(Warning – this post might be of more interest to women and mentions female bodily functions…)
Looking around this community, people cite numerous reasons for wanting to FIRE including:
– they hate their jobs
– even if they don’t hate their jobs, they don’t want to be working into their 40s/50s/60s/70s (delete as applicable)
– they want freedom to do what they want to do
– they want more time for families/friends/hobbies/travel/keeping healthy
– they want to be in control of their personal finances
– they want financial security so they don’t have to rely on anyone else for income (including the state)
One reason to FIRE which I haven’t seen mentioned is the menopause.
Image from Raleigh OB/GYN Centre
The menopause isn’t mentioned
much at all in the FIRE community because it applies mostly to older women and there aren’t so many of us on the FIRE blogging circuit.
Something similar apparently can also afflict some older men – here’s what the NHS says about that.
The menopause generally marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, due to changes in hormones in the body. The average age for menopausal women is 51 but some women can enter menopause in their 40s.
Whilst no longer being able to get pregnant will be welcomed by some women (eg, me!), there’s a big long list of not-very-nice symptoms which often accompany the menopause including:
- Hot flushes/night sweats (which can disrupt sleep)
- Irregular and/or very heavy periods (for women used to regular bleeding, unexpected heavy bleeding will catch you out – I speak from experience…)
- Weight gain (curse of the middle-aged spread!)
- Mood swings (these can be even more erratic and extreme than ones experienced in younger years)
- Headaches and migraines (again, more extreme forms of the ones previously experienced)
- Joint pains (feels like arthritis but isn’t)
- Digestive problems (changes in hormones can lead to stomach upsets/cramps)
- Tingling extremities (bouts of pins and needles)
- Fatigue/Disrupted sleep
- Heart palpitations
- Anxiety/panic disorders
- Osteoporosis – bone density begins to drop during menopause
- Memory lapses and difficulty concentrating – lower levels of oestrogen can often lead to lack of focus, forgetfulness and lapses in concentration.
There are other possible symptoms which I’ve not included and whilst it’s unlikely (I would hope) that I will end up suffering from all of them, speaking to my Mum and my aunt, I’ll probably unfortunately have to put up with at least some of them…
Why would the Menopause be a reason to FIRE?
Following a few departures at work, I am now the oldest woman in our office, with the majority of other women being in their mid-20s, early 30s. Us women are, however, vastly outnumbered by the men (current ratio around 25/75).
My day-to-day job is quite fast moving, with tight deadlines, quick turnarounds of requests, lots of multi-tasking and juggling of priorities. At the end of the day, it is just an office (wfh) job, nothing special or critical, but I do it well.
What if due to suffering from menopausal symptoms (particularly the last ones I mentioned on my above list) I am unable to perform my job effectively?
Forget to do tasks. Miss deadlines. Get confused due to lack of concentration or sleep. Respond too slowly. Panic about the workload.
And that’s not even accounting for the physical effects which my body might be enduring.
I will of course try to help myself by eating well and exercising but ‘brain-fog’ will be harder to deal with and may lead to me not being able to do my job properly.
It’s never really in the news how menopausal women are treated at work (they will probably be called ‘miserable’, ’emotional’ and ‘dizzy’ behind closed doors) but I can imagine not really sympathetically, if this article I found is anything to go by. Will HR be sympathetic and provide support? Would I ask for such support? I’m not sure…
I hope I won’t suffer too much and that if I do get the symptoms, the onslaught isn’t for a few years yet and I’ll be able to get out of working before it all kicks in.
I might not be able to control my hormones and how they affect my body, (although HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can help some women), but I can control my finances and if it gets to the point where I can’t work or do my job properly, at least I will be still be able to pay my bills and have some time to allow the worst of the symptoms to pass.
I’ve just had a thought – which would be more surprising/shocking?
I left my job because:
- I’m retiring early
- I’m menopausal
- I’ve had enough
Answer number 2 might be worth going for, if I want to kill the conversation dead!
I hope this hasn’t been too dreary to read – for those interested (and still reading), I reckon I’m probably pre-menopausal right now, just starting to get one or two of the above symptoms this past year, but nothing significant.
Other than that, I feel well and fit, am at my ideal/chosen weight, sleep well at night, feel as content as I can be, pandemic notwithstanding. My Sis would probably argue that I have mood swings but that’s more likely to be as a result of us both cooped in under the same roof during lockdown!
I am in a way looking forward to my periods ultimately stopping so I no longer have to spend money on sanitary products – yes, I know I could really follow the FIRE ethos and switch to menstrual cups to save money but I’d rather not make those times of the month any more inconvenient!
Ok, womanly stuff over (for now) – normal blog posts shall resume in due course! 🙂