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

By Parker, Marcie | Family Relations, July 2001 | Go to article overview

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


Parker, Marcie, Family Relations


Bookman, M. Z. (2000). The Third Career: Revisiting the Home vs. Work Choice in Middle Age. Westport, CT: Praeger. 240 pages. ISBN 0-275-96811-1. Price: $59.95.

It is difficult to access elites and to do research on them and their lifestyles. There is not a great deal written on them, compared to what has been written about poor, vulnerable populations. There has also been little interest by researchers in looking at the needs of middle-aged, financially advantaged women. This new book by Bookman makes a contribution to a small but important body of literature on elites. Through detailed interviews, surveys, and personal experience, Bookman writes about the dissatisfactions, changing goals, and motivations of high-income middle-aged women as they move through the developmental life cycle. She finds that such a woman tends to move through three careers: (a) unmarried, childless, and working full-time in demanding positions; (b) full-time homemaker, mother, and community volunteer; and finally (c) a fusing of these first two careers to work part-time, tend the home, and seek a balance of all she enjoys doing. It is estimated that there might be some 3 to 5 million women across the country who fit the profile of financially advantaged middle-aged women with choices.

The book is divided into five sections: "Realities" (evolving expectations of middle-aged women with choices); "Incentives" (why aspirations are changing and how leisure time and the value of volunteer work are evolving); "Conditions" (women in the workforce; changes in who, what, when, why, and how; and the accommodating work environment); "Capacities" (what is human capital, and what are shadow skills; obstacles to be overcome, including inertia and discrimination); "Benefits" (social benefits, the economic contribution of women with choices, individual benefits such as personal fulfillment and goal achievement). The book also includes appendices of methods, the sample, and the survey itself.

There are a number of forces that are causing these changing expectations: grown children, the urge to generate money, boredom, education, health status, personal fulfillment, expanded intellectual horizons, a sense of purpose, financial independence, respect and status, an expanded social circle, structure in their lives, control over their lives, and insurance for the future. …

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