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Navigating the Messy Middle of Midlife with Ann Douglas

burnout menopause midlife self-care

It might come as a surprise that the most challenging part of midlife may have less to do with terrible sleep, hot flashes, or the perpetual feeling that your body is broken. While those things are very legitimate and frustrating symptoms of menopause, they’re not unfamiliar to most women and treatments exist to support them. The real trouble is in how the majority of women who are in perimenopause have no idea that it’s happening, but see the impact it’s having on their lives, relationships, and careers. It’s 100% impossible to treat something you don’t know is happening, right? 


In this episode, I’ve invited the author of “Navigating the Messy Middle” of midlife, Ann Douglas. We cover so much ground in this one episode! We highlight the fact that even though you may have prided yourself on being a very capable, dependable, and rock-solid partner, parent, and friend, you’ve noticed a shift in recent years. And, you might find yourself growing weary of the feeling that you’re letting someone down all the time. We’re here to unpack why that’s so common, and why the negative societal messages about midlife need some serious reframing. 

Here’s the bottom line-it’s not over. Not by a long shot. You might feel flooded with disappointment that you haven’t figured it all out yet. But, the pressure combined with the uninvited changes you’re navigating makes it difficult to feel like your winning at anything. Instead, I dare you to consider how much you have to offer at this stage of the game, especially in terms of lived experience and the wisdom you’ve gathered. There is so much left to share and savor! 

In this episode you’ll learn: 

  • That the messy of midlife has to do with role changes, overwhelming responsibilities and the negative cultural messages we fight. 
  • Why Ann and I will forever preach that community is key to navigating this season
  • Why we need to honor the uniqueness of the individual experience of menopause
  • How easily we overlook the value of the wisdom women in midlife can share
  • Why we have to become experts at self-compassion to keep sifting through the messy middle

To learn more about Ann and her work, be sure to check out her website at or follow her on Instagram @annmdouglas on Twitter at @anndouglas , or on Facebook @NavigatingTheMessyMiddle.


Jenn Salib Huber 0:02
Hi and welcome to the midlife feast the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, Dr. Jenn Selena Huber. Come to my table. Listen and learn from me. Trusted guests, experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife.

Jenn Salib Huber 0:24
Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week's episode of the midlife feast. So this week we're talking about the messy middle but not in the way that I usually talk about it which is talking about the messy middle of on dieting or breaking up with Diet and Wellness culture and learning to become an intuitive eater Today I'm talking with and Douglas about her book, navigating the messy middle. And so I heard and on another podcast talking about that messy middle intersection of parenting and perimenopause and midlife. And after reading her book, I knew that I wanted to have this conversation with her. So Anne is Canadian like myself, and she's an author she wrote, she's written many, many parenting books, ironically, one of which I read back in 2008, about sleep. And her own experience of you know, now having kids who are grown and flown and finding herself in in midlife and navigating that really kind of gave her the interest and experience and ability to write a really lovely book that builds community around this age and season of life where things can definitely get messy, messy. So I know that you're going to love this episode. And as always, I'd love to hear what you think. And I'd love to hear what you have found challenging about the messy middle of midlife. Hi, and welcome to the midlife feast.

Ann Douglas 1:48
I'm so happy to be here, Jen. Thanks for inviting me.

Jenn Salib Huber 1:52
So, um, I love the title. So we'll just start with the title of your book, which is navigating the messy middle, and my audience and my listeners are gonna love that because I use that term missing middle all the time to talk about the Undying, messy middle of going from a chronic Dieter and someone who's very, you know, kind of entrenched in Diet and Wellness culture to becoming an intuitive eater that there's this whole phase that we call the messy middle. But your book is a much broader definition of the messy middle. So what is what's your definition of the messy, messy middle? What is it?

Ann Douglas 2:27
Right? Well, I think it's different sort of a lens with which you can look at the whole midlife experience, right? Like, on the one hand, it's a very complicated life stage, like Does anybody that you know, at midlife say, Oh, it's a breeze like, you know, everything's going perfectly, no, most of us are on some kind of roller coaster ride, and like there's role transitions and layers and layers of responsibilities. And then even just the messages that we get about midlife, they're so contradictory. So people will tell you, it's magical, it's your time, or it's miserable. It's all downhill from here, when really the truth is somewhere in the middle, hence the messy middle. So that's sort of what I wanted to do. When I set out to write this book. I didn't want to write a book that made people feel guilty, like they were doing midlife wrong. And, you know, set out some like impossible set of expectations, which is very much in sync with what you talk about all the time.

Jenn Salib Huber 3:22
Yeah, and it's so true, because everybody it feels like is writing about menopause, and midlife. And everybody's got a solution, a plan or, you know, offering some kind of life preserver to those of us who might feel like we're drowning a little bit and you're right, it it is not a one size fits all experience. So let's back up a little bit more. So you have written a lot of books, and I actually dug up a list of books because I knew I recognized your name. And I bought your book out of desperation in 2008 When my daughter wasn't sleeping, so I bought your sleeping book many many years ago.

Ann Douglas 4:02
Wow. Talk about a trip down memory lane.

Jenn Salib Huber 4:06
Yeah, I remember specifically going to chapters and buying like four books, you know, in that like panicked moment of not having a sleeping child after nine months or something. But so you wrote you were a parenting writer, you wrote about parenting and babies and toddlers. And what kind of prompted this transition to write about midlife? Because that's it's a jump.

Ann Douglas 4:27
Yeah, well, as anybody who looks at the color of my hair now versus when my pregnancy and parenting books were hitting the market, you will have noticed that shockingly, I have changed as has my entire life. You know the contours of my life. All four kids of mine are now young adults between the ages of 25 and 35. So a couple of years ago, I started thinking like, I'll always care deeply about parents, right but it just I'm not in the trenches anymore in the same way that I once was. So I knew it was time to move on to

Ann Douglas 5:00
Something else is the question being what? And I was still thinking when one day my literary agent got in touch with me and said, I know what your next book has to be about. And I'm like, Wow, this has never happened in my entire career. And she said, I want you to write a book about midlife because I need a book about midlife written by you. I thought, wow, it's almost like a special request for a disc jockey. Right? So. So like, I weighed the idea. And I thought, yeah, I could do something with this information, like it would give me an excuse to have conversations with like, well, as it turned out, 118 women, and to really delve deeply into a life stage that I was still really deeply emerging. I'm sort of starting to inch over into older person territory, which is totally fine. But back when I was doing like the bulk of the research a couple of years back, I had only recently figured out that I was a midlife person. So I don't know, I feel like I've had the shortest midlife in the history of the world because I was late, recognizing I was in midlife. And now I feel like maybe I'm exiting a little early just because of, you know, the whole landscape of everything changed so much in the in the past few years. I feel like a lot of us have made a lot of life transitions and changes.

Jenn Salib Huber 6:12
What you said, though, about not realizing that you were in midlife, I mean, that's pretty relatable. So, especially with you know, perimenopause, a lot of people will say, wait a minute, I'm in perimenopause, or they won't realize until they're almost through perimenopause. And they're actually in menopause. And I often joke that, you know, I feel like that's a real failing on society's part, you know, that we can get to this age and stage. And with all of our life experience, and education and everything behind us not know, until we're there. Like, shouldn't we know that this is coming? Wouldn't we be better prepared? If we did?

Ann Douglas 6:50
Well, it would be a little bit less horrifying to sort of have like some of the random curveballs that come out of the blue that cause a lot of women like huge amounts of anxiety, like, Is there something wrong with me because of this physical or emotional thing that I'm experiencing? And you know, as one of the women in my book said, she set up a Facebook group, so a bunch of friends could compare notes. And she found that, basically, it's a million different things. It's a like a completely unique experience. But if you compare notes with enough people, you'll also have somebody else who says, oh, yeah, we went through that, too, you know?

Jenn Salib Huber 7:26
Yeah. That's one of the things that I really loved about your book was the storytelling. I love stories. I love listening to stories, telling stories, hearing people's stories. And I really loved how that really, you know, was woven into all of the great information. And yeah, there's so much community that was created just by reading other people's stories, which is lovely. Yeah, so the one section that I really glommed on to when I heard you on another podcast, and when I was reading the book is just this all too familiar. I'm going to call it a joke, in some ways of you know, that so many of us find ourselves in the midst of perimenopause and menopause, and all of the changes that come with it. While we are trying to parent teens and tweens. And going through this parallel hormone change this roller coaster arm that often feels like, you know, an evolutionary fail, that we're in a stage at the same time. What what do you tell us about that? What do you have to say about that? Why is it? Why is this happening? Why is it

Ann Douglas 8:30
I don't know why somebody thought it was a good idea to have it happen. But I can tell you like there's sort of like a physical component to it with all those hormones, as you said. And also there's like, an identity quest kind of component to it, which didn't really love all the hormones, to be perfectly honest, on anybody's part. But the identity quest quest stuff that can be so exciting and so positive, and it can give us common ground as our kids are trying to figure out, like, who am I? And how do I fit into the world? And, you know, what, what is my unique purpose, and a lot of us at midlife are sort of like reexamining that like considering who we were, who we are, and who we hope to become and all the different ways that could play out in our lives. So I find that really exciting just like we're you know, we're kind of in a phase of reinvention as they are. And it doesn't have to be like a huge thing. I don't want anyone to feel like, can't relate to this, because I'm not going back to school to do a PhD. And I'm not, you know, moving to a different country to start my own company. It's like, it doesn't have to be anything on that scale. It could just be like, maybe I've never got around to doing that thing. That was my dream when I was 12. Maybe it's time to pick up that thread in my life and do that thing again. And this is how I ended up being at a point where I'm actually trying to teach myself how to write my first novel, after like many decades of writing nonfiction, right, because that is something I've always wanted to do my entire life. And if it's gonna take me a while to figure it out. I don't want to run out of Like, before I have a chance to do this thing, right?

Jenn Salib Huber 10:05
Yeah, the parallels, I think are are obvious when you start when you see it that way, when you see that, you know, they're going through a transition, we're going through a transition. There's this hormonal, maybe kind of milieu that we share. And you know, we often call perimenopause, reverse reverse puberty. But really, it is an identity crisis in that and not crisis shift, whatever we want to call it, we're moving from one phase into another, I had another guest on who, you know, really talks about, like seasons, right, like we're heading into a new season. And And with that, there's, there's new things, it's letting go familiar things, it's, you know, getting comfortable with some of that the changes and what we're letting go of. But I think that what I personally experienced a lot of and what I hear a lot of people talking about is that we're so stressed, we have so much on our plate, we're this, you know, sandwich generation, we have so much going on that sometimes it feels like we're already at capacity. And we can understand that all this stuff is happening. But it feels like it is the proverbial straw. You know, that? Why, why it was so much easier when now in hindsight when they were in diapers, and you know, when all we had to do was like, feed them and play with them and keep them dry. Now, we're also regulating our own emotions, which feel pretty volatile, and sometimes unrecognizable, alongside another person, who is their own person and their, you know, emotions. It's a lot, it just feels like a lot.

Ann Douglas 11:45
Yeah, it is a lot. And I mean, all you have to do is add on, like, what shows up in your news feed on a typical day, like what our climate is changing, geopolitics are shifting, they're like, you know, ebb and flow in different social movements. Like, I don't know, a single person who cares about the state of the world who isn't, like pretty maxed out, even just processing that stuff. So add on all these other layers of your life. And you're right. I mean, we're beyond capacity, and especially anybody who has been parenting, like actively hands on parenting in the last few years, this has been an exceptionally challenging time to be a parent. I mean, I've been a parent for three and a half decades, I've been writing about parenting for just about a year less than that, like I've been deeply immersed in the world of parents forever. And I can tell you, I have seen never seen anything like the challenges that parents have faced, particularly in the first one to two years of the pandemic, like, it would not be unusual for me to be on a live event, and to have people sobbing during the conversations. That never happened before the pandemic like people might get a little bit choked up. But like people saying, I had hit the wall, I'm the worst parent in the world. That's like, because they couldn't clone themselves. So I just want to say for any parent who's listening, who has some residual guilt, because they weren't able to meet their sky, high expectations of themselves, especially during those really challenging months and years. You are not alone. And for somebody like me, who watched and witness this from the sidelines, like, I will always be in awe of the heroics that parents showed during the early years of the pandemic, like, honestly, what you did wasn't hard. It was impossible. And you did

Jenn Salib Huber 13:32
it. Yeah, it definitely was impossible, we moved an international overseas move for months before the pandemic, we had just really, like, we had just bought a car, we had just gotten our feet on the ground and new country, new language. You know, our kids hadn't even been to a birthday party yet. And everything shut down. And it truly was the most challenging, you know, six to 12 months, and then we've gone through because, you know, we were alone, but everyone was alone. Like, you know, in that way, it felt a little bit more relatable, because even if we had been back in Canada, we wouldn't be seeing anyone, right, everybody was, you know, doing their own thing, but there was a lot of uncertainty. So it was it was definitely challenging. What are what are some of the things that we can do? I know, you talk a lot about self compassion, and I love how you, you know, it feels like you kind of nurture us with some wisdom is through this book. You know, now that your kids are, are grown and flown, and you're, you know, on the other side of that piece of it, but how do we nurture that self compassion in this season of this messy middle in a way that feels like, we're still we're still doing enough because that's where I feel most challenged as a parent is that I feel like there's always someone who's being let down, which I know some people have to be let down. That's okay too. But it just feels like we're all is a capacity of balls always dropping? And it can feel so hard to be self compassionate in those moments? Yeah,

Ann Douglas 15:08
well, I'll tell you the sentence that I play in my head during really hard times. And I, again, it comes back to self compassion, right? I learned about this, around the time that we had a house fire where we had to be out of our house for two months, well, you know, everything was getting repaired. And it was awful. Like, it was like when I'd say maybe the second or third worst thing that's ever happened to me, I'm sort of keeping a list at this point. But in this particular season of challenge, I would say to myself every day, like, there are an impossible number of things to do. So first of all, we're going to do like task triage, like what absolutely has to happen today. And what could happen a day, a week, a month, a year or a decade from now, and you know, it won't all fall apart. And also saying to myself, I'm doing the best that I can in a really difficult situation. And to be honest, I'm sure there were days when I was saying that at like, hyperspeed, I'm doing the best that I can in a really difficult situation with a note of hysteria. But ideally, you want to slow it down a little bit. So it feels more like a hug from a friend. And sometimes that's all you can do, right? Like you, you look at the circumstances of your life, and you say, okay, that. So that just happened to and, you know, I don't have control over a lot of these external things. But the one thing I can do is say to myself, like, you know, what, what do I need to do for myself during this really, really hard moment. And it could just be saying, you know, you're a good person, you're trying really hard, giving yourself a little mini pep talk. And at the end of the day, stopping to give yourself credit, like, even if it's just like, high five to me, we got through today, like, I can't believe it, it was so hard. And then savoring your own strength, all the strengths that you've developed, particularly in the past few years, like learning to live with uncertainty. I am a person who deeply loves her ruts. So having to change all the time on an ongoing basis. That was really hard for me. But now, you know, I can apply that skill because, as you know, Canada's having exciting times with wildfire smoke right now. Right? So like, Okay, what does today look like? Okay, they're saying it's the worst air in the world. So probably not a great idea to do X Y Zed. So the plan for today is this, even if last night I thought it was that? I don't love it. I'll never be somebody who says, Oh, it's so fun how life can be such an adventure, I still want to belong to club, right? But at least I'm figuring out a way to live in our new ish, kind of sort of not really normal.

Jenn Salib Huber 17:48
I think too, when I reflect I mean, I'm definitely a type A personality. I like to be in charge. Everyone around me knows that. But you know, when you have young kids who thrive on rhythm and routine, and you're running the show, you know, whether it's you you and your partner, whatever that looks like, it's the adults generally running the show about when things happen, how they happen, why they happen, who they happen with. And all of a sudden, your own rhythms and routines are challenged because of you know, midlife and perimenopause. And then you have these kids who are in a developmental stage that is designed to brush up against that. It is so hard to just roll with the punches. So yeah, I'm Team rat as well. I like my rhythms and my routines.

Ann Douglas 18:37
Can I make a suggestion? Yeah. So one thing I think it's worth highlighting. And this is something I wrote about in my previous book, happy parents, Happy Kids, is how when your kids hit the preteen and teen stages, in particular, mothers, specifically mothers, because you know how they never do enough research about all parents, but mothers really need support from other mothers, because you need someone to validate the fact that you know, you are feeling so frustrated right now you're trying to remember why you wanted to be a parent in the first place. You're mentally packing your suitcases and imagining running off to a desert island by yourself where without your cell phone, you're throwing it in the ocean on the way across. And I mean, as my family doctor said to me many years ago, there's not an honest parent on the planet who hasn't felt like that from time to time because it's a really emotionally exhausting job, right? So if you can find your people and compare notes with them and have somebody else say, You know what, I just want you to know that you're a really good parent, like I watch from the sidelines and I see how kind you are and how resourceful you are like we really need people to, to sort of almost hold the mirror up and say, not everybody is like as patient as you like you take it for granted. For other people. It's like a superhuman power.

Jenn Salib Huber 19:55
It's so true. We parent in isolation, and now we're midlife. thing in isolation, right? And we're not designed to thrive that way. You know, we need to see, I'm a big proponent of community as well, I call community the missing ingredient in midlife, because, you know, we have to hear our own stories reflected and others, not only to normalize them, but also to see the people who've made it through to the other side, to see that we are actually going to survive this, you know, it's not forever, it's not going to kill us most of the time. When does it get better? When does this, this all of this, when does this get better?

Ann Douglas 20:35
I wish I had a graph and that people could sort of plot in their birthdate and the date today and say, okay, only 73 more challenging days ahead of me. But it's it's never that predictable. But I can tell you, it's like when my daughter had a really, really challenging teenage hood, so much that like, I found a note when I was cleaning some papers the other day where she apologized for the kind of teenager she was after the fact. And of course, I said, Oh, no, it was no big deal at all. But it was a big deal. Anyways, I remember with her, it was like, Challenge Challenge Challenge, light switch gets flipped, and then everything was fine. Like it can be that dramatic in our life circumstances, something, somehow something shifts for somebody, and it all starts to feel easier. And then when you look back and remember, like what was my life like six months ago or a year ago? It's remarkable. Like, when I look back on my life, a year ago, I was living in a different place. And I had no intention of moving. And now I've been living here for for, I guess, seven months, at, you know, a place I didn't even know existed, like, and I we bought the place after seeing it for two hours. And we knew nobody else in town, like talk about sort of just making a moment or a decision to sort of like hit the eject button on your life and make a big change. And yet I wake up every morning, and I'm really happy and exciting is excited. I mean, I get to live in a forest and work on a writing project that I find life enhancing. And now we have space if we have visitors like we're not sort of like, you know, putting people on horrible rollout things and we just I feel like we have breathing room and you know, so many exciting opportunities. But what loving me had to spend like about two years building up to that point where it was like, flip the switch it's time.

Jenn Salib Huber 22:27
So let's talk a little bit more generally about midlife. And so one of the kind of themes that I really loved reading through the different stories and you know, the wisdom that you pepper in is that it's not awful for everyone. And even when it's awful, it's not all the time. But what why do we Why do we and I mean, we as in the cultural we have such a love of making midlife out to be like hell on earth, movies, memes, bad jokes. You know, I'm all about flipping that script and talking about how like, I love it, despite all of the shit that goes on around me with it. I love it. I wouldn't change anything about it, or you couldn't pay me to be 25. But sometimes people think that I'm just saying that they don't actually believe me. So why why do we love to hate midlife?

Ann Douglas 23:20
Well, there's such a vested interest in so many different companies selling products and services that can capitalize on our anxiety and our fear. And it's interesting because I, I looked at research materials across different countries and cultures, like the fear based messaging in the UK is next level, like there are people who are just barely 30. And they're panicked about being like, you know, old and decrepit. Like, what is that about? And, you know, so I think that there are a lot of sort of like cultural factors, there's definitely the commercial incentive. And I think like, we want to find that sweet spot, right? Because some people have a really hard time like maybe 10 to 15% of people roughly have a really hard time, but the rest of the people don't. And the people who are most afraid are the people who are coming up to perimenopause and menopause, the people who are like saying it wasn't that bad are the people who can look at it in the rearview mirror. And they're the people who actually have the lived experience. So I think don't just compare notes with age mates, as you said earlier, look to having friends a little further on in the journey and they can say, oh, yeah, I did not love I'll tell you this. I did not love that episode of menstrual flooding at a conference where my husband had to drive close to me because I couldn't leave the washroom any other way other than tying like a jacket around my waist like a lot of people have been there, right? I did not love that. I did not love the way my brain decided that. It's really good idea to wake up from two to 330 every morning and just be wide awake, you know, but these were limited time offers. I'm happy to tell you like I think I only had a couple of those mega flood things. And the, for whatever reason the insomnia lasted right around the time Donald Trump was elected. So it might have actually been a little bit situational on top of it. But you know, it all came in when you want to read in the middle of the night. Oh, I always do. And that's what I say to myself, like, you know, I always have a book on my night table. And it's like, if I'm meant to be awake, I can either write now I lie, they're trying to plot out my novel, which is not a good idea. Because then I think like, No, you have to write that down, because you will not remember it in the morning. And then next thing you know, I'm writing it for in the mornings, like, this is ridiculous. Luckily, it doesn't happen very often now. But when it does, I just say, you know, is it better to lie here being completely bent out of shape about the fact that I'm going to be tired in the morning? Or should I say, Well, I guess I just want a one hour trip to my favorite novel, and I'm just going to crack it open and read it.

Jenn Salib Huber 25:57
Yeah, no. And I think it's so true that we hear I mean, it's like this with anything, the people who have a really negative experience, whether it's a customer experience, or whatever, are going to be the ones who talk about it the most. But it's interesting, because I sometimes get questions from people saying, I think I'm actually in menopause. But I've never had a hot flash. Does that mean that they're still coming? You know, and they're surprised to hear that actually, some people, I was not one of them. But some people make it through to menopause without ever experiencing a hot flash. Just because it happens to most people doesn't mean it happens to all and nor does it mean that it's required. Right, right.

Ann Douglas 26:33
And it could be something that feels as mild as like I'm a little warm because the air conditioning isn't turned on right now to Holy cow. I feel like I've been thrown in one of those like sweat sort of sauna, things where you almost feel like if you don't get out in the next 30 seconds, you're going to expire, right?

Jenn Salib Huber 26:50
Yeah. What are some of the other myths that people have about midlife? I think a big

Ann Douglas 26:55
one is just that idea that it's all downhill from here, there's no point trying to do anything. Like now that you know, the clock has run out on you. It's like, I know, so many interesting people who, you know, embarked on new careers or, or, you know, wrote their first book or whatever, during, you know, sort of even the 60 plus years. So I often think like, Who do I have in my life, who are role models? And I remember, like one of my grandmother's changing her political views and getting like, more radically left in her like, mid 90s. And you know, and she was starting volunteer work as my dad, my dad does volunteer work. Well, I think he retired right around the time of his 90th birthday, he thought he'd, you know, done enough hands on stuff. But just I think, like you and I have are both obviously very passionate about community. I'll give you a preview of that question. You're asking me later on. But just that, that sense that if you're deeply invested in people and caring, then all of this feels so much more manageable, and anything is possible. It doesn't mean that like, as an like, a sort of like a middle age slash older woman, I sort of feel like I'm on the threshold that I'm going to go in, like March in a lot of parades or anything, because I have a wimpy bladder. So unless they have like little porta potties every, you know, half kilometer, it's going to be an awkward experience for me. But will I be, you know, making good trouble, as John Lewis said, behind the scenes as long as I can, I absolutely will. Because I, I think one of the hardest things for me at this point in my life, is dealing with the belief that I thought things would be so much better by now in the world. And, you know, feeling that deep sense of disappointment of seeing a lot of backsliding on many fronts, so So sometimes I cry, I said to my husband at lunch today, I think I have to take a break from listening to the news, because it's one of those days where you just went bang, bang, bang, and then I get mad and then get my second wind is like, oh, no, I will not be giving up on any of this. I will dig in my heels even more the stubbornness gene is very alive in my in my genetic pool. So I'm very happy to be carrying and passing that gene onto the next generation of very stubborn people.

Jenn Salib Huber 29:17
I love that you brought up in the book about how so many women feel like I should have had this figured out by now. And I and I often hear that on the food front that people will say, Oh, my goodness, I have been dieting since I was 12. How is it possible that I'm still trying to figure this out at 45 or 55 or 65. And it's such an unrealistic expectation to to have figured anything out, because the circumstances are always changing. So you're constantly going to be navigating new situations and dealing with new information. But it's such it does such a disservice to feel like we failed. If there's something we haven't figured out just because we're a full grown adult It's now so they say,

Ann Douglas 30:01
can I give you a really concrete example from my own life right now. I have spent a year enrolled in this novel in a year program through story studio Chicago, right. So I've been, like working really hard all year trying to figure out how to write a novel. And it was only about three weeks ago that I realized, I do not understand how to write a good scene. So without that fundamental building block, I wasn't ready to do a lot of the other things I was trying to do. And it's like, anytime in your life, you new learn a new concept, like learning about intersectional feminism, for me, unlocked a whole world of possibility, because I can analyze things a whole different way. And if you're learning and growing as a human, I can't feel guilty for not understanding either of those two things in the past, like, you know, once I got the knowledge, then I can change and learn and grow and that kind of thing. But that's the best part about being human. We're constantly learning new things and integrating that information. And because we have brilliant midlife brains, we can connect the dots like we can remember similar feelings or historic events that have happened decades ago, men go, this feels a lot like you know, the inflation worries of the mid 70s or whatever. Right? So it's, it's really interesting to have that long view. And this is why I loved it when some of the women I interviewed said like society ignores midlife women at their peril. Because we're like the older matriarchal elephants who know where the water, you know, we know how to get through times of drought, society to turn to us more often.

Jenn Salib Huber 31:40
Oh, my goodness, I feel like that's a whole other podcast episode. I have so much to say about that. And so much to add to it. But one of the, I think one of the things that really occurred to me at some point was that I was no longer distracted by needing to keep my children alive. And I know that sounds funny to say, but like, you know, until they could feed themselves dress themselves generally, like take care of themselves. Mostly, it you know, that was my feels like biologically primed, directive, like that was my job. And I loved it. And I still loved I'm being being sarcastic and joking a little bit. But once they got to be tweens and teens, and have their own interests in their own lives, and, you know, we're happy to spend time in their room doing things like it really freed me up to go back and say like, Okay, who was I before I became the mom, and what were the things that I was interested in? And oh, yeah, I want to pick that thread up now. But now I've got 15 years of lived experience, that I can now add to that, and it feels richer, it feels wiser it feels, it feels like that connection to the the intuition is much stronger. So these are the things that I try and tell people like, there's so much to look forward to. It's not over, not even by a longshot. You know, even and there are lots of people I know who are still in the throes of parenting in their 40s. I'm not, I'm one of them. I just don't have kids in diapers anymore. But you know, there is so much to look forward to once you arrive, not that it's a destination. But there, I think there are some like landing points that everyone can look forward to.

Ann Douglas 33:25
Yeah, and those transition points are hard. Like, you know, my youngest child had planned to commute to college during his last year, he was like, the only kid left at home. And then he discovered, surprise, surprise in November, that commuting two hours each way in snowstorms was not going to be great. So he told me, he'd made the decision to move out and I said, all that's fine. When will you be doing that? He said today, it's like, you know, you just like, pulled the emotional blanket out from me, under me, like I've literally spent my entire life caring about and writing about parenting, and I get five minutes notice that you're moving out, I cried for two days solid, I honestly didn't know if I would ever stop crying. But then once I stopped crying, it's like, actually, now we have a little more space in the house. And I had a lot more time and, you know, all these possibilities opened up. So I just, I was I literally went from being somebody who like motherhood and parenting was pretty much my entire identity, and existence and everything to there's life after that life stage. And it's not like I'm breaking up with my kids. We're still deeply connected. And we always will be I hope unless they don't mean but right now so far. You know, but I think that that's just like one of the threads of my life and now I have the capacity to weave together some of those different threads like you were saying,

Jenn Salib Huber 34:45
Did you ever feel like they were gonna dump you? Because that's what I think one of the hardest parts about parenting teens is in this stage is that you're super close to them when they're young and you can anticipate their every need and you know everything and then they become people and you're like Ah, I don't know you, I don't know what to do with you. And it feels like feel, I don't know, it feels like we're always on like for speed dating or something. We're always trying to get to know each other again.

Ann Douglas 35:11
Yeah, the first time through was devastating. Like, I remember feeling like my daughter didn't like me anymore. And that like I was really deeply heartbroken by it, it was a very, very hard time. And then when I went through it with the other kids, I thought to myself, like this is familiar territory, I know, there has to be a little bit of pulling away so that they can become their own people, and so on. And I want them to be their own people. I mean, it's part of the job description of being a parent, right? So I wasn't as panicked the other times around and what I find so hilarious, and I'm hoping this will make somebody laugh or stop crying, depending on how their day is going. There was one time when my teeth my teenage daughter was like, so difficult. She was about 16 at the time, and she turned to me and said, I can't wait to move out of this hellhole. It's like, well, that is really warm, and endearing and validated, and so on. And then when she was 29 and a half and had moved back home and had been living with us for some time, I sort of had to gently nudge her and say, you know, we're probably going to sell the hellhole one of these days. So you might want to start thinking about another plan for yourself. So very funny how those things sort of like, come around and so on. And she's the kid who texts us almost every day. So I guess, you know, big text message buddies with the hellhole hasn't been too bad for her as a young adult.

Jenn Salib Huber 36:31
Oh, I appreciate that little, that little moment of humor. So yes, I, I have I just really loved your yearbook. I love what you share. I love the community that you create around. We are all in this together. Well, we're all going to make it through and it doesn't have to be awful. But we do have to recognize that Big changes are happening. And we have to have the self compassion and the grace, you know, to be kind to ourselves during that time because it is messy, for sure.

Ann Douglas 37:02
It absolutely is.

Jenn Salib Huber 37:05
And thank you so much for joining me today on the midlife feast. As I always ask my guests. What do you think is the missing ingredient in midlife?

Ann Douglas 37:15
It absolutely is community. And I know that's your favorite thing too. But it's like, I feel like it flows through every ounce of my being. Because we were never meant to journey through any life stage on our own. And midlife is no exception. It can be more challenging because of, you know, all those role responsibilities and so on. But even just having an ongoing conversation, I'm lucky enough to have three younger sisters who are all midlife women. And so we have a perpetual self sisters chat going all the time. It started in March of 2020. And we rarely miss a day. So I think think like you don't necessarily have to be in the same place. But you have to have that heart to heart connection where I know if any of us had a health crisis, it'd be like, Okay, we're all hopping in our cars, and we're driving across the province. And we'll be there for one another because you need to have your people right.

Jenn Salib Huber 38:08
And there are so many ways to find community. You know, I think social media obviously has its cons. But I do think that one of the pros is that it has created a virtual community. For those of us in this age and stage who may not have an in person community that way, because you know, the range for perimenopause really can start as early as 35. I was 3637 on the earlier side, but then there are people who are in their 50s and still not in perimenopause. But you can be in very different life stages at 35 and 55, obviously, and so finding people that you can relate to and can share your story with is so so important. Yeah, and sometimes I can't thank you enough.

Ann Douglas 38:49
Oh, can I just I just want to say like, sometimes you have to take the initiative, right? And it's a weird thing as an adult, like how do I make friends as an adult. So when we moved here, seven months ago, I actually wrote a letter to all my new neighbors introducing ourselves. And I was worried that they think I was breaking into their rural mailbox if I had delivered them. So I actually put them in Canada Post. So Canada Post could like move one mailbox down the street, and two out of three people wrote back, which I figure is like pretty good odds. And they introduce themselves. So you know, we're all on sort of like purely sprawling properties here. So it's not like you sort of like bump into somebody while you're cutting your lawn or anything like that. But I have a sense of who my neighbors are. And I know that if heaven forbid, there was a forest fire nearer to us than the one that was near us recently, then we could all look out for one another because I think that whether it's age or community, like roots on the ground, we need layers and layers of community and we need it all the time.

Jenn Salib Huber 39:47
Absolutely. So if people want to learn more about you, what's the best way for them to connect?

Ann Douglas 39:55
Probably to go to my website because I sort of have links to all my things from there. So it's and Douglas a and n d o Aug.

Jenn Salib Huber 40:05
Perfect and we'll have links to that in the show notes. And thanks again for writing and sharing your book navigating the messy middle. It was a real joy to read. So thank you so much.

Ann Douglas 40:16
Thanks for everything you're doing to build community for all of us. Messy MEDLARS

Jenn Salib Huber 40:24
Oh, that's a great term.

Speaker 3 40:25
I haven't heard that one. Thanks, Dan. Thanks, Jen.

Jenn Salib Huber 40:30
Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of the midlife feast. For more non diet health hormone and general midlife support. Click the link in the show notes to learn how you can work and learn from me. And if you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, please consider leaving a review or subscribing because it helps other women just like you find us and feel supported in midlife.



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