Maxed Out by Katrina Alcorn

Subtitled: American Moms on the Brink.

Where on earth to begin with my praise for Maxed Out? Katrina Alcorn‘s memoir/cultural analysis is an honest, well-researched, and absolutely necessary addition to the conversation about women in the workplace. The political is personal, and she astutely uses her own story of corporate burnout and panic attacks to highlight the ways in which corporate culture and expectations are at odds with what is best for families with children.

Alcorn puts her arguments into a larger context, showing how the very act of having children puts a working parent–especially a mother–into an adversarial relationship with every single person and entity with which she is connected. The notion that balancing work obligations and family commitments is a juggling act of epic proportions is hardly novel ground, but Alcorn offers levels of detail that really bring the issues to life.

And while Alcorn raises the usual issues of better maternity leave (and paternity leave, too), she also paints a picture of corporate life that makes you wonder whether or not it’s healthy for the childless, either. For a taste of her views on the subject, check out her review of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean in. Here’s a great quote:

The problem we should be talking about is why jobs in leadership—any job, really—require people to work such crushingly long hours, to never take any extended time off, and never ever—heaven forbid—unplug. When we frame the problem, again and again, around personal choices, we let the workplace, and society, off the hook.

Great stuff, and a worthy addition to a vital conversation.

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