Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less
by activist Tiffany Dufu
had me very enthused and motivated at the beginning, as it seemed to be well on its way to delivering on the promise of its book description. But one by one, misgivings started to crop up, grow, and multiply, so that by the end of the book I was unsettled by Dufu's most basic assumptions and motivations.
To begin with, while this book appears to hold up Dufu's marriage as a bastion of ideal communication and harmony, I began getting flummoxed and finally became fairly exasperated at how bad
she really was at communicating, at least to begin with. She held in her frustrations and annoyances with her husband Kojo to the point of physical stress, even occasionally flinging out passive-aggressive barbs, if not outright verbal attacks. She did eventually find a way to talk to Kojo, but only after she had hemmed, hawed, and obsessed about developing just the right phrasing and presentation with which to express herself, emphasizing the correct way of wording what she wants to say, rather than improving her genuine assertiveness.
That's because she did not see communication as a valuable end unto itself but rather the means to a goal – "expressing" her "feelings" was actually pitching a well-rehearsed argument meant to manipulate her husband into taking the actions she had already decided in advance that she wanted him to take. She had already unilaterally formulated the solution; his only role was to come to her conclusion while thinking it was his own idea. (To her credit, on the occasions when her husband surprised her by veering from her preset agenda, she did listen and seemed genuinely open to what he was saying, but the fact that she went in
to every marital discussion as if it were a tactical military operation just really rubbed me the wrong way.) And while I get that "because it helps me achieve my goals" might work from a reverse psychology point of view, it doesn't help advance the more germane point – that a husband doing his fair share in the physical labor of a marriage is simply fair
, and if he doesn't, he's kind of a jerk.
Similarly, Dufu sure makes it sound like you should drop the ball on anything that you don't feel is the "highest and best use of your time" and simply expect your husband to do it. Well, I doubt he really feels like scrubbing the toilet is the highest and best use of his
time either, but if you can't afford a housekeeper, then someone's
got to do those kinds of jobs eventually. Dufu gives women a pass to just declare we're not doing the chores we deem beneath us and expect and require our husband to pick them up, without advocating any negotiation and compromise for sharing of the crappy work. She seems to operate in this strange middle ground, between clinging to a very antiquated, patriarchal model of he's-the-boss marriage, and wanting something better for her own relationship. But rather than assuming her husband would also want a fairer and more equitable division of roles, she appears to repeatedly underestimate his motivations – for example, she assumes that fathers only contribute to childcare to make their wives happy. Really? Not because they feel any investment in their children's upbringing and want to be involved for the sheer joy of it?
Dufu's entire motivation for "dropping the ball" (and straight into her husband's lap) is so that she has more time to devote to her career, which, because she works in the non-profit field of education and empowerment of women and girls, she seems to place a much higher value on than most of her household- and family-related activities. But she never talks about dropping the ball at work; for instance, what do you do when a manager or coworker is taking unfair advantage, weaseling you into doing work well outside your job description? What if, like most jobs, it comes with boring or administrative busywork that keeps the cogs of the valuable work you do greased? Apparently, craptastic tasks still have to get done at work, where there is nobody to guilt or cajole into taking them off your plate.
And finally, while Tiffany does seem a lovely person and was willing to do some self-examination of her record of home life failures, she has not been quite so forthright here with her work life, where clearly balls that nobody ever picked up have sometimes gotten dropped. The White House Project that she was rightfully proud of got shuttered. Levo, her next project, started up under some sketchy and controversial circumstances. If Drop The Ball
was really about "achieving more by doing less" and not just "achieving more at work
by doing less at home
", where were the counter examples about how to juggle the work-life balance from the work side of the equation? What was sacrificed in the context of her career, and what lessons were learned? Unfortunately, those questions were never even addressed, let alone answered. I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book at no cost courtesy of its publisher, Flatiron Books, via Goodreads Giveaways. My review of this or any other book has not been influenced by its mode of acquisition.