I’ve spent years researching and writing about the ‘perfect age’ to have kids (spoiler: there isn’t one), but there is one angle that has only just become apparent to me. As someone who ‘delayed’ children, having my first at 32 — an age I have learned that many still consider quite young to start having kids — I have unwittingly signed up to the prize fight to end all prize fights: Puberty vs Perimenopause.
You see, my kids will be going through puberty at exactly the same time I’m perimenopausal. It’s like the perfect hormonal storm is rapidly brewing on the horizon and right now I’m floating towards it in a blow-up dingy.
Seriously, what were we thinking!?
In the (angry) red corner: Perimenopause
Perimenopause — a word I only learned last year when my friend informed me she was perimenopausal and I said, “What’s that, ha ha, like, the Claytons form of menopause?” and she said, “Yes, and if you’re making Claytons references, you are definitely old enough to be perimenopausal yourself…” — happens for Australian women between about 45 and 55 (with 51 being the average age for the menopause itself).
For anyone else currently as clueless as I was about this new word (or perhaps it really was just me), perimenopause is basically the stage in life where you get all the symptoms I used to think were ‘menopausal’ symptoms. Think:
• hot flushes
• night sweats
• mood swings
• lack of self-esteem
• low libido
Turns out that these symptoms don’t happen when your period stops (the actual menopause), they happen for years and years before your period stops.
For many of us, those years coincide precisely with our children entering, and fighting their way, through puberty.
In the (very) blue corner: Puberty
The average Aussie girl begins puberty sometime around the age of 10-11 years, and boys a year or so later at 11-12 years (normal range for puberty to start is considered 8-13 for girls and 9-14 years for boys).
We’ve all been there and the pubes, boobs and moods of puberty are embedded on our brains forever. Even if they weren’t, anyone entering perimenopause right now will be familiar with many of them:
Again, I say, what were we thinking!?
Happy family times ahead
A couple of generations ago, when women sensibly had children in their early-mid twenties, mothers could battle their kids’ in puberty feeling fresh and stable and frickin’ 33 years old. These days, we’re busy birthing babies in our fresh and stable thirties, ready to tackle our pubescent children feeling irritated and moody and sweaty and so, so, so bloody tired.
Years of staying up all night with our young children are rewarded with years of staying up all night because it’s really important to self-flagellate over every tiny regret we’ve ever had plus why can’t I remember the lyrics to Space Oddity?
When our kids are being downright ugly because hormones have taken over their brains, we’ll be right there with them, being ugly because hormones have taken over our brains.
Plus we haven’t slept properly since 2004. After decades of rampant sleeplessness, how can we possibly be expected to be nice?
As much as we will want to be the lighthouse guiding our kids home through the choppy waters of puberty, we are really destined to be more like a spotlight, highlighting their acne-ridden, one-boob-bigger-than-the-other, greasy-haired misery.
“You think you’re irritated and moody and worthless?” we will snarl at our sobbing 14-year-old. “I’ve been through your little puberty thing and, trust me, THIS FEELS MUCH WORSE.”
So, you know, maybe I’m constantly angry because I’ve been saying the exact same things to my children every single day for more than a decade and they are still responding with exactly the same blank face they gave me when they were two years old, despite now being old enough to need deodorant and have an important opinion on every little thing, or maybe it’s just hormones. Lots and lots and lots of hormones.
Either way, at this point, I really, really, really wish I’d had kids in my twenties.