I keep coming across articles, reports, conversations and media bites about mid-life women leaving their marriages, “in droves” it's reported. A new trend, some say. Speculate, proclamate and surmise to say this occurrence correlates with several trends. The first generation of women to have choices and opportunities beyond the kitchen have a collective bit of status, financial freedom and perhaps wanderlust of their very own, right smack in the middle of menopause and the launching of their children. Research has also revealed a pervasive decline in happiness in women as compared to men over the past 25 years. Women seem to be attempting to take control over their lives at a time when their lives suddenly belong to them.
First, when looking at the population that this trend most applies to, women over 40, it is not surprising that we are changing the rules and rewriting some of the regulations. We are the women that were brought up at a time when options and choices were promoted and offered like "Bat Day" at Yankees Stadium. Buy your ticket; get a free bat; a large coke and a hot dog. Dream big about your future, ladies! Step right up, go to college, get a career, a partner, a family and have it all. The big difference? "Bat Day" was only one day, you came, you cheered, you ate, you got the souvenir and you went home with a fond memory. Something new and exciting was offered up next season. We were lead to believe we could “Have it all”. “Have it all” Day was going to be a new way of life, not an attempt to create an ongoing event. (I believe “ongoing event” is the oxymoron here).
We also grew up in a time when divorce initially seemed an epidemic to be quarantined from. We learned, the hard way, that it is also survivable. Maybe not the best case scenario for all parties, but life goes on and it can go on successfully. We also decided that marriage is not for everyone. Families come in all different shapes and sizes and tolerance for differences can move toward acceptance. Hopefully, in our lifetime. We learned we don't have all the answers, but we can continue to ask questions. Maybe we are learning that one size doesn't fit all and we get to make the alterations.
The timing of this great female exodus from the land of marital bliss seems to be worth noting. Many of us were raised up and went right into marriage. From daughter to wife and mother in a nano second. Sure, some travelled, threw themselves into those careers and satisfied desires and yearning before settling down. Those are more the exception, less the rule. Don't pass go, don't collect $200, don't forget the pressures to conform. We went from crib to crib fillers with careers. As women born in the late 50's through the early 70's launch their grown children, there are new possibilities suddenly available. Maybe the very possibilities we had hoped for. The icing on the Hostess cupcakes. The Kool-Aid Mom days behind us. There may be a need to self-regulate but we don't have to self-sacrifice quite so much as our mothers and grandmothers.
The realization that the time comes when children grow up and leave, has been for me, initially debilitating, grief stricken and somewhat surprising. It has quickly turned toward a monumental time of possibility and I find myself examining my potential. What that means, I haven't committed to yet, but the dalliance with a chance to recreate and begin a new life is wide open and welcoming.
Of course throwing in the menopausal hormonal release like the grand finale of a fireworks show keeps me guessing, and those around me bobbing and weaving. Eventually I will see where the chips land. Certainly this all feels a bit mind-boggling and somewhat tantalizing. Truth be told, mind-boggling and tantalizing are more in line with my free spirited self than some of the constrained costumes I've been wearing as mother and wife. Don't get me wrong, I haven't been play acting as much as attempting to ensure stability and safety. I am ready to be a little more of a risk-taker, I think, a wee bit cautiously, perhaps.
Mid life seems a time to give up a little sanity, discard a few behaviors regarded as morals and values, or maybe in some areas, the false adherence to the morals and values that are more generalized and less personal. The freedom from the need to prepare and offer three tightly scheduled square meals is way more liberating then burning a bra. Quite honestly at this point in the game, most of us don't exactly fill the bra in a manner that the bra was created to uphold and maybe fully fill. The burning of it would be just one more added frustration that we just don't need to burden ourselves with. Simply throw it away or tighten the straps, maybe just a few small adjustments are needed (to the bra and the life design).
With no role models to look to, and little support (no bra pun intended) and no one handing out the bats or free refills, peanuts, or cracker-jack, it is no surprise that we couldn't sustain the promise or create the exemplar for marriage, motherhood, and mortal, lest we resort to martyr, as we sometimes do/did. Many held on until the kids were grown. Not the best way to manage but maybe the best that some could offer. We were for the most part, going to Have-It-All and Give-It-All for and to, the kids. With little left, it seems time to reevaluate and redesign. We may not have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps we want to throw the baby out and keep the bathwater. I don't know. I do know that I am ready to be more of myself with the safety and knowledge that my children are taking flight and their wings are strong. I want to fly, to try out those wings of mine that have been too long grounded. I may fly solo, I may fly with a friend, a partner, a true companion. Maybe a combination of the two. Rather than an exodus maybe I'll venture towards an alternate flight plan.