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Men of a Certain Age

Volume I (of 3)

 

If you’re male and between the ages of 40 and 55, you are going through changes. You are in a phase of life called manopause. Yes, this is a thing. While not analogous, really, to what women go through in menopause, it is not without it’s true and genuine struggles.

Don’t go whining about it to your female friends. You’re not likely to get much sympathy. Women experiencing menopause go through hormonal changes that have emotional, psychological, and physical effects. This is a natural process and has even been called a “Second Spring” because it is the transition into a new phase of life untethered from the menstrual and reproductive cycles, which has defined women’s lives since puberty.

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Another more widely recognized name for this phenomenon in men is Midlife Crisis. Finally, an explanation for why dad got a red Porsche and a girlfriend young enough to be your sister. This is real, people, and no laughing matter. Men really do go through profound changes in the middle years. Aside from cheap jokes and expensive therapists, there are not a lot of resources out there to help the common guy struggle through it.

Let’s look at what is going on physically, emotionally, psychologically, sexually, and spiritually. Then we can examine ways to deal with the impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. We can also consider the changes we need to make to emerge from this transformation as better, more complete people.

Just as there are seasons in a year, there are archetypal stages of life. Birth and youth correspond to the sprouting of seeds in the spring – the tenuous grasp of new, green life taking root in fertile soil.

The summer corresponds to the flowering of youth, the growth of strong and vigorous young men and women, who mature and bear fruit in their time. It is a bountiful time full of joy and plenty and great productivity when your power is at its peak and your family is growing.

Then comes the harvest. The kids leave the nest and start their own families, and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It is also a time when the leaves fall from the trees and the grasses of youth wither.

This is, generally, the time of manopause, although it is different for each individual based on his circumstances. Winter follows, a time of turning inward and of introspection. It is the time when we prepare to die and return to the source. 

When we hit our middle years, we are confronted with the reality that the juiciness of youth has started to fade. We may not want to face or admit to the loss of our youthful prowess, but we don’t really have a choice.

Actually, we do have some choices: botox, viagra, plastic surgery, hair transplants, stomach stapling, crazy diets, and fitness regimes. These are really just ways to delay the inevitable. There’s something a little grotesque in the pursuit of some of these tactics, isn’t there? Haven’t we all seen the aging star who went one nose job too far? Or the man down the road trying to comb too little hair over too big a bald spot?

Diet changes along with mental and physical fitness practices are the best ways to adapt to the many changes men face at this time of life. With the proliferation of crazy ways people try to monetize health, though, it is hard to know who to trust and what types of changes make sense for you in your individual circumstance.

How can we know what we need to do unless we know what we’re facing?

The physical changes

Here are some interesting facts about testosterone levels and what they mean for men in their 40s and 50s. “Male pattern baldness has been linked to high levels of testosterone. The pharmacological treatments out there to counter the problem of male pattern baldness can lead to adverse side effects.”

The effects mentioned are indeed adverse. Since male pattern baldness can be tied to higher levels of testosterone in the body (here’s to all you virile baldies out there!), it’s not surprising that the drugs which counteract the loss of hair are also ones that reduce testosterone levels. This can lead to a host of unwanted side effects such as “swelling in the hands or feet, swelling or tenderness in the breasts, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, cravings for carbohydrates, weight gain, depression, confusion, cold sweats, and sexual dysfunction.”

This can lead to a host of unwanted side effects, such as “swelling in the hands or feet, swelling or tenderness in the breasts, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, cravings for carbohydrates, weight gain, depression, confusion, cold sweats, and sexual dysfunction.”

Hooboy, I’d rather be bald.

Loss of hair, though, is only one of the outer and more visible signs of Manopause. Men experience changes in their sexuality also, which, as we all know, is an important part of life. Much humor (and horror) can be found in the tales of middle-aged men and women trying to figure out how much is enough. All the physical, mental, and emotional changes intersect within our sexuality: lower testosterone, erectile dysfunction, loss of libido in ourselves or in our partners. These are real (and embarrassing) challenges that we need to muddle through.

Some of the other joys of Manopause

Think of some of the ignominious insults life assaults on our already fragile egos. While women get a second spring, we get a second puberty. Hair sprouts out of our noses and our ears in unsightly tufts. Our bodies no longer rebound the way they used to. Some men experience the onset of moobs – man boobs. We don’t lose the competitive instinct, only the ability to perform at our accustomed level. Nothing is more perilous to life and limb than a bunch of middle-aged men trying to get a ball.

Our metabolism changes. You don’t need as much protein or calories as you used to when you were 25 and building muscle and could metabolize that pulled-pork sandwich with fries and three pints of IPA. Yet the pulled pork still tastes just as good, and now, with the extra pounds, the IPA doesn’t have the same effect as it did back then.

Our bellies swell and our pecs sag. Intellect and acuity of mind slowly fade. You can still remember what years Jordan won the league MVP, but you can’t find your damn keys.

I think the hardest thing to accept about this life transition is that much of what we base our identities on as men have to do with our strength, our virility, our good looks, or our prowess. These all begin to fade as our bodies age. For men whose identities are defined by these traits – the same men who found it easy to attract mates when younger – this change can be particularly jarring.

What can be done about it? Stay tuned for “The Emotional and Psychological Impact of Manopause”.

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We've all been there. You first hear those cries that don't sound like any other cries and immediately know what's happening. It's like our mama hearts know when our little ones need us the most. Having little ones feeling under the weather is hard. They can't tell you exactly how they feel. You can't explain to them that they'll feel better soon, and all there is for everyone to do is to take it easy and stay cuddled inside until you can get them to the doctor.

The issue, by this point, is that my son is old enough to know what's coming when we open the medicine cabinet, so giving him something for his throat ends up being like a wrestling match without the fun and giggles. My son especially likes spitting out anything as a way to protest how he's generally feeling, so we both end up covered in sticky syrup feeling defeated. Because, seriously, who thought that using a syringe or pipette to squirt out gooey liquid down an unwilling toddler's mouth was a good idea? (Probably not a parent.)

That's why when I found out there was an easier and more fun way to make these dreaded sick days better, I was all about it.

Enter: Lolleez.

Lolleez are organic throat soothing pops for kids—and adults!—that are made with organic ingredients that you can pronounce and understand like honey and natural fruit pectin. Plus, they're non-GMO as well as gluten, dairy and nut-free i.e. worry-free for all kinds of kiddos. The pops help soothe sore throats while acting like a treat for when kids are feeling under the weather. I also appreciate that the pops are actually flat and on a stick, as opposed to a lozenge or round ball lollipop. They were also created by a mom, which makes me feel a million times more confident about them since I know she knows exactly how hard sick days with a little one can be.

loleez

When I introduced my son to Lolleez pops, everything changed. Suddenly the battle to get him to take something to feel better wasn't... well, a battle. In the few times he's been sick since, he's been more than happy to pop a Lolleez, and I've been more than grateful that soothing him is now as easy as peeling open a wrapper. And, since they come in watermelon, strawberry and orange mango—strawberry is the favorite in this household—he never gets bored of getting a soothing lolly.

Also, they're easy to find—you can get them at stores like Target, CVS and online so I never worry that I'll be caught without in a pinch. After the sick days have run their course and my son starts feeling better, there's nothing like seeing that glow in his eyes come back and have him greet me with a big smile when I come into his room in the morning, ready for the day.

While our littles not feeling well is inevitable, as a mama, I'll do anything to make my child feel better, and I'm so thankful for products that make it just a little easier for the both of us. So here's to enjoying the snuggles that come with sick days, while also looking forward to the giggles that come after them.

This article was sponsored by Lolleez. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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I tried to numb the stress and emotions of being a new mom with weed and booze. I didn't know how to face it all. I had so much grief, rage and regret stuffed down, so much heaviness, guilt and shame I was lugging around.

I would live my days looking forward to when I could drink or smoke to take the edge off, to finally relax, get rid of the anxiety, find fun in the endless playing with baby toys and get through the fits of crying and sleepless nights.

What I didn't realize until it was almost too late was that all that self-medicating with my substance addictions was actually making my issues worse.

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Even though the tequila or wine or gin would take the edge off at the moment, it led to more depression.

Even though the marijuana in the middle of the day would take the intensity of my anxiety down a few notches, it led to more anxiety because it suppressed my real emotions.

And all of it made me more exhausted than I already was from the sleep-deprived reality of early motherhood. After a few months, I found myself in a deeply engrained cycle of weed, alcohol and coffee to keep it all going which led to severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Eventually, it all broke down.

The panic attacks got too frequent and extreme. My self-loathing soared to unbearable, suicidal levels. The alcohol and marijuana no longer did much to suppress anything. The can of worms was open and either I had to face it, get some help and get sober, or lose my mind or life.

It didn't get better overnight. I stopped and started again a few times before I found my way to true sobriety. It was a process.

I found a great therapist that helped me understand my cycle of suppressing feelings with substances and helped me to look underneath the addiction, anxiety and depression to understand what I was actually feeling. I found anger, rage, grief, trauma, shame, resentment, sadness and so much more. I had to actually look at, allow and feel the feelings in order to get through the need to cover them up with addictions.

I also learned mindfulness meditation, which was one of my biggest saviors. I learned how to be with all the anxiety—the tracking, planning, scheduling, worries, endless lists, to-dos and thought loops that come with being a parent. Almost everything I was trying to do with alcohol and pot, meditation did better and without side effects. Then I started going to recovery meetings and quit for real.

Parenting got so much better after I got sober. Not right away though. At first, I hit a serious period of boredom. Life with a baby without alcohol or marijuana seemed so bland to me. The stark reality of the mundane was hard. But over time I learned to find enjoyment without any substances.

There's no more cracking open a bottle of wine, sipping it to relax while I cook dinner. There's no more stepping away to slyly hit my vape pen, returning with bleary eyes and a goofy smile. There's just me, my daughter, my husband and more of myself—breathing, playing, bathing, laughing, dancing, singing, going to bed, waking up early and doing it all again.

Now that I'm sober, I don't have any panic attacks at all. I am way less anxious in general, and when I do feel anxiety I know how to work with it. Depression is almost non-existent, and even though I still feel tired often, I am not utterly exhausted. It's manageable, and I know how to recharge myself.

I'm a better mom now, too. I am more present, patient and kind. I am able to process my emotions faster. I am in a better mood more often. I have more energy. I enjoy our time together and show my love for her more. I am more responsible and available.

I'm not trying to escape anymore. I'm here.

One of my favorite things to do now as the sun sets and I cook dinner is to crack open an audiobook and savor that sweet time in the kitchen. My husband often bathes my daughter and gets her ready for bed and I have that time to myself, listening to something interesting, enjoying the smells and textures of the food, the rhythm of the chopping and my own breath.

I don't need alcohol or drugs to endure parenthood, to get through it, to cope with it, to escape from it. This is my life, after all, and it will be for a very long time.

Instead of using some external things to change how I feel about it, I let myself actually feel my feelings about it. I talk about it. I write about it. I dance about it. I sing about it. I work on it in therapy. I communicate authentically with my husband and other mothers.

Learning how to truly relax and deal with my emotions instead of faking it with wine or weed was the most important thing I ever did for myself as a human and parent. I no longer have to make myself go numb to make it through the days. I get to give my daughter my full attention, love and a childhood she truly deserves—one with a genuinely present, calm and sober mother.

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Life

The news cycle moves so quickly that the good news stories can speed through your feed quicker than you can see them. Yes, stories like Meghan Markle admitting that she's not okay or the Johnson's baby powder recall are important, but so are the good or funny stories happening to non-royal women every day.

It's important to keep up with the news, but it's also important to smile when we can. Luckily we track the best viral stories for you every week.

Here are the viral stories that made us smile:

Identical twin nurses go viral after they delivered identical twin babies together

Identical twins Tori Howard and Tara Drinkard both work at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center in Georgia— Drinkard in the labor and delivery unit, Howard in the neonatal intensive care unit. They hadn't worked together on a delivery, but they knew it would happen eventually. They just probably didn't predict that the first time they'd team up would be to deliver another set of identical twin girls.

Brannan and Rebecca Williams couldn't believe they had another set of identical twins in the room when they welcomed their daughters on September 25.

"We found out 10 minutes before Rebecca was wheeled into the OR for an emergency C-section," Brannan Williams told Today Parents. "I couldn't believe it. What are the chances? It's crazy."

The elder set of twins was just as surprised at this turn of events. "We knew we'd cross paths in the delivery room eventually," Howard writes to Today Parents. "But we never imagined that our first experience would be with twins girls!"

As a mother of twins, I know how overwhelming it can be to welcome two babies on the same day, but Brannan and Rebecca definitely had an advantage thanks to their experience with Tori and Tara. Brannan and Rebecca's daughters, Emma and Addison, were born at 32 weeks and spent three weeks in the NICU, so the parents presumably spent a bit of time with the nurses. They plan to keep in touch as well.

"They have given us so much good advice," the parents tell Today Parents. "The biggest thing they told us is to remember that the girls are individuals and even though they look alike, that doesn't make them the same person."

This viral #boymom is finally a #girlmom after 11 births 

Have you ever noticed how some families seem to produce way more of one sex than the other? Well, you've probably never seen anything quite like this. Alexis Brett, a mama from London, had 10 (yes, 10!) boys in a row. How crazy is that? But the streak was recently broken—Brett just welcomed her first daughter.

According to The Daily Mail, Brett and her husband welcomed their first son when she was 22 years old. Over the next 15 years, the mama gave birth to nine more sons, making them the first known British couple to have 10 sons in a row.

Brett just gave birth to her 11th child on August 2...and to her astonishment, it was a little girl.

"We're over the moon. I'd been expecting to hear we were having another boy but when I found out it was a girl, my face was a picture. I was shocked but delighted. Now she's here with us, it's a fantastic feeling," the mother tells The Daily Mail. "Curiosity did get the better of us [and we decided to learn the baby's sex before the birth]. When the results came in the post, [our son] opened the envelope because I was too nervous. When we realised it was a girl, we were amazed. It sounds silly because it's a 50:50 chance, but we were surprised anyway."

Brett named her daughter Cameron after actress Cameron Diaz. Cameron joins siblings Campbell, 17, Harrison, 16, Corey, 14, Lachlan, 11, Brodie, nine, Brahn, eight, Hunter, six, Mack, five, Blake, three, and Rothagaidh, two.

It appears the couple's first daughter will be their last child.

"No more! I remember saying that last time, but this time I absolutely mean it. I love my family as it is now...We've been asked a lot whether we've had so many children because we were hoping for that elusive girl. But I can honestly answer no. Cameron wasn't planned, but I was happy all the same, and if another boy had been on the way it wouldn't have bothered me," says Brett. "I'm an only child myself and I'd never planned to have a large family, but now that I do, I love it. I always joked I wouldn't have a clue what to do with a girl anyway but that's all changed now, of course, and I have to admit that we're having a lot of fun buying pink things for the first time."

This mama's viral 'ghost story' is too 😆

It's not Halloween yet but mom Maritza Elizabeth is going viral for her own hilarious ghost story.

She posted a spooky photo of her baby monitor on Facebook. It shows one of her kids in their crib and through the black and white of the baby monitor, it clearly looks like there is another baby in their crib with her son. It would be startling to any parent, especially in October.

"So last night I was positive there was a ghost baby in the bed with my son," she captioned her pic, which has now been shared more than 300,000 times.

"I was so freaked out, I barely slept. I even tried creeping in there with a flashlight while my son was sleeping. Well, this morning I go to investigate a bit further. It turns out my husband just forgot to put the mattress protector on when he changed the sheets 😂😂 I could kill him."

We're so glad Maritza solved the mystery of the ghost baby (without waking up her sleeping son).

This mama gave birth during a tornado and her story is going viral 

As a tornado hit Rowlett, Texas a group of women took shelter in a laundry room. As sirens wailed outside, and by candlelight, a mother delivered her baby.

The Bump Birthing Center shared this story to its Facebook page, captioning a photo of the mother and baby: "Baby girl born in our laundry room with the tornado sirens going off, a tornado on the ground half a mile away, and no electricity.....by candle light!! Welcome to the world beauty!"

The chief midwife and owner of The Bump Birthing Center, Kasie McElhaney, told the New York Daily News: "She had just started pushing when the power went out and the sirens went off, and we had to shuffle to the laundry room.

"It's the only room in the center that has no windows, and it's centrally located. So that's where we went. One wall is brick—it's probably not even big enough for a twin-sized bed. But we made it work."

They made it work and now the photographic evidence is making the rounds on the internet, with many commenters suggesting weather-related names for this baby girl. Her parents (who are protecting their own privacy as well as her own) are not releasing their last name or their baby girl's first. But they will say it isn't Stormy.

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News

It was never my goal to be a mama and a wife. As a teenager, I was completely fine with my decision not to have children. When someone would ask me how many children I wanted, my response would always be none. In my 20's, I traveled the world and focused on building my career. A family of my own was far from my mind. And I was okay with that. Then I hit 30 and something inside me changed.

I'm not sure what exactly changed. Or why it changed. But I started to long for a family of my own.

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Then as if my heart's desire had been answered I met him. We fell in love. And within a few years, I was married to this incredible man. Then we received the best news we could have hoped for. I was pregnant—with a baby boy. The family I had longed for was right here in front of me. I had become this child's mama.

Just like that my whole life's focus changed.

My mind wasn't on my career progression or where in the world I was going to explore next. It was focused on this little human. This little human, who was safely cradled in my arms. This little human who now relied on me to provide him with care, with comfort, with love.

I became defined by my motherhood. And that was okay.

Now I won't lie, as my son grew and we welcomed our second child to our family, there were moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some me time.

But here is the truth. Yes, right now I am defined by motherhood. And that's okay. I spent many years longing to be here at this moment. To have my family. To be my children's mama.

I know this is a finite period in my life. So I am choosing to embrace it. I am choosing to find joy in my motherhood journey.

I know my children need me now in a way they won't ever again. And I don't want to miss out on all the beautiful moments right here in front of me.

You see, one day they won't need me to rock them in my arms or lay with them every night till they fall asleep.

One day they won't need me to pick them up and carry them everywhere. In fact, one day they will be too big for me to do that even if I wanted to.

One day they won't need to help them get dressed and put on their shoes.

One day they won't ask me to sing them that song for the 10th time.

One day they won't need me to do all the things for them as they do now.

You see, right now my children are only little. Right now they need me. Right now they choose me.

I am their safe place. I am their comfort. I am honored to be the one that they turn to. I am honored to be the one they call home.

That is why, first and foremost, I am defined by my motherhood. And that is more than okay with me.

This article was previously published here.

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Life

Your to-do list is kind of under control. The kitchen is mostly clean. You just finished that big work project and to celebrate, you scheduled a lunch out with the girls tomorrow while your little one is at school. As you rest your head on the pillow you think to yourself, “Okay! I might actually sorta-kinda have this whole thing under control!"

And then you hear it from down the hallway: cough cough.

Your eyes shoot open. No. It's fine, just a little tickle in her throat. She's fine.

Cough cough cough.

Nope, it's fine. If I lay here and don't move nothing will be...

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“MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY I don't feeeeeeel goooooooood."

Sigh.

You break out the humidifier, the Tylenol and the snuggles. And then comes the inevitable question—can they go to school tomorrow? It's not an easy question to answer, for sure.

On the one hand, kids are basically walking booger factories at all times—if we kept them home for every sneeze and cough they'd never go to school. On the other hand, we don't want to put our kids in a situation where they could get sicker—or make other kids sick.

When in doubt, you should always give your pediatrician a call for guidance. Most schools have policies on it as well.

But as a general rule of thumb, here's what to know when your child isn't feeling well:

On fevers

The most clear cut of all symptoms are fevers—if they have a fever, they stay home. A fever is any temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or greater. A child needs to be fever-free for a full 24-hours before they can return to school.

Note: If your newborn has a fever she needs medical attention right away. It could be an emergency.

On stuffy noses and coughs

A mildly stuffy nose, or an occasional cough isn't enough to warrant a day off from school. But if the mucus is really thick and/or the cough is frequent, loud, or just sounds “gross," it's probably best to keep her home.

Coughs can linger for a long time in children, but if it persists for several days, or she has a fever with it, give your doctor a call. If the cough sounds like a seal barking, and certainly if she is having any trouble breathing, get medical attention right away.

On tummy troubles

Or as my daughter's preschool teacher called it, “intestinal mischief." If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, they should stay home (and should stay home for 24 hours after the last incident). Make sure everyone at home washes their hands really well, as stomach bugs tend to be very contagious.

Remember to encourage your child to drink lots of fluids. If they aren't drinking, call your doctor right away.

On skin issues

This can be tricky—between marker explosions, dry skin and rashes, it seems like my kids' skin looks different every day. Rashes are almost impossible to diagnose over the phone, so if you are concerned, they'll need to be evaluated by their doctor to help determine the cause (and contagiousness) of the rash.

If you suspect your child has lice, they should stay home as well—and you'll probably have to give the school a call so they can ANONYMOUSLY alert the other parents.

Along the same lines is the dreaded conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Usually your child (or lucky you) will wake up with their eyelids crusted shut, or they'll have a very pink eye with lots of goop (sorry—but we're all moms here, we can handle the eye goop convo right?)

This is highly contagious, so they should for sure stay home from school. Depending on if it's viral or bacterial, you doctor may prescribe medicine that clears it up quickly.

On pain

This one is tough—kids often complain about various boo-boos, especially when it means that they get a Frozen Bandaid out of the deal. If they complain of pain persistently, if the pain prevents them from playing, and of course if you witness a bad injury, keep them home and get medical help right away.

Remember that you know your child best. Ultimately, you get to make the decision. Your pediatrician will be there to guide you, and one day, ONE DAY, you really will get that whole to-do list tackled... we think?

You've got this.

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