Archive: June 2006

Free-for-All: Dads Just Want to Stay Home

My husband likes to joke that he'd love to stay home with our kids. He does not mean he wants to play Candyland, make their lunches, ferry them around town to basketball/art camp/computer class/speech therapy, grocery shop, and try really hard not to scream at them at 6 p.m. What he means is he'd love to skip work, see the kids more, work out at the gym, take a nap every afternoon and occasionally play golf, while someone (me or a babysitter) actually took care of our children. For him, "staying home" is code for "goofing off." Perhaps I should take Perry's banter more seriously. Richard Castellini, senior career adviser for CareerBuilder.com, reports that the company's recent "Working Dads 2006" survey showed that 40% of working dads would stay home with their children if their spouse or partner earned enough to support their families. The survey included more than 225...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 30, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (123)

Celebrating Daycare

I wish that everyone who has ever disparaged daycare or scoffed at government subsidies of child-care centers could have been with me on Monday afternoon. My four-year-old daughter and I went to a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Small Savers Child Development Center at the Office of Thrift Supervision, a federal agency in downtown Washington, D.C. My daughter spent much of her first year of life in the infant room while I was at work a few blocks away. For me, working motherhood would not have been possible without quality daycare like Small Savers. The party was filled with about 200 parents, staff, and, of course, children of all ages tearing around playfully, bringing life and illumination to the drab government building conference room. The woman who founded the non-profit parent cooperative center in 1986 was honored. The director, who has run Small Savers for...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 28, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (153)

Just A Nanny

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Lauren Hoffman I'm not Mary Poppins or Jo Frost or a character from The Nanny Diaries. I'm Henry's nanny. Caring for him may be the most important work I'll ever do. Often, I'm the only young, white nanny on the playground and I'm mistaken for a fellow mommy. True to playground politics, some moms back off when they learn I'm the nanny. An especially tactless mom once remarked, "Oh, sorry! Usually the nanny and the child are different ethnicities." Others stay and chat, and when they do, they start to talk about the...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 27, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Breast-Feed -- or Else

Last Tuesday, the New York Times ran a front page science article titled "Breast-Feed or Else." It included lots of interesting information about moms who breast-feed (charts showing that they are wealthier, older, better-educated) and evidence of indisputable longterm health and (possible cognitive) benefits to children. The article also communicated a warning: U.S. public health officials are very publicly, very judgmentally proclaiming (through a two-year television awareness campaign and lengthy newspaper quotes) that not breast-feeding may be hazardous to your baby's health. Okay. Close to my edge, but not over my edge. Hypothetical next steps is where the debate gets sticky. Should women be forced to breast-feed? Should we be punished (I see $50 pink tickets) if caught giving baby a bottle? What if a woman determines, because of postpartum depression or health issues or her need to return to work quickly, that it is in her best interest, if...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 26, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Comedy of Parenthood

The 2002 publication of Allison Pearson's novel "I Don't Know How She Does It" proved -- contrary to my and so many women's earnest beliefs that "having it all" was possible -- that working motherhood is, in fact, a comedy gone haywire. Like last week when my husband had an early morning meeting and, with the usual degree of chaos, I fed and dressed our three kids and myself and marshaled us all into the car and drove all the way to my youngest's day camp -- only to remember that her camp met at the park next to my house that day. Instead of grimly gritting my teeth and calling to cancel the meeting I was already late to, I could have (should have?) laughed. There are plenty of "laughable" moments. The once-a-week "accidents" my 4-year-old has all over her pants, underwear, socks, sneakers and our new carpet once...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 23, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Why We Need Britney

Britney Spears's success as an entertainer and businesswoman is almost beyond comprehension: She's worth a reported $100 million and clocks in as the only female recording artist in history to have four consecutive albums debut at No. 1. And she's 24. She's also a new mom, pregnant with her second child, married to a sexy 28-year-old cad with two children by another woman. Within a year of having her first child, she's seemingly set on breaking records for irresponsible motherhood, albeit with campy, glamorous accoutrements. She's driven on the Pacific Coast Highway with baby Sean wedged between herself and the steering wheel, received a visit from California Family Services investigating her child's fall off a high chair, motored along in a convertible with Sean asleep in a front-facing child seat, and nearly dropped her baby on a New York City sidewalk. Britney recently defended herself as a wife and mother...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 22, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (170)

High Price of Day Care?

I can't stand most media reports about day care, because they seem designed to terrify and guilt-trip working moms. The reports are never about quality day care, which I've found to be a godsend in my life as a working parent. However, an article on the high price of day care, which ran in the New York Times last Wednesday, is well worth reading. The findings were objective. Unsettling, too. The article reported on a day care experiment in Canada. Synopsis: 10 years ago the Quebec Family Policy started subsidizing day care at government-approved centers, ultimately spending $1.4 billion a year to offer care at only $7 a day. Mothers who suddenly had an affordable way to return to work did so in droves and gave the economy a lift. Great so far, right? Then three well-respected economists analyzed the well-being of the children (and parents) in the program. They...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 21, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (185)

Guest Blog: Down Will Come Mama: Work & Postpartum Depression

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. Down Will Come Mama: Work and Postpartum Depression Rebecca Kaminsky writes the column Down Will Come Baby for the online magazine Literary Mama, where she is also the Literary Reviews Editor. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined, as well as the anthology Wednesday Writers: Ten Years of Writing Women's Lives. She lives in Berkeley, Calif., with her husband and two sons. At 29, one month into new motherhood, I went out with my husband and son for our first dinner at a restaurant. On the way out to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 20, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

All Women's Fault

Linda Hirshman, a retired philosophy professor-cum-provocateur with an ego bigger than Mumbai, seems to be making a second career infuriating moms -- those at home and those at work. Hirshman wrote a condescending American Prospect article last year deriding women who stay home with children, 60 Minutes interviewed her in October 2004 about her pseudo "analysis" of the percentage of women profiled in the New York Times Weddings section who were staying home with children five years later, and Good Morning America featured her on their infamous "Mommy Wars" segment this spring, which prompted the National Organization of Women to circulate a petition in protest. Hirshman just published the modestly-titled "Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World." Most moms have not been too happy about her views; in response, Hirshman told her side in a Washington Post Outlook piece yesterday, "Everybody Hates Linda." To me, what's fascinating...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 19, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (464)

Father's Day

In honor of Father's Day this Sunday, I asked my husband to explain his views on dads, moms and "balance." Cat Poop on Sundays By Perry Steiner Dads are simple, very simple. We want to have fun with our kids, share laughs with our friends, have sex with our wives, and occasionally play or watch some sports. We like hanging out without being nagged. We go to work. That's about it. The truth is that a lot of men don't struggle with the same work-home balance issues that moms face, and we don't understand or relate to most of it. I've sat through dozens of conversations with Leslie and her friends on women's struggles of work vs. family. I'm probably one of the few men who has read her book. As a clueless husband, I was shocked by it. Shocked by the never-ending anxiety. Shocked by the extreme highs and...

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

Singletary Weighs in on Postnups Debate

Yesterday's postnup debate prompted some people to ask what Michelle Singletary would say about them. So, we asked Michelle to weigh in. Here's her response: Prenup and Postnup Debate By Michelle Singletary I found the blog discussion and comments very interesting yesterday. The question of the day was whether it makes sense to have a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement. A few folks suggested I should weigh in on the topic, and so I shall. In my latest book, "Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich," I tell it like it should be. A prenuptial agreement is a plan to fail. A postnuptial agreement (a prenup done after the fact) is an exit strategy. Both are battle plans. Many will disagree with me, thinking this woman clearly hasn't got a grip on the high divorce rate in this country. I...

By Stacey Garfinkle | June 15, 2006; 8:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Postnups for Stay-at-Home Parents

Last week I heard a segment on American Public Radio's Marketplace about postnuptial agreements. Postnups are growing in popularity as a smart way to help married couples cope with battles over money -- who earns it and who spends it. Anxiety over long-term financial security is a common issue undermining couples' happiness, especially when one parent scales back or gives up a career to be their children's primary caregiver. The financial "what ifs?" can run an endless loop in many stay-at-home moms' (and dads') minds when they don't have a paycheck and benefits in their name. Marketplace interviewed New York lawyer Cynthia Rubin, who has drafted agreements to protect the parent who forgoes his or her earning potential to stay home with children. "[A]n identity change [can] cause a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in a marriage...[I worked with] a couple who had decided the wife would stay home with...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Guest Blog: 'I Am an Autism Mom'

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. Everything Else Vanishes By Christina Adams Christina Adams is the author of A Real Boy: A True Story of Autism, Early Intervention and Recovery. Her work has appeared on NPR and in The Los Angeles Times Magazine and Brain, Child Magazine. Life was normal for my son for a time, and then it wasn't. The bright, social 15-month-old who charmed his pediatrician with his curiosity and skills turned somber, spent his time alone and became obsessed with water and vaccuum cleaners. I didn't know why, didn't know that at nearly three years old he'd...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 13, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (145)

Bed Rest and Work? HOW?

In March, an op-ed piece in the New York Times about bed rest opened my eyes to how common the treatment has become. Each year 750,000 (1 in 5) pregnant women are prescribed bed rest to treat ailments ranging from low amniotic fluid to pregnancy-induced hypertension--without clear medical evidence that bed rest is therapeutic. Having endured that frustrating experience herself, the writer of the New York Times piece, Sarah Bilston, wrote a novel, Bed Rest, which I reviewed for the Washington Post Book World. I didn't like it much. Bed rest is simultaneously terrifying and boring -- to go through yourself and certainly to read about in your non-existent leisure time. Plus, in a cop-out that trivializes the challenges facing pregnant women everywhere, Bilston dodges the real issues at stake: high medical costs, lost pay, and debilitating double whammy that 1) your baby's health might be at stake and 2)...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 12, 2006; 10:16 AM ET | Comments (71)

Do Dads Volunteer?

Last week, I went to a thank-you luncheon for more than 60 parent volunteers at my childrens' school. There were working moms, stay-at-home moms and one grandmother. Not a dad in sight. Was this lunch an anomaly, or is the school volunteer ethic strictly pink? What's going on? I see lots of dads coaching kids' sports teams and a few PTA presidents. But almost no Room Dads or male volunteers working at the book sale or the bake sale or the other every day volunteer events. Why don't fathers volunteer more at schools? Is it simply that there are 5.6 million stay-at-home moms in America and only 147,000 stay-at-home dads? Is some kind of subtle bias at work?...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 9, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

$48.9 Million Babies

The Washington Post and other newspapers reported yesterday that Verizon settled its landmark 2002 class-action pregnancy bias suit for $48.9 million -- the second-largest pregnancy discrimination settlement ever. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission calculated that Verizon predecessors Nynex and Bell Atlantic illegally denied 12,326 current and former female employees pension and other benefits when pregnant or on maternity leave from July 1965 through December 1983, violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, all of which protect women's equal rights in the workplace. Although lawsuits are expensive, unpleasant undertakings for all involved, this settlement -- and the future legal protection it suggests -- are good news for the 64 million working moms in this country, 51% of whom return to work within four months of giving birth. Before laws were enacted protecting working women, we were required...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 7, 2006; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Guest Blog: More on Mad Room Moms

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Jennifer Frey, a staff writer for the Washington Post and author of Chamique Holdsclaw: My Story. This blog is Jennifer's postscript to yesterday's article in The Washington Post Style section, Mom to the Max, describing the endless e-mails, backpack memos, potluck charts, field trip sign-up sheets and teacher gift registries required of today's elementary school Room Mothers. Diary of a Mad Room Mother Room Parents: Nothing but admiration there. Not sure whether or not I've offended and/or alienated the room moms in my second-grade daughter's class. (But here's the desperate plea: I hope...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 6, 2006; 7:21 AM ET | Comments (166)

The Daddy Difference

A June 1 article in The Washington Post ran under the headline Father Knows Best: Education Linked to Dads' Parenting Skills with the news that dads with higher levels of education are more involved in their children's daily lives. The survey involved about 4,900 men age 15 to 44 nationwide who were interviewed in 2002 and 2003 by the National Center for Health Statistics. Based on the findings, researchers estimated that about 28 million American men have children under the age of 19. About 75 percent live with their kids. Those with more education tend to interact the most, the survey found. Among dads who had attended college, about 87 percent said they played with their children daily, compared with about 76 percent of those who had a high school diploma or less. Roughly 65 percent of more educated fathers say they routinely bathe or dress their children, compared with...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 5, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Friday Free-for-All -- 19 Years "Wasted"

Last Saturday, I read from Mommy Wars at a Frederick, Md., Borders. During the discussion afterwards, a stay-at-home mom talked of her difficulty re-entering the workforce after 19 years at home raising her children. She looked to be in her late 30s, youthful, fit, energetic, confident, and at peace with her choice to stay home for nearly two decades. "I've loved being home raising my children -- nothing compares to the bond a mom has with her kids. Now, my three kids are teenagers, I've gotten a new degree, and I'm ready to go back to work," she explained. "But last week, a woman in human resources told me I'd 'wasted the last 19 years' taking care of my children. What could I say?" First, let me express my outrage that anyone, especially a woman in human resouces, would be so mean-spirited and unwise as to offend a potential employee...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 2, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (116)

Childcare Summer Blues

I'm in shock -- the final day at my four-year-old's preschool was Friday. My older kids get out for the summer in less than a week. My carefully orchestrated camp schedule doesn't start until mid-June. How am I going to get time to work until then? There are few more stark dividers of working vs. at-home moms than how we feel about summer. The stay-at-home moms at my kids' schools, wearing cut-off shorts and pretty summer dresses, cluster in groups talking about the local public pool hours, weeks at the beach, lazy summer mornings with the whole family (albeit minus dad) in pajamas until 11 a.m. Or at least lots of time with their kids, even if it's spent folding laundry and running errands. A perk of stay-at-home motherhood that I envy most is that summer still means...summer. My working mom friends have stunned looks on their faces and sweat...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 1, 2006; 8:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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