In the past six years I have gone from stay-at-home mom to work-in-an-office mom, and those six years have probably been the hardest (and most joyful) of my life. I have desperately and often turned to books for the answers I needed to make me feel normal and sane while trying to figure out a work and home life. Everything I have read made me realize I am not alone in my see-saw of emotions about being a mother and working! Here are five books that I’d recommend to anyone, but especially working mothers. I know, I know, you don’t have time to read them, but put them on your list of things to get to one day!
Best Book for New Working Mamas: Balance is a Crock, Sleep is for the Weak, by Amy Eschliman and Leigh Oshirak
This book made me laugh out loud in every chapter. If you are expecting and plan to go back to work after your baby arrives, read this book. Read it now, before you are too tired from caring for an infant to even read the dials on the washing machine. Amy and Leigh write in a friendly, mom-to-mom conversational style and they don’t hold back on the bad and the ugly. My favorite part of the book was their chapter on “Crazy Eyes,” the look every mom gets before she completely loses it – the look that causes your husband to cancel his golf game and let you have a free pass for the day so he doesn’t have to cart you off to an asylum. I really liked how they addressed the issues of office life in this book. The book is complete with helpful task and menu charts.
Best Book When You Feel Alone: Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, by Samantha Parent Walravens
This book, while rather long, is a compilation of forty-six personal stories of working moms and their different situations, experiences, career fields, and child care dilemmas. In Torn you will find your story, your situation, your life. You will realize you are not alone, that the feelings you are having about balancing work and children are normal, and that there are others out there who face the same and even more difficult challenges every day. This book doesn’t sugarcoat anything, so make sure you read it with its purpose in mind – it’s not a loving tribute about the children these women are raising, or a humorous, easy read, but a focus on their real challenges and conflicted feelings.
Best Lesson Learned Book: Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, by Katrina Alcorn
When I read this book I felt like the author had followed me around for a month and was writing about my life. I absolutely feel this way, and often. For me, mornings are the most difficult and sometimes I don’t make it out of my driveway without crying. (I’ve started keeping extra makeup at work!) Alcorn writes about her ongoing efforts to “have it all” and live a “balanced” life. Her ultimate break down, despite her strong support system, is the catalyst for her research into the way our work culture and its expectations impacts the modern family, and the need for change. I found this book to be pretty true to my life, and I learned a lot from it; namely, that I can’t do it all, that I’m not crazy, and I shouldn’t feel guilty about any of it. Unless I want to have a break down on the way to Target, like she did. And, let’s face it, who has time for that when you desperately need diapers?
Best Thought Provoker: Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
This book has received a lot of controversial attention because it is written by the COO of Facebook, and her 1% experience is nowhere near what most women’s lives are like. Almost no woman has the resources Sheryl Sandberg has available to manage work and children. Still, I felt this book was an excellent read because it points out women’s behavior and habits in the workplace. I didn’t agree with all her conclusions, though. I very strongly believe that women “opt out” because the inflexibility of office life can make a good family life very difficult to have, and that “leaning in” doesn’t solve those issues. Even if you’re Sheryl Sandberg, you can’t buy extra time in a day. This book is sort of the chicken and the egg to Maxed Out – will more women in leadership positions result in better office environments for working parents? Or, do the working environments have to change first so more women can be in leadership?
Best Book for Mamas: I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids, by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile
I first read this book when I was staying home with my oldest. My husband and I got in a fight (I can’t remember what about), and I was so upset I put my daughter in her pack ’n’play with a Post-it note that said “Put me to bed at 6 p.m. please, Daddy.” I grabbed this book off the shelf by the front door (it had been sitting there since before Mattie was born and I was all yay Amazon, parenting book recommendations please!) and I left the house. I went to Panera and read for three hours. This book has input from all kinds of moms about the reality of motherhood, some of it really funny. You need this book if you consider going to the dentist “alone time,” or that “browsing the aisles at Target, by yourself, is better than therapy.” The book explores what being happy really means, aligning our expectations and letting go of mommy guilt so we can be happy, and how moms can support each other in their parenting journeys. Best advice: deciding that “4 p.m. is the ‘new 5’ when it comes to pouring that first glass of wine.”
These are only a few recommendations, I do have more! The best books, in my opinion, have a sense of humor and go beyond the general day to day. They call into question the way mothers are expected to be the COO at home and the CEO at work, the ongoing mommy guilt at not achieving these impossibly high standards and how collectively we should all get beyond this for the sake of a happy family.
Do you have any Must Read books for Moms?