Women in midlife were sold a bunch of bullsh*t about being super woman – doing it all and having it all. It’s why so many are on anti-anxiety meds and miserable.

Our younger sisters know better. They don’t want to work like crazy and please everyone else.

One of my mentors is a mindset coach named Denise Duffield Thomas. Two of her books, Chillpreneur and Chill and Prosper talk about how you don’t have to kill yourself to be successful.

In my previous life working at a multi-national PR firm, I witnessed this firsthand – women who were working 12 -14-hour days, going home to their kids and barely having a second to themselves. It was expected that we work those hours.  They gave up their life for a job.

I also think of my aunt who was her mother’s caretaker for decades. Her mom had polio when she was younger and needed a great deal of care. My aunt had a high-pressure job and then would come home and take care of her mom. She never had a romantic relationship – there was never time.

And then I look at so many of my coaching clients. Women who gave up a fulfilling career to stay home with their kids. Being a great mom is wonderful BUT losing yourself, your own dreams, in that role is a slow death. Because at some point the kids are grown and flown and these women look up and realize their entire identity had become wrapped up in being mom. And now they’re left rudderless with no recollection of what they wanted for themselves nor how to create a life of their dreams.

You’ve given of yourself completely:

  • To your partner, supporting his career by leaving yours to raise the kids.
  • Your kids by giving in to every whim and want and sacrificing yourself.
  • Your aging parents who rely on you, not your other siblings, for everything.
  • The needy friend who sucks up your time with her latest crisis.

Do any of these situations sound familiar? Don’t get me wrong, yes, there are absolutely things we need to do but there’s a balance to be found.  Because, if not, one day you’ll look up and realize your entire life has been consumed in these roles. And what is it that you have? More importantly, who are you?

In part we’re to blame.  We’re great at taking care of everyone else but when was the last time you sat down and told everyone YOUR dreams and needs?

Have you requested the support you so freely give?

As women we’ve been raised to be the caregivers, the nurturers. We’ve also been brainwashed by the media to be the powerful woman who can do and have it all.

My generation of women probably remembers a commercial for a perfume, Enjoli. It was a woman in a sexy dress and looks like she’s ready for a night out but she’s carrying a briefcase and apparently just came home from work. She whips on an apron and starts cooking. At the same time, she’s seducing her husband. I still remember the lyrics to the jingle:

“I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never ever ever let you forget you’re a man. Because I’m a woman.”

For some ridiculous reason, this was the sign of success for our generation.  We can do it all, manage it all without any help.

Please hear this – you are not a failure by asking for help, saying no to people and prioritizing yourself!

In fact, that’s how healthy, happy and successful women behave.

Ladies, now is the time to reprogram and live life on your terms!  I’m giving you permission to think of yourself first.  This isn’t selfish, it’s self-care.  And yes, people in your life might not love the new you but I promise they will adjust.

Are you living the life you intended to?  What changes would you like to see for yourself? To learn more about how I can help you, visit my coaching page HERE.

You can also download my FREE GUIDE Five Steps to Release Fear and Live Boldly.

Only in the past twenty years have life coaches become popular. There are different types for whatever goal you’re trying to achieve – relationship coaches, fitness coaches, nutrition coaches, divorce coaches and money mindset coaches to name a few.

I work exclusively with women in midlife who have forgotten or delayed their personal goals to care for their family.  I help them get past their fear and self-doubt to confidently achieve their dreams and live life on their terms. Because we’re born caregivers, we consistently put everyone before ourselves, coming up with excuses as to why we can’t pursue our happiness.

Here are a few indications that working with a life coach would be right for you:

  • You know what makes you unhappy, but you can’t be specific as to what would make you happy.
  • You frequently do things for others out of guilt or a sense of obligation.
  • You feel like your life is a cycle of “wash, rinse, repeat.”
  • You want to make a change and follow a dream but you feel you’re not smart enough, too old or don’t have enough money to do it.
  • People in your life don’t support you changing and in fact like you staying just the way you are.

If you’re not sure what a coach does, here’s some guidance:

A coach will:

  • Work with you to get clear on your goals.
  • Help you uncover mental blocks that are preventing you from reaching your goal.
  • Shift your mindset away from limiting beliefs and self-doubt.
  • Provide you with or collaborate with you on designing a step-by-step plan to achieving your goal.
  • Offer support and hold space for expressing fear and disappointment when you don’t feel you can accomplish your goal.
  • Hold you accountable and encourage you to succeed.
  • Celebrate your success!

Recently I was included in a round-up story on what qualities and training someone needs to be a great coach. You can read my answer here.

You can learn more about my coaching services and download my free guide Five Steps to Release Fear and Live Boldly here.

Remember when you were a kid, and you were sure there was a monster under your bed or in your closet?

You lived in fear until your mom or dad came in and turned on the lights to show you nothing was there.

As adults those monsters still exist in our head, but it’s no longer a hairy, giant being but fear of failure or not being loved or financial ruin or illness.  And while these monsters might have an element of reality to them unlike the ones from your childhood, the solution to ending them is the same – you need to shine a light on them.

We sit at lunch with our friends and don’t admit we think we’re bad moms or we’re having serious financial problems or even that there’s abuse in our marriage.

The energy of these “omissions” is preventing us from living authentically and clearing away the issues that are keeping us trapped.

I’ve had my share of fears that I’ve kept hidden in my brain.  My divorce from my first husband was chaotic and traumatic.  It was so bad that I developed adult chicken pox. My body was literally expressing what I wasn’t verbalizing. I never talked about how scared and horrible I felt during this time. I was trying my best to keep it together for my kids, I was running my business and needed to be present for clients and I didn’t want to worry my parents.  But the fears would eat away at me at night:

How was I going to rebuild my life? 

Were my kids going to be OK? 

Was I ever going to find someone who loved me? 

After the divorce I was left financially devastated. We had tremendous debt and I was left responsible for most of it (that story is for another post.) I had no idea how I was going to fix this situation and the fears that played out in my head kept me awake most nights.  Once again, this was a situation I didn’t want to admit to anyone.  I live in a very affluent community where people seem to have an abundance of wealth.  No one talks about having financial problems.  They have expensive cars and homes, take yearly vacations, and spend without thinking.  I felt like a failure and most importantly I was worried about how I was going to dig myself out of the financial hole I was in.

I remember the spiraling fear that kept building in my head.  One thought would lead to another scary thought and then it would become a giant snowball gaining speed. The fear literally sounded like an avalanche coming down on me.

Throughout this time, I kept praying for guidance and peace. I wish I could tell you the moment that I finally decided to give up the pretense of being OK and suffering in silence, but I can’t. I just literally woke up one day and said “F%&k it, I’m not hiding it anymore.”  I decided to share everything I was feeling – all my fears and financial problems.

And that day I took back control of my life.

My fears and problems didn’t instantly disappear but there was almost immediately a lightness that came over me.  I didn’t realize how burdened down I felt keeping everything inside and hiding what was happening.

What was even more remarkable is that once I started sharing my fears and problems, friends started admitting they were having the same issues.  It took me opening up to give other women permission to do the same.  I no longer felt isolation or shame.

That was the energetic shift I needed to shine the light on the monsters in my head and take away their power.  Once that happens you can find the solutions.

Here are the first steps if you’re struggling with fears:

  • Start small -first write it down in a journal. Get out on paper your deepest fear or most troubling situation. Sit with that and re-read it.
  • Next share it with a close friend or with a coach.  Get past the fear of saying it the first time.
  • Start each day with this affirmation or one like it:

“My fear no longer controls me. I am creating a life of happiness and peace.

Fear lives in the future and you have no way of knowing whether your greatest concerns will ever materialize. Start shining a light and you’ll see the monsters aren’t real.

If you want some more tips on getting past fear you can grab my free guide 5 Steps to Release Fear and Live Boldly.

 

 

You never know the day your world is going to start crumbling.  You wake up, just like any other day, and start going about your business.

And then a moment happens. Maybe it’s a phone call, or a knock on the door or a news alert or the sound of brakes or a horn before the crash.

For me it all started with a phone call from my daycare one Tuesday morning. “There’s a problem with Connor.  He’s not breathing.”

Four hours later I would be holding my lifeless 4-month-old son in my arms, trying to comprehend that it would be the last time.  Trying to understand how a perfectly healthy little baby could die from something mysterious called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

While I realized in that moment that my life would forever be changed, I didn’t realize how much:

  • One year later my second son would be born who would later be diagnosed with Intellectual and Development Disabilities.
  • Over the next seven years I would go on to have my two daughters after two devastating miscarriages.  At the same time my marriage was imploding.
  • Two years later I would end my marriage which had become toxic and left me a shell of my former self.
  • One year after that I would be forced to declare bankruptcy due to the insurmountable debt we had run up in our marriage that he walked away from.

And then, after meeting and marrying my incredible second husband, I would be faced with his devastating diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and be thrust into the role of caregiver and sole provider.

It felt as if I was up against the ropes and the Universe just kept pummeling me. I didn’t have time to grieve or heal because I was too busy simply trying to survive and remain standing for my kids and my husband.  They needed me so I was on auto-pilot.

At some point, however, I realized I could no longer deny my pain. It was eating away at me physically, mentally, and spiritually. I had to allow myself to crumble and then take some time to understand who I wanted to be as I rebuilt myself. I had to unravel years of grief, pain, betrayal, shame, and imposter syndrome.

I needed to learn how to be at peace, to be courageous enough to be authentic as well as vulnerable enough to ask for support. That’s when I started doing everything I could to heal.  I started following personal development gurus such as Wayne Dyer, Abraham Hicks and Eckard Tolle. I literally devoured their books and podcasts and would post quotes from them all over my house. I began a daily practice of meditating and journaling.  Journaling was perhaps the most important thing I did.  It allowed me to release all the negative and limiting beliefs I had developed and express the grief I had over the death of my baby and the fear of my future.

I hired a life coach who helped me get past my limiting beliefs and recognize that I am a strong, confident, and capable woman who didn’t need to be “taken care of.” That was a big story I used to tell myself. I stopped comparing myself to other women and focused on my triumphs from advocating for my son and caring for my husband to growing my business and no longer being fearful about money.

I became more self-confident and OK with the fact that not everyone will like me as the new me. Drugs and alcohol weren’t my addictions – it was attaching myself to people who kept me down and weren’t supportive. I learned how to create boundaries to eliminate these toxic relationships. Actually, it took the Universe interceding and doing the work for me in ending a few of them.

I’m able to look back now and see how far I’ve come from the insecure, impressionable, naïve, and ultimately sad young woman I was. I want to hold her and give her the reassurances and comfort she never had during those crazy and scary times.

I’m still a work in progress especially when it comes to ending my people pleasing tendencies and imposter syndrome pops up every now and again. But through the work I’ve done on myself – retreats, immersing myself in personal development teachings, coaches and most importantly journaling, I’ve become a stronger, more confident woman.  My life is what I always dreamed it could be, peaceful, happy, and abundant.

I’m committed to helping other women get past fear and self-doubt and create the life of their dreams.  You can learn more about my coaching services here.

You can also get my free guide – 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life by clicking here.

 

There are a few things in life most people dread:

  • Public speaking
  • A root canal
  • The “we need to talk” speech

For many people another one that’s at the top of the list is thinking about and dealing with their finances.

In fact, almost 50% of Americans would rather endure a painful dentist visit than meet with a financial professional to discuss their money. And one in five Americans would rather spend an hour in jail than sit down and figure out a five-year financial plan!

Listen, we’re not little girls anymore.  We’re strong, confident women and we can take control of our money.

After my divorce my finances (what little there were) were a mess. I was BROKE trying to end my marriage and I just wanted to hide under the covers and ignore any difficult situation.

By not looking at what I was making and what I was spending I was doing metaphorically covering my ears, shutting my eyes and pretending that all was well.

But you know what?  It didn’t make the problem go away.  In fact, it just got messier.

I’d go out to dinner with girlfriends and order the cheapest item but then someone would suggest splitting the bill equally and my cheap app and water would end up costing $75 because I was embarrassed to ask for separate bills.

I’d go to the grocery store or buy clothes for the kids and pray my card didn’t get declined (of course it did more than once.)

One day I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered how in the hell I got here.

I grew up being very cautious with money (more on that another day) but when my ex-husband and the divorce screwed up my finances, I stopped being courageous and went into a denial mode.

At that moment I decided to stop being afraid. I decided that I was never again going to allow my finances to be tied to someone else.

I committed to being financially independent and in charge of my life and future.

Please hear this – every woman, regardless of her relationship status, must be financially independent.

Every day I work with clients who have relinquished control of their finances to their partner.  They’ve decided, or been convinced, that it’s one less thing to have to deal with.  Very quickly they’re getting an “allowance” for groceries, having to ask for extra money for something they want to buy or sneaking purchases onto a credit card.

Even if you think, “Alison, this isn’t my situation, our finances are in order and my husband never tells me what I can and can’t buy” life changes.  A serious illness, death, unanticipated layoffs, or the divorce you didn’t see coming.

This is why you must be financially independent! This doesn’t mean you need to cut financial ties with your partner if you’re in a healthy, happy relationship. But it does mean you need to have a complete understanding of your income, debt, assets, and budget.

Here are a few of the first steps to become financially confident:

  • Have the passwords and sign-ins for all your accounts – banking, investment, credit cards and bills. Be sure you know what bills are paid from which accounts.
  • Set up automatic bill pay for all of your bills so you don’t have to worry about them arriving late and getting charged a late fee.
  • Review your credit card and bank statements daily. Yes, I said daily! Make it a habit.  Before you check your e-mails sit down and check your accounts so you know what’s coming in and going out.  You can also check for erroneous fees and charges.
  • Sign up for Credit Karma (it’s free) creditkarma.com You’ll have free access to your credit scores (if you don’t know what it is you should!), check for mistakes on your credit reports plus free credit monitoring.
  • Set up an easy spreadsheet for all of your monthly bills and income plus groceries, meals out, gas, shopping and other miscellaneous expenses. Have a column for the date each bill is due and if need be, call the company and see if you can change the day of the month it’s due.
  • Have a “money date” once every week. Review any unexpected bills (or income) and factor it into your budget.  Look at your total spending for groceries, entertainment, restaurants and shopping so that you can gauge how your tracking for the rest of the month and modify if necessary.
  • If you don’t have a credit card in your own name get one! When you sign up for Credit Karma you can see which credit card might be right for you.

Most of all, congratulate yourself for taking small steps towards becoming the confident money queen you are becoming!

Want more help getting past self-doubt and fear to live life on your terms confidently and courageously?  Learn more about my coaching services for women in midlife.

 

 

 

 

 

One year ago, today I sat by my friend’s bedside at the hospice house as she actively started to transition to the other side.

Months prior she had asked me to be with her at the end and I promised I would be. At that time, I think she was afraid of transitioning, but we had many talks as her cancer progressed and she became more peaceful about it.

I arrived in the morning to meet her daughter who cautioned me that there had been a big change in her over the past 24 hours and that she had not woken up. Not only did I want to be there for my friend but also for her daughter who was witnessing her mother’s rapid decline.

Hospice is an amazing service, and the staff are angels on earth. The peace and comfort they provide to the entire family is indescribable and I would encourage anyone who is nearing death to consider bringing hospice in.

When her daughter left, I settled in and the quiet of the room was deafening. This was it. My vibrant friend’s spirit was leaving her body and I knew that for a little while longer I needed to keep it together to support her. She was sleeping and looked so peaceful. And so, I did what we had always done for so many years, sipped my coffee and started talking to her about life, family, Spirit as well as the little everyday moments. This time it was a one-sided conversation, but I held her hand and I know she heard me.

As the day progressed and the hospice nurse explained the dying process my friend was going through, I started having the conversations I knew would be our last. My son Connor died from SIDS in 1997. He would be the same age her son is now. We had made a pact that she would look after Connor in heaven, and I would look after her kids here. I promised her that I would watch after them and her husband. I told her that I knew she was tired and wanted to go and that it was OK. She had already told me what her sign to me would be to let me know she was around me and I told her I would keep my eyes open as well as my heart for when she was nearby.

For anyone who hasn’t sat with someone in their final hours it’s hard to describe but there’s a spiritual power that comes over the space. As the CEO of a non-profit that supports bereaved parents and as a bereaved mom myself, I’m more accustomed to dealing with death than many people.  My time for breaking down would come but right now I wanted to be present for my friend. I needed to keep it together a little while longer.

When her husband arrived that evening, I ordered dinner and a bottle of wine for us. We ate and talked about his day. We talked about what we should do for Thanksgiving (for years we always had Thanksgiving together at my home.)  He shared with me when my friend and he first met, when they first got married and had kids. And he talked about the plans they had made for the future.

And now it was his time to be with his wife alone.

I kissed her head and told her I would be back tomorrow but deep down I knew these were the last words she would hear me say. I told her I loved her. I thanked her for our friendship and how she had made me a better person. I asked her to watch over Connor and that I would see her again.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

Twenty-three years ago, my first-born child, Connor, died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  He was born in April and I’ll always remember how incredibly significant that first Mother’s Day was for me.  Little did I know at the time that the next Mother’s Day I would be hiding in my house with a torrent of emotions overwhelming me.  Connor died August of that same year at 3 mos. and 24 days old.

Needless to say, the most powerful emotion was raw, agonizing grief.  It’s impossible to describe the physical pain you feel when your baby has died.  And on Mother’s Day, when other moms are celebrating, you realize how incredibly alone you really are.  You can’t talk to your other mom friends because both you and they feel so awkward, unsure of what to say.  As a friend how do you celebrate the day while someone else has lost her reason for being?  And as the person who is grieving, how do you rise above your sadness to smile and wish your friend a happy Mother’s Day?  No, for everyone involved, it’s much easier to hide in your home and wait for the day to be over.

And then, to be honest, there’s the anger and resentment.  Why would God allow this to happen to you?! I’ll admit to many times thinking of abusive and negligent parents whose babies were still alive. Yet for me, who did everything right, my baby is dead.  It takes many years for this anger to abate. One day I finally realized that no one is immune to tragedy and that everyone has their own story.  The answer to the question “Why me?” is “Why not me?” Who am I to never experience sorrow or tragedy?

I went on to have three more amazing children who now are 22, 18 ad 15 year’s old.  Each of them in their own way has helped me heal. The pain has softened but there will always be a sense of sadness and longing for what might have been.  I channeled my grief into activism and am now the CEO of First Candle, the non-profit that provides bereavement support to families who have lost a baby to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Stillbirth.  When I speak with a young mom who has recently lost her baby I’m transported right back to that moment when my own precious baby died.  It’s hard to believe it’s 23 years ago.  In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago.  In truth I am a different person, wiser and at peace.  What I can offer young moms is hope. When they see me, they see that indeed you can survive the heartbreaking grief.

When my second son Spencer was born I started celebrating Mother’s Day again.  I love looking at the picture every year as my family grew and my children have become young adults.  And somewhere in those pictures I always see their little guardian angel, their brother Connor. It could be a butterfly, a sun beam or an orb over one of their shoulders, but I always know he’s there, my first born who made me a mom that first Mother’s Day.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!

 

 

For those of you who follow my blog you know that my 22-year-old son Spencer is Intellectually Disabled and my husband Greg has Primary Progressive MS and is confined to a power chair. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my story, Greg is my second husband and was only diagnosed 4 weeks after our wedding. He went from walking at our wedding to being immobile within 3 years. I can’t count how many times in my life I’ve heard the words “I could never deal with everything you do.”

Caring for two people with disabilities isn’t always easy but loving them is.

First I’ll share the hard parts. There are so many everyday things that you take for granted when you are able-bodied – dancing at weddings, going on a hike in the woods, visiting friends whose homes aren’t wheelchair accessible, spontaneously planning a weekend getaway. These are all things we can’t do together, and it definitely makes me sad. And yes, sometimes I get cranky when I have to do the majority of the work around the house and work full time.

As a mom it hurt as I watched other kids Spencer’s age get their driver’s license, graduate high school then college and fall in love for the first time.

But the one thing that truly terrifies me is what happens after I die to Spencer and Greg if I were to die before him? The profound weight I feel being completely responsible for two people I love is at times overwhelming.

It’s difficult for people who have able-bodied, neuro-typical loved ones to fully comprehend how hard it can be. I get that. Prior to my life as a caregiver I didn’t either.

Does this sound tough?

I won’t lie – it is. But here’s the amazing side of my life with Greg and Spencer.

Greg is my hero. He has not allowed his disability to define him. Prior to his diagnosis he was a pro-golfer. Today he is on the board of the Stand Up and Play Foundation, an organization that donates specially designed golf carts to courses around the country. The Paramobile allows people with disabilities and spinal cord injuries to play golf and other sporting activities. Greg now teaches the game he loves to stroke victims, military vets and others with intellectual and physical disabilities. He also keeps himself in shape by daily chair yoga sessions and working out on the Myocycle, a device that uses functional electrical stimulation (FES) to help people with muscle weakness or paralysis to exercise by pedaling a stationary bike.

Even more than his commitment to be his best self and desire to help others is his unwavering determination not to be a burden to me. It is a rare day when Greg complains about his disability, even though he has every right to.

I sometimes forget how incredibly hard it is for him to manage seemingly easy tasks such as maneuvering his power chair to get a dish from the cabinet or put something in the microwave. I know it upsets him that I have to do many of the tasks around the house that he would prefer to do – mowing the lawn, snow blowing, leaf blowing, even changing light bulbs in ceiling fixtures. I love that he wants to do these things as I also know there are many able-bodied husbands who don’t help around the house even when they can.

One of the greatest challenges for him is getting into bed and I have to help swing his legs up. Until COVID I used to travel a great deal for business and if one of the kids wasn’t around to help him get into bed he’d sleep in his chair. Last month, after my friend passed away from a long battle with cancer I knew that I needed to go away by myself and regroup. Despite this being difficult for Greg, he encouraged me to go, never once complaining.

I know Greg doesn’t believe me, but I don’t see the disability I simply see the man. The guy who always buys me the perfect gift. The man who I enjoy spending time with no matter what we’re doing. The goofy stepfather who makes my kids laugh and has been known as Steppy since the day we got married.

As for Spencer he is hands down the kindest and happiest guy you’ll ever meet. While he can’t drive he takes several walks a day, sometimes to Subway or Dunkin Donuts and other times just around the neighborhood. Everyone knows him and he knows them. He’ll stop and have conversations and tell them what’s going on in his life. My heart melted the day he told me that when he gets a girlfriend he knows that the most important thing is to “respect her and treat her with kindness.” While he might have trouble reading a book he can read a person’s emotions perfectly and when he senses someone is upset he’s the first person to offer comfort. Yup, that’s my son.

My daughters and step-kids love Greg and Spencer unconditionally. They too see beyond the disabilities to the men they are. And in my heart I know that, should anything happen to me, they will be there caring for both of them.

When Greg proposed to me we had no idea this would be our future. When Spencer was born I had no idea I would be caring for him the rest of my life. None of it matters because I love these two men just as they are.

 

Are you stressed by all of the demands on your time from family and work? Get my free guide 5 Steps to Create a Chill Life.

If you would like to join a group of supportive women in midlife who are ready to get past fear and self-doubt and live life joyfully and abundantly, head over to Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females!