Sunday, May 25, 2014

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the TimeOverwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

OVERWHELMED chronicles the current sociological trend of women holding so many roles that they lose sight of who they are and what they really want to be doing. Schulte, as a Washington Post writer, holds a demanding more-than-full-time job, but is also trying to nurture a marriage, raise children, stay involved in school, and find time to fulfill herself outside of these roles.

As with many of these self-exploratory books with problems that most of the world would like to have, it's rather hard to swallow the whining of an upper-middle class professional woman who has chosen to have it all, then is upset when it isn't easy. Unlike many of these books (Gretchen Rubin's HAPPINESS PROJECT springs immediately to mind), Schulte does acknowledge that role overload isn't optional for those who live near or below the poverty level, working multiple low-wage jobs while raising children. She delivers a scathing indictment of the American child care system, where quality care costs more than college tuition in many locations and forces talented women to stay home with their children rather than spend their entire salaries on child care.

From a policy perspective, it's very well-written as one would expect from a Washington Post writer; it's also very depressing to see how US politics have failed women in favor of supporting a mythical family structure that serves no one well. She explores how other countries have legislated gender equity in the workplace as well as providing state-supported high quality child care and education so that parents can easily move in and out of the workplace during the parenting years.

I wish there had been less of Schulte's own story; it would have been a far more readable book without the navel-gazing, but I realize that this is a genre that sells a personal story along with the facts. The solutions she offers at the end are barely adequate. Without reform, we're going to be reading this same book 50 years from now, unless we've all moved to Scandinavia by then.

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