When you're on the verge of a midlife crisis, your first instinct might not be the best strategy. Jane Glenn Haas, founder of the nonprofit group WomanSage, offers some advice based on experience:
My midlife change began six years ago while driving in Washington State, when my vacation-minded husband turned to me and said, "I think we should retire and open a bed-and-breakfast." Suddenly I had a flashback of my mother giving up her New York City lifestyle to follow my father to Florida to fish for grouper. I was ready to bolt. I realized that, unlike my mother, I could afford to do it. I have my own pension, Social Security and 401(k). Fortunately, we decided it was a bad business plan for us. I found my own path, starting WomanSage, and next month my husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary.
Was this a midlife crisis? You bet. And I'm not alone on this transitional journey. To help find my way, I created "How is your life different from your mother's?," a Web-based survey. So far, more than 2,500 women age 50 and over have logged on to womansage.com to help me define the pros and cons of midlife change. Here's what they say are the six major points.
1. Know who's in charge. Are you making this change because you lost your job or just found out your husband prefers a twenty-something in his office? If you're being forced into this change, go very slowly. If you're feeling your way on your own, take your time. Don't jump into strange territory. Put common sense ahead of pride.
2. Revitalize and rejuvenate. Too much stress and too few hormones sapping your spirit? Face it, outside appearances do make a big difference for women--particularly after 50. Reward yourself with a makeover. Self-esteem is critical to midlife confidence.
3. Do your research. Sure, you've always wanted to raise ostriches, but is there a market for ostrich meat where you live? Take a deep breath, and do a reality check. Planning to move from a high-powered corporate job to a simpler lifestyle and career? Think your marriage is as dull as dirt? Take the time to talk to a therapist, a career coach or a life coach.
4. Follow the money. Before you make any change-- from job to marriage--talk to an accountant. Check out your Social Security benefits and your pension plan. It sounds dreary, but the older you get, the more money counts.
5. Take a poll. Talk to your family and friends. Listen to them and then listen to your heart. Be ready for surprises. I started out modestly when I launched WomanSage as a nonprofit organization to help midlife women in Orange County, Calif., and now we are national, with chapters around the country.
6. Be selfish. After years of nurturing and caring for others, you've earned the right to put yourself first. It's O.K. to have a facial, travel by yourself or have a relationship without a wedding ring. Chances are, you'll find out that almost everything gets better after 50.