Summary from Goodreads:
When Ada Calhoun found herself in the throes of a midlife crisis, she thought that she had no right to complain. She was married with children and a good career. So why did she feel miserable? And why did it seem that other Generation X women were miserable, too?
Calhoun decided to find some answers. She looked into housing costs, HR trends, credit card debt averages, and divorce data. At every turn, she saw a pattern: sandwiched between the Boomers and the Millennials, Gen X women were facing new problems as they entered middle age, problems that were being largely overlooked.
Speaking with women across America about their experiences as the generation raised to “have it all,” Calhoun found that most were exhausted, terrified about money, under-employed, and overwhelmed. Instead of being heard, they were told instead to lean in, take “me-time,” or make a chore chart to get their lives and homes in order.
In Why We Can’t Sleep, Calhoun opens up the cultural and political contexts of Gen X’s predicament and offers solutions for how to pull oneself out of the abyss—and keep the next generation of women from falling in. The result is reassuring, empowering, and essential reading for all middle-aged women, and anyone who hopes to understand them.
I am from the dog’s tail of GenX (I guess that gets tagged as “Xennial” now?? I dunno, generations are weird) and, suffice to say, midlife is getting kind of wild. So I was pretty interested in Ada Calhoun’s book-length expansion on her Oprah.com article, “The New Midlife Crisis.”
I really liked the concept of Why We Can’t Sleep and Calhoun spoke with many different GenX women for this book. A lot of these why-our-lives-are-not-working books seem to always really concentrate on women in one slice of the demographic, usually married women with children, but Calhoun went pretty wide. Married women in both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, divorced women, those categories plus kids and without kids, women who never married or had children (the only demographic I’m not sure about is transwomen, because I didn’t specifically note that and I don’t remember). She interviewed women born throughout the course of GenX (~1965-1980) so it does feel representative of most of the generation.
But after so much “Ack! Gen X women, what is going wrong!?” I felt there was too little “maybe this is what we can do to gain our equilibrium”. So many chapters dwelt on how our relationships are in trouble, or finances are in trouble, we’re having career struggles, we’re the generation who waited to have children so are both caring for younger children and aging parents at the same time. So it gets a bit dark and anxiety-making. Then there’s a late chapter on perimenopause and then a chapter about things Calhoun did that worked for her to get back to a less-fraught mindset, and then the book is done. So it feels a bit unfinished, like we need some more solutions. But overall I thought the book was useful. It definitely makes you feel less alone.
Calhoun’s website has a link to her “Why We Can’t Sleep” Spotify playlist, which is a nice lineup.
Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.