Mothers have unparalleled opportunities to succeed at work while continuing to face the same societal impediments that held back our mothers and grandmothers. We still encounter entrenched gender bias in the workplace and are expected to shoulder the lion's share of labor and burdens at home while being made to feel as if we're never doing enough. All the while we're told that the perfect work-life balance is possible, if only we try hard enough to achieve it.
There is little that is new in Lara Bazelon’s brisk, engaging book ... Her message — working mothers are good for children, embracing ambition is good for mothers — is one that has its moment in book form at least once a decade or more. This is not a criticism. It is a lament ... While reading her well-reasoned arguments, I found myself vacillating between admiration, agreement, anguish and anger ... Why, nearly six decades after Betty Friedan argued that women could be fulfilled by roles other than 'housewife-mother,' does it still need to be said? Can you imagine a book with the message that paid work is good for men and that they need not apologize for their success? ... Though filled with interviews with a deep and diverse variety of couples with children, at its heart Ambitious Like a Mother is the story of how Bazelon’s struggle with career and family has compared and contrasted with those of her own mother and grandmother ... She doesn’t advocate anything in particular, as hers is not a prescriptive book. While she touches on the familiar appeals for better child care options, federal guarantees of paid maternity leave, and talking frankly with your partner about division of labor before having children, her focus is more about the head space and emotional struggles of women ... Bazelon is reassuring, self-aware and direct ... It is tempting to conclude that Bazelon’s book represents its moment much as her predecessors did. But there is a looming elephant on nearly every page. It is being published in what may be the end of the pandemic, or may just be a lull between variants; either way, the workplace she writes about — and rails against — will likely no longer exist in the way she experienced it.
Through numerous stories, she illustrates how women can redefine—and are redefining—what it means to be a working mother while achieving career success and being great mothers. This book will appeal to working women, those interested in gender studies, and young people embarking on their careers.
Bazelon rejects the idea of the self-sacrificing mother in this bold treatise ... Her case is bolstered by interviews with the children of working moms, and it adds up to a convincing argument that professional achievement both allows women to have greater freedom and acts as a valuable lessons that demonstrates to 'children that by pursuing our dreams and ambitions, we are strong, independent, and eminently capable.' This is sure to make working mothers feel seen and celebrated.