I think I am in the middle of an identity crisis. At 51 years old, after 2 children, 27 years of marriage, and years of work I find myself frequently asking “Who am I?” Not in a “Still Alice” kind of way; my memory is not what it used to be but I am still mostly on the ball. “Who am I?” in the sense of where do I fit in at this stage of my life?
It is easy to tell yourself you won’t change who you are when you get married , have children, and begin to age, but try as you might, you will change. Your body changes, your priorities change and your life focus changes. You no longer focus on yourself, you have a family to take care of and nurture. “Me time” becomes a thing of the past, sleep becomes a luxury and you find yourself running from one event to the next. Before you know it your “go to” outfit goes from heels and skirts to yoga pants and an oversized sweatshirt. Your idea of a wild night is coming home, putting on said “go to” outfit, getting take out and watching mindless television while you fall asleep on the couch. Your beauty regimen morphs from leisurely baths in the spa tub with a mud mask to a quick “P.T.A” bath with a washcloth and a bar of Irish Spring whilst standing at the sink.
I have probably opened the floodgates to rude remarks and snide comments. If you are one of those women who can keep it all together: The house, the marriage, the kids, the job AND still look like a million bucks, PROPS to you! You rock. If you are one of those women please stop reading this and grab your latest issue of Cosmopolitan. For those of you who are in your sweats nodding your head in agreement then please read on.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened: when the wrinkles started appearing, when appendages that were once perky took a downward turn, when a good laugh better be accompanied by crossed legs or when those stray grays started springing up. It seemed as if I woke up young and spry one day and the next I looked in the mirror and thought “Who the hell are you?” “Where is Michelle, and who is this old lady?”
I have also been thinking about things I used to do: hobbies, activities, interests. For so long I was fully involved in my children’s activities, that those had become my entertainment, and interest. Now that those are over the question is “Now What?” As I approach the empty nester phase I have realized I need to reinvent myself. I need to find things that fulfill me and make me feel vibrant. Seriously, even though I love Netflix and sweats, I do not foresee this as a viable route to self fulfillment. My first attempt at reinvention is writing. I have been dabbling in the blogosphere and now want to work on developing my skills. Writing, yes that is a great new hobby to begin my “golden years”.
I am NOT complaining, I LOVE my family and I have loved every minute of raising them (OK maybe not every minute…but if you were to picture a balance scale the good would outweigh the bad by far). Honestly, not to pat myself on the back but raising two children into adulthood (one with significant special needs), working full-time, and having 27 years of marriage under my belt is something to be proud of. Yeah matter of fact it makes me pretty special. Actually I think I could be considered a badass! I know my job as a mother will never end, but it now takes on a different job description.
The marriage is going to need a bit of an overhaul too. Before life got messy and busy there was only us. We were young and in love and couldn’t get enough of each other. Now we are older, exhausted and even though there is love, by the time 10 PM comes, my side of the bed is about the sexiest thing around town. We are not used to it being just us any longer, we have not had the opportunity for spontaneity. Life with autism has put the kibosh on intimacy and romance and living as caregivers in shifts has become the new norm. This part of being an empty nester scares me most. What if when it is just us again and we can spend time together we don’t even like each other any more?
In the show Parenthood, the matriarch Millie talks about this stage in life being “The Third Act” and she describes what she wants in life as an older couple whose kids are grown. I am not sure what is in store for my “Third Act” I still have many lines to memorize and rehearsals to run before the “show” but whatever it is I hope to get a standing ovation for my performance!