Asher, Rebecca. Shattered: Modern motherhood and the illusion of equality

Harvill Secker

Despite efforts to share parenting equally, few couples do. Rebecca Asher finds that a combination of habit, social structures, cultural norms, and “cold hard earning power” keeps women almost exclusively in the role of foundation parent.

Inequality exists between mums and dads (whether in full, part, or unpaid employment) both in the hours they spend in service to their children as well as the cash they make working outside their home.

To ask why, Asher makes a thorough, if fervid, examination of government policies, public services, structures for employment, and social attitudes that shape parenting culture. It’s UK-centric, which means that some research and even cultural norms are not wholly relevant to Australian readers, but most of the sentiments, if not the research, transcend borders.

This is the antidote to the piles of super-mummy tomes you’ll find in the parenting section of the local bookshop, with its rare concern for that individual who still can be found within each mother. However, it’s a short pram-push from ambitions of equality to shrill polemic. Asher’s emotive language, and fierce opinions, may dissuade some potential readers. Breastfeeding is almost derided (the World Health Organization is described as having a “fervour for breastfeeding”), and she glosses over the uncomfortable fact that men’s higher incomes, on average (regardless of parenting status) mean they are a couple’s financially preferred choice to stay in full-time employment.

Hyperbole aside, Shattered is a worthy starting point for discussion.


Reviewed May 2011