Forget the corporate ladder: For parents (usually moms but sometimes dads, too), careers are more like carousels or jungle gyms, argue...

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Forget the corporate ladder: For parents (usually moms but sometimes dads, too), careers are more like carousels or jungle gyms, argue two new books.

The trumpeted division between stay-at-home moms and working moms is a mostly bogus one, contends Miriam Peskowitz in “The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars,” since a majority of moms move on and off a carousel of work arrangements.

More than a third of moms work part time, nearly as many as work full time (37 percent vs. 39 percent); a quarter do no paid work. Mothers of preschoolers are divided almost equally between the three: 33 percent work full time, 31 percent are stay-at-home parents and 37 percent are part-time workers.

“The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars”

Miriam Peskowitz
Seal Press, $15.95

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Women make up 70 percent of the part-time work force, and the number of part-timers would likely be even higher if moms had their way. In a new survey, 4 of 10 moms worked full time, but only 16 percent cited working full time as their ideal schedule, according to the survey of more than 2,000 moms of children under age 18 by the University of Connecticut and University of Minnesota released this week.

Too often, women choose all-or-nothing — full time or stay-at-home — because they don’t have other viable options, with many part-time jobs offering low salaries, no benefits and little prestige, Peskowitz says.

“It’s a rigid workplace, and too high a demand on our hours and energy, that sends us out of the workplace and into the home,” she writes. At the same time, she believes the work of caretaking should be valued more.

Peskowitz believes moms who refuse the double shift of daytime paid work and unpaid home work are not “going retro,” as some media have touted.

“It’s not a politically retrograde choice to leave a workplace that squeezes you too tight, that can’t organize its expectations and your family responsibilities,” she contends.

“Comfortable Chaos: Forget ‘balance’ and make career and family choices that work for you”

Carolyn S. Harvey and Beth E. Herrild

Self-Counsel Press, $14.95

Frustrated parents may find practical solutions in “Comfortable Chaos” by local authors and moms Carolyn Harvey and Beth Herrild.

Focus groups helped the two consultants ditch the idea of “balance” — “Don’t insult me by insinuating that true balance is even possible,” one women told them — and broaden their focus beyond alternative work schedules.

“Everyone seemed to be facing the same struggle of how to create a less frazzled life and it didn’t matter whether they were working full time, staying home full time or doing something in between,” they note.

Author appearances

Miriam Peskowitz, author of “The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars,” will speak and sign books at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Ravenna Third Place Books, 6504 20th Ave. N.E., Seattle, 206-525-2347.

Carolyn Harvey and Beth Herrild, authors of “Comfortable Chaos,” will sign books at 7 p.m. June 22 at University Bookstore, 990 102nd Ave. N.E., Bellevue, 425-462-4500; and 7 p.m. July 7 at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park, 206-366-3333.

“Comfortable Chaos” highlights the benefits and drawbacks of a variety of work arrangements (full time, stay-at-home, part time, flextime, telecommuting, job share) and offers tips on how to carve time for family and self out of any schedule.

Using real-life stories from both moms and dads, the book avoids a one-size-fits-all approach as well as dubious time-management advice such as “Get up earlier to fit in exercise or quiet time.” They envision career progression as a jungle-gym climber, with parents opting for horizontal moves that allow for family priorities. “You move around the jungle gym based on your needs and desires and may even end up in the same destination as the career ladder.”

Like Peskowitz, they want to move the discussion away from working vs. stay-at-home moms and focus on what’s best for individual families. “We all struggle with the same issues — what differs are the solutions we choose,” they write. “Respecting each other’s decisions should be our goal instead of constantly comparing ourselves as a way to validate our choices.”

Stephanie Dunnewind: