Tuesday Book Review: Flux

I’ve got about a hundred and one books that I’d like to write about, so I think I’m going to have a weekly book review. Note that the "books I’m talking about" list will include books that ticked me off as well as ones I’d recommend, so check out the review before you treat the inclusion as an endorsement.

I wanted to talk a bit more about Flux. In brief, the author, Peggy Orenstein, interviewed dozens of women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s to see how their attitudes about work/family/life issues differed at different life stages. The synthesized findings are wrapped around portraits of individual women, and her own musings about whether to become a parent. This book is an easy, mostly enjoyable read. The women are portrayed sympathetically, and largely allowed to speak in their own words.

The sections on parenting largely cover ground that has been covered by other authors. What I hadn’t seen elsewhere (at the time) is the wledgment that by the time you’ve been in the workforce for 10 or so years, the bloom is often off the rose. Obviously, it depends on your career path, but in lots of jobs, you’re starting to hit the flat side of the learning curve, the excitement has worn off, and you’re starting to ask "is this really what I want to do with the next 30 years of my life?" For many of the women in their 30s in Orenstein’s book, becoming a mother was a socially acceptable opportunity to step back from their careers and to see their lives as a whole and to reflect on their priorities, a sabbatical of sorts.

The other part of Orenstein’s book that I liked is her recognition of what seems obvious to me — the main reason that many women postpone childbearing until their late 30s isn’t because they’re so focused on their careers, as Sylvia Ann Hewett suggests, but because they’d rather not go it alone, and they haven’t met a partner who is ready to parent.

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