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  • Pinay Family Counselor Says There's a 'Healthier Form of Sacrifice' When Loving Our Kids

    A new book tells us just how self-love is crucial for moms.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
Pinay Family Counselor Says There's a 'Healthier Form of Sacrifice' When Loving Our Kids
PHOTO BY iStock
  • “Some call 40 the new 20, but in truth 40 is just 40, and there’s beauty in that age!”

    That’s the introduction Michelle “Ichel” S. Alignay, Ph.D., wrote in her new book The Beauty of 40: Unwrapping the Gift of Midlife. Dr. Alignay, author, speaker, and training consultant on family life and parenting, wants to take her readers along on her personal journey to show them how to squeeze what our 40s has to offer basically.

    “The book’s big ‘why’ is really to help others make sense of this season of midlife and how to turn it to a beautiful season, despite the ugliness, crankiness, nerve-wracking happenings in life,” Alignay shares. “I know in my mind whom I wanted to write for: the women my age, between 36 to 40 and beyond who are so busy with life and all else in between but cannot take a grip of themselves, their worth, and how to love who they are.”

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    Taking hold of midlife

    At 36, Dr. Alignay was in the middle of taking her post-graduate studies, doing guidance counseling work, and writing while taking care of her growing children. Then it was one challenge after another on the home front.

    “There was the escalating health of my husband, Koots; the changing needs of our kids; the arising marital differences; and to top it all, the renovation of our home,” Dr. Alignay writes in her book.

    Dr. Alignay’s situation prompted her to ask herself if she was doing it all wrong. As a counselor herself, Dr. Alignay knew best when to seek another one’s advice, but the answer she got gave her quite a shock. She thought she was experiencing “burnout” until a counselor pointed out that she could be having a pre-midlife crisis. Pre-midlife crisis? She was only 36.

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    So, how do we know if we are going through a midlife crisis? Dr. Alignay, who is now in her early 40s, says that it manifests when you feel like you are in the middle of choices, and you seem lost and in need of better direction. You feel like you have to reassess your identity or self-worth and to realign your values and priorities “as you want more time for yourself.”

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    The beauty of the book is it opens a discussion about the guilty traps women — especially moms — tend to lock themselves in and offers an honest look into the need for self-love to be whole during and beyond midlife. Dr. Alignay discusses this on the level of the many roles women in their 40s play in their lives.

    “If we are amid midlifing, still grappling with our self-worth and finding our sense of love from our children, then we are in big trouble.” — Michelle “Ichel” S. Alignay, Ph.D., on parenting

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    Dr. Alignay emphasizes the need for healthy self-love so we can recharge when we give. “That’s the healthier form of sacrifice. When we are full, we can give so much more,” she says.

    She also warns against making our roles as parents define who we are, anchoring our self-worth on our children’s accomplishments. She says it best when she wrote, “Their (children) accomplishments do not define us as parents. Let them do their bragging. As much as I am proud of them, I try not to post their report card or certificates on my social media page. It’s a feather in their cap, not mine.”

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    Facing the midlife crisis as a couple

    Apart from parenting, The Beauty of 40 also tackles what a midlife crisis is like while going through it at the same time with your husband or significant other. Dr. Alignay’s shares an honest look at her relationship with her husband, Koots, and generously lets her readers in on how they handle their arguments and differences while allowing each other enough space to grow.

    She says that midlife crisis can happen to couples at the same time and warns that it can be ugly if neither are aware of it.

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    “You have to have better self-awareness and openness for help,” she advises. “For couples, journey together, hold hands, be each other’s, midlife buddy. Stick with each other even if you both seem to be two teenagers — bickering and wanting other things — or simply having hormonal mishaps. Even if you mirror each other’s issues, help one another. More importantly, be your own person.”

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    There is more from where these pieces of advice come from. The Beauty of 40 is an excellent read for women — and men — because it is told with honesty yet offers genuine insights learned from Dr. Alignay’s personal story, marriage, faith, and parenting experiences coupled with her expert take on each subject as a guidance counselor. Each chapter unravels universal truths, wisdom, and aha moments that Dr. Alignay herself has lived then learned.

    The biggest takeaway, perhaps, is learning how to fill one’s cup, so to speak, so we can “generate” instead of ending up stagnating and be the gift that we are supposed to be to others at this stage in our lives. Just how it’s done, Dr. Alignay helps us unwrap the answers in her own book.

     The Beauty of 40: Unwrapping the Gift of Midlife, available at Kerygma Books, St Pauls, and soon at National Book Storeis Dr. Alignay’s third book. She is the author of Family Goals: Embracing the Imperfections of Family Life (Kerygma Books), which was awarded as the Best Book in Family Life by the Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards in 2017.  She also co-authored Growing Up Wired: Raising Pinoy Kids in the Digital Age (Anvil Pub., 2013).
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