Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Working Mothers and a Great Story by Karen S. Bell

I recently reviewed a novel that really spoke to me as a mother and a wife. That novel was Walking with Elephants by Karen S. Bell. I'm lucky today to have Karen on my blog talking about how she came up for the great story in Walking for Elephants and about the hard work of being a mother in today's society. Thank-you Karen!

I also admit I was going to give away my beloved review copy of this novel to help spread the word . . . but my book club convinced me not too. They all want to read the book too so I'm going to be passing it around book club instead. It will be a great book for us to talk about!

How did I come up with my story?
by Karen S. Bell

The most often asked question is how did I come up with my story? I can pinpoint a moment when the story’s underlying message hit me like a ton of-bricks–but I’ll get to that later. What drove me to write this novel–was how much I’ve seen change in the way of families and family life. Women have definitely become contributors to society in force but there have been many sacrifices because of that which have changed the bucolic nostalgia of the American stereotypical household.

Working women become working mothers and life becomes a juggling act but kids demands remain the same and satisfying those demands become major challenges. Along with women becoming more powerful, the divorce rate is so high that I believe that before long, a large sector of our culture will do away with marriage. Divorce is harrowing and expensive and the only winners are the lawyers, who I am sorry to say fuel the hatred even when children are involved.

I’m old enough to remember when most households remained intact, most women stayed home, and neighbors were friendly. We are isolated now from one another, overworked with demanding jobs and running households part time. In suburbia, after long commutes mothers get into cars and remain there during most of their discretionary time, carpooling or grocery shopping.

I applaud the working mother who manages it all–but I think they need help. I think that corporate America and women can be creative about being able to mother full time and find fulfilling employment that provides the now necessary second income. How? Maybe job sharing is the answer, maybe there is another idea out there. Much longer maternity leave. Supportive and mentoring women at work who help each other when kids’ need mommy today and mommy does not have to take a vacation day to provide that nurturing. Somehow we have to give a nod to yesteryear, stop for a moment and take a beat and reassess.

Raising children is so important. They are our future, they need to nurtured by a parent not a caregiver. We need to imprint on our children. Make them all they can be with mom and dad yelling on the sidelines, not stuck in front of a computer somewhere.

Let’s take back our families AND be workers but we have to figure out how to do it. And I really haven’t a clue how to get it done but I have some ideas.

What was my aha moment for this book? When I came upon a woman pumping her breast in the ladies room at work. I thought how sad that there is a baby crying some where and mommy isn’t there to provide.

Maybe we can come to a place in this country where mommy and baby could be at work together.

For more great discussion of Walking with Elephants, check out Karen Bell's blog at

1 comment:

  1. I think Karen and I would get along quite well! I agree with her about the difficulties of having a career and mothering. At the least, I'd love to see longer maternity leaves. I also hope we come to the point where more telecommuting is offered.