Archive: April 2006

Friday Free-for-All --Who's The Decider?

From President Bush to The Daily Show to a front page article in Wednesday's New York Times, buzz abounds about the new term "the decider" -- the person who pulls rank on major decisions. A 2005 Yankelovich Monitor survey showed that women in the United States make 54% of new vehicle decisions and 56% of grocery purchases. Little data exists on "decider" status when it comes to who works, who stays home, who decides which art projects get memorialized and which get shoved to the bottom of the trash bag, when to move or stay put for a parent's job, who takes the kids to which pediatrician, what afterschool activities, which sleepovers -- all the nitty gritty family life decisions. In your family, who makes the decisions regarding the kids' lives and why? Are your family decisions truly made jointly, or are subtle and not-so-subtle power plays at work? And...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 28, 2006; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (66)

Find a High-Skilled Flex Job

Interesting, financially meaningful, flexible work: It's the Holy Grail for many working moms -- and dads. A lucky handful successfully negotiate part-time or flex-time work at our current companies. However, some companies are not so flexible. What do you do then? There have always been temp agencies for entry- and mid-level jobs -- a good option for many employees looking for flexibility. The latest trend seems to be connecting companies with high-level employees looking for part-time and project work (and I'm sure there are many more out there, so spread the word on the blog if you know of others). MomCorps: Specializes in high-level accounting, legal, marketing and IT services on a special project or contract basis. Offices in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Started in September 2005 by Allison Karl O'Kelly, a Harvard Business School graduate and certified public accountant, with the vision of matching companies looking for flexible staffing...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 27, 2006; 6:56 AM ET | Comments (24)

Equal Pay Day

Today is Equal Pay Day -- because (in case you missed Amy Joyce's Life at Work column on Sunday) today marks how far into 2006 (115 days) the average full-time working woman must go to earn as much as a man earned during 2005. And don't go thinking the working woman numbers are pulled down by lesser educations or inadequate experience or because women chose to take time off to give birth or raise children. These numbers measure salaries of women who work full-time and haven't been out of work for any type of pregnancy, maternity or disability leave within the past 12 months. These women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by comparable male employees. Women who work part-time or have taken maternity leave earn even less! And women's earnings have been stuck at this level for most of the past decade. Here's more: A Cornell...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 25, 2006; 6:00 AM ET | Comments (190)

Business Trip Hair Pulling - Er Logistics

Three months ago, I had a business trip to New York. A quickie--one night and one day. Before kids, this jaunt would have required five minutes to throw pantyhose, makeup and a calculator into a carry-on. These days, getting ready to absent the mommy throne for 36 hours is akin to preparing for the Winter Olympics. The day away presented unique challenges. MJ had a girls-only party after school, one mom's attempt to transform the alarmingly catty first-grade girls into a cohesive group. Bravo -- and MJ needed to be there. I arranged for her to go to the party and home with a classmate (two phone calls; three e-mails; 20 minutes total). The same night, X. had basketball practice. Coach forbids absence except for illness. Our sitter drove him there and back (20 minutes spent writing directions to the suburban hinterlands where the team plays). She picked up MJ...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 24, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Friday Free-for-All: Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

This Thursday, April 27, is National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Most of you are probably familiar with the program, which was founded by the Ms. Foundation for Women to create an opportunity for girls (and eventually boys when the program expanded beyond daughters) to share and communicate their expectations for the future. Thousands of companies, schools, parents and kids participate each year -- with mixed results. I've heard some kids complain about being bored by their parents' work environments (imagine that) and some employees resent the disruption of having children at work. Others love the opportunity to show children what work is really all about and the sense of community created by the day. What's your take? What are the pros and cons of National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day? More information is available at

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 21, 2006; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (66)

Moms on Moms

I was on The Jim Bohannon radio show recently when a woman named Jennifer called to talk about her stay-at-home mother's attitude towards working motherhood. Jennifer, a nurse with a 14-year-old daughter, rarely works a predictable eight-hour day, often having to stay late to care for patients. Her teenage daughter has always understood. Her mother hasn't. "It's been terrible for years. She makes me feel like a bad mother because I work." Maybe Jennifer's work makes her mother feel bad that she stayed home? My mother, a stay-at-home mom for most of my childhood, always encouraged me to work. At one point, The Washington Post offered me a second full-time job, in addition to the one I was doing. Two full-time jobs at once -- crazy, right? I called my mom to ask for advice. I was pregnant with our third child, and we'd just moved to Washington. I thought...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 20, 2006; 6:50 AM ET | Comments (119)

Putting Family First

I visited the dermatologist recently to get some petite, classically feminine warts frozen off my left big toe and to have my right big toenail biopsied for abnormal growths. There was an exceptionally kind nurse whom I didn't recognize. She told me funny stories to distract me until the painkillers took effect. "Are you new?" I inquired, my bare feet in the air. "Just a month working here." "How do you like it?" I asked, wondering how enjoyable wart removal and toenail biopsies could be. "Good so far. But I loved my old job working with morbidly obese patients. I left because I have a new baby. There was nothing wrong with the other assistants taking ten-minute cigarette breaks. But the surgeons gave me a hard time because I took ten-minute breaks to pump milk for the baby. I worked there five years. I had to quit. Here, Dr. S.,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 19, 2006; 8:40 AM ET | Comments (68)

A Wish for Less Stress

I recently interviewed Ellen Galinsky, President of the Families and Work Institute in New York. Her 1999 book, Ask the Children: The Breakthrough Study That Reveals How to Succeed at Work and Parenting is filled with insights from children that lead to strategies for happy working families. I asked her to reflect back on the seven years since the book's publication and what her wishes are for children today. If I only had one wish, I would wish what the largest proportion of children in my study and book, Ask the Children, wished. They wished that their mothers would be less tired and stressed. For those who are employed, work has become more demanding and pressured. Many employees are electronically tethered to their jobs and the boundaries between work and family life are much more porous. Furthermore, the lives of children have become increasingly pressured and scheduled. So, I would...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 17, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (55)

Friday Free-for-All: Your Worst Childcare vs. Job Dilemma

No matter how we try to avoid direct conflicts between our jobs and caring for our kids, we've all had them. You know what I'm talking about: The phone call from the school nurse 10 minutes before your big presentation. A babysitter who calls in sick -- on your first day at a new job. A critical deadline and a school play on the same day, at the same hour. I'll start: I've always vowed that my kids' birthdays were off limits from work, but just last month, the "Mommy Wars" book launch party was scheduled for the same day as my son's ninth birthday, and there was nothing I could do to change it. My solution was to plan a three-day birthday extravaganza: a celebration at the ESPN Sports Zone the night before, a sleepover with his best friend the night of the party and a flag-football party the...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (108)

A New Generation of Dads

A few weeks back, I asked dads to weigh in on compromises they make for their kids. I was surprised by many of the responses. These words would never come out of the mouths of the fathers I know: "I patterned my life to accommodate my son, our only child. That's not to say I want an uber baby...Rather, it is to say that my ultimate gift to the evolution of mankind is my child. Maybe he'll grow up and do stupendous things. Maybe he'll just remember to come home for Thanksgiving. Either way, I hope he is happy, adjusted and that you or anyone who come into contact with him will be better for it." -- Major, 42, Chevy Chase, Md. Maybe part of my problem is that I don't know any men who feel comfortable articulating what their ultimate gift to the evolution of mankind would be. The...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 13, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (42)

The Terrible Teens

Every mom seems to have a different theory when it comes to the "ideal" time in her children's lives to be working outside the home. Some of you might say "how spoiled to think women can just pick and choose when to work" or "how terrible to think there is ever an ideal time to abandon your children." There is truth in this criticism. But still, I hear women all the time debating this idea of when it's "best" to work as a mom (usually before they actually have children, when choices seem especially endless). B.B., a mom of teenagers in Chevy Chase who I must identify by her initials because she agreed not to discuss her teenagers in public, used to work in an office and has been home since her children became teenagers. She explains. "The conventional wisdom is that if teenagers come home to an empty house,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 11, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Forty Years of American Parenthood

Suzanne Bianchi is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, a former director of the Maryland Population Research Center, and a co-author of a new book coming out this summer called Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, which presents findings from time diary data from surveys conducted over the last forty years. There are some surprising facts about the way families balance the demands of work and family. Despite hype to the contrary, preserving family time is a priority in America -- despite workloads that have increased since 1965 for both men and women. Today's employed moms spend roughly the same amount of time with their children as stay-at-home moms did in 1975. Since the mid-1980s, fathers have been increasing the amount of time they spend with their children (including the basics of childcare such as feeding and bathing). Moms are doing less housework, multitasking more and taking...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 10, 2006; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

Friday Free-for-All: Let's Hear From Single Parents

Although just about every day feels like a free-for-all on this blog, today really is one. The topic is single parenthood. On the live chat yesterday, one of the questions was about issues facing single parents. Rather than me spouting off, let's hear straight from single parents. How do you balance everything when it's just you doing the balancing? What's the upside to single parenthood? What's the hardest thing you do every day? What's the biggest misconception about single parenthood? If you could change one thing (anything) about the world to make single parenthood easier, what would that be? Give us examples, anecdotes, anything that you think illustrates your lives....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 7, 2006; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (121)


A New York Times editorial that ran 12 years ago still haunts me. A letter from a stay-at-home mom read, "We see the walking wounded children of the self-important working mothers. Those needy souls would love to be a mother's project, the center of a mother's life. We wonder why these women chose parenthood." This sentiment bothers me no less today than it did a dozen years ago. I wish I could say that the world has changed since then, but I suspect that some stay-at-home mothers still misread working moms and their kids (and vice-versa, to be fair). No one disproves this accusation like a mom I met in Columbus, Ohio, a few weeks ago. Paula Penn-Nabrit is a fourth generation native of Columbus, where she was the only black student (and first black student-government president) in the 1972 class at Columbus School for Girls. She received her undergraduate...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 6, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Those Formerly Wifely Chores

My husband recently took a large bag to the dry cleaner on the main floor of his office building. Inside the bag was a bath towel that needed its hang strap resewed, an overcoat missing a button, dress pants with a seam pulling apart. He handed each item to the older, reserved Asian woman who owns the shop. She appeared amused, an emotion my husband had never seen her display before. "You got no wife?' she asked, as she burst out laughing. "My wife is busy," my husband explained. This made her laugh even harder. One of the perks of being a working wife is that I have a legitimate excuse to refuse life's details that were once considered the wife's -- grocery shopping, sewing, mending, running errands for my husband, cooking homemade meals (although I can make a mean set of chocolate chip cookies). I hate household chores --...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 4, 2006; 9:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

Raising Independent Kids

A friend I saw recently in California, a stay-at-home mom, told me about trying to calm her five-year-old's night terrors with a promise that set off alarms in my head: No one but mommy or daddy would put him to bed. Forever. "Isn't it wonderful how we parent today?" my friend asked me, her voice tinged with pride. "He will never need therapy like we did." I looked at her like she was crazy or joking. She was totally serious. In the future, slapstick comedy writers will mock college-educated, turn-of-the-20th-century American moms as the nuttiest, most control-freakish, paranoid guardians of all time. We don't let our kids walk home from school. Neighborhood parks are filled with dogs instead of 10-year-olds because kids can't go anywhere unsupervised. Moms "help" with homework -- even with kids in college. Under the guise of loving our children, we give them the skewed message that...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 3, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)


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