Archive: March 2006

The Daddy Track

For reasons I've never understood, someone always seems to be maligning The Mommy Track--that lower paid, slow-motion career progression some professional moms (like me) choose in exchange for more time with their kids. I happen to think The Mommy Track is pretty nifty. At least a few dads seem to be catching on, too, if this blog is representative. "I've changed my career to support not just the raising of my three girls, but also to support my wife's career. My choices -- an unconventional path -- have actually enabled my professional and personal growth. If you are willing to take risks, pretty cool things happen." -- M., San Francisco, 42 years old, father of 3 girls under 12 Good point, M. I agree totally. "I am an attorney. I made a conscious choice to work in a smaller firm where I make about half of what I could in...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 31, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Advice for Negotiating At Work

During my mom years, I've worked full-time, part-time and not at all. I am at my best when doing paid part-time work that gives me "enough" time with my three kids. I've negotiated rewarding, flexible management level positions at Johnson & Johnson and The Washington Post. I've also lost a few negotiations along the way. In this recent interview with Business Week, I shared what I've learned. What are your negotiating insights?...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 30, 2006; 4:00 AM ET | Comments (62)

Heart-to-Heart

While I was brushing my teeth recently, my husband looked at me in the mirror and asked: "That stuff in your blog about how I don't help out with the kids, that's old stuff, right? Or at least an exaggeration?" I thought about letting it pass. It was late, a bad time to risk a fight. But this blog is about telling the truth, so I did. "No, honey. It's true. I just don't complain anymore. And I don't think it's your fault. You're just not as good at the childcare stuff as I am." He didn't get angry. "But everyone tells me I'm such a great dad." "You are a wonderful dad. You do a lot more with our kids than my dad or your dad did. But moms can never really work full-time unless husbands start doing more childcare and household stuff. You know, staying home for sick...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 29, 2006; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Peek Into One Stay-at-Home Dad's Life

I got an e-mail from Max, a Milwaukee stay-at-home dad of two-year-old twin girls. This view of one dad's life was so interesting, I thought it should be a guest blog on its own. Here you go: I didn't imagine being a stay-at-home dad, so there was a certain mental obstacle to overcome. My father was the "traditional" head of the household and always worked at the same job when I was growing up. I sort of expected that would be the case for myself. In 2002 I finished my MBA and was ready to be the big breadwinner. My girls were born one month after I was laid off in 2003. Not being able to find a job so my wife could stay at home was painful. I felt I was letting everybody down. My wife was able to take six months off after the girls were born. Since...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 28, 2006; 9:13 AM ET | Comments (111)

Kids' Eye Views on Working Moms

To help silence complaints about how lonely writing can be and how much gripping pencils hurt their hands, my son's third-grade teacher asked me to talk to the class about writing. So, I recently sat on a small, yellow chair, describing to 23 nine year olds the arduous and exhilarating process of slogging an idea through conception, writing and editing until it transforms, like a newborn baby, into a freshly printed book. The discussion turned to what the kids thought of the book's subject, working vs. stay-at-home motherhood. Voices, and emotions, began to fill the classroom. "My mom works at a bank and my dad works three hours away, so my babysitter has to pick me up every day." "Wednesday is the only day my mom can pick me up. I dream about Wednesday all week." "My dad works in an office in our attic so my brother doesn't kill...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 27, 2006; 7:49 AM ET | Comments (167)

Multi-Tasking Takes Its Toll

My friend, Jen, a single working mom, took a week off to take care of household chores. "I painted every room in the house, had the air conditioning fixed, installed a new hot water heater, paid my taxes and put up six sets of curtains. It took me one week to do what it takes a stay-at-home mom a year to get done." There is no more efficient human being than a working mom. When you're trying to cram two parallel lives into one day, getting everything done as quickly as possible equals survival (and maybe an hour more of sleep). I've cringed at hearing more than one working mom use the descriptor "just some fat, lazy stay-at-home mom." I've heard stay-at-home moms admit that their brains get fuzzy, that weekdays blur together, that there's a lack of urgency about getting the curtains up when you can always do it...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 23, 2006; 10:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sick Days

My indoctrination into the politics of sick days -- my wake-up call that combining work and motherhood involved inescapable rocks and hard places -- came 10 years ago when our infant son got sick with a fever the day of a presentation I had to give. I blithely asked my husband to stay home with our child. I quickly saw evidence that men, especially primary breadwinners, suffer peer pressure at work as severe as everything I lived through in seventh grade, except that our financial future was at risk rather than my slot in the popular crowd. So, I gave my son Tylenol to hold down his fever, dropped him off at the daycare center, delivered a killer presentation and scuttled back to his classroom where they reported X. was feeling a little warm. Since that day, I've always been the one to stay home with our children when they...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 22, 2006; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Is This What Moms Really Want?

More than 100 extraordinary (and at times infuriating) responses were posted to the Friday, March 17, entry ("What All Moms Want"). It surprised me that so many were negative, snarky and defensive. Hallelujah to those of you who tried to be constructive and supportive. The conversation clearly has got to continue. Here's what struck me as the most thought-provoking observations ( in case you don't feel like reading 41 pages of comments). "We are still our own worst enemies." -- DM "Do we really want a world in which the only people who make our laws, start new businesses, do scientific research to make medicines, protect our environment, advocate for children in the legal system, are all men?" --Sammy "Why are women willing to call themselves by hostile and demeaning labels?" --Nana "How happy the politicians that control the money in this country and give us no good daycare, no...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 20, 2006; 8:25 AM ET | Comments (76)

Calling All Supportive Dads

Hey everyone -- Every week or so, I will be asking for commentors to share how they balance their lives. So, if you are willing to let me interview you for this blog, send me your contact information. This week, I'm looking for stay-at-home dads or sympathetic dads like Springfield Dad or Supportive Guy. If you want to talk about your thoughts on balancing work and family, let me know how to reach you. My e-mail is leslie@lesliemorgansteiner.com...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 20, 2006; 8:15 AM ET | Comments (7)

What All Moms Want

Tuesday night. Los Angeles. Mommy Wars book party. Working mom: "Have any of your contributors written about those out-of-control stay-at-home moms who put all their energy into volunteering at our kids' schools?" Laughter all around. Me: "Yes, actually, one of the writers Leslie Lehr..." Stay-at-home mom, interrupting: "I am one of those crazy stay-at-home mom volunteers." Me, seizing the opportunity to question said "crazy mom" who is willing to talk: "And why are you like that?" SAHM: "Well, I used to work. I have these great skills. I'm organized. I can do PowerPoint. So why not give kindergarten the best Teacher Appreciation Lunch ever? I wanted it to be perfect! And it was perfect! It really was!" The room went silent. I, for one, was stunned. The stay-at-home mom looked around at our faces. Was she triumphant or defiant? I couldn't tell. Then, to my amazement, we moms gave her...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 17, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (139)

Sunday Morning

One recent Sunday morning. I called my friend, Sally, to ask whether my kid can still come to her kid's birthday party (which starts in three hours) despite the fact that I had forgotten to respond to the invitation. She said, of course, since she used to be a working mom, too, and understands my difficulty to rsvp amidst the weekly barrage of phone calls, e-mails, presentations and a last-minute doctor's appointment for a suspected case of ringworm. Then, mid-breath, she paused to tell her husband what to get at the store: balloons, lemon and raspberry sherbet, Goldfish. A few minutes later her cell phone rang in the background. Without missing a word I was saying, she spit out: "Nothing fancy! Just a balloon to mark the driveway." Moments later the cell phone beeped again. Silence. Then: "Breyer's, for God's sake!" Her husband went to an Ivy League college. He...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 16, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Two Views of the Village

I had lunch last month with Robyn, a stay-at-home friend who intentionally bought a modest house so that neither she nor her husband would feel she had to work for financial reasons. They drive economy cars with high mileage for the same reason. Sacrifices my friend is at peace making. A few days before our lunch, when the schools were closed due to a snowstorm, my friend was out on her street with the neighborhood moms and kids. A new neighbor -- a working mom forced to stay home because of the snow day -- asked if my friend might be willing to watch her children on future snow days so that the mom could go to work. What a nice "it-takes-a-village" opportunity, I thought. Robyn thought otherwise. "She has one of the biggest houses on the block. There are two Mercedes SUVs parked inside their garage. I did not...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 15, 2006; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

My Husband Canceled A Business Trip For Me!

Two weeks ago, my husband casually mentioned that he had a 2-day business trip smack in the middle of my Mommy Wars publicity tour, on the exact same day I had a 45-minute Today Show pre-interview, a one-hour live radio appearance on the Diane Rehm Show and a segment on ABC's Capitol Sunday to tape (This past Thursday for anyone interested). "But honey, it's a really big day for me, TV and radio. I can get up extra early, get everyone ready by myself, take all the kids in by myself, but I will be wrecked by 9 a.m. Can't you change it?" It was a rhetorical question. I've asked him -- begged him -- to change business travel before. He never does. I didn't throw a fit. I'm not sure I have any hysterical tantrums left after nine years of working motherhood and a husband who bolts for the...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 13, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Mommy Talk

More than 80 women came to the first Mommy Wars reading in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday evening. Women of all ages. And one baby. I read from eight essays by a mix of working and stay-at-home moms. Afterwards, there were two or three questions. Mostly, there was discussion. "I don't know if moms are ready to talk about this." "What am I supposed to do? Walk into my neighbor's living room and tell her I think she's hurting her 3-month-old by going back to work?" "Women of my generation never dealt with this. We were all the same. We were all at home." "Stay-at-home moms are so isolated by endless baby care and laundry." "Working moms are so isolated -- they are too busy for friends." There wasn't any anger. No one criticized other moms who'd made different choices. Instead, there was hesitation -- how do we deal with this?...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 12, 2006; 12:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

Mommy's Office

6 a.m. Kids asleep (two in our bed). Husband in guest room. I'm in the kitchen stealing an hour of work before the morning tumult of breakfast, teeth brushing, shoe-tying and homework-finding. To some, the kitchen might seem an insane place for a home office. Especially given that my work, like most work, requires concentration. To me, as a mom, the kitchen is the only practical place where I can actually expect to get work done on a regular basis, aside from my real office, that oasis of peace, tranquility and civilization far from chocolate-dipped fingers and Sponge Bob background music. Imagine trying to run to an upstairs office, only to have to run back down when the howling over "He pinched me first!" or "Could I have another glass of milk?" begins. My mother cannot fathom how (or why) I serve my kids dinner and then frantically demolish 20...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 10, 2006; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Welcome

Until 2:30 every day, I'm a working mom. Then -- late, always late -- I tear down the office stairs or fly out the back door of the home office in my kitchen just in time to pick up my three kids from their two schools. Then my second shift starts: basketball practice, computer class and endless dispute settlement from behind the wheel of my trusty, trashed SUV/insane asylum. Not working would kill me. But not being with my three kids "enough" (a definition that changes every week) would be another kind of death. So I devote myself to juggling work and kids, with a splash of husband thrown in. This blog is devoted to illuminating the work/family debate through stories from moms about how we juggle work and kids, in whatever portions we've chosen (including none). So welcome, working moms, sort-of working moms and not-working-right-now moms. This dialogue will...

By Stacey Garfinkle | March 9, 2006; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (140)

About Leslie Morgan Steiner

With motherhood comes one of the toughest decisions of a woman's life: Stay at home or pursue a career? Wharton MBA Leslie Morgan Steiner has been there. As an executive at The Washington Post, Johnson & Johnson and Leo Burnett -- and a mother of three - she's lived and breathed every side of the "mommy wars." Her anthology Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families takes a frank, surprising and refreshing look at American motherhood. Leslie is currently on leave as an advertising executive with The Washington Post as she promotes her book around the country. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at leslie@lesliemorgansteiner.com. The photo of Leslie in the blog's banner was taken by Mary Noble Ours....

By Stacey Garfinkle | March 9, 2006; 9:54 AM ET | Comments (29)

 

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