We Want to Be In Your Inbox

Though Instagram is our primary community we treasure these pages for longer form writing. With that in mind we have decided to send a weekly email to our readers. Last week we sent a short but sweet email reminding y’all of why we exist.

The content is hosted here, but if you don’t feel like clicking, this is what we said:

When we told our friends that we were going to establish an online community devoted to midlife they looked at us a little funny. The only midlife discussion seems to be The Midlife Crisis, which, interestingly enough, is not a crisis at all and will be discussed at a later date.

Midlife for us is something between your 40’s and your 50’s. That’s all we’ve got! There’s no longer anything homogenous about midlife. We aren’t all grandmothers; we aren’t all mothers. Some of us will have our first child at 42, some of us will never have children, some of us will never long for children at all.

Midlife may be the time when you retire early or the time we begin new careers. You may find feminism, religion, or both in midlife. You may reject everything and take off on a trip around the world; you may pay off your mortgage and settle in for the duration.

Midlife women know their strengths and weaknesses. We know what looks good on us and what’s in style. We know which styles to ignore (remember when neon was popular again for 20 seconds?). Midlife women manage budgets and examine amortization schedules before signing loan docs.

We’ve spent 40 or more years refining our tastes, prioritizing our lives, and sometimes… coveting shiny objects. So here we are, solidly in midlife, and we will celebrate the shiny things, but also the healthy things, the oddball things, and the compelling things.

We won’t talk about the political things. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s that we care with such passion that we all need a break.

Here’s to the shiny things.

Jessica & Stefanie

This week we are sending you to one of our favorite Instagram accounts (not ours), recommending a book, sharing a profoundly insightful essay about moving forward in life, and telling you about a special in store event from a department store everyone loves.

We hope you will sign up for it. We hope you will share with friends.

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don't call me ma'am

Ma’am: Respectful or Insulting?

I remember exactly where I was when the Challenger exploded.

I remember exactly where I was when the OJ Simpson verdict was read.

AND, I remember exactly where I was when I was called ma’am for the 1st time.

I was in Toys R’ Us, after a very rough night with little sleep, and I asked a 20-something clerk for help finding a baby item. He said, “Right this way ma’am”.

I was like, what the??? It felt like I had just crossed over an invisible line in life and there was no going back. I had, quite abruptly, transitioned from a Miss to a Ma’am and I hated it. Or perhaps I just wasn’t ready for it? I was already trying to find my way in transitioning from being an independent, successful, working woman to a stay-at-home mom whose time was no longer her own. And jumping from a Miss to a Ma’am was simply more than I was ready for.

I turned 40 this year and the frequency of being called ma’am has increased, as has my dislike for the title.

So, I reached out to several of my girlfriends from around the country to ask their opinion on being called ma’am.

Julia Smolyanky, 46, is a Business Manager living in New York, NY. Julia does not care for the term. She said, “it’s too official sounding”. She said that it’s also “very harsh”, she would only use the word ma’am when she is “about to put someone in their place”. When asked what she would rather be called, she said, “lady or miss” would be more appropriate.

Angie Duval, 40, co-owner of Trendsetters Salon in North Canton, OH also does not care for the word. She said that it makes her feel “matronly”. She would prefer that something less official sounding be used. She likes something more casual that could apply to any age or station in life, like a simple, “hello, excuse me” or even “sweetie”.

Sarah Jacobs, 35, is a real estate agent from Cedar Park, TX. She said the term ma’am doesn’t bother her at all. She said “it’s a way of life around here”. She feels that the term is “100% respectful”, especially if you are speaking to someone who is older than you. She said that it can even be viewed as disrespectful to NOT call a woman ma’am.

After speaking with my girlfriends, I gave the whole matter a lot more thought. I completely appreciate that the word ma’am is used as a term of respect. And perhaps that’s what I take issue with, I may be 40 but my spirit is still young. I don’t know that I have lived long enough to be deserving of the respect that is inferred with the use of ma’am. My book is only half-written; I’m still learning and growing every day. I’m still trying to figure it all out. I have so many more chapters to fill and so much more life to live. I guess, when I am in my 70’s, and have lived a long, full life and gathered up loads of wisdom, it is then that I will embrace being called ma’am.

Written By Amanda Fowler
You can follow Amanda on Instagram at LifeInProgress40
Photograph courtesy of JM Photography
Ma’am shirt custom made at Etsy shop LuckyShirtClothing

A path in the woods

The Best Time of Our Lives

The summer my son Kyle graduated high school he asked me what age I thought was the best time of a person’s life. I sat still, staring over his shoulder, thinking. The question stumped me a bit. We ate in silence as I considered.

I had to answer, “I don’t know, but for sure it isn’t before the age of 40.”

“Really?” His head shot up and he looked directly at me, “Why?”

I smiled. I wondered if he was surprised because I didn’t pick a youthful age or because I picked an age that didn’t coincide with his birth.

“Life is better after 40. A lot of the angst you feel right now finally goes away.” I set down my chopsticks, pushed my bowl away, and leaned forward, “that background anxiety to life, ‘What type of person am I going to be? Am I good enough? Will I be successful?’ It’s exhausting.”

Kyle stopped eating.

I continued “Around forty I had enough experience to know that most events in life are not catastrophic. When those anxieties started to fade, I felt relieved of a burden. I accepted myself to a greater degree. It’s not that I can’t still grow, in fact, I think I’m better at change now. I know what I’m good at and what I’m not.”

I picked up my chopsticks and started playing with the food in my bowl, “I carried an outdated vision of my perfect future self as a tall, blond, seventeen-year-old girl with long nails who read French novels.” Counting off each point with my fingers, I said “It took me a long time to realize 1) I haven’t been seventeen in years, 2) I’m a brunette, 3) My nails always break, and 4) I have dyslexia and can’t read French even after taking it for two years in college.” We both burst out laughing.

“It sounds ridiculous, but figuring out whatever stupid standard you put on yourself, getting rid of it, and accepting who you are is a gift. But, it takes a while to receive it.”

is skinny a compliment

You’re So Skinny! Compliment or Critique?

Recently a friend called me skinny and it could not mistaken as a compliment. First I noted that my weight is unchanged and I was told that it shows on my face. Then I reflected on the inappropriateness of the discussion. These are not necessarily kind words. Even when they are offered up in gentle spirits.

From a young age we are trained to never tell our friends they look fat or chubby or thick. Perhaps there should be some training for talking to fit and trim girls? 

Note: it’s absurd that I’m the woman defending the “skinny girls” it’s not how I self-identify but it’s a group that every mother of a teenager recognizes as being an undeserving punching bag. 

Sometimes when women are overly critical or snarky I remind myself to be compassionate as I’m likely witnessing their own insecurities bleeding into conversation. However, I find the older I get the less tolerant I am of bad behavior in adults. This recent encounter left me wanting to scream, “We’ve lived half our lives already. Don’t you know better than to be a mean girl?” Instead I defended my weight.

Sometimes being ladylike is freeing, this event made it feel like a burden. 

I’ve worked hard to make myself into the friend that offers a safe place. We are what we do, what we say, how we live, how we give, love and care for the world, and the people around us.

At age 49 I exercise a lot, seven days a week. Exercise reduces my anxiety and stress levels. One of the added benefits of daily exercise is that it helps me keep my weight where it ought to be, and that’s according to my doctor, not a fashion magazine editor. 

In April I’ll be turning 50. 50 is a big milestone for me and though I embrace it I have to admit to not being entirely thrilled by it. My father died at 70 and my mother at 74. This makes me thoughtful about the last third of my life. I work to maintain my health, and like many people there is a fair amount of damage from my 20’s to make amends for. 

As we hit midlife our bodies go through a lot of changes. We acquire some smile lines, grey hair, are more vulnerable to injuries, weight gain, and illnesses. Many of my friends use Botox and fillers and though I think they look fantastic without, it makes them feel good. I tried them and let’s just say that the results were not flattering. I want to use injectables, I just don’t get the desired results. We get a new body every decade or so and have to find out how best we want to feed it, clothe it and care for it. 

Ultimately I know that we have to accept ourselves for who we are and how we look. Our moods and how we live and maneuver though the world should not be contingent upon what the scale says or how many wrinkles we do or don’t have. I certainly want my daughter to know that. I seldom, if ever, discuss dieting or my own weight in front of my daughter. I want to gift her the ability to focus on being the best possible version of herself. That version includes being caring, loving, strong, smart, giving, diligent, hardworking, and resilient.

I don’t see a scenario where my daughter’s best version of herself is measured in her hip size, so why would I punish myself or my girlfriends with such an absurd tool for assessment? 

We don’t celebrate women of every size and age in America, and perhaps even less so in Los Angeles. I understand frustration with being a little overweight and many women over 35 knows what it’s like to have to work doubly hard for a flat stomach. But those skinny girls? Who hasn’t heard (or muttered) the phrase “Skinny Bitch”? 

If you want to avoid being a midlife mean girl let me give you some options. Instead of, “You’re so skinny!” try something like, “You look so fit.” And if it’s a real friend you’d say something more meaningful like, “I’m so happy to see you. How are you?” It’s best to leave the discussions of anyone’s weight to their doctors and dietitians. “You’re so skinny!” is not a compliment, it’s a cut down.

 

140 Conference in Los Angeles

Our Story: How and Why We Launched Our Midlife Channels

We’re going to assume that you’ve seen us on Instagram and that’s how you landed here. A day ago we presented our talk “From Motherhood to Otherhood” at the 140 Conference here in Los Angeles. The 140 Conference focuses on the state of now, particularly emerging trends in microblogging. We thought that publishing our talk would make a nice first post for this new website:

Motherhood to Otherhood
Photo credit: Karen Putz

I’m Jessica Gottlieb and back in 2008 I peeled off from my paid blogging gigs to start my own Mom Blog. A few months later I was a panelist at the first 140 Conference in New York City and it was what truly launched that site. I’m one of many people who has benefited from the generous nature of the 140 Conference community. You guys became the catalyst for a little website that helped support my family for the next six years and then led right into my current career. I will always and forever begin my talks with gratitude and knowing that we are all looking to this stage to see what else might launch out of this roving group of technophiles.

Mom blogging is tedious and it has a short lifespan. When your kids hit the teen years you’re done as Mom Blogger. Once they’re teenagers there’s really nothing to talk about in public. We don’t discuss other people’s puberty, dating or grades, and since that is all consuming during the teen years there’s not much left except a wall of privacy. All of a sudden both online and off we’re moving from motherhood as our primary identity to otherhood. I’ve watched a few cling to writing about parenting, I’ve done that myself, but it’s redundant, tired and time to move over and let the new moms in. I’ve watched other moms bloggers migrate to crafting, cooking or travel blogging with great success. No one really knows what otherhood is we all define it for ourselves.

In 2011 I realized that I was saying no to brand work 10 times more often than I was saying yes. I’d been blogging about parenting for nearly 7 years at that point and had deep roots in the mom blogging community as well as some great relationships with brand marketers. I launched an influencer agency and we had a lot of success helping start ups – particularly ios apps and Fortune 500’s get paid media coverage along with Instagram placements.

Though not unique to American women, the lack of maternal leave and support around childcare intensifies the earliest years of parenting. When the most hands on parenting chapters are closing the time that’s left behind as kids get older has the potential to feel longer, lonelier and more difficult to fill.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to every career path. Stay at home moms and working moms experience this equally. What do you do when your kids have their own car on a Saturday night? Sit at home and wait in an empty house? That’s not my style. I don’t think it’s anyone’s first choice.

This summer one of my clients was a national clothing brand and they wanted me to find a large group of people. Women from ages 18 to 55, all in the United States. All on Instagram. This is an unusual ask because typically the demographics are tighter. Women from 18-25 or 25-35. 35-45 is ignored for everything but financial products. Sometimes they’re asking for 55 to death, as though there’s nothing really happening there.

Finding women from 18 to 30 is simple. Finding women from 30 to 40 is tough. I don’t want to ask a 35 year old woman if that’s really her age (it usually isn’t). Finding American women over 40 were willing to state their age was an impossible task on Instagram.

Women in their 40s and 50s are beautiful. We know what suits us, we can afford decent clothes, we go great places, and we know the power of community and collaboration.

I knew I needed to start an Instagram channel that celebrated our 40’s, 50’s and beyond. There wasn’t just a gap, but a chasm. I also knew that I didn’t want to do it alone. I had just spent all of these years writing a blog in relative isolation and I needed a friend to help me along the way.

This was a tall order to fill because I needed someone who is living in Los Angeles and willing to admit their age. There appear to be exactly two of us.

I also needed someone with better style than I. I have the technical skills but I am seldom described as elegant. I am described as down to earth and a breath of fresh air. I do words, I would have to learn to do images.

10 years ago I met Stefanie on a soccer field. Seems only fitting that a couple of soccer moms would be the ones to make this happen. Here’s Stefanie.

I’m Stefanie Pollard and I had been friends with Jessica for many years. We met when our daughters played AYSO soccer together. Our friendship has largely revolved around our motherhood and soccer, with one fun excursion for the perfect bag from Europe. So I was surprised when she said, “I have this idea- I want to start an Instagram account that celebrates women in their 40’s and 50’s. Want to do it with me?”

I was a little baffled as to why she asked me but I decided to say yes. At this stage in my life I had dissolved my commercial real estate business and I had a few extra hours in my day. After a health scare and handing my youngest child the keys to the car it was abundantly clear that a new chapter was beginning.

I did forewarn Jessica that my tech skills were bad, my personal Instagram account is mostly about my kids, Facebook is about keeping me connected to family and my high school friends along with the occasional rant about politics and illegal drugs, and I am really uncomfortable being in front of the camera and even more so on this stage. If you looked at our family albums you wouldn’t find any pictures of me from the time I had babies until about three months ago.
She said, “Great! I’ll teach you everything I know in 6 months.” I wasn’t sure that was possible. I was pretty sure that I should have taken statistics in college, paid more attention when my kids were downloading social media apps and learned Google Docs a long time ago, but here we are just a few months later and sometimes my brain hurts at the end of the day because I never in a million years thought I’d be doing this but that’s a good thing.

There’s great danger in the labels we assign to ourselves and others. I never want to undo the Mom label but I can’t be a professional mom to two adults nor is there a retirement plan for professional moms. So I am circling back to who I was before kids, and before a husband and exploring my joys and my talents.

In my before-kids days I’d been a manager at a department store, right nearby if anyone remembers Bullocks. I spent my days and nights arranging fabrics and accessories in the most appealing way possible. It had never occurred to me that this wouldn’t be part of my world forever. There’s a joy I experience in helping people feel their best and the feedback that we’re currently getting from Instagram is affirming and fulfilling.

As we use Instagram to document and curate the lightest and brightest parts of our days we’ll be expanding to incorporate a blog and more robust Facebook page. We will spend 2017 publishing essays by women in midlife, asking more of the women around us, and more of the men who live, love and work with us.

Midlife isn’t what it used to be. For many women it’s when they begin a family, for others it’s when they return to a career. There are midlife retirements, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, startups and travel. There are feminists and facelifts and feminists with facelifts. It’s not a homogenous group. The only thing that women in midlife share is a pool of wisdom.

Our particular journeys are taking us out of the most hands-on part of motherhood so it’s time for silk blouses and denim that doesn’t need to withstand finger paint.

The internet and all of her microblogging options have opened doors to take us from Motherhood to Otherhood. We’re having a blast being silly, being collaborative, being free and being women of a certain age with zero apologies.