Shellenbarger, Sue

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Shellenbarger, Sue

PERSONAL: Married (marriage ended). Hobbies and other interests: Riding all-terrain vehicles.

ADDRESSES: Office—Career Journal, P.O. Box 300, Princeton, NJ 08543. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer. Wall Street Journal, Chicago bureau chief, "Work & Family" columnist, 1991–. Associated Press, financial markets columnist; "Work & Family" (talk-radio program), host.

AWARDS, HONORS: Working Mother Twenty-five citation, Working Woman magazine; named among Twenty-five Most Influential Working Mothers by Working Mother magazine; Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award, 2000; National Society of Newspaper Columnists award, 2000; Darrell Sifford Memorial Prize in Journalism; Emma Award; Clarion Award.


Work & Family: Essays from the "Work & Family" Column of the Wall Street Journal, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1999.

The Breaking Point: How Female Midlife Crisis Is Transforming Today's Women, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2005.

Parenting magazine, contributing editor.

SIDELIGHTS: Sue Shellenbarger is best known for the "Work & Family" column she has contributed to the Wall Street Journal since 1991. Her first book, Work & Family: Essays from the "Work & Family" Column of the Wall Street Journal, contains selections from the first decade of Shellenbarger's column. "The theme of how to satisfy competing demands runs through all these thoughtful essays," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer, adding that "these short, sometimes pointed pieces only begin to address the complexities of working families in the postindustrial economy." "Using personal profiles of people in the workplace," a biographer for the Wall Street Journal Executive Career Site noted, "Shellenbarger illustrates the issues Americans face in trying to balance their jobs and their home lives."

Some of those issues have to do with the ability of workers to keep those two facets of their lives distinct. Shellenbarger, however, sees the two converging. In an interview with LiNE Zine contributor Brook Manville, Shellenbarger said: "I think one big trend is simply the erosion of boundaries between work and family. Technology is assisting this of course with increased use of cell phones and computer technology that allows us to work anytime, anywhere." A key part of this trend lies in the way that online learning allows individuals to blur the lines between their professional and personal lives. "Learning professionals need to think of ways to integrate learning into family lifestyles and look for ways to provide families with some of the same learning opportunities that they are providing to the worker," Shellenbarger told Manville. "And to think in the holistic terms that learning is a value for the family and not just the individual."

Shellenbarger's second book, The Breaking Point: How Female Midlife Crisis Is Transforming Today's Women, also draws on her own experience. The motivating factors behind the book, wrote Edward M. Eveld in the Kansas City Star, were Shellenbarger's father's death, the end of her marriage, and the maturing of her children. She responded to the stress by turning to riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and then writing about her experiences in the Wall Street Journal. "Shellenbarger wrote a column about her ride on the wild side," explained Eveld, "and women bombarded her with messages about their own midlife changes, some turbulent and provoked by circumstances, others quiet and provoked by introspection. She then did her own study of the topic and wrote a book." As Shellenbarger told Library Journal interviewer Lynne Maxwell, "Women long overloaded by juggling work and family are at risk." She added, "So are those who carry a lot of emotional baggage from childhood. In the presence of any or several of these circumstances, a woman's inborn drive toward wholeness can easily erupt into crisis."

The Breaking Point is based on interviews Shellenbarger conducted with fifty different women who had gone through midlife transitions of one kind or another. "Of the fifty women in her study," Eveld explained, "she counted thirteen new spouses or partners. She also counted twenty new careers, fourteen new hobbies and fifteen new religious pursuits, plus sixteen women who took up adventure travel and eight who threw themselves into extreme sports." "Contrary to popular wisdom," a Publishers Weekly contributor observed, "Shellenbarger says 'the vital juices of joy, sexuality, and self-discovery are bubbling within, more powerfully and compellingly than ever' at midlife." Shellenbarger also identified six different archetypes, each of which may use any one of six different approaches to crisis. "The archetypes came to me in a sort of epiphany," she told Maxwell. "I realized each woman had experienced one of a handful of driving forces that would be readily understandable to anyone living in our culture." In a Library Journal review of the book, Maxwell stated, "This powerful, eminently readable book will answer questions women may have about why they feel compelled to forge new life paths with the onset of middle age."



Booklist, March 15, 1999, David Rouse, review of Work & Family: Essays from the "Work & Family" Column of the Wall Street Journal, p. 1266.

Kansas City Star, April 18, 2005, Edward M. Eveld, review of The Breaking Point: How Female Midlife Crisis Is Transforming Today's Women.

Library Journal, December 1, 2004, Barbara Hoffert, review of The Breaking Point, p. 92; March 1, 2005, Lynne F. Maxwell, review of The Breaking Point, p. 101; March 15, 2005, Lynne F. Maxwell, "Q&A: Sue Shellenbarger," p. 100.

People, May 30, 2005, review of The Breaking Point, p. 45.

Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1999, review of Work & Family, p. 73; March 7, 2005, review of The Breaking Point, p. 62.


LiNE Zine, (June 25, 2003), Brook Manville, "Weighing the Balance: An Interview with Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal's 'Work & Family' Columnist" (June 25, 2005).

Wall Street Journal Executive Career Web site, (June 25, 2005), biography of Sue Shellenbarger.

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