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Midlife crisis / what should I do when I grow up? - (long, vent)


lauraw4321
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I recently turned 40, and I'm struggling so much. I have depression that's been well-managed with medication, but suddenly it hasn't been. I've added another medication and I'm going to try therapy starting next month. 

A big part of my issue is kind of existential. I'm at a weird place in my career (which has always sort of limped along between pregnancies and other life complications struggles) and I'm so unsure where to go next and where to put my energy. People say to do what I'm passionate about and not worry about the money. I'm too old to not worry about money. 

I tried an exercise where I was asked what I wanted to be written about me in my eulogy. After being a good wife and mom, I kind of drew a blank. There's a big part of me that wants to run for public office, but a bigger part of me that knows that's crazy/stupid. 

I have opportunities that involve permanent remote working, which I HATE. I realize that I need at least some occasional human interaction with colleagues. Do I push hard to get an in-house legal job locally? Do I bite the bullet and go back to a firm here (even though that's made me the most unhappy in my life, but who knows, maybe it'll be better now)?  Do I spent time/resources/energy trying to build my own practice which means learning new areas of law, trying to market myself, etc.?

Do I say screw it and become a nurse? Part of why that keeps coming to my mind is the healthcare crisis.  The other is that another self-help book on figuring out what to do with your life asked me to think about the things I've done that I'm most proud of. One of them is giving CPR to a guy who was dying of an overdose on the sidewalk. Another is helping some kids who were injured in a terrorist attack. 

I have a really hard time knowing what I want and what I feel because it's so colored by what my parents wanted/felt, my husband wanted/felt, my kids wanted/felt, etc. 

No real point to this post, other than I needed to type it out somewhere. The fact that I'm asking strangers on the internet to help me parse this is just a sign of how little I know about my own internal motivations. Sorry, venty long useless post. 

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I hear you. Midlife existential crisis is real, and it is different from chemical depression. Give it time; this is a lengthy process.

19 minutes ago, lauraw4321 said:

There's a big part of me that wants to run for public office, but a bigger part of me that knows that's crazy/stupid. 

That is absolutely NOT stupid. Don't think US senate - think local government, like city council, where you can really make a difference for your community.

ETA: When my kids left for college, it took me a few years to figure out that I wanted to be a poet. We're young enough to make dreams happen.

Edited by regentrude
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I haven’t told people IRL, but I am 40 in October and saying screw it and becoming a nurse.  What I really want to do is be a flight nurse but I honestly have fought insecurities and tried everything but what I really wanted to do.  I have a master’s degree and I feel kind of dumb doing this, especially as it will take me 3 years, but I think as we change and grow we find different facets of ourselves that we need to develop and acknowledge.  
My career has limped along and will continue to limp along. I finally acknowledged that not getting promotions really does bother me, and that I really just want to be managing critical, complex patients.  We have a little bit of money that my grandfather left me and DH(who is in nursing school at the age of 38) has finally convinced me to set my insecurities aside and go for it.

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I just wanted to say you aren't alone. I think lots of folks struggle with this. I think also the not-currently-well-managed depression plays a large role here.  Not to mention probably also the past 18 months of global pandemic. 

 And I have no answers, but did want to just give you a hug, hand over a cup of virtual coffee, and let you know someone heard you. Big, big hugs. Any of the things you list sound like good things. I will say a little prayer that you are able to hear your own voice, clearly, and pursue that. 

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2 hours ago, lauraw4321 said:

I recently turned 40, and I'm struggling so much. I have depression that's been well-managed with medication, but suddenly it hasn't been. I've added another medication and I'm going to try therapy starting next month. 

A big part of my issue is kind of existential. I'm at a weird place in my career (which has always sort of limped along between pregnancies and other life complications struggles) and I'm so unsure where to go next and where to put my energy. People say to do what I'm passionate about and not worry about the money. I'm too old to not worry about money. 

I tried an exercise where I was asked what I wanted to be written about me in my eulogy. After being a good wife and mom, I kind of drew a blank. There's a big part of me that wants to run for public office, but a bigger part of me that knows that's crazy/stupid. 

I have opportunities that involve permanent remote working, which I HATE. I realize that I need at least some occasional human interaction with colleagues. Do I push hard to get an in-house legal job locally? Do I bite the bullet and go back to a firm here (even though that's made me the most unhappy in my life, but who knows, maybe it'll be better now)?  Do I spent time/resources/energy trying to build my own practice which means learning new areas of law, trying to market myself, etc.?

Do I say screw it and become a nurse? Part of why that keeps coming to my mind is the healthcare crisis.  The other is that another self-help book on figuring out what to do with your life asked me to think about the things I've done that I'm most proud of. One of them is giving CPR to a guy who was dying of an overdose on the sidewalk. Another is helping some kids who were injured in a terrorist attack. 

I have a really hard time knowing what I want and what I feel because it's so colored by what my parents wanted/felt, my husband wanted/felt, my kids wanted/felt, etc. 

No real point to this post, other than I needed to type it out somewhere. The fact that I'm asking strangers on the internet to help me parse this is just a sign of how little I know about my own internal motivations. Sorry, venty long useless post. 

Um, we are not strangers.  😉

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I have noticed a common theme among those of you having a mid life crisis.  You have a lot of options.  You are educated, you have husbands who are supportive in every way.  You are financially secure.  

I am not sure what that means, but I do see the pattern.

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2 hours ago, lauraw4321 said:

…There's a big part of me that wants to run for public office, but a bigger part of me that knows that's crazy/stupid. 

I have opportunities that involve permanent remote working, which I HATE. I realize that I need at least some occasional human interaction with colleagues. Do I push hard to get an in-house legal job locally? Do I bite the bullet and go back to a firm here (even though that's made me the most unhappy in my life, but who knows, maybe it'll be better now)?  Do I spent time/resources/energy trying to build my own practice which means learning new areas of law, trying to market myself, etc.

Do I say screw it and become a nurse? Part of why that keeps coming to my mind is the healthcare crisis.  The other is that another self-help book on figuring out what to do with your life asked me to think about the things I've done that I'm most proud of. 

Have you considered being involved politically but not as a politician yourself? Either as counsel to someone or a cause you support, or a government institution such as city government, or county, or state, or local court system, etc? And if being the frontman is really your thing, at least getting the inner workings understood before running for an office would probably be helpful. Even if your job isn’t as a lawyer, law background is pretty valuable no matter where you land in government. So it’s directly applicable so you don’t have to go back to school and could jump in immediately (unlike nursing). It may not be hands on saving a life, but you could be making a difference in lives that are just as important, depending on where you land. 

Just thoughts, all the hugs as you’re figuring it out. 

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The things you share all seem to point towards a desire for more connectedness, more purpose, and a sense of being helpful.

Sometimes practicing law either seems divisive or transactional. As you know, career satisfaction ratings for attorneys have been in the toilet for years.

Do you have good values lineup with the work you are doing now? Maybe public sector work would be a better fit? Or doing IP so you have better home/work balance?

Best wishes!!

Edited by prairiewindmomma
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1 hour ago, Scarlett said:

I have noticed a common theme among those of you having a mid life crisis.  You have a lot of options.  You are educated, you have husbands who are supportive in every way.  You are financially secure.  

I am not sure what that means, but I do see the pattern.

I wondered this too.  I am completely in this kind of midlife crisis and DH keeps asking me why, because he’s happy to support whatever I want to do. For me, I think I am struggling because I feel like I should be happy and content with what I’ve been blessed with.

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10 minutes ago, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

I wondered this too.  I am completely in this kind of midlife crisis and DH keeps asking me why, because he’s happy to support whatever I want to do. For me, I think I am struggling because I feel like I should be happy and content with what I’ve been blessed with.

So much this. I feel so guilty for feeling this way. Which isn’t very helpful or productive. 

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23 minutes ago, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

I wondered this too.  I am completely in this kind of midlife crisis and DH keeps asking me why, because he’s happy to support whatever I want to do. For me, I think I am struggling because I feel like I should be happy and content with what I’ve been blessed with.

I think there is something about realizing that the clock is ticking and that we have no more time to waste to wait for "later". This, coupled with the realization that we have a good 30-40 years ahead with which to DO something that's not just staying in the old rut. (Which sounds like a contradiction,  but I don't think it is)

The "shoulds" are unproductive. Being aware of one's blessings doesn't mean denying that one has gifts that want to be used, time that wants to be spent in a fulfilling way, contributions that want to be made. One can be thankful for the blessings and at the same time yearn to feel ALIVE.

Edited by regentrude
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I started a new career at 42 - I got a job as a special educator and started 2 master's programs simultaneously. I was able to get fully licensed and I will graduate from program 1 in the spring. Program 2 was a certificate program that I am going to turn into a degree in Curriculum and Instruction. It's hard, but my district is amazingly supportive and I love my school.

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4 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I have noticed a common theme among those of you having a mid life crisis.  You have a lot of options.  You are educated, you have husbands who are supportive in every way.  You are financially secure.  

I am not sure what that means, but I do see the pattern.

Probably the other theme is that they're all moms, who have presumably homeschooled, or otherwise used that financial security and spousal support to pour into their families. At some point I think we end up wanting to turn that energy inward a little bit (especially as kids are launching or at least becoming more self-sufficient).

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I'm 41 and about to graduate nursing school. I would not call my change a crisis so much as the next step. Me going to nursing school was in the plan for a good 15 years before I started. What's amazing to me is that the plan actually worked!

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I'm 51 and just enrolled in my third degree, this time for my first career, so take heart! You've got ten years on me 🙂

I've found the best thing is just to let things unroll. Look at things that interest you, dip a toe in here or there, follow opportunities and inclinations and see where it goes. 

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13 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I have noticed a common theme among those of you having a mid life crisis.  You have a lot of options.  You are educated, you have husbands who are supportive in every way.  You are financially secure.  

I am not sure what that means, but I do see the pattern.

Yep.

I’m kind of an outlier because I don’t have many, if any, transferrable college credits, but I personally find the concept of so many options to be sort of paralyzing. Maybe because there’s much less time to assume tracks can be changed if the first one doesn’t work out. It’s a lot easier to “try things on” in your 20s and 30s.

But there are lots of inspiring and motivating stories here!

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I started college at 46 in the midst of a messy divorce. It wasn't a typical mid-life crisis, just another crisis in the middle of my life. As I was trying to figure out what to do, I considered three things - what could I physically do, what could I emotionally handle, and what could I financially afford. I'll add to that as the coffee kicks in this morning. Yet, those helped me eliminate a few things. 

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12 hours ago, sassenach said:

I'm 41 and about to graduate nursing school. I would not call my change a crisis so much as the next step. Me going to nursing school was in the plan for a good 15 years before I started. What's amazing to me is that the plan actually worked!

Congrats!! Me too - less mid-life crisis and more about DS getting older and more independent and me wanting to make sure I had a fulfilling career. My bachelors was in elementary ed way back when and I was ready to get back into teaching. My original plan was to get my masters and then when DS hit high school to start looking for a job, but my job fell into my lap so I started earlier than planned.

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I started my own business when I was 48.   I already had degrees in Biology (finished when I was 29), Elementary Education (32) and Marketing (35).   All undergrad, all somewhat relevant to my business, which is running a homeschool science center.  

For me at least, the biggest push to do it came because the kids were getting old enough not to need me full time, it was getting to the point where I was starting to think about looking for a job.  I was an executive assistant for about 20 years so could fairly easily get back to that, but it wasn't exactly a dream job.   Being married and having support from dh comes into it because it gives me options.    I divorced in my 30's and had to take whatever job I could get that would pay the bills, instead of going into teaching which had been the plan (in hindsight, probably a good idea that didn't actually happen).  I have a lot more freedom now to decide what I really want to do with the rest of my working life.  

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17 hours ago, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

I wondered this too.  I am completely in this kind of midlife crisis and DH keeps asking me why, because he’s happy to support whatever I want to do. For me, I think I am struggling because I feel like I should be happy and content with what I’ve been blessed with.

You can be happy and content with what you've been blessed with but still want to do more with your life!  

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40 feels young to me, as I didn't hit this point until 50. I think I had a bit of depression as our homeschool days were waning (we put our kids into public school for high school). And I always thought that I would have to be home with our disabled dd--turns out there is great support available for disabled adults that isn't there for disabled minors, so I have a lot more options now. Anyway, starting at 50, it took me 1 year to take classes to renew my long-expired teaching credential, one year of subbing as an early step back into working, 3 years of being an Educational Assistant which I loved but it pays half what a teaching job pays, and finally I just got a job as a math teacher at an age where I was starting to think no one would ever hire me. Even if that had never happened, I am much happier working out of the house and even just being an EA until the end of my working years would have made the effort worth it. I can't help with your specific questions on direction, but I just want to encourage you to go for it, whatever "it" turns out to be.

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5 hours ago, elegantlion said:

I started college at 46 in the midst of a messy divorce. It wasn't a typical mid-life crisis, just another crisis in the middle of my life. As I was trying to figure out what to do, I considered three things - what could I physically do, what could I emotionally handle, and what could I financially afford. I'll add to that as the coffee kicks in this morning. Yet, those helped me eliminate a few things. 

Could I use this list on my blog?  So many women in my situation suddenly need to find a career or up their game on order to support their family.

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2 hours ago, Ali in OR said:

40 feels young to me, as I didn't hit this point until 50. I think I had a bit of depression as our homeschool days were waning (we put our kids into public school for high school). And I always thought that I would have to be home with our disabled dd--turns out there is great support available for disabled adults that isn't there for disabled minors, so I have a lot more options now. Anyway, starting at 50, it took me 1 year to take classes to renew my long-expired teaching credential, one year of subbing as an early step back into working, 3 years of being an Educational Assistant which I loved but it pays half what a teaching job pays, and finally I just got a job as a math teacher at an age where I was starting to think no one would ever hire me. Even if that had never happened, I am much happier working out of the house and even just being an EA until the end of my working years would have made the effort worth it. I can't help with your specific questions on direction, but I just want to encourage you to go for it, whatever "it" turns out to be.

Your path is so close to mine....disabled now adult kids, special Ed teacher, working as an aide, renewed my teaching certificate, and I applied for (but didn't get) a full time teaching job.

The pay increase would be awesome and I would love a job closer to home....but I have an old school pension so even if I am an aide until I retire, I will be OK.

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Personally, I feel that I wasted too much time on the what-if/what-abouts from around 40-50. If I could get a do-over, I would just pick a freakin option and go. I’m almost at a year working at a law firm and while there are things I wish were different, I can also see so clearly now that I was so starved for certain things: intellectual stimulation, mental puzzles to solve, communicating (IRL!) with intelligent people about meaningful issues, and even just the time structuring of having something specific I need to do most days. I can see where a lot of the things I put my energy into (Book-a-Week, my learn-something-new challenges, my zillions of hours spent here...) were a way of trying to meet certain needs I didn’t really know I had. Even just my life-long habit of getting up early in the morning was, I now think, a way for me to “discipline” myself out of bed, so I wouldn’t just be a leisure-mom with nothing to do, lol! 

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23 hours ago, regentrude said:

I hear you. Midlife existential crisis is real, and it is different from chemical depression. Give it time; this is a lengthy process.

That is absolutely NOT stupid. Don't think US senate - think local government, like city council, where you can really make a difference for your community.

ETA: When my kids left for college, it took me a few years to figure out that I wanted to be a poet. We're young enough to make dreams happen.

(I haven't read beyond this yet, so hopefully I don't just repeat what someone else has said.) I was going to say this same thing. Oldest ds recently ran for city council, and really enjoys it. He cares a lot about his community, and decided instead of griping about the problems, he should get in a position to try to do something about them. He interacts a lot with people who wouldn't have a voice otherwise, and finds it quite fulfilling. He was able to see how he likes it by finishing an open term of someone who had to resign, so it wasn't a longterm commitment for him.

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15 minutes ago, Quill said:

, I can also see so clearly now that I was so starved for certain things: intellectual stimulation, mental puzzles to solve, communicating (IRL!) with intelligent people about meaningful issues, and even just the time structuring of having something specific I need to do most days. I can see where a lot of the things I put my energy into (Book-a-Week, my learn-something-new challenges, my zillions of hours spent here...) were a way of trying to meet certain needs I didn’t really know I had. Even just my life-long habit of getting up early in the morning was, I now think, a way for me to “discipline” myself out of bed, so I wouldn’t just be a leisure-mom with nothing to do, lol! 

YES YES YES.  I spent 3 hours with a friend from Italy today and had some real, adult level conversation and discussion.   I loved that.  

I love my kids but all 3 + son in law have intellectual impairments so we don't have the deep, real conversations.   Then I work in special Ed with students of this same level.

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18 hours ago, sassenach said:

Probably the other theme is that they're all moms, who have presumably homeschooled, or otherwise used that financial security and spousal support to pour into their families. At some point I think we end up wanting to turn that energy inward a little bit (especially as kids are launching or at least becoming more self-sufficient).

Yes. I’m no martyr mom, by a long shot. But still…every bit of my intellectual energies went towards preparing my kids for their futures as adults. None of it went to my current life as an adult. It was all about making their future lives better, while I was kind of stagnant in my own life.. 

Don’t get me wrong, I did feel useful as a homeschooling parent and if I were to do it over again, I would make the same choice to homeschool, but there was a personal sacrifice involved. 

I’m 48 now and a full-time job fell into my lap in May and I took it, and it’s been such a breath of fresh air. It feels good to work together with other adults and to get things done for a team of appreciative people, instead of just for my kids who had no concept of all the work that went into what I was offering them. (Though my ds who is almost 19 did just say the other day that he thinks he got a superior education by being homeschooled compared to people he knows. Aww! That was awesome to hear!)

1 hour ago, Quill said:

. I’m almost at a year working at a law firm and while there are things I wish were different, I can also see so clearly now that I was so starved for certain things: intellectual stimulation, mental puzzles to solve, communicating (IRL!) with intelligent people about meaningful issues, and even just the time structuring of having something specific I need to do most days…

Yes! This is all me. Ever since May, I’ve felt fulfilled in a different way than I have in the past 19 years. There were parts of homeschooling and parenting that were fulfilling, but in more of a giving way. Recently, I’ve felt fulfilled in a more selfish way, though that’s not quite the right word, but it sort of is. Maybe it’s feeling fulfilled in a personal way, rather than a ‘selfish’ way.

So yeah, at this stage of life, it feels really good to be back out working again. If I didn’t have this job that’s well-suited to me fall into my lap, my plan had been to take the next two years and get some education toward something fulfilling to me. I think it’s a pretty common feeling for women who have given and given and given. After awhile, you think, “ok, but when is it my turn to take a little and do what I want?” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that in the slightest. And the hard part is pinpointing what you want.

Edited by Garga
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21 hours ago, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

I wondered this too.  I am completely in this kind of midlife crisis and DH keeps asking me why, because he’s happy to support whatever I want to do. For me, I think I am struggling because I feel like I should be happy and content with what I’ve been blessed with.

Yep.

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23 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I have noticed a common theme among those of you having a mid life crisis.  You have a lot of options.  You are educated, you have husbands who are supportive in every way.  You are financially secure.  

I am not sure what that means, but I do see the pattern.

I do not think midlife crises only hit educated, financially secure, partner supported women.

Alcohol and prescription drug abuse increase in perimenopausal women. Many couples divorce when the kids become adults. Middle age women seek higher education, often for the first time in their lives.

The outer circumstances may differ, and the ways to solve the crisis will look different, but I firmly believe midlife reevaluation and reorientation occur universally across socioeconomic strata.

Edited by regentrude
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On 8/27/2021 at 2:54 PM, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

I haven’t told people IRL, but I am 40 in October and saying screw it and becoming a nurse.  What I really want to do is be a flight nurse but I honestly have fought insecurities and tried everything but what I really wanted to do.  I have a master’s degree and I feel kind of dumb doing this, especially as it will take me 3 years, but I think as we change and grow we find different facets of ourselves that we need to develop and acknowledge.  
My career has limped along and will continue to limp along. I finally acknowledged that not getting promotions really does bother me, and that I really just want to be managing critical, complex patients.  We have a little bit of money that my grandfather left me and DH(who is in nursing school at the age of 38) has finally convinced me to set my insecurities aside and go for it.

This sounds perfect for you. 

Good luck with you both in nursing school! I bet you'll both be fantastic with your backgrounds. 

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I’m 37 and actively homeschooling 4 kids, so I’m about 10 years behind the midlife crisis/“what’s next” phase. My question for those of you experiencing this- when you were in my stage, did you want more than being a homeschool mom then too? Did you put your ambitions on hold to homeschool and raise your children? Or were you completely content and this new wandering has caught you off guard? 

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1 hour ago, Calizzy said:

I’m 37 and actively homeschooling 4 kids, so I’m about 10 years behind the midlife crisis/“what’s next” phase. My question for those of you experiencing this- when you were in my stage, did you want more than being a homeschool mom then too? Did you put your ambitions on hold to homeschool and raise your children? Or were you completely content and this new wandering has caught you off guard? 

I’m turning 40 in October but this seemed to start about 36-37 for me, even before my youngest was in kindergarten.   I just couldn’t do much then.  This year everyone will finally be in public school and I can do some me things during school hours. 
My mom homeschooled until she was in her late 50s, and then it hit her once my youngest sibling was graduated.

 

I think it’s important to remember that just because it may be time for a new path, that doesn’t mean the old path was a mistake.

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19 hours ago, regentrude said:

I do not think midlife crises only hit educated, financially secure, partner supported women.

Alcohol and prescription drug abuse increase in perimenopausal women. Many couples divorce when the kids become adults. Middle age women seek higher education, often for the first time in their lives.

The outer circumstances may differ, and the ways to solve the crisis will look different, but I firmly believe midlife reevaluation and reorientation occur universally across socioeconomic strata.

I have found this to be true in my circumstances. I am reluctantly back in school for some of the reasons listed in this thread. Surprisingly, (to me anyway) 25% of my cohort are, like me, women over 45 with grown children, just starting a career or new career. Another 25% are women 30-45 with children at home (none homeschooled).

In my local, close friend group, every single one of us is obtaining additional education or skills for a midlife career change.

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3 hours ago, Calizzy said:

I’m 37 and actively homeschooling 4 kids, so I’m about 10 years behind the midlife crisis/“what’s next” phase. My question for those of you experiencing this- when you were in my stage, did you want more than being a homeschool mom then too? Did you put your ambitions on hold to homeschool and raise your children? Or were you completely content and this new wandering has caught you off guard? 

I am an " accidental" homeschooler and never stopped working in my job. I was working part-time as a college instructor while I homeschooled my kids from 5th through 12th grade.

I increased my hours to full-time and took on responsibility for a big project when my oldest left for college. That did nothing to help my crisis; I was bored and not intellectually challenged and desperately needed something new, not just putting in more hours as a physics professor. 

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19 hours ago, Calizzy said:

I’m 37 and actively homeschooling 4 kids, so I’m about 10 years behind the midlife crisis/“what’s next” phase. My question for those of you experiencing this- when you were in my stage, did you want more than being a homeschool mom then too? Did you put your ambitions on hold to homeschool and raise your children? Or were you completely content and this new wandering has caught you off guard? 

My ambition was to homeschool my kids and I also had "more."  I ran a business with my husband.  I was a midwife in private practice.

What to do next is coming for me in the next two years and it feels...like a brick wall.  I really thought I wanted to open a forest kindergarten, but I'm realizing I kind of just want to homeschool my own kids all over again 🙂 

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21 hours ago, Calizzy said:

I’m 37 and actively homeschooling 4 kids, so I’m about 10 years behind the midlife crisis/“what’s next” phase. My question for those of you experiencing this- when you were in my stage, did you want more than being a homeschool mom then too? Did you put your ambitions on hold to homeschool and raise your children? Or were you completely content and this new wandering has caught you off guard? 

For me, I was happy and busy. I enjoyed the homeschooling gig and felt it was important. It took up so much time and energy, but in a good way. I also taught dance classes at night. Both of my kids graduated in may of last year, so now I’m looking for a next chapter. The pandemic taught me that sitting at home, reading, and doing projects is only fun for so long. Now I’m antsy to start a next chapter, earn some money, and have some significant experiences that aren’t centered around my home. 
 

ETA: I’m a high energy person. I feel like a bee buzzing around my lower energy DS and DH for two years. I’m going to make us all nuts if I don’t have a place to put all that energy where it isn’t aimed at them. 

Edited by KungFuPanda
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