Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Review: Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family by Anne-Marie Slaughter (audio)

It's funny how some books cross your radar. When this book came out, I was creating an index for an academic friend's book. She references Ms. Slaughter and just as I was reviewing that section of the book, Ms. Slaughter's voice came in my ear, as an interview with her came on  the podcast I was listening to. I figured that was too much of a coincidence.

Now, I don't have (and am not going to have) children so a big part of this book is only interesting to be intellectually, not personally, however, it still is. Because when we don't value the caring part of our lives as much as the monetary part, then my husband's jobs (social worker, therapist) are devalued, as they are traditionally women's jobs.

I do of course have friends (most of them in fact) who do have kids and who either balance (sometimes well, sometimes tippily) family and work, or have chosen to opt out of work (sometimes temporarily) in order to focus on family. I do have one friend where the father has been a stay-at-home Dad but that was for legal issues (he wasn't allowed to work in the US with his visa status) and now that he's got his paperwork takes care of, while he's still the #1 parent, he is getting back into the work force quickly. But Ms. Slaughter delves into all of these options and more, and all of the potential pitfalls, and the reasons that we need to talk things out and think things through well in advance. She has experienced that Millennials ask her about this much more than previous generations (perhaps because they're the first generation where this feels like there's a choice? She doesn't give any reasons.) And that's smart—anyone who is still in the figuring-thing-out stage ought to read this book as it will make you think very much about your career, your family, your life's goals, and what compromises you are willing to make. I like that she calls out society for making a big deal about "good dads" who are just doing regular parenting tasks that any mom would do without getting a second look. And she calls out women for not allowing men to do parenting or household work on their own terms. (She does not however call out men who purposefully mess those things up in order to get out of chores. I've seen it happen—it's not a myth, although hopefully it's not super-pervasive. And it's not just men—I had a horrible female roommate in college who tried that too.) She notes that as Generation X is becoming management, there are a lot less of us and so there is a management gap, and yet businesses still aren't willing to look at women who stepped out of the business world for many years.

I wish the author had read the entire book. She reads the prologue and the coda. And the narrator is just fine, but of course she doesn't have the same passion in her voice as the author, and the author was perfectly great so I am not sure why a separate narrator was necessary.

The book is certainly thought-provoking. It's a tad repetitive and the author seems slightly blind to the privilege she has (she acknowledges part of it, but not all). But it's a fascinating, thoughtful, and very worthwhile read. Especially for twenty-somethings. Think about what you want from life before it starts just happening to you without intention.

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.

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