Who’s Cooking Dinner? (The Changing Female Brain)

the changing female brain

‘What’s for dinner?’ asked my youngest son. ‘I have no idea’, I replied. ‘I’m not that kind of Mum anymore’.

Before you castigate me for being a bad mother, this youngest son is actually aged 19 and for a year lived away from home at College on another continent before he flew back to the nest!

Still, it did seem a bit strange even to me. Why had I gone from a stay-at-home Mom who played nurse, taxi, housekeeper, cook and Counsellor to ‘feeling’ almost completely disinterested in these roles?

I started to wonder if maybe I was depressed. But, in fact I was having the time of my life throwing myself into starting a new business with a good friend.

It just seemed that my ‘mojo’ had gone walkabout and found something that was more exciting and ‘fulfilling’ than my old role.

This ‘mojo’ was sticking like glue to what was becoming my ‘passion’ and did not seem keen on going back. It even looked up from its laptop and asked this son, ‘what’s for tea?’ when it heard that rattling pans in the kitchen!

Synchronicity then stormed into my life offering me a book called ‘The Female Brain’ by Louann Brizendine, M.D.

I delved straight into the chapter called ‘The Mature Female Brain’. Ha! What a thrill to discover that my brain was doing exactly what it was hormonally programmed to do, as it enters this large big hormonal phase of its life.

‘A woman becomes less interested in pleasing others and more interested in pleasing herself.’

This was music to my ears! This apparently newly landscaped brain of mine was no longer going to be thrown around by monthly hormonal surges but was morphing into a reliable, well run, less emotionally charged piece of anatomy.


So I was understanding that as these hormones stopped being produced, I was literally changing the way I was perceiving my reality. The changed inner world was creating change in my outer world.

Devouring Dr. Brizendine’s book was like reading a manual on my brain. How it was working and what to expect. And the expectations were looking extremely appealing!

No longer would I be so concerned with the minutia of my emotional life and that of my friends and children. No longer would I feel the need to ‘fix’ everyone.

The drop off in oestrogen led to a matching drop off in oxytocin – the ‘cuddle’ hormone that stimulates a need to ‘nurture’.

Hence my response when asked by my ever-hungry son, why the fridge was almost empty, ‘well clearly no one has been shopping and I am eating out tonight with my friends.’

If my brain is no longer hi-jacked by emotions lassoing itself to nurturing others, it can, wants to and is wired for (so no guilt required here ladies!) creating something new and wonderful in my own life.

On turning 50, that icon of the modern women Oprah Winfrey shared:

“I marvel that at this age I still feel myself expanding, reaching out and beyond the boundaries of self to become more enlightened. In my twenties I thought there was some magical adult age I’d reach (thirty-five, maybe) and my ‘adultness’ would be complete. Funny how that number kept changing over the years, how even at forty, labeled by society as middle-aged, I still felt I wasn’t the adult I knew I could be. Now that my life experiences have transcended every dream and expectation I ever imagined, I know for sure that we have to keep transforming ourselves to become who we ought to be.”

This new knowledge has confirmed for me, what I was already feeling but never quite understood emotionally. That I was now free to follow my passions, embrace the positive aspects of this physiological enforced ‘Change’ and live my life full out.

On some level, it feels as though there is a part of me that has been patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) waiting to arrive at this change in my inner terrain so that I could surge forwards into an unknown but expansive and exciting territory.

Adventures beckon…I have a whole new stage of life to lead and this time, it’s about me and I’m OK with that.

Photo by Andreas Øverland

23 thoughts on “Who’s Cooking Dinner? (The Changing Female Brain)”

  1. Oh, I just felt like shouting Hallelujah, or something similar when reading this post!
    My boys are now 17 and 19 and I am feeling as if I am finally waking up from a long foggy dream and suddenly there is life awaiting all around. And oh, the guilt! I am so with you on the ‘Cooking? But I don’t feel like cooking, cook something yourself, I’m busy’ thing.
    My kids are a bit taken aback and a bit flabbergasted at this person their mum is becoming and shake their heads, but hey, that’s life, isn’t it? :D
    And I am going to track down that book as well.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are welcome Susy! You might also like an interview with Psychologist and Neuroscientist Dr. Lynda Shaw about just this topic! We recorded it just this morning and it will be up by the end of the week.

  2. After many years of raising three children, cooking and doing all the things you mentioned, I too am ready for something new. That is good news to hear that Dr. Brizendine’s book verifies what many of us are feeling. Time to find and focus on what we love to do is healing. Take care.

    1. Hi Cathy!

      Embrace it! Science says we should expect to feel this way. The Oxytocin has shut down and we are lucky enough to be able to the third phase of our lives with vigour and knowledge. Our fun and riveting interview with Dr. Lynda Shaw spills the beans and explains why we are wired this way.

      Enjoy your years Cathy!

  3. Eek! I couldn’t help but feel after I read this, that this is an excuse to be selfish.

    I raised a son to the age of fifteen as a single mother and a step child from age ten whose mother left him. From a young age I’ve cared for others, from caring for my brother in the absence of a selfish, drunken mother at age nine, to cooking and cleaning an entire house because my mother just didn’t care anymore.

    I went on to become a nurse and have nurtured and cared for many people in addition to my own family. Now it’s just my husband and I, and quite honestly, I miss caring for my kids who are 26 and 21 years old and out on their own. Although I have many interests, I hate having an empty nest.

    There are nights I’m not up for cooking either, but I still make something most nights of the week and serve it to my husband. He appreciates my efforts and it’s how I thank him for all he does. It’s just what I do to say I love you to my family.

    Dare I say in today’s day and age that I enjoy being a housewife, mother and hopefully soon, a grandmother? I do! I love caring for others and although it’s great to unplug and take time for ourselves, I can’t help but feel sorry for women who are like this.


    1. Hi Robin!

      Thanks for sharing. You have clearly made a great success of your life, despite being dealt a very difficult hand. I totally respect and admire your choices.

      In our recent interview with Neuroscientist, Psychologist and ‘woman of a certain age’, Dr. Lynda Shaw, she emphasises that it is really important for each of us to feel comfortable with the choices we make throughout our lives.

      Lynda also points out that as women in the menopause, we don’t stop caring, but when our family have left the nest, we often take the opportunity to direct our ‘caring’ outside of the home. This is why many of us in these years want to again, find meaning and purpose. Hence we begin a new project or want to become involved with charities.

      For myself, the freedom from domestic duties has allowed me to embrace the world of business and create a web TV show to connect with fascinating and diverse people and so, encourage discussions such as this.


  4. What a fascinating read! I can totally relate to this – being a mum of three (my eldest is 21yrs). I was totally unaware that this was a natural phase. It makes for an interesting discussion then with regards to mothers who chose to have children at an older age, and also in terms of older women in the workplace or venturing into entrepreneurship. I’ll be sharing this with all my female friends & reading the book! BTW looking forward to the interview with Dr Lynda Shaw.

    1. Thank you for sharing Jane! You will definitely enjoy the book and our interview with Dr. Lynda Shaw.

      In an ‘off camera’ discussion we had with Lynda she explains that in past generations women in their fifties were already grandmothers and so the oxytocin (cuddle hormone) kept flowing. These days it tends to be a little later, or the grandchildren are not necessarily living nearby.

      Since reading my blog post my own sons keep trying to cuddle me to get the oxytocin flowing again and so that I might get back in the kitchen – no chance!


  5. Yes! My mind is at a completely different place than it was 10 years ago. I’m definitely more concerned with my personal and spiritual development than with what’s for dinner or whether the carpet is vacuumed. Glad to know I’m not alone. :)

    1. You are never alone Sage! (bit of spiritual advice there!)

      Seriously Sage, we are blessed today that in the Western world we can allow ourselves space to focus on what gives us meaning and purpose in our lives.

      The collective consciousness has expanded so greatly that many of us feel unable to ignore the draw towards developing our own spiritual growth. (I have been teaching yoga for 12 years).

      This of course is not exclusive to certain age groups. However it does seem to have a little more ‘pull’ as the years go.

      Enjoy yourself Sage – would love to hear how your personal and spiritual development go!

  6. Aha! So that’s what’s going on! I wondered what was behind this new enlightened version of myself! :D
    What a fabulous phase of life, that time when after years of giving everything we’ve got to our family, we can finally start to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves some of that love and nurturing we’ve so freely given to others! It’s most liberating. And in being less focussed on everyone else and more giving to myself, I find I’m happier, more confident and wayyyyy less stressed. This in turn has a positive effect on everyone around me – so it’s a win/win situation! Great read!

  7. i have read that book you mentioned, it was a good read and yes it helps in understanding why we sometimes change our preferences, there is also another book by the same author called the male brain, both were informative
    thanks for the post

  8. I completely agree with this: A woman becomes less interested in pleasing others and more interested in pleasing herself. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be “selfish” for once or to try to better your own goals. Females can still be nurturing and caring while doing what empowers them to feel invigorated and happy.

    And in regards to cooking all the time, doing dishes, laundry, chores, etc. It’s ok to finally ask for some help or get participation. Recently, my husband started making dinner on Thursday’s due to him working from home and it’s made my life so much easier having a break.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thank you Sarah!

    Thankfully we live in times when it is acceptable for family members to share chores and indeed having varying skill sets helps to build confidence in ourselves, both men and women.

    In fact I find that if I ask for help it is given very willingly as everyone in the household (my kids are adults) knows that it is unreasonable to ‘expect’ one person to do everything. Though they still might hope!!!

    best wishes and thank you for sharing Sarah – enjoy those Thurs night dinners!


  10. Thanks for this wonderful wonderful post. I was tagged by a friend, god bless her! I was wondering if it was only me, but good to know there are others like me. I love the quote about completing adulthood. I think we all assume we will stop ‘growing’ learning more… Thank goodness it does not work that way.and now we have proof too!

    1. So glad that you found the info helpful Suchismita. Dr. Lynda Shaw emphasized to us that the brain loves to learn and it is important to grow new neural pathways by having fresh and diverse experiences.

      As we age, we need to check that we are not sticking too much to routine of doing the ‘same old’. Challenge, at any time of life, helps us to grow and move beyond our fears. I have come to learn that obstacles are mere stepping stones towards my success.

      For myself, I like to spend plenty of time hanging out with my ‘inner child’ and having lots of fun experiences. As Dr. Lynda Shaw says, don’t take life or yourself too seriously!

      So have a fun time whatever you do Suchismita! Thanks for sharing.


  11. Uh-oh, that might explain why my bestfriend-lover-wife kind of zones out, of late… got to keep her stocked with a healthy supply of Oxytocin (how do you do that???) ‘coz I need her cuddle in heaps… am befuddled and upset and angry and desolate when she is this way…

    Let her take to wing alright but dear God, let her also come back soon…

    1. Hello Deekay,
      I hope you don’t mind me replying to your post, but it’s been such a great thread that I felt compelled to join in.
      We stimulate oxytocin many ways including eye contact, smiling at one another, holding hands, even shaking hands. Of course, this is in abundance when we are nurturing our young. But the supply continues at various levels depending on our circumstances. As already said, once our children have grown we look outside the nest to fulfil our needs.
      Grandchildren bring back those nurturing feelings if we see enough of them. But these days a lot of people have already started to reinvent themselves by the time the next generation come along which is great, because we then have the best of all worlds.
      Of course, for some this is a different story. We just need to recognise who we are and follow our path.
      You didn’t mention how old or at what stage your best friend/lover/wife is, so it’s hard for me to comment properly and I can feel your frustration.
      The thing to remember is this. Women need kindness and the opportunity to talk about all sorts of things. Women need to feel safe to express themselves honestly. So if you reassure her that you love her and do little things that make her feel you care (remembering her favourite food or flowers), the cuddles will come back. Try not to overwhelm her though, patience is important here.
      I know women seem far to complicated to a man’s way of thinking, but talking to one another will make things much clearer.
      Good luck and well done for posting your perspective.

  12. So my partner of 14 years turns 50 this year and has hit menopause. A few weeks ago she suddenly announces she done with the relationship, she’s sick of taking care of people (it’s just me & the pets–no kids) and no longer finds me attractive. She moves out and buys another house in less than 8 weeks. My question: after menopause settles down, will the nurturing loving person i knew be interested in restoring the relationship, or is the rewiring of the female brain permanent and there’s no hope of her “getting back that loving feeling.”

    have other people lost their loved one while they went through this? did you get them back?


  13. Hello Em,

    The menopause manifests in different ways for many women. This blog has discussed quite a few of the various chemical changes that can result in an emotional roller-coaster and life changing decisions. But there is another way of looking at this that is purely a numbers game – 50! A lot of people find this milestone hugely significant and that goes for both men and women. At the age of 50 it is highly likely that we are over half way through our lives and this realisation brings many questions about how we want to spend the rest of our time on this earth.
    There is no doubt that hormones settle down, but I have no way of knowing if this will restore your relationship. Communication is the key. Try to talk things through properly. This may take several attempts. If the conversation gets heated, gently leave it and revisit the topic another day.
    In your 14 years together I’m sure you have had some wonderful times and this is a delightful foundation to remain kind and respectful of one another. If you can both achieve this whilst navigating the storm perhaps your marriage will come out stronger than it was before. The only way you will find out is through honesty, kindness and talking.
    Good luck Em.

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