As more of us have children in our
mid-30s, an increasing number of women are going through the menopause just as
their children hit the turbulent teens.
The row-like all our rows blew up out of
nowhere. My daughter Miranda, 13, was in the kitchen making cupcakes. Her
question ‘Will you drive me to Poppy’s when they’re done? sounded casual. But
then the emotional temperature rocketed way past gas mark six.
‘I’ve got work to do.’ I (probably)
snapped. ‘What’s wrong with the bus? Or why not walk?’
Within a second Miranda had erupted so
violently, she’d sprayed icing across the cooker. ‘You’re a rubbish mother’,
she said, with venom. ‘All my friends’ mums give them lifts. You’re always busy
and always saying no.’ A big glob of buttercream hit the wall. ‘I hate you!’
always busy and always saying no.’ A big glob of buttercream hit the wall. ‘I
It took a huge effort for me to reach the
hallway without telling her that, right that second, the feeling was mutual because
she’s not the only one who’s volatile. Welcome, reader, to the House of
Hormones, a home shared by a menopausal mother and her teenage daughter.
I’m hurtling towards a new phase of family
life, while Miranda is racing at a similar breakneck speed towards her fertile
prime. Ahead for her are the eventful and energetic years when a young woman
forges a career, finds a partner and builds a family. Before me are the quieter
but equally crucial times when a woman works out who she is going to be now
that the childbearing is done. I always realized these moments would come: what
I hadn’t reckoned on was that they’d clash – nor in such glorious,
technicolour, high-volume glory.
So it’s all change, and the hormones inside
both of us are going wild. We each oscillate between being intelligent,
rational, thoughtful human beings and crazed, selfish forces intent on
destructive meltdown. My younger daughter, Treenie, 10, tiptoes warily around us
both, not sure whether one or both of us will suddenly blow. My husband goes
one better (because he can) and spends more time than usual ‘at work’.
We’re not the only household going through
this. The singer Tracey Thorn – who used to be part of Everything But The Girl
and is now mother of 13-year-old twin daughters, heaven help her – sings about
it on her album Love And Its Opposite: ‘Yours are kicking in, mine are checking
out.’ She sums it up perfectly, saying: ‘You’re stamping up the stairs, I’m
crying at the kitchen sink.’
have to remember to be the grown-up one,’ says Joanna
And don’t think 40-something women with
sons are off the hook. ‘I grew up with sisters and it was a long time before I
realized boys have hormones, too’ says my friend Gill, who has boys aged 14 and
16, and a daughter aged 20. ‘Let me tell you, there’s an extra dimension when
you’re going head to head with a very angry child who’s a lot bigger than you
Family psychotherapist Dr Shelagh Wright
sees many duos like Miranda and me. Going through the menopause/puberty à deux
is increasingly common, she confirms, since more women are having babies in
their mid-30s. So how do we copc? The trick, says Shelagh, is to pay attention
to feelings, not behaviour. ‘Feeling are what matter most,’ she says. ‘You love
your daughter, though you might hate her behaviour; the important thing is to
think about what she’s feeling, and respond to that, rather than to what she’s
The same, of course, is true in reverse.
Miranda loves me really – it’s my behaviour she hates. But can I expect her to
make allowances for me the way I should be able to make allowances for her? Not
really. After all, Miranda has no inkling of what the menopause involves. I, on
the other hand, have experienced puberty, and still remember the confusion, the
emotion, the anxieties and, of course, the battles with my mum.
So I have to remember to be the grown-up
one here, as a mother always does. It doesn’t always mean giving in to
unreasonable requests. So I’m not driving Miranda to Poppy’s, not today and probably
not any other day, either; but I won’t snap my ‘no’ so swiftly next time. And
I’ll try to remember that some people have it even harder. Another friend gave
birth at 45, so she’s now juggling the menopause with toddler tantrums.