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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wasted Women

I put a temporary stop to my job-hunt because I thought I was dying of cancer, but after several mammograms, an ultrasound and, yes, a biopsy, it turns out that little dark blip on the screen that I never even knew existed until that I had my baseline mammo a few weeks ago was just an inflamed lymph node. So I'm celebrating until the bills come and the reality sets in that I'd better find a job so I can pay them.

This morning I popped in at Miriam Peskowtiz's blog and followed a link to an honest and articulate post about going back to work over at Tracy Thompson's blog. Tracy Thompson is a former Washington Post reporter who left the hermetically sealed Washington, D.C. media hothouse when her first childwas born in 1996. Now the mother of two budding divas, ages 9 and 5, she is also the author of two books on depression: The Beast (Plume, 1995) and The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression (HarperCollins, 2006). She lives in Maryland.

Tracy graciously allowed me to share part of her thoughts at Navigating the On-ramp; you can read the full post here. She gets to the heart of the issue that I addressed when my friend Teresa and I were demoralized by our experience at the women's career expo.

So: here I am, a 51-year-old journalist with tons of experience and awards and honors from Back in the Day (that 1987 Pulitzer finalist thing sounds quaint now, it was so long ago) who, if I were to show up at my old job now, might score a nice lunch with an editor but they know and I know I ain't getting hired back there. I am Not Needed; they are paying people my age to go away these days.... I could get a part-time retail job to bring in some cash, and give up on using the skills I worked so long and hard to acquire. I could quit complaining and settle into Middle-Aged Momhood, as so many women before me have done.

My only problem is that I have this burning desire to be Useful. I have things I want to say, skills I want to pass on. How to do this? It's one thing when you're 21 and have no responsibilities and nothing but time on your hands, and even though the path before you is steep there's something exciting about tackling it. It's another when you're 51 and there are college tuitions looming in your future--and, what's worse, the last 10 years of your working life have been largely spent doing work that our society does not value. At 21, you're a hot young find; at 51, you're just a mom. You exited the fast track and now there are no "on" ramps. And I look around me and see dozens of women my age, in a similar position to me, scrambling for piecework--women with advanced degrees, women with priceless experience, women with superior intellects.

And I think: how wasteful can this society afford to be?

posted by Kim Moldofsky @ 10:59 AM  


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