Right in the center of things

Newsletter aims to help women who have arrived -- at middle age and its burdens

Life After 50

April 06, 2003|By Don O'Briant | Don O'Briant,Cox News Service

They were the generation of women who broke down the barriers to traditionally male professions.

They were told they could have it all and, in some cases, they did.

Now these 40 million female baby boomers are hitting middle age, and many are facing confusion about everything from their relationships to their careers.

"This definitely is not our mothers' midlife," says Amy Lynch, editor and publisher of the recently launched OurSelves: The Newsletter for Women at the Center of Life.

"We've all read The Silent Passage, Gail Sheehy's book about menopause, and most of us assumed we had this life stage figured out," Lynch says. "But it's clear that we all go through a cycle of self-doubt and questioning. It's universal, no matter how liberated you've been or how accomplished you are."

Even women who are relatively happy in their jobs often feel pressures in other areas of their lives, Lynch says. In many cases, they are taking care of three generations -- their parents, their children and themselves. They are carrying more responsibility in the workplace at the same time that they are continuing to do more housework than their spouses or partners.

Lynch's Nashville-based newsletter will provide advice from women who have successfully navigated this life passage. She says she started the publication as a resource for women like herself who were struggling with issues common to the sandwich generation -- having to take care of their children, their spouses and their aging parents.

"This generation in general does not just want happiness," Lynch says, "they want fulfillment. They may be very successful in the traditional sense, but they want more meaning in their lives. That's why so many women are leaving the corporate world in droves."

Finding ways to ease such transitions is one of the purposes of the OurSelves newsletter, says Lynch, 48. In addition, she and the staff have developed a supplementary booklet, Midlife's Path, that is designed to help lead women through the five distinct, often overlapping stages that make up this cycle of change: Wake Up, Loss, Stilling, Knowing and Embracing.

"Wake Up is an event that makes us realize that time is limited. Loss is just what it sounds like -- endings. We feel disillusioned, anxious and betrayed. Stilling takes us inside where we reconnect with our essential selves. We retreat and reflect. In Knowing we find courage. We emerge with a renewed sense of self. Embracing is a time of taking action, of committing to something bigger than before."

The problem that many women have to overcome is the feeling that it's their job to take care of everyone but themselves. Shirley Mogan, 59, felt that way until she went through a divorce, job burnout and two years of caring for her dying mother.

"While I was in Providence looking after her, I read an article in Money magazine about life coaching. It sounded like something I would be interested in, so I called a couple of coaching schools. I had to work with a coach myself in order to be one."

The first thing the life coach asked Mogan was, "How can I help you?" No one had ever asked her that question before.

"That's how a lot of women feel. They're so used to being the caregiver, they don't know what it means to be taken care of," says Mogan, who now works as a life coach in Atlanta.

"Now I tell my clients to remember the instructions the flight attendants give you when you get on an airplane. If there's trouble and the oxygen mask drops down, put yours on before you put it on your child. You can't help your child if you don't help yourself first."

To learn more

For more information on the OurSelves newsletter, go to www. ourselves.com. A subscription costs $29.95 for 10 issues.

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