- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 9 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743225414
- ISBN-13: 978-0743225410
- Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2.1 x 22.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 386 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,342,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Life's Work Hardcover – Apr 9 2002
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Working moms are going to love Life's Work. A collection of columns from The New York Times, this entertaining and thoughtful compilation suggests that the next time you are overwhelmed with laptop, cell phone, deadlines, appointments, pets, and kids, you try something new: shrugging. As author Lisa Belkin says in the introduction, "I am not saying that none of these things matter. They all matter, but not all of the time."
Her columns make great reading for waiting rooms or bus commutes, as each one is just a few pages long. Divided by topic rather than chronological age, you'll start off with a look at balancing work and marriage, progress to pregnancy and babies, and end with sections on travel, organization, and a reexamination of shifting priorities. Topics are sometimes funny, such as Belkin's ramblings on her professional name (Belkin) and family name (Gelb), and the confusion this causes when her son's school called and asked for a name not in the company's list. But singing "the Barney song" from an airport pay phone and having the women around her weep--stories like this ring so familiar with working moms that it's hard to not get a little teary yourself.
From paternity leave to expectations of babysitters, commuting time to sharing a home computer with an 11-year-old, Belkin manages to address all the daily trivia that take on such importance, as well as the really important stuff that often gets lost in the shuffle. --Jill Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Belkin, the New York Times's "Life's Work" columnist, has gathered some previously published pieces with some new material for a lighthearted look at many career moms' reality: juggling career, kids and personal needs. No one can give 100% to each, Belkin reassures, so "let's start by forgiving ourselves when we can't do it." To get readers in the mood, Belkin shares her own worst moments: potty training her son while on the phone with "Very Important Sources," having to finish work on some galleys at gasp! the pediatrician's office and her son's tantrums at discovering his work-at-home mom wasn't available for play. Tears at work, morning sickness, breast pumping, laptop addiction, work addiction Belkin at least mentions all the usual career-mom issues. But since the entries are only a few pages long, treatment can be disappointingly superficial: when stressed at work, eat a chocolate; consider buying a second computer for kids to channel them away from Mom's. Hidden in all the feel-better solidarity are some valuable nuggets. Describing the importance of the nanny/babysitter's happiness to her own mental health, Belkin identifies a feeling many women share, but rarely discuss. Also on target is her observation that her mother's generation "did it all," but serially first the family, then the career. Despite its old-hat thesis, Belkin's book will serve as a pick-me-up to some career mothers in need of sympathy.See all Product description
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Life's Work is about the emotional conflict we all feel whether we have to work at a despised job for the paycheck or need to work in a beloved field for personal fulfillment. We know that family and friends matter most in life but the devil is in the details -- juggling the mechanics of getting through each day when there is more than one person (or even two) can reasonably accomplish, coping when the unexpected overwhelms the system, deciding how best to care and provide for those we love who depend on us.
The essays are short enough to read in five-minute bites (great to tuck in your bag for that wait in the doctor's office or the long line at the bank) and is also fun to read straight through. It's an especially great book for any parent (Mom or Dad) trying to write professionally at home. Lisa Belkin's take on combining a writing life with a family life had me laughing out loud.
I could understand if Belkin worked out of neccesity, but that I truly doubt. She works for her ego and for the consumption of material wealth and goods that will fade away along with her potential for a great relationship with her child. When I agonized about continuing my career after giving birth, someone told me something that has stuck with me ever since, "What do you think your child will want more, time with you, or lots of toys?" How can you deny the reality that the most important thing to your child is you and your attention?
When I first picked up the book Life's Work I put it down, deeming it not appropriate for BlueSuitMom's working mother audience. How wrong I was. Initially in the introduction I was put off by this sentence "Not a one of us seems to be able to give 100 percent of themselves to their job and 100 percent of themselves to their family and 100 percent of themselves to taking care of themselves." I read the line and decided she was wrong ... there are so many of us that can and do have it all. However, I didn't get the point ... the point she was making is that inevitably there are times when our balancing act glitches. When sometimes "life and work collide."
Had I finished reading the introduction I would have read that the point is that we can work, have a family and take care of ourselves but sometimes they all can't happen at the same moment in time. Sometimes one has to come first. Sometimes there are dare I say "sacrifices."
However, when I finally picked it up again I read that "No one can do it, because it cannot be done ... So let's start forgiving ourselves when we can't do it ... So what if the house isn't as clean as it should be? So what if that last business report was not the best you've ever written? So what if you're eating takeout for the second night in a row, or haven't been to the gym in weeks, or sent your children to school in crumpled shirts on school picture day? ... I'm not saying that none of these things matter. They all matter, but not all the time ... even I know that 100 percent plus 100 percent plus 100 percent equals more than any one person can do in a day. So what?"
This might have been the most powerful message I've read in a book -- ever. Because today I vow that this will change my life. From now on, I'm not going to stay awake until 3 a.m. stressing out about why I'm not good enough. Why do I have to spend countless hours worrying that it isn't good enough. Some days I send out newsletters to BlueSuitMom readers with typos. And probably no one notices (okay maybe some of you do since you write to say hey this link is wrong or this tease didn't actually exist in the newsletter). And today I am saying "So what if it wasn't the best." This is a radical thought since normally I will agonize for hours that heaven forbid Rachael made a typo or put the wrong link in. In fact, I profusely apologize to those who write in ... but from now on I will give you the right link and repeat to myself "So what." I've learned that sometimes our best work can't be perfect.
It isn't that I don't care about producing the best source for working mothers on the Internet; it is just that sometimes I will remember that no one can be perfect. And for years I've always strived to be that exception. I'll work until the middle of the night and then wonder why I don't have as many friends as I want or have the time to religiously stick to the gym.
But from reading "Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom" I've now decided that I can't have it all 100% of the time. I can maybe only have 95% of it all. And for today ... that will have to do.
And I hope that Belkin's message will get through to all of you as well. Sometimes we can't do it all. Sometimes we have to skip out of a meeting to attend a child's play ... sometimes we have to fake being sick ... sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break.
I'm sure that all our readers will enough reading Life's Work ... the best part is that the chapters are only a few pages long. It's the type of book to keep on your desk and read when you actually find that five minutes of time for yourself. And if you are saying you don't have that five minutes I encourage you to read the chapter entitled "September 11, 2001." I certainly needed the reminder that there are some things in the world that we can not control ... but what we can control is our reaction to things like guilt.
I want to hear what you have to say. How do you deal with guilt? Am I the only one awake at 4:30 in the morning because I've only slept for 4 hours tonight? Feel free to write me at .... Let me know if I can publish your response in one BlueSuitMom or better yet share your "So What" moments on BlueSuitMom's message boards ... and don't tell yourself you don't have the time ... since we all have the same amount of time. It is up to us to decide how to use it. And if you don't want to start the dialogue ... that's okay my response is now "SO WHAT?"
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