Motherhood meets menopause: Learning to set limits

book cover

Reprinted with permission from Hot Flashes Warm Bottles: First-Time Mothers Over Forty, Copyright (c) 2001 by Nancy London, M.S.W., Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.

I felt like huge pieces of my old self were being vacuumed up in being a parent until I arranged my schedule to be home alone once a week. I put fresh flowers on the table, turn off the phone, and take a hot bath. I make a point not to accomplish a single, tangible thing.
Jesse, 45-year-old mother of 5-year-old Kyle

A number of older moms who come to my support groups often tell me that one of their greatest difficulties is learning to say no to their children when their thoughts, feelings, and body cues are telling them that they are too overwhelmed to say yes. Yet significantly the one regret that older parents with grown children consistently express is a wish that they had set more limits with their children early on. So what is it that prevents us from drawing a line in the sand and establishing these much-needed limits with our children?

For many midlife moms, the difficulty arises because they know they are only going to have one child, and they can’t bear being too strict. Other women say that they hold themselves to unrealistic expectations of perfect parenting, which includes never having to say no. Those who came of age in an era that encouraged breaking free of limitations now equate limit setting with restricting their child’s developing self-esteem. It’s also common for older parents of only children to relate to their children as friends because they spend so much time together, but it then becomes that much harder to switch into the role of boundary setter.

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