In the natural order of things, menopause and motherhood are not meant to go together. If our reality goes as planned, we have time to adapt to being a parent while we have energy and good health. Eventually, as life slows down and our children grow up and learn to take care of themselves, we enter middle age and begin to deal with menopause. Each season of our lives comes with certain trials and adjustments.
But what happens when these 2 female life events collide?
Due to unforeseen circumstances, such as surgical removal of their ovaries, female cancer-related menopause, late motherhood, or having to raise grandchildren, multitudes of women today raise children while going through the mid-life change. You will certainly be uncomfortable and tired if you happen to be dealing with menopausal hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings while rearing kids.
However, some studies have shown that you may tolerate these symptoms better than those going through natural menopause at a later age without the burden of parenting at the same time. How can this be possible?
One study found that women who experienced sudden surgical menopause while raising young children actually had less troubling menopausal symptoms. According to the researchers, the reason might be that being around your young children causes an increase in the levels of oxytocin, or the “wellbeing” hormone, which makes us feel happier.
Oxytocin has been shown to improve mood and fight stress while producing feelings of love. That is an interesting fact and viewpoint. I happen to agree with that study and can substantiate that kids can help you get through tough times, early menopause included.
Confessions of a menopausal mom
I had children early on, developed cancer at a young age, and went through chemical and surgical menopause before some women even have their 1st child. You could say that I was an early bloomer in a weird sense of the phrase. I call it lucky, actually, because I was done bearing children before my ovaries had to be removed. Also, my kids were well out of diapers and on their way to being self-sufficient young women before my menopausal mood swings hit.
Even though raising teenage girls can be a trial for any parent, moms dealing with their own crankiness, frequent tears, and discomfort during menopause can take the tension and stress of parenting to new levels. Fortunately, our daughters were pretty considerate and patient with me during my menopausal adjustment. Oh, we still had to deal with plenty of boyfriend drama, sassiness, broken curfews, and teen moodiness, but overall, they are good kids, and I appreciate their tolerance.
That’s not to say my attitude and parenting efforts were exemplary. I had plenty of days where menopausal moodiness overshadowed our family. I recall many restless nights, throwing the covers off and on for hours while experiencing drenching night sweats and then freezing chills. Lack of sleep followed by grumpy mornings made for uncomfortable family breakfasts and quick exits for my girls and husband. I was left to lick my wounds as I trudged off to work (I’m a school nurse). There, I once again dealt with feelings of menopausal suffocation followed by hot flashes as I doffed and donned my layers of clothing.
Being normally an easy-going person, I didn’t exhibit any shocking behaviors, such as one that I recall my own mother going through during her early surgical menopause. My childhood recollection of my typically non-volatile mom throwing a full plate of spaghetti at my father is still etched in my memory as an example of menopausal mood swings. The image of spaghetti sauce and noodles dripping down my father’s face and a meatball atop his head is my vivid reminder of the hormonal hell of being a menopausal mother.
Perimenopause and parenting
For those of you who haven’t gone through menopause yet but are starting to experience some middle-age moodiness and period changes, you may be going through perimenopause. This stretch of time, before menopause is fully underway, can also be challenging as you begin to deal with sleep problems, irregular menses, and hot flashes.
Although the shift in your emotions may not be as quick and intense as in those experiencing menopause, you may still find yourself feeling blue or more irritable than usual.
By giving yourself some grace and simply educating your kids about what is happening with your female hormones, you may be able to smoothly get through your perimenopausal years and still stay sane while raising your family. It’s also a good idea to fill your partner in on the hows, whys, and what to expect with menopause, moving forward as you navigate mid-life changes.
How to explain your menopause to your child
So, what is the best way to teach your young loved ones about a primarily adult female and possibly sensitive topic? I say keep it simple. Use age-appropriate terms and provide just enough information for your child’s level of learning.
With a young kid, you may just want to say that your body is making you grumpy and you can’t help it. If you happen to have teenagers, they are old enough to understand the full explanation of menopause. Although boys may not be overly keen on hearing about period changes, they need to know that the process is natural and learn about the side effects and symptoms you may be experiencing.
Make sure to stress that you still love them the same even though you may snap at them more often and appear irritable or weepy at times. Tell them to chalk it up to menopause and not take your snarky personality to heart. Ask for forgiveness often and remind them that you may need some extra space and love as you do your best to get through menopause.
Signs your mom is going through menopause
My 2 daughters had to learn quickly how to deal with my menopause. Once I had my ovaries removed due to cancer, I had rapidly changing moods and numerous menopause-related complaints. You may be in a similar situation or have a little more time to gradually figure out what makes your mom tick as sulky moods and irritability take over.
Here are a few clues for those looking for answers about what symptoms your mom may be displaying if she is going through menopause.
- Periods start to become irregular and eventually stop altogether.
- She may experience facial and neck flushing, hot flashes, excessive perspiration, chills, and night sweats.
- Mood changes
- Weight gain
- Sleep disturbance
- Thinning hair
This doesn’t sound like much fun, right? I can tell you that it’s not a great time in a woman’s life as she feels pretty miserable much of the time. So, as the child of a mother dealing with this mid-life body and emotional change, you will need to offer your mom a lot of support and tolerance during this time.
How do parents cope with menopause?
If you’re lucky enough to have your doctor approve hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or other medications to ease menopause symptoms, you’ll find it much easier to get through your mid-life changes. However, HRT is contraindicated for many (including myself) who have had specific female cancers or certain other medical conditions. We just have to deal with menopause and “sweat it out.”
Fortunately, there are some natural remedies that can help somewhat with mood swings, hot flashes, and other unwanted symptoms. It’s best to consult your doctor when considering any supplements as some may react with other medications or aggravate certain conditions.
So, what else can a parent do to cope with menopause?
Here’s what I did that helped somewhat:
- Laugh with your husband and kids about how “ridiculous” you are acting at times.
- Stay in touch with your doctor about symptoms.
- Research supplements that help ease symptoms.
- Take up yoga.
- Go for frequent walks.
- Commiserate with other women who are in the same boat. Misery loves company.
- Dress in layers.
- Feel free to cry as needed.
- Drink lots of ice water.
- Read books about menopause.
- Stay in close touch with your partner. Try not to alienate yourself although you may feel like it at times.
- Always keep a fan close by.
- After an outburst, apologize to your family and do what you can to ease the tension.
If, for some reason, your emotions get seriously out of control or you are miserable with your symptoms, let your doctor know right away so they can prescribe medication to help you through your difficulties.
Where to go from here?
Whether you’re in perimenopause or the throes of actual menopause, there is, unfortunately, no way of turning back. I can tell you that I’m enjoying a period-free life. Not worrying about when my menses will hit and how I will feel during my monthly is very freeing. I was fortunate to have children who didn’t add to my misery (much) while I was sweating through this season of life. Although it may be hard at times, try to keep everything in perspective and enjoy your children while they are still at home.