THE CRISIS OF THE WORKING MOTHER: Resolving the Conflict Between Family and Work by Barbara Berg

THE CRISIS OF THE WORKING MOTHER: Resolving the Conflict Between Family and Work

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Since women began invading the workplace, expecting the opportunities and prerogatives of the opposite sex, they have been told they can have it all--careers, children and husbands (or lovers), even a job and single parenthood. They've also been faulted for emphasizing home over workplace and vice versa. Now Berg comes along with a survey of over 750 working mothers which, she says, reveals that they are saturated with ""guilt: the excoriating interface between our two roles, hidden, erupting, disguised, insistent guilt."" This, she says, is why ""we didn't always do as well at work as we were capable of doing, why we never took time for ourselves, why we so often developed symptoms of stress, why many of our marriages were tension-filled."" Also, why some working women pay off their children with gifts (and give them a materialistic orientation), are too fatigued for sex, even why some become workaholics. The guilts, she says, can be traced to an ambivalence experienced by working mothers who feel they are betraying their own mothers. Men, she implies, have less difficulty combining parenthood with fatherhood even when they must assume considerable responsibility for child-rearing. This is because they don't have that ""inner voice"" of mama telling them to be a perfect parent and keep a ""good house."" Berg's suggestions to working women are routine: recognize that the conflicts are unproductive; resolve them; do the best you can. She also recommends that women fight for better child-care facilities at the workplace. Unfortunately, she made no study of fathers whose wives also work. Thus we don't know whether they also have conflicts in their untraditional roles, and whether they too advance less rapidly than those with full-time wife-homemakers. By pinning all of the problems that working mothers experience on guilt induced by their own mothers, Berg seems to demean the very real problems of juggling work, children and home that both men and women are experiencing today. In sum, the book blows up one of the problems produced by a fluid social phenomenon into the cause. This is simplistic and unfair to parents of both sexes.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1986
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster