Let’s face it – most women are pleasers. We grew up playing with baby dolls and being “mommy.”  We are taught to be caregivers for everyone. Our parents wanted us to “dress appropriately” and “act like a lady.”  In school our grades reflected whether we got along well with others and followed instructions.

In short, the message we received was that our job was to be kind, take care of others and don’t make waves.

That’s still the message women receive and we are harshly labeled by the media and society when we don’t conform. At work if we advocate strongly for our idea we’re a bitch. If we get into a debate the adjective used to describe our interaction is “shrill.”  And of course, if we really go nuts then we must be on our period.

The adjectives used for men are completely different – confident, tough, a good negotiator.  And hormones are never a factor.

Several years ago a new phrase became popular – “disruptor.” Companies and products that are redefining a category or shaking up their industry with new ideas are disruptors.  The people who are disruptors are considered visionaries.

Women in midlife need to be disruptors as well.  We should be envisioning our future and living life on our terms as joyfully as possible. Doing so requires us to be laser-focused on what we do and don’t want in our lives and manifesting it, regardless of what the people around us think.  Here’s the thing, most people in our lives don’t want us to change. It either will inconvenience them or threaten their view of how life should be lived. And people looooovvveeee to tell us what we should be doing!

We need to change our mindset of what is acceptable behavior for us and the people in our tribe. By advocating for what you want and creating standards for what you will not allow you’re not a bitch your self-empowered. This is true in your professional and personal life.  It’s time to stop excusing rude, insensitive comments couched as advice and concern that leave you feeling badly about yourself.  Whether it’s your sister, friend or business colleague they need to hear from you in very confident language that you will no longer engage in conversations that you consider to be toxic or not supportive.

Recently on my You Tube Channel I did a video on establishing boundaries with family, friends and business colleagues who aren’t supportive.  We talked about having the right to say “No!” to relationships, situations and obligations and how to do it.

How often do you find yourself doing something because you think that’s what you “should” be doing? We don’t want to join the committee or go to the family party but we do it because at some point we were programmed to believe that’s what we’re supposed to do.

Stop and ask yourself the question – how would my life be positively or negatively impacted if I said “No” to these things?  Chances are, if you shut down the voice inside your head that tells you that you must do them, you’d not only feel happier but you’d have time to spend with a friend or work on your passion project or exercise or simply relax on the couch.  

There are positive outcomes from “No”

When you’re a mom and working long hours, it’s natural to want to give your kids as much of your time as you can.  There’s not a working mom alive who hasn’t heard the words “You never have time for me!”  Saying “no” to spending an afternoon with your son or daughter and instead exercising, reading a book or visiting a friend, seems incredibly selfish to most moms.  But not only is it important for your emotional and physical well-being, you’re also sending the message to your kids that caring for oneself is important.  Additionally, kids need to understand that your job is something you enjoy doing and their requests for you to stop working will also be met with a “no.

At work, “No” is extremely useful when a co-worker is trying to dump his/her share of a project on you or when your boss consistently asks you to stay late.  There’s a difference between being a team player and being taken advantage of.   The same holds true when you own your own business. Do you have a problem saying “No” to someone who isn’t willing to pay a fair price for your service or an employee who constantly shows up late or asks for time off?   These are just a few reasons your business might not be growing as you would like.

Do you say “No” enough?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time did I spend yesterday doing tasks/favors for other people?
  • How did I feel as I was doing them?
  • When was the last time I said “NO” to something I didn’t want to do?
  • How did that make me feel?

I’ve had my own struggle with boundary-setting and saying “No” lately.  Ever since the pandemic started I’ve been feeding my family of 6  Every. Single. Night. Before this, my daughters had afterschool activities and we rarely all ate together.  On many nights when either my husband, my mom or I were shuttling kids back and forth from activities dinner was “catch as catch can” meaning whatever you could find in the refrigerator or make yourself.

All of a sudden everyone was home and very quickly I found myself stressing as to what I was going to make for dinner.  I couldn’t focus on work past 4 o’clock as the thought of dinner loomed large. To be honest a great deal of this had to do with my mother (who lives with us) envisioning family dinners all together which rarely happened under normal circumstances. My daughters are great at making dinner for themselves and even my son with Intellectual Disabilities can whip up a mean plate of pasta and meatballs for himself.  I found myself very quickly becoming cranky and resentful.  If I wanted to go for a walk or exercise or have a social-distance cocktail with my friend I had to time it so I could still make dinner.

I discovered that I needed to say “No” to cooking dinner and eating together every night.  What I now do is state at the beginning of each day whether tonight would be everyone for themselves or dinner all together. By doing this I found I enjoyed mealtime much more and a ton of stress was lifted.

Please hear this:

It’s not your job to make anyone happy but yourself.

Think of something you consistently do that you would like to say “NO” to.  Practice stating to the person that you no longer will do that task.  When speaking to the person, even if it’s your child, be assertive and don’t apologize.

What would you rather be doing with that time you just saved? I’d love to hear from you!

Want to join a group of midlife women who are also deciding to live life to the fullest?  Join my Facebook Group – My Midlife Tribe: Fabulous, Fierce Females!

I never imagined I would be at a point that people considered me “middle-aged.”  When I was in my 20’s and 30’s that seemed so… well….. OLD! But as the years ticked by it didn’t even occur to me that I was getting to that point.  I just kept living my life as I always did.  When I became a mom it began to feel as if life was moving forward at light speed and I got so wrapped up in parenting and being an entrepreneur I just went on automatic pilot to keep all the balls in the air. I didn’t have the time to self-reflect on who I was.

But I started to realize that midlife had arrived when police officers started looking like kids and some friends were a decade younger than me.  I still enjoyed the same things – going out dancing, dinners with friends and hiking but there was a different feel to it.  I enjoyed having dinner with friends at home more often than a noisy restaurant.  Hiking wasn’t just about exercise but an opportunity to have deep, meaningful conversations with my girlfriend. And dancing was still fun but not until 2AM.

My younger self would have said – “Yup – you’re officially old.” And, make no mistake, the media would probably agree.  After all, after fifty-four year’s old they stop tracking our opinions, viewing habits and spending behavior.  Not only are we old but we’re invisible.  But here’s the reality.  We account for more than 40% of spending in the US economy each year and 50% of discretionary spending. We spend more than our younger sisters on wine, coffee and vacations.  So why are we ignored? Because the majority of people working at ad agencies and marketing firms are not middle-aged.  They have no clue what we’re about!

First, let’s think about the term Midlife – it doesn’t mean end – it means MIDDLE!  With the average life-expectancy rising every year and women already outliving men by almost 30% we’ve got a lot of life ahead of us.

So the question becomes whether you’re willing to grab life by the short-hairs and start creating the next chapter.  Make no mistake, it takes courage.  We’ve had half of our lives to create routines and get into ruts which, while not necessarily joyful are comfortable.  New chapters shake things up and push us into the unknown.  That’s scary stuff.  It’s easier to stay where we are and remain in the invisible role the media and others have chosen for us.

But is that good enough for you? What about the unrealized dreams you might have put aside when you got married and had kids?  What about the passion that you decided not to pursue because everyone told you to take the “safe route” of a different career?

Midlife can be an exciting time of moves. Physically and spiritually moving. My husband and I started talking about where we wanted to live when the kids were out of the house. That’s a big deal – leaving comfortable memories and creating new ones. Spiritually moving can be just as scary.  It means gathering the courage to say “no” to friends and family who might want to see you stay where you are in your life.  To be “responsible” and “sensible.” But honestly, have you ever read about a woman in her 70’s or 80’s and admired her because she was responsible or sensible?  Hell no! We read about kick-ass women who are running marathons or sky diving or starting new businesses and think “that’s what I want to do when I’m her age.”

Now’s the time to have fun.  You get to choose what you want to do and who you want to be.  You get to shed the titles that you’ve given yourself and start thinking of how you want to define yourself.  What is your mid-life plan?  Share in the comments below.

Want to join a group of midlife women who are also deciding to live life to the fullest?  Join my Facebook Group – My Midlife Tribe: Fabulous, Fierce Females!

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a person who loves to give and get hugs this social distancing due to COVID-19 has been tough.  I was talking to a friend the other day and said that when this is done I just want to invite all of my friends over and have a giant hug fest. But there’s one person I want to hug more than anyone – my friend Barb.

Barb has cancer. The bad kind.

Its’ been almost a year since her diagnosis and through that time I’ve learned a great deal about being a friend.

The Universe brought us together through our daughters’ shared activity of All-Star Cheer. Our first clue that we were destined to meet was the realization that I had attended high school with her husband and we had many mutual friends.

When you’re an All-Star Cheer mom you spend most weekends throughout the winter travelling to competitions.  Barb and I would share hotel rooms either by ourselves or with other cheer moms.  But the two of us were the early risers and the mornings were our time to drink coffee and have deep conversations about life.  Barb had already had a close call with death due to other health issues and my first-born Connor had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at 4 months old.  We came from the same working-class background and had similar beliefs about life in general.

Her daughter’s All-Star Cheer career ended when she headed off to college but our friendship remained strong although we saw less of each other.

And then she received her diagnosis – Stage 3B liver cancer.

I remember just a few weeks prior we had been out to dinner with our husbands and she mentioned that she had been losing weight.  She chalked it up to stress due to new job responsibilities and her son starting active duty for the USAF as a 2nd Lieutenant for Pilot Training in Texas.

When she told me the news and we had our first “serious” conversation I didn’t have the right words yet.  Barb’s my only friend to have been diagnosed with cancer. So, I merely listened.  And then I hung up the phone and broke down crying.  I cried for many days.  This in and of itself was a strange experience for me.  When Connor died, I cried so much I didn’t think I had any tears left in my body.  And, in a way, it made me numb towards death.  Since then I have lost my father, my wonderful Uncle and several other people but few tears came. But Barb was different and it broke down a wall in me that I thought would be up forever.  My friend isn’t supposed to die! We have kids and husbands and shared experiences!

I remember after Connor died my peer support counselor told me that I’m allowed to have a pity party but then I need to snap out of it and get back to living.  I knew that Barb needed me to be there for her – I mean really be there for her.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  She immediately decided that she would not turn to Dr. Google to read about her cancer.  Rather she would focus on the task at hand of fighting it.  I intended to roll-up my sleeves and be in her corner of the ring.

Our first tough conversation was me admitting that I felt helpless and wouldn’t always know what to say but that I promised her I would always listen and really hear her. That I would not make false assurances or pretend things weren’t as grave as they were.

It’s not easy sitting with grief and death.  It’s even more difficult to actually discuss it.

Maybe it’s because my son died and through that experience I realized that the last things a person wants to hear are false promises of hope or platitudes. The person who is ill or grieving just ends up feeling as if they’re not heard or that their feelings are irrelevant.

Grief and facing one’s mortality can be an isolating experience.  Death makes most people extremely uncomfortable so by not talking about it we can pretend it’s not real.  As the saying goes, “Denial is not a river in Egypt

But there’s a difference between denial and optimism just as there’s a difference between negativity and pragmatism.

The type of chemo Barb went through required her to come home with an IV for 48 hours every other week.  Prior to the start of that she was in and out of the hospital at least seven times over the course of two months.  She was exhausted and scared. When her chemo started she asked if I could sit with her on the days when she had her IV. She wouldn’t be able to do anything and because of terrible neuropathy she couldn’t touch or be exposed to anything cold.  Even a cold drink was too painful. She would also be too weak to get up from the couch. As a person who had been a caregiver all her life it was, at first, hard for Barb to accept care.  Being cared for creates a level of vulnerability that leaves the person almost raw. For me, however, being the caregiver was an honor.

And so began a new journey in our friendship that strengthened every other Thursday. Every visit was different.  Sometimes she was so weak she couldn’t speak and so I would simply sit there next to her.  Other times she had strength and we would talk about everything from what was new on Netflix to what our kids were up to.  Out of the blue one day she said she felt like a burger so we ordered up a meal from McDonalds on Uber Eats. And yes, there were those times when we cried together and she shared with me her deepest fears.

We talked about death in a very real, honest way. About the randomness of life and death and that none of us know what tomorrow will bring.  She has discussed with me end-of-life plans in which I listen and respect her wishes.

As her chemo progressed and her numbers improved we began to tentatively talk about plans for the future, just not too far into the future. Yes, we’ve cried together but we’ve also laughed together. We went to a restaurant and celebrated her digging into a big plate of mashed potatoes and gravy. We share stories about how our husbands are wonderful and exasperating.

Because of COVID-19 it’s been far too long since I’ve seen her in person. We’ve done Facetime calls and Zoom double dates but I miss seeing her in person. The other day she said that the support of her family is wonderful, but she misses her friends.

This is the hug I so desperately want to give.

The hugs aren’t just about comforting her, they’re also about giving me the assurance that she’s still here. It’s about acknowledging that we’re still in this fight together.