Holly Walker was a Rhodes Scholar, a Green MP and she wanted to be a mother. In this short volume of memoir she tells of how leaning in too far caused her to topple over. She picks up the pieces of herself in this extended essay, chaptered off to discuss, variously, her academic and work background, her personal situation and the decision to focus entirely on reading writing by women as an act of strength and solidarity; a way of supporting other women and having their words to help support her.
It’s this last bit of the book’s title that is the flimsiest part of the story – though by the end (with a list of the book Walker has read over the last couple of years) it makes sense. Hey, even if it doesn’t it’s her life. And her book. When you read of the challenges and frustrations you could be amazed she found time to read anything at all.
Walker’s voice is strong and clear on the page. She wanted it all and this book tells us – as she has had to tell herself – that she hasn’t been able to have it all. At least not all in one go, not all at once, not all at the same time.
Something had to give.
And so Walker gave up her role in Parliament.
She was a promising politician but anxiety attacks turned to further frustrations and the home/life balance was never in order as the tasks and challenges continued to build.
Walker’s partner suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy that, since their marriage and the birth of their first child, has turned him into a chronic pain sufferer. There is a depression attached to that too. So Walker was caring for their child and her partner, while also working out ways to earn a living and find whatever time she could for anything else.
In this unflinching account she describes episodes where mental anguish triggered self-harm, she places us right near the unhappy dining room table where arguments escalate, where parenting is done on the fly, where – heartbreakingly – she catches her daughter modelling the violent behaviour that she has been exposed to.
It’s a brave book.
A reminder that we’re all suffering, or at least struggling. All in our own ways. That nothing is easy – that nothing is obvious – and if it is for you well then that might mean it is even harder for many others.
There’s discussion too of the fact that things need to change in Parliament so that more women can be part of the political puzzle; so that mothers can pursue this type of work, in the hope – wild as it might seem to many, sadly – that the gender division, the pay-gap too, can be addressed.
Walker doesn’t quite have any clear solution for this, and acknowledges that her treatment around maternity leave (full pay, etc) was generous and decent.
But her struggle is very real. And sad. And the telling of this tale is inspiring in that Holly Walker seems to know herself very well, seem unafraid in putting all of this out there.
She might, later in life, think she’s been too hard on herself even. But this book is worth your time. It’s a book with more questions than answers. It’s a book with some hope attached to it, even though there are plenty of fears still attached.
It’s a book you’ll think about long after the short time it takes to read it.