Megan Stack and her husband Tom both worked as foreign correspondents, traveling constantly and reporting hard-hitting news on the frontlines. When they made the decision to start expanding their family, it wasn’t up for debate who would be sacrificing their career.
“No woman needs to convince me that she would give her life for her children, because every mother has already given her life for her children. That is the very first thing that happens.”
Megan knew that she would have to be the one to step up and be the stable parental figure in her kids’ lives, while her husband could go on with life more or less the same as before. The act of parenting is indeed an unbalanced one, whether that is due to nature or societal expectations, and it is undeniable that most mothers and fathers have extremely different experiences and relationships with their children.
“There is a lingering expectation that men will pay in money. But when it comes to time, it is almost always the woman who pays. And money is one thing, but time is life, and life is more.”
Due to the nature of her husband’s international job, her first child was born in Beijing and her second was born in New Delhi. In order to make any time for work of her own, Megan had to hire help, with the kids and with household tasks. Compared to the U.S., labor is much more affordable in countries such as China and India, but there were many issues that came along with domestic workers that Megan had not anticipated. While her husband was able to treat the women as hired help and maintain a professional relationship with them, Megan was the one who was home everyday with them. She formed close personal relationships with the women and became intimately entangled in their everyday lives at home. The nannies were forced to leave their own children in order to make a living caring for other people’s children.
“My children were the lucky ones. They made no trade; it was all benefit. They soaked up the love and attention of extra caretakers. They were exposed to languages and cultures and tastes and sounds. They learned new ways of moving through the world, other ways of being alive, personalities alien to their parents’ psychology.”
Megan was forced to confront her own privilege, feeling like she was able to exploit other women because of her financial status, while also battling the imbalance of parenting responsibilities within her own family. This memoir is primarily about women and the work that they must do to keep their families afloat. Megan explains that the only way that change can come about is for men to step up to the plate.
“In the end, the answer is the men. They have to do the work. They have to do the damn work!”
As an Asian-American woman, I was very intrigued by the contrasting experience Megan had as an American woman raising her child in Asia. She was able to reap the benefits of cheap labor but also struggled to bridge the cultural divide. I recognized many of the Chinese beliefs Megan learned about in regards to motherhood, and observing the experience of raising a child in China was fascinating.
Her honesty about her struggles and vulnerability was refreshing and raw. She put into words how many mothers feel throughout their parenting journey, whether they are able to admit it or not. She touches upon so many topics that really resonated with me, including gender inequality and roles, racial inequality, socioeconomic status, and cultural disparity.
My Rating: ★★★★★