Belfast Telegraph

Forget the thirtysomething stereotypes, ladies, age is just a number

By Claire Harrison

What's it like to be a woman at the age of 36? Is it the most stressful time in our lives - or is it instead the entry to a golden era when we finally feel confident and completely comfortable in our own skin?

As I speed towards an impending 37th birthday, I'm fascinated to know why 36 has emerged as an age of such interest to various researchers and experts who have pinpointed it as a key turning point for many women.

The most recent focus was in a survey which found 36 is the most stressful time in any woman's life because it is when career ambitions and child-rearing duties are most likely to clash. Dublin psychologist Allison Keating says women in their mid-30s struggle "to try and have it all" and can buckle under the weight.

"Women are doing everything for the family and for their work, but they are not looking after themselves properly, which results in anxiety, depression and stress," she says.

"I see a lot of burnout among 36-year-olds. The words I always hear are 'I'm absolutely exhausted'."

Allison also points out that for women who don't have children, 36 is a year when a ticking biological clock becomes deafening and that, too, causes stress.

Then, at the other end of the survey scale, you have the fashionista view that 36 is what's known as the 'year-zero face'.

Apparently when older women are considering surgery, that's the age they should aim for. Anything younger will make you look ridiculous - 36 is fresh enough yet comes with an air of experience and confidence.

The results of these surveys are hard to take seriously given how impossible it is to pigeonhole entire swathes of women who happen to be the same age. Some of my peers were mothers at a young age and are only now starting to think about a career. There are others still looking for love, hoping for motherhood, or not giving a toss about having children. Some have a huge brood, a demanding job and personality well suited to coping with all of that. There are single mothers, happy stay at home mothers, those with fantastic support and those without.

You just have to look to celeb-land to see the different paths life can take you on before the age of 36. Katie Price is a mother of five who is on her third marriage and appears to have no problem juggling an admittedly successful but tawdry career with her kids. Comfortable in her own skin? Clearly not, given the regular surgery.

Princess Charlene of Monaco has found motherhood at the age of 36 and, despite having infant twins, has a new air of serenity not seen since before she hooked up with Prince Albert.

Then there's Myleene Klass and Katie Holmes - both coping well with single motherhood and high profile careers. Michelle Rodriguez, on the other hand, is footloose and clearly enjoying a fancy free lifestyle.

In my own case, I've no idea which stereotype of this mythical 36-year-old woman I match most closely. I'm a full-time working mother with all the stresses and strains that entails.

And yes I've made different decisions about my job since I became a mother, not to my own benefit.

Do I suddenly feel comfortable with how I look? Not really, nor have I ever felt particularly uncomfortable since my teens. Thirty-six is not a bad age to be, a bit boring compared to 26, but we all have to calm down eventually. And I sure as hell wouldn't take on 16 for a second time.

Keaton the fall guy for online daftness

Michael Keaton is the toast of Hollywood as the Birdman actor does the rounds of the movie awards after earning countless nominations for his performance. After picking up an Oscar nomination and a Critics’ Choice Award on the same day, you’d think that’s what people would talk about.

But he was instead making headlines for falling off the stage at one ceremony. Cue lots of internet lists of other celebs falling over on stage. You’ve got footage of the likes of Bono tumbling over (cos he got too close to the Edge, geddit?) and Jennifer Lopez being cushioned from a fall by her acclaimed bottom. Ah, there just aren’t enough hours in a day to watch silly online videos.

Coleen’s snooping is a real turn-off

Coleen Nolan has a disturbing interest in her son’s sex life. The Loose Women presenter sparked headlines recently when she revealed that her son Shane accidentally left a message on her phone when he inadvertently called it during the throes of passion. Most mothers, on realising what it was, would have turned it off immediately.

What did Coleen do? Listen to the entire four-minute recording, embarrass his girlfriend by playing it to her, and then tell the world she was “dead impressed” by his stamina. Why on earth would any mother find that appropriate — unless she desperately needed something controversial to share with the Loose Women audience?

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