Archive: November 2006

The Magic Hour

By Rebeldad Brian Reid As a kid, I hated the end of daylight savings time. I grew up in New England, where the darkness falls noticeably earlier than it does around here, and "falling back" banished much of my waking hours to darkness. Thinking back to my years in high school, I realized I have no memories of daylight during the month of December. What a difference parenthood makes. Having kids has dragged me, kicking and screaming, from night owl to morning bird. With two kids, there is no such thing as sleeping in. But rather than fight it, I've relished it. I understand that I'm at my best in the early morning, and for nearly two years, I've been trying to get up even before the kids for an hour of pre-dawn me time -- my magic hour. But it was hard to get into the magic-hour groove in...

By Brian Reid | November 30, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Success At Work, A Failure At Home

A few weeks ago, a Washington Post Book World review prompted me to buy a thought-provoking attempt by a writer named John Dickerson to understand his mother's determination to combine work and motherhood in the 1960s and '70s. On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News' First Woman Star tackles working motherhood from the view of the child -- in this case, a smart boy warped by his mother's desire to have a fantastic career and children. This doesn't seem greedy now, but in the 1960s, this dual ambition stood out. And what a career she had. A girl from a small midwestern town with big dreams, Nancy Dickerson graduated from college in 1948, when many American colleges and graduate schools didn't accept women. Television journalism was almost entirely dominated by men, but that didn't stop Dickerson from moving to Washington and forcing her way into the old boys...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 29, 2006; 7:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

At Your Funeral No One Reads Your Resume

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 Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Erin Armendinger To go to business school sponsored by my employer, I worked full-time and went to school full-time for two years straight with no breaks. I married my college sweetheart while I was in school. (I postponed our honeymoon to take mid-terms.) After school I changed careers and entered the retail field, which is the industry where I currently work. My husband and I wanted children but were always waiting for a "better" time -- after the next promotion, after school, after I established myself in my new career. As...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 28, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Rally for Breast-Feeding Rights

On the busiest travel day of the year, The Washington Post ran a front page business story about a mom who had been kicked off a Delta Air Lines flight for refusing to cover her baby's head with a blanket while breast-feeding, despite any specific Delta Air Line "Refusal to Transport" justification. The article, Mothers Rally to Back Breast-Feeding Rights, described "nurse-ins" held on Nov. 21 at Reagan National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport by more than 100 breast-feeding moms to protest the lack of support for nursing in public. The protest was important enough that individual women took time off from work to participate, according to The Post. The incident was reminiscent of last June's New York City protest by 200 "lactivists" in response to Barbara Walters's complaints on ABC's The View about a woman breast-feeding next to her on an airplane flight. According to the New...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 27, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (425)

Do Men Want Moms to Quit?

I recently sat around the dinner table with several couples talking about how we all balanced work and family issues. One of the stay-at-home moms, an insightful former psychiatrist who'd studied at three internationally-known universities, talked about her decision to quit her psychiatric residency shortly before the birth of her first child. "My boss and mentor -- an older woman who had supported me for years in my medical program -- was furious. She clearly felt betrayed." The mom shook her head sadly. Then she perked up. "But the men in my program were just great. They were much more supportive of my decision to stay home." I didn't say anything because I didn't know her very well. But this is what I thought: Of course her boss felt betrayed. And I bet those men were supportive of this genius dropping out of the rat race of academia, a world...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 22, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

My Own Private Hurricane

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 original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Stacey Garfinkle July 27, 2005, will live forever in my family as the day the tree fell. A freak 15-minute microburst swept through Silver Spring, Md., toppling our neighbor's 80-foot tulip poplar into my children's bedroom at 6:15 p.m. My three-year-old's bed was crushed to smithereens. A large portion of the roof lay against my one-year-old's crib. At the time, I was driving home from work, feeling fortunate that I'd narrowly escaped a tree falling on my car. My husband and children were downstairs when they heard the crash and the...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 21, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (122)

Are Parents Better Employees?

As most have heard by now, after Democrats won control of the House, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the next Speaker of the House and first woman to hold the job when Congress convenes in January told CBS News anchor Katie Couric that she's broken "the marble ceiling." Pelosi also remarked that raising her five children was the best preparation for the highly visible job as "elect of the elect" presiding officer of the House. The same day, I heard Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, speak at a luncheon in Virginia about her experience running H-P and various divisions of At&T and Lucent Technologies during her groundbreaking career as a female business executive, the subject of her new book, Tough Choices. She, too, echoed Pelosi. "Parents make great employees because they've mastered two of the most critical tasks of successful management: multi-tasking and prioritizing." While it was great to hear...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 20, 2006; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (262)

Pets & Parenthood

On Tuesday, for inexplicable reasons, our Guest Blog discussion took an unusual turn into the realm of pets vs. children. Quite a fascinating detour. Pet owners argued that pets are as important as kids. Parents (some with both pets and children) argued that if you have children, there is no comparison. I have three kids, three pets, and abiding affection for children and animals; I once supervised a childless employee with two dogs whom I regularly allowed to go home early to care for his pets. I can see passion and merit on both sides of the argument. So I wanted to continue the discussion by asking a few more questions. What do American pet-owners and parents have in common? What role do pets play in a balanced life? How are today's Americans different from citizens in other countries or our ancestors in terms of devotion to pets and children?...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 17, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (333)

Four Keys to Spouse-Life Balance

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Kids alter life way more than a marriage does, and it's easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day survival that the marriage thing gets put on the back burner. Making sure the relationship with the women/man your married, though, should be a key part of the "balance" calculus ... nothing else may go as far in ensuring that work-life balance actually means you're happy at the end of the day. I've been thinking about the elements that contribute to successful "spouse-life balance" (and isn't that every bit as important as "work-life balance?"), and I've come up with four keys. I don't always live up to the ideals -- that's why I'm writing them down -- but they serve as useful reminders for me. 1. Date your spouse. I'm not sure you can have a fulfilling marriage without at least some one-on-one time. Once a...

By Brian Reid | November 16, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Ladies, Freeze Your Eggs!

I was at a party recently when a brilliant, childless, 40-something unmarried friend confided she'd just frozen a bunch of her unfertilized eggs so that she could bear her own biological children once she met Mr. Right. "I wish I'd done it when I was 25," she explained. "But there is new technology to preserve unfertilized eggs and my doctor discovered I have really healthy eggs for a 40-plus woman." Wow, what a good idea, I thought, but kind of... random. Probably not the solution for everyone. A few days later, at the annual Wharton Women in Business conference, an older Wharton grad was asked by the audience of 20-something Wharton business school students for her best advice about balancing work and family. After a pregnant (ha ha) pause during which the room of 500 women got preternaturally quiet, she broke the silence by shouting like a Nascar announcer kicking...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 15, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (381)

Mother-In-Law Makes Five

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 original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Mary Ellen Halloran Many years before we met, my husband had promised his dying father that he would always take care of his mother. When we had been married less than a year, she retired from her job as a school secretary. Our first child was due in a few months. Buying a house with her seemed to be a very efficient solution to keeping his promise. The deal was, we would buy a house together, she would live with us and take care of our children. I had very idealistic...

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

Power Mom Vargas' Return

Elizabeth Vargas, the co-host of ABC's World News Tonight who stepped down shortly before the birth of her second child this past summer, returned to work with a 20/20 segment last Friday called Mother's Work. The piece profiled the struggles of three working moms -- and Vargas herself, with lots of shots of her at home with her children. One of the moms said her daycare bill is double her mortgage. Another thinks one problem is that culturally, women are trained not to ask for help. Carol Evans from Working Mother magazine argued that companies couldn't survive a day without the 58 million working moms in America. Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd revealed that every time he brings up the subject of a national maternity leave program or child care on Capitol Hill, other politicians present a "stonewall." And Vargas herself asked, "Why has so little been done regarding paid maternity...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 13, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (271)

Keeping Down Child-Care Costs

Last Friday, I moderated a panel discussion about work/family issues at the Wharton Women in Business conference in Philadelphia. The alumnae on the panel, mostly very successful Wall Street moms, shared nitty gritty details about how much their husbands helped with the kids, how frequently they traveled, and most important, what kind of child care they had. Not surprisingly, a lot of the curiosity from current, pre-mom business school students in the audience focused on child care -- and how incredibly much it costs. Reality is simple: When your kids are young, you cannot work full-time outside of your home without child care or a stay-at-home spouse or relative. Our federal government does blessedly little to help parents find affordable, quality child care -- and it does little to encourage the proliferation of good child-care providers, a nice entrepreneurial option for moms who have to work but would like to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 10, 2006; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

Children Aside, We're All In This Together

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Lately, the comments have hosted some child-free vs. parent fighting. I find that conflict as tired as all of the other trumped-up "wars": the myth of dads fighting dads, moms fighting moms, city parents fighting suburbanites, at-homes fighting go-to-works, dogs fighting cats and so on. The rallying cry of the child-free is usually some variation of "why should workers with kids arrive late/leave early/telecommute/work part-time/etc. when I can't?" The better question is this: Why shouldn't everyone, regardless of rugrats, be able to arrive late/leave early/telecommute/etc.? Folks, we're all on the same side here. Just as I think we'd have a happier, more productive workforce if parents weren't given the stark choice between 50+ hour workweeks or full-time at-home parenthood, I think we'd have a happier, more productive workforce if everyone had a few more options about how to arrange their lives. Making sure that everyone has...

By Brian Reid | November 9, 2006; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (176)

$900 Billion Women

Fortune Magazine's October 16 issue, The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, blows to smithereens the myth that ambitious women are opting out of work in favor of domestic tranquility. The issue features five different covers showcasing the United States' top seven female CEOs: Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo), Anne Mulcahy (Xerox), Meg Whitman (eBay), Pat Woertz (Archer Daniels Midland), Irene Rosenfeld (Kraft Foods), Brenda Barnes (Sara Lee) and Andrea Jung (Avon). The issue profiles the top 50 most successful women in business. The top 25 alone account for more than $900 billion in market capitalization and $250 billion in annual revenues. These stars range in age from 39 to 60; many have children, several do not. There is no doubt these are powerful mamas. Our economy is thriving in part because of them -- and because our capitalist culture has expanded over the last 40 years to let these women, and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 8, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Vote Today

Instead of a guest blog, let's talk about why we should vote today. Voting is a critical part of getting more balance in your life. Why? Because having politicians in office who represent what's important to you and your children as you go about juggling work and family is invaluable. Fifty-four percent of voters are women, yet only 10 percent of the candidates are women. Vote to put more women in office and give them a say in where our money goes. Vote to get into the habit of voting in every election, not just presidential ones. State and local politicians can have an even greater impact on families than national ones. Do you think our tax dollars should be spent on daycare or defense? Education or Iraq? Vote because if you don't vote you lose your right to complain about the world around you. Well, on this blog you...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 7, 2006; 6:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Parents, Kids and Wills

Last Tuesday, one poster suggested an entry on making a will. Funny how quickly those few words brought me back to the unexpected angst of new motherhood. I remember only the highlights (and low points) of the 24-month period during which I gve birth to my first two children, moved to Minneapolis from Manhattan, got the kids settled into a good daycare center, helped my husband transition to the new, high-pressure position that had necessitated our move, and changed jobs myself. But I do vividly recall repeatedly waking in the night, cold with a new mom worry not covered in all the baby books: What would happen to our children if my husband and I died suddenly? My nightmare became putting together a will, a feeble attempt to provide for my children if I were no longer around to protect them. It was unexpectedly torturous. First, to find a good...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 3, 2006; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (147)

The Bliss of Business Travel

Usually, I complain about business travel. The guilt of saying good-bye to my four-year-old, the Excel spreadsheet required to manage my older children's activities while I'm away, my husband's 7 a.m. phone call to my hotel room asking whether it is okay to send a child to school with a 102 degree temperature. But the New York Times ran a cover story this week cataloguing the bliss of business travel, Working Mothers Find Some Peace on the Road. Even though I've been in eight cities in the past 28 days (everyone whose e-mails and phone calls I've not returned, please note my excuse), I agree wholeheartedly: it is nice to get away from it all, as long as it's just for a night or two at a stretch. Although men travel more for business than women, the percentage of women business travelers increased from 39 percent in 2000 to 43...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 3, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (134)

The Government Is the Answer (Maybe)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid In the search for answers to questions of balance, I've spent a lot of time thinking about ways that employers can make life easier as well as plenty of ways that individuals can try to arrange things to their advantage. But I've pretty much given up on the government stepping in to help. The landmark law in the United States is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was enacted in 1993 and guaranteed leave to (most) workers. But by international standards, the law was late in coming and weak. The U.S. is one of two OECD countries that still don't have paid maternity leave. (Australia is the other, and the lack of paid leave is a political issue there.) FMLA, meager as it is, has still come under attack from business interests, and advocates for strong leave remain vigilant. But there is hope, of sorts....

By Brian Reid | November 2, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Women in Black & White

Leading a Mommy Wars discussion in Columbus, Ohio, I met a woman named Paula Penn-Nabrit, with whom I had a great deal in common: We both have three children, had studied at elite East Coast colleges, both worked in business, and each had written a book about parenthood. (And if Paula's name sounds familiar, it may be because On Balance profiled her experience homeschooling her sons a few months ago.) Our primary difference is that Paula is black and I am white. But we discovered that this led to another commonality: We both had long wondered why candid communication and camaraderie between black and white women, at work, school and home, is unusual in America. So we decided to do something about it. We developed the first national survey exploring how life, love, work, motherhood, money, sex, religion, and relationships differ for black and white women in America. This isn't...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 1, 2006; 7:24 AM ET | Comments (278)

 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company