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To feel confused, despondent and panic-stricken at this time of my life?

(28 Posts)
PrettyLittleBrownEyedMe Thu 27-Oct-16 11:29:29

I would really appreciate some thoughts/advice/outside perspective on my situation as I'm driving myself mad going over and over things in my head all day. I feel I can't see the wood for the trees now.

I'm 47, DS1 has gone off to uni this term and DS2 is very busy and self-sufficient. Although I have worked since having them, it's always been part-time or casual to fit around them rather than being any kind of a career; DH and I made the decision very happily that this would be best for the children and our family. In the meantime he has started a business which is flourishing. At the moment I don't have a job or a direction and am finding it very hard to see a way forward. I have a degree and post-grad qualifications, am articulate and presentable with lots of experience working with people but now I look in the cold light of day I don't seem to have anything very concrete to offer an employer. Suddenly I feel as if I've been brought up really short, like hitting a brick wall, to find myself with no purpose, no identity, no value....We don't especially need the money but somehow that makes it worse because I don't want to keep freeloading now the children are effectively gone and if I don't contribute financially that means I'm even less relevant. I really feel my confidence is at rock-bottom; all I can think about is that my usefulness is over and whatever can be in my future to change that and make me worthwhile? I feel full of nostalgia for the days when the children were young, and when I could have made different decisions to preempt where I find myself now. DH is nothing but supportive but I think one day the scales will fall from his eyes and he'll look at me and recognise me for a waste of space with nothing interesting to say. Employers don't want people without particular expertise at my age. I spend hours scrolling through pages and pages of jobs but I don't fit the person specs of even the most low-level ones.

Many people would swap places with me, I know, but I feel very desperate about who I am and what is coming next for me, in a way I never expected to. I have racing thoughts and tears and sometimes think I'm going loopy trying to think like a headless chicken what I'm going to do now and for the next xx years. Self-pity isn't an endearing quality, either, I know, but I don't know how to snap out of it and it has helped to write it all down.

Haggisfish Thu 27-Oct-16 11:30:47

Have you considered volunteering to give a sense of worth and improve your transferable skills?

rahlikeatiger Thu 27-Oct-16 11:31:55

Sorry to hear you're feeling a bit lost and low. You say that nothing is matching job wise at the minute but that you okay financially and have free time? Have you thought about retraining? Doing something different to your initial qualifications?

MatildaTheCat Thu 27-Oct-16 11:40:19

Two of my friends could have been you a few years back. Both started to volunteer in sectors that interested them. Fast forward a few years and one is a qualified counsellor. She still works as a volunteer doing bereavement counselling and has just gained her first private client which was a massive boost to her despite not needing the money as such. The other friend is still volunteering at a top London museum but has taken on many fodder end roles and is working as a guide doing tours as well as training new volunteers and other things as well.

Both love their new jobs. Volunteering comes in many shapes, finding an area that you really interested in is key. Otherwise have you considered doing some studying? There are many short courses you can start with and that's also a great way to meet new people.

Sorry, just remembered a third friend. She did a degree, then a masters and is in her first real job, in a totally niche role, after 20 years feeling unfulfilled at home.

The world is your oyster.

itsmine Thu 27-Oct-16 11:49:26

oh op I don't want to be dismissive but just try and be positive. I presume you have your health which is something you should never take for granted.

Yes there will be a void but just fill it! volunteering is great for putting things into perspective, helping others rather than us being inward and self pitying. Doesn't matter if you don't need the money just get a job, any job. Get out of the house meet other people, see your life is not simply bringing up dc.

I'm sure there is a load to read online about empty nest syndrome. Just accept it's the next phase of your life and totally normal to feel a bit upended. Grab opportunities with both hands. good luck

AristotlesTrousers Thu 27-Oct-16 11:58:36

Just a couple of questions you may want to ask yourself in case it helps you clarify your options (or not):

If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?
When you were younger, when you pictured your future, what would you have been doing?

I agree though that maybe volunteering or trying out something new might help to give you direction. Or even how about taking up a more challenging hobby, like learning a language, or taking an art class or something that would just add another element to your life/string to your bow?

I'm sure you will find what it is you need in time!

Katy07 Thu 27-Oct-16 12:02:01

Could you start your own business doing something from home? Even on a really small scale you might be able to bring some money in and have some sense of achievement. Like others suggest, volunteering or a new hobby? Or some different studying?

PrettyLittleBrownEyedMe Thu 27-Oct-16 12:07:22

thank you all for your responses and for sounding so kind and practical. I have been doing a bit of volunteering but then there was a paid job available there which I didn't get, so that knocked me back a bit too...

Matilda, it's good to hear some other people's experiences which have panned out well. It had crossed my mind to investigate counselling - perhaps I could do that as it would build on some of the things I've done before.

itsmine you're quite right about my health. I think I'm in a negative spiral making it hard to focus on the positives.

Meemolly Thu 27-Oct-16 12:09:06

Gosh you are so self aware. Have you considered counselling training? Hang in there and listen to that voice that is putting you off those jobs, maybe you are simply searching in the wrong place.

EnterFunnyNameHere Thu 27-Oct-16 12:24:48

Agree with meemolly that you seem very self aware. Your posts are also very eloquent! If counselling appeals I think those traits would be very valuable! Or maybe something like teaching/mentoring?

I guess remember that, depending on the job you went for I guess, there can be a lot of competition for work. So it's not a personal slight if you didn't get it iyswim... Just a rubbish part of job hunting!!

Keep at it though, ot sounds like you have lots of life skills which you maybe don't realise the benefits of yourself yet?

seminakedinsomebodyelsesroom Thu 27-Oct-16 12:29:24

I'm sorry you are feeling so down. I agree with PP who say you sound very self aware, intelligent and articulate. I am sure there is a great opportunity for you out there.

In the meantime is there any opportunity for you to get involved in your DHs business as a way of building skills and confidence?

Applecarts Thu 27-Oct-16 12:32:36

DH is nothing but supportive but I think one day the scales will fall from his eyes and he'll look at me and recognise me for a waste of space with nothing interesting to say.

Well, if he were to do that he would be a monumental shit who was curiously unaware of how much more difficult and involved his life would have been without your work as a SAHM, but as you say he's perfectly supportive of your desire to find a new direction, why fantasise about that outcome where he emerges as a selfish, misogynistic prat?

Don't panic, OP. You might have made different decisions if you had your time again (and your well-written post is exactly the kind of thing I have in mind when I advise women to think very carefully before becoming a SAHM), but use your obviously considerable intelligence and capacity for self-analysis to think about what direction you want to take now you have the freedom to. You're young (for comparison, I'm 44 with a 4 year old, though I've never stopped working apart from the horror that was maternity leave) and you have freedom, choice, abilities, children who no longer need intensive input and a supportive spouse - and it doesn't sound as if you're on the breadline. The world is your oyster. See it as an opportunity for new growth and new directions.

Konyaa Thu 27-Oct-16 12:36:08

You're not alone, it's surreal but I've over the last week heard similar accounts from two other women around the same age or slightly older.

I personally always advise young new mothers in my peer group to think very very carefully before giving up careers to stay at home in those early years.

Is volunteering with a specific cause an option? Something you value or hold close? And then streamline your skills in a particular sector and go from there?

Alison6 Thu 27-Oct-16 12:39:40

It's a funny age, late forties, I think. We are emerging from child rearing and wondering what the next stage means. flowers

drivinmecrazy Thu 27-Oct-16 12:51:39

Another one who can completely relate to your post.
DD2 has just started yr7 so I find myself almost obsolete. I don't for one second regret the desision DH & I made for me to be at home, in fact I feel almost fortunate that we are likely the last generation to have that choice (I am 45).
What resonates most is the feeling that I don't know what my role is now. I've (happily) stepped away from an all absorbing career to raise my daughters but my market place is now completely obsolete.
I think I am still 'grieving' my girls needing me, not knowing where I fit in. I see my girls flying into their futures, my DHS life pretty much unchanged. Yet I am adrift.
Fortunately I have a friend involved with a local volunteering organisation and am eagerly awaiting a call to discuss where my skills can be utilised. I cannot wait.
I think there are many of us on MN in a very similar place. Whilst never regretting the choices we have made , wanting and needing some validation for ourselves. I think we need and deserve that. It's just so tough getting that opportunity

ishouldcocoa Thu 27-Oct-16 12:52:45

Coming at this from a slightly different angle, do you take any exercise? It won't get you a job, but may lift the 'blues' a bit. I find I think better outside, too.
I totally get where you're coming from; I am in a similar situation, but with ageing parents in the mix who are hampering my job search at the mo. I'm trying to concentrate on them, first...

Magicpaintbrush Thu 27-Oct-16 12:55:11

So sorry that you are feeling this way. I agree with posters above who have said that this could be a real opportunity for a new start. If money is not an issue you could take time to re-train in a new field that interests you and see where it takes you.

What would your dream job / life be if you really sit and think about it? If you feel that you could have done things differently is there any way of starting afresh with those objectives in mind?

If it was me I would sit down and brainstorm, write down all of the things in life (not just jobs/careers) that you enjoy or find interesting, and then figure out if there are any related industries you could train up for.

Also, careers aside, what about doing a vocational course or degree or similar in a subject you enjoy, just for the pleasure of learning - who knows where it may lead you. What sort of things float your boat? History? Art? Food? Children? Literature? Psychology? Helping people? The Great Outdoors? Animals? Homewares? Music? Photography? Travel? Writing? Do you have any passions or hobbies that could extend into something new?

You probably have so much to offer but have just got stuck in a rut. It's mind over matter, you need to look at this as an pivotal moment of opportunity and freedom. Are there any long forgotten interests that you could re-examine? For example, a few years ago I found myself a SAHM, and not contributing to the household finances or having anything other than mum duties really affected my self esteem and I became quite depressed. But back in the day I had always been very arty, so I took a correspondence course with the London Art College and I'm now working as a freelance illustrator. I don't earn masses, I have only been going a couple of years, but I really love it.

You are 47, not 97, you just need to figure out a direction and see where it leads. This is YOUR time.

getdownshep Thu 27-Oct-16 13:04:27

I feel exactly the same too OP. I'm 50, feel useless,boring and depressed.
Its such a weird time in life. I keep thinking back to all the opportunities I wasted. I hope you can see light at the end of the tunnelflowers

Porpoises Thu 27-Oct-16 13:12:59

For the racing thoughts you could try mindfullness meditation, it would help you calm them and keep things in perspective. I find the practice emphasizes that there is a "you" that's not just sum of your current thoughts, action, and achievements, but something deeper and steadier.

For career i highly recommend the 'what color is your parachute' book. It will help you work out whet you want to go, career wise, and then you will have a clearer next step and a sense of direction than can help convince prospective employers.

PrettyLittleBrownEyedMe Thu 27-Oct-16 13:23:53

Goodness, I'm so glad I plucked up the courage to post. Thank you everyone for your advice/experiences and thank you for saying some complimentary things which mean a lot at the moment.

applecarts how your first paragraph made me laugh and cringe simultaneously as a clear-sighted example of my doom-angled thinking. Poor DH! He does only ever say 'but we're a team...'

drivinmecrazy I'm sorry to hear you're in the same boat but interested to know about your experiences too; what area is the volunteering in? I hope it comes together for you.

stuck in a rut is right, magic, and what you have done is very motivating and encouraging.

Everyone seems to agree I should be seeing this stage as an opportunity, so I need to be thinking about it as a beginning, not an end. That's a much more positive outlook but it's not always easy to find a way for someone to give you a chance; my experience still doesn't seem suited to any of the jobs on all those pages, and bringing in no wage still seems a bit ignominious after all these years of 'being' and all my education sad

Idratherbeaunicorn Thu 27-Oct-16 13:30:23

Maybe you should think of it as the time to think about what YOU want to do - A lot of people at my work were recently made redundant, and although lots of them really wanted to stay in insurance (!!!), many of them used it as an excuse to have a think about what they wanted to do.
Use this time to retrain if necessary - want to be a florist, counselor, baker? Sign up to a few courses! You've got the free time and the financial security - make the most of it and make your future about you! smile

PrettyLittleBrownEyedMe Thu 27-Oct-16 13:30:45

Sorry, cross-posted:

getdownshep sorry you feel the same; would you like to share more about your situation? I'm interested to hear how other people arrived at the same point.

porpoises thank you for the recommendation - I'll get on amazon straight away. Has anyone else found mindfulness useful? I know it's a 'thing' at the moment but I never know how to go about it and whether it's of any real practical value.

notgettingyounger Thu 27-Oct-16 13:47:07

I am another to whom your post is very resonant! I am also highly educated (professional qualifications and career before children but now hopelessly out of date) My youngest DC has been at Uni for over 2 years now and I still haven't solved the dilemma. I tried, but found volunteering somewhat dispiriting as I think that when you are not paid, you are not valued either and that can erode your self esteem further as your time and opinions are discounted in a way they would not be if you were giving the advice in a commercial capacity. Sometimes I wonder whether I wasted my life but then try to buy into the "team" angle. Between us, DH and I have established a lovely home and DC who have a great start in life. Maybe personal job satisfaction was not possible as well. I am slowly deciding just to enjoy life and not feel guilty about the "free-loading". DH couldn't have the job he has today if I had not been supportive and held the fort at home (and, like you, I carried on with Mummy track options too). It helps that I know DH could retire if he wanted to so it is his choice alone to keep working. Mind you, I would tell any young mother to nurture her career and never give up on it now that options like P/T and decent maternity leave are on the table. I do often feel as if I live my life vicariously through DH and the DC, and really do understand how you are feeling. NB It does get somewhat better if you can ditch the guilt and find fun things to do with friends. Really, it should feel like a privilege even though IKWYM and actually it feels like a dead-end at times. I am watching this thread with interest.

woowoowoo Thu 27-Oct-16 15:00:41

Some excellent advice on this thread. Please let us know what you decide to embark upon, OP.

The parachute book looks excellent. Might order it myself.

Good luck.

Rosebag Thu 27-Oct-16 15:38:13

I would have agree with notgetting about the pitfalls of volunteering. I found that this was particularly problematic (i.e. not being valued and being highly criticised when you "hand in your notice") when I volunteered in my professional capacity i.e. the role I qualified for originally, but offered to volunteer to get back in the saddle so to speak and make contacts. That is not to dismiss volunteering out of hand...I did it for a very long time and still do... but to recognise the limitations in some cases.

I feel for you, OP. I worked in a professional role for 20 years including with young children until DC3 came along and then was a SAHM, happily for 5 years or so. During this time I retrained for a role (also professional) where I could WFH in the evenings and weekends. (I was in my early 40's). I never let go of the licence from my original profession however, and have tried to do a bit of both as a freelancer, in addition to voluntary stuff. It's very difficult and quite lonely at times. My DC are now needing me a lot less too and I had high hopes of building things up, but the work is patchy and ad hoc.

I'm torn, because I like the flexibility that I have now but miss terribly the camaraderie of the workplace. What I have done is, as I said, cut down on the voluntary work...the tipping point came when I had been promised a fee for some work having done all the development work for it over a few years as a volunteer. Then the organisation pulled the carpet and said they weren't going to pay the fee after all! So I walked!

But I would say this...I really enjoyed the retraining that I did and I wasn't a lot younger than you are now. And some of the voluntary work did lead to paid work too.

Good luck OP. Feel free to PM me if you want to know more about the training I did etc. smile

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