The zeitgeist has finally caught on to the fact that all women do not fit into either the “working” or “not working” box. I created 9 Lives for Women because I know it’s not so black and white: most women have one foot in and one foot out of the workforce for much of their lives.
There are working women who spend a lot of time wrestling guilt and wondering if they should pack it in and go home. And there are women who have been on hiatus—often for a decade or more—who tire of volunteering and wonder if they have the chops to navigate the business world they face today.
As iRelaunch founder Carol Fishman Cohen writes in her blog post, “Three TV Show Plots Signal Shift in the Zeitgeist of Mainstream Career Paths”, Hollywood is now hip to the fact that many women opt to return to work after time home with family. In the Good Wife, the main character returns to a law career, and on Modern Family, stay-at-home Mom Claire is enticed back to work when she makes a networking connection at her child’s Career Day. (The third show is particularly P.C. showing that men, too, leave the workforce and return. The upcoming “Michael J. Fox Show” revolves around his return to work as “America’s favorite newsman,” following a career break for health reasons.)
Fictional books (and movies) like “I Don’t Know She Does It” have chronicled the bifurcated life of working mothers, but I haven’t seen too many books that talk about women navigating their way back to work. That’s why when co-author Mary Quigley asked me to review her new book, The Getaway Mom, I jumped at the chance.
As I said in my review that appears on the back cover of the book, the authors must have been listening in while I’ve coached hundreds of stay-at-home Moms who feel something is missing from their very full lives. In their main character they capture the frustrations, lack of confidence, fear and confusion women feel when they start to think about returning to work and the subsequent joy they feel when they realize they are still competent, intelligent individuals with much to contribute.
Like many women I’ve coached, the main character, Natalie, is a stay-at-home Mom who feels the weight of two looming college tuitions. She knows that a second income could help with the huge cost—and also provide resources for “extras” and long-term financial security.
But there’s a big BUT. At age 44 Natalie is not sure she wants to restart her architectural career—especially because it would require additional schooling to learn new building codes and get back up to speed. Beyond returning to the career that she knows, she can’t imagine what else she would do or where her skill set would apply. She says that she is depressed and scared because “there has been too much Mommy and not enough me”.
Natalie’s husband leaves for a long business trip at the same time her children leave for camp. This gives her a big window of free time and the opportunity to visit her sister in California. A quick trip turns into an extended stay that includes swapping lives with her sister, Drey. While Drey goes back east to take care of their ailing mother, Natalie takes the reins at Drey’s copy shop.
Without hesitation Natalie jumps right in with capable hands and learns very quickly that she has what it takes to run a business. (It may not be at the same level as her architecture career, but it is a multi-faceted business nonetheless.)
Readers take note: the fact that Natalie seized an unexpected opportunity and jumped in made all the difference. In my experience, women delay their return to work for months and years because they get lost in their own heads—and fears.
There’s a lot more to the story, which classifies as a very light beach read. But I gave the book 5 stars for social significance not literary prominence. It’s a useful book that will make many women stop and think—and realize that with some ramp up time, confidence and a healthy ego all their years at home volunteering can actually translate very well to any job they’d like to pursue. —KAS
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