Saturday, October 23, 2010

READ: I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT


Back in September, Mamamia promoted this book as their first book club recommendation. In the excitement of joining a book club, I visited Amazon and purchased the book immediately.

It's now almost November, and I've only just finished it. The reason why? It was so hard to read. Not that it was long, or full of wordy words. It was just soooo... busy. I read books to relax, and this book is just not... well, relaxing.

On the first chapter of the book, I met our heroine Kate Reddy - working super mum - distressing (not hitting) mince pies with a rolling pin to make them look home made so she could take them to her daughter's school Christmas party. It lost me about here.

In fact, as I kept trying to read it, I found it unsettling and couldn't work out why.


Perhaps it was after two weeks of renovating an investment property, that I understood better. An early morning after arriving home late the night before, I had to climb over a hallway full of unpacked bags carrying two children to the car to take to grandma and grandpa's for the day. I was dressed and ready for work, exhausted but looking polished enough, except for the paint still stuck to my fingernails. The kids were whimpering because they were so tired, and I was trying to juggle them and their day bags.

It was at this moment I realised I hadn't given this book enough credit. And perhaps I hadn't been realistic enough about how I manage my 3-day-a-week job, the hubby, the kids, the house, our investments, and (cough) my nanny. (Of course, I couldn't relate to that bit at all).

The book told of parts of Kate's day, and was a little too similar to the ridiculous amounts of work I have to do too. Her 'must remember' at the end of each chapter added to the list already going around in my head as I tried to fall asleep each night.

At around 80% through this book I was convinced that it was going to end on the same level. Then it took a dramatic turn. Her husband had left her and she was in the middle of a serious sexual harrasment case. Suddenly it was interesting reading. We finally had some sort of depth.

I don't want to sound too negative about the book. I did have a few giggles along the way as I worked my way through it (no-one ever called me a quitter), and there were some pearls of wisdom worth pondering on, like this: 

So I want my nanny to be a better mother than I would ever be: I expect her to love my two like they're her own, and then, when I come home and find her loving them like her own, they're suddenly My Children and to be loved by nobody except me. 

Or this. 

I know how it is. Man announces he has to leave the office to be with his child for short recreational burst and is hailed as selfless doting paternal role model. Woman announces she has to leave the office to be with child who is on sickbed and is damned as disorganised, irresponsible, and Showing Insufficient Committment. For father to parade himself as a Father is a sign of strength; for mother to out herself as a Mother is a sign of appalling vulnerability. Don't you just love equal opportunities?

Men today can only be better fathers than their fathers. Simply by knowing how to change a nappy or figuring out which hole you stick the bottle in - these things mark them out as more capable parents than any previous generation. But women can only be worse mothers than our mothers, and this rankles because we are working so very hard and we are doomed to fail. 

And this.

All I knew was that I didn't want my mother's life. I didn't need a role model to teach me that being dependent on some man was debilitating, maybe even dangerous. But will my daughter want my life? When she looks at her mummy, who does she see? (If she ever sees her mummy.) Back in the seventies, when they were fighting for women's rights, what did they think equal opportunities meant: that women would be entitled to spend as little time with their kids as men do? 

Certainly stuff worth thinking about in between the funny but sad revelations of the realities of this working mum. 

Finally, what did I get out of this book? No matter how many people in the book said, I don't know how she does it, there was not a moment in the book that made me think that she did. To me, 'it' represents a perfect balance. Enough sleep, enough exercise, a good diet, being on top of all your jobs, and a perfect balance of spending time with those you love and time with yourself.

In fact when people (like my mother) say to me, I don't know how you do it, my honest response is, I don't. Things are sacrificed. If any mother is honest, they know it's true. If you're 'working' or not.

Lots of this book could be fleshed out in around a million more posts. But this is probably a good start.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you think that women shouldn't try to "do" it all? Shouldn't we be more supportive of our fellow women, whether they work or not?


*** star rating