I was recently sipping coffee with three old friends, all of us ‘women of a certain age’, when an interesting question arose. One friend asked if we start to lose our caring genes as we go through the menopause.

The younger of us wondered what she meant. But the oldest of the group could identify with it. She explained that with our children becoming independent and starting to fly the nest, we’ll be able to concentrate more on ourselves. We’ll never lose our ‘mummy-gene’ of course, we’ll always worry about them, but they will no longer be our primary focus. Furthermore, she said, we’ll be happy to just leave our partners to get on with their own thing, preferably out of our sight. The first friend, who’d just converted a spare bedroom into a den for her husband, his computer and his brewing gear, smiled in agreement.

Does this explain the eternal attraction of a garden shed where a man can potter to his heart’s content? Or the number of female writers who desire a summer house to use as a writing retreat? It used to be that retirement was considered the time when couples had to readjust to each other. But with more and more people working flexibly or facing redundancy the chance of both partners being in the home, and our patience becoming tested, is increasing.

So what can we do? My friend’s idea of creating separate space is a good one. Some women have craft rooms to hide their burgeoning stash of fabric, yarn or other craft materials. Think of it as our equivalent of the kids’ playroom. Others like their partner to escape outside. When my father took early retirement his garden became his pride and joy, where he spent many happy hours, giving my mother some space.

Although I sometimes work downstairs, with my laptop perched on the coffee table, I have a proper writing desk upstairs too. There I can distance myself from my husband, who is currently applying for jobs seated at the dining table. But one of my favourite escapes is a visit to a coffee shop. It’s amazing just how long an Americano can last whilst I am reading, writing or just people-watching for future story inspiration. And while I’m there I really don’t care what my husband is doing.

Now where’s that catalogue of garden sheds for him?

First published on In The Powder Room

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