Inside: A tried-and-tested way to connect with your kids when you feel sweary, teary, and weary + What the hell is perimenopause?
A month ago I completed a stellar blog writing course and was all set to go viral. But I couldn’t put one word in front of the other. Something was wrong.
The next day, my 7-year-old ran on and on and on about how life isn’t fair.
I heard myself say, “F*ck you!”
And then I realized I’d said it OUT LOUD.
Worse still, my face went red from anger, not shame. I can be as sweary as anything on a bad day but it stays firmly inside my head. Until now.
My child wouldn’t even look at me.
How can we connect with our children when we don’t recognize ourselves?
Full of questions (and fear), I went to see the doctor, and the nurse drained me of blood.
Turns out hormones, or lack of them, are to blame.
They packed me off with a tube of magic cream. But nothing improved. I nearly hit a man for not saying his pleases and thank yous in a restaurant. I often mentally punch rude people in the face, but I worried I might carry it through this time.
And then the shame kicked in. I cried. In public.
I didn’t feel better. I felt worse – psychotic bordering on suicidal – and really worried.
After some frantic googling, I started to connect the dots. I found renowned nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, a lady with ALL the answers.
Have you heard of perimenopause? I hadn’t. It’s defined as:
The period of a woman’s life characterized by physiological changes associated with the end of reproductive capacity, terminating with the completion of menopause.
Physiological changes? Sounds ominous.
Perimenopause can start as early as your mid-30s and commonly ends between 50 and 55. I’m only 46. I can’t do another 5+ years of this hell. I’m not sure I can go another day.
Perimenopause is marked by a drop in progesterone which can play havoc with our health.
Around 40% of women notice no changes. Good for them.
But this means 60% of us will suffer from assorted mental and physical symptoms.
Common perimenopause symptoms (edited highlights):
- Feelings of being crazy
- Fuzzy thinking
- Heart palpitations
- Hot flashes
- Menstrual cycle irregularities
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Panic attacks
- Low libido
- Liver or age spots
- Vaginal dryness
- Water retention
- Weight gain
What an exhausting list. And I can vouch for most of them. How about you?
Hard to communicate
Explaining why you’re sweary, teary, and weary to puberty-stricken teenagers is one thing (You might even share a joke or two about nightmare hormones on a good day), but trying to talk about it with young children is no laughing matter.
I headed off to the children’s library in search of age-appropriate books on the emotional effects of hormones.
In desperation, I filled our bag with every Human Body book I could find. That night we sat down next to each other and worked our way through the pile.
The 3-inch gap between us felt like a hard lump in the back of the throat.
The books were pointless. I was in no fit state to help my child connect facts about the central nervous system with the tense, jittery, distracted stranger by his side.
But the act of reading together made a difference.
My child climbed onto my knee to get a better look at the pictures.
Where the magic happens
Within seconds his warm body melted into mine. Within minutes he smiled, chatted, and laughed with me.
Better than ANY magic cream.
I can only begin to explain the benefits of our daily ritual – relaxed shoulders, steady heart rate, and a mind that stays where it’s supposed to for a good long while. And, best of all, I’m doing at least one thing right with my son.
Struggling to connect with your children? Share a book or three. I promise you, it’s the best.
And never stop reading aloud, even to your big kids, because one day it might help repair your relationship.
Here’s a list of picture books about anger, frustration, and general crankiness (from book-list maven, Erica, at What Do We Do All Day) to help you start a conversation about negative feelings with your little ones.
Protect yourself and your family
I will always beat myself up for what I said to my son that day. But when we talked about it recently, he said, “I forgive you, Mama.”
I don’t deserve him.
If you’re in your 30s or 40s with a collection of miserable symptoms, I urge you to seek professional help and get your hormone levels tested before you hit the swearing stage.
Want more information about perimenopause and a natural approach to managing it? Read Gittleman’s book: Before the Change: Taking Charge of Your Perimenopause. I cram myself full of the oils, vitamins, and minerals she recommends (nothing too weird), and I already feel less deranged.
I can keep my swearing to myself. And I’ve written this, one word in front of the other.
When my hormones behave themselves, I write (politely) about parenting problems and the picture books we used to solve them.
Here’s a post about another time I nearly punched someone in the face: How to Raise Grateful Kids in an Ungrateful World.
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Let’s raise HAPPY literate humans!
If perimenopause is a real struggle, or you’ve just had a lightbulb moment, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.