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Why I hate World Menopause Day

Author: Michelle Fitzsimons

There I said it!

In March 2018 I delivered some management training to an all-male group who were struggling with the concept of discussing poor mental health. They were nervous because they didn’t understand, didn’t know what to say or what they could ask and had been scared by a message from the business. Apparently if someone was ill with poor mental health they couldn’t talk to them about it because they were protected. What a load of absolute nonsense – the talking bit that is!

Now I could have a good rant here as to why companies have found themselves in a position where dealing with mental health has been and still is really difficult. I am asked frequently about how to support those in need without falling victim to those abusing compassion.  That’s for another day though. Let’s just acknowledge that introducing the subject of mental health into the workplace hasn’t always gone smoothly and is an ongoing challenge.

Back in March 2018 I admit I got a bit frustrated with their reluctance to just ask “How are you doing?”  We weren’t getting the point of digging deep, just “how are you?” so, never been known for my patience I made an announcement.

“You need to get a hang of this because the next thing will be menopause”

Talk about tumble weed and pins dropping. It was hilarious.

Roll forward a few years and I would bet good money on those same managers currently being subject to a training course about menopause and being equally as unwilling to ask the question “How are you?”

What am I rambling on about? Well, this week we have had #worldmenopauseday and along with it a flood of articles and comments about the symptoms, challenges, ignorance and reluctance to face into the subject. We have also heard about how so few companies have a menopause policy.

If you are smugly patting yourself on the back at this point because you already have a policy here’s the truth. A menopause policy on it’s own will not fix the problem. It will not make us ladies of a certain age better. It certainly won’t ease any symptoms, make us feel supported and valued or ensure you get the best out of us as your employees. Yes, it might give guidance and it will certainly tick a box if you like box ticking.  What it will do is create exactly what we have seen in businesses everywhere relating to mental health and that is an ignorance and fear of talking openly about peoples’ issues because if it’s to do with the menopause then they “have rights” or “are protected”.

Can we please stop getting hung on labels and policies and instead concentrate on having a damn good conversation with trust, compassion, boundaries and curiosity.  It doesn’t matter if you have someone struggling with the flu, depression, anxiety, grief, pregnancy or indeed menopause “how are you doing?” Is a really good place to start.

It doesn’t matter that you might not have experienced the same thing, just acknowledge that and ask.

During the last 3 strengths coaching sessions we have facilitated there have been some gorgeous conversations about an ADHD diagnosis, dyslexia, bereavement, stress and yep menopause. All without a policy, #nationalday or celebrity sharing their story in sight.

Oh and by the way you might as well start talking about the challenges of the squeezed generation while you tackle everything else that will be the next big thing, we can have a day for and write some more policies about.

Rant over

PS a short fuse is a well recognised symptom of the menopause ?

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