Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Far from my experience of motherhood: book review/rant

If you're a stay-at-home mum or you have a little baby and are struggling, for your own sanity, don't read this book. 

Written by Jessica Rowe (another Sydney TV newsreader) her book, 'Love. Wisdom. Motherhood: conversations with inspiring women' (2010) sadly didn't inspire me. I wanted to like this book but instead, I felt deflated. 

She interviews 13 prominent women about being mothers.  This is what I learnt from it.  If you want to be 'inspiring' you need to go back to work quickly after having a baby.  And in some cases REALLY quickly.  Here are some examples from the book:

Lisa McCune (actor): back on set after 9 months
Heidi Middleton (designer):  back at work with an 8 week old baby
Elizabeth Broderick (Sex discrimination commissioner/lawyer):   back to work after 4 months
Wendy Harmer (comedian/breakfast radio):  worked through her labour and beyond
Collette Dinnigan (designer):  back to work a day after giving birth
Tina Arena (singer):  back in the recording studio two weeks after giving birth
Quentin Bryce (Governor-General of Australia/lawyer):  worked part-time while her five kids were little
Nova Peris (Olympic gold medallist):  back training 4 weeks after giving birth.
Gail Kelly (CEO Westpac bank):  Went back to work when her triplets were 12 months old
Darcey Bussell (principal artist at Royal Ballet in London):  After three months returned to ballet training

Interestingly, it is the author, Jessica Rowe who has the more common story.  She hasn't worked full-time since she had her first child, and she's experiencing a loss of identity as a stay-at-home mum.  She also has a very interesting story of PND which is worth reading.

I think I've worked out what I found fundamentally annoying about this book.  

You don't get books written about you if you are 'just' a mum.  You get books written about being a mum when you become successful in your career.  It's a successful career or achievement that determines someone being interested in you as a mum - not your actual 'mumming'.  Many of the mums interviewed for the book acknowledged the hard work of full-time mums, but there's no book being written about that.

The reason I'm ranting about this (with my big chip on my shoulder!), is because we read these books. We're all desperate to hear the stories of other women who are mums.  And the consequence is that if we choose to take the full maternity leave for our job we're going to feel bad about it.   Or, why am I struggling with the concept of returning to work at 12 months/12 years/ever?  After all, Tina Arena was back recording 2 weeks after birth, yet here I am, overwhelmed at the thought of getting everyone through bath and dinner.

I have to say that I am immensely thankful that I've always found friends who have done the same thing as me.  A few years ago I met a woman who had given up her highly paid career because her second child was completely beside himself with grief when she left him at childcare each day.  Her friends were horrified.  And she ended up lonely.  She said "I make friends at swimming/preschool/the park and then after 12 months they go back to work and I have to start all over again".  I thought she was brave to be counter-cultural in her peer group and do what she felt was right by her son.

One day I'd like to read a book of the stories of the amazing women I hang out with each day.  They won't be famous, but they are just as inspiring.

6 comments:

Jo said...

Well there's your book idea Jen :)
I've been a SAHM for 13 years and think my life has been very fun and interesting most of the time.

Pip said...

I had the same response to the book Late Babies by Sandra McLean. About women who have their first child after 35. Funny thing about the book was that only one or two of them wasn't back in their high profile/corporate job within the first year.

mattnbec said...

Amen, Sister!

Anonymous said...

Yes Jenny ! Lets write THAT book!!! I'm in!!
:)Beck

Kath said...

I'd like to read that book, too.
Especially if you write it :)

Nicole G said...

I Agree wholeheartedly. I'm amazed at the pressure put on women to work by our society, government and ourselves. I'll be interviewed for your book if you need a very ordinary stay at home mum!