A Mother's Place : Taking the Debate About Working Mothers Beyond Guilt and Blame

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9780060173272: A Mother's Place : Taking the Debate About Working Mothers Beyond Guilt and Blame

Mothers all across America are caught in a maelstrom of guilt and anxiety, torn between their devotion to their children and their fears about economic security. A Mother's Place  , written by a leading New York Times   journalist and mother of two, is the book they have been waiting to read -- one that exposes the backlash against working mothers in our culture yet acknowledges their own ambivalence about the new lives they are leading.

Evolving from a series of front-page articles Susan Chira wrote for the New York Times , A Mother's Place   leads all mothers to safe ground. Drawing on her own experience as a mother and worker, and on interviews with dozens of mothers across the country, Chira writes with passion and compassion about motherhood in the nineties. A Mother's Place   is at once a devestating expose of the distortions that have wrongfully convinced many women that good mothers stay at home, and an engaging personal account of how women can rewrite the rules of motherhood and defy the experts by striking the balance that best suits them and their children. Controversial, hard-hitting yet written in a warm and accessible style, A Mother's Place   speaks to mothers across the country. Whenever working mothers pick up a newspaper or magazine, they hear how their neglect is producing a society of emotionally damaged, even criminal, youth. Chira reviews the latest scientific research to show that children of working mothers turn out just as well as those raised by mothers at home. She shows how the media, the courts and politicans have distorted this data to suit their own agendas. The reality that most experts have chosen to ignore is how much a mother's happiness, satisfaction and emotional state affect her child. Chira argues that society is trapped in the wrong debate, because whether or not a woman works is not a principal factor in determing how good a mother she is. She presents a new vision of motherhood, one that offers reassurance while insisting that all of us -- mothers, fathers and society -- fulfill our obligations to our children.

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Review:

Who makes the best kind of mother--a stay-at-home mom or a working mom? Susan Chira, deputy foreign editor for the New York Times, has joined the debate with the excellent, insightful, and forward-thinking A Mother's Place. Chira cites "the cultural and political forces pounding away at mothers" as the source of her inspiration, and indeed, the last decade has seen a spate of books, studies, and talk-show spectacles claiming that working mothers are the root of many societal ills.

What stay-at-home-mom zealots have neglected to consider is the personhood of the mothers themselves. Chira points out that a mother's intellectual and emotional satisfaction will undeniably affect her children. So if Mom feels forced into staying at home with the kids, her resentment is not likely to result in star-quality mothering. Chira does not mean to say that all stay-at-home mothers are bitter and bored; instead, she makes a plea that a mother's choice in this matter be accepted and celebrated, regardless of her decision.

A Mother's Place is extremely well-researched, using both the latest empirical studies and interviews with over 40 mothers and a dozen fathers, augmented by her own personal experiences. The result is an intimate, accessible study that while firmly rooted in science successfully avoids a dry academic tone. The good news is that Chira offers a thorough, well-crafted, and compelling argument that "working mother" does not equal "evil mother." The bad news is that in our supposedly enlightened times there are still people in need of convincing. --Brangien Davis

About the Author:

Susan Chira, New York Times deputy foreign editor, has written extensively on family issues. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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