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

By Milica Z. Bookman | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Evolving Expectations of Women with Choices

Francesca Layten was out of breath when she arrived for the interview. She apologized profusely and explained that just as she was leaving home, the phone began to ring. Since she was in a hurry, she considered not picking it up. However, since she always has a gnawing worry about her children, she was drawn to respond. After some moments of ambivalence and indecision, she opted to indulge her fears. As she expected, it was her daughter calling from school. She had forgotten her physics term-paper at home and she begged her mother to bring it to school so that her senior grade wouldn't be affected. Of course, Francesca drove to school to deliver the paper. Of course, Francesca helped out her daughter. "It's the story of my life," she sighed. And so it was, as I learned by the end of the interview. Francesca had dedicated her life to her children. She was the epitome of a good mother: she spent time with her daughters, she loved, she listened, she taught, she guided. She was always available for them. She was able to be so available because, some 20 years ago, she had chosen to become a full-time mother. Now, 45 years old, Francesca recalls this decision with some regret and bitterness. She explained to me how, after graduating from college, she had worked for several years as an economist in a large corporation while simultaneously pursuing an MBA degree. Smart and energetic, she had lofty aspirations for a successful and satisfying career. She was a few credits away from completing her degree when she gave it all up in order to nurture a pregnancy that had become problematic. For almost two decades, she remained focused on nurturing and satisfying the needs of her family.

Using the physics term-paper as an example, Francesca describes the expectations that her family has of her. Her husband, traditional in his thinking about wife and home, had always been in favor of a stay-at- home mom who would raise children and provide a comfortable home life for them all. That was to be her job, while he would focus on supporting them. Francesca was expected to have the meals ready, the refrigerator stocked, the clothes laundered, the guests entertained, the furniture polished (whether she did this herself or hired someone else was

-17-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Part I REALITIES xix
  • Chapter 1: The Profile of Middle-Aged Women with Choices 1
  • Chapter 2: Evolving Expectations of Women with Choices 17
  • Part II INCENTIVES 43
  • Chapter 3 the Transformation of Aspirations 45
  • Notes 60
  • Chapter 4: The Redefinition of Leisure 63
  • Chapter 5: The Reevaluation of Volunteer Work 79
  • Part III CONDITIONS 89
  • Chapter 7: The Accommodating Work Environment 101
  • Part IV CAPACITIES 119
  • Chapter 8: Advantages to Be Harnessed 121
  • Chapter 9: Obstacles to Be Overcome 137
  • Part V BENEFITS 155
  • Chapter 10 Social Benefits: the Economic Contribution of Women with Choices 157
  • Notes 177
  • Chapter 11: Individual Benefits 179
  • Appendix I Method 189
  • Notes 192
  • Appendix II Empirical Overview: Women with Choices in America and in the Sample 193
  • Notes 197
  • Appendix III The Survey 199
  • Selected Bibliography 211
  • Index 215
  • About the Author 219
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