A popular podcast for women navigating middle age has attracted contributions from celebs like Elizabeth Hurley, Marian Keyes and Caitlin Moran. Ex-magazine editors Lorraine Candy and Trish Halpin share the genesis of the project, and why they believe it has struck a chord for so many women
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘midlife crisis’, and while some may assume that everyone is going to have a wild rebellious phase or an emotional and physical breakdown once they hit their fifth decade, this doesn’t have to be the case as former magazine editors, Lorraine Candy and Trish Halpin, can attest to.
With their successful careers and private lives, the pair, both in their early 50s, have plenty of life experience between them. They also have discovered that one of the best weapons in the fight against middle-aged despair is communication — the realisation that you are not alone in your thoughts, worries and experiences.
In 2020 they began a podcast called Postcards from Midlife and recently released a book of the same name, both in which they discuss topics that are of importance to women over 40, relaying stories from their own lives and also talking to some well-known faces.
Lorraine says: “It was about creating a new narrative for women over 40, because for so long it’s been about how we are somehow worth less when we hit this age, when in fact, we have more value and more to give society. It is also about pointing women in the right direction of services, advice and activities which will make them happy.”
Trish adds: “We had no idea how much impact the podcast would have and how willing high-profile and celebrity women would be to share their intimate experiences of relationships, parenting, careers, identity and menopause.”
Trish’s parents are both from Ireland — Galway and Clare to be precise. She says: “By opening up the conversation, we’ve empowered so many women to feel more confident in asking for help. We have also created an incredible community on our private Facebook Group, where members share their own midlife experiences and offer help, support — and a lot of laughter — to each other. It’s like suddenly discovering thousands of wonderful, like-minded girlfriends.”
Both of the presenters have lived busy lives with partners, children and fulfilling careers and say hitting midlife came as something of a shock.
“In my mid to late 40s I began to feel overwhelmed all the time, angry and emotional, and suffering terrible brain fog, which gave me a crisis of confidence,” says Trish. “I put it down to life being super hectic all the time with the job and two children, but I didn’t acknowledge that I had managed all of this absolutely fine up until this point.
“A huge turning point in my midlife was leaving the world of glossy magazines in 2019 as my identity really was tied up with it and it took a while to uncouple myself.
“I wasn’t sure what I would do next, but I thought I needed to have a plan. Lorraine and I started the podcast as a little side hustle and had no idea that it would become such a success, or that we could earn a living from it. So, now I’m all about going with the flow and trusting that life will bring opportunities and I’ve learned to live much more in the present rather than always thinking about what’s next and the future.
“My twins are nearly 18 and this time next year I’ll have an empty nest (hopefully) which is going to be another huge adjustment. But I feel excited and ready for this next life stage into my late 50s and beyond.”
Since the series began, many well-known women including Elizabeth Hurley, Mary McCartney, Sadie Frost and our very own Marian Keyes have joined the duo to discuss their experience of midlife and as time has gone on, a common thread has evolved.
“Davina McCall is a friend of mine,” says Lorraine (53). “She broke down on one of our shows and started crying because, like us, she had been messaged by women who were in desperate and dark places, women who told her they didn’t think their lives were worth living if they had to go on feeling so low and so lost physically and mentally.
“Now she often pops onto our private Facebook group to help other women in that kind of situation. She is so knowledgeable now and can always point people in the right direction.”
“Some of our guests included TV presenters Anna Richardson and Kate Thornton,” adds Trish. “Anna told us a truly tragic story of her grandmother committing suicide in her early 50s. And Marian Keyes talked very openly about the mental health struggles she had in her 40s and 50s.
“She said to us, ‘I’m well into menopause, and devoted to HRT. I have really bad arthritis in my fingers, my mother has it and I inherited it. But with the arrogance of youth, I thought I would never get it, but you don’t get a say in these things.
Marian also pointed out: “Menopausal women are mocked. It signifies the end of abundant, fertile lushness, and you’ve crossed the line into haggard, desiccated old witchery.”
Trish, who is ambassador of the Women’s Irish Network in London, which was started by her cousin Mary Clancy Hatch, says we can all help ourselves to navigate midlife with more ease.
“Give yourself permission to put yourself first,” she says. “This is very hard to do when you are juggling career and family, but you really need to allow yourself time for daily exercise (even a 15-minute walk will do), some rest and relaxation and having fun (if you can remember that). As my son once said to me: ‘Mum you’re the MVP (most valuable player) in our family, so look after yourself like one’.
“So I’ve actually found hitting my 50s to be a really liberating time as my 30s was about establishing my career, home and having babies; my 40s felt like a hard slog maintaining the career while bringing up my twins and going through the whole schooling system and all that comes with that, from weekend sports to teenage meltdowns and friendship dramas. And it was during my 40s that I started to feel like I had less energy and joy for life, as well as concentration lapses and terrible mood swings too.
“But my 50s have felt like a breeze. I feel fitter, stronger and more relaxed than I have in a long time.”
Lorraine, whose first book ‘Mum, What’s Wrong with You?’: 101 Things Only Mothers of Teenage Girls Know was published last year, agrees and says she is looking forward to the future: “The podcast has been such a surprise success and the community we have built around it feels so empowering,” she says. “I have been able to spend more time with my 10-year-old and I took up wild swimming five years ago, completing a relay across Lake Geneva (70km wide). So midlife has been a realisation that a second act is liberating — you don’t have to follow boundaries that society sets for you.”
Other subjects they will be tackling in 2022 include empty-nest syndrome, nutrition and midlife, sex and relationships, career changes or transitions in midlife and many other familiar faces will also be on board offering their own insight into this important stage of life.
Trish and Lorraine’s five things you know if you’re a woman in midlife.
⬤ You’ve stopped caring what anyone thinks of you, you speak your mind and ‘not giving a damn’ is your new superpower.
⬤ You forget about looking younger and instead focus on ageing better. You want to look and feel the best version of yourself now, not the 30-year-old you once were.
⬤ You don’t sweat the small stuff. If you’re a parent of teens you have probably worked out by now that no matter how many times you ask, the wet towels will never make it off their bedroom floors.
⬤ You learn to pick your battles.
⬤ You’ve finally learned to say ‘no’.
Postcards from Midlife can be found on most podcast providers — Apple, Acast, Spotify and Amazon music, or on postcardsfrommidlife.com
⬤ Columnist Caitlin Moran: “I had presumed I’d done all of the hard stuff, suddenly you are the fifth emergency service, because if you are a halfway sorted middle-aged woman, you’re the one who gets the call, email or knock on the door and notices there is a problem. It’s like we’re freelance trouble shooters.”
⬤ Accessories designer Anya Hindmarch: “Giving yourself time out and some headspace is a really important thing to do and an investment in your family and your career.”
⬤ TV presenter Kate Thornton: “It’s like someone broke in, pulled all my wires out and stole my hard drive, wiped my memory, kicked me about a bit and then left. It’s like being burgled.”
⬤ Photographer Mary McCartney: “I’ve discovered as I get into midlife that I really hate people telling me what to do, it can take quite a long time to find your own voice and confidence.”
⬤ Producer Emma Freud (Comic Relief): “In my 20s and 30s I was endlessly trying to please and then there comes a moment when you think ‘I Haven’t got that much longer to go, I might as well do this for me’.”
⬤ Make-up artist Bobbi Brown: “Don’t be afraid about what people think of you, you have to be fearless and say ‘I don’t know how to do this’ or ‘I need help with that’.”