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How has Work/Life changed for Boomers? Then vs Now.

How has Work/Life changed for Boomers?  Then vs Now.

The Traditionalist generation had a cultural norm that “men worked and women stayed home with the children.”  But then, a work/life shift occurred in the 1970’s. Boomer generation women joined the workforce at increasingly higher levels. I entered the workforce as a chemical engineer in 1979 at the steepest part of the curve. Boomer women in the 1970’s and 80’s experienced a time of exhilarating, but exhausting clashes of work/life expectations. (Per Anne-Marie Slaughter we believed we could have it all!)


Gen X and Millenial generations have drawn a line in the sand demanding employers to recognize their work/life needs or they’ll move on to someplace that does. I say hooray!  Even so, in my work/life workshops I find the younger generations encountering similar challenges that Boomer women faced.  What’s more, it’s not just your working mother’s issue any more.  Men are voicing work/life concerns. We want to be there for our elders. We want meaning in our jobs and life. Challenges abound for both employees and employers.

I raised four daughters with my husband, while both of us worked.  We navigated that formidable path to our career and life goals.  Along with my fellow Boomers, I can tell you about work/life experiences then & now – perhaps giving Millenials and Gen X’ers a glimpse into the future.

  •  No doubt about it, the early phase of work/life is stressful.

Boomers Stress Then & Now - Karen Murphy July 2015 gif compressedI surveyed Boomers in the year 2000, when this generation was just starting to face career and family conflicts.  When asked about their level of stress, 61% of the Boomers reported feeling major stress.

Thirteen years later, only 27% report major stress – a significant decrease in the number of stressed Boomers!

  •  Typical Day Then & Now

Back in the day we dedicated ourselves to work, sleep, children, and home with little time for other parts of life such as friends, time on our own, community and exercise.

Take a look at the typical day of a Boomer today. For those that had children, they are grown and quite simply don’t need as much of our time. (Participants said it’s a challenge to even spend one hour with their teenager. Ha!)  Also, housework and maintenance has gone down.

  • Bommers Typical Day Then & Now - Karen Murphy July 2015 GIF compressedWhat do Boomers do with that extra time?

Sleep in?  No, we’ve lost that capability. Boomers report more time on the job, but also more time with their partner or spouse, time on their own and with friends.


Where do we go from here?

I had always pictured being a couch lump reading a mountain of books in my retirement.  When I did retire from my corporate position, my dream of how I’d spend my life evolved.  I found a passion for conducting work/life workshops to pay forward what I’ve learned. I’m using my chemical corporate experience to help build higher skilled jobs in emerging economies.  After you’ve raised 4 children, worked 10 hour days and found that it turned out alright – well, why stop there? Your next phase of life can be even more fulfilling using your career & life skills.

My message is one of hope and optimism for Millennials and Gen X’ers in the throes of work/life challenges.

Whether or not you have children, I can almost guarantee you won’t ever “sleep in” again, because you’ll discover your own work/life blend to be successful and fulfilled. And, there is a reward to getting it right.  Studies are showing a well-balanced life enables creativity, innovation and higher productivity.

So Millennials and Gen X’ers – keep up the good fight for the work/life blend you’re seeking and know that your life will open up with possibilities.  And, Boomers use the skills you’ve built to continue to define your work/life blend.  Sleeping in is overrated!


Interested to read more on this topic?  May I suggest:

Times Are Changing: Gender and Generation at Work and Home, August 2011, Families and Work Institute

Why Women Still Can’t Have it All, Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic, July/August 2012 Issue

The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose, Matthew Kelly (Paperback – Oct 4, 2005)

Create Your Work/Life Vision: 4 Steps to Take Charge and Live the Life You Envision, Karen Murphy, (Print & ebook -Sept 2012)


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