Jill Shaw Ruddock writes an upbeat menopause manual
By Candice Krieger, February 10, 2011
Good news for women. While the menopause may be accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms, it should, in fact, be the most enjoyable time of our life.
This is according to former investment banker Jill Shaw Ruddock, the author of a new book which guides women through the key issues they face after the menopause. Titled The Second Half of Your Life (Vermilion), it features interviews with more than 50 influential women – including Ruby Wax, Sheila Hancock and Dame Vivienne Westwood – advising how the reader can make “the second half of their life the best half”.
Mrs Shaw Ruddock, 55, tells People: “I wrote the book because I went through the menopause and didn’t know what was happening to me. I researched it and realised that instead of a curse, it is actually a gift. We are in a position to change the view of how we age, making it synonymous with creativity and an active lifestyle. Once women have put the menopause behind them, they can focus on themselves and become the person they want to be.”
The mother-of-two, who lives in Holland Park, west London, says this can be achieved through five key objectives: cultivate a passion, find a greater purpose than yourself, exercise, eat well, and stay connected to family, friends and your community.
American-born Mrs Shaw Ruddock ran the London office of investment bank Alex Brown & Sons before leaving in 1999. This is her first book.
So, how else can we make the second half of our life the best? “Live adventurously,” says Sheila Hancock; “Get over yourself,” says Ruby Wax. “Whatever you’ve achieved, everyone’s forgotten about it already, so the only person you have to answer to is yourself.” And, Mrs Shaw Ruddock’s favourite comes from producer and author Jane Walmsley: “Keep reminding yourself that whoever said: ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good’, had a point.”
“The Second Half of Your Life – part self-help manual and part scientific treatise. She’s great on financial advice and inspiring in her unrelenting optimism on behalf of older women.” Alison Roberts
Why women need to get ready for the menopause in their thirties
2 Feb 2011
At the age of 48, Jill Shaw Ruddock found herself visiting her doctor with symptoms of depression.
She felt strange, “shaken”, as though she was no longer fully in control of her life.
And for Ruddock – once one of the most powerful women in the City of London, a woman who juggled her career and family with confidence and precision – that was a very unusual feeling.
“I really didn’t understand what was happening to me,” she says now, her American accent – she grew up in Baltimore – unaffected by almost 30 years of living in London.
“In fact, I’d spent the previous four years wondering who had invaded my body and mind…”
The doctor took a blood sample and when he phoned back with the test results asked when she’d had her last period. “I told him I had no idea. Was I menopausal?” He said no and for a happy moment, Ruddock thought she might be pregnant again.
But then he dropped a bombshell – she wasn’t menopausal, she was post-menopausal. “He told me there wasn’t a trace of oestrogen left in my blood.
“I don’t think I’m stupid,” she continues. “But I’d been completely clueless about the changes going on in my body. Death and the menopause are the last great taboos. Not even the closest of friends, women who talk about everything else, talk about it.”
But that’s where the bad news ended. As time went on, Ruddock began to notice that “the changes weren’t just physical but cerebral. I began to look around and to see how many women over 50, 60 and 70 were starting again with a new clarity of vision and a new purpose to their lives. I started to research the brain to see if I could unearth any scientific evidence for it.”
And so emerged her new book, The Second Half of Your Life – part self-help manual and part scientific treatise, a kind of DIY guide to, well, whatever the post-menopausal woman wants to do with her next 40-odd years.
In Ruddock’s nifty rather New Age-y little phrase, her book is about “leaving behind the woman who can give birth and finding the woman who can give birth to herself”.
Ruddock, it should be said, lives a life surrounded by wealth and high culture. Before retiring from the City at the age of 44 to devote her time to fundraising for the theatre, particularly the Donmar Warehouse and children’s charity Mousetrap Theatre Projects, she headed the London office of US investment bank Alex Brown & Sons.
Now 55, she is married to 53-year-old Paul Ruddock, co-founder of hedge fund Lansdowne Partners, a man reportedly worth more than £250 million who in his spare time chairs the board of the V&A.
They live in Notting Hill and have two teenage daughters, Sophie and Isabella. “The menopause,” says Ruddock, “like having kids, is a great equaliser. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a council estate or a castle, if you live long enough you’re going to go through it. It’s a signpost to the road ahead – and the road ahead is bloody brilliant.”
She says that as women stop producing oestrogen and progesterone, the hormones responsible among other things for regulating metabolism and keeping us slim, they stop focusing on all things associated with fertility and motherhood.
“Oestrogen makes sure we do what we were put on earth to do: procreate, continue the species, look after the children, keep the peace,” she says.
“Without it, women start to look outside the family for a purpose. They start to think about themselves, rediscover their passions and find out what they really want.”
At roughly the same age, men are also going through physical changes, albeit less extreme. They lose testosterone (the midlife Harley Davidson is indeed a form of denial) and essentially starting to converge, hormonally, with their wives.
“A 60-year-old man has more oestrogen in his body than a 60-year-old woman, so after being king of the castle for so long, all of a sudden he wants to come home and cook with you and walk the dog with you. Which you, all of a sudden, might not want at all.”
All of this, Ruddock maintains, is important now because the baby boomer generation, of which she is part, is apparently going to live to an undreamt-of age.
Today’s 50-year-old woman has a life expectancy of 96 – she will be post-menopausal almost as long as she is not – and since most of us don’t have squillions in the bank, we’d better start working out how to “thrive, rather than simply survive” during our senior years.
Interestingly, younger women who try to “have it all” are best placed to exploit the opportunities of post-menopausal life.
“When women start a family, they should keep working for as long as they can, until it really becomes unbearable,” Ruddock stresses.
“I think some give up the fight too early, almost from the moment they’re pregnant. The longer you work, the more successful you are, the more success becomes wired into your DNA. That helps with everything – your marriage, running the PTA meeting, dealing with the repair man, whatever. It also helps when you go back to work after your children are grown up.”
In fact, she thinks “women really need to start preparing for post-menopausal life in their late thirties and early forties”.
At times Ruddock sounds a bit old-fashioned, very much a product of that post-war generation – she maintains that the man should always pay for everything on a date and that a woman should never call a man in the first month of their relationship – but as you’d expect she’s great on financial advice and inspiring in her unrelenting optimism on behalf of older women.
She is also a fine advertisement for her own health-conscious credo. She eats extraordinarily healthy things such as flax seed, soya and (her secret dieting tip) cider vinegar in warm water; she does Dynamic Pilates (more aerobic than the conventional kind) six times a week and as a result looks fabulously slim and toned. Would she ever have cosmetic surgery? Ruddock pauses.
“Would I? I guess if I was on fire or something. But it’s not on my radar. I’m 55, I have wrinkles. I’m a realist. Women who become obsessed with their appearance become too obsessed with it, if you see what I mean. You need to fix your soul before you fix the outside.”
And luckily, it seems, we’ll have four decades to do the fixing. “I’m completely passionate about this,” says the capable, ballsy Ruddock. “I really do want women to find themselves again in the second half of their lives. It’s my absolute driving force.”
“Every now and again, a women’s book comes along that promises to change our thinking forever. In the Sixties it was Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl; in the early Seventies, Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch hit the spot, and later on, Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room got us all talking about why we put up with bad treatment from men.”
“The Ruddock dynamo, has definitely set something in motion. I say to Ruddock, bring on the granny boomers.”
Jill Shaw Ruddock, author of an inspirational new book, tells Victoria Lambert why we all have choices about the second half of our lives.
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