Keeping a family and a career going

2008-10-02 08:05

For a while now I've been wondering why someone didn't write about how hard it is, physically and emotionally, to keep a house with children, and sometimes even a husband, going. It's something that's seldom mentioned, especially if you're a career woman, for want of a better phrase. It's not easy being responsible for a family's basic survival, from dental appointments to general hygiene.

At last Rachel Cusk has written about it. This British author writes eloquently and perceptively of the lives of a number of relatively ordinary women, only one of whom is a so-called working mother.

There is Juliet, the one at school who seemed most likely to succeed. Now her brilliance is dulled in the fairly mundane environment of a girls' school. She may have her masters in literature but it is still she who must do “Everything! She would have to put [the children] in their uniforms and take them out in the rain.”

She seethes too as she contemplates the way men “murder” women after she's been told by her host to “be careful” about her opinions at a dinner party.

Then there is Amanda, who has refurbished and obsessively cleaned her house in an attempt to give meaning to her life. Which it hasn't. And there is Maisie whose husband chose to leave the London she loved so that their children could have a quieter upbringing. She spends her life trying not to suffocate in the leafy claustrophobia of Arlington Park.

And there's Christine who tries to make everything fun, and thinks a trip to the mall is meaning enough in anyone's life. Even she finds herself turning to drink when a dinner party she's hosting threatens to overwhelm her with its endless demands.

This is an excellent read for any woman who, while she may not quite be a desperate housewife, still needs reassurance that she is not alone with her burden of house-cleaning, child-rearing and a possible attempt at a career.

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