Double trouble: was pairing menopausal mothers and tweenage daughters really the plan?
Now that we’re having kids older, let’s explore what this means for young girls going through puberty and their ‘Queenager’ mothers…
What were they thinking? We mean, seriously?!
Mothers in their 40s starting off on their menopause phase (I can’t bring myself to write ‘journey’), whilst, in another room in the house, daughters are embarking on puberty.
Each body doing the complete opposite to the other; with one ramping up hormones for reproduction and the other realising they’re too old and knackered to even contemplate another baby.
Who’s bright idea was that?!
Depending on your beliefs, did God/ Mother Nature/ a crazy inventor really have this timing in mind?!
As if hot flushes (or burning cheeks, in my case), complete rage for very little reason and memory fog aren’t enough to be getting our heads around, those of us going through the menopause with tweenage daughters experience double the intensity – with emotional, hormonal and angry mini-mes as sidekicks.
WHAT THE NUMBERS SAY
Of course, this couldn’t have been the original ‘plan’. On paper, women who choose to do so should really have babies in their 20s – when their bodies are in their prime and there’s the best chance of pregnancy. Not drinking White Russians and singing Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ on repeat, (ahem, I mean building a high-flying career).
Ideally our daughters should be in their 20s while we’re in our 40s, so that by the time we become grandmothers we’ve totally nailed the knitting, baking, ‘granny in Shirley Hughes’ books’ look.
According to the Office of National Statistics, women born in 1946 had their first child at the age of 24. The average age of mothers in England and Wales is now 30.9 years. This is nearly five years older than in the 1970s and the average age of a first-time mum has risen to the highest it’s ever been.
So, we’re older and a little wiser, but I would suggest far more stressed, busy and stretched than ever before. Add perimenopause symptoms into the mix, plus a hormonal daughter or two, and the results are more fraught than using a self-service checkout with a hangover.
WHAT THE ‘QUEENAGERS’ SAY
When I asked friends how they felt about their own, and their daughters’, hormone battles, the same words came up: ‘rage’ ‘screaming’ ‘fights’ and some others we can’t include.
One told me about how hard she found dealing with a new side to her 12-year-old when she felt like a different person herself, too. Another felt so tired and floored by her perimenopause symptoms that she’d let her daughter ‘get away with’ behaviour she would never normally have tolerated.
One very wise friend said: “Nature really is quite cruel on everyone. When our teens’ hormones are racing and they need us to be at our most balanced and understanding, our own hormones are making us irrational, snappy and unable to support them as we might like”.
WHAT THE ‘TWEENAGERS’ SAY
But if it’s hard for us, it must be even more difficult for our daughters. I, for one, would certainly not go back there, not for all the NEOM candles in the world. Mood swings, bad skin, greasy hair, body changes, the start of periods – topped with the uncertainty of when it was all going to start happening.
Normally, older people show off about how bad they had it, but I really feel for young girls in today’s world. That’s one bumper bag of stuff to go through, made all the more pronounced by – yep, you guessed it – social media.
Not only are they working out what’s going on with their bodies, but they’re also constantly scrolling through images of pouty, glossy, contoured older teens looking cool. Trying to get a 12-year-old to smile and show her teeth is virtually impossible; there’s certainly a ‘look’ to aspire to and one would imagine the girls on screen with that look have the help of a filter (or seven). So, our young girls have that cringy, awkward, ‘sleeves over hands’ vibe, mixed with an even bigger emphasis on looks, poses and self-awareness.
I remember the horror of being photographed as an awkward teenager, the complete cringe of getting my first bra and wearing three vests over it so no one would see it, wearing layers of baggy clothes to cover my (then slim) body, with the only advice to be found in the singular school library Judy Blume book. I can’t imagine the self-obsessed, paranoid pre-teen I would be today if I had a smart phone too.
But there’s a huge difference between tween then and tween now: communication. Newsflash to my mother – young girls talk about their feelings. A LOT. They’re far more open, articulate, self-aware and mentally health-conscious than we ever were, and possibly than we will ever be.
They express themselves in ways I could only dream of and this includes all emotions, happy and angry. My friends and I all agree we would never have slammed the door, asked bold questions, shown high emotion or spoken to our parents the way our kids do to us.
WHAT WE SHOULD ALL BE SAYING
Our generation is finally coming out from under our shell to talk about our own issues after years of hiding in the shadows. Menopause has never been on the agenda as much as it is now, thanks to women like Davina McCall and Mariella Frostrup. Pioneers like journalist Eleanor Mills are championing this empowering ‘Queenager’ stage of life. We’re talking about it, men are far more aware of both menopause and puberty, young girls are open to discussing it all and that’s all such a step in the right direction.
Of course it’s amazing. But I can’t help admitting that I’m not sure I signed up to be a mum, washer woman, nose blower and now a counsellor, too.
I do feel a little like a name on the Boden database – I signed up for the 20% off the first purchase to get that fab coat, but I’m not so keen on the millions of offers and emails four years later…. Yes, conversation is a step forward and of course it’s right to show our true feelings and not bottle our emotions up. But, wow, it’s exhausting! I wish I had the right (or any) answers, or indeed the patience for tween strops when I myself am feeling hot, bothered and furious.
I come from a land of silence on the feeling front; the mute button would never have been off for period chats and I would never have dreamt of asking for parental advice about my body. So, it’s a challenge to sit down and talk about feelings with my daughter when I’m trying to get my head around my own body’s changes. As hard as it can be, I know it’s the right thing to do. And I know how hard it is because I’m doing it too.
So, despite us being on opposite lanes of traffic, my daughter and l are both in transit and I’m completely in awe of how her generation is so open about their experiences. It’s not so helpful when our hormones are raging and we’re both angry at the same time, but she is teaching me to think about it all: talk to friends, learn about what’s happening and support peers in ways I could only have dreamt about at her age.
And, in turn, I’m trying my best to be understanding, patient and to put myself in her position. And to not slam the door.