When Kristin Maschka and her husband David decided to have a child, they both assumed that they’d share equally in raising her, just as they’d shared everything else equally up to that point in their seven-year marriage. Yet what made the most sense for their family was for Kristin to quit her high-powered career and stay home with their daughter, Kate, triggering two very different experiences of parenthood for her and David. While Kristin felt like she was doing all the work around the house and also raising Kate, David felt like he was working way too hard at work and not getting any time to himself. This book is Maschka’s attempt to analyze motherhood as women experience it today, and to explain how our assumptions about families are so ingrained in us that even extremely intelligent, capable women cannot see how their “mental maps” affect their parenting and marriages. Maschka asserts that women can get the family life they want if they work on breaking down some of those mental maps and creating new beliefs about motherhood and families.
If you know much about me from reading my blog, you will know that I am not a mother, which might cause you to wonder why I chose to read this book. Well, it arrived unsolicited, and for some reason it called my name when I was looking for a nonfiction read. Having children is one of the aspects of my future I’m still uncertain about, so I was very curious to see what Kristin Maschka had to say on the subject.
I REALLY enjoyed this book. Much more than I was expecting to. In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that every mother and every mother-to-be read it. (Fathers too, actually.) One of the things that freaks me out about having children is how my husband and I will handle the division of labor. Will we both work full-time, will one of us stay home, who will do the housework, who will cook dinner, etc.? Right now we have a very well-choreographed way of handling our lives, and having children would cause us to redo all of our existing ways of life. For example, we both work until 7 pm or so right now. With children, I just don’t think that would work out – I personally would not want my children to be in daycare for 10-12 hours a day, nor would I want to work a long day and then come home to being responsible for dinner, bathtime, laundry, etc. I just don’t know how that would work for us. We are a long way off from kids, but it’s still something I think about when I consider the possibility of us having children in the future.
So the book really helped me work through some of these issues in my mind. I don’t have any answers, but I will say that I feel more equipped to finding those answers now that I’ve read the book. I feel like I had many of the assumptions that Maschka refers to, and I definitely made some progress in breaking through my own mental maps and creating new ones that make more sense.
The reason I think every parent should read this book is that it is so eye-opening. It really made me take a second look at my own feelings and beliefs about being a parent, and what it means to be a part of a family, what it means to go into motherhood with all these preconceived notions about what a mother needs to be like, and how destructive those assumptions can be to the family and to the marriage. Maschka gives tons of practical advice as to how to break down those assumptions and create new beliefs that are more tailored to individual situations. She explains that every family is different, every marriage is different, and what works for her and her husband will probably not work for you. Every couple must figure out on their own what is important to them and how to make their own marriage and family work for their individual needs and desires (and their kids’).
So, in conclusion – highly recommended. Especially for parents and parents-to-be.