A Life Changes At 40

For some women, the idea of recreating their lives in midlife is a dream that may seem daunting, even impossible. But it can be done.

Tracey Rechtin, 41, re-invented both her personal and professional lives in the space of one year.

Peggy Northrop, editor in chief of More magazine, visited The Early Show to say that everyone is capable of making a transition, whether it's big or small.

"Even if it's a small change, it pretty much always feel likes a big change to you," Northrop told co-anchor Rene Syler. "I think the internal shift that women make at this time in their lives is bigger than anything that happens on the outside. You really do change a lot. You re-evaluate your life and look at what's working, what isn't."

Syler suggested that changes also come in your values and the things in which you believe and for which you stand.

In Rechtin's case, she had both an involuntary change and a voluntary change. She was laid off from her job of 18 years (in a company downsizing) and, at the age of 40, she decided to adopt a baby.

Rechtin said it was her husband who first suggested the adoption.

"I thought he was kidding," she recalled. "The next morning, he reiterated it and I said, 'You have to be in this 200 percent with me, because I couldn't go back there after putting all that away for so many years.' And he decided that he was ready, and I said, 'OK. Let's jump in with both feet,' and we did."

The decision came down to the fact that both Rechtin and her husband were both ready to adopt a child.

As for being laid off, Rechtin said: "I felt very betrayed. You know, that was a place I really wanted to retire from, where I'd spent most of my adult life working. And it was very hard to come to terms with. You know, being a new mom and five months later having my job, you know, taken away from me. It was a hard adjustment. But, again, it was something that I knew I had to be positive for my daughter and for our family, and I had to put it, again, in perspective and move forward."

Often, we will look back on our lives and see that some of the most monumental changes were for the good. But, at the time they were happening, they did not seem like they were good for us. That's very common.

To help with the transition, Northrop and More magazine have someone guidelines.

  • Ease into the transition. Say you want to change your career. Every journey begins with that single step. And it might be that you just start a new hobby that leads you to a new career, or maybe you take a class. You don't have to make the change all at once.
  • Recognize your safety nets. Being aware of your social network is very important. We all bring a lot with us into mid-life. They can be concrete assets like home equity or a 401(k) plan. But there also can be things like your professional networks, your confidence and your maturity. Even something as simple as the fact that you know what to wear on a job interview counts.
  • Be open to the possibilities. People who re-invent themselves usually don't plan it down to the last definite point. If you do, you're missing a part of the journey, which is just being open. (There is such a thing as a "good accident.")

    And what is Rechtin doing now?

    "I'm working for Maryville University in St. Louis, and I think I finally found a home," she replied. "It's a great place to be. They welcomed me. They know my situation (with my daughter), and they've just been a great extension of my family.

    "It was a wonderful transition."