The present study explored the experiences of middle age working women in Chandigarh during the phase of transition from adulthood to early midlife using principles of qualitative method. Four major themes pertaining to their experiences were identified and explained from the first-hand accounts of the women of this age. The major themes are Factors indicating initiation of midlife, changes in the relationship with the partner, changes in familial role, and feelings during the transition. The initial theme that emerged from the narratives of participants was the belief among the women related to the initiation of midlife. Most prominent belief related to the initiation of midlife as reported by the participants was the significant change in the amount of responsibilities.
In the context of the patriarchal society, we often find that women are burdened with a lot of responsibilities. The most important life event that brought a change in the responsibilities of these women is marriage.in most of the cases it was arranged marriage where no importance was given to the choices of women and they had to oblige by their parent's Participants did not associate any age group with the initiation of midlife rather they saw marriage as the threshold of entering midlife despite of any particular age. Whereas other factors like feeling the age were considered as initiating factors of midlife when individuals themselves started feeling that they are getting old and changes are happening in their bodies. Most of these changes were related to the physical aspects of their bodies like a decrease in the level of functioning. It was found that around 20% of women in the age group of 40-55 reported limitations in physical functioning.
Even growing up of children marked the beginning of midlife because for some it indicated increase in responsibilities while for others it was the time when they were able to spend more time with their partners. Along the heterogeneity of sample different beliefs about middle age were reported which indicates the confusion surrounding this phase of an individual’s life. Banister (1999) in his study reported that during midlife the most important area in which loss or change is experienced by women is their sexuality. This has been evident in the present research as it was observed that there was either a decline in sexual activity or there was no sexual activity between the partners since the beginning of middle age. They try to be satisfied in their marriage by giving importance to other aspects like emotional closeness etc. These women tried to give more importance to having more emotional experiences with their partner as they felt that this could lead to more attachment with them rather than having sexual intimacy. It was seen that in this age emotional experiences are prioritised over sexual experiences with the partner. No significant distress was seen among this women due to decline in sexual activity as they had accepted it as a part of their ageing process.
Even confusion was seen around how women perceived the meaning of sexuality as there were variety of responses and most of them relate it to sexual intercourse. Also attachment issues were also seen surrounding the marital relationship during this age as women reported decrease in attachment with their partner and lack of belongingness which marked negative changes in their relationship. Early cross-sectional surveys of marital satisfaction suggested that marital satisfaction declines steadily during the first 10 years of marriage From these findings we can infer that the marital satisfaction tends to decline further with more time passing as seen in the results of the present study. With increasing years of marital relationship the power distribution between the couple tends to be equalised in terms of taking decisions and other related aspects. Male dominance is perceived as a myth whereas balance is actually maintained in the informal distribution of power between the both.
The third important theme that emerged from the data was changes in the familial role of women during the stage of transition. Carstensen, Pasupathi, Mayr & Nesselroade (2000) in their study found that middle aged people tend to experience more positive emotions as compared to the negative ones as noted by the difference in the frequency of occurrence of both the type of emotions. These results are in congruence with the results of the present study where it was found that most of the women felt satisfied in their new phase of life. The sense of satisfaction was seen in different aspects like family life, job, qualities of partner etc. Some of the women even related age and well-being as positively correlated because it was seen that most of the women reported increase in the subjective well-being in this phase of their life. They start feeling good as the participants reported that they have so many good things to cherish about in their life which brings about consistency in their lifestyle.
Evidence was also found for the negative emotions like sadness and tension as experienced by some of the women which was due to their negative life experiences like unfulfilled responsibilities, negative changes in intimate relationships etc. although these emotions were reported less frequently as compared to the positive ones. The results of the present study indicates that the feelings of women during the transitional phase are affected by their life experiences. Culture does not seemed to play an active role in affecting the feelings of these women. In their study found that there is a strong association between psychosocial factors and depressive symptoms among women in their middle age irrespective of their ethnicity. These results highlight the importance of certain psychosocial factors that can predispose an individual towards the development of depressive symptoms.
The fourth important theme that emerged from the present research is changes in familial role of women. When women begin their midlife they experience a change in their role of a family member. Some women start feeling themselves as a significant member of the family while taking active part in the decision making process whereas for some women they start feeling left out of the family and start having an outsider feeling. Even the changing times and advancements also contributed to minimal interactions between the family members therefore, increasing the distance between them. In their study found that during midlife there is a change in familial roles of working women as they start identifying more with their parental role and start taking active part in their children’s lives like taking decisions etc.
This makes them feel as a significant part of the family In his research stated that with changing times and introduction of technology there has been changes in the levels of family satisfaction. The present research findings also suggest that the interaction between the family members has decreased as it was reported that people are overinvolved in their lives. These changes in the family pattern didn’t cause any distress to the participants as they had accepted this as a part of their life. Empirical research in this area found that negative life events or changes have less impact on the lives of women during this age when compared with the positive life events or changes.
Throughout the research findings it was seen that women had very well adjusted in their new phase of life although negative changes were reported but they had adjusted with these changes appropriately. They tried to even compensate these with some positive things. Overall no distress was found among the participants. Although confusion was seen around some of the concepts related to their age as they didn’t have clear understanding about it.
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