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Working Mothers in Literature

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I'm reading I Don't Know How She Does It right now for research (damn, I love being a writer). It's fairly old (20 years!) and it's not how things are being handled now, I think. But it puts me back in the state of mind I was when I wrote this blog post. I think there aren't enough books about the daily struggles of working parents. Of parents, generally. It's like all the stories we care to hear about are coming of age, but I'm at the point where I find The Crown's series 3's Elisabeth more compelling than series 1's Elisabeth (or Lady Di, for that matter). I have sympathy for young characters; I do. But let's face it, most of the troubles they get into come because they didn't listen to their parents.

Anyways, when there finally is a book about working mothers, the Happy Ending annoys me. Every time, the Happy Ending is something like: Mom realises family is the Most Important Thing; Mom gives up her career ambitions to spend more time with family. Badinter talks about exactly that: our idea of a perfect mom doesn't coincide with our idea of a woman. You can't be both.

But the books are not asking why. Why can't we be both? It's because our society has issues with accepting parents as people. Let's try: think about your parents as people. People with strengths and weaknesses, with desires (yes, sexual desires, too), with preferences, with wants and needs, with conflicts.

Shocking, ain't it?

We need parents (mothers, mostly, but that's a whole other post) to be so absorbed in their children that they can be nothing else. We need people to put their children first. One reason for it is obvious: parents are the ones safeguarding the next generation, the continuation of humanity. But that approach puts the responsibility for children's development solely on the parents when we know that many other factors affect how effective a parent you can be. For example, parents who read more with their children have children who are better readers. But parents who have time to read with their children have less demanding jobs (or they only need to keep one job to put food on the table, rather than three), they can read (which is not a given anywhere in the world, unfortunately), and they usually rely on a host of supporting factors (schools, libraries, family, community).

I get that the idea that society is responsible for its children's development is a tad radical these days, so I'm not going to advocate it right now (also, not the point of the post). For now, I want to focus on the Happy Ending of the Working Mom. I'm thinking about books I'd like to see that tackle this issue:

  1. Books where the Dad (on his own) becomes aware he's a partner in raising children

  2. Books where society takes responsibility for children's development

  3. Books where working moms are allowed to be a person in addition to being mothers.

I've asked on Twitter and gotten almost no replies. I'm assuming it's because I have a staggering number of followers (273 followers is a lot, right?). Maybe someday this post will go viral, and I can get some book recommendations. Until then, I'll keep looking for a Happy Ending.


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