Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is It Really This Bad?

I Don't Know How She Does It
by Allison Pearson

If you have ever struggled as a mother with the balance between work life and home life, you will relate to this book. It is very funny, but poignant and sad. I found myself frustrated a lot with the main character, Kate, and the choices she was making. She is a hedge fund manager and feels like she has to behave like a man (even more like a man than a man) to progress in the male-dominated corporation for which she works. Consequently, she refuses to mention her small children in her workplace and takes on more and more assignments that require international travel to "prove" that she can do everything the guys can.

Of course, Kate evolves along with the story and comes to realize that she cannot continue at the pace she is working and preserve her marriage and her relationship with her children. There is a happy compromise "feel-good" ending that the reader reaches with some sense of relief. I found the frenetic parts of the story and the cutthroat nature of the business world both stressful and depressing. If it is still this difficult for women in the corporate world, then we really have not come as far as we think. Of course some of the scenarios in the book were exaggerated for the sake of parody and humor, but there was just enough of it that rang true to give me a stomach ache.

Is it really this bad? I mean, I am a mom of two small children who works full time, and feel like we manage OK most of the time. Of course it takes some juggling, but we are doing all right. However, I realize that my situation is unique. I have a totally with it husband (hi there, love) who is a 100% partner in the whole parenting project. Family friendly churches (like the one I am oh-so-thankful to pastor) are a great place to be a working mom, because you have a certain amount of flexibility in hours and the location of where you work. (For example, I generally keep office hours Tuesday - Friday but if one of my kids gets sick I can work from home for 1/2 a day or so without fear of retribution.) Also, there are many church events where family members are welcome to participate, so my kids are often with me even when I am working. I would even go so far as to say that at least part of my congregation sees the fact that I have young children as a plus. They certainly have welcomed my boys into the family better than I ever could have hoped. Not every congregation is this open and flexible, but I still think that ministry is a pretty awesome gig for the moms. Women who feel called to pastor large congregations may face more of the glass ceiling issues than women who serve small to mid-size congregations.

But what about the business world, or politics, or academia, or medicine? Are women still feeling that they have to totally compartmentalize their lives to succeed in those spheres? Ugh. I have no desire to manage a hedge fund (for which my imaginary clients should be thankful), but if I did want to I think I should be able to do that without sacrificing everything else that is important to me. So what do you think? Is Kate's experience typical?

Reverent Reader


At 6/14/08, 10:54 PM , Blogger TET said...

At Riverdale, many many many people have young children and these kids are very welcome on campus and at school functions. We even have daycare on campus! It's a pretty kid friendly environment. That said, I think it's pretty rare for an independent school and I think that it is a major plus that keeps people at the school.

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