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Forget 'Having It All': How America Messed Up Motherhood--and How to Fix It

Amy Westervelt

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Society

A clear-eyed look at the American history of motherhood--and a blueprint for fixing the unequal and discriminatory treatment that exists as a result

After filing a story for a journalism assignment only two days after giving birth, Amy Westervelt had a revelation: we treat mothers like crap in this country. From inadequate maternity leave to gender-based double standards, emotional labor to the wage gap, Westervelt became determined to understand how we got here--where "having it all" is the fabled, hollow, unreachable goal.

In Forget "Having It All," Westervelt traces the roots of our modern problems back to the founding of our nation and through the changing roles of men and women since. What she discovers may be surprising: the roles of mothers have flip-flopped throughout our history (for example, leading up to the Industrial Revolution, many men were home while women worked). Using this historical backdrop, Westervelt draws out what we should replicate from our past (the origin of Mother's Day, for example, was a dedicated day for mothers to organize just as laborers had done--to take stock of their place in society and push for more), and what we must begin anew (such as incorporating working fathers into our discussions about work-life balance) as we overhaul American motherhood.

Ultimately, Westervelt presents a measured, historically-backed call for workplace policies, cultural norms, and personal attitudes about motherhood that will radically improve the lives of not just working moms but everyone in our country.

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