"The 'midlife crisis' has long been thought of as something that afflicts men and often involves expensive toys and second wives. But the Wall Street Journal's Work & Family columnist, Sue Shellenbarger, says that as gender roles change, women are increasingly experiencing their own version of these upheavals."
I've certainly seen evidence of this in my own work as a personal development and business coach. My practice is comprised primarily of women, but it tends to be my male clients who volunteer the term "mid-life crisis". When describing their current state, however, the women are certainly running a parallel course.
What constitutes a crisis?
For many, it appears to be a realization that life is finite. The older we get, the more we are apt to say, "Wow, this summer FLEW by!" "Where did the month go?!" And then friends start to lose parents. I personally know of 35 deaths this year! Two of my clients have lost parents just this week. At some point the awareness dawns on you. It's not the month or the season that is flying by. It's your LIFE!
What do you do with that realization?
The Chinese symbol for "crisis" combining "danger" and "opportunity" could not be more appropriate. The fact that many people at mid-life have accumulated the skills, financial cushion and talent to make true consideration of career and lifestyle changes possible is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The trickiest part for both the men and the women that I have spoken with appears to be in making the distinction between a "risk" and a "gamble."
How can you tell the difference?
Simply stated, a risk is calculated. You know you could lose, but you are able to take an educated guess as to what is at stake and how the loss could impact you. Having a "worst case scenario" in mind helps you to know what kind of safety net needs to be in place in order to make a mid-life transition possible. Analysis of the situation with a confidante or coach also helps an individual differentiate between psychological "heebie jeebies" and rational fears that need to be taken into consideration. Very difficult questions are faced directly and no actions are taken until careful consideration of the answers.