Who makes the best kind of mother--a stay-at-home mom or a working mom? Susan Chira, deputy foreign editor for the New York Times, has joined the debate with the excellent, insightful, and forward-thinking A Mother's Place. Chira cites "the cultural and political forces pounding away at mothers" as the source of her inspiration, and indeed, the last decade has seen a spate of books, studies, and talk-show spectacles claiming that working mothers are the root of many societal ills.
What stay-at-home-mom zealots have neglected to consider is the personhood of the mothers themselves. Chira points out that a mother's intellectual and emotional satisfaction will undeniably affect her children. So if Mom feels forced into staying at home with the kids, her resentment is not likely to result in star-quality mothering. Chira does not mean to say that all stay-at-home mothers are bitter and bored; instead, she makes a plea that a mother's choice in this matter be accepted and celebrated, regardless of her decision.
A Mother's Place is extremely well-researched, using both the latest empirical studies and interviews with over 40 mothers and a dozen fathers, augmented by her own personal experiences. The result is an intimate, accessible study that while firmly rooted in science successfully avoids a dry academic tone. The good news is that Chira offers a thorough, well-crafted, and compelling argument that "working mother" does not equal "evil mother." The bad news is that in our supposedly enlightened times there are still people in need of convincing. --Brangien Davis
From Publishers Weekly
Chira, deputy foreign editor for the New York Times, here confronts the cultural image of the Good Mother, the archetypical American homemaker of the 1950s and 1960s who, in the 1990s, when more than half of all mothers with children under the age of one work outside the home, is hard to find. Chira, the mother of two school-age children, notes that she works outside the home by choice, and she attacks the "mother blaming" for children's maladjustments that can be found in contemporary writings about child-rearing. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton, family court judges and the religious right receive the back of Chira's hand for ignoring evidence that working outside the home has little effect on children if mothers are sensitive to their offspring's needs, provide proper care and supervision and, importantly, are themselves content. Some research suggests that children in quality daycare score higher academically, socially and behaviorally than those who spend their early years at home, stresses the author. Among her proposals to aid working mothers are better training for daycare teachers (France, for example, requires five years), more participation by fathers in child rearing, a year's parental leave at a lower salary after childbirth or adoption and job options such as flextime and part-time hours. Chira's forcefully argued, well-documented book provides an important perspective to the debate. First serial to Glamour.
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