I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Gwendolyn Gross' The Other Mother, from the author herself actually, and found it an enjoyable if not completely captivating read. It's about two moms, one with a new baby who goes back to work, and one who stays home with her three kids. The book started out pretty gripping, or perhaps I was just starved for something a bit light and mom-friendly after reading out book club selection. It was kind of hard for me to relate to this book, even thought it seemed to cover the "standard" mom-issues, to work or not to work. I don't really have a choice about working, so have to try hard not to think about quitting, but enough about my personal self, back to the book.
These women are neighbors, and the convenience of being friends is just staring them in the face. And boy it would work out so well if they could just take a step back and be honest with each other. One loves being needed and craves control, the other clearly wants a "traditional" mom in her life so badly. And yet they make thoughtless remarks to each other about their choices and end up in basically a sort of feud. It starts with an accident that puts one family in the other's house, the SAHM ends up as the nanny for the other, and one stormy (or not, I forget) night they end up kissing. Mixed up signals, 1st time mommy worries and probably pride drives them apart rather than together.
The book, or I guess the people, became frustrating in that if they would speak their minds, talk out their issues, concerns and true thoughts without worrying about how they look to the other, a beneficial relationship might ensue. In one scene the older daughter is hurt and at the hospital, and the parents have to take shifts since they can't get a babysitter. They've got the neighbors, who's baby stayed at the house day after day for weeks, who are right there and could take care of the kids so both parents could go to the hospital, what a waste. The husbands are well written and supportive characters, and at first you hope the they will help the situation, but they end up getting POd as well, and not in a stupid macho way thank goodness.
The book goes back and forth between each women's point of view, which is how you know their thought versus their words. The SAHM wonders why her neighbor would go back to work, especially as she seems to be second guessing that decision herself, is often late and stressed, and she doesn't really need the money. It's clear to me that it's her future career she's focused on, and quitting may make life easier now, but she's thinking about her future as well, and, yes, her daughter's future. Kids want parents true to themselves, doing something they love if at all possible. The working mom should stop making comments implying her neighbor is shallow and uninteresting, and admit she appreciates how comfortable she is in that house, how much she appreciates having an experienced mom around.
We have to face it, parenthood is challenging, even more for mothers (than fathers) in my opinion and experience. My husband felt not one iota of guilt for missing his son's first walkathon. I was there walking, even volunteered to watch another kid, even though I have after-school care and a job. Yes, I wanted to go, but my son's pleading for me to go was a big factor. I try to stay home if they are sick, even though my husband is already home. No choice will come without its problems and benefits, and this book does a good job highlighting these. I think the book could have moved along a little quicker, had a more satisfying resolution to some of the quirky events going on, but all in all a good read. I liked the ending, which I won't give away. It was perhaps a bit contrived, but touching and emotional and wraps up the story nicely.
As a working mom myself, I've hoped I could eventually work out a situation where my son goes home with a friend who's mom stays home, giving them both a fun playdate and saving a little $$ for me. And then I could return the favor on weekends or carpools or something. It takes a village, right? And I'm glad to say so far I haven't met any mom's who seem to judge SAHM or working moms, but I still believe the mommy wars are not just a figment of the media goons. I'm not about to blame Gwendolyn for fostering them either.
Giveaway Giveaway Giveaway
The Silicon Valley, DC, Chicago and the new New York Mom's blogs are having a discussion about this book next Monday. Want to join? Need a book? Well, I've got three copies of this book up for grabs. I'll be giving one away per day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, just leave me a comment if you'd like a copy and I'll draw one at random. And some linky love on your blog would make me oh so very happy.