Category Archives: Working Women

Distraction Dilemma: Breaking, Breaking News

 

 

As I drove out of the supermarket parking lot yesterday, I congratulated myself. Proud that I remembered to bring my groceries with me!

Years ago on a nice spring evening, a Thursday, I exited the same supermarket parking lot minus the eight bags of food and drink items I had just purchased.

Back in the days when my daughter was on the crew team at her high school. Moms (always the moms, let’s be honest here) took turns hosting the team on the Friday nights before Saturday morning regattas. We put on big spreads which, if memory serves, mostly featured some kind of pasta casserole, bowls of salad and buckets of garlic bread. I’m sure there must have been a vegetable side dish and dessert too.

On that Thursday before my turn at hosting the team dinner, I drove after work to the supermarket nearest my house with the “Crew Dinner To Buy” list in my purse. It was dinner time – I was hungry, I was tired, so was everyone else. My body may have been at the store – but my mind was still downtown – at the law firm  – too many client matters remained on that “To Do” list.  I walked up and down the aisles, pulling the items for the anticipated bunch of carb-craving teen athletes in a semi-automated fashion.

The check out lady smiled as she scanned my purchases – having a big party? Yes, I probably said. I paid, left the store and steered the overflowing cart outside the store and left it in the “pick up” area against the silver bars en route to the parking lot.  My intent must have been to get into my car and drive around to the pick up lane to retrieve the eight bags from the cart.

But instead I drove home. Two miles away.  I pulled into my driveway. Still thinking about work, I am sure. Knowing I had emails to check and a project to complete. Parked. Then opened the trunk to find it empty. Because I had left all of the bags in the cart in front of the supermarket. A swear word was likely emitted at that point.

That is the last time I recall being as distracted as I have been in recent weeks.

I did drive right back to the store. Luckily, the cart was where I had left it 10 minutes earlier, I put the bags in the trunk, drove home, took the groceries out, unpacked them, made dinner for my family, caught up on work  – and then hosted the crew dinner the next night. You know the busy/working/mom drill.

I no longer work downtown (still a mom though, and now a grandmother too, just for the record so you can tell that maybe through increased age alone, I’ve earned the right to have distracted moments.)

But now I am distracted much of the time. No longer by lawyering. Or by my kids. Or by my husband. Not by events on my calendar. And I do not have a sudden onset of ADD nor any neurological problem (I get checked.) No, my distraction comes from my own inability to focus for more than 10 minutes without having an insistent craving to turn on the news.

So I do. I check my twitter feed. I look up news alerts. I listen to the radio. I have the TV on in the background. All for fear of missing some new crisis that might have happened while I was doing the laundry or taking a shower.

The crises keep erupting, one piling on top of another, breaking news breaking into new breaking news, breathless reporters and chatty commentators. And yes, I could turn it off. Yes, I should turn it off. But I keep checking for updates.

Last night at book club we talked about this. A few of my friends are not as dominated by the need-to-know-now as I am. Lucky them! Others seem to be able to stay in control of their news needs. I’m jealous.

Part of my problem is I am less busy in the summer. I’m not taking a writing class this summer. With the end of the school year, my college-advising volunteer projects have slowed. Fewer meetings, a lighter schedule, more unstructured time.

Anticipating this summer lull, I created my own structure. A big project.  My Work-In-Progress. I am writing a novel. Writing at least four days a week.  The plan is to complete the draft by the end of August before fall semester begins and I am back in the classroom (with homework.)

What’s my “WIP” about, you ask?

A working mom, a lawyer, with two kids (how creative to use my own life as inspiration!?) dealing with friendships that go awry, possibly unscrupulous clients and unexpectedly competitive colleagues.  I even wrote an outline. And I’ve already written 50 pages – 15, 556 words, to be exact. Only 64,444 more words to go!

If only I could be more disciplined. More disciplined and not as susceptible to distractions. Like I once was as a law firm partner. Busy, busy, busy. Far too occupied to fret about possible news of ultra-scary national and world events.

Or maybe that was a less complicated time when breaking news didn’t break every ten minutes. Focus, I keep telling myself. Look away from the media. But it is difficult. Distraction is my biggest dilemma this summer.

I am certain I am not alone in feeling this way.

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Filed under Book Club, Communications, daughters, Law firm life, Lawyers, Social Media, Women, Working Moms, Working Moms, Working Women, Writing

Working Mom – Making the “Right” Choices? A Look Back.

               Female lawyer working in office

A Chanukah gift from my sister arrived yesterday – a book called “Becoming Grandma” written by the TV journalist, Leslie Stahl. The timing of the gift was impeccable as my husband and I just returned from four fun, albeit diaper-change-filled, days taking care of our two grandkids while their parents spent a few nights away. I saw the author’s photo on the cover of the book – and was reminded of a draft blog post (see below) I wrote but never published. I’m still not sure if it was Leslie Stahl who had the seat next to me on the plane that day in 1990  – but seeing her photo prompted me to revisit the choices we make as working moms (and for some of us, working grandmothers.) And to think about the consequences of these choices.

Looking back, I still wonder if I made the right choices. Maybe Leslie Stahl or whoever she was on the plane wonders too?

*************************************************

 

Life presents many choices – and one of them is whether or not to read a women’s magazine on a an airplane.

Some years ago when I was a Young Mom I took a late afternoon shuttle flight from New York City back to Washington, DC. I was returning from a business trip, traveling solo. A rare thing in my Young Mom days.

On the plane I found a seat and glanced to my right. My seat-mate was a Famous Tall Blonde TV News Person. I no longer remember her name.

Immediately I thought, “Here’s my chance.” 

I will make a casual but clever remark which will lead to an intelligent conversation with another adult (defined in my Young Mom days as someone who (a) did not wear diapers and (b) was not related to me by marriage –  a successful, talented woman, one who loves the news, all things media, as much as I did – and still do.

Or – I could just flip through the pages of The New Yorker magazine that I had brought with me on the plane –  and the Famous Tall Blonde TV News Person will no doubt look my way, see me reading an Intellectual Magazine and initiate a thoughtful chat.

We would likely end up conversing all through the flight and as the plane taxied to the terminal, we would exchange business cards and talk about getting together in a week or two.

But being a Young Mom I had also brought another magazine on board with me.

Should I open up my women’s magazine and catch up on my Young Mom required reading such as: “10 Tips for Tantrum Free Toddlers”- OR should I stick with the New Yorker?

 I chose “10 Tips for Tantrum-Free Toddlers.”

About ten minutes into the flight the Famous Tall Blonde TV News Person looked my way and glanced at the magazine on my lap.

By then I had moved on to “8 Exciting Easy Recipes for Week Night Dinners.” She turned her well-coiffed head and ignored me for the rest of the flight.

So I never got to find out if the Famous Tall Blonde TV News Person and I would have hit it off. Probably not.

In my Young Mom days I always felt like I had dual personalities – a Mom at home and a Lawyer at the office but never the twain shall meet. We were advised to low-key the Mom thing if we wanted to be successful at work.

A young partner at my first law firm once “helpfully” suggested to me that I should reduce the amount of kid-related decor in my office.  Too many photos of my kids and their crayoned pictures sent the message that I cared more about spending hours with my family than billing time for my clients.

Why was it, I wondered (although I didn’t dare say this aloud) acceptable, if not outright admired, for men to show off their Dad sides? If a male lawyer in my office decided to leave early for soccer practice, he would be lauded as a “family man.”

Funny, isn’t it, how the term “family woman” doesn’t exist?

But if I had to do it again – reflecting now on 30 plus years of working mom status (where is my badge?), I’d probably make the same choices. The office display of family photos and kiddie-drawings. Leaving mid-day to go to the school play. Not missing a school conference.  Taking criticism from certain of my male law firm colleagues when they “caught” me by the elevators, exiting the office at 6:30 p.m. and asking – “taking a half-day, Nancy?”

And not feeling guilty about reading a women’s magazine on an airplane, no matter who had the seat next to mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Careers, Law firm life, Lawyers, Men vs Women, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Reading, Women, Women in the Workplace, Working Moms, Working Moms, Working Women

Avert Your Eyes! a/k/a Wearing Shorts to the Law Firm

 

NLW LAwyer

 

Here we are in a typical, sizzling, steamy July in Washington DC. And I don’t know about you, but I like to dress appropriately for very hot weather.

Not everyone agrees with my definition of appropriate.

There was a strict dress code at the first law firm where I worked. A large firm with long gray halls, gray-walled offices and lawyers who often wore gray suits to match. Not a fun place.

Per the dress code, open-toe shoes were banned. Truly, this was in writing – ladies (lawyers and staff) must not wear open-toe or peep-toe (although I’m not sure if the term “peep toe” had been invented in the 1980’s)  shoes of any kind.

I suppose this prohibition was to prevent male lawyers from seeing a few female toes, lest they be distracted by toe nudity from the crucial business of billing a high number of hours to clients who paid a fortune for the brilliant advice we gave them.

On a particularly scorching summer day, the kind that our Nation’s Capital specializes in, several of us stood in a law firm hall discussing the weather. An older partner shared his view that when the outdoor temperature exceeded his body temperature, all dress code rules could be abandoned.

If it was over 98.6 degrees outside, he claimed we should be able to wear what we wanted to.  Sounded reasonable to me.

I tested it out. I didn’t show my toes – but my knees.

One Saturday morning in July, law firm management decided to hold a rare all-lawyer, morning meeting at a downtown hotel. It was an extremely hot day, the apex of an extended heat wave. So I decided to wear white shorts.

Perfectly nice white shorts, well-ironed, to-the-knee, Bermuda-type shorts with a stylish shirt on top.

The managing partner of the firm stood at the lectern and greeted all of us – perhaps there were 160 lawyers in the audience. He made a few opening remarks about the soaring summer temperatures – then launched into a critical commentary about the only person in the room who was incorrectly dressed.

Me.

All eyes now on the 30-ish young woman, seated in row 11, noticeable not for my legal acumen, but for my rule-breaking white shorts. I had distinguished myself as the only person – male or female (perhaps 14 out of the 160) – in the entire firm who chose to wear shorts on blazingly hot day – oh, the sheer gall of it.

I tried to look downcast, demure and embarrassed. But inwardly I felt as if I was in the right, and that the other lawyers had shown their usual sheep-like adherence to all rules by wearing long-pants or long-ish skirts on one of the hottest days of the year.

At my second law firm sometime in the  late 1990’s the dress code was tossed out in favor of “business casual”, an undefined term that men more readily latched onto than women.  Men could wear a standard uniform of hideously-pleated-front khaki pants and polo shirts and call themselves “business casual.” We didn’t have a wardrobe counterpart.

I tried to adhere to the standards of “business casual” for women.

Yet on another scorching hot July day, a day when the outdoor temperature was above my body temperature, I again tempted fate and wore white shorts to work. This time on a weekday.

Now my second firm consisted of 22 or so lawyers and a similar number of staff. It was not a formal place. Our scattered-across-the-US. clients made infrequent in-person visits.

Still there were apparel rules of the unwritten kind.  And even though I was a now a partner at the second law firm, I violated a rule by showing up in nice white Bermuda shorts.

The managing partner, a good friend, took me aside and quietly suggested that wearing shorts to the office, whatever the weather, was not one of my better ideas.

Looking back, now that I am now no longer down-town-office-bound on a daily basis, I wonder what led me to challenge the work dress rules.

I am more of a rule-bender, rather than a rule-breaker type. So it wasn’t defiance of authority that led to my choice. More likely I chose to wear shorts because it was the practical thing to do. I am known for being a very practical person. And on both of those July shorts-wearing days it was extremely hot.

Lower temperatures, more clothing. Higher temperatures, less clothing.

A guideline that still seems reasonable to me.

I doubt that anyone at either of the two law firms was stirred to dubious ethical action by the sight of my (then) knobby knees and (still) slender legs on those two days when I wore shorts. Yet that feeling of being scolded for a clothing choice still rankles.

As I write this, it is 98 degrees outside. We are again in the middle of a July heat wave. I am wearing shorts. Tomorrow I will wear shorts too. And likely the next day as well.

Not sure of the weather where you are – or of the workplace you might be in, but I say go for it. Nice white shorts are always flattering. If the powers-that-be call you out on your apparel, suggest that they avert their eyes. After all, they say that the legs are the last to go.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aging, Law firm life, Lawyers, Men vs Women, Women, Women in the Workplace, Working Women

On Being a Mom Without a Mom on Mother’s Day

Red knitwork, horizontal

“Yes, Mom, what do you want?” I said quietly into the phone. “My boss is sitting right here, I can’t talk now.”

My Mom had been calling me every day at the office for six months. She had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the spring of my 3rd year of law school.

As a newly-minted lawyer at a government agency in downtown DC, my first job, with a boss and my own office (albeit very small and without a window), I was learning to deal with her daily calls.

No, I can’t tell you that,” I told her.

She persisted.

Please, just tell me what your bra size is,” she asked again.

Mom, c’mon, I’m at work, I’m in my office,” I pleaded. “My boss, he’s a man, he is in my office, too.”

She pleaded right back.

I’m at the yarn store in Westport. I’m knitting you a sweater. Just give me the number.”

I gave up.

36B,” I whispered into the phone, as my boss rolled his eyes upward, squelching a laugh.

Exactly one year later my Mom died of cancer. (well, actually she died because of malpractice related to her cancer but that is a tale for another time.) She was 54 years old, I was 28.

I still have the beautiful red, V-neck cotton sweater with the just-below-the-elbow length sleeves she made me, although it no longer fits. It was as stylish then as it is now. She was a woman of both good taste and great kindness.

Some women complain that their elderly moms call them too often.

Every night, can you believe it, she calls me every single night, and then she worries if I am not home by 9 p.m. She tells me to eat my vegetables, have I gotten an eye check up lately, she bugs me about the kids or my job or my husband. When are we going to visit her? Who’s going to drive her to her doctor appointments? Or run to the store to get her a new light bulb or better reading glasses. I’m tired of hearing her complaints about who did or who didn’t sit with her at dinner. Honestly, my mom is driving me crazy. Doesn’t she know what a busy life I have?

I bet she does know you have a life. Hers is shrinking in scope, yours isn’t and she wants to be a part of it.

My Mom called me at the office for over a year when she was ill. Then one day she stopped calling. Three weeks later, on a sunny spring afternoon in May as my Dad and I sat by her bed, holding her hand, in the ICU of a cancer hospital in New York City, hearing the beeps from the machines that had kept her alive ebb away, she died. It was mid-afternoon, on the Tuesday after Mother’s Day. Thoughtful as ever, she chose, I felt, to wait and not ruin the holiday for us.

I would give anything for one more phone call, nagging, annoying, insistent, critical, I’d take it.

And you know what, Mom, I’d say? You have two wonderful granddaughters and two terrific grandsons that you never got to meet. And in 2013 you became a great-grandparent, too.

What else would I tell her? Oh yes, my bra size has changed in the past 34 years. I don’t like the color red as much as I once did. But the sweater remains in my closet and it always will.

Miss you forever, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

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Filed under 1st Grandchild, 1st Job, Adult Kids, Aging, Aging Parents, Baby Boomers, daughters, Family, Female Friends, Holidays, Lawyers, Moms, Women, Working Women

Finding Your Own Lane in “Semi-Retirement”

stratton mtn

On a family trip one summer to Vermont we stopped at a familiar ski area to ride its’ alpine slide.

For the uninitiated, an alpine slide starts at the top of a non-snow-covered mountain where you sit on a sled, with a control stick between your knees, and guide your own ride along the twists and turns of a trail down the hill to the bottom.

The best part about this summer slide at Bromley Mountain is that it’s a triple track – described as “North America’s first triple-tracked” alpine slide, 2/3 of a mile long.

Triple Track means (duh) that each rider has three tracks to chose from. As I remember they were labeled – Fast, Medium and Slow – or maybe the three tracks had more clever names like #1 -“Speed For Teens”, #2 – “Active Dads” and #3 – “Moms Who Are Very Cautious.”

Whatever their designations were, I chose – no surprise here  – the latter, the slowest but steady track, kind of my life mantra, expressed on the side of a mountain. My husband and teenage son picked the faster paths, then whizzed down the mountain on their own sleds.

They were waiting for me when I arrived, five minutes later, having applied my own s-l-o-w sled’s brake multiple times as I approached every sharp turn and fast straightaway.

That triple alpine track was made for me – I like to be in charge of my own ride. I love the opportunity to choose my lane. If only life was like that alpine track.

Lately I have been veering from lane to lane.

One day I am happily zooming around with multiple plans and projects, volunteering, lunching with friends, going to meetings. The next I am contentedly at home by myself – along with our trusty terrier at my side – thinking that nothing is better than being able to sit alone in a comfortable chair (I know, don’t sit too long! bad for your health. I get it) – and write.

I did not choose to retire from my law firm at age 60 – that was an unexpected decision made for me by the cardiac authorities.  All of the articles on what to do to plan for retirement were suddenly irrelevant. I was plopped into it whether I liked it or not.

Three years have passed since then and I am still finding my way in what I call “semi-retirement.” Every day I either do too much – or I do too little.  Finding the right balance, the right lane has been tricky.

I would love nothing more than to sit at a desk all day and write. I’ve written a few short stories featuring (what else) witty and worried women in law firm settings.  Do I turn one of my favorite of these short stories into the first chapter of a novel? Or do I keep writing stories until I come up with a collection of them? Haven’t I set aside my childhood dream of becoming a published author for too long?

How ambitious those plans sound. And how self-indulgent. I now have the choice to spend hours doing what I love – while my husband is very much not-retired – (he likes his job, but loving it? you’d have to ask him.)

I  feel responsible to be productive. So some of what I write is non-fiction and earns a (tiny) fee, and I talk and write about young adult mental health and get paid for that too – and next fall, if it happens and I hope it will, I may get to teach a class about the state of mental health on college campuses.

Do these small paying “gigs” add up to giving me the right to stay in the slow lane with my writing projects?

Will the guilt I feel when I sit down to write ever subside?

I think about this as I veer from “semi-retirement” lane to lane and then back again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Baby Boomers, Books, Communications, Empty Nest, Husbands, Law firm life, Lawyers, Marriage, Men vs Women, Moms, Reading, Retirement, Second Careers, Semi-Retired, Women, Women in the Workplace, Women's Health, Working Moms, Working Women, Writing, Young Adult Mental Health

The Gratitude Challenge of an “I Used To Be A Lawyer” Volunteer

NLW LAwyer

Is it possible to complain without whining?

Or as they say in the British detective novels I love to read, without “whinging.”

(The word “whinge” sounds just like it means, don’t you think? Perhaps we should campaign to adopt the word “whinge” instead of  the word “whine” in the U.S.)

This week – when I should already be in full-on, pre-Thanksgiving mode, I am airing one small, dubiously whinge-worthy matter before moving on to the gratitude part.

The matter in question: my present status as a Volunteer compared to my prior status as a Law Partner.

Now, do not misunderstand. I am thrilled to be semi-retired and able to volunteer regularly, but I do miss some aspects of my former life as a DC law firm partner.

A tiny incident this week at a wonderful non-profit where I volunteer unsettled me.

I arrived early and saw a young staff person scurrying around busily to get ready for the workshop.  I asked her if there was anything I could do to help, she said sure and handed me a big stack of charts fresh from the photo-copier.

Could I please arrange these papers in properly numbered order sets of 30 pages each and staple the packages together to distribute to the workshop participants?

Of course I could, happy to help. Truly I was. But then it hit me again, as I sat at the table in the non-profit’s meeting room, sorting through tall stacks of paper, putting them in numerical order, that I am no longer who I once was.

I am now a Volunteer. A Volunteer who collates. Assembles. Staples. Who does what is requested of him or her. No task too small.  Without “whinging,”  (except for here.) Volunteers serve to assist an organization to fulfill its’ mission.  I feel very lucky to be part of this particular group.

Except that sometimes being a volunteer makes me feel as if I have shrunk as a person.

This small-staffed organization, like another for which I regularly volunteer, depends on its volunteers.  I know these non-profits are very grateful for our participation. I also don’t expect to get a pat on the head every time I show up. I’m fine with pitching with the smallest of tasks that need to be done.

But I’m still dealing with that pesky shrunken person feeling.

Back in the “good old days”, the managing partner of my law firm relied upon a catchy phrase – each to his or her “highest and best use”  – in deciding how to allocate legal work.

One of my law firm colleagues was a terrific negotiator so she was called upon to handle deals. An associate who was an excellent writer prepared briefs. I was considered very good at client service so I built solid client relationships. Each of us to our “highest and best use” – an approach which made for happy (relatively) lawyers and satisfied clients.

It is a sobering recognition to realize as a semi-retired person that I may no longer be sought out for my “highest and best use”.

It is not the status of being a lawyer that I miss, it is that sense of being fully utilized for what I can offer.

A few years before I left my law firm, stressed by the demanding hours and pace, I met with a career counselor who specialized in helping law firm lawyers transition to other careers. (Can you imagine? A flotilla of unsatisfied lawyers supports this career counselor specialty.)

She asked me about my non-legal experience; I told her I had done a significant amount of volunteer work over the years –  on the board of my synagogue, chairing projects at my kids’ schools, facilitating a mental health group.

She suggested I try to become an executive at a non-profit. Important to be paid, she told me, expressing her strong belief that the most unappreciated people in any organization are its’ volunteers.

I never followed through on her career change advice. My cranky aortic valve forced an early instant retirement decision. Now I think of myself as a full-time writer and part-time volunteer. A volunteer who once was a lawyer, not a lawyer who volunteers on the side.

I disagree with the career counselor’s opinion. I do feel appreciated, needed, valued. Just in a very different way than how I felt at the law firm with clients who relied on me for advice. This is an adjustment I am still making.

It is up to me now – and me alone – to figure out my own “highest and best use.”

My legal training, my ability to issue-spot, to think critically and problem-solve will always be with me. And there are times when the volunteer work lets me bring my legal mind back from hiatus. But not always. That’s my new deal.

So I will now promptly stop whining – or whinging – about this small incident and get back to being thankful that I am able to contribute to the important work this non-profit does.

Part of my pre-Thanksgiving gratitude plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Baby Boomers, Books, Careers, Law firm life, Lawyers, Retirement, Second Careers, Semi-Retired, Women, Women in the Workplace, Working Women

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do? – Old Cars, Older Marriages

wedding topper

My Detroit-born husband – after much nagging on my part (let’s call it what it is) – finally bid farewell to his beloved 1999 “sports sedan”.

For years I have been jealous of the attention (and the expenditures) he showered upon his automotive mistress. On weekend afternoons he could be found spending quality time with it in our driveway. He polished, shined and tinkered. When winter snow was forecast, he rushed outside to place a specially configured cover upon his adored vehicle, while my car was always left naked in the driveway, exposed to all icy blows.

Our friends thought it sweet that JP lavished so much attention on his old car. He keeps his old car around, isn’t that nice, just as he keeps his old wife around.

Let’s put a stop to the old car/old wife parallels right there. Although old cars and even older marriages may  share certain qualities.

While JP was online researching replacement cars, I became fascinated by the tempting descriptions of the “optional” add-on packages. How could we possibly choose between the “luxury line” package, the “modern technology” package or the “premium sports” package? Each is made to sound so alluring.

But choose you must. And years later, as the aging car enters its’ tween years, you realize you made it through without falling for “luxury”, “modern” or “premium.”  Somehow you learned to manage without the “Venetian Beige Dakota Leather Upholstery With Exclusive Stitching” or the “Palladium Gray Interior Trim.”

Marriage comes with its own set of choices. Without torturing this car metaphor too much, we choose a spouse based on the new options he or she presents. Packages of personal qualities. Of course, what you don’t want to anticipate at the time you marry is all of the wear-and-tear your marriage will go through. The initial gloss on all newlywed packages inevitably fades.

So how do long marriages survive – or even thrive?

If I knew the answer to this question, I would share it with you here. Or rather I would write a best-selling book about it, make a zillion dollars and win a Nobel Prize for my ingenuity.

Sadly, I only know the answer as it applies to my marriage.

We started talking about this last week at a meeting of my writers’ group.  The six of us – women ages 48 to 64, who all happen to be married to the same man we each started with,  have been writing about marriage.

We agreed that long marriages are based upon making accommodations.  What can we can live with – and what we cannot. There is a point that some of us get to where we feel we have accommodated enough. How do you know when or if you have reached that point?

One of the younger women in our group commented that I seemed to have a happy marriage. Has it always been that way, she asked?

Of course not. If only you had known me a decade or two ago, I told her, in the middle of my working-mom, career-super-stress, difficult-child-raising, husband-frequent-arguing years. Back then you would not have thought my marriage seemed so happy.

For me, marriage grew easier as I got older. With fewer relationship borne peaks and valleys. That I was able to better tolerate the smaller stuff – and that the bigger scary stuff that will happen puts all of the smaller stuff into perspective.

This is not always the case, I know. Divorce among older couples is on the rise, according to an article in the October 30, 2015 New York Times.

“Late life divorce, also called “silver” or “gray” divorce is becoming more common and more acceptable. In 2014, people age 50 and over were twice as likely to go through a divorce than in 1990…and for those over 65, the increase was even higher.”

And what is the biggest reason for the increase in late-life divorce?

“The changing status of women”.

Women, according to the research, are more willing to take the decisive step of divorce; men don’t want to rock the boat.  Older women expect more from their emotional lives and if they are not satisfied with them, are more likely to leave an unsatisfactory marriage, even if it may mean financial uncertainty.

This conclusion did not surprise me: Women, as they grow older, still want more out of their personal lives and are willing to take risks to get it.

Let me take a minute here to reassure JP – if he happens to read this – that I consider our marriage emotionally solid. And I think he does too.

But I applaud women who make life-changing decisions later in life to pursue a deeper emotional relationship. My friends who have divorced are all the better for it. It takes great courage to leave the known for the unknown. To really rock the boat of your family’s foundations. And come out thriving on the other side.

If only I could offer the secret to long marriages to the younger women I know. Staying together and forging a satisfying deep bond as the years pass is not easy. Making fortunate choices in the initial selection of each other’s personal packages helps.

And yes, I guess, just like with old cars, shining, polishing and tinkering, showering attention on the older marriage helps too. Perhaps the automotive metaphor is not as tortured as it seems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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