Stack is brutally honest in these pages, about her own shortcomings, as both mother and employer, her frequent discomfort in both roles, and in the fault lines that parenthood and its inequalities expose in her marriage. Her prose style is elegant, witty, self-lacerating, and she draws the characters of her household with the sharp eye of a novelist.
The final chapter strikes a more sombre, journalistic note; she throws out statistics about women’s domestic labour around the world, and comes to the somewhat banal conclusion that: “In the end, the answer is the men. They have to do the damn work!” Well, duh – this epiphany is not in itself an answer, and she knows it. But Women’s Work adds to the conversation about how we might move towards a better understanding of what that answer might be. The challenge will be getting the men to read it.
Stack is admirably honest about her reactions and responses. Her prose is often a joy to read: sharp and full of insight. She lands her punches swiftly – “you may buy anything from a woman and discard the rest” – and moves on. Yet, when she finally concludes “The answer is the men”, I really wanted her to go back to the beginning and ask her question again. At home.