It was so refreshing to hear Michelle Obama talking about menopause on episode #3 of The Michelle Obama Podcast! The former U.S. First Lady is interested in breaking the menopause taboo and getting women to talk openly about this phase of our lives, their health, and bodies! The same reasons I founded MenopausED!
At the beginning of the podcast when she and her guest, a friend and OB/GYN in Washington, Dr. Sharon Malone, start talking about menopause, Michelle Obama’s advises “your husband or your boyfriend or your brother they can hear it too. I think this one might help open up some eyes and help you open up a conversation that you’ve been meaning to have. It’s worth it for everybody to hear this kind of stuff.”
It sure is! We know that menopause doesn’t affect only the women, it also affects those who interact with her: partner, family, children, friends, and co-workers.
But there’s no intergenerational sharing of menopause. Women do not share their menopause experience with others. There’s secrecy, shame, and discomfort. I hope my generation will break this taboo and will share with our younger friends, colleagues, daughters, and sons what we’re experiencing to help them navigate their change when the time comes. Because, as Mrs. Obama puts it, “it happens to you before you even thinking about it. That’s the problem. And so you’re 43- 44 and you start to be irritable or you’ve got hot flashes or your periods get screwy and that’s why you kind of need to know what to expect so you don’t think that there’s something terribly wrong or what am I going to do about this”.
Michelle Obama recounts getting a hot flash in Marine One when she was all dressed up and ready for an event and it was like “someone put a furnace in my core and turned it on high and then everything started melting…I can’t do this”. She discloses that she’s on hormone therapy (HT) for her hot flashes, acknowledging that she’s healthy and well-informed about the risks and benefits of HT. I hope this transparency and sharing will help demystify HT* and encourage women to learn more about it and to look for support for their bothersome menopause symptoms.
Barack Obama worked with women in his cabinet sweating in their suits due to hot flashes. He understood and recommended “turn the air conditioning on”.
Mrs. Obama says “any person who’s going through menopause going to work in a suit can be drenched in sweat down to your core in the middle of a freezing cold office and will have to shower, and change clothes, and fix your hair all over again”. We need to talk about this..we’ve got to be aware that this is happening”!
Women at work go to great lengths to hide their menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and sweating, among others. Small adjustments like turning on the air conditioning and providing desk fans are helpful. But we need more than that.
This phase of life is natural, universal, and unavoidable, but temporary! Many women who have bothersome symptoms are stressed and unsupported. They take more sick leave, they seek more healthcare, and they may feel less engaged in their work than women with no symptoms.
We need work cultures that raise awareness and provide education about menopause to employees and training for managers and HR. Organizations that support women during this temporary phase of life are less likely to lose experienced, knowledgeable, and highly-contributing midlife female employees.
That’s why it’s so good to have a prominent, respected woman like Michelle Obama talking about menopause.
Flexible schedule and attire, uniform materials that are breathable, uniform rules that do not force women into suits or with scarves around their necks, for example, can help women feel more comfortable. I would never be able to work as an Air Canada flight attendant, I know their uniform rules and materials and they are not menopause-friendly!
But this episode wasn’t just about menopause. It also explored the very sensitive topic of aging. We live in a society that puts too much emphasis on looks and youth and very little on experience and wisdom. As Michelle Obama remarks “women of a certain age, we lose our value”.
We can change the way that women in midlife are viewed and make them (us!) more respected and valued in our society. And each of us has a role to play in this change. I don’t hide my age, I’m 57 years old and proud. I wear what I like and feel comfortable in, not necessarily what’s “proper” for my age bracket. I avoid anything with the slogan anti-aging (a waste of money and time) and look for healthy and graceful aging everything.
“What does being healthy mean for a woman?” It shouldn’t be body size and age.
Michelle Obama is a very active woman and while Barack Obama was the President of the United States of America she organized “A girlfriend health group in the White House”, weekend boot camps for her friends at Camp David. “The weekend was important for physical and mental health”. She believes “the more women they see who are 55, 60 and are living their best lives, being active and being beautiful in their way, not a 20 year old way, it becomes easy for the women who come behind us”.
Women’s groups that promote health are especially important for women in midlife. “Having the safety. We need to trust to say what we think and feel”. And, of course, “it has to be fun and interactive”.
Women in their 50s have different health needs than 30- and 40-year-old’s. Our bodies are going through a lot of change and so are our lives. We need knowledge and comradery, safety and belonging to live healthier, happier, longer, and more fulfilling lives. We have so much to share and offer to each other!
That’s why I created the WHIM (Women’s Health In Midlife) Network. I welcome women in midlife to enrich it while I provide GOOD information about health (and my guests about finances, relationships, nutrition, exercise, and more) during this phase of life, including the menopause journey!
If you’re going through a bothersome menopause journey, and/or you’re on the fence about HT, and/or you’d like the organization you work for or own to become menopause-friendly, email me or book 15-minute FREE Discovery call and let’s talk about it.
And I encourage you to listen to Michelle Obama talking about menopause on episode #3 of The Michelle Obama Podcast.
* You can watch (or re-watch) the webinar “The good, the bad, and the myths of hormone therapy” via the WHIM (Women’s Health In Midlife) Network Library. Not a member yet? Learn more and sign-up here.