Being a working mom is no child’s play. Suddenly, one’s personal responsibilities grow by leaps and bounds, and balancing them with your professional commitments is surely a tough bargain. Usually, for women professionals, this change comes at the peak of their careers, when more is expected of them at work too. It doesn’t help that as a society, we have given women all of the responsibilities of earning a livelihood, but none of the privileges. The onus of childcare and home still often falls squarely on the shoulders of women of the household, with little in terms of a sound support system.
While there is no immediate relief from patriarchal conditioning, working mothers can hone skills that help maintain the balance. These include learning how to ask for help guiltlessly, ensuring our spouses contribute their share, managing time, and the ability to integrate and balance work and personal life. Here are 10 books that speak of these skills:
For several working mothers, guilt becomes par for the course. From not being able to be there for their children to not spending enough time at work, it often becomes a vicious cycle. The Pie Life focuses on this aspect of working mothers and includes practical tips on overcoming guilt and acing work-life balance. The author, Harvard Business School alumna Samantha Ettus, has worked with thousands of working women in the past. The book is a recollection of the lessons she picked up along the way as well as stories and tips from successful women who ensured thriving personal and professional lives.
At a time when the notion of “having it all” almost comes with a stigma attached to it, Laura Vanderkam does a brilliant job of collecting stories of women who quietly and successfully juggle all that they need to. Instead of depending on subjective opinions, the book is based on hourly time logs from over a thousand days from the lives of single and married women. The data comes from the lives of everyday women who are successfully managing work and personal lives. Therefore, I Know How She Does It manages to provide a practical framework for anyone who wants to make the most of their time at work and home. But most importantly, the book doesn’t leave out the one aspect that is sorely missing from working mother narratives – the time spent on self.
The authors of Working Mom Survival Guide deserve applause for their practical, no-nonsense approach to time management. They answer questions that anyone looking to strike a better work-life balance must ask themselves, like how smartphone addiction comes in the way of quality time at work and home, how to influence toddlers and/or co-workers to do what needs to get done, and how to switch roles quickly and confidently. The book is also a fun read and doesn’t get preachy. It offers life-changing tips and tricks with a lot of humour and warmth.
The book is like a hilarious, irreverent conversation about motherhood with one’s girlfriends. Instead of taking the run-of-the-mill serious and earnest approach to motherhood and careers, Balance Is a Crock, Sleep is for the Weak engages in refreshingly snarky humour to impart life-changing tips to manage time and stress. It does get deeply politically incorrect in parts where it laughs off the staggeringly low expectations new mothers have of their husbands. But at the core of the book is the fact that working mothers don’t need more earnest, sincere tips that make them feel inadequate; sometimes all they need is a good laugh.
Finally, a book that does not tell women to manage their time, or complain about the patriarchal conditioning that requires women to take on the entire onus of housekeeping and child-rearing. Instead, Working Mothers 101 tells them how to take charge and create a family environment where everyone does chores, runs errands, and takes accountability. The book is an anthology of sorts of personal stories of working mothers along with templates for how-tos and to-dos. Very practical and no-nonsense in her approach, Katherine Wyse Goldman has written about decisions and tips that have worked for the hundreds of mothers she interviewed for this book.
We belong to a generation where all of our friends don’t become mothers at the same time. Some marry late, some choose to stay single, and others choose not to have children. In such times, loneliness can become par for the course. Torn is a book for such mothers. It is an anthology of 46 personal stories of everyday working mothers and their diverse experiences, circumstances, career aspirations, and dilemmas. The book dives deep into the psychology of motherhood and careers. It does not glorify it, nor does it make a joke of it. Samantha Parent Walravens puts the focus back on the conflicts and struggles of being a working mother and helps women find company and support in their own struggles.
The need for perfection is perhaps the number one source of stress for most working mothers. Wanting to be the best mum and the most successful woman we know is a natural aspiration for a lot of us, but it doesn’t always help. Pursuing happiness and authenticity – both at work and at home – is the key to a happy life, and that is exactly what Brene Brown stresses on in her book. It is a guide in reframing imperfection as a trade-off and cultivating compassion in weak moments. A serious read, The Gifts of Imperfection is a lesson in acceptance. It is helpful for anxious working mothers who see imperfection and setbacks as personal failures because of the projected expectations of family and society.
For working mothers who have taken on the responsibility of a steady household income with little to no support from husbands as far as managing the home is concerned, Getting to 50/50 is a good starting point. Sharon and Joanna focus largely on the attitude shift that both men and women need in order to take on equal responsibility at home. It discusses practical solutions for couples to strike a truly fair balance at work and home, in terms of money, time, and responsibilities. The book is a guide for modern families in that it focuses not only on quality time with children and professional success but also on better relationships between couples that come from a place of understanding and mutual support.
I Love Mondays is a collection of common confessions of working mothers. It dives deep into the struggles of being working mothers and provides insights and perspectives from the lives of real-life successful working moms. The book has several funny and heart-warming stories that help readers overcome the feeling of going at it alone, alleviate stress and anxiety, and confidently reclaim their individual personalities beyond work and motherhood.
Overwhelmed is perhaps one of the most comprehensive, well-researched works for working mothers and parents. It includes interviews with neuroscientists, sociologists, and hundreds of working parents to find collective and practical solutions to the feeling of being overwhelmed that working mothers know all too well. Apart from institutional shifts and organisational changes that are required to accommodate working parents better, Overwhelmed also includes feasible perspectives from young, modern couples who have successfully managed to divide chores, childcare, and household income.
The life of a working mother is far from easy. But at long last, the mainstream discourse has started to recognise it. From tips to solutions, humour to camaraderie, the above books have something for all working mothers and parents who are trying hard to strike the right balance.