"Following in their mother's footsteps": expressing kin relations through menopausal experience
Isabel de Salis (University of Bristol)
Amanda Owen-Smith (University of Bristol)
Paper short abstract:
Women express the quality of their female kin relations through their differing or similar menopausal experiences, revealing as much about their relations to their kin and non-kin as they do about menopause. These findings are based on repeat in-depth interviews with 48 UK mothers.
Paper long abstract:
Menopausal women describe "following in their mother's footsteps", hoping or fearing they will share their mother's easy or disabling experience. Some women invoke their mothers' easy time to contrast themselves and their kin from other women's difficulties during menopause. In contrast, some women do not perceive menopausal experience as inherited and some adamantly distance themselves from their mothers' menopausal dramas or troubles. Most women feel sure that their daughters will have a similar menopause to themselves, often citing their similar puberty. Explanations for similar and differing experiences included inherited personality traits, physiology and physique, and environmental factors such as diet and exercise. Often the bodily process of this transmission was vague although sometimes hormones were used to express changing kin relations: hormones depleting when husbands depart or daughters leave home. Women did not feel their mother's experience necessarily determined their own, but were likely to feel responsible for determining their daughters' future menopausal problems. Importantly, quality of relationship seemed to influence how closely a woman's experience of menopause followed her mother's and would affect her daughter. Women were especially critical and disparaging of the menopausal symptoms and behaviours of non-kin, and of close kin they disliked. These findings are based on repeat in-depth interviews with 48 UK mothers about their experiences and perceptions of menopause. They reveal as much about women's relations to their kin and non-kin as they do about menopause. It is evident that kinship is still active in shaping life course narratives, in this case menopause.
Re-conceptualising kinship and relatedness in an ageing world [MAN]