Resources and reporting for mothers and others who think about social change.
get active
about mmo
mmo blog
mmo Books
  • MMO Book List
    Essential reading for mothers who think about social change
    and other recommendations
  • Book Tours
    Upcoming appearances by featured authors

New & Recent Reviews

Choice, in all its complexity
Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood and Abortion
Edited by Karen E. Bender and Nina de Gramont
Whatever the actual particulars, the bottom line is the same: women, as the ones who are responsible for carrying pregnancies however far, share a set of circumstances -- hugely varied due to race, class, age, the times, religion, personal history and myriad other factors -- that mark us uniquely. These twenty-four essays suggest how many ways we might experience this shared trait of femaleness.
Review by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

How the personal became political
Sisterhood, Interrupted:
From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild

By Deborah Siegel
Siegel's primary subject is the generation gap between second and third wave feminists, particularly as it plays out in changing interpretations of the popular slogan, "the personal is political."
Review by Judith Stadtman Tucker

Reality check
Opting Out?
Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home

By Pamela Stone
Instead of blaming women, imploring us to "get back to work" (a la Linda Hirshman) or warning us (Leslie Bennetts-style) that we're all making a dastardly mistake, Stone's message is one that, as a Gen Xer staring into the crosshairs of burgeoning career and potential motherhood, is far more palatable to hear.
Review by Deborah Siegel

The disappeared
The Girls Who Went Away:
The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade

By Ann Fessler
Starting in the 1940s and lasting well into the 1970s, high school classes across America had girls who went away. It was a gulag that didn't pile up bodies but did leave behind thousands of profoundly wounded women who are still among us. And yet, until now, the phenomenon has gone unmentioned in public dialogue.
Review by Carolyn McConnell

The subject of single mothers
Single Mother:
The Emergence of the Domestic Intellectual

By Jane Juffer
Unsung Heroines:
Single Mothers and the American Dream

By Ruth Sidel
Promises I Can Keep:
Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage

By Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas
Narratives of single motherhood in America are as much about marriage -- as a middle-class norm, as a remnant of the patriarchy, as an economic buffer, as the basis of social entitlement, as a way of ensuring families have an adequate supply of care -- as they are about mothering.
Review by Judith Stadtman Tucker

The wait
Waiting for Daisy:
A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors,
an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's
Quest to Become a Mother

By Peggy Orenstein
What Orenstein describes, with incredible honesty, more than a little humor, and plenty of detail, is becoming her very own version of "Babyfever," a woman obsessed by infertility.
Review by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

The big question
Maybe Baby:
28 Writers Tell the Truth about Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest
Decision of Their Lives

Edited by Lori Leibovich
I must admit that especially since becoming a parent, I'm fascinated by how people make "the biggest decision of their lives." One of the most compelling aspects of these essays is the ways these writers articulate not only how they made that decision but also what the decision has meant to them, and how their understanding of self -- whether parent or not, as person -- changed over time and through experience.
Review by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

More MMO Reviews...

Short Takes

When Mothers Work:
Loving Our Children Without Sacrificing Our Selves

By Joan K. Peters
Perseus Books, 1997

BEFORE LINDA HIRSHMAN arrived on the scene, the sought-after spokeswoman for unrelenting "workplace feminism" was Joan K. Peters, who once wrote a book that boldly suggested it's better for all concerned when moms work outside the home. (Peters most recently appeared as the expert advocate for mothers' employment on Dr. Phil's notorious "Mommy Wars" segment.) Given the current dust-up over Hirshman's recommendation to censure college-educated mothers who "opt out" of the professional workforce, it's interesting to compare the content and tone of Peters' When Mothers Work (1997) to Hirshman's "Get To Work."

Peters, who is a professor of literature, believes that "while practical issues of meshing motherhood with modern life loom large, the greatest challenge is still psychological." This is both the main strength and weakness of When Mother Work, since Peters is not a qualified psychologist and tends to overextend her argument to the point of speculation. Peters' examples of successful shared parenting arrangements and the benefits of supplemental child care are also problematic, since her interview sample consists entirely of her own friends, friends of friends, neighbors and a few amiable folks she happened to run into along the way. Peters also puts a blindingly bright spin on the lives of the families she profiles, even though she met with many of them only once or twice. In fact, there are only two negative stories in the entire bunch, one from a stay-at-home mom miserably isolated in her suburban home, another from a struggling, low-income single mother. But even though Peters' methodology and presentation leave something to be desired, at least she extends her research to families average women can actually identify with, including single parent women, middle-of-the-middle class parents and same-sex couples.

Overall, readers who favor maternal employment but resent Hirshman's inflexible agenda will appreciate Peters' realistic and sympathetic take on the subject of women's equality. Peters provides a detailed examination of the various push-pull factors that drag men and women back into traditional gender roles when children enter the picture, and is wise enough to acknowledge that fairer division of child-care and housework requires more than wives liberating themselves from menial and mental responsibilities of family life. She also advises that domestic equity may be impossible to achieve once asymmetrical life patterns are established; unless both partners are committed to shared parenting from the get go, bargaining for a more equitable arrangement may simply lock couples in an exhausting power struggle. "You cannot just take two well-meaning people, give them a baby, and expect them to parent equally." Peters writes. "It takes a particular psychological orientation, practical planning and a lot of ingenuity. Nor can we just invite women to be freer mothers and expect a revolution in the domestic sphere."

Peters calls on men and women to recognize and consciously resist gender stereotypes at home and at work, but doesn't let business and government off the hook. "We no longer have a problem that has no name. Most women know exactly what the problem is: men have to do half the child care, and schools should be better, work more humane and child care subsidized." But until then, "Parents have to figure out how to survive until those presently nonexistent supports come to be, an effort that takes an entirely different kind of ingenuity and courage. Couples who decide to have children owe them workdays that usually end in time for family dinner and children's bedtime; they need to avoid the sixty-hour work-immersed weeks that many ambitious people take for granted." She adds that mothers and fathers who always put work first will "have a very hard time convincing children they are cherished."

Peters and Hirshman agree that mothers owe it to themselves to find and keep gainful employment. But Peters' soft touch, dual-centric assessment of the virtues of work and family is more likely to resonate with women who are presently weighing their limited options.

Judith Stadtman Tucker
August 2006

Previously reviewed in Short Takes...

Author Interviews

Cecelie Berry - Rise Up Singing

Brené Brown - Women & Shame

Ann Crittenden - The Price of Motherhood

Deborah Davis - You Look Too Young to be a Mom

Faulkner Fox - Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner - The F-Word

Marlene Gerber Fried and Loretta Ross - Undivided Rights

Jane Lazarre - The Mother Knot

Angela Barron McBride - The Growth and Development of Mothers

Miriam Peskowitz - The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars

Janna Malamud Smith - A Potent Spell

Rickie Solinger - Beggars and Choosers

What are you reading? Let us know. Send your recommendations to editor@mothersmovement.org
Reuse of content for publication or compensation by permission only.
© 2003-2008 The Mothers Movement Online.


The Mothers Movement Online