Midlife Women on “Having it All”

July 15, 2007 at 2:55 am 3 comments

I recently read a book called Women Confidential: Midlife Women Explode the Myths of Having it All by psychologist/”career guru” Barbara Moses, Ph.D. Moses’ book is based on her twenty years of counseling, an ongoing survey of thousands of women, and in-depth interviews with a selective group of “interesting” midlife women. She says of this group, I love this:

“In spite of the temptation to describe these women as successful, I call them interesting because they have defined success on their own terms. Like many women, I struggle with the word successful…”

She goes on to describe how some are traditionally successful businesswomen, while others left career paths for lives of leisurely country living or volunteer work. All are university-educated, two-thirds have children, and they “respresent all the tangled possibilities” in partner relationships. Then she says:

“Regardless of their path, the women understand the choices they have made and can reflect on what was and wasn’t wise. They accept who they are instead of endlessly second-guessing decisions they have made (and if they had any bitterness, they have moved on). They are excited about their futures. As the French say, they are bien dans sa peau, they feel good in their skin.”

So, what do you think? Does this sound like a fair description of success to you? Not the traditional description of success and “having it all,” at least, a more realistic image of what we can aspire to at midlife.

Anyway, the book is an interesting collection of insights from these women, covering topics from corporate life, approval-seeking, friendships, kids (having them or not), marriage, midlife decisions, and more. Here’s an abbreviated version of her “Summary Dish: Fourteen Secrets of Success for Work and Life from Women for Women”:

1. Know and act on what is really important to you.
2. Undrestand what you are really good at.
3. Be authentic.
4. Define yourself independently of your roles–as mother, daughter, worker, leader, friend, partner.
5. Make your own decision. (Drop people-pleasing.)
6. Pay attention to the niggling voice that says, “I’m not happy.”
7. Think in terms of life chapters. (You can have it all, but not all at once.)
8. Cherish and grow your friendships.
9. Give back to individuals and the community.
10. Invest in yourself, and stretch yourself.
11. Accept others for who they are.
12. Edit out the stuff that doesn’t add value to your life.
13. Have a healthy relationship to money.
14. Be kind to yourself and others. (This is perhaps the most important secret of all.)

So, readers, what do you think? If you’re a midlife women, does this ring true? If you’re a younger woman, do these wisdoms make sense? They do to me, and this book supports for me what “Having Enough” is all about — being real, being authentic, being kind, generous, making mistakes, letting things go, struggling and learning, becoming ourselves.

Entry filed under: Books, Career, Having It All, Women.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jennifer  |  July 16, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Megan, Congratulations on your post. I too have read Moses book as well as followed her Globe & Mail column for a few years. Great book and each of us can see ourselves in the stories. I think that she has revealed the “truth” and we can do with it what we want. In otherwords, we can continue to work harder and faster and do what we have been “told” or we can redefine what we want. In so doing, we also create our own consequences. I, for example, left my middle class life and moved to New Zealand at the age of 47. As a result, I found myself and have never regretted this decision but there are consequences of people on understanding you, deserting you, financial consequences, etc…..so like Moses says, this is part of the myth of having it all…….and this was a midlife wake up of my own. All the best, Jenn

  • 2. The Writer Mama  |  July 21, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Hi Megan,

    Congrats on your new blog.

    It’s really gratifying to look at this list and realize that I live a lot of this principles. Of course, there are a couple of them where I could “use improvement.”

    Many of them, such as “Drop people-pleasing” strike me as extremely difficult and very complicated, especially for women, and can take years and years of practice. And then it’s still not easy!

    But all of them strike me as excellent goals for midlife women. When I was younger, I was no where close, and I’m not sure I would have “gotten it.”

    I like the one “Think of your life in chapters.” I totally do that with my own life and also with my marriage. Junian psychologist Marion Woodman said that she’d had four marriages within her one marriage and my husband and I have just started chapter two.

    Great blog!

  • 3. Melissa  |  August 7, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    I like the idea of success as a mindset rather than an accomplishment!

    Several of these seem like an ongoing process. Knowing what’s important to you, what you’re good at– these things can change over time. Maybe the list needs a #15 about making sure you continue to regularly self-evaluate!


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Blog Mission

To spark conversation about redefining success (as individuals, families and institutions) and to counter "never enough" messages currently circulating in our culture.

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Megan Pincus Kajitani: Writer, Editor, Former Academic Overachiever and Career Counselor, Mom, Wife, Feminist, Gen Xer, Californian who believes that change is possible View Megan Pincus Kajitani's profile on LinkedIn

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