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The “Have Kids, Will Work” Reading List

At lunch last December, a friend asked me to share a list of books that I recommend she read.  She was looking for ones that would help her get ready for the crazy road ahead – particularly working while having kids.  So I put together a list of four “must read” books that have influenced me on this subject.  Here they are:

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Nell Schovell and Sheryl Sandberg

When this book hit the shelves (or the digital download queue) nearly three years ago, it created quite a cultural phenomena – to the point that it coined a new workplace vernacular.  It’s now normal to acknowledged that this is your “lean in” moment, and we talk about how we pursue our lives and careers through leaning in and leaning out.  The authors offer additional valuable advice around speaking up, mentorship, sponsorship, and pursuing career dreams.  The advice is well presented, but perhaps more relevant to Generation X.  My favorite aspect of this book is it made me consider where I had more control over my career than I thought.  My main criticism is that the advice didn’t offer enough practicality considering the restrictions and realities in my everyday life.

Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Slaughter says that if she were writing a book ten years ago, Lean In would have been it.  However, the realities she faced commuting by plane to a demanding job where she worked for Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, while her children were raised by her husband as “lead parent”, didn’t work out quite the way she planned.  She spends a lot of time discussing some of the common fallacies and myths that women have (and are advised to follow) around integrating work and family life.  Her focus is on how the current work environment doesn’t currently allow for caregivers to participate appropriately.  As a working mother of two very young children (aged 1 and 4), Slaughter’s words really spoke to me, but the hardest part around heeding some of her advice is that it’s contrary to even what she did.  I have yet to find an example of a parent that has made it to such senior levels of opportunity without severe career penalties or personal family sacrifice.  She acknowledges the problem, but there is still no solution.

The Two-Income Trap:  Why Middle Class Parents are Going Broke by Amelia Warren Tyagi and Elizabeth Warren

This is an older book (2003), but one that every dual working family must read.  What we do is hard – impossibly so.  And we do it for the betterment of our families.  But is it working?  The Two Income Trap goes into detail around the evolution of the two income family, why it’s not working out as many women who longed to head off into the workplace thought it would, and what you can do about it.

Pedigree:  How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs by Lauren Rivera

A fascinating look at why many of us will do anything to ensure the right exposure and education for our kids.  Rivera’s book explores the world of elite professional services firms (investment banking, consulting, and law) – feeders into the C-Suite of the Fortune 500.  But what gets you an entry-level job isn’t what you think… or maybe it is?

And now, on to the book I’m looking for in 2016… I’m looking for voices that are willing to share their story and practical advice around what it’s like to be a working parent, integrating career and work in a 24/7 connected economy: parents who shed light on balancing childcare needs with limited income while living in high cost metros; single fathers that cringe when they see their child’s school calling in the middle of a meeting; new moms working and competing with younger and childless colleagues when they’ve had less than 10 hours sleep all week; and what it really means to have a global job with global hours when you’re still nursing your 5 month old.

We need more voices… and we need those voices to be from people who aren’t so wealthy that full-time childcare is always available, or people who have so much influence that they can build a nursery next to their corporate office, or even from women who’ve made it but share their regrets and advise us differently – but can’t really promise much despite a different path. I know I need to get my own book out of me this year, as I shared before, but I hope all of you share your stories as well.

Have Kids, Will Work

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