never married, over forty, a little bitter

leave time

I hardly think maternity leave is a vacation, and once a mother goes back to work, she has twice the load to carry, but at least it’s an opportunity to get away from work for a while and concentrate on life. I’m considering this break from work my maternity leave:

sharing the load

Is the “going solo” trend starting to head in another direction? I’m still planning on having a roommate in my next place.

Reactionary as it is, reading the original article is a useful exercise. It emphasizes the women’s dire financial straits, ensuring us that they are normal, monogamous schoolteacher-types who’ve just happened upon bad times — and not, God forbid, the sort of Wiccan lesbian coven that keeps a herd of cats in common. We’re told that they are “really busy,” “hardly ever [at home] at the same time” and that they, “share values in order to make things work.” The single advocate cited makes her argument in language that wouldn’t be out of place in a Family Research Council pamphlet: “Taking the stress off of parents in having to do everything for their kids and not sharing the load is really to me the heart of the American dream.”

As one might expect from a CBS news affiliate, the overall impression is hardly one of imminent social catastrophe,but this is a matter of framing. By emphasizing continuities with nuclear family life, the story undersells the subtle, progressive breaks with traditional home life that become possible in group living. And by focusing on baby boomers making tough domestic choices late in their careers, it eschews a much more interesting and potentially unsettling pattern: young, recession-wracked twenty-somethings, fresh into the labor force, foregoing solitary living completely.


In short, we’re sprinting through a marathon. We’ve sped up the pace, extended the finish line, and thrown in more obstacles along the way. Most careers are now 50-plus years, with few opportunities to focus on family and other responsibilities. And the maxim holds true: if you try to sprint through a 50-plus-year career, at some point you’re going to collapse and crash.

We’re seeing those crashes right now. Many industries are experiencing higher turnover than ever before, employees are dropping out of the workforce altogether, and there are negative health outcomes for those who push themselves too hard for too long. Surveys from groups as diverse as Allstate Insurance and The Shriver Report have told us that people are exhausted with the status quo and fed up with having to choose between work and family. Employees across the spectrum say they desperately need career paths that look more like their lives. Not a straight and narrow sprint to the finish, but a shifting pace that speeds up and slows down as life puts different obstacles and opportunities in front of us.

This means different things for different people. Maybe it means slowing the pace in the middle of your career, or adjusting your pace throughout so you have time for other commitments. Maybe it means taking a break to tend to family concerns and then getting back in the race full-time. Maybe it’s adapting the way you work altogether through telecommuting or job sharing. But one thing is clear: unless something significant changes in the structure of the workplace so that people have more say over when, where and how they work – more flexibility – we’re going to see an awful lot more people collapsing before they reach the finish line.