses to our children and for them to see that it’s ok to not be fine all the time.
After all, life isn’t always a bed of roses, it comes with its fair share of knocks. The important part is to use those knocks to learn and move forward.
Change is never easy and the journey associated with puberty and menopause is no exception. Each forces you to think about new beginnings but of course no foray into a new lifestage is complete without at least a cursory nod of recognition to what lies at the end.
As my daughter matured and embraced all that the next phase of life as a young woman had to offer, my newfound positivity and enthusiasm for the dawn of midlife suddenly seemed futile as the rug was pulled from beneath my feet.
My emotions shifted somewhat. It might not have been easy getting to this midlife point but I had done it, I had turned a corner and with the help of HRT was feeling pretty good about myself and what lay ahead.
Wails of “It’s not fair!” reverberated around our household walls once more.
Fear of course is the presiding emotion in these situations, but as a parent it is more for your children. My son was at University, the hard work with him was complete. My daughter, however, still had a way to go.
We had shared so much, she and I. I became scared for her. Scared that she would not have anyone to guide her through the final phase of her journey into adulthood. Scared that she would be alone on all the future transitions in a woman’s life.
Every girl needs a mentor, a female role model and whilst I might have been an irrational one at times I hoped that, I was a good one.
I rallied my closest girlfriends, I talked to them about her, shared her passions, her fears, her idiosyncrasies, my hopes and dreams for her future and asked them to promise to look out for her should everything go tits up. After all there is only so much an older brother and father can help with.
Six months on and there is light at the end of my tunnel once more. I have endured radical gynaecological surgery, experienced the harsh reality of a surgical menopause and been given hope for the future once more, if only in quarterly instalments.
With every cloud there is a silver lining and ironically mine is that my family feel I have emerged a more mellow version of my former self. It’s good to know that God has a sense of humour too!
After years of suffering at the hands of my yo-yoing hormones, I am starting from a position of zero and with the help of HRT not only combatting a new range of menopausal symptoms, but also putting in to place the building blocks that I hope will carry me through the next stage of my midlife journey and guide my daughter onto hers.