Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Could Write a Book, But It's Already Been Written

It's hard to believe it's been a more than decade since I began this journey called motherhood. Ten full years of not only trying to figure out how to raise and mold bright, thoughtful and productive human beings, but trying to figure out how not to lose myself and my career in the process. It's been mostly a journey of trial and error -- but looking back, I realized I've learned SO much. I could fill volumes with the lessons learned, but as I gaze at the extensive library I've amassed and relied on along the way, I realize that most of it's already been written.

If I wrote a book, I'd inevitably start with a chapter on what I wish I knew before I became a mother. Except Maria Shriver already wrote it and it's called, Ten Things I Wish I'd Known -- Before I Went into the Real World. This quick read started as a fabulous graduation speech that was ultimately published. In it, there are a couple of great chapters, including "Superwoman is Dead...and Superman May Be Taking Viagra" and "Children Do Change Your Career." Both offer great perspective on motherhood and attempt to manage expectations of what you can realistically accomplish as a mom.

The next part of my book would detail the reality of motherhood -- how the joy of meeting and raising the greatest loves of our lives is tempered by the pain and confusion of trying to decide who we are now that everything but our name and phone number has changed and what kind of mother we want to be (working or not) and how that decision is sometimes made for us when we realize that the modern workforce, society at large and even sometimes our own biology doesn't quite accommodate a mother's choice to work. There are so many books on this topic from Expectations, a collection of essays by and about mothers, to the stark, The Mask of Motherhood by Susan Maushart that debunks society's myths about the glorification of motherhood, to the more tempered and practical, Opting Out by Pamela Stone or It's Not the Glass Ceiling, It's the Sticky Floor by Dr. Karen Enberg that chronicle why women have such a hard time managing both work and motherhood.

Of course any book would have to offer practical advice on how to make it work if you do choose to "hang on to your career with your fingernails." But books like This is How We Do It by Carol Evans, How to Avoid the Mommy Trap by Julie Shields, The NeXt Revolution by Charlotte and Laura Shelton and the very funny The White Trash Mom Handbook, among many others all thoroughly cover this topic.

The most difficult section to write would be the end -- what's the resolution? There is still so much work to do to make things better for us moms. The Motherood Manifesto, the rallying cry for by Joan Blades and Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner, thoroughly details the issues and lays out great arguments for better public policy on everything from affordable childcare to equal wages for equal work. Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it by former Best Buy employees Cali Ressler and Jody Thomspon and inventors of a fabulous alternative work idea called ROWE (results-only work environment) offers a unique approach to help balance work and family not just for women but for everyone.

But I believe the first step is helping women find their voice. We have to first recognize that as women and mothers, we have tremendous value collectively and individually. We have to believe that there are ways we can make things better for ourselves -- first at home, then at work and in society. We have to understand that just like the suffragists or the feminists before us, we are the only ones that can change things. We have to speak up and speak out.

Maybe I don't have to write a book. Maybe through this blog, in some small way, I can help inspire and effect incremental change. We all have to start somewhere.

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