Mid-life has often been defined in terms of chronological age but theorists also have defined mid-life from the developmental activities associated with that. For instance, according to a developmental concept, in young adulthood (early 20’s to 40), our developmental task is to make lasting and meaningful relationships (as a friend, partner, spouse or parent).
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During this period, we also embark upon a career and work our way up the ladder. The focus is on our own sphere of influence – our family, peer group and coworkers. Another theorist posited that in young adulthood, we’re in a stage of trying, building, acquiring and beating. These notions also go on to state that in mid-life (40-60 or 65), our developmental job is to search for – and find – profound pride from the relationships and professions we’ve created in young adulthood.
We take on the role of the states person and we search for the ways that we can be of service to others. However, when theorists have developed standards, they have generally been based on information collected on guys. When I hear that in mid-life I will now start to be of service to others, I must laugh, wondering exactly what I have been doing for the past 50 years! The reality is, as girls in mid-life, we were raised with different expectations than our male contemporaries.
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Mid-life girls, particularly those born early in the Baby Boomer generation, were raised without the benefit of open access to sports and athleticism. This denied us the chance to actually learn to value our physical body for its own strength and endurance as opposed to just because of its physical beauty. And if we did not have physical attractiveness or a shapely figure, then we were out of luck.
Mid-life girls were frequently raised with the premise that we were not qualified for certain professions, by way of instance, those in science and mathematics. When I was a freshman at undergraduate school, there was one girl enrolled in the faculty of engineering in the big state university I attended. Many of us tended to select conventional careers since these were the only possibilities we saw for ourselves.
And because we’ve often stopped and re-started our professions to fulfill the demands of parenting, our odds for career advancement (and job retention for that matter) were quite slim. The reality is the playing field was not level – and still is not for that issue.
Now we can bemoan the fact that we had limited opportunities as young girls or we could blame sexism and discrimination and remain in our present condition. Or we can realize that we may have a do-over of sorts. We can embrace the fact that there are now so many opportunities and that all that prevents us from adopting them is anxiety or a lack of self-confidence. All we will need to do is maintain it, be open to the possibilities and take our turn. The best way to accomplish what we want will appear. I do have to provide the theorists charge for this: mid-life can be a superb time of regeneration. If we as women in mid-life give ourselves permission to take our turn, it may be a time of great satisfaction in addition to incredible growth.