The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation Is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America

The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation Is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America

The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation Is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America

The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation Is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America


In the controversial public debate over modern American families, the vast changes in family life--the rise of single, two-paycheck , and same-sex parents--have often been blamed for declining morality and unhappy children. Drawing upon pioneering research with the children of the gender revolution, Kathleen Gerson reveals that it is not a lack of "family values," but rigid social and economic forces that make it difficult to have a vibrant and committed family and work life.

Despite the entrance of women into the workforce and the blurring of once clearly defined gender boundaries, men and women live in a world where the demands of balancing parenting and work, autonomy and commitment, time and money are left largely unresolved. Gerson finds that while an overwhelming majority of young men and women see an egalitarian balance within committed relationships as the ideal, today's social and economic realities remain based on conventional--and now obsolete--distinctions between breadwinning and caretaking. In this equity vacuum, men and women develop conflicting strategies, with women stressing self-reliance and men seeking a new traditionalism.

With compassion for all perspectives, Gerson argues that whether one decides to give in to traditionally imbalanced relationships or to avoid marriage altogether, these approaches are second-best responses, not personal preferences or inherent attributes, and they will shift if new options can be created to help people achieve their egalitarian aspirations.The Unfinished Revolutionoffers clear recommendations for the kinds of workplace and community changes that would best bring about a more egalitarian family life--a new flexibility at work and at home that benefits families, encourages a thriving economy, and helps women and men integrate love and work.


It is a cool, clear morning in Oceanside Terrace, a working-class suburb where American flags are almost as plentiful as family pets. As Josh answers the doorbell, I anticipate the story he will tell. His brief answers to a telephone survey tell a straightforward tale of growing up in a stable, twoparent home of the kind Americans like to call “traditional.” He reported, for instance, that his dad worked as a carpenter throughout his childhood, his mom stayed home during most of his preschool years, and his parents raised three sons and were still married after thirty years.

After we settle into overstuffed chairs in his parents’ cozy living room, where he is home for a brief visit, the more complete life story Josh tells belies this simple image of family life. Despite the apparent stability and continuity conveyed in the telephone survey, Josh actually felt he lived in three different families, one after the other. Anchored by a breadwinning father and a home-centered mother, the first did indeed take a traditional form. Yet this outward appearance mattered less to him than his parents’ constant fighting over money, housework, and the drug and alcohol habit his father developed in the army. As Josh put it, “All I remember is just being real upset, not being able to look at the benefits if it would remain like that, having all the fighting and that element in the house.”

As Josh reached school age, his home life changed dramatically. His mother took a job as an administrator in a local business and, feeling more secure about her ability to support the family, asked her husband to move out and “either get straight or don’t come back.” Even though his father’s departure was painful and fairly unusual in this family-oriented neighborhood, relief tempered Josh’s sense of loss. He certainly did not miss his parents’ . . .

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