January 26, 2007

What Do You Do All Day by Amy Scheibe

Today is my last day of a nanny gig that I’ve had for the last five months and eleven days (not that I'm counting or anything). On Monday I start a new full-time, post-college job. It only seemed appropriate to read What Do You Do All Day? about a stay-at-home mom and her difficulty deciding whether or not to return to her career. For me, of course, it wasn’t a real choice, seeing as the boys I watch aren’t my boys, and I’m only one in a string of nanny/babysitters for them over the course of the last few years. Still, I know it will be an issue I face in a few years when my husband and I decide to have kids. Plus, I’d heard several good reviews of the book from various places.

Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom with her two children, Georgia and Max, while her husband, an artifacts dealer of some sort, travels around the world purchasing and delivering ancient goods. Jennifer was, before the children, a personal assistant for an art dealer -a woman she really enjoyed working with. She chose to come home due to jealously, unable to bear the thought of missing her children's milestones or allowing another woman to become their "other mommy." Early on in the book, her husband has to spend three months in Singapore on assignment, much to her dismay, and without his loving presence, she has the opportunity to see in much clearer detail her relationships with her children, her mother-in-law, her stepmother, and her various friends.

I read several books early last year that were similar to this one and “What Do You Do All Day” is far superior to any of them. Jennifer Bradley is a much more solid and multi-dimensional character, who seems desperately real. It seems to me that books like this often have heroines that are either terribly angry or depressed or happy or organized. Jennifer, rather, was an excellent mix of all characters, acting just the way you generally would expect. Also, it seemed like a lot of women in these books are either workaholics mourning missing their babies or stay-at-homes longing to not be. Jennifer, rather, clearly sees the pros and cons of both lifestyles and definitely cherishs the opportunity to spend time with her children, while missing aspects of her old career.

Additionally, there are a number of other really great characters, none of them falling into the stereotypes so common among this kind of book. Rather, the book takes a great deal of care to analyze Jennifer's decisions in career, family, mothering, friendship, and love, how she relates to those around her, and how she views herself and feels others view her.

All in all, the book seemed so much less cliche than others in the same genre. Still not masterful fiction, by any means, but an obvious front-runner of the genre.

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