Book Review: Babies and Bylines- Parenting on the Move

Book- Babies and Bylines: Parenting on the Move

Author- Pallavi Aiyar

Publisher- HarperCollins

470 pages

Babies and Bylines: Parenting On The Move isn’t just for parents and mothers-to-be. Pallavi Aiyar’s book is a motherhood memoir for anyone who wants insights on the struggles of today’s working women, how relationships have a bearing on their career choices, and the importance of malleability at work and life in general. Of course, mothers who have held jobs – and shifted cities or countries – will have several me-too moments while reading it.

Witty and personal, Babies And Bylines… also makes for a pertinent commentary on what needs to change to make parenting less skewed towards mothers doing the ‘admin’ bit and engaging fathers equally in the process of bringing up children. As an example, Aiyar not only picks important milestones in pregnancy and early motherhood – exhaustive lists of dos and don’ts, epidurals, breastfeeding, colic, food wars, sleep deprivation and so on – and shares her experiences with the reader, but also refers to research and myths associated with these and presents them to readers to ponder over.

More importantly, the author, through references, opens up the debate on how society and emotional conditioning make motherhood far more difficult and less enjoyable than it should be. Not only do most mothers feel guilty about leaving their children behind and going back to work, they also subconsciously accept second-citizen status at their workplaces – just because they now have a child who is a priority too! The author, an award-winning journalist and writer with two sons, had to make do with salary cuts each time she had a child just because of the prevailing impression that she was not as productive at work.

The book questions the imposition of ‘values’ on Indian women, which Aiyar stresses, “lay at the heart of many gender-related issues.

The idea that housework needs to be given a monetary value to expose the dependence of the formal economy on the unpaid and unacknowledged labour of caregivers, overwhelmingly women, has a long history.”

Not just that, value can have both a moral and monetary iteration, as she rightly states. Thus, for women to be treated as equals and for them to feel as “valued” and productive, she says, “It is surely possible to work towards solutions that allow individuals to combine and enjoy different kinds of value, to enjoy an amalgamation of choices, rather than the stark work-life non-choice that is the experience of most people today.”

Babies and Bylines… so cleverly intersperses these important questions along with funny, moving personal accounts that the book feels like a conversation one would have with her best friend over a glass of wine after the kids have been tucked into bed and there’s an all-night chit-chat to look forward to.

Aiyar, who moves from China to Brussels to Jakarta while keeping up with her children and work, also goes on to show how most parenting experiences are different, yet so similar. As such, she shares some important takeaways in the last chapter, almost a “What to expect when you’re expecting” kind of pointer. She joins all mothers and women at work when she urges fathers to read the book too. This is, after all, more than a parenting memoir.

Posted by on June 12, 2016. Filed under Book Review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.