Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis

It's no secret that women are under stress: juggling careers, relationships, motherhood (or the decision to opt out of it) and managing the myriad everyday details of life. But as Ada Calhoun discovered, Gen X women are especially strained. Calhoun, a Gen Xer feeling the weight of balancing work, parenting, marriage, friendship and "having it all," examines her generation's collective midlife crisis (and its attendant guilt) in her third nonfiction book, Why We Can't Sleep.

Building on her popular 2017 essay "The New Midlife Crisis for Women" for the Oprah website, Calhoun (Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give) begins by defining Generation X and exploring the cultural, social and political factors that have shaped her peers' approach to life. Rising rates of crime and divorce, economic instability and environmental concerns might well be expected to cause uncertainty and long-term anxiety. But Calhoun also argues that the high expectations placed on her generation have played a part. For Gen X women, raised on girl-power mantras and second-wave feminism, "the belief that girls could do anything morphed into a directive that they must do everything."

Midlife is challenging, Calhoun admits: there's no way around the changes it brings, nor any avoiding a certain amount of grief and worry. "It helps," she says, "to surround myself with women my age who speak honestly about their lives." Gradually letting go of the idea that reaching middle age means having it figured out--whatever "it" is--may allow Calhoun and her peers to be curious and open to their next chapters, rather than fearing them. For Gen X women and the people who love them, Calhoun's book is a great place to start. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Powered by: Xtenit