True or False?
“Women, after they turn 40, often hit a point when they decide the world should be all about THEM. They just get tired of taking care of people and go through a selfish period. It doesn’t matter how wonderful a man is it. It is just where women are at this stage.”
A childhood friend who lives in Cleveland is getting divorced. Rough sledding: by definition, divorce is not typically entertaining. She has two teenagers. For several years, I watched as she iced her career ambitions to raise these kids. Her husband was a workaholic, away on either coast or out of the country, sometimes for months at a time. Bye wifey!
Although she is one of the smartest, most ambitious women I know, she stayed home. It was impossible for her to work full time and meet the kids’ needs while her husband was away for those long days and so many nights. Not to mention meeting her own needs. She had a mild heart attack one day while the kids were in school and her husband was out of the country – and she drove herself to the hospital. She’s that kind of woman.
She put her kids first for almost a decade. Happily. However, like so many moms, she lost a piece of herself in motherhood and wifehood – that’s part of the turn-me-inside-out aspect of giving birth and giving yourself to your kids.
Three years ago, she found a wonderful, challenging, well-paid full time job. For her, it wasn’t a question of financial need. My friend was fighting for a different kind of survival. She needed something of her own again. It became time for my friend to find herself again.
My friend was excited.
I was overjoyed.
Her kids were happy to see mom happy.
Unfortunately, her husband was not quite so thrilled.
No problem! My friend cobbled together childcare. Her mother moved closer to the grandkids so she could stay over during business trips. Nothing had to change for Darling Husband and his work ambitions.
In her own way, my friend continued to put her family first as she tried to take care of herself too.
Still not enough. Her husband got angry. Frustrated. Confused.
So now my friend is divorcing this man she once adored. As part of the divorce disentanglement, they went to see a couples’ therapist. Who told my lovely, distressed, generous-hearted friend the quote listed above about women over 40 turning “selfish.”
After I stopped laughing, I really identified. With my friend’s fury. She was the selfish one? Her rediscovery-of-self was a phase?
Moms do so much for our families. Validation is what we need when we break down and rebuild ourselves. Not name calling and mis-labeling. By the time we turn 40, we’ve usually had enough of that.
Over the course of 30 years of friendship, she and I have been called many things. First, it was “forward” because we kissed the boys during recess. Then, in high school, we were called “teases” or “frigid” if we didn’t go all the way, all the time. “Bitches” when we were simply self-confident. “Unnatural” because we delayed having children to complete our educations and get a few promotions under our Prada belts. “Controlling” when we worried about our kids’ safety. “Nags” when we asked our husbands to occasionally make the beds we slept in.
So here is one more label. “Selfish.”
It has a surprisingly nice ring to it. Almost as nice as “my childhood friend.”