This article by Dionne Searcy is an eye opener for women in their midlife. It is motivation that will teach you to recapture the vision of your youth and inspire you to hone that vision into clear purpose and goals.
You will realize that you can develop strategies to enrol support for your path. You have more than enough wisdom and experience you earned through life to formulate a plan to have it all and create the life that fulfills your desires.
Tracy Murphy was managing a nonprofit agency five years ago when her mother became seriously ill with heart problems. She promptly left her job to care for her, a task that has consumed Ms. Murphy ever since.
“For me, it was a no-brainer,” said Ms. Murphy, who lives in Syracuse. “When I was growing up she sacrificed for me.”
Ms. Murphy, 54, set aside her career aspirations, drained her savings account and eventually sold her gold jewelry to help make ends meet while shuttling her mother, who is 85, to doctors’ appointments and running errands.
“I always felt like I can find another job eventually — but I only have one mother,” she said.
Ms. Murphy is part of a small but economically significant group that is bucking a powerful decades-long movement of women of all ages into the labor market. In the years since the last recession began, many women like Ms. Murphy, in their late 40s and early 50s, have left the work force just as they were reaching their peak earning years.
The demands on middle-aged women to care for their parents, particularly during difficult economic times that force many families to share resources, are not the only reason for the shift. Some economists also attribute the unexpected phenomenon to extensive budget cuts by state and local governments, which employ women in large numbers and were hit harder during this recession than in previous downturns.
“It’s a disaster for the women concerned,” said Ian Shepherdson, an independent economist, “but it’s also bad news for the economy because they are not contributing to growth and their skills are eroding through extended inactivity.”
As the economy struggles to get back on track, the labor participation rate remains feeble for almost everyone. Still, the losses affecting this group of women — who normally would be in the prime of their careers — stand out from the crowd and highlight the challenges facing middle-aged workers who, for whatever reason, find themselves out of a job.
After a long period in which women moved actively into the work force, the job participation of women has dropped sharply in recent years, particularly among the middle-aged.
Since the start of the recession, the number of working women 45 to 54 has dropped more than 3.5 percent. There are now about one million fewer women of that age in the labor force than at their peak at the end of 2009. For younger women the rate of decline was about 2 percent — and many of those in their 20s dropped out to return to school or left the work force temporarily to focus on caring for young children.
Men, too, have been pushed out of the labor market as jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries have been slow to return. But the rate of decline among adult men has largely tracked the curves of the economy and has been spread more evenly across ages.
Mr. Shepherdson, who highlighted the drop in working women in a recent report for his firm, Pantheon Macroeconomics, said that even in a slow-growing economy “women’s participation should not have fallen at all, especially among the women in their prime earning years.”
The fact that more elderly people are living longer may be behind many middle-aged women’s decision to stop working. Most employers do not offer flexible schedules for workers caring for elderly family members. And increasingly, women in their 40s and 50s are sandwiched between caring for aging parents and their own dependent children, including young adults still living at home.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2013 reported that 27 percent of the women surveyed had quit their job to care for a child or family member.
Sarita Gupta, co-director of Caring Across Generations, an advocacy group for home care workers and patients, said the difficulties can stack up. “Women are falling out of the work force to be primary caregivers to aging parents,” she said, “but as women go out of the work force it means they sacrifice their own financial security.”
AARP’s Public Policy Institute estimates that women 50 and over who leave the work force permanently to care for a parent lose nearly $325,000 in wages and benefits.
“It saves a lot of money but there’s a huge personal sacrifice,” said Jeannie Brown, 49, of Belgrade, Mont., who left her job as an accounting clerk for county government in 2009 to care for her disabled granddaughter and her mother, who had a stroke.
The toll that caregiving takes is more than financial. Researchers say depression and anxiety are common among women who care for an older relative.
The decline in public employment also appears to have played a major role in the exodus of middle-aged working women. Between September 2008 and April of this year, 640,000 state and local government workers lost their jobs, according to Labor Department data. Almost half were in education, an industry where a typical employee is a woman in her 40s.
In Birmingham, Ala., for example, most of the nearly 300 teachers laid off in recent years were women who had been with the district 15 to 20 years, according to the local teachers union. In Trenton, many of the roughly 200 school district workers laid off since 2009, union officials said, were female support staff members who lost their jobs when cafeterias, paraprofessional services and school security teams were privatized.
Denice Sharpe was laid off and went to culinary school, hoping to start her own business.
In Chicago, Katherine White was laid off in 2011 from her job teaching writing and history to fifth and sixth graders. Initially, her life was a whirl of activity as she fine-tuned her résumé and applied for numerous full-time teaching positions. Oh, there are days when I would gladly quit, but I need to keep saving for retirement. The problems faced by an American woman these days...
While it is unfortunately a growing concern for many, every individual--male or female--has to decide what seems right for them....
Share this article with aging parents who don't want to talk about it. I did not quit my job, but it was taken from me anyway because the...
“I tell you, I really thought I had the job in a lot of cases, and it didn’t happen,” Ms. White, 56, said.
In 2012 she accepted a temporary teaching position for one semester. When that job ended, she started firing off résumés again. “No nibbles in over a year,” she said.
She picked up a few tutoring jobs to help pay her bills, but a few weeks ago Ms. White abandoned her search. She signed up for computer technology classes in hopes of finding a job in a new field.
“A lot of teachers, we say we’re too young to retire and too old to be competitive with the market out there,” she said. “We’re between a rock and a hard place, and you have to know how to navigate through it and reinvent yourself.”
Some economists think jobs for women in education and other fields will come back eventually, assuming the economy picks up steam and government budgets improve. The dropout trend is “interesting and potentially disturbing but it may be transitory,” said Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor economist and expert on women and the economy.
By contrast, Ms. Goldin noted, the participation rate for women 55 and over increased in the years after the recession, suggesting that many older women are eager to keep working as long as they can.
For women laid off after having settled into a career, the hurdles, both real and imagined, can be significant, according to job counselors. Middle age is a fragile time, they say, and older women often lack the confidence of younger women when forced to look for a new job. They also face the challenges of all older workers: Employers may view them as too expensive, overqualified or out of touch with the changing demands of the workplace.
Denice Sharpe, 51, was laid off from her information technology job in Durham, N.C., in September 2008, the same month Lehman Brothers collapsed. In 2012, she finally gave up looking in her field and enrolled in culinary school. She is hoping to start a business creating a line of low-carbohydrate fresh food.
“Those of us who have been put out to pasture prematurely should actually be about creating a new economy based on small businesses and based on whatever kinds of talents you have that weren’t being used in a formal 9-to-5 job,” she said.
Sharon Ritchie, 51, has been looking for work since she was laid off in 2009 after a 16 year-career at a state-run hospital in New York. She lives in Yonkers with her mother, who has helped her financially.
“After a while you get tired of hearing no, no, no,” she said. But “I don’t give up. That ain’t me.”
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This article is written by Dionne Searcey who joined The New York Times as an economics writer in April 2014. Before joining The Times, Ms. Searcey spent nine years at The Wall Street Journal where she was an investigative reporter and also covered national legal affairs and the telecom industry. Prior to that she covered politics at Newsday, the statehouse and education beats at The Seattle Times as well as crime and criminal courts for the Chicago Tribune and the City News Bureau of Chicago. Ms. Searcey was raised in Nebraska and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
A version of this article appears in print on June 24, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Women Quit Jobs in Peak Years, Setback for Them and Economy.