Cover image for Midlife crisis at 30 : how the stakes have changed for a new generation--and what to do about it
Title:
Midlife crisis at 30 : how the stakes have changed for a new generation--and what to do about it
Author:
Macko, Lia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[Emmaus, Pa.] : Rodale, [2004]

©2004
Physical Description:
x, 291 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
Introduction : why are baby boomers' daughters melting down instead of rallying for change? -- The midlife crisis at 30 : why now? -- Generation stressed -- The new glass ceiling -- The bitch vs. the good witch -- Happily ever after, revised -- The men's room -- The new girls' club : your dream team of mentors -- Introduction : beyond 30 -- Escaping the sequential success trap : finding happiness, maintaining equal partnerships, and redefining family-- Navigating the new glass ceiling : finding the right fit in the work-family puzzle -- Tactical maneuvers : strategies, pragmatism, and the power of perseverance -- Changing direction : deliberate action, definitive results -- Letting go of perfect : getting over yourself to get the life you want -- Guts and grace : staying on course when it counts.
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ISBN:
9781579548674
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

At 30 ...

Former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was a stay-at-home mother. Founder and CEO of Oxygen Media Geraldine Laybourne was working at a public interest think tank for teachers. Political strategist Mary Matalin was a first-year law student-- and about to drop out. And months prior to her thirtieth birthday, financial strategist and best-selling author Suze Orman was working as a waitress, making $400 a month.

Decades later, these Boomer women and many others have reached the pinnacles of their professions. So why do Gen-X/Y women feel such pressure to have the perfect career, body, husband, and kids by the time they are at or around 30? Why has 30 become such a make-or-break moment?

As the generation that came of age after the most visible glass ceilings had been broken, Gen-X/Y women were raised to believe in futures without limitations. Yet, as journalists Lia Macko and Kerry Rubin reveal in their fascinating investigation, many women have distorted the well-intentioned empowerment messages of their youth and are quietly blaming themselves when they fail to overcome the very real obstacles that still exist in our society. Though many Gen-X/Y women are hitting the same roadblocks at the same time, instead of questioning what's wrong with the system-- as Boomer women did in their twenties-- they're questioning their own "choices."

Searching for solutions, Macko and Rubin have enlisted the aid of the New Girls' Club, a group of successful, satisfied women who've lived through their own crossroads moments, earned their battle scars, and now share their stories and strategies. While today's young women may indeed be a generation in the middle of a Midlife Crisis at 30 , they now have a dream team of mentors to help guide them through it.


Author Notes

Lia Macko has an executive and senior news management background. She co-executive produced a Newsweek /MSNBC Town Hall Meeting on race relations in America, hosted by NBC's Brian Williams, and has served as a senior editorial producer for MSNBC specials hosted by Tom Brokaw, including Silicon Summits I and II and A Gun Summit , featuring President Clinton. Macko helped launch other MSNBC programs and served as a senior producer for CNN's American Morning with Paula Zahn as well as for Court TV's prime-time news broadcast.

Macko graduated magna cum laude from American University and obtained a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1996. She has contributed to the National Law Journal and other national legal trade publications and provided a law and technology column to MSNBC.com, titled "Tech Ethics." Macko appeared on the cover of the September 2000 issue of Working Woman magazine profiling "20 under 30: The Ones to Watch." She lives in New York City.

Kerry Rubin worked her way up the ranks at CNN from a teleprompter operator to a producer of news magazine stories, special projects, and lead interviews featuring the network's top talent. She has worked on the development and launch of new programs and has covered stories ranging from international terrorism and presidential elections to design and film. She is currently a segment producer on CNN's American Morning . Rubin graduated with honors from the University of Rochester in 1993. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her husband, Adam.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Successful, high-energy media professionals Macko (a CNBC producer) and Rubin (a CNN producer) sensed there was a problem plaguing women of a certain age-the early 30s. So many of them were wondering, in the midst of lives that were supposedly on track, why they felt "so miserable." In Part One of this volume, the authors attempt to identify and label the components of 30-something angst, which include changing career parameters, the question of when (or whether) to get married and have a family, and how to find real fulfillment versus a great-paying job. Then anecdotes from real women comfort readers by helping them realize that they aren't alone in their difficult-to-define struggles. Even better, however, are the stories from well-known women in Part Two, "The New Girls Club: Your Dream of Mentors." In this section, women like Judy Blume, fitness guru Denise Austen and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison explain how they dealt with the issues facing them in their 30s and, in many cases, tell readers how they completely re-vamped their lives to become hugely successful, personally and professionally. These triumphant stories should inspire women in their 30s, and anyone else contemplating a serious life overhaul. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.


Library Journal Review

Macko and Rubin (both television news producers) eloquently capture the bewildering stresses and strains that middle-class American women aged 25 to 37 face in managing the often mutually exclusive arenas of career, kids, husband, and body. The authors maintain that women must move beyond the cultural expectations associated with contemporary "success" and achieve their own personal balance. In an intense, sometimes edgy tone, they focus on whether women can realistically "have it all," all at once. Mentoring is provided via the personal stories of notable women; stories like Judy Blume's cogent discussion of balance will have wide appeal, but others are rather unrealistic, as when Mary Matalin talks about her nanny. Read in conjunction with Sherene Schostak and Stefanie Iris Weiss's Surviving Saturn's Return: Vital Lessons for Overcoming Life's Most Tumultuous Cycle, this book provides much food for thought. The only drawback: it's unnecessarily long. Essential for women's studies programs and recommended for all public libraries. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

CHAPTER ONE Generation Stressed SOMETHING WAS WRONG. We (Lia and Kerry) met while working together at CNN on the launch of a new show. Lia had just been featured on the cover of Working Women magazine's "The Ones to Watch: 20 Women under 30" special issue. Kerry was a newlywed, head over heels in love. We were two allegedly "together," bright young women who had worked hard and accomplished something. Our lives were "on track" according to the rest of the world. So why then, to us, did things feel so out of control? What was the problem? At first we didn't realize there was a problem, and we certainly didn't understand its scope. When life becomes a haze of empty Diet Coke cans, bad Chinese takeout, and 12-hour workdays, it's not easy to have deep thoughts. The truth is, we were simply too exhausted to grasp what had driven us to our respective boiling points. Instead, we focused on the immediate and bonded like soldiers in boot camp as we commiserated about deadlines, meetings, and workloads. It was hard to figure out why everything felt so wrong, when on paper, everything looked so right. But part of the problem was obvious--our professional lives were beginning to eclipse our personal lives in powerful ways, and we were starting to recognize the very real consequences. Kerry had not made it home in time for dinner with her husband in over a month; he was so alarmed that he asked her if she was having an affair, and he was only half-joking. Lia had only had time to go on three dates in six months. The one time she dared to schedule an after-work dinner with a good friend, she was late because of a work crisis and then bombarded with phone calls and pages throughout the meal. The waiter gave her friend free Merlot and told Lia to get a life. But it didn't take a French waiter's insults or a husband's loneliness to make either of us realize that the nonnegotiable demands of work were interfering with the nonnegotiable and much more important demands of being a friend, wife, daughter, and woman. We knew our lives were horribly out of sync, but beyond indulging in the standard "move to the Caribbean and open a pina colada stand" fantasy, we were too rushed and distracted to devise a responsible escape plan. Although the world of television news is demanding in its own way, we later imagined (and found ample evidence of) millions of women--working as nurses in hospitals, lawyers in law firms, social architects in public interest organizations, traders in the financial world, or small business owners--experiencing similar stretches of the "crunch" we were feeling. Not so long ago, it seemed as if we had more life options than a Las Vegas buffet. But around our thirtieth birthdays, we each started to realize that the opportunities and choices we had inherited and earned had come fully loaded with some unanticipated trapdoors. Initially, we weren't sure how to name what was wrong or figure out how to fix it, but one thing was becoming crystal clear: If we didn't start to learn how to integrate our personal, social, and professional lives, we were about five years away from morphing into the angry woman on the other side of a mahogany desk who questions her staff's work ethic after standard 12-hour workdays, before heading home to eat moo shoo pork in her lonely apartment. Then, late one night in Lia's office, we stopped obsessing about our jobs and started talking honestly to each other about what we were feeling. Lia, who was Kerry's supervisor, had just been offered a lucrative contract. She felt incredible pressure to sign, and it was undeniably the "right thing" to do for her career, especially during a recession. At the same time, she feared it would be a legally binding deal with the devil--"your job or your life." You see, when Lia was in her midtwenties, she was grateful for the professional opportunities and challenges she'd earned and was eager for more. As long as she just kept working hard and moving in the right direction, she figured her personal life would work itself out when she was ready. For some reason, she assumed things would fall into place, oh, sometime around her thirtieth birthday. But as time ticked by, and 30 came and went, very little had changed, and big parts of her life were still not in place. She was starting to feel the way she had back in college after misjudging how long it would take to write a 20-page paper that was due the next day and realizing in a panic that she might have to ask for an extension. But whom do you talk to about an extension for finding happiness and love? Kerry was happily married, but she felt no less "stuck" or panicked. She confided to Lia that she and her husband wanted to start a family, but she worried that her life was already so harried that unless she quit her job, her kids would inevitably be raised by the TV and babysitters from Monday to Friday, just as she had been. She had no intention of giving up her career entirely, but she just couldn't visualize a reasonable middle ground. Problem solvers--not complainers--the two of us had already tried and failed before to create the space needed to address these fundamental questions about moving forward. By the time we met at CNN, we had both changed jobs, switched networks, and even moved to different cities in pursuit of something better. Yet we kept circling back to the same starting point and similar feelings of being boxed into futures we didn't want to sign off on. Although we felt as frustrated as Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, we also sensed that we were not the only ones feeling that way, because friends who worked in entirely different fields--impressive women who had their acts together--were going through different versions of the same dilemma. We all shared this tremendous sense that we'd outgrown our lives but were stuck running in place whenever we tried to change direction in a meaningful way. The Problem with No Name That night, we agreed that the only way to find a solution to the problem was to fully understand how we ended up here in the first place. So we started to look beyond our lives and those of our friends, and we began to approach the question as journalists. As with all serious projects, we started the information-seeking process by naming our mission--"Project I Am Not Crazy" seemed an appropriate starting point in our sleep-deprived minds. Then we spent the following weeks delving into the data and firing e- mails back and forth about our findings. Once we set out to find a context for what we were experiencing, we quickly discovered that there were more questions than answers. We found no shortage of news stories chronicling the incredible progress women have made in the workplace, but we when we dug a little deeper, we discovered some statistics that have received considerably less attention. Back in the sixties, the average college-educated bride was about 22 years old. Today, she is nearly 28.1 Timelines for motherhood have gone through a parallel transformation. In 1970, the vast majority of college-educated women had their first babies before their thirtieth birthdays. Now, the vast majority of female grads have their first children after their thirtieth birthdays.2 What's more, a remarkably high percentage of Gen-X mothers are quitting their jobs to stay at home with their kids. The 2000 census reported that 30- to 35-year-old college-educated women have sparked the largest exodus of working mothers from the workplace since 1976.3 At the same time, the institution of marriage is being challenged. Over the past 30 years, the number of 30- to 34-year-old single women has tripled, 4 and there has been a 1,000 percent spike in the number of unmarried couples living together. 5 Taken together, these statistics show that something radical has happened over the course of a generation. For Baby Boomer women, major life events-- marriage, motherhood, and decisions about career--stretched out across their twenties, thirties, and beyond. But for women of our generation, all of these milestones and life-altering choices are converging at the same time--right around age 30. While our early research suggested immediately that something new and significant was happening among our peers, it was clear that the dots had yet to be connected--especially by anyone who was one of us. Several prominent social theorists of other generations were tackling finite aspects of these new demographic trends, but by and large, the only people addressing these issues were those with political agendas who seemed to want to engage in scare-mongering without providing constructive solutions. The scope of our research broadened when we began interviewing other 25- to 37-year-old college-educated women. Over nearly two years, we spoke with a large sample of women living across the country--from businesswomen to stay- at-home mothers, law partners to social workers, entrepreneurs to graduate students, and office managers to artists. Most came from middle-class backgrounds, and nearly all were raised with a healthy, broad view of what their futures as women could entail. What gradually came into focus through those interviews was much more profound and interesting than our early self-revelations, our initial theories, or any stark numbers on a page. Frankly, the intensity of the angst we tapped into was surprising and overwhelming; we started taking tissues to the interviews because many of them ended with tears. But it was through all of those discussions--in coffee shops and restaurants, urban high-rises and suburban homes, office parks and playgrounds--that we began to realize how discouraged and overwhelmed many Gen-X/Y women felt and how infrequently they revealed their self-doubt and confusion. We're not talking about cliched frazzled-woman stories but about a palpable current of real confusion and bewilderment among women of our age about the direction in which their lives are heading. It's important to note that ours is not the first generation of women plagued by a shared but undefined ill. In the 1963 book that, according to the New York Times Book Review, "changed the world so comprehensively that it's hard to remember how much change was called for," Betty Friedan recognized the power that comes with the revelation that unnamed social problems inherited by a generation of women are collective, not individual, in nature. In The Feminine Mystique, Friedan observes that the liberating quality of this realization lays groundwork for eventual resolution: ...I heard a mother of four, having coffee with four other mothers in a suburban development fifteen miles from New York, say in a tone of quiet desperation, "the problem." And the others knew, without words, that she was not talking about a problem with her husband, or her children, or her home. Suddenly they realized they all shared the same problem, the problem that has no name. They began, hesitantly, to talk about it. Later, after they had picked up their children at nursery school and taken them home to nap, two of the women cried, in sheer relief just to know that they were not alone. Gradually I came to realize that the problem that has no name was shared by countless women in America.6 Thanks to the efforts of Friedan and her contemporaries, women of our age are now facing a radically different set of collective questions and concerns. Ironically, part of our generation's new and ambiguous but omnipresent dilemma stems from a shared sense of inadequacy for failing to live up to the dreams and expectations those inspiring women defined. Just as good parents provide their children with a fundamental, inalienable belief in themselves, Boomer women bestowed upon us the belief that anything was possible in our futures. But when rapid-fire decisions about marriage, children, and career converge on the compressed timetable at or around 30, otherwise calm and competent women find themselves at the precipice of panic. Even those with the most impressive life resumes feel that they are failing to live up to the Anything Is Possible opportunity for achievement and the work/life symmetry implied by that promise. After considering the similarities in stories among at least a hundred women, we realized that we might have stumbled on a new Problem with No Name. After thinking about it for a while, we recognized what it was. We are a generation in the middle of a Midlife Crisis at 30. Why 30? More women enter therapy at 30 than at any other point in their lives. In the book Seasons of a Woman's Life, Yale psychologist Daniel Levinson calls "the age 30 transition a uniquely difficult period," a time of "moderate to severe crisis" for young career women. He describes our panic as "not simply a problem in 'coping with' or 'adjusting to' a single stressful situation. It stems, rather, from the experience that one's life has somehow gone wrong." Essentially, this is the moment at which earlier fantasies and expectations of what adult life looks like clash with the reality of what adult life is like. Thirty is the milestone at which you realize the dress rehearsal is over--this is your real life.7 We all know women who are well past 40 but continue to celebrate their twenty-ninth birthdays, and they choose that number for a reason. But just in case we weren't painfully aware that we are at a crossroads, Hallmark has an entire line of cards and party favors to remind us. In fact, Lia and Kerry both received the same card from the "Hallmark 30th Birthday Collection" from well-meaning relatives. The front of the card shows a group of friends at a party. With beer raised, one reveler yells, "It ain't over till it's over!" Open the card, see an empty room, crushed cans, droopy crepe paper. The caption reads: "It's Over. Happy 30th Birthday." Enough said. Of course, biology plays a role in this wake-up call. Until now, the two of us thought any talk of a "ticking clock" was about as retro as a Betty Crocker cookbook. But as we watched our female bosses and older friends melt down because by the time they started thinking about having children, they were too old to get pregnant, we couldn't help but think that maybe there was a point to that dreaded phrase. "From the most primitive society on the grasslands of Africa to the most cutthroat corporation on Wall Street, the peak age for fertility for women is about 25," explains anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. "Sometime around then, women's brains are wired to start feeling an urge to reproduce. Young women today--who expected to be both producers and re-producers--are just finishing graduate programs or starting to win real promotions in their late twenties. For them, the clock can be very disorienting--it signals that tug between two worlds."8 Excerpted from Midlife Crisis at 30: How the Stakes Have Changed for a New Generation - And What to Do about It by Lia Macko, Kerry Rubin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Why Are Baby Boomers' Daughters Melting Down instead of Rallying for Change?p. 1
Part 1 The Midlife Crisis at 30: Why Now?
Chapter 1 Generation Stressedp. 9
Chapter 2 The New Glass Ceilingp. 33
Chapter 3 The Bitch vs. the Good Witchp. 63
Chapter 4 Happily Ever After, Revisedp. 79
Chapter 5 The Men's Roomp. 111
Part 2 The New Girls' Club: Your Dream Team of Mentors
Introduction: Beyond 30p. 137
Chapter 6 Escaping the Sequential Success Trap: Finding Happiness, Maintaining Equal Partnerships, and Redefining Familyp. 141
Chapter 7 Navigating the New Glass Ceiling: Finding the Right Fit in the Work-Family Puzzlep. 165
Chapter 8 Tactical Maneuvers: Strategies, Pragmatism, and the Power of Perseverancep. 187
Chapter 9 Changing Direction: Deliberate Action, Definitive Resultsp. 213
Chapter 10 Letting Go of Perfect: Getting over Yourself to Get the Life You Wantp. 237
Chapter 11 Guts and Grace: Staying on Course When It Countsp. 257
Notesp. 271
Indexp. 281