GoverMENt press pause on Menopause Leave Policy

When taking on an epic adventure like rowing 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean solo,…

GoverMENt press pause on Menopause Leave Policy

When taking on an epic adventure like rowing 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean solo, most of us do it to raise awareness for a cause and raise some much-needed funds for charity.

I’ve chosen The Menopause Charity because:

 ‘Our vision is of a world where menopause is embraced and viewed as an opportunity for new beginnings, adventures and opportunities.’

Credit: www.themenopausecharity.org 

They offer evidence-based information to employers, support for women as well as men and other family members and accredited training for medical professionals who are diagnosing and treating menopause symptoms.

This really chimes with me as menopause can coincide with the double whammy of children leaving home and elderly parents needing more looking after. As women, I think we can find ourselves going from one caring role to another at a time when we ourselves need support. It should be a time where we can blossom, grow and take advantage of these new beginnings, adventures and opportunities and so many of us don’t because we get lost in all the brain fog.  

Only 14% of women going through menopause in the UK are actually receiving any support and/or treatment. A lot of the time the 40+ symptoms are misdiagnosed as something else, like depression or anxiety. Someone commented when I told them the cause I was rowing for said, ‘Don’t you think it’s over-medicalised?’ Well, no, I don’t. I think exactly the opposite and this lack of support means that menopause can be easily dismissed, sneered at and even ridiculed, both at home and work. It was not that long ago when women were diagnosed as mentally ill and institutionalised for being ‘overly emotional.’ In my opinion, there’s still a bit of a hangover from that attitude and, as the government proved last week, women are still being denied equal rights. Their reason? Because they thought the unintended consequence is that men would be discriminated against.  

Fortunately, as I work for myself, I didn’t have colleagues to deal with when I was going through menopause. If I needed some time, I took it. However, as I was jointly caring for my mum, who had Alzheimer’s, with my dad, I couldn’t take a day off. It was frustrating to me – and them too – that I wasn’t on top form, didn’t have all the answers, frequently felt overwhelmed, lacked patience and JUST. COULDN’T. THINK.

My mum had gone through the menopause early and dad and I have different memories as to why that was. When it was my turn, like the vast majority of the 13 million women who are currently experiencing perimenopause or menopause right now in the UK, I didn’t seek medical advice. Like my mum, I chose to grin and bear it (although not much grinning was involved for either of us, I confess!).  

8 years on from my full-on menopause experience, I still have symptoms. Sleep is often disrupted, energy levels fluctuate, thinking is often hampered and I get hot flashes, although neither of these are as bad as they were. I can also connect with a strong sense of purpose and focus now, which I didn’t have the energy for before.  So things do come right and women often feel an enormous sense of freedom after menopause but who wants to lose 8 to 10 years of their life feeling ‘less than?’ Would you?

I think the number of women not seeking help is so large because the validity of menopause is still so undermined – and the government hasn’t helped at all! I’d like that to change and this is why I’m doing this row. It’s not about achieving a Guinness World Record  – although that would be absolutely fabulous – it’s about those 13 million women who may be feeling exactly like I did and who are not seeking help for any number of inequality-related reasons or who are being misdiagnosed.

It’s time to end that.