Archive: October 2006

30 Going On 13

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 Sara Fisher Being a new mom is a little like being in middle school. You have bad hair days all the time, you hate your body and are nervous that you won't "fit in." This is exacerbated for me because I work part time, approximately 25-30 hours per week spread over three days. I can't just meander the streets with my baby and meet new mom friends randomly. If I want to make the most of my "mom" role, I need to structure my days off to stay in the loop with my...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 31, 2006; 9:30 AM ET | Comments (154)

Sex & Success: What We Think (But Can't Say)

On this blog, we can (and often do) say whatever we want. Our discussions reveal how biased we are versus others -- or how biased others are versus ourselves. Sometimes we don't realize we are prejudiced until others expose us. Along these lines, I haven't been able to stop thinking about a 20/20 television episode I happened to catch way back on September 15 titled Race & Sex: What We Think But Can't Say that tackled the psychology of stereotyping and the self-fulfilling power of internalized prejudice. This so-called "stereotype effect" has been found in study after study of women, according to NYU psychology professor Joshua Aaronson, who appeared on the 20/20 segment. "We found that just reminding women that they were college students at a selective college overcame the gender gap. However, when we remind them that they're women, the gap widens." 20/20 asked The Kaplan Education and Test...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 30, 2006; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (284)

Attacking Other Parents -- And Hurting Ourselves

We've all noticed it. Many posters have commented on it. So let's talk about it: While some discussions on this blog stay on course as civil debate from which we all learn, many others turn negative and mean-spirited. Why do discussions about balancing work and parenting sometimes spiral into negativity? What should we do about it? Differences of opinion are part of what makes this blog interesting to read. Anonymity gives us the freedom to be more opinionated than face-to-face conversations. The resulting honesty can be utterly refreshing. But attacking the poster -- not just their views -- is unfair and unproductive. Smart, thoughtful contributors have left this blog permanently because of the attacks. That's a loss for all of us. So my suggestion: Let's agree to keep the discussion positive. Let's not attack a poster personally, but focus instead on disputing his or her opinions. And if someone gets...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 27, 2006; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Defining the "Daddy Wars"

By Rebeldad Brian Reid A few weeks ago, I wrote that the silly cover piece in The New Republic on the "Mommy Wars" may have actually launched the Daddy Wars. (The author, James Wolcott, takes a rather dim view of the stroller-pushing, sippy-cup-fetching "Middle Aged Dad.") But to be fair, I don't see much of Wolcott's sentiments out there. I troll the Web for news about fatherhood a lot, and beyond the Wolcott bit and a sublimely bizarre two-year-old rant from Cathy Seipp, I don't see a whole lot of backlash against involved fathers from other fathers. Still, with all the heat and noise around Mommy Wars -- a term and a concept that I believe overstates conflict between mothers and distracts from thoughful discussion of balance -- I've been wondering for some time if I could define the phrase "daddy wars." Are dads in the middle of any great...

By Brian Reid | October 26, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (126)

Moms in Paradise

A list of government benefits offered to parents with young children in European countries, France in particular: * Monthly childcare subsidies * Summer camps for children that cost as little at $1.50 a day * Tax deductions based on the number of children in the family * Lengthy paid maternity and paternity leaves * 4-8 weeks of annual paid vacations * Laws guaranteeing moms part-time jobs * Less guilt, frustration and stress for moms combining work and motherhood Sounds like paradise compared to what moms face in the U.S. Here's what we get: * 48 to 72 hours of hospital care when we give birth * Six weeks of paid disability leave and our same job back -- if our company has 50 or more employees and we've worked there for a year or more * Ostensible legal protection in the case of gender or pregnancy-related discrimination at work --...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 25, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Mommy, Do We Have A Job Today?

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 Marissa Rauch "Mommy do we have a job today?" are the first words my five-year-old daughter utters as she walks into my room wiping the sleep from her eyes. "Yes, honey, we do," I reply, since it is summer, which equals no school and no help. We need to go to work to pay for food and baseball cards (her current passion). This is her life, the life that I chose for us, so we could spend our time together. Our life is a far cry from my previous profession doing trade legislation...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 24, 2006; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (110)

Wynonna on Motherhood

I spent two days last week in Kentucky with 2,000 other women at the annual Toyota In The Interest of Women conference. One high point was our lunch speaker, country music star Wynonna Judd, who I (embarrassingly) kept referring to as Winona Ryder (a terrible gaffe in Kentucky, Judd's home state). While I'm not a lifelong country music fan, Judd's voice is angelic, and I was impressed by the fact that Wynonna has sold over 30 million records. And I was very impressed by Judd's wisdom about balancing work and kids (she has three). Every mother's curse is being torn between work and family. Wow. Although the subject has been my primary focus for the last five years, I've yet to have someone describe the work/kids struggle so pessimistically. Good to know (I guess) that even the rich and famous are fighting inner mommy wars, too. Striving for perfection is...

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

Kids, Chores and Money

A few months ago when buying clothes for my kids, the 20-year-old male salesperson stunned me by folding the pants and T-shirts with aplomb. I asked how he'd learned that not-insignificant skill. "When I was 10 and old enough to reach the dials on our washing machine, my mom had me do my own laundry. Folding is one of my talents." My parents taught me many invaluable life lessons, but when I left home at 18 I had no clue how to balance a checkbook or change the oil in a car. A few years later, having paid too many bank overdraft fines and ruined my first car, an old Chevette, by ignoring that flashing green "oil" light on the dash, I was a lot more self-sufficient. My three kids are still too young to reach the washing machine dials, see inside a car's engine or to grasp the concept...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 20, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (262)

A Holiday Worth Taking Time For

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Of all of the ginned up holidays, next Tuesday is one of my favorites. It's Take Back Your Time Day, and if you haven't heard about it, it's probably because the folks at Hallmark haven't figured out how to make card for it yet. The underlying rationale is simple: We're working way too much and need some perspective. While the folks behind Take Back Your Time Day have a bunch of smart policy suggestions (more vacation, guaranteed sick time, paid family leave), that's not what sets them apart. What I really like is their call to step back and reflect on the craziness that is daily life: The main goal of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY is to call attention to the problem and begin the public conversation about what to do about it. Some of the solutions will be personal, each in our own lives....

By Brian Reid | October 19, 2006; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Breaking Down Parents' Time

Nice to witness the reality of parenting today reflected in the New York Times article yesterday, Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children. (Thank you to posters who pointed it out.) Along with photos showing happy, everyday moments between moms, dads and kids, the article summarizes University of Maryland sociologist Suzanne Bianchi's time diary data, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, which was also discussed here in 40 Years of American Parenthood back in April. Non-working and working mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, the article reports. From 1965 to 2000, the increases in time shared between parents and children increased dramatically. Married mothers (paid and unpaid) spend 22 percent more time with their children today vs. a generation ago. Married fathers have more than doubled the time they spend with their children. And single moms...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 18, 2006; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Life After Mary Poppins

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 Reshma Memon Yaqub Gimme a nine-letter word for "freedom". P-R-E-S-C-H-O-O-L. I can't tell you how long I waited for Zach, my youngest, to start preschool. Oh, wait... yes, I can! Two years, eight months and 30 days. Shortly after Zach was born, I quit working. And by working, I mean working for actual money. I worked through my older son's first few years. He had the most remarkable nanny (Mary Poppins, complete with British accent) six hours a day, hours that I used to churn out thoughtful prose in exchange for cold cash....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 17, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (192)

Raising Balanced Kids

Passing by the bulletin board at my four-year-old's preschool, I recently saw the cover page of Emily Bazelon's October 1 New York Times Magazine article about overparenting, which highlights Wendy Mogel's 2001 book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, a slim Jewish parenting guide that has mysteriously gained momentum in recent months. The director had circled the title and written in black Sharpie: "Please read this!" It seemed like a plea to all of us overindulgent parents, much like the Discipline Workshop the teachers beg us to take each year (with good reason). Parenting has changed dramatically from our parents' generation to ours -- the "helicopter" parents now populating every school and soccer game were treated as a kooky rarity 30 years ago. Often moms who've pursued higher education and careers in the past 40 years bear the brunt of the blame. The arguments I've heard (note: I disagree with...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 16, 2006; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (195)

When Kids Are Home Alone

During the recent blog entry called Home Alone, Just Wondering posted a question about balancing home, family and work on those days or hours when children -- not adults -- are home alone. Great question. I remember a Saturday years ago, out running errands with a baby in a Snugli and another in a stroller, I bumped into friends whose kids were a decade older. "Where are Zach and Ben?" I asked. "Home alone!" the parents gleefully told me. Until that moment, it was inconceivable that my own children would one day be able to stay home without adult supervision. When are kids old enough to stay home alone by themselves? How long do you leave them alone? How do the guidelines change based on your children's personalities? Have work demands ever forced you to leave your children home alone when you knew it wasn't in the kids' best interest?...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 13, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (160)

The Meaningless Child Care Debate

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The reason this blog has such robust and passionate commenters is that parenthood is the single greatest responsibility most of us will take on, and we feel tremendous pressure to do it well. It's possible to walk away, free and clear, from a boss or a job or even a marriage. You can't say the same of kids. And that's why debates over parenting issues are so divisive: Every parent is doing what they honestly feel is best for their child. When another parent makes a different decision (to bottle feed instead of breastfeed, to follow Sears instead of Ferber, to go to public school instead of private), it can be easy to see that as a reproach. And nothing fuels the I'm-doing-what-is-best-and-you-are-not debate more than the question of child care. I'd wager that more study has been done on the impact (or lack thereof) of...

By Brian Reid | October 12, 2006; 8:20 AM ET | Comments (208)

Which Works Better -- Public or Private Schools?

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the pros and cons of public vs. private schools, Opting Out of Private School (payment or subscription required for full text). The article described the pressures on private schools as many public schools successfully raise their standards (and college acceptance rates), and profiled several parents and kids who had happily switched from private to public schools. Of course, first and foremost we want to send our kids to schools that are best for them, right? But the piece got me thinking: What kind of schools are best for working and stay-at-home parents? I haven't exactly studied this angle -- nor has anyone else that I know of -- which is why I want to hear from everyone, including parents trying relatively new options, such as group homeschooling and online (long-distance) learning. I've sent my kids to four different daycare centers, two...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 11, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

No Kids For Me

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 Jamie Page Deaton My mother, who's no fool, had three children and three epidurals. She's described giving birth as more pressure than pain. She doesn't know the half of it. As a childless woman, and one who plans to remain so, I feel so much pressure to defend my decision that I doubt any number of epidurals could help. I know I shouldn't have to justify my and my husband's choice not to have kids. Just the same, people feel the need to butt in. "You'll change your mind eventually," coos a relative....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 10, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (530)

Home Alone

When was the last time you spent a night alone in your own home? Recently, my husband took our three children to visit his mother in New Jersey. I drew up a list of 100 things to do, like clean the playroom, organize the kids' clothes, catch up on e-mail and bills, have coffee with a new friend and get some work done. As they drove away, I felt like cheering. I ran back inside, cleaned up the kitchen and family room (silently chanting and it's gonna stay clean for 48 hours!), put on some jazz music and breathed a huge, decade-long sigh of relief. I realized it had been almost 10 years since I'd spent a night alone in my own home. I'd been away -- on business trips or to visit a relative with a new baby. My husband has spent many nights alone, on business trips or...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 9, 2006; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (168)

Choices

This summer, my kids met some other kids on the beach. Eventually, as these things often go, I hooked up with their mom. We got to talking about the choices she'd made about balancing work and family. Turns out she'd left work she loved to raise her three children, and spoke wistfully of how, over the past 15 years that she'd been home, her husband's career had reached the enviable point where he was running a nonprofit organization. I asked if she felt good about her decisions. "I feel good about my choice to stay home with my children. But I don't feel good about myself." I see many at-home moms who feel this way: 100% sure they made the right decision, but just as sure their self-confidence has suffered as a result. Working moms seem to feel the opposite -- good about themselves, not 100% sure that being a...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 6, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

In Praise of the At-Home Dad Convention

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Humorist Dave Barry once warned that giving men responsibility for housework was a recipe for disaster. "The trouble is that men, over the years, have developed an inflated notion of the importance of everything they do, so that before long they would turn housework into just as much of a charade as business is now," he wrote. "They would hire secretaries and buy computers and fly off to housework conferences in Bermuda, but they'd never clean anything." When I heard of the National At-Home Dad Convention, I felt a certain inescapable curiosity -- could this be the farce Barry warned about? The idea that my peers absolutely required a weekend of keynote speakers and breakout sessions to keep current with the latest fathering trends struck me as inherently silly. I had to see it for myself. So about four years ago, I attended my first convention,...

By Brian Reid | October 5, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Going Places on the Mommy Track

Ponder this: "The old Mommy Track was a path where up-and-coming women found that having children effectively disqualified them for top positions. They either took themselves out of the running, settling for lower-level positions with more predictable hours and less responsibility, or their male bosses assumed that because these women had children, they wouldn't or couldn't give their all to the office. Now, some employers in high-pressure professions such as law, medicine, accounting and finance -- that years ago may have fired women who became pregnant -- are finally giving working mothers what they've wanted for years: a shot at the top jobs but with flexible hours, part-time schedules or other concessions to their caregiving responsibilities. They are increasingly willing to change the criteria for young mothers to reach top positions, giving them more time or the ability to leave for several years of child-raising and come back . Breast-feeding...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 4, 2006; 6:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Reversal of Fortune

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 Mary Knobler My husband and I have a very traditional relationship except for one thing...our roles have been switched. It wasn't always that way. When we married 12 years ago we were both making the same amount of money. He had his own business in a creative field and I had a job I really enjoyed working in finance. A few years and a couple of kids later we decided that it made sense for him to stay at home. I know that there are many people who can't afford to have a...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 3, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (149)

Working Mother Top Companies

For the 21st year in a row, Working Mother magazine has come out with their issue listing the top 100 family-friendly companies in America. All of you looking to change jobs or step back into the workforce, take a look at the "Best Companies" in your area. Companies complete a 550 word application to be considered. Seven areas are measured and scored with the help of NetX, an independent survey research firm in Columbus, N.J.: workforce profile, compensation, child care, flexibility, time off and leaves, family-friendly programs and company culture. I was recently a guest on the public radio show The Intersection with Working Mother editor-in-chief Susan Riss, who explained that flexibility is the No. 1 issue for working moms. No argument here. "Most working moms just need a little flexibility to get into work a few minutes late or leave a few minutes early, or to stay home a...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 2, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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