I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

06Dec06

Synopsis:
A working mother of two finds her life teetering out of balance as she struggles to succeed in finance without feeling guilty that the nanny is raising her kids.

Review:
I sometimes have anxiety dreams where I’m working. I’m either behind the counter at the video store I clerked at in grad school, or posting things in Moveable Type for my work blog, or reenacting a specific job (like an event I’ve planned) in what feels like real time. While the dream is going on, I’m overwhelmed by the tedium of the individual tasks I’m doing. Putting boxes on the shelves. Copying and pasting links. Giving people a seat assignment. Reading I Don’t Know How She Does It was a lot like one of those dreams. After a certain point, I just got tired of living through the tedium of Kate’s day, because the emotional underpinnings were just not there. I felt this book would have been better titled I Don’t Know WHY She Does It. Because I just didn’t get why anyone would live in such a state of self-inflicted misery unless they are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. When Kate isn’t letting herself be bullied by her bosses, she’s bullying herself into creating some kind of life from a magazine, one that has nothing to do with actually Living Life. Smelling those roses and everything.

I get that some people are adrenaline junkies (I’m not), but Kate’s case felt extreme, and I actually felt very unsympathetic towards her plight. I found myself thinking things like, “It’s her own fault” and “she’s asking for it.” I have a lot of sympathy for working mothers, but I don’t have sympathy for anyone who thinks that they can have it all–men or women. That’s a childish belief. Life with other people entails sacrifices; you can’t always have your way. This book presented such an unflattering portrait of the working mother that I almost wonder if it wasn’t ghost-written by Caitlin Flanagan.

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4 Responses to “I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson”

  1. 1 paperbacks

    ah, is this the one where she talks about how men are incapable of remembering details, like to get a brithday cake? her husband sounded pathetic in this book, totally pathetic. This book made me feel so depressed about my future if it’s true. I’ve just decided its not though.

  2. That’s exactly it. I could not understand why her husband let her speak to him the way she did–she was always sniping at him, belittling him, and making him feel like an idiot. It really bugged me. I thought that her main problem was not that she was trying to “have it all” but that she was a raging control freak.

  3. My wife loved this book. I think she said it was really funny. I hope she didn’t find too many similarities between her life and that of the main character, although she probably would have told me if she had (she teaches English Lit, often with a gender studies emphasis.) Did you find it funny at all?

  4. I thought that the writing was very good, and she had some sharp, satirical observations that I did find funny. But overall I think I was just too depressed by the main character’s situation to really enjoy it.


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