I don’t actually think that as a mother, wife, writer, and scholar I have it all. At least not in the way that I thought I would when I was growing up or the way that parts of the media present to us that we should or can.
What I’m actually thankful for is the conversation.
Today I’m the featured guest at Cheryl Stober’s wonderful project, The Having It All Project, on her website, Busy Since Birth. She asked me several questions about my life, my coping strategies, my ability to juggle work and family obligations, and my dreams for myself at age 18. My interview is here.
I’ve always been fascinated by these issues. In college, in graduate school, I loved reading research studies about changes in the division of household labor, about women’s employment, about the ways that women try to balance motherhood with their own pursuits.
Except now, of course, it’s more personal. And I think the conversation is changing, as women’s roles have changed and many women realize how far we’ve come and how far as a society and as individual families we still have to go.
Recently I’ve read two books that speak to me powerfully about these issues:
- Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink by Katrina Alcorn
- Mogul, Mom, & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman by Liz O’Donnell
(Maxed Out is our Brilliant Book Club selection for this month so stay tuned for future posts!)
Here’s what I’ve learned from these two books and why I’m thankful that they’re available to women as resources:
1. When New York Times readers wrote to her about how overwhelmed and “maxed out” they felt as they juggled the parts of their lives, she had a powerful message for them:
Both of their books make the sometimes very lonely struggles of day-to-day life with busy families and busy lives feel a little less lonely. And, just as important, feel less hopeless. There are so many things that we can do to make our lives better: personally as well as politically. I love these books’ message of empathy and empowerment.
2. We can all make different choices under different circumstances, but support each other at the same time. The supposed “war” between working women and stay-at-home mothers — if it ever really existed at all, except on the pages of magazines — should be over. We live in a modern world in which there are often no clear lines between working and non-working women. Women are pushing the boundaries of these previous categories, often — as O’Donnell points out — as entrepreneurs who find new ways of pursuing their own dreams.
3. We can’t rely on corporate leaders or politicians to “fix” the problems of working families; they need to pushed and we need to tell them what we need with our votes, our words, and our choices.
Pick up either of these books — or better yet both of them — and know that your struggles are personal but shared.
What are your challenges juggling work and family? Who are your role models? What changes do you need to make your family’s life easier?
Visit the Brilliant Book Club’s Facebook page to learn more about Katrina Alcorn’s book and about our past and future book selections!