Midlife Reckoning

There is something about midlife that calls a woman to reckon with the past. I use the word reckon because it implies more than remembering. To me, reckoning means to review or evaluate. This day after Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think back to when my son and daughter were small—when promise and possibility stretched before me like a desert horizon.

The “good enough” mother

These were days I longed to fill in the gaps of mothering I’d personally missed. I understood the concept of “good enough” mother then, and I consider my own childhood mostly fortunate, but I (like many of us) had unmet needs as a child. I didn’t always realize it during early motherhood, but the long days of holding those babies, caring for them, feeding them, tucking them into strollers and cribs and car seats healed something in me. The role challenged me too. The requirements of giving over love, patience, energy, money, worry, life—often imperfectly—forged me into a humbler, more generous person. I learned to mother myself as much as I did my son and daughter.

Looking back, I see my sincere efforts and my shortcomings. I too was a “good enough” mother. Maybe you’ve had a similar reckoning on this side of motherhood. I hope you’re gentle with yourself.

Research shows that for both men and women, our lowest level of reported happiness is at age 47.

Perhaps you’ve read the news of former mommy blogger Heather Armstrong‘s untimely passing. I published a book on early motherhood a few years before Heather began writing, and I didn’t know her work at the time I was parenting. Maybe you did. She was wildly popular in the mid- to late-2000s. I do remember how revolutionary it felt to hear unvarnished truths about motherhood during that time. Heather often talked about the depression she experienced. I’ve read that her depression was lifelong and intractable. She took her life at age 47, leaving behind her two children and husband.

The reckoning

This sad news stayed with me for a long time, maybe because we both wrote about motherhood. Maybe because reckoning in midlife—hopes, regrets, or wishes unfulfilled—can feel tough. Research shows that for both men and women, our lowest level of reported happiness is at age 47. For women in perimenopause, the reckoning is often accompanied by changes in sleep and other physical and emotional symptoms. We may also care for aging parents while still working and parenting children. The good news, according to research, is that happiness rebounds with each successive year after age 47.

Statistics are one measurement, impersonal at that, and don’t necessarily have anything in the world to do with Heather Armstrong. I’m so sorry for her family. I’m sad that we won’t read her perspectives on midlife and aging. I want to honor her work here.

When unhappiness becomes depression

I’m writing this because I also want to normalize the low point of happiness that many women feel in midlife. If your unhappiness leans toward depression, reach out to a friend or family member. Find a counselor. Or call the National Suicide and Crisis hotline by dialing 988.

I care about you.


I created greencallings.com to help women thrive in midlife so we can bring our wisdom and gifts to the world. If you’ve found this article helpful, I’d love for you to join my twice-monthly mailing list.

Published by Lisa

Writer, observer of culture, careful listener, & founder of greencallings.com.

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