Autumn is the quintessential season of change. A chill is the air, backyard bonfires fill our noses with the smell of smoke and leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red. Then they fall, creating dry, crunchy piles on the ground, leaving stark profiles of empty, barren trees. It’s a beautiful time, or perhaps a melancholy time for those of us reluctant to let go of summer.
Perimenopause is the hallmark season of change during the female aging process. The symptoms which occur are metaphorical for colorful, haphazardly falling leaves and melancholy barrenness. Sleeplessness, fatigue, mood swings, depression, hot flashes, headaches, forgetfulness, weight gain, unpredictable cycles, changes in libido and more, have characterized this uncomfortable time for me. I am missing the summer of my more youthful days.
According to the Mayo Clinic: “perimenopause refers to the time period during which a woman’s body makes its natural transition toward permanent infertility (menopause).” Another source describes it as, “the time in a woman’s life when physiological changes occur that begin the transition to menopause. This is a time when the levels of hormones produced by the aging ovaries fluctuate, leading to irregular menstrual patterns.”
Those words: fluctuate, irregular, transition. It’s a season of change, of unpredictability. Along with the physical symptoms, perimenopause also seems to usher in another side effect not listed there: identity change. As though those symptoms aren’t difficult enough, they also signal the end of child birthing years and youthful mothering. They literally force us to slow down physically and reidentify ourselves mentally and emotionally.
My identity as a mom has indeed changed as my kids have grown. Now that I am raising 2 teenagers and one tween, they no longer perceive me as the wonder woman-mom they idolized in infancy and toddler hood. Mothering used to be sweetly characterized by singing songs in the rocking chair, playground swings and glittery art projects; now it involves chauffeuring, arguments, whining and drama.
No matter how much I love my kids and feel blessed and privileged to be their mom, this evolution of our relationship is tough. It’s hard letting go of their babyhood and my superhero mom status in lieu of challenges to my authority and their burgeoning independence.
So much of our time as moms involves keeping track of other people’s schedules and stuff, and we often have little energy left to attend to our own needs. Moms, you know how it is. Some of you handle it all so efficiently, in addition to having jobs outside the home. But for a procrastinating introvert like me, it’s exhausting.
The truth is, a successful day from my perspective at this time of my life is simply getting my kids out to the bus on time with everything they need. I really struggle to keep up with laundry, email, errands, appointments, getting them to where they need to be after school, making dinner…only to prepare for the following day so that we can do it all over again. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
It requires a steady commitment and continual attitude of privilege and high calling to find purpose and blessing in those mundane, tiring routines, in the midst of whining, complaints and drama. There was actually a time before perimenopause, when all of this was much easier and my outlook was much more positive, but hormones tend to make everything more difficult.
During this season of change, my ability to prioritize scripture reading, exercise, hobbies and social time has especially suffered. These important activities tend to be crowded out by everyday routine obligations, as well as profound lack of motivation. But I try, and sometimes get it right. Recently I met with a dear friend who has gone down this road before me, and she graciously confided her story. She too had experienced depression, anxiety and general discomfort, both physically and emotionally…and also something unexpected: clarity.
She taught me to look back on the past through eyes of maturity: to realize and then laugh at all the ridiculous things we obsessed over as young mothers, to let go of all the unimportant little details we lose sleep over and invest too much time worrying about, to regret all the ways we compare ourselves against one another, to not sweat the strange yet temporary behaviors of our children, and to recognize the wisdom of experience in the many things we said we wouldn’t do but wound up doing anyway. As we laughed and commiserated together, she taught me about healthy, mature perspective.
Her words were like a soothing balm and an anchor in a storm; her message was just what I needed to hear. God planted her in my life at the precise time to speak words of wisdom into my downcast, discouraged heart. She modeled how to gracefully let go of the old and embrace the new thing which my body and mind are undergoing, and how there is dignity in that. We reveled together in the fact that age brings wisdom, and wisdom brings freedom to step back and recognize how insignificant many of our young worries are, which enables us to then move past them.
That time with her was eye-opening and reminded me of how critical our local community moms group was when I became a new, young mother, and about the importance of the wise counsel of mature, godly women. Scripture exhorts us to benefit from the mature counsel of others:
Proverbs 27:9, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”
I am so thankful for the community of believing women, in all stages and situations of life, who I am blessed to know. God has strategically used us to encourage and support one another as we lean into Him. If you don’t yet have a local community of godly women to support you through life’s seasons, pray for God to connect you with one. And let us know here, because we would love to help you and also have you join us as we study God’s word among friends.
Through this season of change I covet my friends’ wisdom and support, but also need more than ever to cling to the One who never changes. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Hebrews 6:17-18, “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” And finally, Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Amen!