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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: "Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink" by Katrina Alcorn

Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink

I'm taking a break from my 31 Days today to share a book with you that I have just finished.  The Rogue Mom loves to read almost as much as she loves referring to herself in the third person.

I'm going to get serious today.  I like my blog to be witty and fun because I need fun in my life.  I'm a full-time work-outside-the-home mom.  To be exact, since I have a salaried position, I actually work quite a bit more than 40 hours a week and do not receive additional pay.  Ah, the glorious of an industrialized civilization.

But I wanted to share a topic of great importance with you, because I want you to know that you are not alone.  I started this blog because I felt alone, but I knew there must be someone out there who felt like I do.  Now I know that there are TONS of us.

If you are a working mother, you know the stress involved with balancing essentially two separate lives: your work life and your family life.

And that's pretty much what it feels like.

You're walking a tightrope of guilt.  On one side is your work life.  You may have a career or just a job, but either way, you want to be the best at what you do.  It's part of your self-worth.  It may be part of your family-worth.  Many women, like me, believe that the value they contribute to their family is partly financial.  

On the other side is your family.  You want to be the best mom you can be.  The best wife.  The best cook, maid, teacher, role model, friend, the best model of faith that you can be for your family.  The best at everything.

So you add more and more to your plate.  Maybe you make home made organic baby food.  Maybe you volunteer to be chaperone on every field trip.  Maybe you coach your kids soccer team or girl scout group.  Maybe you take on that extra project at work to impress your boss.  Maybe you coupon to save your family money.  Maybe you just do everything that you do 100% and give it your all.

And maybe that's coming at a price.

The price, girls, is you.  All that time focused on other people can drain you.  It will drain your energy, your patience, your happiness, until you feel like a shell.  You're all alone, and you don't know how to get out of the hamster wheel.

It looks a little different for each of us.  For some, you can see it written on their faces.  Others put on a brave face and pretend like nothing is wrong.  But everything is wrong.

Perhaps you're one of the five of every mother that is on some kind of upper or downer.  Antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and sleeping pills are prescribed to us like candy.  Maybe they help you cope.  Maybe they don't.

My life looks exactly like this.  I'm the brave face, the one who pretends like nothing as wrong.  Only Mr. Rogue Mom knows otherwise.  And he is the king of my world.  This man isn't afraid to do dishes, do laundry, give neck rubs, change poopy diapers, and give his all to try to ease the load.  But he can't do much about the personal guilt I feel for not being the best at everything.

For me, it didn't happen until I got pregnant with my second child.  Gaining an extra 25% of my weight and carrying it around while trying to carry a toddler and make sure everything would run smooth while I was on maternity leave.  Coming back and realizing that while I was gone I had become the scape-goat for everything that went wrong, because it's easy to blame someone who isn't around to defend themselves, and because they knew I was tough and figured I could take it.  I did too.

But then the guilt kicked in.  I felt the glass ceiling, for the first time in my life.  The glass ceiling isn't even the right analogy.  There's not much discrimination left for a single, childless career woman who gives her work everything.  But when we have kids and decide that family is first, when we hit the age that we may have to be out for maternity leave and take "3-month vacations," when we can't travel all around the country because we choose to nurse and pump in bathroom stalls or storage closets for the health of our infants, when we have to leave "early" to pick up the kids from daycare, we suddenly start getting passed over for promotions.  Our raises get smaller.  If we're lucky and can negotiate a part-time position, our pay gets disproportionately cut.  It's better to describe it as the corporate latter.  It gets damned harder to climb carrying babies on your back.

And the stress just adds up.  I found this book at a time in my life that I needed it most.  NOW.  I hope you read it.  I hope you tell your friends, your husband, your mother to read it.  I hope you secretly leave a copy in your boss's office, or maybe that single co-worker who gives you dirty looks when they see your put your precious pumped milk in the fridge, or when you leave after only 8 short hours of work (even though you accomplished twice as much.  Being a mom makes your brain more efficient, did you know that?)

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:  "We have this unwritten, unacknowledged, and unyielding expectation that working parents will make the accommodations necessary to do their jobs just as if they don't have children.  If you don't like it, hire someone else to raise your children.  And if you don't like that, then quit.  Except, of course, you can't quit, because you can't get by on one income.  Well, then, if it's too much work, don't have babies!  And there you have it.  America's delusion of rugged individualism, taken to its absurd conclusion: the end of the human race."

I have to warn you that her views are very liberal.  Being very conservative myself, I still agree with her that society wide changes need to take place to solve this crisis in our families.  And it starts, like everything else, with the knowledge that we do, in fact, have a problem.  You can feel it in your heart, and you are not alone.  Not even a little bit.

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