‘Just out of nowhere I felt really really sad’
I have always been extremely happy. When I was 45 my husband left me quite suddenly after 25 years of what I thought was a very happy life. I was miserable but I could cope. After six days I met my current husband and apart from being unhappy I was also in love. But then I turned 47 and two or three months later I felt so miserable. Just out of nowhere I felt really really sad. I had no money, I missed my children, and my work wasn’t going well. It feels like I had to cross some sort of swamp to get to the other side. Now, at the age of 54, I am happy and have been for quite a while. Manon Sikkel, 54, writer, Amsterdam
‘I feel like I’m questioning a lot about life these days’
It’s weird timing that I’m seeing your article now, at the age 47, as I do feel like I’m questioning a lot about life these days. I think a lot about the difference between how I thought life would be and the reality. I became a parent quite late and, to be honest, I do struggle with the practicalities of looking after a pre-schooler. I do love my little girl, but it can often feel like hard work at a time of life when used to think I’d feel less pressured and stressed.
Work-wise, I became self-employed two years ago. Partly because of childcare issues, but also because, working in marketing, I could sense myself losing touch with the latest developments – especially on the social media side. Obviously family time is important and we all need to earn a living, but I suppose this is an age where I think I haven’t achieved what I might have wanted (although I was never totally sure what this was). Or I at least wonder what else I could be doing that might be more fulfilling. It is a funny time of life for me, and I don’t want to moan as I do appreciate there’s not actually anything wrong with my life. Hopefully things will change as my daughter becomes more self-reliant and I can enjoy time with her more. And while I must admit to feeling quite lost now, I think my 50s could be OK. Matt, Birmingham
‘My 40s in general were probably the best period of my life’
Sorry to go against the findings but I would say that my 40s in general were probably the best period of my life. My life changed a lot during my 20s and 30s and I had a lot of fun as a performing musician, but having young kids and being very involved with their development was very satisfying. The relationship with my partner was good and I reached a kind of maturity whilst still retaining most of my energy and enthusiasm for life. I would definitely say I was far more satisfied with life at 47 than I was at 57. Andrew Jarman, 63, works in event production, Seville, Spain
‘I’m not sure where my life is going’
I worry a lot: about money, my kids’ happiness, my marriage, and family issues. I miss my dad who passed away; I have insomnia and I’m not sure where my life is going. I feel so tired that at the end of the day I go to bed before the kids! So I don’t really do anything for me, not anything that I can sustain, anyway, because I’m either with the children, at work or too tired/don’t have enough money. I am unhappy about my home: my husband is a bit of a hoarder and we have a very small house. I hate the clutter as it stresses me out and makes me sad, but he won’t throw anything away. It upsets me. Katie, 47, Sydney
‘It’s that classic midlife realisation that I’ve spent more than 20 years in a career that I don’t really enjoy’
I’ll be 47 in a couple of weeks. Physically I’m in good shape and quite active. However, over the past nine months or so my mental health has been very poor. I’ve had quite severe depression and anxiety attacks. I’ve tried therapy (not very helpful) and am on antidepressants, but feel like I’m really only just keeping my head above water. I haven’t been off work but cannot focus and feel like I’m just going through the motions when I’m there. I don’t socialise as much as I used to, and don’t tend to enjoy it when I do. There are a number of factors that have combined to hit me hard at this age.
I have a job with lots of responsibilities and stress; a parent with dementia and poor health; and the various stresses and strains that go with being a husband and parent. I’m lucky enough not to have financial worries, but even so I find managing my personal finances stressful. Most of all, though, it’s that classic midlife realisation that I’ve spent more than 20 years in a career that I don’t really enjoy or find meaningful or fulfilling, and that the clock is ticking if I want to spend the rest of my life doing things that I love and are important to me. John, London
‘Just before my 47 birthday my husband announced that he was having an affair’
At the time I felt there must be more – that the monotony of existence couldn’t go on. Then, a few weeks before my 47 birthday, my husband announced he was having an affair with his secretary. He packed his things and left. I was pretty cross about him throwing away a 25-year relationship in such a cliched fashion – but a part of me was singing with joy. This was my ‘out’. The following year wasn’t a pleasant one, and I did grieve for what I lost – but I love my new life. I have a home, children, friends, a resurrected career and no miserable old git asking how much my boots cost. I have become much happier. Naomi, Oxfordshire
‘I saw the first symptoms of menopause and had difficulty sleeping’
Ghastly. I was working 12 hours a day to support my family, with a house husband who hated staying at home to look after our two children but couldn’t find a well-paid job. This put a terrible strain on our marriage. I discovered later that he spent his day online in sex chat rooms. I felt unattractive, exhausted from my three-hour commute every day into London, and a bad mother. Not surprisingly, at 49 things came to a head. I ended up having an affair and we divorced when I was 51.
I put on weight through excessive drinking and a lack of exercise. I saw the first symptoms of menopause and had difficulty sleeping. In bed at night I had the sensation of ants crawling over my legs. There were some very dark times when I had massive rows with my husband and walked out of the house, only returning after five or six hours. I have now been in a loving and secure relationship for nine years. Gemma, Dorset
‘I can enjoy my dreadfully dreary and mundane hobbies without fear of what people might think’
I’m generally happier than I’ve ever been. No one told me middle age was so enjoyable. I know who I am and still have enough energy to enjoy life. I have sod all to prove to anyone at this age so I can enjoy my dreadfully dreary and mundane hobbies and activities without fear of what people might think. It’s great. Only down side is my job which is down to a lack of skilled positions in my area – but the pay is ok and it keeps me out of trouble. David, Carlisle
‘I feel like life is slipping by’
At the age of 46.5 I feel quite drained by the daily routine which involves managing a household, two kids and a full-time job. I have come to realise that over the last year or so, every holiday I take is followed by an utmost struggle to fit back into the usual pattern and this has induced me to reflect on the quality of life I live and my expectations. I am obviously a little unsatisfied with how I live even though I have a safe job, I am not overworked, and I have two lovely kids who are great fun and who have happy lives. I feel like life is slipping by and I am not really embracing it wholeheartedly as I am overwhelmed by daily chores. I basically wake up longing for the moment when at the end of the day will go back to bed! Molly, Italy
Some names have been changed