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Tom & Sherry: How to Have It All Paperback – September 11, 2015
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About the Author
Elisabeth Glas is a trained historian-turned-management consultant with a strong belief in the power of reframing a problem in order to unlock its solution. Born and raised in Switzerland, she divides her time between Manhattan and Milan. Tom & Sherry is her debut.
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By doing so, it enables the reader to suddenly see behaviors and decisions in a completely different light. That's when the shock happens.
The book moves fast and comes up with a completely different solution: to eliminate guilt by perceived minorities into a majority, more specifically to have moms and dads join forces, instead of fighting each other. Again, so simple, yet so true. The book doesn't stop here. It rather becomes almost painfully specific by applying a business concept - The Toyota method - to the household.
At the beginning it felt daunting, but the analogy is brilliant. Once I overcame the initial hesitation it was so much fun to go through my day and check where I could eliminate waste. A must read, not only for parents! Besides it is also a short and fun read - thanks to Tom & Sherry.
The two characters, Tom & Sherry, are not only fun, but make the book alive. On top, they provided me with some good arguments that I use myself now.
There IS a fictional component to this book, however. Characters Tom and Sherry appear in every chapter. They banter back-and-forth with each other about work pressures, family obligations, parenthood, relationships, and the social expectations they feel stifled by. While I didn't find the inclusion of the fictional story especially helpful or entertaining (in fact, most of the dialogue between Tom and Sherry seemed somewhat contrived and cheesy to me), I think author Elisabeth Glas intended to use their story as an aide to better illustrate the book's main points.
Truthfully, though, the message here is pretty simple. Glas believes that the key to "having it all" is to eliminate choices motivated by guilt. She argues that we do more (or sometimes less) than we want or need to because we are still trapped by antiquated social expectations of what men and women "should" do as workers and parents. In her opinion, if we could just "eliminate guilt-driven choices, we [would] be able to eliminate wasted energy and time, allowing us to have it all within the course of a 24-hour day, every day." So, in other words, guilt makes us waste our time. And Glas argues that once we eliminate guilt, areas of waste will become obvious. Eliminate the wasted time and efforts, and, voila!, your kids will be ready to go to school 30 minutes before schedule. (Don't I wish...)
If that argument sounds overly-general and vague, well, that's because it is. Eliminating "guilt-driven choices" covers a lot of ground. It's a nebulous term that is difficult to pin down in real life. Glas acknowledges that different people will feel guilty about different things, but she has trouble giving realistic and convincing examples of what even SOME people might feel guilty about and how they might change it. The few examples she does give are too cliche to be relevant. For example: Mom makes dinner, washes dishes, puts the baby down, and then folds laundry...while Dad sits in the easy chair and watches TV. Mom could use some help, but she feels guilty about not being able to do what is expected of her as the primary caregiver, so she never asks Dad to lend a hand. When I read that example, I thought, What century is this? I'm 35, married, with three kids, and NO ONE I know lives like that. It's a tired example from a gone generation, and I think we are mostly past it.
I think Glas is correct in acknowledging that gender stereotypes absolutely still exist and that guilt helps keep them alive. But our inability to find balance in our lives is not COMPLETELY about our own personal feelings of guilt, right? What about lack of access to child care options? No paternity leave or paid maternity leave? Is Glas saying that if we stopped feeling guilty we would fight harder for these benefits? I'm just not sure.
Ultimately, I felt like Glas didn't acknowledge the true complexity of the "work-life balance" struggle, so her solution seemed out-of-touch and unrealistic to me. As someone who is in the parenting trenches everyday, I really just had trouble finding concrete advice in here that I could use.