The Third Career: Revisiting the Home vs. Work Choice in Middle Age

The Third Career: Revisiting the Home vs. Work Choice in Middle Age

The Third Career: Revisiting the Home vs. Work Choice in Middle Age

The Third Career: Revisiting the Home vs. Work Choice in Middle Age

Synopsis

Bookman takes a detailed look at the goals and motivations of high-income middle-aged women who want to enter the labor force after having spent most of their adult lives tending their homes, raising children, and volunteering in the community. It examines the supply of their labor, their incentives, their motivations, and the fears they face as they evaluate their future options. Bookman also discusses the demand for their skills by reviewing the opportunities available to them in the labor market and by detailing what they can realistically aspire to and what obstacles they are likely to encounter. By describing the changes in the workplace that are likely to affect middle-aged women, the book offers a compelling labor market study with regard to this unique group of workers.

Excerpt

Throughout my academic career, each book I wrote followed directly from the previous one in a logical sequence. Indeed, research on Third World economic development in graduate school led to an analysis of regional economic competition, which led to the exploration of regional secession, which in turn led to a study of the economic elements of nationalism, and finally to nationalistic demographic engineering. Yet, a book on women, especially privileged, middle-aged women in Western societies, had nothing whatsoever to do with my formal training nor the direction of my academic interests over the past two decades.

The idea for this book came from a source that was thus far new to me: personal experience. Due to circumstances in my personal life, two activities in the early 1990s brought me into consistent and sustained contact with women who were middle-aged, upper-income, and outside the labor force. The first of these activities was involvement in parents' groups at a private school in Miami. When my daughter enrolled in middle school, I began participating in numerous school activities in order to learn about the environment in which she would be spending her teenaged years. Over time and after countless hours working side by side with numerous volunteers, I learned that so many unemployed mothers had above-average stamina, untapped creativity, and boundless energy. Some also had a very strong desire to "do something new". I learned that some women, despite their privilege and their material comfort, had outgrown their past choices and were increasingly feeling confined by the current boundaries of their lives.

The second activity that offered me a glimpse of the lives of unemployed, middle-aged women was a part-time catering service that my friend and I established. Our excursion into the business world in the form of a dessert company was motivated primarily by a desire to give concrete vent to a hobby that we shared, namely, baking (we both had other "real" full-time jobs). As word got around of our endeavors, a relatively uniform response flowed from many of the middle-aged women with whom I had contact. My unemployed female friends, my children's schoolmates' mothers, and female dessert clients all wanted a part of the action. They wanted in! Women began asking me if there was anything they could do in our company. They sought to partake at any . . .

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