If you’re a woman who uses the internet, you’ve likely seen the quote that mothers are expected “to work as though they don’t have kids and parent as if they don’t have jobs.” If you’re like me, when this popped up in your feed, you hit like then scrolled through the comments to see responses like “THIS!”, “YES!”, “TRUTH!”, and a variety of enthusiastic hand gesture emojis.The quote that seems to have hit a nerve for so many women comes from the excellent book, Forget “Having It All”, How America Messed Up Motherhood – and How to Fix It, by Amy Westervelt. Westervelt does a deep dive into the history of motherhood in America and when I say deep, I’m not kidding around.
How is it that in so many ways we still treat all women as ‘pre-pregnant’ even if they have no intention of bearing children? How the heck do we expect men to want to co-parent when we place no social value on caregiving? These are just some of the questions I began with as I looked for an answer to the question I kept asking: Why does motherhood in America kinda suck?”
Forget “Having It All” is impeccably researched, thought provoking, and unlike many other books of this genre, intersectional. I spend a lot of time thinking about and researching motherhood and this book had me thinking about my experience in new and critical ways.
The absolute best thing about this book though is how Westervelt ends every chapter, with suggestions for a “cultural fix” and for a “policy fix,” because you can’t make change without both! Genius! Typically when I read a book like this, I come away infuriated and I certainly had that reaction at times. But when I finished the last page, I actually felt inspired, and like most of my favorite books, with a long list of new books to read.