Like Ann Crittenden in last year's If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything, Ellison is looking to persuade corporations, individual bosses, spouses and mothers themselves that motherhood need not be a hindrance but rather an asset. As many have pointed out, this great conundrum -- how to balance, juggle, jigger, rejigger, sequence or cram motherhood and work into one life -- is the great unfinished business of feminism.
The Washington Post
When Israeli scientists gave 100 brand new mothers an IQ test, they scored significantly lower than non-pregnant childless women. To this, Ellison, a Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist and mother of two, bluntly answers: "Duh... you are now looking at your future for at least the next eighteen years in its yowling red face. It's possible that your performance on standardized neuropsychological tests simply isn't a top priority." Throughout this well-framed argument for the intellectual pluses of motherhood, Ellison expertly demystifies the legend of "the mommy brain"-an assumption that pregnancy and parenting make women a little ditzy. By juxtaposing entertaining anecdotes from her own life and the lives of her friends with fascinating studies in neurobiology and psychology, Ellison substantiates her claim that motherhood is an "advantage in the lifelong task of becoming smart." Her argument's foundation is that learning changes the brain, and she makes a larger argument about the kind of intelligence motherhood fosters. Traits such as perception, efficiency, resiliency, motivation and emotional intelligence, she says, are present whether one's a good mom or "a CEO of a Fortune 500 company." Both, for example, must have the "logistical capacities that take you through the day with the minimum bloodshed and maximum productivity." Ellison's often humorous and always thorough approach reveals plenty of other illustrations of these skills that will amuse and intrigue smart mothers everywhere. Agent, Michelle Tessler. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"Mommy brain" is the excuse offered by harried parents who forget minor details, but journalist Ellison, the mother of two young boys, turns the phrase on its head. While researchers find that women do less well at standardized neuropsychological tests at one-day postpartum (duh!), mothers later show improved performance in crucial areas of perception, efficiency, resiliency, motivation, and emotional intelligence, which would make them valuable workers outside the home. Ellison also demonstrates that fathers and other steady caregivers show similar gains. Her suggestions for "re-engineering the Mommy track" are pretty standard (e.g., high-quality daycare, flex time), as are her "ten tips to help you make the most of your mommy brain" (e.g., get enough sleep, exercise regularly, socialize). Still, Ellison has done her homework, citing legitimate social and neurological research to back up her conclusions-a procedure sadly lacking in too many books about parenting. Recommended for most public libraries; essential for those serving educated young professionals.-Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Moms may say they have no time to read-but they'll make time for this discussion of brainy motherhood. Women talk all the time about "Mommy Brain." (In the UK, they call it "porridge brain.") After you have a baby, you just feel stupider. You suspect your brain cells leak out with your breast milk. Pulitzer-winning Ellison (The New Economy of Nature, 2002, etc.) is determined to show that such loss is a myth. She admits that critical reasoning skills may take a few hits from sleep deprivation in early motherhood. But, she says, scientists at universities all over the country are doing studies to uncover what exactly happens to women's brains during and after pregnancy, and many indicate that motherhood actually makes women smarter. Ellison devotes the heart of her argument to detailing "Five Attributes of a Baby-Boosted Brain," showing that mothers' perception, efficiency, resiliency, motivation, and emotional intelligence may all be the better for pregnancy and motherhood. After arguing for Mom smarts, Ellison turns practical, exploring how women can apply their new savvy. She encourages mothers to translate what they've learned through mothering back into the workplace. (You give your children the illusion of control, asking them if they want a peanut butter sandwich or a cheese sandwich, but not asking them the more open-ended "What do you want for lunch?" The same tactic works wonders for managers at the office.) The importance of socializing-seeing friends actually makes your brain work better, and being part of a community can help stave off post-partum depression-is a welcome theme that Ellison sounds throughout. Occasionally, however, she succumbs to the hackneyed and obvious:moms should feel free to sneak off and see a movie or have an espresso in peace. She's also limited by certain class assumptions. Her suggestions for navigating the "mommy track," for example, presume a white-collar readership. Sure to be controversial, as well as encouraging to many, many women. Author tour. Agent: Michelle Tessler/Tessler Literary Agency