By Kathleen Gerson
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Extra info for Hard Choices: How Women Decide About Work, Career and Motherhood
Even during periods of accelerated social change, many are able to move stably through life without veering significantly from an expected path. Periods of rapid change increase the likelihood of exposure to triggering events that promote and sometimes force individual change. At these times, people who might otherwise assume that the order of their lives is given find that they must undergo personal change in order to adapt to changing social circumstances. These people experience turning points when they abandon old assumptions and confront new possibilities.
The personal decisions of young adult women, most of whom came of age in the 1970s, underlie these rapid social changes. This generation reached adulthood during a period of accelerated social change. Born in the aftermath of World War II, most of its members grew up in so-called traditional households. Ironically, the mothers of this generation are the women who vacated the workplace in large numbers to devote themselves to home and family. Yet the world this generation has inherited, and helped as adults to create, differs greatly from the world it knew as children.
Growing work ambitions and a diminishing interest in mothering thus eventually replaced their early domestic aspirations. These examples illustrate the developmental path taken by an increasing proportion of women from both the middle and working classes who grew up believing in the "feminine mystique," only to find that adult life offered a very different set of alternatives. The next four lives begin from notably different starting points than the first four stories. First, there are the cases of Gail and Mary: Gail was not attracted to motherhood as a child, but rather hoped to avoid it.