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
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Interesting subject. I've been a work-from-home mom for 4 years now, and I start a full time job next month. The idea of missing out on my kids lives terrifies me. Also, my kids are used to having mom on call for everything, the biggest adjustment will be on their part!

Posted by: SS | March 9, 2006 12:10 PM

SS, you *know* you're being silly saying you'll be 'missing out on your kids' lives! And you're setting a great role model--for boys and girls--that women are fully realized beings, with active parts of their life before, during, and after motherhood. No, it's not easy (I often say, "I need a wife!" to take care of those little things...but it is far from a modern problem. Women have ALWAYS worked - like dogs! Used to be we were making soap in the yard from lye and ashes...now Proctor and Gamble does it better! They do what they're good at, and I do what I'm good at for cash to buy soap.....

Posted by: KVD | March 9, 2006 12:49 PM

Me too. I worked from home 22 hrs a week for 4 1/2 years. Starting in Jan., I've been back at the office 4 days a week with a promise to go full time in the fall when my little one starts school. The hard part is when I leave here at 3pm to get my oldest at the busstop, and then go back to my desk at home to finish working. Then back to my desk after dinner for another hour of work. I like being back at the office, but I am not sure I picked the best schedule...... When I am with my kids I am dying to get back to finish my work or get some things done around the house. When I am working I am feeling guilty about not being with the kids and missing the times I could be sharing with them.... Whew.

Looking forward to sharing and hearing more on this blog!!

Posted by: arw | March 9, 2006 12:53 PM

I am very interested in this discussion. I am looking for Mr. Right, and plan to have children, so I will face decisions regarding lifestyle.

What bugs me about the decision is the way the stay-at-home mom is glamorized as this self-sacrificing, wonderful paragon. I have friends who do it, most are seriously going crazy. They just don't see how to get enough part-time work to make it "worth the hassle".

I think addressing the numbness of mind I see with them is worth it. I think it's great to be with your kids, but who can do the same thing 24 hours a day? Some can, but most of my friends feel guilty for wanting to do something else. You can't tell me that chaufeuring kids around is as fulfilling as the media, and those who have an interest in keeping women at home, think it is. Neither is it easy. However, you can't tell a stay-at-home mom that you don't envy her for being "lucky" enough to have a husband who can allow her to do this.

Why can't women claim their needs (for intellectual stimulation, adult company) and let their kids respect that?

I'm not arguing against the stay-at-home mom AT ALL, mind you. I know one who has never been so happy in her life to do it, since she had her first baby at 40.

I just think when it's not working for someone, I wish it was more ok to admit it and seek what she needs, instead of the "lucky to be able to" and "doing what's best for the kids" platitudes that are bandied about.

Posted by: Still single but | March 9, 2006 1:12 PM

My mother worked during the 60s and 70s (for economic reasons-my father worked for a nonprofit), and was considered a bit of a pariah in our conservative middle-class neighborhood. However, my brother and I loved it. She was happier, and more interesting to us, and still provided lots of love and "mom care". We became more self-sufficient as well, assuming the cooking and cleaning responsibilites. So, for you moms out there feeling guilty - don't. Your children will love you for happily working.

Posted by: Susan Arnold | March 9, 2006 1:13 PM

I have two boys, ages 5 and 3. Since my oldest was born, I have been working part-time. During that time I made a career change. My husband had a very demaning job and we have the help of a great nanny. After three years since, my career change, I have just accepted a full-time position in an exciting new group at work. I feel I can do this because my husband transfered into a new group at work that better suits him (so he is less stressed) and our nanny continues to provide great care and support for our kids (and the whole family really). I was really nervous giving up my part-time status, but I really wanted this new job too. I have been back full-time for a few months and I am really glad I made the transition. However, I realize that I have great support from many areas, including work. My boss has 4 kids and is very understanding as his stay home wife has recently gone back to work part-time. My oldest will be in kindergarden next year. Sometimes my husband and I even think about having one more... but that does seem crazy. We realize that this arrangement works now, but isn't necessairly going to forever. By the time our boys get to Jr. High my husband and I realize that one of us will likely want to be home more and depending on where we are in our careers, that could be me going back to part-time or him going into a consulting mode so he can be home more (which he would love and be great at!). But for right now, we think this is working out. I admit it is nice to get a full paycheck and get some additional responsibility and challenges at work. I have noticed my stay-home mom friends look at me like I am crazy when I "admit" I have gone back to work full-time. Working more does cut in to our ability to have a social life; that is one big down-side. We have to make a special effort to find time for "dates" or to make time for friends. (However, this was a struggle when I was part-time too!)
I'd love to hear from others regarding their transitions (part to full-time or the other way~ too!)

Posted by: Jennifer | March 9, 2006 1:37 PM

My husband and I have been married for about 2 years and are ready to have a child, but the job choice for me has been my greatest fear. I worked my whole life, and I may go crazy if I stay at home, plus almost half of our household income will be gone, while expenses will increase with the new baby. None of our parents live nearby and would not be willing to give up their lives to baby-seat, so if I continue working, we will have to use a day-care. I would hate doing it. So this is my big delema, but we will probably figure out by trial and error once the bay comes.

Posted by: Nadya | March 9, 2006 2:50 PM

responding to StillSingle but... You know I think a lot of sahm would love to work PT (myself included), but do you know how difficult it is to find decent part-time work? Actually using your degree/s? Impossible.

Posted by: CHMom | March 9, 2006 3:24 PM

So many different things are wrapped up in this issue -- economic, cultural, social. What about mothers who have to work to feed their children -- they don't even have a luxury of thinking about these "choices". In some cultures and countries, it is totally normal that a woman take 1, 2, 3, years to stay raise their children until pre-school, and in some countries, she even has a full right to go back to her old job. Finally, the reason women, especially those with advanced degrees have to opt out is because it is considered normal to work a 10 hour day. I am a working mother who was advised by a male colleague to work for the government because "you can leave at 5". And the more advanced and specialized the degree, the harder it is to find a "right" job where you are intellectually, financially, and otherwise satisfied, without this job taking over your life.

Posted by: tsm | March 9, 2006 3:46 PM

Hi everyone. Incredible comments. Thanks for being honest. Remember -- today is just the first day of this blog. Soon enough, we'll get to all the issues raised -- lack of real "choices", childcare issues (and how we all need more and better options), how much our own needs and our kids' needs change over time, perspectives of at-home dads, and everything else that goes unsaid in the lives of working moms.

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 9, 2006 3:58 PM

How wonderful it was to discover this intelligent article and interesting blog after spending part of the day vacuuming my house wondering why on earth I ever got an MBA to do this kind of work?

The issue for me is that lack of meaningful and challenging positions on a part-time basis. Sure, there is are jobs advertised for p/t cleaners and p/t hostesses at pizza restaurants - but what about if you are a manager with an advanced degree? I've never seen any p/t managerial jobs advertised on company Web sites.

I've learned about the importance of acceptance and saying that it is okay to have needs for intellectual stimulation and adult company (well said by still single..) But I feel very alone and isolated talking to other stay at home moms who appear to be happy with their choice. In fact, I know some stay at home moms whose entire identity is their children.

For the time being, I am working part time as a freelance writer from home as well as a volunteer for my university -- hoping that these skills will enable me to get back in the workplace one day.

Posted by: Barbara | March 9, 2006 4:31 PM

When I was planning to start having a family, I decided to find a part-time job with benefits that I could go back to after my child was born. I love my job, and have wonderful on-site day care -and my daughter is thriving. Yet, I feel torn, and part of me would love to be at home. Eventhough my situation is wonderful,I feel like maybe the grass is greener.I only work 30 hours a week, but it's still so hard to not be with her more.

Posted by: Stacey | March 9, 2006 5:20 PM

I’m in this book group with five of the smartest, most interesting women I know. All are moms of school-age children or younger. One teaches aerobics and writes stories for children. One is an attorney working half time at a trade association. Another combined her pre-kids experience as an event planner with her work as a pre-school teacher into a development position at a private school. Another is a science writer who produces more work from home than many of my highly billable colleagues at the office. And still another is a health statistician who plans to return to research, this time merging her years of teaching pre-school with her background in child development. As for me, I’ve worked full time outside the house since my 9- and 12-year old daughters were born.

The point is that none of us has done it quite the same way.

Who is doing it the "right" way? Each of us is.

Who has doubts from time to time? We all do.

What do we talk about when we get together? How hard it is to balance. Whether we are raising our kids well. How difficult it is to carve out time for ourselves. We trade ideas and celebrate each other's successes, whether at work or at home.

Some really tough issues have been raised in today’s postings. I look forward to checking back to hear the insights of other moms who have been there.

Posted by: Carol | March 9, 2006 5:26 PM

I'm a single mom and a math college professor in a small Heartland college town (on of the state's leading schools). I used to feel guilty to bypass my daughter's schools
infinite demands to volunteer time, 'till I started telling my daughter how proud I was that the taxes I earn for the state pay to keep the school running (and the streets paved and the firemen ready to work). She never again felt I was doing too little :).

Posted by: Marianne | March 9, 2006 5:35 PM

I have worked Part-Time ever since my oldest (7) was born, and I still can't figure out whether the glass is half full or half empty! As my children get older, working definitely gets easier -- that sense of guilt every minute you are apart definitely lessens. But I still love being such an active participant in their lives. For my school-aged kids, I drop them off and pick them up at school almost every day, and one day a week I lead the Brownie troop (which I love!).

I've been pretty lucky with my PT jobs, but it still hasn't been easy. After 7 years at one job (5 of them PT), I got a new manager who seemed to have really unrealistic expectations of what I could accomplish in a given amount of time. I finally felt I had to quit because I simply couldn't meet the deadlines and I hated the constant dread and guilt. On my last day, we had a frank discussion where he admitted that since full-time people work overtime to meet deadlines, he had assumed that half-time people would work overtime too, but just prorated to half as much. My world SPUN when he said that! I said, "I would have had to hire someone to watch my kids! And with those deadlines, I didn't have TIME to hire anybody!" He said, "Oh... I never thought of that." Because of this ignorant attitude, I lost a job that had worked really well for me for 7 years. (Other managers had been much more understanding.)

After one other failed attempt at PT work (it's hard to do something you're overqualified for just to keep your foot in the door of your career), I'm looking for work and tempted to go back to FT. We're looking into getting an au pair soon, so that we'll have the flexibility to do this, but I'm scared. My oldest daughter must be too, because she recently had a nightmare that we got the au pair, and they were playing, but after a while she realized she hadn't seen me in a long time. She asked where mommy was and she was told that I had moved away! I know that au pairs and nannies can be lifesavers, but I am terrified of losing the connection with my kids that I have right now. All the nose-wiping and fight-refereeing can be a drag, but it's their real moment-to-moment existence and I am a part of it. I get to laugh at their funny quotes firsthand. I get spontaneous stories about schoolday events while it's still fresh in their minds. I think simply Being There is so important. I don't need to do it all the time, or even half of the time, but I worry about the point at which it will become too little time. I worry that if I don't keep my foot wedged firmly enough in place, the Mommy door will close -- and to me, that is the most important door of all.

Posted by: BrownieMom | March 9, 2006 9:18 PM

The prospect of motherhood is a privilege that I value greatly, in spite of its unexpectedness in my case. I am seven months pregnant and about to earn my MFA. I would have spent the past semester planning my next step professionally, instead, I concentrated my efforts on prenatal health, fulfilling my degree requiements and stregthening my relationship with my boyfriend-turned-fiance.

My fiance is loving and supportive and respects the work that pregnancy comprises. He has told me - in spite of his limited earning power (he is an artist and ten years younger than I) - that he wants me to take as long as I need after our son is born before pursuing work. I can sense neither panic nor resentment from him at the thought of suddenly working to support three.

I, on the other hand, am increasingly uncomfortable with my impending financial dependence. I used to daydream about being "taken care of." I know - intellectually at least - that I will be taking care of this new family equally. But I am uneasy. How do I maintain a sense of autonomy in my relationship without financial independence? How do we structure our finances (his income) so that I do not feel I am "asking" him for money? How do I acclimate to the understanding that a paycheck does not validate me more than a healthy happy child?

Posted by: Adrienne | March 9, 2006 11:32 PM

I have two boys age 2 and 5. Until recently I worked full-time as a Director of a media company. My husband travleed every week and I was the official "anchor" parent. When I had reached my absolute worst, I was lucky enough to meet a woman who was starting a company called Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com) and she offered me a flexible job on her management team. Mom Corps is not just talking about the problem you are all discussing...we are solving it> We find meaningful, well paying part-time and contract work for professional level moms. We are just starting out but seeing a good amount of success ( see April's issue of Working Mother magazine for a story on us!)...we appreciate any support we could get from the community as it is about time someone took a stab at finding a solution to the problem we have all been talking about for so long!

Posted by: Maria at Mom Corps | March 10, 2006 9:01 AM

This is a great blog…it’s interesting to see everyone’s differing opinions on motherhood, working, and family life. I think everyone has to find a solution that works for them and their families. Often the solutions aren’t perfect and compromised have to be made. But then when is life ever perfect.

I’m not a mother yet but I plan to be in a few years. My husband and I have been discussing and planning for our future family since before we were married. I want to be a SAHM until my children reach school age. In order to make this a reality my husband is going back to school to get a graduate degree. I’m supporting him right now so he can concentrate on school. When he finishes we plan to have children. Then he’ll be the one going to the office every morning while I’m at home. His getting an advanced degree and increased earning potential is key to our being able to afford for me to stay at home. I’ve gotten some criticism about me supporting my husband, setting aside my goals for his, why is he getting the advanced degree and not me, etc. I get sick of trying to explain to people that this is a choice we made together and being a SAHM is the goal I’m working towards. I plan to go back to school and get my Masters later. Once our children start school I’ll be going back to school too. It makes more sense for me get my Masters after I have children instead of now when I plan to be out of the work force for a few years. I think getting the masters later will be a good way to brush up on my job skills and make it easier to get back into the job market after having taken time off while my children are young.

Everyone has different needs and has different ways of solving them. Why does everyone have to be so critical of other people’s choices? Yesterday several comments were posted to the effect the SAHM are harming working women, wasting their educations, and not appreciative of sacrifices women in the past made so the women today have career choices. The key word here is choices. Women in the past fought so that we call could have freedom, equality, and choices. I understand and appreciate it. My wanting to be a full time mother in no way belittles that. If a woman goes to college but never works a day in her life it’s not a waste. Education is about more then just preparing for a job. College introduces you to new experiences, teaches you how to learn, makes you think about things you may have never considered before, teaches you social skills, time management skills, and so much more. Education makes you a better person, a better citizen, and a better mother. Is that a waste? Is using those skills to make $$$ the only “good” use? In the past women were forced into the family mold even if they weren’t happy with that role. Should we do the same thing now and force women into the office when they would be happier at home? How is that progress?

Posted by: Hoping to be a SAHM | March 10, 2006 10:15 AM

I am a SAHM with a college degree in Marketing and a postgraduate certificate in Purchasing Management. Right now, I am home with my 19 month old daughter during the day and work 2 evenings and Sunday afternoon at a local bookstore. Yes, I know many readers of this blog will turn up their noses at retail work, but for me it has been a great fit. I have two co-workers in nearly identical situations.

I look at this as an opportunity to keep contributing to Social Security and a 401K, a way to explore my love of reading, and some extra money. With this experience and my volunteer work owth a local Junior Women's Club, I plan to have a whole new skill set when I return to full-time work in a few years.

What will I do? I have no idea, but I think my "mommy resume" might be a ticket to a new career adventure.

Posted by: Margaret | March 10, 2006 3:17 PM

Great discussion in your comment section. Your blog is a welcome addition to the debates as I'm sure your book is. I've been writing on this in Motherpie.com as it seems there has never been a pat answer to this and I am hopeful that all women can move past a binary argument to join in an overall discussion together on this issue.

I think the lives of women should read like a big long interesting book that you can put down, come back to, read fast or slow at times, and reread or skip places... not a linear read but more circular.

Posted by: H.A. Page at Motherpie.com | March 10, 2006 3:59 PM

It's sad to see WashPost sponsoring something called "Mommy Wars" that so obviously intends to castrate traditional men and celebrate the agressive, self-serving, pants-wearing, 40-something feminist mommie whose sky-high ambition, self-centered attitude and overall nastiness undermine the stability of families and relationships across our country.

A woman like Leslie who mocks her husband in public, considers herself a hero, and castigates women who take other paths is the paradigm for what is wrong with America. She is the nightmare scenario for the average American man. She drives Americans into the arms of conservatives. She frightens her children. And she repulses me.

Personally, I hope this blog is dumped before it generates a backlash. What a wasteland.

Q. What kind of insider deal gets a former editor a blog to promote her book anyway?

Posted by: morefeministhooha | March 13, 2006 4:48 PM

For a lot of people, I do not think it is a choice on whether to go back to work. In our local DC economy, with the housing market what it is, two incomes are needed to afford anything with three bedrooms.

Posted by: Peggy | March 17, 2006 8:52 AM

The teachers have a name for the ever present Mommy volunteers. They call them "helicopters", because they are always hovering.

I volunteer once a week in my son's class and my opinion is that some Mom's are board or trying to justify their existence.

Posted by: Mike Millman | March 17, 2006 6:50 PM

The teachers have a name for the ever present Mommy volunteers. They call them "helicopters", because they are always hovering.

I volunteer once a week in my son's class and my opinion is that some Mom's are bored or trying to justify their existence.

Posted by: Mike Millman | March 17, 2006 6:51 PM

When I was in graduate school taking a writing course, I wrote about the only thing I could at the time--what it was like to care for a three and a four year old at home while trying to go to school. I called it a balancing act, but my professor, an amazing, divorced writer and father of three, corrected me. "It's not a balancing act, it's a juggling act. Balance implies two, you've got fourteen balls in the air. I know--I have three kids and it's all I can do to get everyone dressed and fed and out the door to school, them home and fed and bathed and to bed--world without end--every day." I have never forgotten his metaphor, nor the lesson that some men experience this same pressure, this same juggling act, that women do.

Posted by: Jan | March 19, 2006 12:51 PM

To morefeministhooha:
Most women are working because they have to, not because they want to. I am a working mother, and we tried to "make it" on one income for over 2.5 years, and we were unable to. We do not live extravagantly, either. We live in a small house, in a middle class neighborhood.
That's the real issue this blog is dealing with-- not some self-serving ideal of the workplace. We simply want to provide for our children. If we had a choice, I suspect many of us would opt to stay at home.

Posted by: Vicki | March 19, 2006 5:51 PM

Interesting bio. It claims that Leslie has "lived and breathed every side of the mommy wars" but its not clear she ever stayed at home. So isn't the whole book/blog project a fiction skewed through the eyes of someone with only ONE real perspective?

Posted by: Hmm | March 22, 2006 12:16 PM

Someone on the post mentioned that Leslie is a journalist. Actually, her career seems to have been focused on advertising and promotions, according to her bio information, with no journalism experience listed. This blog is not considered to be journalism, merely one mother's opinion, educated by her personal experiences and whatever research she may be doing to suplement it, research that is not fact-checked by editors. It is an important distinction.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 3, 2006 12:30 PM

why not st. louis?

Posted by: STL | April 8, 2006 10:19 PM

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