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Midlife Women Tell the Truth about Work, Relationships, and the Rest of Life

by (author) Barbara Moses

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Mar 2006
General, Aging, Women's Health
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2006
    List Price

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Women at Mid-life Tell the Truth about What Really Matters in Work, Relationships, and the Rest of Life
From the bestselling author of What Next? comes a deliciously frank and inspiring look at contemporary women and the life choices they make.

“I am feverish with all the possibilities,” says one woman, of her life now. “I lost myself, my sense of being because I had to conform to an alpha male world. I would come out of meetings sick to my stomach, not because of what had happened in the meeting but because of what had happened to me,” says another of her life in a corporate organization.

So just what does this generation of women, the first to “have it all,” have to say for themselves today? Lots, it turns out. Rueful, funny, bitchy, wise, women at mid-life are tired of trying to please and continually biting their tongues. They have worked, married, had children, divorced, chosen to stay home, and learned lots of life’s lessons — and they are more than happy to dish it all out for us.

Through the skilful lens of renowned life coach Dr. Barbara Moses, the voices of over one thousand women are focused on the issues surrounding career, family, love and sex, friendship, and society. Through them, we see a brilliant snapshot of an entire generation, one that first tackled the glass ceiling and fought for equality at home and at work. We hear what they think of their lives now, of the choices they have made, what has made them happy, and what they would change for the second half of their lives. In Moses’s capable hands, these voices become welcome advice from a host of friends, a road map for future choices. Dish is addictively readable and full of wisdom, and it will change the face of self-help.

A sample of the voices in Dish:

“My boss, the VP of HR, said, ‘We really need to promote work-life balance in the company. Let’s have a meeting Monday morning at seven-thirty to discuss it.’”
“I’m proud of myself for ending the marriage . . . asserting my right to feel good about my life and being strong enough to do it.”
“I practise Marxist (Groucho) monogamy. I wouldn’t have an affair with anyone who would have an affair with me.”

About the author

Contributor Notes

Dubbed “a Canadian career guru” by Fast Company magazine, Dr. Barbara Moses is a sought-after media commentator on career management. Dr. Moses appears frequently on network and local TV and radio, and is the bestselling author of What Next?: The Complete Guide to Taking Control of Your Working Life; The Good News About Careers; and Career Intelligence. She is a columnist for the Globe and Mail and the Wall Street Journal’s and is a featured expert on various websites. Dr. Moses lives in Toronto.

Excerpt: Dish: Midlife Women Tell the Truth about Work, Relationships, and the Rest of Life (by (author) Barbara Moses)

We Contain Multitudes: Our Many Roles, Many Selves

Manager, professional, mentor, mother, wife, volunteer, artist, friend, athlete. Never before have there been so many demands on women to excel in so many domains of life, so many opportunities for self-­expression and success, for disappointment and frustration. Our sense of self is nuanced, intricate, and rich. We derive our feelings of satisfaction from multi-ple roles.

Freud famously said: “Love and work are the corner­stone of our humanness.” If we augment “love” to include our friends and our passions and “work” to include paid and unpaid activity, this is all that matters. These are the issues we are particularly likely to reflect on at midlife, a time of significant opportunities and challenges when we take stock and ask, “What next?” and “How can I feel better about my life?” and re-­evaluate our priorities.

We have so many needs and desires. In my career/life-­planning workshops with managers and professionals, I am always aware of the different ways in which men and women identify and rank their values. The most striking difference is not in the values themselves or how they are ranked, although there are differences, but in how the lists are completed. The men finish the exercise in a few minutes and move on to the next question. The women write the list. Then they erase it. Then they do it again. Disaster! Children ­aren’t at the top of the list! Guilt! Erase! Erase!

We want it all. We need it all to have a sense of a fulfilling life.

We all have unique needs, but we also have a lot in common. Each of our roles provides opportunities for a deep sense of satisfaction that supports important values and desires. Each also opens us up to disappointment and sadness. What mother is not deeply, viscerally wounded when her child tells her she hates her? What professional is not furious when her male boss tells her she is not a good team player or that she needs to toughen up? What woman is not exasperated that she has to choose between the great career and the great family life?

We wear our hearts on our sleeves. We are tender but can be tough. We lead interior lives, always on a quest, always asking, Is this all there is, is this how life should be, am I doing this right, should I make a change, is everyone in my care happy, how do I compare with others in my situation?

We use subtle vocabulary to describe our emotions. We are explorers of an emotional terrain quite foreign to the land of doing, acting, and achieving. The one thing we ­can’t do is segment our lives. If we are deliciously happy in one area, we are full of lightness. If we are hurt in one area, it spills over and colours everything else. A sharp word from a friend. A child’s rejection or failure. A boss’s criticism. A partner’s ennui. ­Don’t take it personally, we are told. But we do. We may get angry at our environment momentarily, but finally we ruminate: What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? And we blame ourselves. “If I was smarter or tougher or a better partner or parent or professional, this ­wouldn’t have happened, or I would be better able to cope,” we tell ourselves.

Who are we? We are midlife women who have been doing what we’re doing long enough to know a few things about life and work. We are experienced enough to have perspective on ourselves, our work, and our relationships. We can be bitchy. We are sick of engaging in male-­pleasing behaviours. We are sick of pretending we are good girls. We are sick of putting others’ needs first.

We are also nosy. Very nosy. Am I thinking and feeling similar things to other women? Are they doing something I can do? This curiosity gives us insight into our own experiences and what we can do differently. It is how women learn.

We compare ourselves to others in all life arenas. We used to ask: “How did you do on the test?” Now we ask: “How are you doing at work?” “How are you doing as a mother?” “How are you doing as a partner?” “How do you feel about X, Y, Z?” In this way we can answer the critical questions: “Am I doing OK?” “Are my feelings — whether positive or negative — normal?” Social psychologists call this phenomenon social comparison.

Dish will give you the inside scoop and allow you to check your experiences and feelings against the lives of women who have grappled with the same questions, insecurities, thoughts, and challenges, and overcome them. It provides no-­holds-­barred career and life intelligence on what women need to know and do in order to feel good about themselves. It provides a psychological framework for women to understand and reshape their lives, make good decisions, and move forward with grace.

We are all in different places. Some of us have a degree of financial independence. Most of us do not. Some of us have a household full of kids, some are empty nesters, some are childless. While some of us are happy, many of us are struggling. We are tired, lonely, unhappy at work, irritated with our partners, worried about our kids, or disappointed with how our lives have turned out so far. As the pampered baby-­boom generation, we thought we could have it all. Some of us feel that all we got were the dregs; most of us feel that what we got was something in between.

Editorial Reviews

“A must read . . .Listen-up girls: Midlife women spill the secrets of their success."
The National Post
“Straight talk about what women really want.”
The Toronto Star

“Sharing advice and experiences from real women, Dr. Moses, has compiled a guide on how to be successful and happy at work, at home and in your relationships… This inspiring guide is a well organized, easy read.”
Metro News

“In this fascinating new book, best-selling author and “career guru” Barbara Moses discovers what midlife women really think — all the untold secrets they rarely share.”
"Dish found and conquered a tough audience in me... a surprisingly entertaining read that eschews stereotypes and often rings true....Moses is refreshing."
The Globe and Mail
"Moses leads women out of the wilderness. Dish is funny, insightful and practical--a remedial tool for woman wanting to rejuvenate themselves at any point in their lives."
The Woman's Post
“Mythbusting at midlife . . . Work-life expert gets hundreds of Boomer women to share the ‘awful bitchy truth.’” —Ottawa Sun
“She speaks her mind and doesn’t sugercoat the truth. And it’s that same honesy, brutal or otherwise, that comes through in her new book, Dish.”
Calgary Herald
“A must-read for women.”
—Sheila Copps

Praise for What Next?:

“In this must-read book, Moses distills her years of research and experience into a clear and comprehensive guidebook for anyone to follow, regardless of their career situation.”
— Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail columnist

“Informed . . . timely . . . full of practical insights on how organizations can secure their future and, at the same time, meet the needs of the different demographic groups.”
— Dr. David Foot, bestselling author of Boom, Bust & Echo

Other titles by Barbara Moses