Q. I am a male in my mid-forties. I have a decent career and an OK marriage. For various reasons my wife and I never had children and that opportunity is essentially over. We have not gotten closer, but there isn’t a good reason for us to separate. Most people my age are very busy raising their kids. I feel a bit like a misfit and even lost since I don’t have many family responsibilities. I work a lot but can’t seem to reach the next level of success in my career. How do I create a more satisfying life for myself?
A. If you’ve decided that having children is not an option anymore, you’ll need to deal with that reality. Life is indeed different without the presence of children. Although you have a lot more time and freedom, you may also feel lonely and isolated. Do you have natural inclinations towards parenting? Being with young children or teenagers where you can participate in their lives in a meaningful way can fulfill some of those needs. There are many ways of doing this: nieces and nephews; volunteering in a school or an organization that need elders to mentor children; becoming a “big brother;” teaching a class or becoming a tutor. This can be done in the evenings or weekends. You can make a significant difference in a young person’s life and children are hungry for nurturing and stimulating contact with other adults.
Is working a lot a form of escape from some of the emptiness you feel? It’s hard to be creative in your career, unless you’re motivated by an interest deeper than staying busy.
Moving towards fifty, is am important life-stage. Underneath some of your angst are these answers to these questions: What have I done with my life? What legacy will I leave behind? What is most meaningful to me? These are not easy questions to consider, nevertheless they can lead you to getting clearer about what you want from the next decade.
Try creating a fuller life where more of yourself is engaged. Here are some options: Pick up a sport or activity where you are moving your body. There are so many benefits to recreation and exercise from a healthy heart and brain, to creativity, to a sense of optimism and well being. Life-long learning by taking a class on a subject or activity that you are curious about is stimulating, helps build friendships and supports brain development. Doing art, gardening or cooking is great for men, as it engages the right-hemisphere of the brain and gets us in touch with life more intimately.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com