June 2000

Flux review

By Peggy Orenstein
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Peggy Orenstein spent three years interviewing women single women and wives, mothers and childless women, women on the career track, women who try to balance family and work, stay-at-home moms. Flux is the result of these interviews, and it's fascinating.

Orenstein's findings lead her to conclude that, while considerable strides have been made toward equality of the sexes, women still have difficult choices to make. She explores the potential for material success and personal fulfillment that young women have, as well as the inevitable trade-offs that women make.

Orenstein introduces the reader to Shay Thomas, a medical student who discusses what it means to be black and female in a mostly white male professional world. We also hear from Mira Brodie, a young woman intent on making it in the corporate world, despite the inherent obstacles. Then we meet Denise Middleton, a woman who appears to have succeeded on the family and career fronts, but who honestly describes the painful hurdles she had to overcome.

A recurring theme is the career-family dilemma: It's very hard for a woman to push for a top position in the business world and have a family as well. Orenstein drives this notion home by revealing that while the vast majority of men in top tier positions are married with children, almost all the women in these top positions are childless, and most are unmarried.

Orenstein also delves into women's desire to have children. Some older childless women discuss their full lives, and alternate means of maternal satisfaction through nieces and nephews and neighbors' children. These women represent an increasingly acceptable option for women: no children, a strong network of friends and family, and a satisfying career.

Orenstein does not rely only on experiences of others, but reveals her own struggle with the decision to have children as she approaches her mid-30s. Flux is a thought-provoking book and a captivating aid for women who want to evaluate their goals.

Julie Anderson is a writer and mother of two.

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