Arlene Harris speaks to four women in their 50s who, with their children raised, have made big life changes in order to find excitement and inner fulfilment.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when women were considered ‘past their prime’ when they were barely over 25.
Thankfully, these days things are a lot different and people of all ages are enjoying life to the full until they are well past retirement; taking up hobbies, learning new skills and generally adding more strings to their bows for as long as possible. With 50 now being the new 40, we speak to four women about how they are continuing to live life to the full:
Maureen Lynch lives with her partner Michael and three children in Dun Laoghaire.
Working as a silver (and gold) smith, the 53-year-old runs her own business and describes how she celebrated being 50 by embarking on an adventure.
“I was at a party when friends mentioned they were doing the Camino in Spain. Being on the fifth floor of life I decided I wanted to go too and have an adventure. At first, it was a fun thing but then became much more — sparking inspiration and personal growth — I am stronger both mentally and physically than I’ve ever been.
“Family and friends were hugely supportive as to get away for a week (five separate trips over two years) takes a lot of organising.
My children thought it was hilarious that my idea of fun was sleeping in a hostel, carrying stuff on my back, wearing the same clothes and coming home with blisters. No-one objected in a negative way but they wondered why I wouldn’t lie on a beach and rest instead
"But they saw me come home totally refreshed and ready for work as I just love moving forward — never staying in the same hostel twice and never booking anything.
“Now that I don’t have to deal with bottles or nappies, it was perfect timing and also taught my kids to be more independent.
“I started going through menopause suddenly with hot flushes and night sweats and these continued through my travels. A swim in the sea is the best way to cool down — family history means I can’t take HRT so I’m taking the natural route.
“My advice to any other woman hitting 50 is to step out of the comfort zone and embrace getting older.”
Natasha Labe lives in Dublin with her two daughters. The 51-year-old embraced her 50s by undergoing a career change and says getting older and going through menopause is not something to fear.
“By acknowledging my reduced physical energy, I reconnected with my intuition to retrain as a certified Feng Shui consultant after being an interior designer for 25 years.
“Marrying this ancient technique with my designing skills, I now work with clients to make their home or business environment more supportive.
Age spurred me on to make this career change and friends were enormously supportive by sharing knowledge and helping me look at my options
“It also helps that my daughters don’t have the same time requirements [as when they were younger], so I don’t regret not changing jobs sooner as I wasn’t ready when I was motoring on as a single parent and battling to make ends meet.
“Although the menopause, and getting older, brings up some uncertainties and fears around health, ageing, energy and economic future, many of us deny we have to change. But I believe it’s an opportunity to decide what you want from life —make choices and create opportunities to facilitate change.”
Aisling Grimley lives in Dublin with her four daughters and husband Francis. The 54-year-old created www.mysecondspring.ie when going through the menopause as she found little or no support available online. The comprehensive website, which offers information and support, now has more than two million visitors each year.
Having started my career in finance and then setting up my own catering company, in 2000 I took a career break and became a full-time mother for 13 years — but did not expect to find another calling in the menopause
“While researching what was behind my own hormonally-challenged moments, I saw a massive information gap around menopause. I did a dipstick survey of my friends and they were as clueless as me — so I set up My Second Spring.
“Francis supported me every step of the way. At first, it was an adjustment for my daughters who were used to my 100% attention but one of my motivations was to show them how I could change course, take on a new challenge and succeed — now they’re very proud of what I’ve done.
“There’s a right time for everything and I feel very lucky to have spent a lot of time with my family when they were young.
“I believe your body produces messages and the irritation I felt while cooking dinner showed that I was becoming frustrated and somewhat confined by family life — I was ready to take on more challenges outside the home.
“So I would encourage women to follow their passion and instincts at midlife — these are well developed and honed by this age so we should trust and honour them. If you have an urge to start something new, go for it and keep going.”
Bairbre Brooke lives in Spiddal, Co Galway with her husband Stuart and one of her four daughters. The 53-year-old spent most of her married life running a restaurant but was always interested in midwifery. With her family grown, she finally pursued her dream of becoming a doula.
“When I took the plunge and attended a doula training class, I was hooked. I then recognised parents would be in a much better position to have a positive birth if they had more information so I decided to add Gentlebirth antenatal education to my skill set.
“My job as a doula is a privilege and an honour. I am with women at the most important and powerful times in their lives, but often their most vulnerable. I can be on call for months at a time and really couldn’t do this without the support of my husband, who encourages me through everything.
He packs my lunches and turns up at the hospital with food and comfort for the long labours
“My girls are totally behind me too and love to hear all the wonderful stories of babies and mothers.
“In the last couple of years I feel my body preparing for menopause — there are a few inches I would like to shift and my thermostat is definitely malfunctioning but overall I am embracing the notion that this will pass and will bring with it a sense of freedom.
“I feel blessed with my job which came about at exactly the right time — I wouldn’t change a thing.”