“It’s so stressful!”
That was Haiku resident Shay Chan Hodges’ reaction to the delicate balance many 21st century women are trying to find between career and family. In her new project, Lean On and Lead, Hodges explores this social and economic struggle through first-hand accounts of working parents. The name is inspired by the reality that in order for a woman to lead well–which has become economically necessary–she needs a supportive family, a good work infrastructure and a solid education system to lean on. But in reality, too many women are finding that a lot of these things aren’t available.
At its core, the book is inspired by the “vicious cycle” Hodges and her husband struggled through to raise their two sons while working enough to pay the bills and staying active in their community (for a few years Hodges owned the little children’s bookstore in Makawao). According her book website, 70 percent of mothers work outside the home, and in 40 percent of households in the U.S. the mother is the primary breadwinner. So many women are playing large roles economically while also, because of cultural reasons, being in charge of the family.
This, Hodges says, traps women in a sort of catch-22, since it’s nearly impossible to raise your kid at the same time you’re working enough to support them. Hodges says this current model is set up to fail because it’s based on a 1950’s model where the husband works a demanding job and the wife takes care of everything else. Today, that doesn’t work socially or economically.
Different from other sociological books, Lean On and Lead breaks away from the extreme stories of success or failure to focus on the real, everyday struggles of the families in the middle of the spectrum. It’s ultimately a collection of first-hand accounts detailing the lives of parents (mostly mothers) who’ve faced barriers universal to every family.
“With women there is a solidarity down through the socio-economic spectrum,” says Hodges. “Women want to lift each other up. Because even women who have been very successful have to deal with the same issues that women who have lower income jobs have. Women who are wealthy have the same concerns about their kids, and they want the same things.”
The iBook platform that Hodges is using to publish her book allows for a rich experience that transcends mere reading. In addition to the stories and first-hand accounts, there will be widgets that provide supplementary material through statistics, videos, audio, infographics and links. And because it’s an e-book, Hodges can add updates on new legislation as it passes and can even interact with readers to a certain extent. In fact, purchasing the book will more resemble subscribing to a blog than paging through a novel.
“I could see this book being this living, breathing, constantly-changing creature for quite a while,” says Hodges. “And it’s always going to be relevant. It’s a while that you’re invested in your kids.”
The ultimate purpose of this project is to elevate the conversation, to get people talking and begin finding solutions. This could entail new laws, but can also consist of breaking through stigmas and stereotypes blocking the ways of advancement. There’s a lot that can be done by our government to make parenting and providing an easier, more doable mix, Hodges says. Yet, a lot of change can take effect from individual efforts as well.
Lean On and Lead will be available for purchase on the iBookstore around Thanksgiving. You can find more info at Leanonandlead.com.