The Book Project: a tale of motherhood, careers, and expired passports

MSTCBook_CovercopiaOn Monday, a book is being launched in London that has my name on the front cover.

This book is not a novel, but it does tell a story; in fact it tells two stories.

On the surface, it is the story of how the global aid agency, World Vision, came up with a new way of analysing politically unstable contexts using local perspectives, along with sharing what that method is (that’s the boring bit for most of you).

But the other story, what you won’t know by reading just the book, is the other, deeply encouraging story behind it: how 14 years ago a woman with a career in the aid sector got this participatory conflict analysis project started. She soon became a mother and gave up that career. That project grew and developed and became something so useful that 9 years later it was thought a book should be written to share those learnings. The mother was sought out, and asked to help write the book. That woman is, of course, me.

This is a story of how a mother’s decision to put her career aside for her children for a season is not work-suicide.  It is just that: a season.  I’ve long been a believer in seasons; accepting a new phase as an opportunity to grow in a different way, and to try not to fight against it.  This book confirms that belief.

It is the story of how this can be even when a woman doesn’t return to her original career. I didn’t. I simply didn’t feel able to commit to regular overseas trips whilst my husband died in the process of multi-tasking looked after the kids and his job.  But I kept my hand in the charity sector locally (became trustee for a local charity for a few years) and took up a passion I’ve always had but never pursued (creative writing and blogging). By doing those two things, I kept my skills up and my brain from dying, and so was in some sort of fit shape to say ‘Yes’ when asked if I would co-write and developmentally edit this book.

I may have deeply wondered about my ability to remember all those high-fallutin’ concepts, theories and phrases.  But it’s amazing what lurks within….

There is actually a third story, another one that you won’t find by reading it on kindle. It’s the comical narrative about mums juggling work and childcare: overlooking the small detail of a passport renewal date and discovering it on the day of departure;  managing the dilemma of a child rushing into the garden office where I’d sought sanctuary for a conference call to ask in loud desperation of the whereabout of her underwear; and watching husband and son try to catch a wounded bird in the garden whilst discussing the intricacies of conflict sensitivity via Skype.  Thanks to this writing project last year, I now recognize that glazed-over, far away look in the eye that can be spotted in certain mums in the school playground at afternoon pick up; and I also know that its possible to find an entirely different family holiday in the space of 6 hours without even unpacking the car!

It is rather fitting that 4 days before my eldest celebrates her 11th birthday, the book will be launched here in London (it is also being launched in New York, Washington and Geneva).

So, if you’re a mum who is in anyway in the position I was, take heart.  Embrace the season.  You never know what’s around the corner…..

And if you’re someone who in the aid sector, is an academic or a peace practitioner, you might like to take a look at the book in more detail.  Betty Bigombe, Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank, thinks it worth your while:

This is an important and timely contribution to the field of conflict analysis (that) will spark new discussions in the international community about participatory conflict analysis. I strongly encourage you to engage this important body of work in order to make better sense of the turbulent contexts where you work” – Betty Bigombe

The book is available for download by going to the website:

The book is being launched in at the University of Coventry’s London Campus on Monday 1 June, where there will be a panel discussion.


12 thoughts on “The Book Project: a tale of motherhood, careers, and expired passports

  1. Brilliant – Siobhan! Congratulations on getting the book done and what an inspiring story behind it. I really struggle with the whole staying at home thing as some days i feel so useless and like i’ve achieved nothing – when deep down i know that getting three kids up and dressed, to school, clubs etc and getting dinner on the table and washing done is an achievement each day but it often just doesn’t feel like it. Hope and pray that the work that’s gone into the book will be truly far reaching and life changing for many. xxx

    • Oh R, I know how that feels, and i certainly hope this post doesn’t make your achievements feel any less. What you do is so valuable, so important, its just not recognised as such by the media and the government who keep banging on about women needing to go to work. Rest assured what you do IS important, don’t you forget that! Sx

  2. Lovely post, and what a great achievement to get the book done and published. What I find particularly tough is the stage when the book is largely written and you have to hold it all in your head and make decisions as to how to shape it as a whole. At that point, it’s very difficult to also function in the real world and make decisions like what to have for tea. Myself and my partner are both writers, so our children get very exasperated when we reach the eyes-glazed-over stage. Luckily it only happens every year or two at most!

    • Thankfully my co-author was a brilliant sounding board and we worked together on those decisions. She did the biggest amount of the work (hence her name first) as she is the team lead for the project and knows it intimately. But it was still quite a stretch at times when I wondered how on earth I’d keep all those balls juggling!! Thanks for the comment Joanne. S

  3. The book really is a lovely flourish which ties together two different lives. Well done for managing the juggle and making it happen. But…. what next?

    • LOL, S! I didn’t want to go into too much detail about what the book was about in this post, as 99% of people reading this aren’t who the book is aimed at. Biggest kudos must go to the chief author, Michelle Garred, though 😉 PS I’ll explain more of what its about in person when i see you – and you can tell me if you STILL have no clue what its about!! Sx

  4. This is amazing on many levels Siobhan. Congratulations on such an amazing project and also on such an inspirational attitude to life. I love the idea of seasons… one we should all bear in mind as we progress through life.

    • Oh Hayley, thank you! You are one woman who most certainly has had to learn about embracing the different seasons of life, so that’s wonderful hearing that from you. Its the only way to go, isn’t it? If you hadn’t done so with Natty, look at what you’d missed out on – which you so beautifully expressed in your latest blog post. Sxxxx

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