The topic for today is motherhood. You’d almost think there was nothing left to say or write but if that were the case, Mommy Track’d wouldn’t be here and two recent books wouldn’t be asking to be read.
The first, Dr. Marjorie Greenfield’s The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book  could well turn out to be the last and only book a woman either contemplating pregnancy or already on its journey will need. Everything she could possibly need or want to know about is here, from trying to get pregnant to how to choose a doctor and/or midwife; from tracking the growing baby to changes in your own body; from how to tell your boss and pregnancy’s effects on work and vice-versa; from maternity leave and returning to work to “finding your balance,” it’s all here and more, enlivened and personalized by comments from working mothers. There are tons of pregnancy books out there, of course. What makes this different is that it’s directed very particularly at women who work and who plan to continue working outside the home after their baby arrives. Written in a friendly and authoritative voice by a practicing ob/gyn mother and packed with useful specifics, this is a must-have resource.
Ready: Why Women are Embracing the New Later Motherhood , by Elizabeth Gregory, is the first book I’ve seen to explore the positive effects of women becoming mothers at 35 and beyond. For starters, a book that focuses on the positive effects of women’s decisions about their working and family lives deserves a rousing welcome. We’ve had far too much criticism and far too little serious investigation of the ways in which women are managing and re-imagining their lives. One of the most significant of these is the decision to delay having children until they deem themselves ready. Supplementing her interviews with 113 “new later mothers,” those who had their first children after 35 by birth or adoption, with information from larger data banks, Gregory finds that delaying motherhood had mostly salutary effects not just on women and their families but on their communities as well. Her cross section of mothers spans a range of ages, professions, sexual orientation, and living arrangements, all of whom constitute “a happy group,” tired, perhaps, but pleased with their accomplishments before and after motherhood. She puts this down to the fact that in just about every case the older mother has felt herself ready to have a child because she has established herself in her career, has had the time to “be there for herself,” as one woman puts it and so can now “be there” for her kids. Regardless of the differences among them, these women have achieved the confidence, as well as the financial stability, that allow her to shape the terms of her life, whether she continues to work or chooses to stay at home.
Gregory is an academic, but you wouldn’t know it from her prose, which is lively, accessible and lucid. She intersperses statistics and commentary about women’s changing relation to work with snapshots that illuminate issues such as work/home balance, economics, fertility, adoption, changing family structures, only children. There’s even a chapter dealing with health, looks, and self-image. Though her findings are overwhelmingly positive, she’s no Pollyanna. Quick to point out that readiness is not only an individual choice, that “it matters what kind of support a woman has in the world around her,” she argues that government and big business have a big stake in making mothering more feasible and that they still have a long way to go.