Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink

Katrina Alcorn. Seal (PGW, dist.), $16 trade paper (386p) ISBN 978-1-58005-523-9
This memoir of obligation overload mixes personal stories with impassioned, research-based rants about the struggles of working mothers in the U.S. Despite a supportive husband, good childcare, a successful Web design career, and a well-intentioned friend for a boss, Alcorn has to deal with anxiety and panic attacks. Though she tries to maintain control via cognitive behavioral therapy and sheer force of will, after the birth of her new baby and a work situation that requires her to return to work full-time almost immediately, she suffers a breakdown and dissociative anxiety that convinces her that quitting her job is the only sane choice, though she still must deal with residual anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Compared with the struggles of lower-income or single moms, Alcorn’s story reads as entitled; her guilt comes from leaving her kids at a loving daycare provider, and dealing with difficult clients and too much travel for work. But for Alcorn’s peers, the book is a brave admission that we are not all successfully managing our overbooked lives, and should not feel alone. On the whole, the book provides a powerful reminder that even well-to-do mothers do not thrive in our current system, that having a positive attitude, leaning in, or opting out aren’t viable choices for many women, and that other countries (such as Denmark and Sweden) serve working mothers more effectively. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/08/2013
Release date: 08/01/2013
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