“Moms Don’t Have Time To”
A Quarantine Anthology
Edited by Zibby Owens
$24.99 Skyhorse Publishing
A friend handed me this book (OK, left it in my mailbox) and asked if I could read it and give my opinion.
Considering the title — a cheeky “Moms Don’t Have Time To” — I was sorely tempted to reply, “Golly, I don’t have time to!”
But I had to admit that compared with the millions of moms across America who’ve had to manage their kids being home from school, plus try to keep a job, plus do all the things that usually come with being “Mom!” — I, with my empty nest, probably did have time to read one book.
I confess I am mightily curious how anybody has handled all that. When I had two boys at home, they were all I could manage — and that was without a pandemic.
So I took a peek. Luckily, the book is a collection of very short pieces, so I managed to get through quite a bit.
But I am still no wiser about how anyone has managed this pandemic. In fact, the woman who put this book together — Zibby Owens — must be some kind of Supermom:
“Before COVID-19 hit, I thought I was busy. I was recording five podcasts a week, mostly in person at home. That meant reading/skimming five books a week, preparing, researching. (That seems easy now.) As the virus neared, I packed up my family, grabbed our important documents and made plans to leave. Admittedly, I was fortunate to have a place to escape to outside of the city while so many others didn’t have that option — and still don’t.”
She goes on. “As soon as I got the kids, then ages 5 through 12, firmly situated in our shelter for the coronavirus, lovies on the pillowcases, devices charged, I got to work. What could I do?”
Phew! That’s work enough for any mortal woman, but not for Zibby. She added five Instagram Live author talks to her week: “Suddenly I was a booker, researcher, producer and anchor of a morning talk show, all by myself. Plus I still had my podcasts to prepare for. And the kids were waiting for me to play Monopoly. Or paint. Or find that one page of homework that they desperately needed. And could my daughter dye her hair blue? What?!?”
But “It still wasn’t enough.” She launched another Instagram Live show, weekly with her husband (who we learn elsewhere did all the cooking); started a weekly Virtual Book Club with authors; wrote articles; went on TV; and eventually launched the magazine “We Found Time,” with pieces by various authors, which eventually turned into this book.
Zibby’s constant refrain is “It shouldn’t have been me” doing all this, keeping the literary world alive apparently single-handed. “It shouldn’t have been me. But it was.”
I cannot think of any universe in which this woman and I could be friends. I’m sure I’d be invisible to her anyway, moving faster than light as she clearly does. She’d probably just trip over my slow-moving body.
But then I realized that I don’t have to like her. I hear Ernest Hemingway was a cantankerous old coot, but we still like his work. The question is do I like her book? Do I find it useful? Would it help me through a pandemic?
The verdict is mixed. There were definitely good tips in Gretchen Rubin’s piece, “Read More Books.” She advised us to “Quit reading” any book that becomes a hard slog. “Life is short. When I stop reading a book I’m not enjoying, I have more time to read the books I do enjoy.”
I enjoyed the mother-daughter act of Jewell Parker Rhodes and Kelly McWilliams as they combed all of literature for good mother-daughter relationships. (“Parable of the Talents,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Ella Enchanted” all made the cut.)
And there were two helpful pieces on the life — and death — of book groups.
But too many times I wondered why some essays were included. For example, Janice Kaplan recently published a charming work on women geniuses, but here she writes about visiting her son in Japan. The middle seat? On a crowded airliner? How does this help me through a pandemic?
In sum, this was an interesting book, but I’d give it only one of my two thumbs-up. In practical terms, I’d say get it electronically or wait for the paperback. Because life’s too short — and so is money!