Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Essential Reading: Work

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I hope that most people perusing this list are doing so while slouched in a comfy chair at the beach house during a sleepy stretch of the afternoon.  August is the summer vacation month, the month during which we have good reason to assume that nobody can be expected to be available to do anything.  Of course, those with children -- children home from school or new babies in the house or pre-schoolers whose all-consuming need to have everything RIGHT NOW has no season -- know very well that the work of parenthood never stops.   Even those in the beach house, having planned for weeks and made a six-page packing list and placated children through a 9-hour car trip in order to get there, know as well as ever that work is always with us.  So this month, our editors recommend books that treat with smart and sympathetic wit the work we do unceasingly, while reminding us of the valid need to find some little breathing space in the midst of it all.  I would suggest Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journals, which offer a great deal of thoughtful rumination on L’Engle’s family life over the decades, and on the subject of being a parent while also being other things. A Circle of Quiet, in particular, is a comfort and an inspiration, as well as a pleasure to read.

Blog Editor Amanda Jaros writes, “Reading Erma Bombeck's book Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession has given me some much needed laughs, as well as perspective and insight into what, exactly, motherhood and work mean.  Each chapter is a short and distinct glimpse into the work of motherhood.  Some are thoughtful, some touching, and some intensely funny.  My particular favorite was the chapter about Frank, who quits his job to stay home and write his novel.  And take care of the kids on the side.  His wife eagerly goes to work to earn the money.  And get away from the kids.  Frank quickly learns that no novel is going to be written, and that caring for the kids is the ultimate full-time job.  In classic Bombeck style, the author leaves us laughing at Frank and, of course, ourselves.”  (Although this title is only available on the used market or as an ebook, Bombeck wrote enough about motherhood to keep anybody laughing for a good long while.  For a representative sample, see Forever, Erma.)

Kristina Riggle, Fiction Co-Editor, shares, “Work used to mean putting on pantyhose (Remember when people still wore pantyhose to work?) and grabbing a bagel at my desk when I started at the newspaper at 7:30 a.m.  Now, my definition of work is fluid, as is my workday.  I'm working when I answer an email from my agent at 5 pm while I'm stirring something in a pan for dinner and supervising children's homework.  I'm also working when the kids are at school and I'm staring out the window trying to wrestle with a plot point in a book.  So, I'll recommend Anne Lamott's amazing Bird by Bird, which has the apt subtitle, 'Some Instructions for Writing and Life.’  Anyone can adapt Lamott's advice to any job, like turning down the blaring KFKD mental radio station of negativity to get work done, or doing the 'broccoli' of the hard work that has to happen before the magic.  Lamott also really gets what it's like to be a mom and a writer, without going all syrupy on the subject -- an approach I very much appreciate!”


Libby Maxey lives in rural Massachussetts with her husband and two young sons. With her academic career as a medievalist having died a stunningly swift death by childbirth, she now works as an editor, writes poetry, reads when able, and sings with her local light opera company. Her work has appeared in The Mom Egg Review, Off the Coast, Tule Review, Crannóg Magazine, Mezzo Cammin and elsewhere.


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