“I find it helps to write down my daily responsibilities. I include big things like doing three loads of laundry, and little things like arranging a playdate. Nothing is insignificant, because it is the cumulative nature of all the details that creates the stress. Doing this makes me feel more accomplished, but it also helps my husband see what it is that I do throughout the day. I give him the list and ask him what he would like to take on. I let him choose whatever he wants. I do the same thing with my children’s appointments. I give my husband a calendar which I update every week, so he can see all their appointments. I ask him which ones he thinks he can cover. When he sees it visually, it is very powerful; much more so than my telling it over or nagging. It has made a big difference to us and he definitely helps out more because of it.”
This advice works on several planes. First, as David Allen and countless others point out, making comprehensive lists is the first step to getting things done. Secondly, writing down the “small” responsibilities that take time away from what you think you should be doing validates how sneaky those little tasks can be. Third, a comprehensive list reveals to your spouse just how much goes into running a household and raising children and last, it offers your spouse concrete ways to participate.
Reiter’s list of contributors includes women in a range of occupations including a tax accountant, nurse, as well as plenty of therapists and social workers like her. She also includes women in different positions of authority and addresses concerns that are particular to the workplace – although there is very little about male-female relationships in the workplace which is relevant both to religious and secular work environments.
“The Myth of the Perfect Balance,” a chapter title, should be on a bumper sticker. Not only does every mother have to find her own working rhythm but even once she finds it, she will still have to do so again and again, depending on the season and what is going on with both her career and each of her children.
The most important message in this book is that just like there is no longer a single career trajectory for either men or women, there is also no single way to be a successful Jewish working mother. Keep that in mind, press on, and when you need some concrete advice, some comforting voices and cheerleading, put up your harried feet and crack open Brief-cases and Baby Bottles.
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