As I approach that big 4-0 milestone, I find myself more and more drawn to older women as mentors and role models. Over the past few years, I’ve been spending time with women in their 60’s and 70’s and have loved learning at their feet as it were. Our culture glorifies youth and beauty but working in the world of birth, it has become clear to me that there is so much to learn from those who are older and wiser. It might take just four or five years to scale the corporate ladder and become a “manager”, but a good midwife or doula is literally in training her entire life as she learns from colleagues, clients and the babies in her care.
I was thinking about the transition from maiden to mother to crone/wise woman and I realised that all of the older women that I admire, while very different, have some interesting things in common:
They are all physically active and present in their bodies
My yoga teacher is almost 80, and has such an incredible body. Some of my mentors swim, some hike, some dance, but all of them honour their bodies with movement.
They laugh – often
Let’s face it, getting older can bring with it a fair share of aches and pains, and other less physical issues such as loneliness, but these wonderful women never harp on and on about their blood pressure or medication. They joke and moan, and move on.
They have suffered
Once, I went to see a perky counselor, fresh out of university. I took one look at her perfect skin and bouncing ponytail and knew that we were done. It is very difficult to have much empathy and wisdom to share when you yourself have no life experience. Life scars us all, and when I hear the stories that older women tell, I value the knowledge that it is possible to suffer, and to survive; to weep, and then one day, to laugh again.
They help others
Each of my role models is, in their own way, a healer and a helper. I know for sure that this is where I want to be at their age. Helping others, touching lives, being kind.
They enjoy life
Passion is so beautiful in someone of any age, but especially in older people. There is nothing sadder than a retiree whose whole life was dedicated to their company, to the exclusion of any other hobbies or interests. My mentors are all passionate about something – their gardens, their horses, their art. Oh, and all of them enjoy their food. They eat beautifully but certainly enjoy their red wine, chocolate and coffee from time to time.
I am still finding my way (aren’t we all) but I so value my circle of wise women who have shown me that life can still be full and rich, beyond this busy season of intense motherhood.
If you’re interested in the archetypes I’ve mentioned, there is a lot more information on the internet. There is a third female archetype – wild woman/enchantress – which is also fascinating to read about.