The Best Most Awful Job (ed. Katherine May)

My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to join this blog tour. The decision to take part was my own and this review forms my honest opinion.

Blurb

What does it mean to be a mother?

Twenty writers speak out in this searingly honest, diverse and powerful collection.

Motherhood is life-changing. Disorientating, overwhelming, intense on every level, it can leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about yourself. Yet despite more women speaking out in recent years about the reality of their experiences – good, bad and in between – all too often it’s the same stories getting told, while key parts of the maternal experience still remain unspeakable and unseen. There are a million different ways to be a mother, yet the vision we see in books, on screen and online overwhelmingly fails to represent this commonplace yet extraordinary experience for most of us. It’s time to broaden the conversation.

The Best, Most Awful Job is a deeply personal collection about motherhood in all its raw, heart-wrenching, gloriously impossible forms. Overturning assumptions, breaking down myths, shattering stereotypes, it challenges perceptions of what it means to be a mother.

Pulsating with energy and emotion, and covering deeply personal stories The Best, Most Awful Job brings together a diverse range of bold and brilliant writers and asks you to listen.

Some highlights include:

  • Hollie McNish on her trademark outspoken and sane form
  • Josie George writing beautifully and carefully about mothering yourself and your child when your body won’t play ball
  • Michelle Adams on meeting your adoptive child and learning to be a mother
  • Peggy Riley on the lost heartbeat of a deeply yearned-for child
  • Mimi Aye on the pain of her children being seen as ‘other’ in their own country
  • Leah Hazard – practising midwife and author of Hard Pushed – on the scars our bodies hold as mothers…
  • Stories also cover: being unable to conceive, step-parenting, losing a child, single parenthood, being an autistic mother, being a reluctant home-schooler and the many ways in which race, class, disability, religion and sexuality affect Motherhood.

Review

As a mother who spends at least 95% of the time fretting that I’m failing one or both children, myself or the entire institution that is motherhood, at any one time, The Best Most Awful Job was a breath of fresh air.

I’m pretty open about the fact that being a Mum hasn’t been a walk in the park for me. I love my kids, but Christ, they’re hard work! I often think back to pre-kids and wonder why no one mentioned this!? There was the odd joke-y comment about sleepless nights; those I expected. But no one told me about the constant anxiety or the churning fear that I’m simply not good enough. I had a vision of motherhood as being the pinnacle of fulfillment, the ultimate achievement and of course there are moments of sheer joy and pure love, and they sustain me. But for the longest time, I felt that I was a bad mother (and there are times when I fear this is still the case). I suffered with post natal depression after the birth of my son, and it was an incredibly dark time. My fellow NCT-ers were wholly delighted with their babies and took to motherhood seamlessly – or so I thought. It wasn’t until months later, once I’d come to terms with my diagnosis and attended counseling, that I felt able to open up. It was then that the other Mums began to talk of their own struggles. For months I’d felt like I was an anomaly, a freak of the worst kind and all of a sudden I found that I wasn’t alone. I began to wonder; why is there such a cloak of silence around becoming a mother? Why do we feel so intent on only airing the good?

For that very reason this collection of wonderful, personal experiences was both emotional and a joy to read. It’s authentic, and deeply honest, and I loved that each story covered a different viewpoint; a single mother, a step mother, an adoptive mother, a grieving mother, a working mother…..on and on. As I read, I was comforted. I’m not the only one for whom motherhood is a continuing challenge, I’m not the only one who feels eroded by the perpetual grind of the day to day.

I adore the recent movement towards women being more honest; with themselves and with one another, and The Best Most Awful Job is the perfect example of this. Each story lays bare the writer’s personal circumstances, and the openness is refreshing. I’ve said it before, that I have mixed emotions towards motherhood being used as comedy. It has it’s place, I know I’ve certainly laughed along. But for so long it felt to somehow trivialise the struggle. This collection is the other end of the scale – providing much needed balance. These stories do not seek to dramatise or look for sympathy, nor are they wholly negative. These are strong female writers who, very simply have something very real to say about motherhood.

For me this collection was everything. I read The Best Most Awful Job in one sitting, utterly absorbed, whether I personally identified or whether I was just drawn in to a life and circumstances different to my own, each story simmers with raw honesty and power. It’s a truly incredible collection, and one which has been a true gift to read. I know, without a doubt that I am not alone.

About the Editor

Katherine May is an author of fiction and memoir whose most recent works have shown a willingness to deal frankly with the more ambiguous aspects of parenting. In The Electricity of Every Living Thing she explored the challenges – and joys – of being an autistic mother, and sparked a debate about the right of mothers to ask for solitude. In the forthcoming Wintering, she looks at the ways in which parenting can lead to periods of isolation and stress. She lives with her husband and son in Whitstable, Kent. 

4 thoughts on “The Best Most Awful Job (ed. Katherine May)

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