When she announced her retirement a few weeks ago, Serena Williams sent out this heartfelt cry: “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be (retiring)!”. Wishing to have a second child, the great lady of tennis explained that it had become difficult to combine her career in professional tennis and her desire to be a happy mother. 

Her decision and media statement made me think about things. All the more so because I had just been invited to participate in a panel on women’s leadership organized by the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Canada.  

I asked myself if being a woman had had an impact on my entrepreneurial career, or vice versa. As for being a mother, the answer was no. As it turned out, I was already a stepmother of two when I had my son in 2003, and I started my own business two years later, so I did not have to run a business while on maternity “leave”. However, I have often wondered how I would have taken on such a challenge! Certainly, working during the first six months after giving birth would have been very difficult. I was literally sleeping while standing up and still had trouble understanding what was going on.  

Serena Williams had the merit of reminding the general public that women face a different reality than their male colleagues when it comes to being a parent, if only because of the fact they carry the baby for months and then breastfeed it, lest we forget the physical recovery that can take several more months. 

Well, I have more news for Serena Williams, who will now devote herself to her role as a mother, but to her company as well: businesswomen can also become quite unsettled during perimenopause, like all women! 

Véronique Cloutier shed light on this in 2021. I watched her documentary, Loto-Méno, with interest as it allowed me to understand – finally – the origins of the symptoms which I had been experiencing for several years: memory loss, concentration problems, sudden desires to sleep (at any time of the day), mood swings, anxiety (although everything is fine!), disrupted sleep during the night, etc. How many times have I wanted to just “get out of my body”… 

You might say: “You weren’t expecting that? You were approaching 50 after all!” Well, nope! 

My understanding of menopause was that 
you mainly suffered from night sweats! 

The topic was not really discussed with family or friends. I therefore had a great moment of revelation thanks to the Loto-Méno documentary and made an appointment with my doctor within weeks of its airing.  

I felt fairly significant positive effects after a few weeks of hormone therapy. It was a huge relief: I finally felt like myself, as before. Since then, I’ve had to make a few adjustments with the dosage and I still have some trouble in getting back to feeling totally comfortable. It’s an exercise in fine-tuning. 

Meanwhile, life and business continue. There’s even a pandemic! All that we need to alleviate the perimenopausal symptoms of a company president, right?? Even if a good night’s sleep is sometimes short and I don’t always feel at my best, physically and psychologically, I have a team to guide and clients to serve. Colleagues and clients who have their own sets of challenges, especially during these two years of pandemic. 

So, how do I deal with all this? With a BIG dose of indulgence for myself. When my body and/or head don’t want to keep up, I take a break. And that break can last a whole afternoon if necessary! I answer calls and urgent questions, but I don’t try to remain in “production” mode. I prefer to rest, regain my productivity and return to work with a better disposition the next day or during the weekend. 

That’s the advantage of being a “Boss”: I can manage my time as I want to. But that’s also how I’ve always guided my colleagues: when they can’t complete a task during working hours, whatever their personal reasons may be, I trust them; they’ll complete it when they can. I always had a hard time applying this principle to myself before, but now I have no choice and I too appreciate this flexibility! And I am in no way embarrassed to openly tell my colleagues! I don’t hide it. Why should I try to pretend that a normal life process doesn’t exist? I’d rather they understand that their boss is perimenopausal and that sometimes, she’s not in great shape. 

Being perimenopausal, no matter what job one has, can present challenges that our male colleagues will never have to worry about, although male andropause is no picnic either. It is true that this natural phenomenon is more intense for women, but that’s life. It is often very frustrating to live with, therefore any form of relief is welcome! Today, I felt that it was important to talk about it openly in order to foster discussions. And maybe even share a few tips and tricks!