Great title, right? I agree, but it’s not mine. It’s the title of a new book, just out from the dynamic duo Amy Nobile and Trisha Ashworth. If you haven’t read one of their previous books (also with amazing titles) I Was A Really Great Mom Until I Had Kids, and I’d Trade My Husband For A Housekeeper…among others, you need to get this one. (Full disclosure, I’m quoted twice in the book – try to figure out which ones…)
I virtually sat down with Amy and Trisha to talk about their book and the concept of perennials – the rebranding of Middle Age.
Me: Hi Ladies! First of all, I want to say thank you for writing this book. It’s long overdue and after reading it, I can say that the wisdom within these pages completely spoke to me. I’m on a mission to make 50-something relevant, and sometimes I feel like the world is standing in my way. It’s a daily fight against age and gender bias.
Them: YES – we even fought age bias in pitching this book to the media! Women’s magazines and some of the big national tv shows are shying away from the ‘midlife’ topic, as it’s just not ‘sexy.’ Yet women are buying the book like crazy for themselves and their friends!
Me: I love your goal of rebranding middle age, of rewriting the rules of midlife. And I appreciate your usage of the new term “perennial.” It’s so refreshing to hear something other than millennial. Explain that.
Them: Every time we interviewed a woman and used the word ‘’midlife,’ we could feel her cringe over the phone. So we finally just put it in the spotlight and asked women what word they’d rather use, and there’s a page in the book that reflects these ideas (“kindergarten 2.0,” “Becoming”). The word that seemed to light up each woman was “Perennial.” They all seemed to love the symbolism – everlasting, ever blooming, more vibrant year after year.
Me: The book starts off with a question: “Is this it?” It’s something I ask myself on a daily basis. I guess I’m not alone?
Them: No you are most certainly NOT alone! It’s a strange concept to feel like we are a lucky generation, that we have choices that are so much more bountiful than our moms, yet feel unfulfilled on some level. We heard it over and over again – women whispering into the phone that they feel guilty/bad about feeling that they’re somehow lacking, or stuck. And not sure of how to get themselves ‘unstuck.’
Me: Many of my friends are dealing with the family sandwich: parenting their newly minted young adult children and their elderly parents. It can be overwhelming. Any advice?
Them: This is a perfect storm situation. It’s happening everywhere, yet we’re still shell-shocked when it affects us. We’re having kids later, and suddenly we’re hormonal, they’re hormonal, and our parents need us as caregivers. It’s incredibly overwhelming and once again, we put ourselves at the very bottom of the priority list. The first step is to put ourselves not only back on that list, but near the top. What are your weekly/monthly non-negotiables? It could be something as small as a 20-minute walk or meditation each day. But it’s vital to put that on the family calendar, let everyone know it’s happening and don’t overlook it. We have to stay strong and start saying ‘no’ to some things in our lives to make room for these situations.
Me: My kids will roll their eyes at this, but my husband and I are extremely excited about being empty-nesters and have a new lease on life. That being said, it can be a huge transition from a busy, child-filled home, to it just being the two of you. You sort of have to figure it all out again. What have some of your responders said about this transition?
Them: It’s a time laced with so many different emotions all at once – pride, excitement, fear, loss, sadness. A lot of women told us that sending their kids to college was a sock in the stomach, and completely took an unexpected emotional toll on them. Other women talked more about the transition in terms of how it shaped or shifted their marriages – you’re really forced to look at each other again, and some marriages don’t survive it. In fact, after age 50, 3 out of 5 divorces are initiated by women, and the numbers are rising. A smaller number of women said they were overjoyed to have their lives back in a sense, and described being empty nesters as like being in Kindergarten all over again.
Me: And how about girlfriends? Things change in that regard as well. The reason we became friends in the first place (kids, kids, kids) have gone to college. We have less to talk about, and sometimes it can be harder to connect in a meaningful way. Any suggestions?
Them: A lot of women talked about feeling very alone during this phase – and yes, it’s true that those friends we made because our kids were BFF’s aren’t usually the best fits as we progress, and the kids aren’t the common thread anymore. We need to reassess who is in our lives now, who is serving us, who is not (we call this ‘pruning’), and make some decisions about what we really want in terms of friendships. Even one solid meaningful girlfriend who truly gets you and is there for you in a positive way is worth more than 5 friends who are more superficial. One way to meet new friends is to enroll in a class or club to do something you love – gardening, writing, running.
Me: After decades of others being the priority in our lives how do we put ourselves front and center?
Them: It takes a true effort to decide to focus on ourselves. It’s a choice, every single day. It’s a conscious choice to be happy, to choose ourselves as someone we love. Once we begin seeing each new day in that light, things will start to shift.
Me: And then, there’s the big M. Can we blame everything on menopause? What can we learn from those on the other side of the transition? In other words, am I ever going to get a good night sleep again?
Them: There is sooo much misinformation out there! Even the doctors we interviewed had so much conflicting advice; it makes our heads hurt. And menopause is so steeped in taboo that women are hesitant to talk with each other about it! What surprised us most is the long laundry list of odd symptoms — like hearing sensitivity, anxiety (sometimes crushing) and changes in eyesight. But once women got through it, and were on the other side, many of them said their sex drives were better than ever, they could lose weight again, and they were happier.
Me: There’s hope!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions today. I know you are going to be very busy with the book tour. Looking forward to seeing you next Wednesday at the 92nd Street Y
I can’t think of a better book club book for women our age to talk about! You can order one here.
Have fun. Be bold.