Supermom?

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 degree from Wellesley in 1976. She married, had twin sons in 1980, received her law degree in 1981, and had another son in 1982 -- all before she turned 30. She and her husband run a national consulting firm, Penn-Nabrit & Associates, together in Ohio.

Their sons were 11 and 9 when she and her husband decided to home-school them. The boys had been expelled from an exclusive, expensive independent day school, and the family had been unhappy with their sons' experience at the local public schools. They began to teach their children at home and hired black, mostly male, graduate students from Ohio State University to teach subjects (math, biology, French) they lacked the time or expertise to handle. As two self-employed parents working at home, they didn't have more time than other working parents -- but they had control over their time, which was critical to their home-schooling success.

Volunteer work was mandatory. The boys each accumulated more than 2,500 volunteer hours by the time they left for college. During the summers, they went to church camp, bicycle camp, space camp and oceanography camp. Their sons hated home-schooling from the first week and told their parents so daily, even as they got older. Paula and her husband promised the boys that college would be 100% their decision, and the boys chose Princeton and Amherst.

In Paula's own words, hers sons, now 26 and 24, turned out to be a far cry from the walking wounded kids of a self-important working mom.

"Obviously, I'm biased. But they turned out to be amazing people of character -- smart, self-contained, self-aware, committed to family and community, unassuming, and most remarkable -- they turned out to be kind."

Paula has written a book about her experience home schooling her sons, called Morning by Morning, published by Villard in 2003. You can find more information about her and her book on her Web site.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 6, 2006; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  You Go Girl!
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Comments

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I'd REALLY like to hear more of just how you work out balancing life as a wife, mom and a career woman. Life stories, mistakes, laughs, etc.

Instead your blog is a constant "Why working moms get the short end of the stick" whinge.

Posted by: Liz | April 6, 2006 10:37 AM

The New York Times piece that so disturbed you is right on the money. I suspect the real reason it continues to bother you is guilt. No matter how many promotions or professional accolades you accrue, it will not offset the lost time you spent not parenting your kids.

Posted by: Registered Voter | April 6, 2006 10:46 AM

Registered voter,
Please come to my home to pay for my mortgage, utilities, food, clothing and health care. THEN I can stay home with my son.
Until then, he is a happy little clam at his preschool, and I am a happy, paid, working mommy who financially and emotionally supports him.

Posted by: AWB | April 6, 2006 10:53 AM

Wow Leslie, you sure brought up a rich topic today. It goes to show that if you are a wealthy lawyer (not that there's anything wrong with being a wealthy lawyer), that it's possible to spoonfeed your offspring success whether they like the medicine or not. I'm sure Paula's kids developed their character from all the voluntary grunt work they did. However Leslie, you forgot to mention what we all want to know the most - Did she hire a cleaning lady? If the answer is in her book, I'll buy it.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2006 11:16 AM

I was all poised to post a comment deriding Leslie for assuming that one opinion expressed in one newspaper a dozen years ago is somehow representative of how SAHMs (or society as a whole) view mothers who work for income. And then I read Registered Voter's comment. I guess such silly attitudes are alive and well.

Still, I think Leslie has demonstrated on this blog that she is either super-sensitive or far too quick to see slights or criticisms of her working for income where none are intended. I just have an extremely difficult time believing that most women actually spend time and enegery on judging other womens' choices. I certainly don't know many women who do.

I think it's just human nature for us to question our own choices, ans thus to be sensitive to any perceieved criticism of those choices. For my part, I know I'm happy being a SAHM (for now), but I constantly question whether I'm doing the right thing for me, my child and my marriage. Thus, it stings a little more than it otherwise might when the mortgage broker says my assets aren't important, since I won't be contributing to the mortgage payment.

I wonder -- in everyday life, do the people on this board really encounter people who are as overly judgmental of "the other half" as the woman Leslie writes about?

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 6, 2006 11:32 AM

Today's post suffers from the misconception that the plural of anecdotes is data. Leslie says she's upset by an op-ed that postulated that the children of career moms longed for more attention from their mothers. She attempts to counter this notion with the story of one working mom's great kids. Well, yippee. I don't think anyone seriously doubts that the children of two-career families can turn out wonderfully. Heck, my mom had to work from the time I was five and my sister was three (she and my dad divorced), and we turned out pretty darn well.

The question is not whether the children of career moms can turn out, as adults, to be perfectly happy and successful, or whether the children of stay-at-home moms can turn out to be miserable failures. Obviously, they can. Working outside the home is no more a guaranteed recipe for disaster than staying at home is a guaranteed recipe for success.

All that is beside the point. The op-ed Leslie cites discusses the emotions children feel AS CHILDREN. Often-- probably very often-- they want a parent at home. Another recent post, which included quotes from children about wishing their career moms would stay at home, underscored this notion.

We can discount children's voices as just another "tactic" to make career moms feel guilty, and we can point to the fact that most children of career moms probably turn out perfectly fine in the end. But isn't it worth considering--at all-- how children feel now?

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 11:34 AM

Every single one of us second guesses most of the decisions we make about our children, and maybe none more so than the decision to work or stay at home. Last week in this blog, someone told a story about a dinner party where a group of working moms were faced with the question of custody (do you give the child to the home in which both parents work, or the one in which there's a parent at home). The unanimous response to give the child to the home with a stay-at-home parent shows how deeply ingrained it is for women to feel that THEY alone are the ones who should be raising their own children. I am a stay-at-home mom and I happen to think that this notion is ridiculous. There are plenty of women who work and are doing a great job at raising their children. I wish that we as women could give ourselves permission to be okay with the decisions we make regarding our children -- not to mention the decisions other women make.

Posted by: MomNC | April 6, 2006 11:36 AM

This blog piece is really bothering me, because again, Leslie's example of how working parents can raise good kids has to do with upper class individuals who have flexible jobs, and therefore can homeschool their kids and work at the same time, while implicitly showing that this saved the kids from the previous problems they were facing when the kids weren't given enough attention, presumably (again this was implied) when the parents were too focused on work.

I know some of you will say that this example from Leslie just proves the point that someone staying home is better for the kids, because they need guidance, etc., full time. My point is this -- what about those of us who have to work and do not have a flexible job? What are they supposed to do to raise children that are happy, healthy, well-adjusted, not spoiled, and have the training, skill and education to function as adults once they come of age.

And no, I don't mean I "have to work" because I want more material possessions, etc., but because I am the primary breadwinner while my husband continues his education, so that he can later have a gainfully employed job once he graduates. (He makes some money right now in a part-time position, but not enough for a family of four to live on). He is about to finish his Masters, and then is getting a PhD, so it will be approximately 5 more years before he is done with everything, and by that time the kids will be 9 and 6 (currently 4 and 1). If I did not work there would be no home, no food, no clothes to provide to the kids, myself, or my husband. In addition, the money I make as a lawyer at a small firm in a small town (so yes, I am a professional, but do not have flexibility because of court dates, depositions, client meetings, etc.) does not leave extra money for purchasing services from others for cleaning my house, mowing lawn, lunches or dinners out, etc.

I would love to see people from this blog have some constructive ideas about how we working moms and dads without flexibility, who do not make enough to afford outside services, do the best for our kids that we can. Speaking as the product of parents who themselves both worked full time, and because I believe I turned out well and am well-adjusted, I believe it can be done. The question is -- how do we acheive this "Balance" that Leslie has described on her blog, but fails to actually discuss? And please, no more discussion about how money can be used to purchase goods or services to allow more time for the children. Let's focus on a solution that everyone can implement -- not just one that a few well-off individuals who seem to populate this blog can use. Any constructive ideas or comments that posters have would be appreciated, instead of blasting and attacks on working moms and dads.

Posted by: Working Mom of 2 | April 6, 2006 11:36 AM

Whoa!

Leslie is beating herself up over feelings she has about an article she read 12 YEARS AGO!

Her abusive 1st husband really did a number on her self esteem. Typical sign of a battered wife.

Tell people who criticize your life choices to MYOB!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 11:42 AM

I just want to draw attention to the assumption that SAHM's are somehow intrinsically less "self-important" than their working counterparts. There are many women who choose not to work, for whatever reason, that in fact DON'T devote that time to their children. For example, I knew a woman who would spend her days yakking on the phone to her girlfriends, while her kids ran around like a pack of wolves.

There are tons of ways to screw up your kids. Working moms certainly don't have a monopoly in that area.

As a side note, I question Leslie's intent in highlighting the race of her friend. I think the story is just as effective regardless of skin color. And again, do we really need a complete resume of these people's lives in order to validate their personal story?

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 11:43 AM

Working Mom of 2 - You have a good point. Leslie just doesn't get it. Not everyone has flexible hours such as the parents she is blogging about - or even Lesle herself -sitting in her kitchen working!! If we teach our children good values and spend quality time with them when we are around - I think thats the best we can do.

Posted by: DD | April 6, 2006 11:46 AM

On considering how children feel now-

My 2 preschoolers would be happiest if they could somehow surgically attach themselves to me. :) To them, anything less than that is lacking.

So, while I always try to take their feelings into account, I also try to remember that they are, as one previous poster said, "little bundles of id." (And I go to work so I can feed and clothe my little ids, and someday buy them idpods.)

Posted by: randommom | April 6, 2006 11:46 AM

I would be curious to know if Paula plugged Leslie's book on HER blog.

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 11:46 AM

Today's anecdote merely illustrates a universally known truism: Money might not make you happy, but it sure as hell solves a lot of problems.

Others have pointed out the other obvious and deadly flaw to this "Supermom" story: it would not have been possible without the flexibility this woman's job guranteed. Nurses, police officers, and construction workers (just to name a few) could never have this luxury of flexibility.

Self-employment is neither possible nor desirable for the vast, vast majority of the population. In that sense, this story is pretty useless, really, except as yet another invitation for women to flagellate themselves over "She can be a Supermom; why can't I?"

Posted by: Brian | April 6, 2006 11:47 AM

Cool storytelling. Can you spend some time finding and relating the "vice versa" stories that disprove the stereotypical accusations that working moms level against stay-at-home moms?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 11:49 AM

The woman is self employed -- meaning she created her own working environment, the one she wanted. (and one can argue that self employment is far from the flexible, easy life that people on this board seem to think.)

No, it is not possible or desirable for everyone. But people really need to start taking more responsibility for their own decisions of how they live. I am struck by the lawyer who posted about the inflexibility of her schedule but failed to note that the subject of today's post is also a lawyer -- but one who chose a very different path.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 12:00 PM

Not only do I think it is human nature to question one's choices (as NewSAHM suggests), but I think that it is a hallmark of a good parent. Children (as well as parents and the family unit itself) are living, changing beings, and the decisions that work for them at one point in their development may not necessarily work for them in the future. I believe that parents who are dogmatic that there is only one way to raise a happy and resilient child (whether that be staying at home vs. working, private vs. public schools, etc.) are very likely to find themselves eating crow.

Posted by: PKL | April 6, 2006 12:09 PM

What is it about women that make many people see their work as optional, while it's just assumed that of course men will work?

Posted by: Wondering | April 6, 2006 12:13 PM

So the point of the story is to get the highest degree possible in your field, so that:

A) you can have the flexibility of working from home,

B) you can afford to send your sons to a private school,

C) you can afford to hire grad students to teach your kids after they get expelled from their private school,

and

D) later down the road, you can make more money by writing a book about this experience.


Fantastic! A sure recipe for success.

Oh, and it helps to force your kids to do countless hours of community service. I suppose dumping their kids off at the local soup-kitchen allowed the parents more time to get their work done. In fact, the parents had simply discovered a low-budget source of child-care. Ingenious!

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 12:14 PM

Wow, LB, I can't believe that you downplayed the idea of volunteering so much. As a child, my mom had me volunteer all the time and I can assure you that it was not to get me out of her hair. It was to make me a better, more caring person. Now as an adult, I continue to volunteer. And, I intend on having my children, if I have them, volunteer as well. I can assure you that it will not be to get "low-budget childcare", but to teach them how to care for their community rather than just take from it.

Bitter much? What makes you dislike people who make choices that are different from yours so much. You are anti-volunteerism, but I don't dislike you.

Posted by: Wow | April 6, 2006 12:23 PM

This to me is unbelievable - "I suppose dumping their kids off at the local soup-kitchen allowed the parents more time to get their work done. In fact, the parents had simply discovered a low-budget source of child-care. Ingenious! "

Frankly, LB, I think it says a lot more about you than Leslie or the subject of the blog. Why are you looking for the worst possible explanation or spin on the postings?


Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 12:32 PM

I agree with anonymous-- the mom who posted about the inflexibility of her does have choices, along with her husband. Her husband who's finishing a Masters and is going on for the PhD has a lot of choices. They could:
1. Have the dad get a job now, after just the Masters, and then get the PhD later, when the kids are older. Masters is usually what increases the salary, much more than a PhD.
2. Go on the "Daddy track" for getting the PhD and spend more time getting it so that the Dad is around more while the kids are little. I know several people who have done this with great success.
3. The wife could find a more flexible job, in a different town, if necessary. They do exist, especially for a lawyer.

I'm NOT saying that these are the right choices for her family. Of course she knows that best. But often people complain that they have no choices, when they actually do. Realize that it is your choice, and you preferred it over all other choices. It can make you a lot happier.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 12:33 PM

My mother was divorced, broke and had three kids when she was 40. She had been a SAHM most of her life. Divorce quickly eroded her standard of living, and I subsequently grew up in poverty as my mother held several low-skilled, low-paying jobs and still depended on public assistance.

Now I'm a divorced 40-year-old single mom, so working is not an option (no outside support, help, etc.). However, I learned from my mother's mistakes: I did not put my faith in having a man support me and my children (also, I did not have several children; we had one).

But I strive to find a balance between work and being a mother. I left Northern Virginia after my divorce because the metro area is such a rat race, and I wanted a less frenetic way of life.

So, I turned down a job offer in WDC with a six-figure salary that would have required travel every month (big career advancement). I packed my belongings and moved out west. I love my work, and my employer is supportive of me as a single mother (I have the ability to telecommute, generous leave time, etc.). My daughter is well adjusted and loves life here. She gets good grades, we have a wonderful community, and she and I are very close.

I believe that I am setting a good example for my daughter in terms of being able to provide for her, encouraging her independence, helping her with school projects, including her in every aspect of my life (I don't send her off for the summer to stay with relatives so I can "get a break."). She knows she is the most important aspect of my life, but working is a necessity. I beat the odds: I was able to escape poverty and build a middle class existence for both of us in spite of having made a poor decision with regard to who I married.

Certainly welfare mothers spend more time with their children than I am able to spend with my daughter, but I would be hard-pressed to say that a welfare mother is a better mother than I am. My daughter has a much better chance for success than children of welfare mothers.

Posted by: western single mom | April 6, 2006 12:35 PM

I've found I'm not reading this blog so much for Leslie's posts as for the comments. Someone mentioned that this space would be better taken up by actual working-to-eat types contributing their tips for finding balance, but in fact, I've been finding all sorts of helpful hints in here. For example, I was just going deeper and deeper into the hole on advance sick time, and had never even thought of splitting the days my son is sick in half with my husband. It's a great idea and makes it easier to pull an eight-hour day out of what would have been a no-hour day.

In addition, it's nice to see the growing number of stay-at-home dads. I can't wait until I make enough money that my husband can stay at home with our son and teach him all the important things in life (fishing, golfing, throwing a ball, finding arrowheads, identifying poison ivy). I know I'll be jealous of the fun they have during the day while I'm at work, but it'll be worth it to see my boys happy.

Posted by: You know | April 6, 2006 12:51 PM

I agree with you that everyone has choices, anonymous, and I agree that I have made choices for my family that have, to a certain extent, resulted in the inflexibility of my schedule. Without getting into a long-winded explanation of why these choices were made, the advantages of the choices made that have resulted in this lack of flexibility include having a very short commute between home, daycare and office, to be able to see my children and my husband more, and although less flexible, a much less demanding job, meaning that I have to be there 8-5:30 every weekday, all day, but unlike many lawyers, I am not normally expected to work weekends or nights, along with the 8-5:30 hours mentioned above (which has, of course, resulted in a lower salary than many lawyers make). In addition, it allows my husband, who cannot get a job at his chosen profession, university professor, without the PhD and the part-time job as a teaching assistant (to get a scholarship to pay for the classes) the opportunity to finish as quickly as possible with his schooling.

We can argue about why my family made the choices we made but, in the end, other than you astute observation that everyone has choices, that would be pointless. I will say my family weighed its options, none of them being perfect, and we chose the one that seemed to be best for us.

What I hope, in the end, would not be pointless, but actually beneficial, is if some of the posters on this blog give some solutions and suggestions for finding the balance that we want, to make sure that all parents are raising their children to be happy, well-adjusted, not spoiled, and able to function in the real world, when the "choices" they have made result in no extra money for out-sourcing services and without the flexibility to work when they want, but instead requiring them to work on a set and determined schedule by an employer. I would love the posters of this blog to focus on solutions that can help the majority of people in America that are in similar circumstances to this, and not just those who hae the extra money and flexible schedules that Leslie is endlessly using as examples of how to make it work. Any takers for actual suggestions and constructive advice for how to find balance that meet this criteria?

Posted by: Working Mom of 2 | April 6, 2006 12:53 PM

To Wow:
First of all, I am not "anti-voluteerism". You are making a broad assumption based on a three-sentence paragraph posted on a meaningless web-log. This is hardly representative of who I am as a person. I volunteer often, and donate to charity on a monthly basis, but that's all beside the point. Who cares what I do?

What I am opposed to is the FORCING of children to do COUNTLESS hours of volunteer work to ensure that they get into a "good" college. To me this is equivalent to loading your kids up with so many extra-curricular activities that they don't have time to stop and breath.

I am also antagonistic towards this blog, and the countless assumptions that are made. It's assumed that everyone has the choice of whether to stay home or not. It's assumed that we all have the same values and definitions of success. It's assumed that mothers who choose to stay home are going to devote that time to their children. It's assumed that schools such as Princeton and Amherst are somehow better than state schools or community colleges.

I'm also a little annoyed that you assumed my post was in all sincerity. I am not married. I have no kids. This blog is merely entertainment. This is not a personal attack on your or your mom's choices. Frankly, I don't really care what you do with your life, or how your kids turn out. I'm just trying to kill a couple hours before lunch.

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 12:54 PM

"Masters is usually what increases the salary, much more than a PhD."

Wow...that is massively funny....

My Master's degree has gotten me bupkis - only a PhD in my field would make me any money. Most Masters degrees get you part-time work at the local community college (no benefits!) or the position of massively overqualified admin assistant. Should you want to eat on your salary (O the luxury!), it's all about the PhD.

Posted by: In addition... | April 6, 2006 12:56 PM

Please people, lighten up. This is a blog! We are not deciding the fate of the world here. Can you stop taking yourselves so seriously?

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 12:58 PM

Stay-at-home-dad. Of course one parent should stay home with the kids if possible. If you can't afford for one parent to stay at home with the kids, you gotta do what you gotta do, but if one person in the relationship makes enough money to handle the bills...why are you both working? The bottom line is...if your kid is in daycare from 8 - 5 someone else has your kid more than you do. If that's what you have to do to make ends meet, so be it. But please stop all the "my kids better off, and I have a sense of fulfillment I don't get out of staying at home" crap.

Posted by: Frank H | April 6, 2006 1:01 PM

Working Mom of 2:

You raise some good points. I would find it very helpful if we had more posts focusing on "how do we make the best out of the life we chose," whatever that may be, instead of so much criticism of the lives others have chosen. Along those lines, here are some ideas I can throw out, that I think work regardless of your life situation. When you're with your kids, really pay attention to them. We're so used to multitasking, and there are so many things that need to get done, that it's easy to be with your kids without actually paying much attention to them. Personally, I found myself coming home, running to the kitchen to cook dinner, paying bills while carrying on a conversation about my daughter's day, etc. I finally realized one night that I'd gone the whole evening without just once stopping and really focusing on my daughter.

Once I realized this, I started trying to both take some quiet time with her (so dinner's late; the world won't end) and involve her in cooking (which she loves) or other chores, so that we're interacting directly. On the weekends, it's easy to get caught up in errands, but we make a point of trying to do some things that will be fun for her, too -- playground, hike, swimming at the Y, etc. (and since she's 4, she's got a fairly short attention span, so we can easily fit those types of things in with the other stuff that needs to be done). Once in a while, when I have time, I do something special with her -- she loves it when we go to Bob Evans for breakfast on the way to daycare (which I try to do once in a while when Daddy's traveling).

Probably the biggest thing we have done is to look for things we can drop -- things that we were doing only because "they" say we "should." Now, we focus on things that either must be done or that we enjoy. I will never be mistaken for Martha Stewart: I don't particularly care if the house is clean, so I spend the minimum of time and energy on that to keep it reasonably sanitary and liveable, and don't beat myself up about it (on the other hand, I am VERY big on home-cooked meals, so I do make time for that whenever I can -- and like I said above, involve my daughter). I do not sign up for a lot of extracurricular stuff at preschool, in the neighborhood, or at work -- I do one or two selected things a year (fieldtrips and the like), but I'd rather spend my extra time with my family instead of on a committee. We also don't schedule much by way of other activities -- gymnastics one day a week, that's all, which leaves more free time time for family stuff -- playing in the backyard, taking hikes, riding a bike -- the things I remember the most from when I was a kid.

Please note that these are just our priorities -- I am giving them as an example, and not trying to say that I think they should be everyone else's priorities. The point is to look hard at what takes up your time and separate out the things you must or want to do from those things you are doing only because you think you should. I think if you make decisions consciously, rather than just because you think you're expected to, you feel more in control and more contented -- at least for me, when I think, "gee, I wish I could have X's life," I then think about why we chose to live the way we do, and how that is consistent with our values and is advancing our family goals, and that usually washes away (most) frustration and envy.

Posted by: Laura | April 6, 2006 1:02 PM

Frank H - "if your kid is in daycare from 8 - 5 someone else has your kid more than you do."
I guess that's also true if they go to school, play sports/do activities, etc. They will be at school/activities most of the day. Is that too much time away from Mom&Dad? Maybe they shouldn't go to school? (Or maybe you just meant when children are too young to go to school. You could have meant that.)

Posted by: Putting the "Mother" In "Smother" | April 6, 2006 1:08 PM

And why do I have the feeling, Frank H, that YOU would never be the one to stay home, and expect your wife to be the one? Why do I just KNOW that somehow? Hmm, maybe it's your snotty tone.

Posted by: And | April 6, 2006 1:10 PM

Working Mom of 2, one thing that has really worked for me is errand-swapping with neighbors. I've mentioned this before, but I do a lot of this. Childcare, carpooling, and even dinners are things that I swap with my neighbors. We watch our older daughter 2.5 afternoons a week-- the other days she's playing at a friend's house down the street. She's happier with a friend, and it gives us more time too. We also swap meals-- we cook for 3 families (including our own) on one weeknight, and get hot meals delivered to our door by our neighbors on two other weeknights of the week. This is wonderful-- better than a restaurant, and super-cheap. It's not much harder to cook for three families than for 1. Apparently the Post had an article about this a few years ago, and how great it is for parents with young kids especially. This can be hard to find if you don't know your neighbors well (I couldn't have imagined this in my old neighborhood), so it might not work for everyone. Just sharing what works for me.

Posted by: Ms L | April 6, 2006 1:12 PM

Smother: I would even argue that the children of incompentent parents (and let's admit it, we're not all perfect), are better off in daycare. At least then they have a somewhat better chance of acquiring positive social skills and healthy emotional development, rather than repeating the mistakes of their parents.

Oh, but wait! This blog is only about middle-class families, so I guess this form of logic wouldn't apply.

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 1:17 PM

Oops, I should have said that we watch our older daughter and a friend 2.5 afternoons a week, and the other days her friend's parents watch both.

Posted by: Ms L | April 6, 2006 1:18 PM

I guess I should have said "functional" middle-class families, as opposed to "dysfunctional" middle-class families. (Those kids could probably benefit from outside influence as well.)

Posted by: LB | April 6, 2006 1:21 PM

I agree with NewSAHM that mothers are NOT sitting around thinking about and judging each other for their choices. Frankly, who has time? I telecommute 3 days/week, work in office 2 days. My flexiblity allows me lots of contact (and friendships) with both other working and stay-at home moms. Just like every baby is different, everyone's situation is different re: work, finances, number of children, etc., all of which factor into decision-making. I think all mothers realize this.

Posted by: Telecommuting mom | April 6, 2006 1:27 PM

To AND. Are you a knucklehead or what? It says in the front of my post that I am a stay-at-home dad. And to Laura...all 3 of my kids are under 6. Once they get to be above 10...you're right they will be in school and have activities that they want to do...not a daycare that they have to do.

Posted by: Frank H. | April 6, 2006 1:35 PM

I understand the need to defend working mothers, because I've been one and my sister is one, as well as my three sisters-in-law. But, in all honesty, it's getting very, very old to read about this supposed divide between SAHMs and WOHs/WAHMs.

That a few on the far right are allowed to editorialize (occasionally) in the NY Times, should not cause women to perpetuate the notion that there exists some great divide in American culture.

It just ain't so!

The great divide is really a fantasy people like Phyllis Schlafley (a WOH mom by the way) on the right have created with her Eagle Forum, and Ann Coulter (who is not a mother at all) just continuing to bait the moderate majority and the far left.

What happened to feminism and supporting each other? I don't understand the need to quote a 12-year old editorial to wax philosophically about whether the children of working moms turn out okay. Some do, some don't. And, the more resources a parent has, often they are able to provide a better education.

Children grow up and achieve with the support of their parents. Some children achieve in spite of how they were reared -- and in many cases it has nothing to do with their mothers working or not.

I wish honestly that this blog would step outside of the narrow upper-middle class world it resides in...speak to some real people for a change. And, not the policy wonks, or the 2-lawyer couples in the heartland (where cost of living is much less).

How about the women who scrub floors all day and then go to a second job? How about the moms who want to work, but childcare is unaffordable, and they end up scraping by on assistance or one income?

Posted by: Kate | April 6, 2006 1:35 PM

"Once they get to be above 10...you're right they will be in school and have activities that they want to do..."

Above 10? You might want to let go a little Frank.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 1:40 PM

MSL,
Thank you for introducing words such as "neighbors" and "friends" to this blog. Other words that are precariously missing are "faith", "religion" and "God" (unless his name is being taken in vane) After all, we are discussing the things that are most important to us, aren't we? or perhaps, few of us on this blog have no friends, neighbors, or faith that play a role in our work or family life.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2006 1:44 PM

What is wrong with you people. My kids already play soccer, teeball, basketball...but you don't drop your 5 year old off at the field and go on your merry way.

Posted by: Frank H | April 6, 2006 1:46 PM

Frank,
Didn't you read the earlier blog "Raising Independent Kids"? You don't drop them off at the field. You let them walk there themselves. And, if they need new soccer shoes, they can pick them up themselves on the way.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 1:54 PM

Frank. Good thing your children have such a nice, non-bitter father to watch over their every move 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Defensive much?

Posted by: Frank Is Angry | April 6, 2006 2:01 PM

Just FYI, the LB at 11:43 is a different LB from the one who posted at 12:14. I didn't post at 12:14. My post was serious, not sarcastic.

Posted by: LB at 11:43 | April 6, 2006 2:05 PM

Good grief. Even I got mixed up. Mine was at 11:34. (rolling eyes now and realizing the need to think of a snappy screen name)

Posted by: Oops-- LB at 11:34 | April 6, 2006 2:07 PM

The solution:

Everyone gets a nannie (like Leslie).

Can you say: rich white woman?

Posted by: lesliesnannie | April 6, 2006 2:16 PM

Leslie is a WaPo editor who got this blog to help sell her book.

She tosses out incendiary stuff to raise controversy that gets her publicity.

SHE IS NOT REAL ABOUT THESE ISSUES. She is here to start fights and make money.

Posted by: falsecontroversy | April 6, 2006 2:17 PM

How does whining about everything set a good example for your kids, Leslie?

How can you claim to be in touch with working moms when you (a) have full time help (b) work at home for yourself (c) have a whipped little husband to do your bidding?

Posted by: whiner | April 6, 2006 2:20 PM

Leslie Morgan Whiner

Posted by: anewname | April 6, 2006 2:23 PM

As a relatively new step parent I read this blog regularly and enjoy the questions it raises for my wife and I to discuss. If you don't like what she says don't bother to read it. This stuff bothers a lot of folks and its the stuff that makes or breaks marriages...keep it up

Posted by: Chet_Brewer | April 6, 2006 2:32 PM

To the other LB: We should figure out a way to differentiate between the two of us, so you don't get any of the hatred that I tend to stir up.

Perhaps I can begin posting with my middle initial (LKB), and you as well? Assuming of course that your middle name doesn't also begin with "K".

Posted by: LKB | April 6, 2006 2:34 PM

To Frank is Angry. Don't get the bitter thing? My posts were in response to some rather obtuse comments that were thrown my way. As far as the hovering over my kids...if you knew me...you would know how laughable that suggestion is. As for the discussion at hand...the point of my orininal post was to highlight the importance of at least one of the parents being there for the kids as much as possible...it's important. It gives the kids a sense of security that is important for kids in this crazy world!

Posted by: Frank H | April 6, 2006 2:36 PM

To "lesliesnanny":
My husband works full time, I have a flexible schedule, we have a one-year old and we have a nanny.
I am not rich, I am not white, I am hispanic (I just recently learned that hispanic was a different race).
Having said that, I realize that we are very lucky, after searching for a nanny for two or three months, we found a WONDERFUL woman to whom we pay a reasonable and affordable salary. That's not very easy to find.

Posted by: ML | April 6, 2006 2:37 PM

I don't think there is any such thing as the Mommy Wars. What I strongly believe is that those who have criticism of "the other way" (be it SAH or WOH) have some kind of insecurity or doubt about their choice. Those who are content and feel good about their choice have no reason to judge or condemn the "other way".

For instance, I have been a SAHM for about 8 years, after spending approx. a year as a WOHM. When I first plunged into the SAH decision, I was feeling very insecure, self-conscious, and defensive about my decision. I had always trumpeted loud and clear that I was going to have a glorious career -- that I would never stay home.

So, because of that, I built this mindset of pious judgment about WOHMs -- though I never verbalized it. It was only to bolster myself against my anguished insecurity, I knew deep down I was full of you know what...

As time went by, and being at home just was "my life", not some noble mission, LOL, I realized how my judgmental feelings sprung from my own doubts and insecurities. Deep and heartfelt discussions with friends, both WOH and SOH, confirmed my feelings -- that if you feel okay and good with your OWN decisions, you don't really give a hoot what anyone else is doing, or even what they think.

I couldn't care less if another mom thinks that b/c I am a SAHM that I am smothering my kids and/or that I should be pitied for not having a life, etc. etc. -- because, what the hey, she could be right, LOL. No seriously, it rolls right off me b/c this is my life (for now) and I'm content and happy.

Also, I've never met anyone remotely like the "characters" in this blog, or people who say things even remotely like some of the comments here.

Oh, I have heard the usual, like "I would go crazy if I had to stay home", as well as the "I couldn't just leave my precious children with anyone" -- both comments make me roll my eyes b/c they are so ignorant. But then, I can dismiss the comments b/c I know that, eventually, if the person ever gets truly secure in their decisions, they will never feel the compulsion to say such things again.

I feel a kinship with ALL mothers -- working or not, it is darned hard work and emotionally, it takes everything we've got, and then some.

Now let's all have a group hug, LOL.

Posted by: Annie | April 6, 2006 2:48 PM

Look ladies, I think the fact that you're even questioning your decision to go to work or stay home speaks volumes about your skills as a mother. You care enough to weigh the pros and cons, and hopefully make the right decision. These are all qualities that suggest you are good parents.

Whether you stay home or not is NOT going to be the determinant factor in whether your child gets an MBA from Harvard, or ends up an ax-wielding maniac. There are so many other things that impact child development. You could do everything right and your child would still turn out "wrong" (whatever your definition of wrong may be). Other kids seem to excel despite all odds. That's the whole challenge of parenting. If there was ONE clear solution, then it wouldn't be so hard. Of course, it probably wouldn't be as rewarding either.

But I'm being far too rational for this blog, so I better counteract all that wisdom with some narrow-minded rhetoric: All volunteers are losers!! (There that ought to cover all my bases.

But seriously Leslie, have you put any thought into the future of this blog? Two months from now are we still going to be arguing over how much a father should contribute to the daily chores, and whether a working mom with cathedral ceilings is justified in asking her SAHM neighbor to watch her kids?

Posted by: LKB | April 6, 2006 3:01 PM

To attempt to relate a child's success or well-being to the working or non-working status of the mother strikes me as self important. There are no studies or proof that this is a deciding factor. Having happy, secure, and loving parents is indeed a factor in determining a child's well being. If working makes you a happier and more comfortable person, then do it. If you couldn't stand leaving your child home, then stay at home.

I have yet to read a posting on how a mother's 24/7 presence in the house has aided in the overall success of their child. All I read is how "I" wouldn't want to miss any minute of their lives. That's ok but lets not confuse personal preference with real evidence of what is right for the child's development and ultimate long-term success.

Everyone here knows of children of SAHM's who are successful and ones who are extremely f'd up. And, the same with children of working mothers. There are too many factors in play to make such sweeping statements.

Regarding the post on "Raising Independent Kids". If you live in a neighborhood with sidewalks, lots of other children, playgrounds, and stores, then you can let your kids "roam" a bit more than if you live on a busy city street or out in the boondocks.

Too many people try to judge other's decisions by using their own personal situations as a base. If everyone here spent some time with each other, I'm sure that you would understand why they made the decisions that they made.

Posted by: LC | April 6, 2006 3:04 PM

Wow, why all the nastiness?
It is just sad that people think that nastiness has any place at all in any discussion. Even when you disagree intensely. We're all adults, some of us parents. Hopefully we can be civil. If we can't, shame on us. If any one thinks lack of civility is funny or entertaining, it's a sad commentary on your life.

Posted by: cg | April 6, 2006 3:12 PM

CG: Can I point out that pointing out everyone's nastiness, is just a subtle way of being nasty. And yes I know I'm being nasty by making this comment. But we can't all be perfect.

Posted by: LKB | April 6, 2006 3:14 PM

I stumbled on this blog by accident about two weeks ago and have been reading with great interest Leslie's postings and readers' comments ever since. In my community, there has always been an underlying tension among working and SAHM, so I find these discussions intriguing.

Every woman who has the option to have a "career" should feel proud of her accomplishments. It hasn't been that long ago that we didn't have such opportunities. Women who "choose" to stay home should also be proud of their choices--there's nothing glamourous about rearing kids and taking care of a home. It's real work. For the majority of women who work outside of the home, what they do each day wouldn't necessarily be classified as a career, but as a job. And, chosing to work everyday isn't a choice it's a must in order to eat, cloth and house their families. Having a choice is truly a luxury that most of us never have the opportunity to experience.

So for everyone who feels the need to analyze, criticize and debate the choices that we make as moms and dads, remember that parenting is not an exact science. It's possible to do everything right, whatever "right" is and still have children that turn out "wrong." The best we can do is what's best for our respective families, and if it's working for the people we live with that's really all that matters.

My philosophy on just about everything in life is if other people's opinions are not in some way connected to sustaining me and my family in this life, whether it be financially, spiritually or whatever, I'm not going to be weighed down by their personal baggage. In the end, we each have to answer for our own decisions, so why spend precious time worrying about what everyone else thinks.

Posted by: Stephanie | April 6, 2006 3:17 PM

Stephanie, you're far too level-headed and non-judgemental for this blog.

Posted by: LKB | April 6, 2006 3:20 PM

Huh, whiner?? I don't think Leslie's husband "does her bidding." At least from the postings so far, he seems like kind of a jerk. Remember Leslie's posting about brushing her teeth and breaking it to her husband that he does basically nothing with the children/around the house and he was clueless about it? About how he ran away like an antelope from a cheetah at any sign the kids were sick? Unbelievable. That was a depressing post, because it seemed like he wasn't happy he was a father.

Posted by: Husband Issues | April 6, 2006 3:21 PM

"Whether you stay home or not is NOT going to be the determinant factor in whether your child gets an MBA from Harvard, or ends up an ax-wielding maniac."

This quote from LKB highlights one of the major problems here. Having an IVY league education and being an ax-wielding maniac are not mutually exclusive. President Bush has an MBA from Harvard and he wasn't exactly a model citizen throughout his younger life (nor are his daughters).

So, before you try to justify your decisions and how they impact your children, you first need to define success for them. Is it where they go to school, how nice they are, how independent they are? Many people in this blog (the author included) seem to think that being "good" depends on where you went to school or your professional status. If that were the case, I would be considered good. But I'm just trying to figure it out like the rest of us.

Posted by: LC | April 6, 2006 3:33 PM

I have to agree with LKT, when people get friendly, courtious, and polite on this blog, it just all goes downhill. Could someone please say something mean and nasty to me? Excuse me... Could one of you idiots that don't know the difference between good parenting and a hole in the ground toss some of your ignorance this way. You're killing me over here!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2006 3:47 PM

That's a great story, but atypical. How many working moms are able to work FROM HOME while home schooling their kids? Not many. I would be interested to read more about the typical working mom. I work full-time and am not yet a mom. I'm hesitant to have kids because financially, I would have to continue working full-time, and I just can't imagine how stressful and exhausting that would be.

Posted by: Frederick | April 6, 2006 3:48 PM

Did I add that I don't care if you have a husband that does the laundry, scrub the kitchen floor, or rake leaves... unless, of coarse, you do it in the nude. Now that would be interesting!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2006 3:53 PM

As the now-adult child of a working mom, and the friend of many now-adult children of working mothers, I can say that we all turned out fine. None of us are bitter or angry or resentful or in therapy. In fact, we all intend to keep working if possible when we have kids, because we all found value in having working mothers. I now really appreciate that my mom worked--she was a role model for me of all the things a woman could do: work, start her own business, go back to school (while working) to finish her college degree, AND be a good mother. I wouldn't trade how my parents raised me for anything. So breathe, and don't feel guilty.

Posted by: Some consolation | April 6, 2006 3:54 PM

I think that there is an important detail that has been sorely overlooked in this woman's situation. This mother made a sacrifice after exhausting other options in both private and public schools. This woman took an active role in parenting and for the sake of her children’s well-being decided to keep them at home. Yes, she had the financial means to do that, but it sure doesn't sound like it was something that she had planned to do. Good for her for working hard (sacrificing in earlier years) to get to that point in her life do be able to do that for her children! I can't say that I've done the same thing. However, I also see the mother who has to work two jobs to pay the bills as making a sacrifice of her time as well. Who are we to judge who has made the bigger sacrifice?

In this Easter season, I’m reminded to follow the example set before me to sacrifice when opportunities arise for the good of my family as a whole. (Thank you all for reminding me of that!) I'd rather focus on that than wasting my time criticizing other mothers for what they may or may not have to sacrifice in the first place.

Posted by: SBA | April 6, 2006 3:56 PM

My mother stayed home with me until I started school, and then went back to work. She now sometimes says that she thinks I missed out on some social things by NOT being in daycare. My point is that there are advantages and disadvantages to both choices, and the really important factor is not whether you work or stay home. The "self-important" working moms in the quote were probably worse mothers because they were "self-important," not because they were working moms. A self-important SAHM is just as bad. If you think your lifestyle is the only acceptable one, and you act like anyone who chooses otherwise is bad, you are teaching your kid to be arrogant and intolerant and judgmental. Not good.

My parents both worked while I was in grade school, and I never felt that I wasn't important to them, even though they had other obligations--I just didn't have their attention 24/7. And quite frankly, I didn't need it, and it was good for me to learn that the world did not, in fact, revolve around me. My parents were not worse parents for having lives outside of their children.

Posted by: Another POV | April 6, 2006 4:05 PM

CG,

I agree with your point, but I believe you were the one in previous blogs that was calling people sexist since they did not agree with the economic arrangement you thought was best.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 4:08 PM

Help me! Help me! I work in DC and have a very important job. I need my virtual dose of anger or I'll be forced to kick the cats, spank the kids, and watch the evening news when I get home from work. Could one of you please trash me or something... Even a small insult will do. Hurry, I've only got 10 more minutes to blow off before quitting time.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2006 4:17 PM

You are an unproductive and lazy specimen of the human race. Get off the blog and do some work.

Posted by: Here you go, father of 4 | April 6, 2006 4:32 PM

Thanks Here you go!!!! I was just about to leave, but next time, try to be a little more rude.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2006 4:46 PM

You want me to be more rude. Man, I thought I was being really rude. Give me some lessons, willya?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 6, 2006 5:09 PM

Why people continue to allow themselves to be baited by Father of 4 is beyond me. Ignore him. He won't go away (he likes the sound of his own voice too much), but it's better for your own mental health.

Posted by: smart | April 6, 2006 5:51 PM

Your spelling is atrocious.

Better? :)

Posted by: For father of 4 | April 6, 2006 5:51 PM

After a week of reading this blog, it seems that there is not much in the way of suggestions to balance our lives, but plenty of sugestions that other people aren't living their lives properly.

Just a thought regarding daycare. If a parent commutes 2 hours each way and works 10-12 hours and the other is SAH, does that mean that the child is not being raised by the working Mom or Dad? Is only the non-working parent raising the child? Is it impossible to believe that 2 parents working 8 hour days are not also raising their child?

Posted by: workingmom | April 6, 2006 6:59 PM

Hmmm... I guess I have a different perspective here. What most jumped out at me about this post was that these privileged parents couldn't find a way to educate their kids that didn't make them miserable. Work, stay-home, whatever, but if your kids are complaining every day for years about a decision you made, CHANGE SOMETHING!

Posted by: homeschoolingmom | April 6, 2006 8:12 PM

I applaud the decision of these parents to homeschool. However, they are far from representative of the typical homeschooling mother, nor the working mother.

Private tutors, camps, and such are afforded because this mother was working. Homeschooling if you want to call it that was possible because this mother had the flexibility of working with her husband from home.

The parents claim 'success' but the children's voices say something far different. They hated homeschooling from day one until the finish line. That's not success that just a task completed. Another thing to check off the list.

Did these parents achieve balance. No not at all. They lived their lives according to their desires and the children suffered. The tragedy is that they have lived with it and believe that this is "normal".

Their upbringing is hardly normal and the proof of that will be in their confusion when it comes to parenting their own children. They have learned by their parents example, that life revolves around them and their own interests. That is not my definition of success but failure.

Posted by: Spunky | April 6, 2006 8:25 PM

One of my employees resigned after she had a child, saying:

It's like this: let's say someone comes up to you on the street and says "I will give you $75,000 a year but in return, you will only see your child 40 hours a week. There are 168 hours in a week. This means you will see your child only 33% of it's life each year until he or she goes to school. Do you accept this offer?"

What are we really giving up when we work instead of spend time with our children? I don't mean those of us who MUST work to pay the bills (like me), I mean those of you who choose to work but could with a few adjustments stay home.

Posted by: Mix It Up | April 6, 2006 8:27 PM

My speling is to bad because I gone to pubic shcool and my teechers ain't learn Me my english no good.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 6, 2006 9:27 PM

Father of 4 - In the beginning, I found you annoying, but now I think you are amusing. Are you just making fun of the bloggers who need to lighten up and stop taking themselves so seriously?

Posted by: amused | April 6, 2006 11:15 PM

The blog comments were fascinating. In response, here are 10 Points of Clarification and 10 Suggestions on Balance. And “Because there’s always more to the story”, feel free to tune in to Washington Post Radio WTWP AM-FM, 107.7FM and 1500 AM, Friday, April 7th at 11:00. I’ll be on with one of the Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize nominated journalists Lonnae O’Neal Parker, author of I’m Every Woman. Hilary Howard will be the host.

10 Points of Clarification
1. I would never label myself a Super Mom. I have tried to do my best-period. I assume others are making similar efforts.

2. I am not rich. My husband is not rich nor is he a lawyer. We are not even close to rich, upper, middle class. In fact our sons were expelled from private school because we were unable to pay their tuition on time.

3. I have been self-employed for 20 years. Before that my husband and I had “real jobs” with major corporations. In exchange for (almost) all our time and expertise we received the opportunity to do meaningful work and benefits: paid vacations, sick leave, health insurance & a check every two weeks. Now we “eat what we kill” so we are very judicious in our use of time.

4. Like many educated people we had choices unavailable to many of our uneducated friends and relatives. We have lived in other more exciting & more expensive parts of the U.S., but we chose to settle permanently in Columbus because (a) the cost of living is reasonable; (b) my parents, grandparents, siblings, nephews and niece live here-about 14 of us have dinner together every Sunday; (c) we wanted our kids to have the spiritual and cultural experience of worshipping in the same black church congregation their great, great-grandparents joined in the late 1890s.

5. I never described the children of working Moms as “walking wounded.” Both my parents worked, both my grandparents worked, my aunts and uncles all worked. Until I went to prep school I thought all adults worked.

6. I have no household help and haven’t since 1986 when I quit my “real job.”

7. I have not plugged Leslie’s book on my blog. I have no blog, see #3 “we eat what we kill” time analysis.

8. Volunteer work was and remains mandatory for everyone in our family. My husband and I are black in that 1970’s, trying to emulate the 19th century “free people of color”, “each one-teach one”, “the revolution will not be televised” mode of blackness. Probably another reason the whole “real job” thing didn’t work out. For us, community service is about developing and maintaining a lifelong commitment. Our goal was to create conscious black men capable of operating as a blessing within the black community and the dominant culture as well.

9. No, I do not assume Princeton or Amherst or any other elite college or university is better than state or community colleges. The Ivy League college admissions hurdle was imposed by our parents and grandparents. My husband’s uncle helped argue Brown v Board of Education with Thurgood Marshall, so the collective grandparents were “concerned” about the possible consequences of our home-schooling experiment. We pretty much had to guarantee the boys would be admitted to colleges commiserate with the ones we attended (Wellesley & Dartmouth).

10. Finally, as for the situation facing women who scrub floors and/or work two jobs, I know more than a few such women. We have to stop supporting unfair labor practices. That includes challenging our friends who are paying domestic help below minimum wage-under the table-and forcing people to work excessive hours to get it. That includes saving money at Wal-Mart (and supporting their oppressive employment practices) and then patting ourselves on the back when we make tax deductible charitable contributions. To insist on a living wage, decent, affordable housing and health insurance for all workers would be the most charitable thing we could do for one another.


10 Suggestions on Balance

1. Split the chores and create opportunities for the kids to help. Everybody at our house contributes to the quality of life by doing their part. My husband and I split the management of housework. He does most of the grocery shopping; I do most of the cooking. He does all yard and car maintenance, I do all laundry. I dust, sweep and vacuum, he mops. Our kids started out with small chores, e.g. taking out the trash, and (quickly) graduated to bathroom, baseboard and window cleaning detail. Also be flexible. When the kids were small and still in school, I did most of the schlepping around to activities, lessons, field trips, etc. As they got older, my husband did almost all of it. By the time the older guys got their licenses, I stopped driving because I hated it.(See #8 )

2. Try to plan weekly menus in advance and try to shop for 30 days worth of food.

3. Collect easy, delicious, nutritious recipes. No more than 2 bowls or pots, 10 ingredients, and 30 min. total prep time!

4. Cook multiple meals at once. My recipes for lasagna, roast chicken, macaroni & cheese, fresh greens and pound cake each make enough for at least 10 servings.

5. Create a cooperative. Every place we’ve lived, I’ve developed a coop/shared relationship with at least two other families. This takes care of those times when you have to take a break, have to run an errand, need to help care for an elderly relative, etc. And when you’re making cookies, take an extra plate down the street-help establish your own community.

6. Set a time limit on work-all work. Whatever I’m doing, I’m focused on it-for that period of time. When that time is over, I stop, put it down and focus on the next thing. I do not allow myself to fret over what didn’t get finished-my time is up, I will have to finish it later. This is not as easy as it sounds, but with practice it helps eliminate guilt and that mediocre work that ensues from the “jack of all trades, master of none” syndrome.

7. Psych yourself & everybody else up for the periodic “big clean-ups.” Schedule it, put it on the calendar, talk it up, get tons of great snacks and beverages and upbeat cd’s. When the day arrives(we try to do it once a quarter), get up early, set the alarm for the designated work time (see #8), get the supplies you put out the night before, crank up the cd player and get to work. When the time is up & the alarm sounds-stop. Knowing there’s a definite end leads to greater productivity. The worse thing in the world is thinking you’ll be spending all day cleaning!

8. If at all possible, try not to do stuff you hate. My husband and I hate entirely different things. We try to never ask each other to something on the hate list.

9. There’s always more than one way to skin a cat. You’ll never get the help needed if you critique everything everybody does all the time. My husband did not bathe, feed, diaper, burp, carry or play with our babies the way I did. He started taking them to the drive-in when the twins were just 6 months old. He’d take their little bassinet and a diaper bag and tell me he was going to “hang out with my boys”. Sometimes I would just cringe, but, guess what? He didn’t kill or break any of them. Plus, I never had the full burden of caring for them or disciplining them or talking to them or listening to them. Best of all, they’ve always been very close to their Dad which is great because he’s much better suited than I to advise them on how to function as men.

10. Say thank you early and often! Practice saying thanks when the person picks up the broom-you don’t have to wait until the job is done. When it is done, say thanks again. And at the end of the day, week, month, thank one another for how hard everyone tried to work together for the good of the family. Say thanks for the effort-even when the results aren’t perfect. After a while, odds are your family will start thanking you too!

Okay, my designated time for this blog response is up!

Posted by: Paula | April 7, 2006 1:23 AM

Paula should have a blog - she's got something interesting to say. I see that she doesn't have the time, and I applaud her for living her life instead of spending time on the computer fanning the flames of the "mommy wars" as her friend Leslie does. I've been lurking here for weeks, finding the comments much more interesting than Leslie's posts! Leslie, I'm not going to buy your book. Wouldn't even pick it up in the bookstore, that's how unoriginal and uninspiring I find your views.

Posted by: Paula for president! | April 7, 2006 7:24 AM

Thanks, Paula, for the excellent post.

Posted by: Another vote for Paula | April 7, 2006 10:25 AM

Leslie, that piece was written twelve years ago. It's time to let go. Sure, such opinions still exist but in my experience they are held by a minority; bottom line: anyone who has to denigrate others' personal choices has issues with their own.

Tracey Henley
Silver Spring, MD

Posted by: Tracey | April 7, 2006 10:36 AM

EXPELLED at ages 9 and 11? Hmmmmm...

It sounds like that ambitious, educated, lawyer couple did the right thing in rescuing their sons by switching to home-schooling. I applaud that decision and do like the "happy ending".

But I have to wonder where these parents were the first 11 years of the boys'lives- the ones leading up to the expulsion? I mean, really, all THREE boys?

Posted by: Bernadette | April 7, 2006 12:03 PM

Mea Culpa - I wrote my entry before I read Paula's extra-long one. Is it really really called "expelled" if the issue is non-payment of tuition?

Posted by: Bernadette | April 7, 2006 12:11 PM

Thanks, Paula, for the great response. Very interesting and informative.

Posted by: Catherine | April 7, 2006 3:43 PM

I believe the NYT column from more than 10 yeasr ago was written by Terry Martin Hekker, author of Ever Since Adam and Eve. She recently wrote another column for the Times about how her husband has left her after 40 years of marriage. She now says, "I read about the young mothers of today -- educated, employed, self-sufficient -- who drop out of the work force when they have children. "And I worry and wonder ... Maybe they'll be fine. But the fragility of modern marriage suggests that at least half of them may not be."

Posted by: BTD | April 7, 2006 4:09 PM

I love reading your columns and admire you for putting your life "on display"...letting us other moms know that we're not the only ones going through these things and feeling the way we do. I just feel sorry for you when people are so critical...analyzing you and your parenting and your marriage. I imagine you must have a very tough skin. You'd have to. Either that, or you don't read the comments :)

Posted by: Mom of One | April 24, 2006 1:34 PM

The rich have always had nannies and the poor have not. It's just the middle class that are fighting about whether to have a nanny or not. No matter what one does mistakes are made. Kids develop in spite of us and because of us. Get over it.

Posted by: None of your business | July 3, 2006 2:27 PM

As a stay at home mom of four for 26 years, I find I interesting to note that most of the comments are from parents of young children. To those of you who are working and are conflicted about your choice, I say, "Relax, your children are going to turn out fine, you are going to be a more interesting person for having worked and if life throws you a curve in your 40's or 50's, you"ll be better prepared financially to handle it."

I stayed at home because I wanted to and although I enjoyed it immensely, financially it was sometimes really tough. While my husband agreed with my decision and supported it, having one bread winner required him to work long hours and we have grown apart. When our youngest child graduates next spring, we will divorce.

As a college graduate, I had a promising career in technology in the 70's, but abandoned it when we had children. Now in my early 50's, I am trying to figure out what I will do to earn a living for myself. (Technology is out. I don't know of anyone still programming with punch cards.) Yes, there will be alimony and a division of assets, but as a 50+ divorcee, I am told I can expect my standard of living to decrease by half. I will need to work to suppliment the alimony, but finding employment which will provide for living expenses and retirement is going to be difficult. (Have you looked on AARP's web site for jobs "friendly" to the 50+ set?)

Our children have turned out wonderfully (one lawyer, one college grad., one in college, and one high school senior; all happy and healthy) and I have many sweet memories of their childhood, but all four children (that's three daughters for those of you who are counting) are planning to be working parents and I applaud their choice.

Reading this, I'm sure many of you are thinking it will never happen to you. (Well, 26 years ago, when I married my high school sweetheart, I didn't think it would ever happen to me either.) But life doesn't always turn out as planned and I would encourage each of you to think about your life now and what you would do in 25 years if you found yourself in my situation. Would you keep your job and try to balance your needs with your family's needs or quit your job and stay at home?

Posted by: Stay at Home Mom of 4 | September 10, 2006 11:45 PM

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