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The book chosen for the Lifestyled/Mamamia bookclub this month was as significant as Bridget Jones in terms of defining a genre: in this case the working mother diaries. Paula and I sat down after (bizarrely) appearing on the Kerri Anne show on the same day (which is why we have so much make-up on – we’re actually both wearing ugg boots) to discuss ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’. We have answered two video questions and added more discussion questions below for those of you who can’t view videos online. Please share your thoughts on the book in the comments.
We’ll be telling you about the next book shortly.

Synopsis

A fiercely ambitious and talented thirty-five-year-old hedge-fund manager at the London firm of Edwin Morgan Forster, Kate Reddy is a successful woman in a notoriously sexist business. Her trouble is that her other life, as a married mother of two young children, is hopelessly at odds with her day job. Her architect husband, Richard, is sweet and feckless and would never dream of replacing the paper towels in the kitchen, and Richard’s mother keeps telling Kate that her poor boy is looking thin. The children’s nanny, Paula, is haughty, spiteful, and inclined to emotional blackmail. The housekeeper doesn’t clean anything down low (bad knees) or up high (vertigo).

Kate can juggle nine different currencies in five different time zones and get herself and two children washed and dressed and out of the house in half an hour (though occasionally with the baby’s banana oatmeal smeared on her Armani suit). She can read Guess How Much I Love You? to her son while scanning the prices on a stock ticker. She can do it all (it seems)—but the stress is ridiculous. Smug stay-at-home mothers at her daughter’s school, members of what Kate calls the Muffia, are always asking her when she’s going to start working part time. How long can she go on like this?

In a novel that is at once uproariously funny and achingly sad, Allison Pearson captures the guilty secret lives of working women—the self-recrimination, the comic deceptions, the giddy exhaustion, the despair—as no other writer has. Kate Reddy’s conflicts—How are we meant to pass our days? How are we to reconcile the two passions, work and motherhood, that divide our lives?—get at the private absurdities of working motherhood as only a novel could: with humor, drama, and bracing wisdom.

The author, Allison Pearson on this book:

Q1. Working Mothers vs Stay-at-home mums, which group judges the other more harshly?

Q3. What were the parts of the book that really resonated with you?

Discussion Questions

1. Kate Reddy feels fiercely competitive with the stay-at-home moms who she fears judge her for not being a good enough mother. This competition/anxiety makes working moms and stay-at-home moms view each other warily. Do you agree?

2. Which group judges the other more harshly do you think?

3. What were the parts of the book that really resonated with you?

4. Does the book capture the essence of modern life?

5. Is humour the most successful narrative device in this novel?

6. As Kate herself says, “Giving up work is like becoming a missing person. One of the “Domestic Disappeared.”
Is Kate’s decision to leave her job a disappointment or a relief?

So what did you think?

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