The Bookshelf: Best Books for Working Moms

Working Mom Week

Today, we’re kicking off our first ever theme week with a new monthly series “The Bookshelf.”  As many of you know I am an avid reader with a strong thirst for knowledge. Whenever faced with a new task, challenge or phase in life I turn to books (and audio books) by experts for guidance. For our first post, I’m sharing the five books that helped shape my parenting philosophy, and gave me the guidance I needed to navigate the tricky act of having a career and a family.

Moms, in general, own a good deal of space on the internet. Stay-at-home moms have an active and engaged online community. I read and enjoy many of their sites because there are some universal truths about motherhood. But just like their experience is unique to them, so is that of the mom who is working both in and outside the home.

For the working mom, there are so many “fluff” books.  Some depict the caricature of the frazzled woman, spinning her wheels and failing at everything. Others give broad stroked advice like “get a nanny!” or “job share!” Neither scenario ever spoke to me or represented my friends.  The working moms I know dove into motherhood with the same focus and determination they bring to their careers.

We take it day by day, week by week, balancing long-term goals and aspirations for our family with what needs to get done now for survival and sanity. No one is striving for perfection. It’s almost impossible to do both, yet, the women I know are doing it with more grace than they probably realize.

My goal as a mother to daughters is to help build their confidence, focus on their incredible intellect, allow them to see their sensitivity as an asset and constantly reinforce that they can do anything. These books have been instrumental in shaping my journey as a devoted mother, entrepreneur and business woman.

The Bookshelf: Best Books for Working Moms

In the Company of Woman

Being a small business owner and entrepreneur can be incredibly lonely.  Without someone to bounce ideas off of, or share worries with, you can start an unpleasant internal dialog with yourself.  To combat that, I search out inspiration about other creative women also forging their own paths.  Grace Bonney’s passion project is a collection of interviews with women from varied backgrounds, ages, and races.  It’s more inspiration than how-to, with digestible bits of knowledge and encouragement.  I left reading it not feeling like I was on an island by myself – which is sometimes all you need.

The Conscious Parent

This book utterly changed the way I parented.  Becoming a parent brings up a lot of our emotional baggage.  The general concept is that as parents, we have to work on our inner self to give our children our very best.  We also have to see our children as individuals, on their own, unique life journey.  They are not our clones, nor are they here to fulfill dreams we were not able to recognize.  Since reading the book and applying many of its principles we are a happier, closer family.

Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance

The one thing I am 100% sure of is that I can contribute my success to the fact that I have grit.  Others have more talent, for sure, but few can outwork me.  I’m too gritty and scrappy.  My husband and I talk a lot about how to make our girls equally gritty given their privilege.  Anglea Duckworth does a phenomenal job combining deep research with real-life case studies that show how grit is a key factor in success and how to make sure you’re raising kids in a way that they turn into adults with unwavering determination and perseverance.

Lean In 

Lean In spoke to me and validated a lot of what I encountered as a working woman and mother.  Interestingly, all of my negative experiences came while I was in corporate at the hands of other women.    Like when I told my female boss I was expecting and she responded by saying this was a “big problem.”  Changing the narrative of the working mother is the first step in making it easier to keep women in the workforce longer, and at executive levels.  That, and teaching our sons the importance of being true partners to their spouses.  I could not do what I do if my husband weren’t an equal partner at home and in work.

Faking Balance:  Adventures in Work and Life

A series of short essays that put a smile on your face and let you know you’re not the only one to take a conference call in the closet when you’re home with a sick kid.  Working moms know that the goal is not perfect, it’s simply getting done what needs to get done.  When my inner perfectionist starts to creep its ugly head, I remind myself that good enough is great.  If the kids are sleeping happily, the house hasn’t burnt down, and the business is still running, that’s sufficient reason to celebrate with the hubby over a glass of wine at the end of the day.

Bonus Books:  

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

One of my favorite reads that reminded me to take care of myself first so I can be the best woman and mother possible.

The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection

An audio book by the always insightful and relatable Brene Brown.   Her personal stories of her success and failures will make you laugh, cry and motivate you to try your best every day.

In the comments below, let us know:  What have been some books, or words of wisdom that help you on the crazy journey of “balancing” career and motherhood.

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

  1. oooh, I love book suggestions! These are good, not just for parents but for all career women.

    Another is Robi Ludwig’s book, ‘Your Best Age Is Now’. Although it’s focus is on women in “midlife”, her suggestions are universal to all ages/stages (adopt a flexible mindset, release fear etc). I’ve found it tackles some issues I deal with right now, even if I’m not quite at her intended audience age group.

    Your Best Age Is Now: Embrace An Ageless Mindset

  2. Love the suggestions Megan. I agree, Grit is a great book.

    ” Women don’t ask” Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
    A suggestion for those that liked the concept of Lean In, but wanted something with real life experience (of the all women from many walks of life). This book has the research with more concrete suggestions of what and how to change things.

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