Tuesday 9 October 2012
I go to a Modern book club at the really delightful Nomad books on the Fulham Road.
I looked for a reading group of some description for a long time before finding this one. I wanted a club I could attend regularly and because I work until 6pm on a good day and most book clubs start at 6pm or 6.30pm at a push it was always tricky. I also wanted one earlier in the week if possible as later in the week there are more distractions that might mean cancelling.
So the first Monday of the month is perfect for me and though Nomad isn't anywhere near where I live it's easy to reach from work, I can have a snacky supper on the bus and it's a pretty area I used to live and work near which I enjoy revisiting.
This month was the first time we have read a non fiction book, which was actually very refreshing.
Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the illusion of equality.
I don't have children so considering modern motherhood is obviously something I am doing theoretically but also with great interest. I have of course been the child of a Mother and I have friends who are Mothers. Becoming a Mother is a source of anxiety that I suppose I never thought it would be when I was growing up. For a start it never occurs to you that you might not be able to be a Mother when you're young, either for medical reasons or because you don't meet the right person. So that's one thing to be anxious about.
Secondly if you do find that person and you are lucky enough to be able to have children and do have them then you need to think about how you are going to manage the care of your child or children. Now some people may not worry about this at all, but this book is about the burden of care and responsibility for children falling with women and the effect that has. Asher's book is definitely written from a feminist viewpoint and despite considering myself a believer in all things equal rights I have never read overtly feminist work.
What was interesting was she is right, women do end up doing most of the care- whether they work full time as a Mother at home or work part time or full time in a job. It's assumed if a woman wants to go back to work she will arrange the nursery or au pair for her children- and it's from the salary she then earns that the childcare costs are subtracted- not the joint salaries of the parents. I'd never thought about it.
Asher's book is funny and opens your eyes to how you view parents. For example the Dad who is out with his child alone at the playground or coffee shop- a Dad present said women are always congratulating him for looking after his child alone- when they would never congratulate other women. You never walk past a Mum playing with her baby and think she's a great Mum but you would if you saw a Dad doing the same thing. It's actually absurd when you think about it!
Equally she points out that the whole system in this country does nothing to help Dads feel essential from the start- I had not realised that Fathers are sent home as soon as a baby is born if the baby comes overnight- she described feeling bereft when her husband was asked to leave her alone with a 2 hour old baby (and admittedly lots of staff but they wouldn't be bringing up that baby). Likewise the Father present who works at the shop said it made him feel very strange to be sent home- but that you don't question anything the doctors and nurses tell you because you can't really and you are probably exhausted and putting all your faith in those people. Again this is crazy!
The whole discussion opened my eyes, in many ways it gave me hope because all the women there are finding a way but it also made me re- realise that women and men are different.
I LOVE talking about books though, not having exams to think about or essays to write makes the act of just talking about why you enjoyed books all the more enjoyable.
Next we will read Swimming Home Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, which I have high hopes for!