Menopause is a fact of life for all women, trans men and some non-binary people without exception, and all will experience it differently. If you are a man (or a younger woman, for that matter) and are thinking that this has nothing to do with you, think again. No person is an island. Because of the nature of menopause, symptoms have a way of revealing themselves and impacting those around us. In fact, I can guarantee that at some point we will all have interacted with someone who was having a difficult menopause and either not realised it or not understood what was going on for them.
Society is slowly changing its perspective of menopause and those who experience it. There can be a perception that everyone is talking about menopause, but that is simply not the case. Many workplaces are still to recognise the pivotal impact of menopause on talent attraction and retention, and relationships are often pushed to breaking point before open discussions are had. There is still much to be done and we are all accountable.
People often arrive at this phase in their life uninformed and unable to take action for themselves. This is often because we associate menopause with ageing and the end of something, whether it be one or more of fertility, career or active life. There are complex historical societal reasons why this is the case, but they are no longer appropriate or applicable. On average we will experience our symptoms – of which there are over 40 – between the ages of 45 and 55. They can last for in excess of 10 years, and then often fade rather than vanish. If we take the earlier age, that’s potentially life’s mid-point and over 20 years before retirement to achieve our ambitions. Menopause does not herald the end, but the start of the second phase of a person’s life.
If we want to retain the careers we have fought so hard for and nurture our relationships, especially that with our partner, it is important we educate ourselves so that when it does arrive we have the information to take action should we need to. Also, importantly, we have the ability to confidently talk about what is going on and draw a support network around us. Menopause can impact every aspect of our lives. We need to face it and talk about it, repeatedly.
As a transition, menopause creates an opportunity. It’s not the slipping into the shadows as it is often portrayed. It is highly possible to take control, deepen our relationships and align our careers with our ambitions. The story that is often missed is that once on the other side, in our second phase, we become focused and empowered. We have everything we need to succeed in work, relationships and life. It’s a liberation.
Menopause – it’s a woman’s thing. As men, it has nothing to do with us. We don’t need to know about it, we don’t want to see it, and we don’t want it wielded as an excuse. For anything. And if any of these appear not to be true, we reserve the right as red blooded, Stone Age wired males to seek a younger mate not saddled with it.
Perhaps you recognise the sentiment, if not the thoughts? Or perhaps, as a woman, they’ve been levelled at you. Or at least implied through words, deeds, silence, absence or abdication.
When Kate first realised her menopause had arrived, we did what we always did when faced with a challenge: we learned about it together. Fast. And then began to deal with it. Together. As the mystery unfolded I was rather horrified to realise that through my work, family and social life I had interacted with women who were going through their menopause, and I didn’t know. And they didn’t want to say. I could only shrink at what an idiot I may well have been in those moments. There were too many to even contemplate.
I then realised that this everyday idiocy is a product of men’s ignorance of an inevitable transition in a woman’s life, over a significant portion of it. Of course menopause not being openly talked about isn’t just the result of women’s fear of the judgment of men, it’s of other women’s judgment, too. Men’s position is greatly aided by another realisation, the fact that there’s little female solidarity on the matter. The perception of menopause as a weakness or deficiency to be exploited is very real. For men, it’s a ‘get out of jail free’ card, a gilt-edged reason not to bother.
At least it might be if it wasn’t so self-defeating. We might say that if men considered the advantages for just a moment of being understanding of menopause, they might make an effort. But that’s to imply it’s transactional, itself a disappointingly arcane perspective. Because menopause isn’t a woman’s thing, of course, it’s a fact of humanity. The masculine response isn’t to run away – it’s to be informed, open, caring, practical and responsive. The incredible thing is, unlike shifting the Dad-bod, it’s not difficult. We just have to want to be.
About the Author
Kate Usher is an experienced Menopause Coach and gender equity consultant. She works with women and organisations to create simple strategies that enable modern and supportive Menopause conversations. Ensuring women retain their careers and organisations continue to benefit from some of their most brilliant employees.
She is an internationally published author, her book ‘Your Second Phase – reclaiming work and relationships during and after Menopause’ was shortlisted for the Business Book of the Year Award.