After I wrote my last post, about not wasting my life, it seemed like everything I read—like this blog post and this blog post—reflected the state I was in. And then I discovered a terrific book by a local writer named Katrina Alcorn that REALLY spoke to me. It’s called Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink and I can’t recall a time I have been so simultaneously wrapped up in a narrative (I could not put it down) and validated by what I was reading. Alcorn describes the several-year span when she and her husband attempted to work demanding, full-time jobs (the kind with conference calls at all hours, off-the-hook clients, and heavy travel) and parent three kids. In the course of running this rat race, Alcorn stops seeing her friends, stops exercising, fights with her husband, gets very little sleep, and seems to always be getting sick—but she works through it anyway. And then the crippling panic attacks start. Talk about wasting your life.
Despite the fact that I have only a moderately-demanding job, and only one kid, I nonetheless saw so much of myself in Katrina Alcorn. I of course connected with the anxiety, but also with the sensation of always wanting to meet some demand that just can’t be met: a cleaner house, a better book proposal, a smoother commute, less stressful mornings, a faster track to career success. In fact, as I was reading, I could see nearly every one of my mom friends in Katrina Alcorn (even the stay-at-home ones, because, let’s face it, running after your kids all day is a different kind of rat race). And what’s more, I could see my dad friends, too, and my friends who don’t have kids. The book, which couples a memoir-style-narrative with short essays about the realities of being a working mom in American society, ends up being a call to action not just for working moms to have more freedoms and time off, but for all Americans to work more reasonable and flexible schedules. I recommended the book to about ten people in two days—one of them a friend without kids, one my incredibly hardworking cousin who’s single, and one my own husband.
And now, I recommend it to you. Walk, don’t run, to your nearest library or independent bookstore and pick up Maxed Out.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out Alcorn’s blog here.