Why Do Women Experience a “Midlife Collision”?

December 27, 2023

Why Do Women Experience a “Midlife Collision”?

May 29, 2023

I appreciated this recent Fast Company article (https://bit.ly/48q5Kd0) on the topic of the “midlife collision,” a time in which there is a significant increase in the proportion of stressors women face today. It’s also called “role overload,” as professional women cope with a complex collision of care (children, siblings, partners, and parents), together with financial, work, and health issues (menopause or otherwise)—all of which have physical, mental, and emotional manifestations. In the MEA world, we call this the “messy middle,” when we’re faced with multiple transitions at once while feeling overwhelmed by how much is expected of us.

The male midlife crisis is often associated with a red sports car and junking your wife for your secretary. Yes, Jeff Bezos seems to be going through that scenario right now, as evidenced by this recent Vogue spread and his obsession with having the most powerful penis-shaped rockets (in the form of his Blue Origin company). Interestingly, we’re far less familiar with the female version of a midlife mashup so I found the article revealing.

In the article, we’re introduced to Eleanor Mills, founder and editor-in-chief of Noon, an online platform for women at midlife, that recently led an in-depth study of 2,000 women ages 45 to 60 in Britain. She discovered that half of the women in the study had experienced five or more traumatic events by midlife, including menopause, death, anxiety, or divorce. During times like these, many professional women feel like they have to either leave the workplace or cut back substantially. 

What I liked about this article was that it offered some guidance to organizational leaders who may be surrounded by midlife women in the midst of their “collision.” The best leadership advice is to converse and help your valued midlife female employees feel that they don't have to pretend everything is “just fine.” Offer some counseling, reduce the workload, and give them a sense that you still want to bet on them long-term, especially because many of these transitions are temporary (parents passing, children leaving home, perimenopause, etc.). Margaret Mead said that women often experience a “post-menopausal zest” full of energy, meaning, and freedom in their 50s and 60s. 

If you want to learn more about how to create flexibility for valued employees during their midlife collision, I’d suggest checking out Lucy Ryan, who wrote the article. And, if you get to know her, introduce her to MEA, as she sounds like a great potential faculty member. 

-Chip

P.S. It was a pleasure to sit down with Coaching.com Founder and CEO Alex Pascal on a recent episode of the Coaches on Zoom Drinking Coffee podcast. We had fun discussing why coaches need to better understand midlife for themselves and their clients and why coaches are such a valuable investment for those in midlife. You can find it on your favorite podcast app at https://www.coaching.com/podcasts/subscribe/ 

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