Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Book Review: Here's the Plan

One of Seal Press's latest, Here's the Plan: Your Practical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood, caught me completely by surprise. For one, non fiction books are hard to get into, harder than fiction anyway. For two, I had several forehead slapping moments of "HOW did I not think of that?!"

This is a guide, in every sense of the word, for women who will be experiencing pregnancy or child rearing. Downey surveyed over 2,000 women on a range of topics, which she broke down into 8 chapters, starting with the specifics of family leave (the author makes it very clear throughout the book to emphasize that it is family leave and fathers and other guardians should use it just as much as mothers), putting an action plan in place for work while out, what happens if discrimination rears its ugly head, various care options, returning to work and tackling change for women in the future.

At the end of each chapter, there is a short section called Worth Remembering, which both sum up and allow the reader to make an action list based on the previous chapter. Downey includes items such as using a plan for your leave as a way to catalog and present your success within the company, both as a way to ask for the next promotion and, god forbid, a way to help fight a discrimination suit; putting any and all pumping times on your calendar while on leave to avoid back to back meetings; and take time to reset both your work and home priorities.

Another refreshing aspect of the book was the gentle non judgement combined with the gentle nudging of fighting for self care. Downey explicitly does not take sides in the sleep or breast feeding debates that can often rage unchecked online. But she does encourage women to talk with their partners about making sure scheduling is on equal footing, especially the emotional labor of planning and thinking about planning, which often defaults to women.

I thoroughly enjoyed the feminist bristling at the term 'mommy brain'. She states:
      "In considering their findings, Dr. Miller and other scientists have theorized that when pregnant women and new mothers have normal cognitive slips, they overattribute them to their 'mommy brain,' having internalized this pervasive cultural assumption." I have never really considered how much the phrase could hurt women, especially when we already apologize for too much in our daily lives.

This book should be required reading for anyone who plans to get pregnant. It is thorough, inclusive and incredibly informative.

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