Odds stacked against working, wed (for now) boomer moms

January 23, 2007|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Columnist

To paraphrase the kids, it is hell being me.

According to recent scientific, sociological and economic news, it is not a good time in history to be a married boomer woman with a job.

Apparently, we peaked somewhere between the invention of the birth control pill and the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases; between going to college to find a husband and going back to college after your husband leaves you for a younger woman; between staying at home to raise the kids and being unable to get the kids to get a job and move out.

Right now, at this moment, there is more of an upside to being an illegal immigrant than there is to being a married boomer woman with a job. The president, at least, is on their side.

Here's the research. Tell me I'm wrong.

According to a New York Times analysis of census research, more American women are living without a husband than with one. In 2005, 51 percent of women reported living without a spouse, compared to 35 percent with when my mother got married in 1950.

Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, told the Times that the numbers hadn't been this high since slavery and the world wars.

This dovetails with an earlier analysis of census data that showed married couples are now officially in the minority in this country, and that women, who are choosing to marry later, deciding not to remarry after divorce and outliving their husbands, are spending more than half of their lives alone.

My life will merge with these trend lines when my husband leaves me because, as author Esther Perel suggests in Mating in Captivity, I have been too nice to him.

Perel reports from her couples therapy practice that couples who express physical affection, such as cuddling and gentle touches, are draining the sexual tension from their relationship.

Only by rudely ignoring our partners do we create the emotional space that will trigger their desire for us.

In addition, all the verbal sharing we do, about our day and our feelings, is draining the mystery from our relationships.

Only when we surprise our partners with some unknown side of ourselves - or by drunken flirting at parties - do we kindle their desire to sexually conquer the unknown us.

Not surprisingly, Perel concludes that kids are the ultimate marriage buzz-kill, and I have two of those.

You couldn't pay me to be me right now. And apparently you haven't been.

The gap between the pay of men and women doing the same job has been stagnant for a decade for all but one group: women between the ages of 36 and 45 with a four-year degree, also according to the Times.

(Reading the Times these days is a lot like reading the obituaries to see if anyone your age has died.)

According to figures from the Labor Department analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute, these women are actually earning less than we did a decade ago when compared to men: 74 cents for every dollar earned by our male co-workers, compared to 75 cents.

Apparently, I am going to starve after my husband leaves me for someone he doesn't know as well.

And the worst news of all for a married boomer woman with a job?

The outfit I am wearing right now can be found in Forever Cool by Sherrie Mathieson, a book about what women my age should never, ever wear.


To hear audio clips of selected Susan Reimer columns, go to baltimoresun.com/reimer.

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