What Do You Do All Day?

I recently finished reading the manuscript for a soon-to-be released book called What Do You Do All Day? The book, written by Amy Scheibe and published by St. Martin’s Press, is, in many ways, the stay-at-home mother’s answer to the bestselling Allison Pearson novel about working motherhood, I Don’t Know How She Does It.

Both stories revolve around strong, funny and intelligent women whose trademark confidence and ambition waiver in the face of decisions regarding the balance of career and family. Pearson’s protagonist, Kate Reddy, chooses the path of offices and briefcases — and feels guilt. Jennifer Bradley, Scheibe’s at-home heroine, chooses playdates and afternoons at the park — and feels guilty.

The parallels between the characters’ lives, ostensibly polar opposites, are easy to spot. Kate works, but misses her children; Jennifer stays home, but misses her work. Both agonize over the choices they’ve made. Both worry about what others think of them. Both wonder if their decisions will have long-term effects on their children. Through chapter after chapter, they suffer. Their marriages suffer. And their children suffer.

As a reader, I understand that the characters’ lives are dramatized and their emotions exaggerated to create plot and conflict and comedy and suspense. (It’s a formula that works. Both novels are worthy and entertaining reads.) But I also know that the themes of guilt and inadequacy are all-too-familiar in the real-life lexicon of motherhood. Far too many mothers — whether they work outside the home or not — experience an extraordinary amount of stress trying to justify their choices to others and to themselves.

I’d like to read a novel that celebrates the thoughtful decisions that mothers make. One that empowers women to prioritize their and their families’ happiness without reservation and without guilt. No apologies. No judgments. No second guessing. Such a book would include characters who represent all kinds of mothers who make all kinds of choices for all kinds of reasons. The perfect combination of I Don’t Know How She Does It and What Do You Do All Day?, this book would pay tribute to the many facets of a mother’s love — EVERY mother’s love.

To my knowledge, that book hasn’t been published yet. So moms will have to wait a little longer for the fictional debut of the modern mother: a caring, confident powerhouse of maternal devotion — minus the obsessive guilt.

While we wait for that book, Carolina Parent magazine will continue to offer support, encouragement and guidance to all kinds of mothers. No matter what they do all day or how they do it.

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