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

By Milica Z. Bookman | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Advantages to Be Harnessed: Human Capital and Shadow Skills

Most middle-aged homemakers recognize the depth and breadth of the skills they have acquired while tending to their homes, raising their children, and volunteering in the community (namely, in their second career). They are aware of how demanding their job of homemaker really was, especially in view of their proclivity to apply the same standards of perfection to the home as they applied to their former careers (namely, their first careers). They are also aware of how challenging their volunteer work was, given the often overwhelming managerial, supervisory, and fiscal responsibilities they took on. But most of all, women know how demanding their job of "just mom" really was, requiring them always to be on call, always ready to negotiate, and always ready to lend a comforting shoulder to the many people who expect it. It was a job they performed for 24 hours per day, with no realistic way to "get away from it all." Indeed, most middle-aged women who raised children know that the job description of a mother is one that would fetch an enormous salary if it were offered on the open market. Imagine, for example, the following ad: 1

Wanted, responsible mature woman who is willing and able to satisfy the intellectual, emotional and physical needs of a varied group of people, and who must at times perform the functions of doctor, driver, banker, cook, electrician, manager, judge, exterminator, and mediator, among others. This position entails a lifetime commitment and once the job is taken, resignations cannot be accepted. The working hours are: 24 hours, 7 days per week, no vacation time for at least 17 years. Moreover, the job entails no pay and no retirement package.

Even though the demands described above are overwhelming, 3.9 million American women answered such an ad in 1994 alone! They did so even though most jobs they might have taken in the labor market were bound to be easier, less stressful, and less demanding than what they will do as mothers. Despite the difficulties entailed in mothering, when women reach middle age, they look back to their mothering, homemaking, and volunteering years as ones in which they acquired numerous important and useful skills.

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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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