Women

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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!’

Description: You’re always busy and always saying no.’ A big glob of buttercream hit the wall. ‘I hate you!’

You’re always busy and always saying no.’ A big glob of buttercream hit the wall. ‘I hate you!’

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.’

Description: ‘I have to remember to be the grown-up one,’ says Joanna

‘I 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 are.’

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 actually doing.’

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. Respect!

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