Are you an overworked, undervalued middle aged woman? Exhausted by the daily grind of running a home while trying to maintain a career, pay the bills and have decent hair? If so, you’re part of the ‘can’t sleep’ Generation X.
Members of my generation paved the way for work-life balance, maternity leave and flexible work hours. We made female razors and grunge popular and enjoyed the cusp of the dance music revolution – without the internet and yet, we are more burdened by societal pressure society than ever before.
With International Women’s Day looming, which this year calls for #EachforEqual, us (middle aged) women have it harder than ever. A new book called “Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis” by Brooklyn based author Ava Calhoun’s tells of the anxiety experienced by women who were brought up in the 1970s and 1980s, desperately trying to have it all, but not having enough hours in the day to do it.
“Being middle-aged in America right now as a middle-class American woman is different than it was for our mothers and grandmothers,” she says, “and for a lot of women — not for all of them, but for a lot of them — it is incredibly hard.”
Calhoun found that the ‘sandwich generation’ between boomers and millennials, has problems ranging from credit card debt, divorce, housing and the dreaded menopause.’
We still wash our husband’s smalls, take the trash out and as go splits on the bill- because of equality, then we get told to ‘lean in.’ No wonder we’re pissed off.
I agree with Mrs Calhoun on many issues- especially housing and family care. We’re the first generation of women who went to college, worked our asses off, got a career, but still can’t afford to rent or buy a home, especially if we live in Dublin or New York.
Rather than find time to take a flower arranging course in our 40s and 50s, we’re caught in a tug of war looking after young children and our elderly parents simultaneously.
It’s exhausting. But, generations after us will have to do the same, unless they invent an app. Many of us don’t have pensions, so the situation will worsen in future.
Throw in some climate change anxiety and frown lines and we have reason to lose sleep.
But there’s also a lot of extra noise around women’s issues that we don’t need to worry about.
We’re perpetually told by marketing and Hollywood that we’re victims, and told to fight toxic masculinity with toxic feminism, which isn’t beneficial to anyone.
Post #metoo victimhood, gender wars and the ‘pay gap,’ which Calhoun’s addresses are things we needn’t lose sleep over, because they don’t exist.
In the US, the pay gap stands at less .98 cent to the dollar according to PayScale’s report entitled ‘The State of Gender Pay Gap 2019’ and in Ireland, according to the CSO, the wage gap for those aged 30 and under is 0.8pc, rising to 5.8pc in the 30 to 40-age bracket, when many of us chose to start families.
We also need to ignore rampant attention seeking from female lead media like the new video from US Girls. Girls. Girls. Magazine entitled ‘Be A Lady, They Said.’ It features an austere looking Gen Xer, Cynthia Nixon (Miranda from Sex And The City) reminding us about our endless victimhood.
“Be a lady they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Your pants are too tight. Don’t show so much skin. Don’t show your thighs. Don’t show your breasts. Don’t show your midriff,” she goes on and on. Yawn.
This stuff makes out that we get a worse deal than men, and that they have the advantage. But, women have babies, men don’t. Twice as many men kill themselves as women. In 2017, male life expectancy stood at 76.1, female life expectancy stood at 81.1.
According to the WHO, men have greater levels of occupational exposure to physical and chemical hazards. In 2010, almost 750,000 men died at work, as opposed to just over 102,000 women. Whatever about going to war.
The one sides argument is tedious. I’m always intrigued by books like these that are written by women with husbands, Brownstones and kids.
What are single parents like me meant to say. It’s not a competition, but I’d love a second income to help cover costs of rearing a child, whatever about a childcare option that doesn’t involve asking for a favour.
Surely we’re not worse off than our grandmothers, members of the Greatest Generation lost their husbands, brothers and fathers in World War Two, while Baby Boomers didn’t have equality in the workplace, laser treatment, botox or bikram yoga.
We also grew up without social media, smart phones and headphones destroying our personalities, giving us mental health issues and narcissistic tendencies like the generations that will follow us.
Despite our shortcomings, I’m happy to be a member of Generation X.
We’re way more fun than millennials, and for those of us not caught up in the cult of busy, we can have conversations, share opinion and most importantly – we’re still not too old for a dirty rave.