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by Joan K. Peters
Perseus Publishing, 2001
Review by Barbara Wright on Apr 30th 2003

Not Your Mother's Life

Work/Life Balance is perhaps the most sought after goal of all workingwomen worldwide. In Not Your Mother's Life Joan Peters attempts to show us how it is possible to achieve the dream that evades so many. In this well-researched, well-written book, she holds up as examples of this balance, career women who have discovered ways to have it all. We see strong, independent women who have made pre-planned choices about careers, work locations, husbands, and children. It works great and they have "picture perfect" lives. The only problem is, most women don't plan. The greatest virtue of this book is that if the reader learns nothing else, they learn the value of planning early in life. It is a fact that one must make decisions early in life so that when the decision point comes, there is no decision to be made, it was made long ago. If young people, female and male, could grasp that idea and put it into practice, we would live in a much different world.

If individuals would take time early in life for self-discovery, determine what it is they truly want out of life, and develop a plan, there would be few who would end up in dead-end jobs, or mismatched careers. As the author says, "You can let life happen to you, or you can design your life so that you'll end up with what you really want. The trick is to be proactive, to understand the consequences of each choice." Unfortunately, no more than a chosen few will ever reach that target. Work, marriage, and children are a difficult balancing act and not one to be undertaken lightly.

The author believes that woman can have it all - husband, children, and fulfilling career. The fact of the matter is that to successfully have it all, every factor in a woman's life must work together to further the goal. In actuality, after a woman has children, the children should take precedence over her desires. Creating a triple win situation is possible only in the best of circumstances and in most lives, it just doesn't happen. Someone in the equation is always ending up feeling neglected, overtired, discouraged or out of sorts. We are programmed to "fall in love" and then work our life and family around it. A lot of times it ends in disaster. The children are the ones who suffer most. Children need LOVE, TIME, and concentrated ATTENTION. They would prefer to get it from their parents. In the successful examples the author describes, there are ample extended family members, high quality child care givers, nannies, agreeable spouses, flexible employers, etc. In actuality, it doesn't work out that way unless you have lots of money, are a high-level executive/CEO or have planned extremely well. Most of us don't fit into those prime areas.

Then there is the factor overlooked by the author, that a lot of women, once they have children, discover they would truly rather be with the children than at work where they may be unappreciated and pretty much unknown. While men may have to put up with those facts of work life, most women do not. They see that they can serve a greater need by spending the time with their children. The author feels that women aren't giving up positions because they want to be with their children, but because they feel trapped into it. While that may be true in some instances, I don't believe it is true in most.

If a woman truly wants to run a company and devote many hours per day to her work, she should not have children. When you have a great passion for something and want it more than anything else, it is really hard to let anything or anyone else get in the way. If a woman knows herself well enough, she will make the decision that is right for her. I do believe that the one who wants to run the farthest, the fastest, will be the one who carries the lightest load. To work the most intently, you need the least distractions. But then, life is game of tradeoffs. Each person must decide what he or she is willing to trade.

The economy has changed considerably since the book was written and employers are now in the driver's seat in obtaining and retaining employees. Therefore, it is more an employer's market and employees are much less likely to receive concessions and special arrangements than they did when the book was written. However, the author does a good job of stressing that planning and self knowledge are the keys to success. This is a great book for young women (and men) of high school, college, or early career stages. It is an invaluable guide to showing what is possible with proper planning.


© 2003 Barbara Wright

Barbara Wright is a former Director of Human Resources with Master's Degrees in Human Resource Planning and in Organizational Behavior.  The last 15 years of experience have been in the Telecommunications Industry.  She has a wide variety of reading interests and is a member of Reviews International Organization (RIO).