The Breaking Point How Today's Women Are Navigating Midlife Crisis

Sue Shellenbarger

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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Provocative, insightful, and resonant, The Breaking Point is an important, unique, and controversial work in the tradition of The Second Shift. Indeed, this groundbreaking study both identifies and explains a phenomenon poised to redefine our culture—namely, the generation of middle-aged women now radically changing their lives in search of greater fulfillment.

In an extension of her award-winning Wall Street Journal Work & Family column, Shellenbarger here charts and captures this trend by combining original research data and interviews with more than fifty women who have navigated their own midlife crises. Long stereotyped as the province of men, today the midlife crisis is actually reported with greater frequency by women. What brought this paradigm shift about? Emboldened by the financial independence to act on midlife desires, exhausted by decades of playing super-mom and repressing the feminine sides of themselves to succeed at work, women are now shedding the age roles of the past—as The Breaking Point accessibly explains—in favor of new pursuits in adventure, sports, sex, romance, education, and spirituality.

This study goes beyond defining a new phenomenon to show how and why the various options women use to cope with the turmoil of midlife—from playing it safe to dynamiting their lives—profoundly affect their families, careers, and our culture at large.


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Careening down a mountain on an all-terrain vehicle, I struggle for control as my ATV bounces off ruts and roots. A teenage friend leading the way on his dirt bike waves his hand in a "Slow down!" signal.
I ignore him. At 51, I am hell-bent on adventure.
Grazing the trunk of a Douglas .r big enough to halt a speeding Humvee, I make a turn on two wheels and hit the throttle. I am invincible. Ageless. Mindless, I might add, of the fact that with scant experience on mountainous terrain, I am like a grenade with the pin pulled, moments from certain
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  • Sue Shellenbarger

  • Sue Shellenbarger is the creator and writer of the Wall Street Journal's Work & Family column. The former chief of the Journal's Chicago news bureau, Shellenbarger started the column in 1991 to provide the nation's first regular coverage of the growing conflict between work and family, and its implications for the workplace and society.



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