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Lucy Baker was fighting to keep her own perimenopausal mood-swings under control – but then her daughter’s puberty kicked in and the fireworks really started. Here she shares her story and the tactics that helped them both navigate this tricky time. Lucy is 47 and lives in Lincolnshire.
As told to Andreina Cordani
‘I’ve never been one for reading parenting books or following the latest trends – I wasn’t a tiger mum or a helicopter parent. When it comes to bringing up my three children I run on instinct and my gut tells me that when one of them kicks off, I stay calm.
It’s a tactic that has seen me through countless toddler tantrums and tween dramas with my daughters Nancy, 12, and Ivy, 10, and my ‘late arrival’ boy Rocky, four. Nancy in particular is very fiery and if I let myself react every time we’d be rowing constantly.
But then suddenly last year, I just couldn’t do it any more.
I’ve always had regular-as-clockwork periods, preceded by a day or so of horrible PMS but in 2022 the grumpy feeling started to stick around for longer and longer until by the summer I was permanently, constantly arsey.
The rages would come from nowhere, almost like an out of body experience, and then dissipate straight away. Ivy would ask me a simple question, or Rocky would make a mess and I’d bite their heads off… then regret it moments later. I was even getting annoyed by my lovely little cat! That wasn’t me at all.
And as for Nancy, my usual tactic of meeting her fire with cool calm had gone out of the window. Before I’d just been able to tell myself ‘and breathe’ but now I couldn’t keep a lid on my frustration.
The result – she’d get angrier. Doors slammed. Things were thrown. And if I tried to talk things through afterwards it would just blow up into another row.
Then I started putting my symptoms together – anger issues, sore breasts, irregular periods. Occasional night sweats. Brain fog. At 46, I was starting perimenopause.
Like most women my age, I had a few go-to self-care methods. I did yoga, got a few early nights, tried to eat more healthily but nothing was making a difference. Eventually my doctor prescribed 25mg HRT patches. I hoped that they would do the trick.
Meanwhile Nancy and I continued to clash. Every Tuesday I take the girls swimming, and there’s a tradition that one of them gets to sit in the front of the car on the way there, and on the way home it’s the other one’s turn. Nancy would always object to riding in the back but this one time she just wouldn’t stop arguing about it.
I tried to bite my lip but my frustration grew and grew until I stopped the car and told her to get out – which she did, angrily. I screeched off around the corner, absolutely furious.
I hadn’t dumped her in the middle of nowhere – just a quiet street near home – but I was instantly flooded with shame. I turned around, picked her up and apologised but I couldn’t stop wondering – how had things escalated so far, so fast?
That’s when the penny dropped. Nancy was twelve, and a lot of her friends were already starting their periods. Nancy’s puberty hormones were kicking in at the exact same time as my menopausal ones. As my reproductive life ended, hers was beginning – it was like her hormonal arsey-ness was a mirror image of my own.
I knew this was an important, crucial time in our relationship. I hadn’t felt able to talk to my parents about puberty – when I started my periods I was so scared to tell my mum that I wrote it in a note, posted it through my bedroom door then ran to school! I didn’t want Nancy to feel that way.
So I sat her down and explained what we were both going through. “You’re about to start your periods and mine are ending, we’re at a strange time in our lives when we’re at opposite ends of the scale.”
To be honest, the twelve-year-old brain still isn’t great at taking this sort of thing on board, but when I explained that exercise helped, she did become interested.
When I joined the gym, she was keen to join too, although sadly she was too young. But at home, Nancy and I would exercise together. We did yoga, mini-circuits in the garden, trampolining and walking the dog. It was great to have a shared interest and it created a space where we could talk easily, one-to-one.
I’d love to say that from then on we lived together in sweet harmony, but family life isn’t like that! Still, going through the menopause at the same time has deepened my understanding and tolerance of her experience. I know what it’s like to live with your hormones in the driving seat.
My advice to anyone in this hormone-sandwich situation is talk, talk and talk some more. And not just to your daughters but to the men and boys in your family too so they understand exactly what’s happening. There should be no embarrassment, no shyness.
Thankfully there’s been lots of progress on this lately – Nancy’s friends talk about periods way more than we ever did years ago and my WhatsApp group compares notes on menopause all the time.
We’re all finally starting to understand that the menopause and puberty aren’t shameful things, they’re as normal as eating, drinking and sleeping. And in a way, it’s a privilege that Nancy and I can go through it together.”
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