Excerpt from I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

I Don't Know How She Does It

The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother

By Allison Pearson

I Don't Know How She Does It
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Oct 2002,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2003,
    352 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"Actually, Paula reads me that story."

"But I want Dadda to give me a bath."

Wallis Simpson got a warmer welcome from the Queen Mother than I get from Emily after a business trip. But I bear it. My heart sort of pleats inside and somehow I bear it. Maybe I think I deserve it.

I leave Ben snoring softly and gently push the door of the other room. Bathed in the candied glow of her Cinderella light, my daughter is, as is her preference, naked as a newborn. (Clothes, unless you count bridal or princess wear, are a constant irritation to her.) When I pull the duvet up, her legs twitch in protest like a laboratory frog. Even when she was a baby, Emily couldn't stand being covered. I bought her one of those zip-up sleep bags, but she thrashed around in it and blew out her cheeks like the God of Wind in the corner of old maps, till I had to admit defeat and gave it away. Even in sleep, when my girl's face has the furzy bloom of an apricot, you can see the determined jut to her chin. Her last school report said, Emily is a very competitive little girl and will need to learn to lose more gracefully.

"Remind you of anyone, Kate?," said Richard and let out that trodden-puppy yelp he has developed lately.

There have been times over the past year when I have tried to explain to my daughter--I felt she was old enough to hear this--why Mummy has to go to work. Because Mum and Dad both need to earn money to pay for our house and for all the things she enjoys doing like ballet lessons and going on holiday. Because Mummy has a job she is good at and it's really important for women to work as well as men. Each time the speech builds to a stirring climax --trumpets, choirs, the tearful sisterhood waving flags--in which I assure Emily that she will understand all of this when she is a big girl and wants to do interesting things herself.

Unfortunately, the case for equal opportunities, long established in liberal Western society, cuts no ice in the fundamentalist regime of the five-year-old. There is no God but Mummy, and Daddy is her prophet.

In the morning, when I'm getting ready to leave the house, Emily asks the same question over and over until I want to hit her and then all the way to work, I want to cry for having wanted to hit her.

"Are you putting me to bed tonight? Is Mummy putting me to bed tonight? Are you? Who is putting me to bed tonight? Are you, Mum, are you?"

Do you know how many ways there are of saying the word no without actually using the word no? I do.


MUST REMEMBER

Angel wings.
Quote for new stair carpet.
Take lasagne out of freezer for Saturday lunch.
Buy kitchen roll, stainless steel special polish thingy, present and card for Harry's party.
How old is Harry? Five? Six?
Must get organized with well-stocked present drawer like proper mother.
Buy Christmas tree and stylish lights recommended in Telegraph (Selfridge's or Habitat? Can't remember. Damn.)
Nanny's Christmas bribe/present (Eurostar ticket? Cash? DKNY?)
Emily wants Baby Wee-Wee doll (over my dead body).
Present for Richard (Wine-tasting? Arsenal? Pajamas), In-laws book--The Lost Gardens of Somewhere?
Ask Richard to collect dry cleaning.
Office party what to wear? Black velvet too small.
Stop eating now.
Fishnets lilac.
Leg wax no time, shave instead.
Cancel stress-busting massage.
Highlights must book soonest (starting to look like mid-period George Michael).
Pelvic floor squeeze!
Supplies of Pill!!!
Ice cake (royal icing?--chk Delia.) Cranberries. Mini party sausages.
Stamps for cards Second class x 40.
Present for E's teacher?
And, whatever you do, wean Ben off dummy before Xmas with in-laws.
Chase KwikToy, useless mail order present company.

Excerpted from I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson Copyright© 2002 by Allison Pearson. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  254Cartwheel:
    Jennifer duBois
  2.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh

All Discussions

Who Said...

Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.