The Mommy Cottage Industries

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Another day, another book about the elusive-like-a-jungle-cat "work-life-balance" mothers all over the world crave. I haven't read "The Comeback" but I read the review of it in last Sunday's New York times. As inspirational as it appears to be (the book centers around seven women who left the workforce and successfully returned in their 40s, 50s, and 60s), I am even more interested in the motivations of the author, Emma Gilbey Keller, than with her subject.

Keller--a successful journalist who is married to the Executive Editor of the New York Times-- struggled like so many of us do with how to inject career vitality into her life after she had children. In fact, according to interviews, she hit a wall after the birth of her child and felt paralyzed with no idea as to how to connect her life as a journalist with that as a mother. This book was her answer. Now, obviously, it makes sense for her to write this--she is following the axiomatic first rule of writing: "write what you know." But before she had kids she was writing about Winnie Mandela.

As I look around I see more and more former lawyers, doctors, bankers, writers ditching their careers post-baby for mommy-cottage-industries: photographing kids, designing clothes for kids, whipping up baby food for kids, and yes--touche--blogging about kids. And I can't help but wonder: Are we limiting ourselves? Are these second-stage careers what we really want to be doing...or are we afraid to take bigger leaps? Are we wary of re-entering our previous professions or do we just not like them anymore, and having kids gave us a great excuse to get out?
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