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


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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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