Archive: September 2006

Surviving the Arsenic Hours

Great suggestion from last Wednesday to have a free-for-all on how working and stay-at-home parents survive the so-called "arsenic hours" between 4 and 8 p.m. Not sure whether the moniker has stuck because we want to slip our kids arsenic or take it ourselves, but we all know exactly what that chaotic time period feels like when you're managing the transition from school and work to home and homework and seemingly endless childcare and household chores. My first pediatrician warned me that the vast number of childhood accidents occur during this time, when both parents and kids are tired, hungry and generally frazzled. The best advice I ever received was from my high school pal Kyra who told me to give my kids dinner as early as possible. I had some strange rule in my mind that one had to wait until 6 p.m. By then all heck had broken...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 29, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (150)

The New Daddy Wars?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Say what you will about The New Republic (and here in Washington, you probably do have something to say about it), but it's generally a pretty thoughtful magazine. Not always right, but thoughtful. TNR has covered parenting issues with some depth in the past, and Jonathan Cohn put up a blog post on the magazine's site earlier this year aptly noting that discussing Mommy Wars without daddy voices isn't likely to move the discussion very far. So I was actually excited to see that they gave the cover treatment to the "Mommy Wars" this week. But despite the intellectual heft of the piece, by James Wolcott, it's not particularly interesting or novel; really, do we need another piece taking hundreds of words to point out that Caitlin Flanagan is a hypocritical pseudo-housewife? But what is interesting to me was Wolcott's intro, and though the article is...

By Brian Reid | September 28, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Meow!

Add this one to the pile of recent nauseating articles by men purporting to understand women: an article belittling the trade-offs facing working and at-home mothers, which appears in the October 2nd issue of The New Republic (available by subscription) under the following catchy title: Mommies, mommies, mommies. The subtitle is Meow Mix. There is nothing terrible about the article (except that I, of course, disagree with the reasons it slams my book Mommy Wars). It's the five words in the title that really get at the heart of what's wrong with our culture when it comes to respecting women. I'm not sure I need to say anything more. But, of course, I will. Mostly, how could a writer and editor smart enough to remain employed by a national consumer magazine sanction a title that compares women to felines? This is my main point here. The days of comparing women,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 27, 2006; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (208)

Father of 4 Tells All

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. Scraping By By Father of 4 My wife is a hero. Since the time she was a teenager, she helped her father raise her four younger siblings after her mother abandoned the family. When I met her, she was barely supporting herself by working retail. I had just enough experience to get a full-time programming job, so I dropped out of college and went for the money. I bought a small chunk of carbon and a gold ring on credit. It was the best investment I ever made. Two weeks after returning to work...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 26, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (308)

Getting Back on Track

Just when I was about to accept that the sexist, clueless men who run America will never, ever recognize what an easy, cost-effective investment it is to support working moms with childcare, tax breaks, legal protection at work and incentives for family-friendly business practices, out comes Newsweek's annual issue devoted to women, Women & Leadership: The Next Generation. More than three million people subscribe to Newsweek; I figure the editors there wouldn't devote an entire issue to lauding powerful women unless at least a few of the readers agree that "powerful women" is not an oxymoron. Anna Quindlen's Everyday Equality essay alone -- it's on the last page but I always read her first -- will carry me for at least another week. If you read the magazine from the front like you're suppposed to, the first feature is a package of short bios on successful working women, mostly celebs...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 25, 2006; 8:50 AM ET | Comments (166)

To Keep Or Not To Keep Your Maiden Name

One of the tangents in the comments of last week's Ann Richards' blog tackled keeping or discarding your maiden name once married. Although not as significant as childcare, pregnancy discrimination, equal pay or other profoundly important working mom issues, I always find the highly personal-equally public decision about what name a woman uses to be fascinating. I've done both -- I didn't change my name during my brief, miserable first marriage (good move there) and I did change my name when I married husband No. 2 six years later. Mostly, I changed my name because my feminist zeal had faded and it mattered more to me that my kids and I had the same last name than what that last name was (although gee, I wish I lived in a world where the man agonized over giving up his identity). Did you change your name when you married? How has...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 22, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (666)

Flexibility for Those In Less-Than-Flexible Positions

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My last couple of posts have focused on a minority of the workforce -- digital Bedouins such as myself whose job it is to sit behind a computer and think great thoughts. And a good number of readers, both in the comments and in e-mails to me, very politely noted that I have a pretty narrow-minded view of the work world and that the great majority of the country is tied to their job by something more than a Wi-Fi signal. I'm not purposely ignoring the nurses and dentists and teachers and baristas and law clerks and on and on. I just believe that the fight for flexibility needs to start somewhere, and what better place than those workers whose work life consists of staring at a flickering screen, something that can be done anywhere at any time? But asking about those who aren't solely computer-oriented...

By Brian Reid | September 21, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (237)

Modern Moms, Outdated Laws

Do you and your spouse both work? Do you face simple, daily hurdles from your work hours to the cost of childcare to the income taxes you pay? If so, you are most definitely not alone. Two-income families now constitute two-thirds of all married couples; women account for 59 percent of the American workforce. Yet working women ages 22-55 are paying some of the highest tax rates in the country and married women who work outside the home are likely to pay the highest marginal tax rates in the country. These are just a few of the troubling facts contained in a new book Leaving Women Behind: Modern Families, Outdated Laws, co-written by Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel and John Goodman and Celeste Colgan of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). "The entry of women into the workforce has been the greatest economic and sociological change in our...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 20, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (275)

Before Baby

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 E. M. Wallace I read this blog every day and I'm not really sure why. My husband and I don't have kids and aren't sure where they fit into our future. Some of the blog topics start conversations and make us consider different ideas. We don't know if both of us should work or if one of us should work. One of us has a job that's a passion, but doesn't yet pay enough to support a whole family. The other one has a job that's financially lucrative but isn't remotely fulfilling. We...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 19, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (372)

Working Mom Top Fears

In July we chewed on issues raised by the AFL-CIO's Ask A Working Woman survey. Many of you, along with 26,000 other working women, took the online questionnaire from June through mid-August. You can now take a look at the survey results. Before delving into the numbers, a few caveats. Respondents skew older than the average population: 65 percent are age 40 and over. Only 20 percent have children younger than 18 living with them; in the general population more than 70 percent of working moms have children under age 18. And respondents are largely (84 percent) white. But even with these disclaimers it's woth listening to 26,000 women. "Pay" (wages, salary, paycheck) is the most frequently cited concern. Affordable health care, retirement security, and equal rights also top the list of concerns for women who responded to the survey. Other worries are discrimination on the job, finding and keeping...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 18, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (155)

Thank You Ann Richards

I thought Ann Richards was too tough to die. She raised four kids; stared down alcoholism in 1980, osteoporosis in 1996 and esophageal cancer since March of this year; celebrated her 60th birthday by getting her motorcycle driver's license; got the Lone Star State to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment; and was one of the first to laugh at George H.W. Bush ("Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."). During her four too-short years as the first female governor of Texas elected in her own right, she oversaw the hiring of the first black and female Texas Rangers; appointed the first black University of Texas regent; put the first teacher in charge of the State Board of Education; reformed the state prison system and state-wide education. At the end of her term, her popularity polled higher than 60%. The only thing...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 15, 2006; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (144)

Get Flexible

By Rebeldad Brian Reid This should be a golden age of flexibility. Not only do most of us have the tools to do our jobs from anywhere, at any point in time, but today's modern "knowledge workers" also have enormously powerful technology that helps us do those jobs far faster than could have been imagined a decade or two ago. But it's not a golden age, and that appears to fly in the face of basic logic and economics. Post writer Shankar Vedantam had an interesting Labor Day piece that argued that the absolute inability of most companies and bosses to measure productivity is what keeps flexibility from really taking off. It's hard to figure out when a guy like me is really firing on all cylinders and making things happen. You can't measure the number of widgets I create every day/week/hour. And judging me on the quantity of my...

By Brian Reid | September 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Tennis and Today's Working Mom

Two significant events marked this year's U.S Open tennis tournament in New York. Kicking things off, the world's largest public tennis facility became the world's largest sports facility named for a woman. The USTA National Tennis Center renamed itself in honor of four-time U.S. Open singles champion Billie Jean King (it's worth noting that this "renaming" opportunity could have been sold to one of the many blue chip Open sponsors such as American Express, Lexus, TIAA Creff or others). Then, at the end of the tournament, Martina Navratilova capped off her 34-year career by winning her 41st U.S. Open championship and announcing her retirement with well-deserved fanfare. You may well ask what these elite athletic occurences have to do with women balancing work and family. Here's the answer: Bille Jean King and Martina Navratilova, along with tennis rival and colleague Chris Evert, sure know how to break a glass ceiling....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 13, 2006; 6:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Ten Million Words

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 Heather Murphy Capps Once upon a time I assumed that after I had children I would go back to work -- felt strongly about it, actually. Recently however, I surprised myself by deciding to be a stay-at-home mom. My reversal was a careful, considered decision, and yet, it still frightened me. Would I lose my career forever? Would I disqualify myself as a feminist with my deliberate domesticity? My transition happened last fall as I contemplated the arrival of my first child and found myself endlessly mulling the words of a mentor: "You...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 12, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (258)

Share Your Memories of 9/11

We all seem to have incredibly vivid memories of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. These are mine: I was four months pregnant and still pretty nauseauted. It was our kids' second week at new schools since we'd just moved to D.C. from Minnesota. My husband and I dropped our son at his elementary school at 8:30 (he'd just started pre-k) and then I let Perry off near his office. As I was driving our two-year-old to her daycare center I heard on the radio that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. I immediately called Perry -- we have many friends from business school on Wall Street. He'd heard about the crash, too. "Those twin-engine planes are so dangerous," he said. I settled our daughter into daycare and went to work. Someone told me a second Wall Street building had been hit. Then my phone rang. It was a...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 11, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (254)

Back to School

By now, whether our kids are in public, private, long-distance learning or home-schooling, we're all back to school. Let's take a day to reflect on the best parts of the summer and sketch out our goals for balancing work and family this coming year. Looking back, I think this was the best summer my family has had since becoming a family. We had balance: two longish vacations (during which I truly laid off work), a mix of day camp and hanging out at home. Time alone mixed with time with friends and extended family. Perhaps the biggest factor: This was my second summer since scaling back from full-time work. Summer is truly summer again for us because I'm no longer a stressed-out hairball on a regular basis. (Although I don't want to paint too rosy a picture: I have many days where I wonder who I am without my ambition,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 8, 2006; 6:53 AM ET | Comments (92)

Five Tricks to Tame Technology

By Rebeldad Brian Reid People who love balance love to hate the insidious way that wireless devices have proliferated, and there has been much hue and cry over "Crackberries" and electronic leashes and the way wireless devices have turned the home into a branch of the office. I don't buy it. The technology isn't intrinsically evil or flawed or dangerous. Instead, it seems pretty clear that our behavior hasn't kept up with the wireless gizmo revolution. Don't like your Treo buzzing at dinner? The solution is pretty simple. Shut it off. Or throw it into the Potomac. You own the device, not the other way around. I've been developing some rules for myself to develop the discipline needed to keep my various beeping and vibrating and chirping devices at bay when it comes to family time, and I'd love to hear yours: 1. Remember Why You Went Wireless: There are...

By Brian Reid | September 7, 2006; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (105)

Breast-Feeding Takes Giant Leap

Ten years ago, it was essentially inconceivable that a story about working moms who breast-feed would be a a front page national news story. Maybe something buried in a Health or Women's section, hidden behind the words "lactation" or another innocuous descriptor chosen to avoid making men squirm. But here we are, moms: Note the historic date of Friday, Sept. 1, 2006, when the New York Times ran a front page story and home page video on its Web site about how hard it is to breast-feed at work: On the Job, Nursing Mothers Are Finding a 2-Class System. There were even color pictures of one woman's milk baggies in the office freezer next to some black bean enchiladas and two photos of moms pumping at their offices. The story itself is newsworthy, with the seeds of social advocacy planted in the reporter's words: "Doctors firmly believe that breast milk...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 6, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (262)

Reinventing the Workplace

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 Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober Protests over work hours gave us Labor Day in 1894. Americans have re-invented the workplace many times since and it's time to do it again. Census data shows that 60 percent of married couples have been dual-career for over 15 years. Yet most employers design jobs as if all employees had an at-home spouse. This assumption is hurting our country and our economy. Two incomes provide a safety net and stability. Research group Catalyst reports that dual-earner couples more readily take chances in their careers. As one man...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 5, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (167)

Sliding Along the Work-Home Spectrum

One of my first discoveries while writing Mommy Wars was that American women do not fall into clear-cut "working mom" and "at-home mom" categories. Far more moms work part-time than I ever imagined. And today's full-time working mom might take a year or five off once she's gotten a key promotion or hit a certain savings goal or plain old burned out. Ditto for the most devout stay-at-home moms -- I've been stunned more than once by a mom's sudden transformation from paint-splattered T-shirt and jeans to suit and pantyhose when the right job comes along (note to prospective employers: Convincing elements always seem to be flexible hours, good pay, challenging work). Real-life moms slide back and forth on a spectrum from Full-Time Work to Full-Time-At-Home-With-Kids, depending on their kids' ages, families' financial needs and moms' desires. Over the 10 years I've been a mom, I've worked full-time, part-time and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 1, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (50)

 

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