I'm Liz, and I'm a librarian (duh)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Didn't we almost have it all?

Ugh, motherhood. I had to think long and hard about this one. I have a mother, I am a mother, and I am currently exactly halfway through a pregnancy, so I am about up to my eyeteeth in motherhood these days. I'm not really the Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul type, so I chose something a little less feel-good: How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Work Moms by Wendy Sachs. I actually bought this book for myself about two years ago, when I had been back at work a little less than a year after my daughter was born and was feeling totally overwhelmed and overtired. And then I never read it. Basically, like pretty much every mother, I am busy with too much other stuff to read, both for work and for pleasure, and I didn't want to waste my precious free time on this, which felt a little like taking my medicine. Fast forward two years, and suddenly this seemed like the perfect title for the challenge.
Sachs is a freelance TV producer and mother of two, and wrote this book because she felt pressure to stay at home with her kids and pressure to work for financial reasons and for her own self-esteem. And in talking to other moms she knew, she found that she wasn't alone in her conflicting feelings. This led Sachs to expand her research and she interviews all sorts of working mothers, mostly professionals, including television journalists, celebrities, lawyers, bankers, politicians and entrepreneurs, and gets their take on how they manage to balance a full-time job and being a full-time mother.
What's both discouraging and heartening is that pretty much everyone, no matter what they do, is burning the candle at both ends. The hours are terrible, when you're at work you wish you were with your kids, and when you're home with your family you feel guilty because you know there are things you should be doing at work. The good news is everyone, rich or not-so-rich, is in pretty much the same boat. The bad news is, there are no secrets to successfully negotiating this, except toughing it out and sacrificing. Some women "opt out" of the workplace for their kids and end up totally derailing their careers, to the detriment of their finances and their sense of self. Indeed, she cites motherhood as one of the greatest indicators of a woman's future financial ruin, mostly because of divorce but also because a woman's potential for future earnings is pretty poor if she has a 10 year hole in her resume.
It's hard for me to review this impartially, mostly because I am full up with hormones and this book strikes a little close to home. One mother in the book calls her situation a house of cards, where one weak card being pulled out can cause the whole thing to fall apart, and I must admit that's exactly how I feel pretty much all the time. The book isn't so much about self-help, but more about encouraging women who feel like they're at the end of their ropes that they're not crazy (or wrong, or bad mothers) for wanting careers despite being mothers. At the end of the day, what works for one person won't necessarily work for someone else, but these women show that there are lots of ways to cope.

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