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Work and motherhood: Can you really not do it all?

Torn_bookcover Are you sick of books on the stress and inadequacy most women feel around the work/mothering issue?

If the answer is yes, you are probably not a mom.

For those of us who live in a constant state of anxiety about how we've compromised our careers for our kids or the other way around, books about the the work/life balance and how other women have dealt with it remain perennially  interesting.

Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood” is a welcome addition to this body of work. The book’s editor, Samantha Parent Walravens, assembled 47 essays by women of different ages, income brackets and in various stages of their careers. What binds the writers together is that they are all mothers, and (almost) all of them struggle with the choices they’ve made.

In an essay titled “A Letter to the Next Generation,” Karen Sibert writes: “It’s an unpopular view, but no, young ladies, you really can’t do it all.” Sibert, an anesthesiologist, has a successful career but admits she made sacrifices at home to achieve it. “Luckily I never set my sights on the award for “Mother of the Year,’” she writes.

In “Regrets of a Stay-at-Home Mom” (also published in Salon), former journalist Katy Read is refreshingly candid about how her decision to leave journalism when her sons were little led to a personal financial crisis after she and her husband divorced.

Although it doesn't sound like it, the book also contains some happy tales. In “From Harvard to Homemaking,” Bracha Goetz champions her decision to drop out of medical school and stay home to raise her six children instead. “We live simply, but with a much higher quality of life than most harried families, who are always rushing about with no time to enjoy what they’re hurrying after,” she writes.

And in “High Heels and Highlights,” Kathryn Beaumont, a lawyer, writes that while she occasionally fantasizes about spending her days in yoga pants, hanging out with her young daughter, “by the time I get to work, high-heels on, Starbucks in hand, gazing out past my computer screen at the sweep of the harbor thirty-three floors below me, I’m feeling pretty good.”

However, most of the essays underscore what modern moms already know --  achieving a balance between career goals and parenting goals is generally impossible, and all you can do is your best. It’s not a new thought, and Walravens admits she had trouble selling the book. “The big publishers were like, motherhood’s been done and anthologies don’t sell,” she said. But the point that nobody actually has it all is made all the more compelling when it is made by a choir of voices.

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 -- Deborah Netburn

 


 
Comments () | Archives (7)

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TORN is a very important book that is not just a woman's read but one that should be read by male executives, as well. The cost of having women drop out of the labor force because they can't handle the demands of motherhood and career is high to corporations and society as a whole. To retrain and hire new workers is expensive for companies -- far more costly than spending the money to retain experienced, skilled women/mothers by adjusting rules and procedures, allowing flex time and using technology for remote work.

Smart management learns to accommodate, attract the best and keep the best. TORN encapsulates the issues that over 50% of workers face and every family and husband with a working mother will face. Give this book to your daughter, your husband, your boss and your governmant legislator for a summer read.

This book is as timely as it is wise. I was torn during the years no one wrote about the difficulties of being a single working mother. Now I am retired and passing on this wonderful book to the working mothers in my life.

A really good book and more pertinent to families is:

Parenthood by Proxy....why bother having them if you aren't going to raise them.

Another excellent read: "In praise of Stay at Home Moms"

It is refreshing to see this reality presented. I grew up hearing that a woman can "have it all" with no compromises needed. That never made sense to me, but women around me kept repeating it...perhaps hoping to make it so. The best news, I suppose, is the growing body of research that seems to indicate that while engaged parents can and do have an impact on their child's feelings for them and that engaged parenting increases the likelihood of a positive parent/child relationship once the child grows-up...generally, parenting -- absentee or helicopter -- isn't nearly as important as genetics and a child's own personality to his or her eventual success/happiness in life.

Samantha,
Great book, congratulations, love you lots, xoxoxo Diana

As Dr. Karen Sibert's kid, I'd like to say I turned out OK.


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