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Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood

Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood

5.0 3
by Rebecca Gillespie, Hollee Schwartz Temple

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We're the generation destined to have it all—a great job, the perfect family and the time to enjoy both. But between the conference calls and soccer practices, do you feel like you've lost track of what really makes you happy? And are you finding out the hard way that you can't do everything?

The truth is that you can have it all.

The secret is creating an


We're the generation destined to have it all—a great job, the perfect family and the time to enjoy both. But between the conference calls and soccer practices, do you feel like you've lost track of what really makes you happy? And are you finding out the hard way that you can't do everything?

The truth is that you can have it all.

The secret is creating an "all" that you love.

Join a growing new wave of mothers who are learning to let go of the little things and focus on what they really want out of their career, their family and their life. Through their groundbreaking research, Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple have discovered a paradigm shift in motherhood today: more and more mothers are losing their "never enough" attitude and embracing a Good Enough mindset to be happier, more confident and more successful. Filled with inspiring firsthand accounts from working mothers and drawn from the latest research, Good Enough Is the New Perfect is a true roadmap for the incredible balancing act we call motherhood.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gillespie, a journalist, and Temple, a lawyer, explore modern motherhood and family/work balance in this examination of a new generation of mothers battling the conflicting pushes and pulls of career goals and mothering roles. The authors, who both left their jobs and forged new career paths after having children, surveyed more than 900 working mothers (most were college educated and financially secure), born between the years of 1965 and 1980. Many of these women, the offspring of baby boomers, were competitive perfectionists, attempting to have and do it all. But, the authors discovered, those mothers who had a "good enough" rather than "never enough" attitude toward their lives were happier and more successful. In fact, Gillespie and Temple argue, redefining success (but not "settling") and creating careers that match both personal and professional goals is crucial if mothers are to finally throw off the cloak of dissatisfaction and inner conflict that has so often defined the lives of women in past generations. Along with their personal stories, the authors include brief profiles of a number of women who have shaped their own careers, either by pursuing entrepreneurial dreams or by exploring flexible schedules, often using technology to extend job boundaries and options. Gillespie and Temple provide inspiring examples for contemporary mothers striving to find balance and happiness within work and family life. (May)
Kirkus Reviews

Bloggers Gillespie and Temple give common-sense advice for women looking to balance career and family.

No parent is perfect, and no career is without sacrifices, write the authors. Mothers today are so exhausted from their successful careers, they have to let go of the myth of Supermom. In their debut, Gillespie and Temple attempt to reassure upper-income mothers who are stressed with career and family. Women, faced with so many choices, want everything, but because they have been raised to believe they can do it all, motherhood becomes a competitive sport. The authors surveyed905 women born between 1965 and 1980 and asked them to speak about the difficulty of balancing their work and home lives. Each chapter offers bullet-point tips and examples from their subjects as well as the authors' lives. Not surprisingly, mothers who realize that doing their best is good enough are happiest. Much of the authors' advice is merely straightforward and conventional, but there are a few high points. Among them: a lengthy discussion of career advice that urges women to think long term before choosing a specialty.

Far-from-revelatory observations about adjusting career expectations to fit with motherhood.

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Read an Excerpt

This is not a book about settling. Or mediocrity. Or about anything other than getting exactly what we want as mothers, professionals and women. (Not everything we sort of want, but the things we want the most.)

This is a book about refusing to live by other people's rules. It's about taking control and accepting that we're not going to Have It All just by working a little harder.

But it's also about choosing to work hard—not because it's the "next logical step" or someone else's dream—but because we love what we do. It's about reaching stunning heights of success by pursuing our passions at work and at home.

We wanted to point this out right up front because we're full-disclosure women, and we know a few people take issue with our title. Including a couple of the women featured in the book. Including one of Hollee's good friends, who suggested that we might as well call the book Sucky Is the New Awesome.

We can live with that. Because, in our minds, good enough is not about aiming lower or doing less or slacking off. It's about knowing that what's good enough for one woman isn't necessarily what's good enough for another. And that if we're living up to our own standards, there isn't anything more to want.

Some people call this perfect. We call it the New Perfect.

• *

Before we go further, though, allow us to introduce ourselves. Becky is a journalist (married to a lawyer) and Hollee is a lawyer (married to a journalist)—and like all the women we interviewed, we're also mothers who have struggled to blend family and ambition. Becky was a newspaper reporter when the first of her two daughters was born; she was working in a job she loved, surrounded by people she respected. When the first of Hollee's two sons came along, she was a lawyer at a prestigious firm, a job she'd earned after years of hard work and academic achievement.

And, yet, we each left our jobs within seven months of returning from maternity leave.

The difficult decisions we've made as mothers, and the things that happened afterward, inspired us to write this book. And the people we met while writing it—well, they inspired us in countless other ways.

Good Enough Is the New Perfect is based on journalistic research we conducted over two years, beginning in 2008. It draws on exclusive data—our survey of 905 working mothers born between 1965 and 1980 and representing almost every state in the nation—as well as in-depth interviews with more than 100 working mothers. Some of these women were subjects of multiple interviews conducted regularly over one or two years; their generous gifts of time gave us deep insight into the wide range of factors that shape women's choices today. We also have drawn from expert research into issues ranging from marriage to feminism to business; some of the experts we consulted shared hours of time to help us better understand our findings.

Our key findings, by the way, surprised us. Our research revealed two types of working mothers: the Never Enoughs, who felt a constant need to be "the best," and the Good Enoughs, who said that being "the best" wasn't important, as long as they were good enough and happy at work and at home. What caught our attention wasn't that these two groups existed—it was how differently they fared in their attempts to balance work and family.

We want to be clear on one point right away. We intentionally chose to examine only a slice of the maternal population—mothers who had the privilege of education and a certain amount of choice regarding work, including the ability to temporarily scale back hours, switch jobs or take time off. Almost all the women we interviewed—though diverse in race, geography, profession and family background—were college-educated and relatively secure financially. (Which isn't to say that they didn't feel money pressures; many did. But most weren't worried about putting food on the table at night.) Almost all of our survey respondents had attended college, and nearly half worked in jobs that required an advanced degree. We're very much aware that other groups face work/life issues, and that many women do not have much (or any) choice with respect to their work—but that's not the focus of this book.

We also decided not to concentrate on women who defined themselves as at-home mothers; we believe there's a new Mommy War (chapter 3), and it's not about working versus staying home. That being said, several of the mothers we feature (including Becky) stayed home for significant stretches, and in chapter I0, we discuss career makeovers and transformations for moms who have spent time outside the paid workforce.

The final point we'd like to address, since it will undoubtedly be made, is that both of us—and all the women we interviewed—know that we are luckier than most. These women spoke very honestly about their happiness and challenges and guilt. They talked about settling for jobs that didn't quite fit because they didn't think other opportunities existed—and because they worried that expressing this would make them seem "ungrateful." Women told us over and over again that they felt alone. And we think a good deal of this loneliness stems from our reluctance to talk honestly with each other about the parts of our lives that don't work, the stuff that pushes us to the brink—and the things we'd like to change. Some of us stay mum because we don't know how or where to bring this up (work/life has been seen as a private issue until very recently).

But, also, a lot of us don't want to seem whiny.

In fact, we have witnessed a certain amount of vitriol aimed at women who do open up about the struggle to find the right fit between work and home. We've seen women harshly criticized for admitting that they feel overwhelmed by their choices or that they are unhappy because their choices aren't working. Sometimes these condemnations have come from other women facing similar struggles—women who have needed empathy themselves. We have even seen it on our own blog, where critics have lashed out against women who have walked away from their big-money, high-prestige jobs because they weren't the right fit. ("Boo hoo, poor you and your six-figure salary," wrote one particularly angry person.)

But we invested our hearts in this project because we don't want to perpetuate a new Problem That Has No Name: This issue deserves a place in the national conversation. Mothers shouldn't be afraid to discuss what so many told us was "the most pressing issue" in their lives. Fitting family and career into the same life is really hard, despite what we may have believed growing up. And these challenges are also exceptionally common, despite how alone we may have felt.

It's okay to say these things out loud.

Because we feel so strongly about this, we decided (against our journalistic instincts) to include our own stories, to share our very private feelings about our experiences as wives and mothers.

At the start of each chapter, we've offered some bullet-point "tips"—some insights shared by the women we've interviewed or gleaned from our research. These are points of guidance …but the real work is up to each of us. What really makes you feel alive? What stirs your passion and makes you eager to get up each morning? What does success mean to you?

For modern moms, there is no clear-cut path, no one right way. This book shares stories of women who have forged their own paths professionally and personally—as employees, employers, wives and mothers. It is our hope that you will come away from this book understanding the myriad options out there for working mothers; but we also hope that you come away with a strong understanding of how you, too, can find greater happiness and success by creating your own New Perfect.

The stories of the women of Good Enough Is the New Perfect filled us with optimism and inspiration. Most of all, that's what we hope you will find here.

—Becky and Hollee April 2011


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Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
AlisonHess More than 1 year ago
First I must admit one thing: I haven't read the entire book. It is so full of stories from mothers who describe their struggles to find balance, but it also includes helpful suggestions for moms who are struggling right now. And if we're honest, I'd have to say we're all struggling right now, today and everyday. Just like laundry, there is no end to the balancing act we must perform. Each morning will present new challenges to our best-laid plans, and it is our ability to find ways to weave those challenges into our lives without giving in to the chaos that make us "Good Enough" moms. My second confession: I'm not rushing to finish the book anytime soon. Rather, I see it as a permanent fixture on my nightstand, something to read carefully and completely, not skim through to the end so that I can check it off my to do list. It is the book that I will pick up at night after a particularly hard day when I need encouragement, support or just a good laugh. It will be the one I use when my children or family or friends or co-workers come up with a completely new way to frustrate or confuse me. And it will be the one I will turn to when I am on the verge of tears, desperately trying to keep my life in balance and feeling like a complete failure. What I like the most about The New Perfect is how Hollee and Becky have woven personal stories of their own along with stories from a variety of women to provide us with the "how we got here" history of modern motherhood. Our mothers provided us with unprecedented opportunity, and we have felt the pressure to live up to their expectations ever since. What we forgot along the way is that these women didn't live up to anyone else's expectations; they created their own. That's how they made progress and changed the workplace. Instead of feeling like we're not doing enough from their point of view, we need to use our energy to make sure we're doing enough from ours. With Mother's Day coming this weekend, I know that The New Perfect will be a popular gift for moms of all ages, but I have another suggestion. I see this book as a wonderful graduation gift for those young women who are just starting their lives. College graduates, and even some from high school, may really benefit from reading our stories. Would they take from this book the same things I do as a mom who has been out of school for a number of years? I wouldn't expect that. But I would expect them to find inspiration in its pages, and I hope that they would see that we still don't have all of the answers. Maybe they'll see this as an opportunity to find new ways to balance their lives at an earlier age. And maybe they won't expect to have the answers, either. And that's good enough for me.
arharrison More than 1 year ago
As a mother of two and an attorney, I struggle daily with trying to find the right balance for my life.  Reading this book reassured me that I am not alone, and that if the choices I have made work for my family, then I have made the correct decisions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago