Anna told the support group she felt devastated because, after spending thousands of dollars and three years undergoing infertility treatments, she was now feeling increasingly frustrated and impatient with her four-year-old daughter. “I’m forty-seven,” she began. “My periods are irregular, and sometimes I feel so hormonally out of balance and so desperate for time alone that I lock myself in the bathroom. Last week I yelled so loud my daughter burst into tears and said, ‘I want my real mommy.’ How could this possibly be me, the same woman who tried to have a baby for so many years? Sometimes I say I’m going to the store, but really all I do is just sit in the car in the parking lot soaking up the silence, knowing no one can find me and ask me for anything. My husband knows I need time to be alone and encourages me to take it, but I’m torn. I’m not going to have any more children, and if I leave, I might miss something precious. But when I stay, I’m crabby and I want to escape. I guess you could say I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.”
These women are incredibly relieved when they understand that this powerful urge to claim time and space for themselves is an inherent component of the midlife passage. Taking this time away allows them to return to their families recharged and rebalanced. But if this impulse is ignored or condemned, they stay caught in unresolved ambivalence, often growing irritable and depressed, and end up alienated from the ones they love the very most.