The essays were eye-opening, completely candid and honest, and I could relate to so much of what many of the authors wrote about.
Here's what I took away from reading this book:
"It is possible to love your children without taking twenty-four-hour custodial care of them...It is possible to take care of children around the clock and not love them very much at all...It should be a twenty-first-century truism that not every women is destined to be her own children's primary caregiver. It should be a twenty-first-century truism that not every woman needs to be a mother." (Inda Schaenen)
I've never really understood the judgement and scorn mothers who make different lifestyle choices hurl at eachother. The SAHMs feel the working moms are abandoning their children, and in doing so will most certainly turn them into skinheads and armed robbers as a result. The working moms feel the SAHMs are turning back the clock on the feminist movement by opting out of the workforce women have fought so hard to enter, and in addition, what in the hell are they doing all day anyway? They must be so bored!
But here's the thing. Feminism is about choice. As another essayist says, "True liberation for women is doing whatever makes you feel like your strongest, best self." Just because a working (or non-working) mom's choice wouldn't work for you doesn't mean it can't work, and work well, for another family. It's my belief that if you love your career, you shouldn't have to give it up to stay home and care for your children, unless that's something you truly want to do. Because if a career-woman gives up a job she's devoted to, that fulfills her, that makes her feel good about herself, I believe it's only a matter of time before she eventually begins to resent her children. No mother ever wants to experience this, and she shouldn't have to.
"Motherhood is a state of being, not a job description." (Sara Nelson)
The author of this essay describes a situation where upon attending an event at her daughter's school, another woman asked her what she did for a living. Sara told her that she was an editor, and asked her what she did for a living. The woman replied that she was a "full-time mom." Sara was very angry, and of course rightfully so, because, as she says, "I've been a full-time mother every second of every day for the past ten and a half years, whether I'm researching an article or pushing a swing." My response to this is that anyone who suggests to another mother that she's in any way inadequate because she works outside the home clearly has some self-esteem issues to deal with.
"Having it all doesn't mean much when you don't have time to enjoy any of it." (Beth Brophy)
People who hear about my job situation often comment on how great it is that I can work from home. But the reality of the situation is this: While I know I'm extremely lucky to have this option, juggling the insanity of two full-time jobs (caring for Isabella and writing for my company) makes me feel like I'm doing neither job well. My patience is often short(er) with Isabella because of work pressures and deadlines, which is completely unfair to her, and I'm nowhere near as sharp in my writing as I used to be. As another one of the essayists says, "It is impossible to bring your best self to two separate full-time jobs simultaneously."
"I know now there are lots of mothers who, like me, are following the compass in their hearts, only their arrows point to offices. Just like I need my home to feel whole and fulfilled, they need colleagues and desks miles away from their kitchens. I am not better. These women are not wrong." (Iris Krasnow)
Every woman wants to give her children a happy mom. For some moms, being happy means staying at home full-time with her children. For other moms, that means working full-time or part-time. Whether a mother is working because she has to or because she wants to, she is no less a mother than the one who is privileged enough to not have to work or who simply lives frugally so she can stay home.
I cannot recommend this book enough to those of you out there who are moms, or even those who are thinking about becoming moms one day. It made me examine my own choices, my own beliefs, and it made me take a hard look at the type of mother I am as a result of my working situation. I have much to say on this topic, because my work is at the forefront of a lot of stress in my life right now, so my next post will be about how I'm making a change I've always wanted to make, but for reasons I never could have predicted.