Archive: July 2006

Secrets of the Upper Class

The folks at New York Magazine who brought us the definitive mommy wars article in 2002, Mom vs. Mom , have done it again -- captured motherhood in its zaniest, most insane, competitive, hilarious moments. The July 24 issue includes Emily Nussbaum's brilliant commentary about the infamous discussion board UrbanBaby, Mothers Anonymous. (Quick background for the uninitiated: UrbanBaby was founded in 1999 as an upscale motherhood message board and is now available in seven cities nationwide. The site is anonymous and you can search for just about any subject you want to discuss -- marriage, divorce, returning to work, pregnancy complications, potty training, preschools, sleep training, celebrities and sex.) Emily describes the site's appeal best: "On UrbanBaby, the private lives of city mothers are lit up and exposed. All the houses are glass there, and everybody's got a rock. ... because UrbanBaby is anonymous -- and online, anonymity acts like...

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

Your Worst Job Ever

Continuing in the spirit of Devil Bosses and Devil Employees, let's hear about the worst job you ever had or the craziest thing a boss ever asked you to do. My worst job: I spent one entire summer in college alone in a small room with a huge mound of black charred documents and a copier machine. There had been a fire in one of the biology labs and my job was to photocopy what was left of the crispy remains in the hopes that some of the research could be salvaged. By the end I'd turned the pile into several neat stacks of white paper. I was allowed a small radio and 30 minutes to eat lunch. The longest summer of my life....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 28, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Introducing Rebeldad

My name is Brian Reid, and Leslie has been nice enough to invite me on board to be a regular guest blogger. My official charge is to look at work-life balance questions from a dad point of view, and I'm thrilled at the prospect. The wonder of On Balance is the readers ... and the aggressive and thoughtful and passionate comments that flow after every post. I've written on the subject of work-family balance in the past -- some of you may have visited my blog at rebeldad.com -- largely from the point of view of an at-home dad with a bad freelance journalism habit, a juggling act I performed, with varied success, for the better part of three years. I remain incredibly interested in guys who make the choice to stay home and the way that society shapes their choices (and the way, in return, those pioneers then shape...

By Brian Reid | July 27, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Business Schools Target Stay-at-Home Moms

According to the Wall Street Journal's "Career Journal" some of our country's elite business schools are discovering the talents of stay-at-home moms. The schools seem serious about attracting moms to new custom-tailored executive education programs -- in large part because business schools, unlike law and medical schools, have had an extremely hard time recruiting women to their programs in consistently large enough numbers to bring the percentage of female students above 30 percent. Finally, business schools (and large employers who traditionally recruit freshly-minted MBAs such as Deloitte & Touche, Citigroup and Booz Allen Hamilton) are increasingly showing interest in women who left work to raise children but are now interested in returning (see Sue Shellenbarger's Work & Family piece from February for more about corporate mentoring, networking, and training programs for re-entry moms). The Career Journal article reports that Harvard, Wharton, Dartmouth and other top b-schools are "[s]eeking to tap...

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

Russian Orphan Makes Six

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 Shari MacDonald Strong When I announce to friends and co-workers that a teenager from St. Petersburg is living with our family this summer, people think I'm crazy. They have a point. My husband and I already have three children, ages three to six. But I keep remembering what Michael J. Fox said in an interview before his fourth child's birth: Something about looking around at his family and realizing someone was missing from the party. If a child is missing from our family, I thought I knew where we'd find her. We've already...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 25, 2006; 7:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

Could You Be A Stay-at-Home Mom?

An accomplished working mom I know who has three children under the age of four spent the last year testing the waters of stay-at-home motherhood. She took a six-month sabbatical from her job in media production. Then, with mixed feelings, she decided to stay home for good -- or at least until her children are in full-day school. I ran into her right after we'd both gotten our preschool's emergency forms for this fall, the kind with a blank line next to EMPLOYER. "I couldn't finish the form," my friend told me. "What I do for work -- that's my identity." Work is not necessarily every parent's identity -- first and foremost, a job means a paycheck and health insurance --but I identified with her conflict. Many women I know have spent the past 20 years or more working -- in high school and then in college and afterwards to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 24, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Devil Employees

By popular request, today's free-for-all: the worst employees you've come across. My horror stories, strangely, didn't have to do with actual work, and they are hardly horror stories. But I've racked my experience and these are the best I can cough up. They both had to do with...clothes. Specifically, how employees dressed at corporate offices. One 20-something woman, a recent graduate from a prestigious MBA program, wore a white thong underneath a short, very sheer, white skirt. Neither men nor women could get much work done when she walked by. Another was an intern who wore flip-flops daily. (She didn't get asked back.) Both seemed sincerely puzzled that their choices weren't appropriate office attire. The experience taught me why hyper-specific company dress codes came about in the first place. I admit these are both pretty lame, boring stories. I hope you all have better ones. Can't wait to read 'em....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 21, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fewer Women At Work

Amidst all the hair pulling (or rejoicing, depending on one's view) over talented, well-educated women "opting out" of the workforce to raise kids, the Washington Post's Business section recently ran Whither the Women?, an article filled with interesting facts about women's participation in the work force since World War II. According to the article, 66 percent of adults work. Fifty-nine percent of women work; close to 74 percent of men work. According to some economists, the share of working women peaked in 2000 at just over 60 percent, providing fodder for opinion leaders on women's issues to start scratching their heads. A noteworthy example was Lisa Belkins' October 2003 New York Times Magazine piece The Opt-Out Revolution. Belkin interviewed several Atlanta mothers who reflected the United States Census statistics showing the number of children being cared for by stay-at-home moms had increased nearly 13 percent in less than a decade;...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 19, 2006; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Summer To Remember

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 Susan Lovett Payton I've worked for the same company for 13½ years -- full time for seven years and part- time (4 days a week) for the last 6½. While here, I've gone from being single and carefree to married with two children and a dog. Recently, my husband's work hours have gotten longer and travel has become a job requirement. I started thinking I needed to get back on balance. My initial plan was to leave my job at the end of the school year. I would spend a lazy summer with...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 18, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Ask A Working Woman

The AFL-CIO, which bills itself as the largest organization of working women in America, is sponsoring the 2006 Ask A Working Woman Survey. The online survey, which the AFL-CIO describes as "our chance to be heard as working women," lets you rank the importance of laws that would improve working women's lives, offers an opportunity to complain about how woman-unfriendly your job is, and asks the usual demographic age/education/ethnicity questions. It takes less time to complete than snickering through Father of 4's latest rant. I recommend it to all of you who love to express opinions (ie, everyone). Smart idea, this survey. Can't wait to see everyone's answers, which will be delivered to all U.S. representatives and senators as well as state and local officials around the country on Labor Day. In the meantime, here's the best question: In 600 characters or less, describe the most important thing members of...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 17, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (252)

Devil Bosses

Inspired by the Meryl Streep movie "The Devil Wears Prada," Washington Post business reporter Amy Joyce described several "devil bosses" in her Life at Work column last Sunday. The article made me recall a few nasty bosses of my own -- including one tyrannical Iraqi woman who inflicted upon me the fear and intimidation tactics she'd learned growing up in a series of British boarding schools. But none compares to the woman who made all employees in her department stay at work during a two-foot snowfall that ended up closing the entire company for two days. We all had young children in day care and school whom we needed to get to -- and then get home safely -- but she was oblivious, even as afternoon darkness fell. We knew she was largely clueless and not intentionally endangering our children, but we were all so intimidated by her past tirades...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (223)

Your Job or Your Kid?

Work & Family columnist Sue Shellenbarger of The Wall Street Journal recently ran an excellent recap about increasing legal protection for working parents with special-needs children that bodes well for all working parents. New Rulings Clarify Job Protections for Parents of Children With Disabilities (subscription or payment required) described several parents who had been fired for attending to their children's crises, even when they had continued to get their jobs done without accommodations. The parents sued -- and two of three rulings, in Chicago and Springfield, Ill, supported their rights as caregivers who had been discrimated against at work. According to Shellenbarger's article, under current law the Americans with Disabilities Act outlaws discrimination against caregivers to the disabled. (See www.caregiver.org or www.wrightslaw.com for helpful information.) However, the ADA does not require employers to provide different schedules or job responsibilities to accommodate parents, and employers and employees may disagree on whether...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 12, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (132)

Seeking Imperfect Balance

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 Dawn Reeves GUILTY. That's how I feel right now, and a lot of the time. My 17-month-old son is at day care, I'm at home working -- one of the two days a week I work from home. At first, I thought I could have him with me on these days. But part-time day care is not available in his age group in our area, and besides, I still can't get much done when he is around. So, I intersperse my work with laundry, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, all the while feeling torn and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 11, 2006; 6:50 AM ET | Comments (278)

Latest Guilt Trip for Mothers

Steel yourselves, sisters: Here's the latest guilt trip for mothers (double dose for working moms who delay childbearing to establish selves in career). You need to have children before you turn 25. This comes our way from a respected husband-and-wife research team at the University of Chicago, whose latest findings show that children born to mothers under 25 have double the chance of living to 100 and beyond. Data shows the father's age to be less important (of course!). All of this was reported in a June 23 Reuter's article titled Key to Long Life May Be Mom's Age. This kind of reporting on complex issues facing mothers, packaged as objective data but infused with a finger-wag at women, drives me crazy. For instance, the researcher was quoted as saying, "The finding that children born to young women are more likely to live to 100 may have important social implications...because...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 10, 2006; 9:40 AM ET | Comments (130)

Finding Great Babysitters

As we all know, you can't work (or get much else done) without good child care, preferably that doesn't cost a fortune. What's your best advice for finding -- and keeping -- good babysitters? My two cents: Finding babysitters is a learned skill. As a new mom I was terrible and had to use babysitting agencies, which were expensive and not very good for finding occasional sitters (much better for finding full-time nannies). I've now learned to constantly be on the lookout for good sitters. Over time, I've found teenagers and college students to be the best. The right ones take babysitting seriously and appreciate the money. When I spot someone who seems friendly and eager to spend more time with my kids, I immediately ask for their number (although I never ask my friends' sitters -- no poaching seems to be the rule here in D.C.) I've found a...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 7, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (173)

$100K Nannies

Good news -- evidence that quality child care is becoming increasingly valued in our society. Last Friday, USA Today ran an article in the Money section titled CEOs Shell Out Nearly 6 Figures to Secure the Perfect Nanny. The cover story profiled several experienced, college-educated nannies who earn close to $100,000, plus benefits including paid vacations, room and board, gym memberships, employer-furnished vehicles, cellphones and health insurance. For those of you interested in finding nannies with these qualifications -- or applying for these jobs yourselves -- an international resource cited in the article is the International Nanny Association. A well-known Washington, D.C., agency is White House Nannies, and a quick Internet search reveals dozens more high-end nanny placement firms around the country. For average nanny salaries in your area, check out the International Nanny Association's 2006 Salary Survey, which breaks out results by region. Salaries ranged from $300 to more...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 6, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (282)

Hirshman and the Value of Working, Round Two

Former lawyer-cum-philosphy professor Linda Hirshman continues to fire up debates over the value of working vs. stay-at-home motherhood. For some of the latest coverage, see The Los Angeles Times She's The Woman All The Other Women Love or Hate and two articles in Slate, Emily Bazelon's Understanding Betty Friedan and Megan O'Rourke's A Working Girl Can Win. Although I disagree with the way Hirshman blames stay-at-home moms (she calls them "dropout daughters" on page 66 of Get to Work, compares staying at home with kids to riding a motorcycle without a helmet, and accuses at-home moms of not being tough enough to "stick it out" at work once they have children), she's getting a lot of women -- and men -- talking about work, economic independence, power and choices. The heated discussions she generates are an unmitigated public good. Hallelujah! After debating Hirshman on Washington Post Radio and Fox News...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 5, 2006; 9:57 AM ET | Comments (236)

Single Mom Seeks Playdates, Blind Dates

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday -- in this case, Monday, because of tomorrow's holiday -- "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 Rachel Sarah My boyfriend -- who was bipolar and an alcoholic -- walked out the door on Thanksgiving Day in 2000. His whereabouts? Unknown. In hindsight, I feel lucky to be free of him. But I wasn't exactly prepared to be the 28-year-old single working mom of our seven-month-old baby. As a researcher at Time Inc., then a freelance editor and writer in New York City, I'd managed to support myself for a decade. Now, I had to turn to family and friends...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 3, 2006; 7:58 AM ET | Comments (212)

 

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