Motherhood meets menopause: Coping with fatigue

Not only is there a biochemical component to the fatigue at midlife, there is the additional exponential factor that comes from always being on call. You can’t follow the body’s imperative to rest if it’s time to pick your child up from school or cook dinner. Successfully devising strategies to cope with this level of fatigue may mean scaling back on your expectations of yourself, and often it involves seismic shifts in self-image.

Carmine was a high-powered computer programmer before she had her daughter three years ago. Now at forty-five, she’s creating a new lifestyle that includes concessions to a fatigue that she admits “caught me by surprise. I used to be a career woman--panty hose, high heels, the whole scene. After my daughter was born, I switched to part time, and then to running my own consulting business from home. At first, I got dressed up every day like I did when I worked in the city. Then I just admitted to myself that I was pooped and switched to wearing sweats. I had “day sweats” to work in and “night sweats” to sleep in. But one day I came out of my office around lunchtime and my daughter asked me if I was going to work or to bed. Believe me, it was a shock to see how far I’d come from my power suit days.”

Laura, a 45-year-old client of mine, has been a successful commercial artist for twenty years. She had her first and only child five years ago and has been juggling motherhood, marriage, and career ever since. “I don’t have the reserves of energy I used to have,” she told me. “I used to pride myself on my gourmet cooking, but now, if I’m involved in a painting, and it’s dinnertime, I don’t stop to cook. I know I’m fooling myself if I think I’ll have the energy to cook and get back to work later. I probably would have been pulled in more directions if I were younger. Now I want time for my family and my art. These matter. We can always order take-out.”

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