Who knew it would be so tough! Several years ago, before I hit the half century mark, I read a Time Magazine cover story about the great second acts of women @ 50+. How encouraging, I thought. What fun... bring on the 50s, man! I have never been one to worry about my age, and anyway I have always been a slightly late bloomer. I have always thought it's about how you live, plus some good genes. My parents are both blessed with longevity and joie de vivre and I have inherited their very positive spirit, putting it to good use throughout my life with all it's ups and downs.
So imagine my stupefaction that a full three years into my 50s, things are not going as swimmingly as I imagined.
My 50th birthday party turned out to be a housewarming to a new apartment and a new life in a new country. After a lifetime abroad, growing up in Iran and Europe, and a career spent on the road as an international reporter for CNN, I found myself following my husband back to New York.
It's a great city of course, but my re-entry came with 50, menopause, hot-flashes, sleepless nights and all the anxieties that go with it. Not to mention a change in the workplace. All life's certainties suddenly went topsy turvy: am I being a good enough mother? A good enough worker? And what about working from New York? Suddenly studio-bound, I felt like a caged animal dying to get back into its natural habitat.
One of the many latest reports on working mothers suggests women who try to be a brilliant mother and a brilliant professional at the same time are more prone to anxiety, as both suffer. Those who realize something's got to give, breathe easier.
About to turn 54 in January, I am confronted with deciding what matters most. My family: so this summer I did something unusual for working Americans, but normal for working Europeans. I took August off. I needed to spend uninterrupted time with my son, and my parents. Since an ocean now separates me from my parents and sisters, who live in London, we all gathered at a holiday house in France. We turned off blackberrys, computers, and all the gizmos that are so helpful... but also so stressful. We had fun, we laughed, we ate and drank well, we swam in the sea, walked on the beach, rode bikes through the beautiful countryside. We reconnected and we spent precious time together knowing that at our age, our parents, our children's grandparents, are special gifts. My mother's 78, but my father is going to be 97 on October 20th. Just before I headed out on vacation, I had interviewed Gloria Steinem about the new HBO film on her incredible life (Gloria Steinem in her Own Words). Of all the amazing things she has done for all of us women, one of her biggest regrets is that she did not spend enough time with her father, especially towards the end. I am determined not to have those same regrets.
As for the profession I adore, "to thine own self be true." Be the journalist you want to be. Love what you do in order to be good at it. Make sure to maintain the purpose and sense of mission. That is an eternal truth, but the older I get, the more urgent it becomes.
And my son, the apple of my eye and the love of my life? Jackie Kennedy Onassis once famously said that if you mess up raising your children, nothing else in life much matters. How right she is. Every day I try, and often fail, to be the mother who doesn't mess up! But no matter what, he knows that I love him. And I know that bedrock of unconditional love is a child's most important foundation. He has grown up in an international household and his eyes have already been opened to so many different cultures, languages and people. Not only is he smart and curious and sporty, not only does he love soccer and art and music, but he has an innate empathy, which is so poignant and beyond his 11 and a half years. I try to teach him the values that will prepare him for our material world, although he does get a bit tired of me waving a napkin that's emblazoned with the words "JUSTICE NOT JUST US" and another that says "THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE AREN'T THINGS" !!!
I bought them at a fall fair in Vermont!!
Like many I miss my hormones, but I do think being older brings the gift of wisdom... just waiting for it to kick in!!
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