I am a part of the generation that led the great migration of women into professions. Like many of my peers, I set out to prove I could simultaneously shatter ceilings and parent precocious progenies. Also, like my contemporaries, in taking on new challenges, I did not abandon old responsibilities. We were to achieve from bedroom to boardroom, responsible for housekeeping, cooking, chauffeuring, nurturing, and more. Later, when our children moved out and we retired, we were left to fill crater-sized voids with purpose and meaning.
Most of our role models share their achievements—few their challenges, pains, and anxieties. I seek to normalize our later life challenges by exposing the underbellies of our journeys. When we rid ourselves of unrealistic expectations, we are free to experience deep meaning and joy.
Two years after my father died, we moved my mother to a South Florida senior community. My parents had been married for 64 years. My siblings and I tried therapy, medication, even private voice lessons, but we could not give my mother joy nor purpose. One day, she looked at me and said, “What would you do if you finished reading your book and there were no more books left to read?”
My mother was only 20 years older than me and I, too, had run out of purpose. I had sold my business and my children were on their own. Like most midlife plus women, I was facing the decline and loss of my parents at the same time I was dealing with my own middle life reckonings.