First released in 1996, the novel "Shattering Glass" by Nancy-Gay Rotstein, has been re-released in a new Canadian edition. The fiction book, based around the intertwining stories of three women, explores the difficulties encountered in the attempt to balance work and home life, personal aspirations and responsibilities.
"Shattering Glass" explores the lives of: Judy, a single mom also working in international finance; Barbara, a housewife and full-time mom who finds success as a writer; and Dede, an MP's wife and mother of two.
All of the women encounter anxiety or guilt in relation to their work-life balance, Rotstein said. In a recent interview with The Telegram, the author said she was inspired to write the tales of the three main characters following her own work-life challenges.
"I was a writer and a working mother with three children when I went back to law school. The stories of Dede, Judy and Barbara evolved from my personal experiences," Rotstein said.
"For me, the novel seemed the best vehicle for exploring real-life situations in a way that would have the greatest emotional impact and provide an entertaining, provocative read," she said.
In writing her first book, Rotstein said, she wanted to inspire women to be more forgiving of themselves and encourage them to let go of some of the stresses they may place on themselves.
"It's a very empowering book," Rotstein said.
Since its release, "Shattering Glass" has been published in 12 countries and translated into eight languages. However, "it's even more topical than at the time it was originally published," Rotstein said.
"Today we're measuring success by our financial and career experiences outside the home," she said.
That, paired with the "economic reality" of the times, is leading more and more women to enter the workforce, she said.
With this shift, said Rotstein, more women are now experiencing anxiety or guilt as a result of not always being available to their children, parents and partners.
"The guilt it causes sabotages us, robs us of self-confidence and limits our potential for happiness," she said.
A 300-page report in 2005-2006 from Statistics Canada, titled "Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report," supports the statements on the changing role of women in Canadian society.
According to a published summary of the report, "the report found that the increased participation of women in the paid workforce has been one of the most significant social trends in Canada in the past quarter century."
The study showed that women accounted for 47 per cent of the employed workforce in 2004, up from 37 per cent in 1976. Women also increased their representation in several professional fields including some health professions and business.
The change is significant not only because it showed more women working, but because it showed more women are working with children at home.
In 2004, 65 per cent of all women with children under three years of age were employed. That is close to twice the number from 1976.
All of the numbers are pre-recession.
Charmaine Davidge, executive director of the St. John's Status of Women Council, said that, considering the changing role of women, the idea of the work-life balance touched on in "Shattering Glass" is relevant.
"There's still that expectation that women be the primary caregivers," Davidge said, adding that she has personally heard expressions of feelings similar to what Rotstein describes.
"A big part of that may not be their own feeling of guilt about (not being a homemaker or more available to family), but societal pressure," Davidge said.
She said she believes the pressure, whatever its source, is also increasing exponentially for women of the "sandwich generation."
"When you've got pressures on you telling you that you have to be superwoman, but you also have to be supermom ... and you also have to be super daughter," Davidge said. "It's an unfair expectation of women."
For her part, Rotstein said any unwelcomed feelings of pressure to sacrifice one's career for a partner's, or guilt for not being at home with children, are things every woman must deal with individually and also with their families.
"We have to make sure we're realistic with what we expect of ourselves," she said. "We have to learn to be kinder to ourselves."
The new edition of "Shattering Glass" is now available.
Other titles from Nancy-Gay Rotstein
"Through the Eyes of a Woman" (1975)
"Taking Off" (1979)
"China: Shockwaves" (1987)
"This Horizon and Beyond: Poems selected and new"