Customer Reviews: Midlife Crisis at 30: How the Stakes Have Changed for a New Generation--And What to Do about It
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on July 10, 2004
When I first started reading this book, I raved about it and told all my friends that they would have to read it. I'm having my own midlife crisis at 33 because I'm facing gender discrimination in my career, which is blocking me from achieving what I want and know I can do. I was agonizing over making a drastic career change, when my incredibly supportive husband bought this book for me. He thought it would help to know I wasn't alone in my unhappiness.
And it did help. We Gen-X women were brought up to believe that equality had been achieved and if only we work hard enough we could do whatever we want. And when we don't accomplish all of our dreams, we tend to blame ourselves, instead of the system. At the same time, our entire generation is agonizing about spending too much time at work and missing out on a life.
But somewhere in the middle, it became tedious. It took me forever to finish, because I grew tired of reading yet another story about an ultra-successful woman with baby fever. As a woman who loves children but doesn't want any of her own, the book lost me. A few things actually bothered me, like the "Baby Envy" section and a general sense that the only women faced with work/life crises were mothers. There are plenty of women that struggle to find a balance between career and family, even if that family is a husband, siblings, or close friends.
I wish the authors had more analysis of what's causing the pervasive work/life imbalances and how we should stick together to make a change for all of us. When I read the chapter on men's perspectives, I kept thinking, "We shouldn't be concerned about bosses discriminating against parents because they leave work before 6:30, we should be concerned that bosses are expecting any of their employees to work that long in the first place!
There were many insightful observations and perspectives that I hadn't considered before, and for that I'm glad I read the book. I found the first and last two chapters to be the most influential on me. I'm not as enthusiastic as many other reviewers, but I do recommend this book to everyone in Generation X/Y, and to even a few boomers that want to understand why their children are so troubled when they seem to "have it all."
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on April 11, 2006
This book is for women who have or want to have children. Period. I am 29 years old, and do not hear a biological clock ticking. In fact, the older I get, the less I want children. I knew the book would touch on motherhood, but I was hoping it wasn't the main drive of the book. Instead I read page after page of women whining about how to juggle a career and a family. If that is something you're struggling with, then by all means, get this book. If you're not thinking about motherhood, and especially if you are child-free by choice, don't waste your time.
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on May 25, 2005
While this is an excellant book if you are a career woman, the authors make one huge mistake. They write that a woman's life phases follows this order 1.Work 2.Marriage 3.Kids. They never met me, because my life has followed this order. 1.Kid 2.Marriage 3.Work? I write work with a question mark because I am a 29 year old stay-at-home mother who realizes that I should have gone to college and had a career too. I didn't go to college because I got pregnant and married when I was 18 (and had three more children over the years) and have been a homemaker ever since. Now as I approach 30, I find myself yearning for a career, not a baby. I did find the story about Judy Blume inspiring because she was a stay-at-home mom at thirty and later became a writer. I am an aspiring writer as well. But the rest of the book just wasn't what I was looking for.
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on March 14, 2004
It might strike one as rather odd that I, a committed member of the male gender with his feet firmly planted in the category of senior citizen, should be reviewing a book that is more or less intended for the young female member of the present generation whose feet are barely planted on the ground. But sometimes one is asked to do what appears at first to be somewhat strange, which later turns out to be both an interesting and insightful encounter.

Such is the case with this book by two successful and experienced journalists, Lia Macko and Kerry Rubin, about the midlife-crisis problem which seems to affect many professional women at around the age of thirty or so in American society today. I won't pretend for a moment that I can directly and intimately relate to the specific situations they describe, but I can at least glimpse some of its enigmas, frustrations, and ramifications since many of us men go through a similar, albeit not exact, form of personal crisis usually around the age of forty or so. Alas, as with puberty, the females reach this life-challenging singularity before we males do.

The midlife crisis discussed in this book is grounded on the fact that a significant number of the fifty-eight million young women of what is now called Generation X/Y seem to undergo powerful conflicts in their work/life circumstances and at a very early age in their careers. This is occurring even before marriage and children are part of the situation. So, considering this problem as worthy of an investigation, Macko and Rubin set about to use the latest research and census data and, I think more importantly, interviews with more than one hundred college-educated career women between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-seven in an attempt to come up with some critical analyses and some plausible resolutions. I think in general that they were successful in accomplishing both tasks.

One of the things that made the reading of this book enjoyable for me was that I was familiar with many of the women whom the authors interviewed and whose contributions ended up being presented in the book, such as former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, whom I didn't vote for but have admired for many years for her astute political analysis, and Rikki Klieman, a brilliant trial attorney whom I've watched many times hosting a program on Court-TV. There are others whose personal stories are interesting and enlightening, and with whom I'm acquainted, including the prominent Republican strategist Mary Matalin, CNN host Paula Zahn, and novelist Judy Blume, one of whose books (dare I admit it?) I read some years ago to uncover what all the fuss was about regarding some books she wrote for young girls.

There is one conclusion I have come to after reading this book. While contemporary women may be having their midlife crisis earlier than men do, and there are some significant differences in the way they experience it from the way men do, it is surprising that many of the questions they are asking themselves are similar to the questions men ask themselves when they experience their own midlife crisis. Unfortunately, men going through their crisis tend to do so silently and in secret, while the women are intelligent and clever enough to be more open and conversant. Men should take a cue from this. They might suffer less.

Of course, there is one really big consideration in the female's midlife crisis that men do not have to directly deal with and that is motherhood and children and how to integrate that into one's career as a professional woman. Macko and Rubin include some interesting insights into that situation. Men, after all, don't get pregnant and have to figure out how to wrestle with that situation in the workplace (I suspect that if men did have to go through a pregnancy, whether in the workplace or not, the human race would shortly cease to exist!).

There are many questions raised in this book which are familiar to those of us who have a philosophical bent and they are not really new questions, just old questions asked within a contemporary context. For instance, questions about happiness, and fulfillment, and perfection. Can I have it all -- career and family and a rewarding personal relationship? Or, if not, why not? If I can't have it all, what can I settle for and be happy with? What really is the good life, especially for me? What are my priorities and, in light of my desires, what am I willing to compromise or ask someone else to compromise? Heady stuff, that, with roots that go back into antiquity.

All right, one can get carried away here, so I'll cease and desist. I'll just simply say that this book is very well written and deserves a wide audience especially among those young women coming of age who are thinking about both career and family and how to integrate their roles within both enterprises. I think this book will provide some insight and much food for thought and self-reflection. I won't hesitate to recommend this book to the male reader either, since, being the progressive-minded senior citizen that I am, and having come of age in a far more restrictive generation when it comes to career women, I think it's high-time for us members of the opposite gender to try to understand just what it is that our partners-in-living are going through when they experience their midlife crisis. "Audiatur et altera pars."
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on December 26, 2004
An ex actually gave this book to me just after my 30th. I thought the name was awful and so removed the cover to take it on a business trip with me.

Early into this book I almost started crying... out of a sense of relief that I am not the only one who feels this way. Approaching 30 and successful in my career, I felt somewhat isolated and unable to put my finger on the problem.

Reading this book I realize I am not a minority in having placed importance on career and brushed aside the notion of finding a mate, subconsciously believing that would happen on its own. Our mothers paved the way for us to over-achieve and we have done so, but at what price?

Through this book I realized that as hard as I have worked to have a successful career, I have to work equally as hard if I want a successful relationship with another person. Expecting it would just happen by now is all wrong.

I realized that the problems I face on a daily basis are not specific to me, but are generational in nature and it has helped me better understand what is going on with me and those around me. It has also helped me better find the problem so I could set about fixing it in my own life.

I have loaned this book out many times and the response I get from my friends mirrors that of my own. I highly recommend this book to any woman who finds herself wildly successful in career and social circles but oddly alone on Firday night and not entirely certain why.
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on September 3, 2007
My daughter, not yet 26, suggested that her Mom, not yet 55, should read the book to understand some of her concerns and issues. I laughed when she said the words "mid life crisis", although now that I think back nearly 3 decades and recall that at 26, I was seriously questioning my life's path also.

I raced through the book in one weekend as if it were a homework assignment. The authors struck a chord with their comments on the lessons that we Baby Boomer moms taught our daughters: "Anything is Possible", "You Can Have it All", "Waiting to Marry is the Divorce Insurance Policy", etc. We feminists burned our bras, rallied for change in the corporation, assaulted the glass ceiling, brought home the bacon and fried it up in the pan.

But not all of us had it all, and the unachievable goal of having a Perfect Life has created Alpha Moms, Martha Stewart-esque Domestic Goddesses, pervasive anxiety, and, according to the authors, melt-down among this striving generation. Achieving education, career, marriage, and children doesn't happen for everyone at the right time in a strictly linear fashion (or at all).

Part One of the book defines why this generation is so stressed, redefines the new glass ceiling, discusses how "happily ever after" needs to be revised, and describes how all of this change is affecting men. This section of the book was most useful and interesting to me, and can best be summed up by "each woman will have her own definition of having it all".

Part Two offered profiles of successful women at 30 and later in life, with the suggestion that their experiences could be used as a sort of virtual mentoring. The subjects of the profiles were many high-achieving women in medicine, publishing, entertainment, politics, law and business. While the stories of each woman's journey through career, marriage and children (or the decision to not have children) were interesting, laudable and inspirational, they didn't seem particularly applicable to the typical middle-class young woman. There just isn't enough room at the top for every striving young woman to find a place there.

The value of this book will be its contribution to the ongoing dialogue that young women need to have among themselves, with their spouses and bosses, (and even with their Baby boomer moms...), to help them chart a course to success and happiness through the years that are filled with challenges and choices.
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on May 10, 2004
As the help wanted ads glared at me from across the bed while I stared at the ceiling for the third morning in a row, the TV beckoned me -- and when I turned on CNN, there was Lia Macko describing...ME!!! I rushed out to buy this book, hopeful but cautious that I would find it too trite or too light. I was overjoyed to not notice how quickly I had read to page 21, nodding my head and smiling all the way. I spent the rest of the day finishing the entire book, reading every single word -- at the pizza parlor, in the bubble bath. I have e-mailed or called anyone close to me to tell them about the book -- to help them or to help them understand me. For a person with a graduate degree in English literature, to find a self-help book of such substance is no small feat. This book ranks at the top of books that have helped me ever and is exactly what I have needed to help me change my life. I don't think anything or anyone else could have helped me the way this book has -- from the frighteningly and sometimes funnily perfect descriptions of our generation to the real, not "blowing sunshine up your a__" testimonials of diverse yet relevant, interesting, unique women to the effectively validating rather than advice-giving approach.
The main point I have gleaned and needed as I face life's daunting choices and transitions might sound cliche but is profoundly simple, and too often lost or contradicted in society today, and that is: be yourself. The book proves that with the very real phenomena of today's thirtysomething women carrying pain and pressure from our individual and shared pasts as well as uncertainty and unhappiness about tomorrow, the best way to make decisions for today, for every day, is to be yourself. This mantra will be my compass and guiding light in the coming days and for the rest of my life, as I know this will not be the last time I feel this way. But as the book so accurately attests, for many of us, 30 is the big turning point, not necessarily the first time we have known about these feelings, difficulties and challenges but the first time we know we must face them head on and deal with them so we can make the rest of our lives more fulfilling. The book does not offer lame false hope that things will be so much more fun or easier if only we chart the right course, but rather, it acknowledges that we will need all the tools from our toolbox: patience, hard work, humor, friendship, commitment, flexibility, determination, luck, acceptance. Without allowing us to curl up in victim balls, it validates our experience that hard work does not necessarily pay off, that the world can be cruel, unjust and unfair, and that sometimes our expectations are unrealistic. Perhaps most important, the book is couched in the context of a social movement -- we're not crazy or in this alone -- and creates a very real construct, the New Girls Club, for bringing women together through and for shared experience to truly help themselves and each other rather than for yet another meaningless, self-serving rubber chicken awards luncheon. This is the personal-political manifesto our generation of women has needed to create the groundswell of grassroots change that will truly make a difference while so-called women's organizations (including the ones I have worked or volunteered for or donated to) mainly pay lip service to us and so-called helping professionals like therapists often just seem to make us feel worse. And finally, the book speaks to the average, "normal" American woman while managing to engage a range of female voices, and it leaves room for the individual reader to fit her unique personal experiences into a broader trend while also respecting women of previous and future generations. I hope to host a book party for this book and to see these women on Oprah -- if she has ever or never had a self-help book on her Book Club list, this is the book to put there this year. This is the best "self-help" book I have ever read and mostly because it was written by and for women just like me.
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on December 29, 2005
I loved this book, but the title is really misleading. Makes it sound like a self-help book and I really don't think it is. A friend recommended this otherwise I probably wouldn't have picked it up based on the title.

Provided a lot of interesting perspectives on the struggles both women AND men go through in our society when trying to maintain a work/life balance. Doesn't really provide any guidance, but does make you realize that this is a social problem, not just a personal problem. I've recommended it to many friends.
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on March 21, 2004
I just loved this book. Finially a real and frank book about what it is really like to be a woman in her 30's these days. There were passages in it that were so important to me that I had to read them over and over. You could tell that the author was an extremely intelligent woman who had done her homework. I am recommending this book to all my friends and will buy it as gifts. A great book!!
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on March 23, 2004
Midlife Crisis at 30 truly strikes a chord with our generation. Almost every woman I know (in her 30s) talks about the issues discussed in this book. We wonder why, even when things seem so right, we can feel so unhappy. Compared to other generations, we, of course, have it a lot better, yet so many of us seem so frustrated and disapointed with our lives. I think this book is a must read for every 30-something woman. It's not about whining and complaining about our lives but doing something to make them better. I thought it was truly inspiring.
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