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7 Myths of Working Mothers: Why Children and (Most) Careers Just Don't Mix, Suzanne Venker, Spence Publishing, 2004, 166 pp., $24.95.

This book intrepidly tackles rationalizations used by mothers who pursue full-time careers while their children are young. Aimed at members of the thirtysomething author's generation, 7 Myths blends personal anecdotes, folk wisdom, media soundbites and quotes from books on women's issues to make a case for young mothers to plan their lives around their children and not vice versa.

As a mother and a former middle-school teacher, Suzanne Venker brings her experience and common sense to bear on elusive goals like "having it all," "quality day care" and 50-50 sharing of household duties. She patiently explains that there really are differences between men and women, that a second income is not usually necessary for a happy life, and that you get out of childrearing what you put into it. She dispenses practical advice about the stresses of having babies as well as uplifting evocations of how parenthood makes one a better person.

The rewards of sacrifice for the sake of family life are a recurring theme. Feminist dogma that women should put their own identity and career success ahead of all other values is exposed as a recipe for failure as a wife and mother. Despite the media support for the idea of mothers employed outside the home, statistics show that most mothers aren't buying it. Venker cites 1997 census figures indicating that only 36.3% of mothers of children under age 6 were employed full-time and year-round, and only 39.8% of mothers of children under 18 were so employed. More recent figures show a trend reported by Time magazine in a March 22 cover story entitled "The Case for Staying Home": From 1997 to 2000, the percentage of women participating in the labor force (including part-time work) with children less than a year old fell sharply from 59% to 53%.

The blunt-spoken marriage guru Dr. Laura Schlessinger provided the foreword for the book, writing, "There are hundreds of books explaining why it is acceptable to leave our children in the care of strangers, but very few explaining why we would all be happier if we did not. I am grateful for this book."

As with Dr. Laura, Venker's strong opinions will raise hackles in some quarters. The book is intended for a popular audience of young women, not especially for academics or high-powered professionals.

Despite the title, Venker does not argue that mothers should never do paid work — only that it is very difficult to be effective at rearing children and pursuing a full-time career at the same time. Though 7 Myths would have benefited from more careful editing, it would make a thought-provoking gift for a bride or expectant mother.

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