The New Womanhood: An Age of Opportunity
by Michelle Seitzer
Outside the home, that is. Since 1978, she has put well over 40 hours a week into raising her five daughters. Her commitment to that career is one that no paycheck could ever fully compensate her for, and it’s a gift I’m thankful for every day. She has also devoted countless hours to volunteering in her community, helping friends and neighbors through difficult times, caring for her aging parents, running a family business, and securing a massage therapy license. Job or not, she’s worked hard all these years.
But the fact remains: our experiences as young women have been completely different. At age 21, I started a full-time salaried position just a few months shy of my college graduation, and I’ve never been without work since. At age 21, Mom started her career in motherhood and has been occupied accordingly…until now.
After my youngest sister graduated from high school last summer, my mother knew it was time for a change. But what to do? That was the bigger question, and one that many boomer women are currently asking themselves.
We’re entering a totally new era in womanhood, and it’s exciting and terrifying. Women like my mother are exploring new identities outside of motherhood. They’re getting divorced and remarried, or enjoying the single life; they’re struggling with sandwich generation responsibilities, starting new jobs and business ventures, and are reinventing themselves in every possible way.
Women in my generation are getting married later and starting families even later still. We’re fighting career versus family battles, trying to balance “having it all” in this modern world that is rich with opportunities that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers just didn’t have.
Author Suzanne Braun Levine writes about all of these shifting roles and dynamics in her third and latest book, How We Love Now: Sex and the New Intimacy in Second Adulthood. Says Levine, “This is a new stage of life not available to women ever before in history. Most women now have 25 years or more after turning 50 to explore another adulthood.” (Read more about her book in my post, My Mother and the Necessary Reinvention of the Modern Woman.)
In other words, everyone’s new at this. Women in both generations are blazing trails for the women who will follow them. There is much to learn from one another in these transformational times, and we should take full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to define who we are, who we would like to be, and who we want our daughters and granddaughters to become. All the while, we must remember those women who live in countries without educational, romantic, or career opportunities, without basic rights, without many of the comforts and freedoms that we have enjoyed for years. We must commit ourselves to advocating for these women, working alongside them, striving to create a better world for women, regardless of their geographic location.
Dream with me: what kind of future do you imagine for the women in your life?
Michelle Seitzer is a freelance writer who blogs regularly for SeniorsforLiving.com, 101Mobility.com, SeniorCareSociety.com, and a host of other boomer- and senior-focused sites. She’s also a contributing writer for BELLA magazine. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook; get links to published work or contact her at her blog.