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The Mother of All Jobs: How to Have Children and a Career and Stay Sane(ish)

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It's time for a different conversation about working and parenting. As our working days get ever longer and our phones keep so many of us glued to work, the needs of our children and the world of school and childcare has not changed at all. School summer holidays are still longer than our annual leave. Working mothers everywhere are tearing themselves apart, trying to meet It's time for a different conversation about working and parenting. As our working days get ever longer and our phones keep so many of us glued to work, the needs of our children and the world of school and childcare has not changed at all. School summer holidays are still longer than our annual leave. Working mothers everywhere are tearing themselves apart, trying to meet the needs of their children, their relationships and their careers and too often feeling like they are failing. So is there a solution? When Christine Armstrong became a mother, it never occurred to her that she would want to give up her job. But the truth is, combining work and small kids is hard, and when Christine tried it, she found herself desolate with misery. Determined to find a way forward, she looked for answers by interviewing other working mums and found that she wasn't alone. The Mother of All Jobs brings together the wisdom of the women who opened up about everything (and we mean everything) into a manifesto for happy professional families. Ignoring the glossy lives presented on social media, this book shows that, while it's not always pretty, working parents can thrive if they have the knowledge others learnt the hard way.


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It's time for a different conversation about working and parenting. As our working days get ever longer and our phones keep so many of us glued to work, the needs of our children and the world of school and childcare has not changed at all. School summer holidays are still longer than our annual leave. Working mothers everywhere are tearing themselves apart, trying to meet It's time for a different conversation about working and parenting. As our working days get ever longer and our phones keep so many of us glued to work, the needs of our children and the world of school and childcare has not changed at all. School summer holidays are still longer than our annual leave. Working mothers everywhere are tearing themselves apart, trying to meet the needs of their children, their relationships and their careers and too often feeling like they are failing. So is there a solution? When Christine Armstrong became a mother, it never occurred to her that she would want to give up her job. But the truth is, combining work and small kids is hard, and when Christine tried it, she found herself desolate with misery. Determined to find a way forward, she looked for answers by interviewing other working mums and found that she wasn't alone. The Mother of All Jobs brings together the wisdom of the women who opened up about everything (and we mean everything) into a manifesto for happy professional families. Ignoring the glossy lives presented on social media, this book shows that, while it's not always pretty, working parents can thrive if they have the knowledge others learnt the hard way.

30 review for The Mother of All Jobs: How to Have Children and a Career and Stay Sane(ish)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rikki

    As a new mother about to return to full-time work, I really wanted to find depths of wisdom and support here. But no. The author seems to have aimed this book at the wrong audience. It is not about how to be a mother, have a career and stay sane. In fact, it’s a string of case studies, anecdotes and depressing research about how utterly dreadful and impossible it is to be a working mother. The real audience of this book is actually employers, business and society at large. Sadly, they will not r As a new mother about to return to full-time work, I really wanted to find depths of wisdom and support here. But no. The author seems to have aimed this book at the wrong audience. It is not about how to be a mother, have a career and stay sane. In fact, it’s a string of case studies, anecdotes and depressing research about how utterly dreadful and impossible it is to be a working mother. The real audience of this book is actually employers, business and society at large. Sadly, they will not read it. I really wanted to appreciate this book, but ultimately came away feeling even more daunted about returning to work. The advice seems to lean toward scaling back hours or employing a nanny, both of which are just not options for many women. That, plus the ridiculous number of editorial errors (proofreading, anyone?) mean I can only award two stars, at most.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Wallwork

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Whilst “flexible working” has become an almost banal term due to it being flaunted by every hiring employer, an honest probe into the daily struggles of the parents of this generation shows we have a long way to go. The final offering from Armstrong has left me supercharged to change my approach to personally navigating this period: “So, I urge you to go out and show how a different way of working can work yourself and use whatever influence you have to drive organisational and wider societal cha Whilst “flexible working” has become an almost banal term due to it being flaunted by every hiring employer, an honest probe into the daily struggles of the parents of this generation shows we have a long way to go. The final offering from Armstrong has left me supercharged to change my approach to personally navigating this period: “So, I urge you to go out and show how a different way of working can work yourself and use whatever influence you have to drive organisational and wider societal change. To take and encourage others to take career breaks and scale work up and down as suits you and your family. Push for flexible hours or part-time hours, job shares, four days, three days, freelance, whatever you believe is right. Be a role model, promote other role models, show it works. It’s the only way we’ll change the world to make it better for our children. And their parents.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A very thoroughly researched and laid-out book, though majority of the research is based on interviews. Could do with a good proof-read. Based entirely on the UK system (eg school system, political system, etc). Very interesting and generally very well crafted chapters. Provides practicall and clear advice. Also helpful for addressing your own prejudices, biases and misconceptions. Disappointingly my final takeaway is that you cannot have career success AND a balanced family life. All the women r A very thoroughly researched and laid-out book, though majority of the research is based on interviews. Could do with a good proof-read. Based entirely on the UK system (eg school system, political system, etc). Very interesting and generally very well crafted chapters. Provides practicall and clear advice. Also helpful for addressing your own prejudices, biases and misconceptions. Disappointingly my final takeaway is that you cannot have career success AND a balanced family life. All the women referenced in this book work ridiculously hard and long hours and usually overcome child-rearing issues by taking a step-back from their career or hiring help (eg a nanny).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julia Tutt

    This book is aimed to a privileged section of western society, but it's not trying to be anything else, and fortunately this book is totally aimed at me, despite not having children. This was practical, split into sensible chapters, and full of advice. The case studies were fantastic, and I tabbed so many sections to refer back to later, and I'll be giving it to all of my female friends, as well as my fiancee. On a side note, there were 3 spelling/grammatical errors that I noticed, which is a sh This book is aimed to a privileged section of western society, but it's not trying to be anything else, and fortunately this book is totally aimed at me, despite not having children. This was practical, split into sensible chapters, and full of advice. The case studies were fantastic, and I tabbed so many sections to refer back to later, and I'll be giving it to all of my female friends, as well as my fiancee. On a side note, there were 3 spelling/grammatical errors that I noticed, which is a shame, but I still want to give this book 5 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nita S. (ecobookworm)

    TLDR: An insightful look at balancing work and family life that will be useful to people in a wide range of situations. ***** It might seem weird for someone without children to be reading a book on balancing parenthood and work, but I think this book is useful for both people who intend to have children someday and those who already have them. From readers now thinking about whether to have kids, new parents, single parents, parents with demanding jobs, even parents of teenagers - there's somethi TLDR: An insightful look at balancing work and family life that will be useful to people in a wide range of situations. ***** It might seem weird for someone without children to be reading a book on balancing parenthood and work, but I think this book is useful for both people who intend to have children someday and those who already have them. From readers now thinking about whether to have kids, new parents, single parents, parents with demanding jobs, even parents of teenagers - there's something in here for practically anyone. I don't have children so I'm not familiar with the nitty-gritty details of balancing work and kids, so I found this book to be a treasure trove of details I'd never have thought to be mindful of. I'll be rereading it in years to come, when I do have kids, and throughout all the stages it applies to. For people dealing with these issues in their daily lives, there's a wealth of tips to help. Though it’s based on thorough research, this is an easy read. The tone is conversational, revealing and straightforward, like getting candid advice from a friend. Only the friend has done interviews with a vast number of parents, teachers, social workers, therapists, and other people with a wide range of experience. Every chapter ends with a summary section of the main points for those with little time or energy, neatly titled to show what would be relevant. Anecdotes from interviewees used throughout illustrate the real-life applicability of the points discussed. It’s worth noting that as the author is from the UK, information is based on work and school systems there. However, much of the information would be applicable anywhere in the world. Though mainly focused on mothers, it would be helpful for dads too. It also accounts for different income levels and other sociodemographic factors, but would probably be most applicable for middle-class readers. I came away with a better understanding of the challenges of a system of work that doesn't account for family life, where women are often expected to be the lead parents. The concluding suggestions for how things could be done better are fascinating, especially as the current pandemic has highlighted the flaws in the system. I'd love to see this book updated every 5-10 years as systemic changes occur to take them into account, as it can be used as a sort of handbook for managing work and parenting. Hopefully, these sort of guidelines won't always be as necessary as they are today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aislin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The book was structured nicely and easy to read (aside from quite a few typos). The first few chapters were the most interesting to me and gave examples of different paths families take. The second half of the book was less engaging and I found the repeated emphasis on needing to make friends with the mums at the school gate a bit tiresome (and stressful). As others have commented it was focused on the UK setting and assumes the reader is UK-based. Nevertheless, it focuses on an important topic The book was structured nicely and easy to read (aside from quite a few typos). The first few chapters were the most interesting to me and gave examples of different paths families take. The second half of the book was less engaging and I found the repeated emphasis on needing to make friends with the mums at the school gate a bit tiresome (and stressful). As others have commented it was focused on the UK setting and assumes the reader is UK-based. Nevertheless, it focuses on an important topic and I liked that the author didn’t claim to have all the answers.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emma McQueen

    I liked the book and in some ways it helped me to feel less alone but it also felt a bit depressing in a way, that so many people struggle with the juggle (and I can’t say that I think there is any balance, just seasons). The research was wonderful though and gave me great food for thought on how to help my clients more. I think it was a bit depressing because there are now easy answers and even if one family choose to do life one way, it doesn’t mean society will get on board with that!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Heather Rodgers

    Started well but I was increasingly disappointed as I read on. There are plenty of good points made here but a lot of it is simply unrelatable for the majority of the population for whom employing a full time nanny is not an option. I’m not sure it truly fulfils the promise on the jacket in terms of informing the reader ‘how to have children, a career and stay sane’, but it certainly makes you more anxious about playground politics!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chenice

    As a working mum (22.5 hours a week) to a toddler I found this book very interesting. A few sections seemed anecdotal, but I appreciated the statistics, references to studies, and real-life case studies from parents in the thick of it. A very thought-provoking book which I will be recommending to friends and family.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    This book is really brilliant, inspiring and thoughtful. I am pretty sure I will give it to all of my girlfriends at some point and I’ve taken plenty of thoughts away with me so I can plan for my own kids. Superb. 5* as I will certainly come back to it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeetu

    The title of the book is misleading. Instead of mothers and to-be mothers, the target audience should be policy/law makers and HR professionals. I read it to help me endorse the upcoming change in my life with full positivity and courage, but it actually somehow became source of anxiety!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim Olsson

    I found this book very insightful and think all managers should read it as well as parents.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Em Cahill

    Some of the best working mother / juggling career material I have come across. I think she nailed it in many parts (other parts not so relevant for me but you can skip over those)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cara

    Depressing but nails it. Apparently the juggle is worse when they are teens.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    I wanted this book to be better than it was. The topic is important and under-discussed. The advice she gave was sensible. And yet it sometimes felt like a slog to read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kate Reeve

    The reason I only gave three stars is because most of the book isn’t relevant to me. The first couple of chapters which were relevant were great.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nanditha

    I wouldn't term this a revelational read but it was definitely a good read, especially for someone interested in feminism and how traditional workplaces ensure that working mothers cannot and will not "have it all". A lot of research has gone into this book which is evident from how thorough the topics covered are. I loved the fact that the book included interviews of a lot of dads and ended up proving that fathers also wish that traditional workplaces and the ways we work changed. I wouldn't term this a revelational read but it was definitely a good read, especially for someone interested in feminism and how traditional workplaces ensure that working mothers cannot and will not "have it all". A lot of research has gone into this book which is evident from how thorough the topics covered are. I loved the fact that the book included interviews of a lot of dads and ended up proving that fathers also wish that traditional workplaces and the ways we work changed.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Allira

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Tunney

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Stack

  21. 5 out of 5

    Silvia

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Annabel House

  27. 4 out of 5

    Labib

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sue Mi

  29. 4 out of 5

    Keryn Banks

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura Chalmers

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