When I was in college, people talked a lot about the "revolution," although I'm not entirely sure we would have recognized one if it happened in the front yard. This was back in the late 60s and early 70s, when everybody wanted to be a revolutionary, including the kids who were majoring in investment banking.
When we failed to actually create a political and social utopia, it didn't truly come as a big surprise. And some things worked out just the way we hoped -- maybe even better. I don't know if we would have dared imagine an African-American president who won his nomination after a hard primary battle against a woman.
And we would have been pleased to know that the United States of the 21st century would be a place where women worked as routinely as men did, and where young couples automatically assumed they would share the role of family breadwinner.
It really was a revolution. And we would never have imagined that that the country was going to charge right into it without ever asking who was going to take care of the kids.
Back in the day, we were totally confident -- so confident that we hardly even bothered to discuss it -- that our futures would involve flexible jobs that allowed both husbands and wives to take time off or reduce their workweek without ruining their career opportunities. And that early childhood education would be available to everybody just the way elementary school education is.
But it didn't happen. And the tension between work and childcare is the one thing that restricts all the amazing progress that American women have made over the last 50 years.
It crops up all over. Girls outstrip boys all the way through college, yet they don't have the same earning power once they've been out in the world of work for a while. We still only have 17 women in a 100-member U.S. Senate, and one of the big reasons is that women who go into politics tend to wait until their children are older. They get a later start than men, and it's harder to make it to the top of the ladder.
I named my new book about what happened to American women since 1960 "When Everything Changed." But this, alas, is one thing that didn't.
Gail Collins, a New York Times op ed columnist, is the author of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. She was previously the Times editorial page editor, the first woman ever to hold that position.