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The Middle Years: When the kids grow up... and everything goes tits down

By Liz Fraser

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Indispensable and hilarious* notes on midlife (*possibly)

Publication date: March 2020
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About the book

Good news: this is not a book about parenting. There are already 1.3 billion of those, and the main thrust is, ‘don't be a shit parent; be a good parent.'

Instead, it’s a book about us. You and me. The knackered humans, flailing about in the Middle Years when our babies have grown up and everything has gone a bit...tits down.

It’s the book I wish someone had written for me years ago – it would’ve saved a LOT of wrinkles, vodka and therapy bills. Cheers for that, everyone.

Because one day, deep in the crusty elbow-skin of midlife family chaos, listening to my teenagers’ doors slamming, fielding yet more unpaid bills and missed work deadlines and realising my sex appeal was now more of a Blue Peter crisis fund, and I suddenly thought…

Excuse me, but WHAT THE F**K IS THIS??

Why is nothing even vaguely as I expected it would be at this stage in my life?
Why did everyone say everything would get easier when my kids kindly sodded off to school, when it actually feels like my life is going through a blender every hour, while being set on fire and eaten by wolves?

Who are these hormone incubators loafing about my house in a cloud of deodorant, growing zits and an attitude, Facetiming each other at dinner and staying up later than me? 
Why don’t they giggle any more?
Why can’t I understand what they say to each other?
How am I supposed to help with their GCSE maths when I was shit at it the first time round?
Why can’t anyone else in my house carry things from the bottom of the stairs to the top?
And who the heck keeps nicking my eye-liner?!

How on earth haven’t I become a self-made entrepreneurial millionaire or won three Oscars yet?
Why do I immediately assume career death when I get a perfectly professional email from a colleague with no smiley emojis on it?
Why am I suddenly scared of lifts? In fact, why am I suddenly scared of loads of things I never worried about before?
Am I . . . going mad?

Why do I feel so out of love with the person I made those once-cute hairy giants with? Is divorce really more painful than listening to Donald Trump talk about climate change?

And excuse me, but what the bloody hell has happened to the skin above my knees?

With all this new-found freedom that comes with school-age kids, why don’t I feel….happier? More confident? More…me?
Who even is ‘me’ now?  

And . . IS ANY OF THIS NORMAL??!

Following a comprehensive rummage through the Rotting Salad Drawer of Midlife Parenting™ I have discovered that all of this is indeed entirely normal.

Despite the giant Carrot of Bullshit dangled before our weary eyes during the crippling early years of parenting, willing us to Keep Calm and Carry on Bum-wiping, our problems don’t go away when our children hit school and get limitless free childcare on Instagram; they just become different.

Instead of nappies and sleepless nights we juggle A-level options and puberty; relationship breakdowns (theirs and our own) and unfathomable sadness; teenage eye-rolls and 3-hour queues for the bathroom; career catastrophes and a creeping, deepening sense of loss as the little people we’ve been trying to get a break from for fifteen years suddenly start to pull away from us, and we realise we miss them terribly, and…

Jesus, is that CHIN HAIR??

Everybody goes through this shit.

IT IS NOT. JUST. YOU.

This, my friend, is golden information. If they could make watches or dental fillings out of it, they would. Thus, this book is the opposite of a how-to guide to happiness, sexual fulfilment and Steely Buttocks (which, incidentally, is the name of my band.)

Instead it’s an honest, life-saving word-raft sent by the Gods of publishing to keep you afloat, and says,

‘Come here. Sit down. You are among friends. Despite being a reasonably capable, successful adult, I, too, have eight pairs of pants gathering dust on my bedroom floor, half a kilo of soggy granola in my bag and no clue how to refill the dishwasher’s rinse aid thingy without YouTubing it. I can store half a Sunday roast in the gap between my teeth, I still get acne, and I feel confused and sad sometimes. And scared. And a bit lost. And that’s all OK.’

I wish someone had told me all this.

I wish someone had told me honestly about the unexpected sadness so many of us feel when our children become more independent, and we enter The Next Phase of our adult lives;

how my mind would change as I stumbled my way into my 40s – and how to understand it better.

what it’s like to finally admit you’ve arrived at the end of a long-term relationship, go through a divorce, not live with your children every day any more, and how to handle the epic fall-out;

that there is enormous joy in the teenage years, and in watching our children grow into awesome adults whom we love even more than they loved Peppa Pig;

that it DOES all get a lot better, eventually, if you know what to look out for, and how to handle life’s sharp corners.

They didn’t – so I’m telling you instead. You are hugely welcome.

So come! Let’s stagger on together and laugh heartily at all the things nothing but surgery and excessive masturbation can cure.
When we’re done, come and see me in the pub.
Please bring grapes and porn.
Thank you.

"I am reading this and crying with laughter!" Professor Tanya Byron

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