Susan, left, with Deborah

 

Midlife Moments'

Midlifer of the Week

Susan Raskin

A Time for Vibrancy

by Mike Bellah

  "Midlife women are leading complicated lives," says 49-year-old Susan Raskin. "Yet there's a dearth of information and support for them." To remedy the situation Raskin and Deborah Potashnik (a psychotherapist and a first cousin to Raskin) have founded Prime Choices, a Maryland-based women's center for midlife development.

In a recent online interview, Raskin tells me that part of the reason she and Potashnik founded the organization is a lack of role models for this time in a woman's life. "Our mothers generally expected at age 50 to sit back, have grandchildren to enjoy, and be taken care of by their spouses." But, according to Raskin, times have changed. "People live longer and healthier; one-half of the population is divorced; one-half of the workforce is populated by women. Women have many more decisions to make, information to know about, and a sense of independence that our mothers never had or chose to have."

Thus, Prime Choices does more than discuss the traditional topics of menopause and empty nest syndrome (although these are dealt with). "We address the total midlife woman, her interests and needs," says Raskin. According to Raskin, these interests include sexuality, career and job transitions, business matters, involvement with and care of children and elderly parents, and society's images of the midlife woman.

Raskin says that midlife can be a particularly stressful time for women. "One big stressor that we find among our clients relates to legal and financial issues," she says. "Talking to educated, 'tuned-in' women we are shocked at how many of these women, many divorced, haven't a clue about financial issues, retirement plans, living wills and IRA's. They need to be educated."

Raskin says that midlife women also stress over relationships. "Relationships change in a marriage when children are grown (Raskin and Potashnik each have grown daughters) and not the central focus of the family, and suddenly these two people have to get to really know and enjoy each other again without outside distractions." For Raskin herself, time and distance have added stress to her own marriage. "Because of our work, my husband and I live in two different cities during the week," she says, "so our time together is little and often not quality. Keeping our relationship together has been a difficult challenge."

Yet, despite the difficulties, Raskin and Potashnik are upbeat about midlife. "I spent the last 16 years living in southern Appalachia," says Raskin, "while Debbie has lived in New York City and Washington, DC; neither of us have encountered hordes of women who turned gray inside and out. Perhaps their hair has changed color, or their skin and body are less toned, but usually they are vibrant, interesting women who each has something special to contribute to their family or society around them."

It is interesting that Raskin uses the word vibrant, for it is just the adjective I would use to describe her attitude, which is contagious even online. "I think it is interesting that women have few examples in movies of strong, vibrant, midlife women," she says. "The latest blockbusters have older men and young women as their co-stars. Midlife women are leaders; they are on the jogging and biking trails; they are committed to various public service organizations; they are becoming mentors for younger women."

Raskin's message (which she is living out as well as putting in words) is certainly one we need to hear. To learn about their seminars and workshops or to subscribe to their newsletter, you may contact Prime Choices at www.prime-choices.com.

 
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