Thursday, April 27, 2006

THE TENSIONS OF OUR TIMES





Today's career mom is often trying to make partner or become regional sales manager or executive editor, jobs that require a tremendous amount of hours and a willingness to allow urgent appeals, via BlackBerry or cell phone, to interrupt even the best-laid plans for family time. And all the while, breathing down their necks, unwilling to give an inch, are the women who have chosen to stay home. They've given up on power and the autonomy of work for one signal reason: to ensure that their children get the best of themselves. And every day they're raising the stakes and the standards on what is required to be a good mother. These, of course, are the tensions of our times (Caitlin Flanagan in To Hell with All That : Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife).

To be a mother is to, at times, neglect oneself and one's children, whether or not one earns a paycheck. There is tension, hypocrisy, and grinding anxiety sandwiched between the moments of transcendence. Can we talk about these things already without the polemics of the working mom vs. at home mom debate and have some fun while doing so? Caitlin Flanagan does just that in To Hell with All That : Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife.

Flanagan herself is a living contradiction. She is an at home mom to two twin sons and has a gardener, maid and organizer. She writes at length about the relationship she had with her sons' daytime nanny. True, I am a bit jealous of her ability to outsource so many menial tasks but her writing style is sparkling and witty and she doesn't have a "do it my way" attitude.

She warmed my heart by devoting several pages to columnist Erma Bombeck , the icon of the post-World War II housewife. A housewife from that era was a different creature from today's at home mom. Housewives didn't trail in the wake of their children the way today's at home moms do. House and husband came first. And they had Erma to make them (and their teenaged daughters) laugh. When I heard the report of her death ten years ago I sat down and cried. It was almost like losing a friend. Today's icon is Martha Stewart, who doesn't make anyone laugh (except, maybe, when she's sent off to prison), but seems to inspire many and Flanagan spends some time pondering the core questions of her phenomenal success.

Flanagan gives lavish weddings a proper dissing, discovers that de-cluttering is the new housekeeping, and tells the compelling story of how her competent and seemingly content housewife mother abruptly sought employment in 1973. And she makes her readers laugh along the way.

If you're looking for a Mother's Day present, this book might be just the thing.
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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi this is not a comment but a queston for you i am new to selling books and am inquiring as to a web site to help me determine value of some books i have found . can ou give some suggestions thanks

10:53 AM  
Blogger Anita said...

You can research the value of your books on amazon.com or bookfinder.com. Please e-mail me at anita@ashlandbookcompany.com if you have further questions.

11:24 AM  
Blogger GuusjeM said...

I just finished reading To Hell... -enjoyed it, but it wasn't a keeper. I can't relate to someone who has a nanny, a gardener, a housekeeper and keeps an organizer on retainer. So I sold my copy on Amazon for almost what I paid for it. :-)

4:55 PM  

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