A Woman’s Life Cycles
As women of the new millennium, we want to have it all. We want partnership, romance, career success and satisfaction, motherhood, financial well-being, spiritual fulfillment, health, and we want to look good doing it all. Oh, and we want it all to be perfect. The good news is that women of today can strive for and even achieve all of these things. The bad news is that it is next to impossible to do all of these things at the same time and do them all well, let alone perfectly. Especially when you add young children to the mix! Then you’re lucky to just get out of the house with clean clothes on and your hair washed!
The beauty of being a woman of today is that we have so many opportunities, and are free to explore many roles and experiences over the course of our lives. We can indeed ‘have it all’, yet for our own well-being perhaps it is wiser that we not ‘have it all’ all at the same time. Balance is key. As women, we are cyclical in nature, and we understand the ebb and flow of our own physical cycles; why not view our life journey in the same way? This journey can be seen as made up of lifecycles – age-appropriate life experiences that we enter into, ones that involve new roles and relationships wherein we must find our place and thrive, until our journey moves into another cycle, involving perhaps old and new roles, and requiring us to find our equilibrium in yet another, sometimes more complex, part of our lives.
- An example of a woman’s life-cycles:
- Twenties: navigating career choices, intimate partnership and life partnership, choosing stability in work/life location, exploring one’s sexuality, long-term goal setting. CHOICE
- Thirties: life partnership/marriage, fertility issues, motherhood, parenting issues, losing/finding oneself amongst the demands of raising young children, work/life balance, personal health, reconnecting with personal goals (vs. family goals), changes in sexual drive. ADAPTATION
- Fourties and Fifties: as children get older more time for self, changes in parenting challenges, intimacy in life-partner relationship, family traumas (infidelity, health concerns, loss), financial stress, life goals (personal, with spouse, for family), caring for older parents. FLEXIBILITY
- Sixties: retirement, finances, empty nest, health concerns, aging, new roles as in-laws and grandparents, balancing concerns for self and caring for children not yet financially independent, bucket lists, life regrets, new adventures. INNER WISDOM
As time goes by, our various roles and responsibilities ebb and flow, as do their corresponding challenges and stresses. If we are not flexible to go along with the cycles of our lives, we will not be able to maintain our strength as we try to balance all of the forces pulling at us in our various roles; and we may feel as though we are being swept away with the tide.
This feeling of being pulled along with the current can manifest in many ways:
- Relationship difficulties – with spouse, family of origin
- Parenting – not being the parent we know we can be
- Boundary issues – either lack of boundaries (where we feel walked all over) or overly rigid ones (where we scare people away from intimacy with us)
- Lack of a strong sense of self
- Anger issues
- Low sense of self worth
- Fear of intimacy – emotional, physical
- The need to control
- Lack of a sense of purpose
- Psychological – when the above emotional symptoms get in the way of our daily functioning
- Body image issues, emotional eating, eating disorders
- Self-defeating behaviours – acting out our stresses in ways that are damaging to our relationships (e.g. extra-marital affairs) and life-situations (e.g. finances, career, etc.)
Navigating the twists and turns of each of the different cycles in a woman’s life is challenging at best. Many women are so busy today that they are unable to maintain contact with the ever important female social support network that has been deemed so essential to a woman’s emotional and psychological well-being. Long gone are the quilting circles of olden times. New technology does enable us to connect with others even when we are busy; yet many of us are too busy to even enjoy that hour long conversation with a friend that can be so rejuvenating and life-enhancing. Additionally, at the end of an exhausted day of working, parenting, and keeping house, time for oneself (be it meditating, exercising, journaling, or sitting down with a good book) can be elusive. And yet it is this time for self-reflection and checking in on one’s own emotional state that is so necessary to nourishing our spirits.
Each stage of the Life Cycle has its gifts and its challenges. Yet, no matter what stage you find yourself in, self-care is beneficial, indeed crucial. In the easier moments, it will bring us renewed energy, creativity, zest for life, and a vision for the future. And in our difficult times, self-care will renew our spirits, connect us with others, and remind us that change lies ahead in yet another cycle that is both familiar and brand new all at the same time.