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Women's Work

A Reckoning with Work and Home
Narrated by: Allyson Ryan
Length: 12 hrs and 27 mins
4 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A National Book Award finalist's unforgettable account of raising her children abroad with the help of Chinese and Indian women who are also working mothers.

When Megan Stack left her prestigious job as a foreign correspondent to have a baby and work from her home in Beijing writing a book, she quickly realized that childcare and housework would consume the time she needed to write. This dilemma was resolved in the manner of many upper-class families and large corporations: She availed herself of cheap Chinese labor. 

The housekeeper Stack hired was a migrant from the countryside, a mother who had left her daughter in a precarious situation to earn desperately needed cash in the capital. As Stack's family grew, a series of Chinese and Indian women cooked, cleaned, and babysat in her home, and she grew increasingly aware of the brutal realities of their lives: domestic abuse, alcoholism, unplanned pregnancies, medical and family crises. Hiring poor women had given Stack the ability to work while raising her children - but what ethical compromise had she made?

Determined to confront the truth, Stack traveled to her employees' homes, met their parents and children, and turned a journalistic eye on the tradeoffs they'd been forced to make as working mothers seeking upward mobility - and on the cost to the children who were left behind.

Women's Work is a stunning memoir of four women and an electrifying meditation on the evasions of marriage, motherhood, feminism, and privilege.

©2019 Megan K. Stack (P)2019 Random House Audio

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Almost insightful...but not quite

After becoming a mother, National Book Award finalist Megan K. Stack found challenges her experience as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan hadn't prepared her for. As a stay-at-home mom in Beijing, her sanity and sense of self eroded amidst the chaos of caring for her infant son. Like many expatriates, Stack hired local domestic workers to help, an arrangement that allowed her to be both a mother and a writer. Later in Delhi, she again recruited local women, some of whom had to leave their own children behind in order to care for hers. Initially Stack tried "not to think about how making things nicer for one person always seemed to make things worse for somebody else," but the disparities were difficult to ignore. Turning her gaze toward the problem instead of averting her eyes, she begins to interview women who had worked for her, even returning to China to find women who had worked for her in the past. Unfortunately, these conversations come late in the book and Stack's reflections fall just short of true insight or action. She presents the problem of the structural inequity but offers no solutions: When it is once again time for her family to relocate, Stack considers inviting her long-time servant, by then old and infirm, to come along but knew she would never actually make the offer. "We’ll simply leave," she acknowledged, "and that will be the end.” For her perhaps, but for these women and those like them probably not.

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I'm underwhelmed.

I definitely struggled to finish this book. There was no big revelation at the end.