Gena Gerard, like many daughters of the Baby Boomers, grew up determined to Have It All -- a successful career, a great family -- the whole package. Only somewhere along the line, she got tangled in the "Mommy Wars" and started feeling remorse that she could neither give full commitment to her job running a Minneapolis non-profit and her two young children at home.
It's a common theme throughout a new book, Good Enough is the New Perfect, which chronicles the struggles of modern, working mommies along with the solutions they have tried to achieve balance and happiness.
"The Mommy Wars that were playing out in Gena's mind started taking a toll. She was angry about the mixed messages she had received. First, it was: 'Go to school, study, get good grades. Good for you, get a job!'
But as soon as the babies were born, she felt as if society was delivering a louder communication: 'Stop what you're doing! Stop right there! You have children now, and your children need you. How can you leave your children? Shame on you!'
So Gena decided to dial back her hours at work, and that's when she felt yet another voice creeping into the conversation: 'How can you leave your job early today to pick up your kids? If you don't care about your job, someone else will be happy to have it!'"
Gerard, who lives in Chanhassen, is featured prominently for her efforts to reclaim her life by quitting her executive position and opening a yoga and fitness studio. (Actually, her original vision was for a broader one-stop shop for women that included fitness, art, a salon, a bakery, etc. But that business model struggled, so she switched to a yoga center that has developed a stable client base.)
The narrative is so threaded through the angst and perspective of mothers that I was often left wondering about the unaddressed perspectives of fathers and whether they were pitching in enough at home. But that's probably just a guy thing! The book definitely taps into a hot-button issue that will resonate with many parents, especially in a state such as Minnesota with one of the highest rates of two-income families.
Gerard offers the unique perspective of starting her own business as a means of grasping control of her schedule and her work-life balance. In a survey of working mothers, the authors of the book found that 20 percent either were consultants/freelancers or owned businesses.
A goal of the book is to move public discourse beyond the simplified should-I-work-or-stay-at-home? debate that has persisted even as mothers have pursued numerous alternatives. It explores many of those alternatives -- from entrepreneurship to working from home to redefining spousal roles. But it's no how-to book, as many of the solutions would only have worked for the individual mothers who are profiled. Gerard's dream, for example, was achieved in part through a timely inheritance.
"There was a common thread for the most successful women: They'd been willing to take action. Their secret wasn't that they'd avoided sacrifice -- it was that they'd chosen the sacrifices that best suited their priorities. Instead of trying to squeeze themselves into an ill-fitting pair of Mom Jeans, they'd found the solutions that actually worked."