Menopausal Mama


I had the pleasure of working with Maddie for many years at my last ad agency. She was one of a very rare breed: a female over 50 in the Creative Department, living proof that you could have a career and have a kid!

Maddie could also tell me a few home-truths about what I could expect in years to come, in this instance The Menopause:

  • I’m 51. Many women my age have grown up kids. Some of them are even grandparents.

  • But, due to circumstances beyond my control (well, mostly due to a very long run of crappy, commitment-phobe boyfriends) I didn’t get around to trying to make a baby until I was 38. Then I finally found a bloke who was mature enough to say “Hey I love you, let’s make a baby” – even though he was only 27!

  • 4 years later, after 5 rounds of IUI followed by 3 rounds of IVF, we did finally make a baby.

  • I was almost 42 when I gave birth to our gorgeous daughter, B.

  • On my 49th Birthday I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

  • I was lucky though, I caught it early and then kicked the shite out of it.

  • I didn’t tell my daughter I’d had cancer until it was gone.

  • She was only 6 when I was going through it all. So, I told her: “Mummy has a nasty lump which has to be taken away and then I’ll need some treatment.”

  • She loves to give big cuddles so I had to ask her to be gentle with my boobs.

  • Fortunately, I didn’t need chemo. If I’d had chemo and my hair had fallen out, I’d have told her. But I know kids are scared of cancer. They think anyone with cancer will die. And I didn’t want B to panic and think she would lose me. Not just yet anyway.

  • Having cancer and losing several of my friends over the last few years has heightened my sense of mortality.

  • One of the obvious disadvantages of being an older Mum is that you know it’s unlikely that you’ll be around when your kids are 50.

  • With any luck I’ll be here to help B through school, give advice on relationships – boys, girls, BFF’s, etc. and generally be on hand with hugs and listening ears till she’s at least 30. But anything after that will be a bonus. I’d love to be around when she has her own kids but that’s probably not going to happen. Especially if she leaves it late like I did.

  • It’s really quite shocking how your body starts to disintegrate when you get past 50. As you age more bits of you go wrong and you’re generally more fragile. In the past when I’d damage a bit of me it would heal fairly quickly. Now it seems to take ages to fix. I’m like a vintage car but with less spare parts and higher maintenance costs.

  • Actually, I’m fairly low maintenance compared to some women my age. I’m au naturel as far as the face and body goes. The only thing that’s not really me is my hair. I did consider going full grey but my hairdresser nearly had an aneurism when I mentioned it and I also think B prefers it blond. When the grey roots come through she says I look old. “Thanks for the confidence boost darling.”

  • Another disadvantage of being over 50 is going through the menopause before she’s even gone through puberty.

  • I’m going through the menopause now and I’m also on Tamoxifen to keep the cancer at bay. This means I have absolutely no idea what is going on with my body.

  • One minute I want to party like it’s 1999 the next I’m achy and tired and grumpy.

  • Oh, so grumpy.

  • I will lash out completely unexpectedly – even I don’t know it’s coming. Mostly at my poor daughter, usually while she’s doodling on a page instead of doing her homework. Or after I’ve asked her to get dressed for the 100th time.

  • I will just explode. Scream like a banshee – And then apologise profusely.

  • And I swear. Properly effing and blinding. She gets embarrassed when I swear in public. But I don’t care I swear anyway. A plus side of being old is not caring what other people think of you.

  • My daughter is also very dyslexic. This means she gets tired quickly, school is a massive strain and I have to help her lots. Including doing extra dyslexia homework every morning before school. Which stretches my patience to breaking point on a daily basis. Wow I’m a terrible Mum – maybe I do care what other people think?

  • It all gets very stressful which doesn’t help with the menopausal emotional rollercoaster. Woohoooo…

  • Most of the other Mums at school are at least 10 years younger than me but there are a couple of Mums close to me in age. Yes, I am the oldest Mum in the class but it really doesn’t matter and I have made some genuinely good friends.

  • But it’s my oldest friends I talk to about the menopausal madness. It’s good to know I’m not alone and it’s not just the tamoxifen that is making me hot and bothered. Most women my age will be at least perimenopausal. Pretty much every woman I know over the age of 48 now has very erratic periods and most of us get hot flushes on a regular basis. Plus, the chin stubble… It’s a good look.

  • I have found that alcohol makes the flushes much worse. And as it can also affect breast cancer I’ve reduced my alcohol intake to just a few drinks at the weekends. But I’m not prepared to give it up completely, especially when my hubby makes such good martinis!

  • Talking of ‘The Husband’, he’s been rather wonderful. He was exceptionally supportive when I was going through my cancer treatment and he has been really understanding with everything else since. Yes, I do mean sex. Because having breast cancer and going through the menopause makes you feel more like Mrs Brown than Mrs Robinson.img_5247

  • He obviously still finds me sexy. Which I find surprising because my body has changed so dramatically over the last couple of years it’s not the same as the one he signed up for when we got hitched. But then he was skinny and had hair on the top of his head when we first met so we could both be done under the trade descriptions act.

  • I understand why people say that women disappear after 50. Not only do they stop feeling attractive but the perception of them is that they must be boring too. Middle aged Mums from suburbia – MAMS. Not exactly MILFS.

  • But I’m determined not to be a frumpy 50 something. Although I’ll never be a style guru I think I do OK with the fashion thing. Still not sure if I can get away with Mom jeans, but I’ve got a pair anyway.

  • You have to force yourself to make the effort though, which is tough when you feel like an angry sloth most of the time.

  • Going through the menopause while holding down a full-on job in ad land, managing the house and trying to help my 9-year-old dyslexic daughter all got a bit much for me at the beginning of this year.

  • When hot flushes woke me up at night I’d just lie there worrying about work or childcare or school or my Dad’s heart bypass or holiday planning or my chin hair or what I was going to post on social media the next day…

  • So, when I was made redundant in February I decided not to rush back into work. I needed a few months off to be with B and get my head together.

  • Actually, taking time off when they’re a bit older is a revelation. I didn’t really enjoy maternity leave. I just got bored and frustrated and missed adult company.

  • Now B’s at school I have time to write for myself – hence this list.

  • I go to mum’s coffee mornings and can do all the tidying etc. during the day instead of cramming everything in to the couple of hours left after getting home from work and putting B to bed. I’m a shite stay at home mum though. I’ve even forgotten to pick B up from school a couple of times!

  • So, I have to go back to work and not just to pay the mortgage. I have to go back because I need it for my sense of self, plus I want to be a good role model for my daughter.

  • I want to show her that I can do anything, and age and gender are no barrier – although we all know the real truth about that one.

  • You think it’s going to get easier, instead it gets more complicated as you both get older. I’ve just bought a book on growing up for B. It’s ironic that I’m talking to her about getting her periods just as I’m losing mine.

  • But life is generally good.

  • I’m alive and I’m 51.

  • I’m more confident in myself.

  • I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.

  • I have a gorgeous daughter who adore and a loving husband who makes me laugh.

  • I have so much to celebrate.

  • In fact, last year to celebrate turning 50 I decided to do 50 things at 50.

  • I began with a handstand on the beach on my Birthday.

  • Then I started a blog and did some slightly mental challenges. I jumped out of a plane at 13,000 feet, I ran around London Zoo naked (C-section and boob scars out for the world to see) and I completed a Pretty Muddy.

  • Half way through the year I realised I was never going to fit all 50 in to one year so no I’m doing 50 things in my 50’s.

  • Well I think I’m old enough to make up my own rules…

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  • Reply Nancy Phillips July 13, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Brilliant list, as I can relate to most of it. I’m 43 and have a 4 & 2 yr old.. When my 4 year old was 6months, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. After lots of surgery, a colostomy bag (thankfully reversed after 9mths) and six months of intense chemo.
    I was made redundant six months preggers with my second. So now a full-time mum that premenopausal. The mood swings and lack of self- worth is destroying, coupled with a body that a stone overweight covered in scars.
    However, we are still here! To see the sunshine, our kids giggle. And those cuddles….. the best! X

  • Reply Liz Deacle July 13, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Loved this so much. At 47, I’m almost there. Haven’t reached the hot flush stage and don’t know if I’ll recognise the ‘screaming like a banshee’ bit because I’ve been doing that since I was 17 and blaming it on PMT. Last year I indulged in a midlife crisis and persuaded my husband and 2 teenagers (16 and 13) to come backpacking around the world with me for a year, we are 7 months in. I reasoned that if I couldn’t have a toy boy (my husband is 8 years older than me) then I’d wear wooden bangles and get a henna tattoo in India instead…
    It’s one big battle to stay ‘with it’ – without looking like a knob in front of the kids. Which I do. Always…
    Anyway, love your posts Clemmie and am a huge fan!!
    Liz x

    • Reply handstandsonthebeach July 13, 2018 at 10:59 pm

      So jealous of your backpacking adventure. I can’t wait to go travelling with B. Enjoy every moment.

  • Reply Rachel July 13, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    This is my favourite list ever. Thanks for sharing xx

  • Reply Pauline July 15, 2018 at 9:05 am

    I really enjoyed this and it’s great to read a lot more about the menapause symptoms which seems to a taboo subject. Would love to read what else you achieve in your 50 things to do at 50 – I will be joining the 50’s gang next year 👍.

  • Reply Lori Sturgess July 16, 2018 at 2:11 am

    This is so wonderful and something I really needed to read! I had my daughter just shy of my 44th birthday via IVF. I’m 46 now and my body hasn’t felt the same since. She’s amazing and wonderful and I’d do it all again for her, but I was perimenopausal before getting preggo so now it’s all screwy. The mood swings, the flushes, the fatigue! You’re amazing and this list is such a breath of fresh air! Thank you! X

  • Reply Penny July 16, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I loved this list and am amazed by your strength and honesty.

    I don’t often post online but I feel really compelled to share that my mother verbally lashed out when I was a child and it has had a significant impact on me. We were of course close when I was a child but as I grew older I realised that her behavior was unfair and that it made me feel insecure. I’m now a mum of two and although I understand why she used to do it (she also experienced some very difficult times like yourself) and she stopped when I was old enough to maturely tell her she was affecting me, I’m afraid the damage had already been done. I’m also afraid to say that growing up with volatility meant that when men mirrored the same behavior in relationships, I accepted it when I shouldn’t have.

    I’m really don’t want to come across as putting you down, because I’m really not and I loved your post and its honesty and I think it was a great piece of writing and your story is of course inspiring. I just want to try and try and help a fellow mum understand that there are long term consequences to a lash out/immediately apologise behaviour pattern and one day your daughter may feel then same way I do, and if it was me, I would want someone to make that point to me really clearly.

  • Reply Claudette September 23, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    Love love love this!! 💞💙💟

    I’m going to put this with my other midlife stuff on my blog and when I have my head together, share this. Congratulations on 50 and beyond!

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