Archive: December 2006

Best and Worst Holiday Memories

Naturally, our last chat before the holidays needs to be about "balance" during the holidays -- arguably the hardest time of the year to feel at peace with work and family obligations. Please share your funniest, most poignant, most frustrating tales of holiday joy, mirth and disillusionment as you go about juggling work and home during this special and crazy time of year. Here are a few of mine: Last December, I ordered an assemble-it-yourself ping-pong table as my nine-year-old's big holiday gift. I was so busy finalizing year-end numbers at work that I didn't have time to open the huge, heavy box until a few hours before Christmas, when I discovered over 200 pieces to assemble; 150 of which were tiny screws. My husband and I stayed up until 2 a.m. outside under our deck in the backyard putting the thing together. We both have MBA's but it's safe...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 22, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (145)

Manifesto Project: The Power of Collective Wisdom

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The response to the Parenting Manifesto Project has been absolutely wonderful -- getting the perspective of dozens of parents on the big-picture elements of parenting has been eye-opening. Though one commenting wag last week suggested "don't get your parenting advice from a blog," it turns out that the collective wisdom of all of you is as valuable as just about anything you'll get at Barnes & Noble. I'm still archiving manifestos as they come in -- check them all out at the manifesto page and feel free to send along yours to rebeldad+manifesto@gmail.com. I've culled from what I've received so far to come up with an all-star manifesto, another stab at truth, in 500 words or less: Kids understand more than they're often given credit for. Explanation doesn't mean argument, and it doesn't mean that you negotiate away authority. Again, it's validation of the child's personhood...

By Brian Reid | December 21, 2006; 8:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Milk Mania

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog (even though today is Wednesday). Every Tuesday (with occasional exceptions) "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 Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration.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 Alisa Hamilton My daughter was three months old when I had to take my first business trip. Actually, it was three weeks' worth of small trips all over the country. I was breastfeeding exclusively at the time. I just wasn't prepared to introduce formula unless it was absolutely necessary. And as far as I could tell, it wasn't. I knew for about a month in advance that the trips were looming, which gave me adequate time to stress and panic about how my...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 20, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (292)

Neanderthal Women Unite!

I'm a devoted reader of Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series, so anything with the word "Neanderthal" in its headline grabs my attention. Two weeks ago, I was intrigued by a New York Times article Equality Between the Sexes: Neanderthal Women Joined Men in the Hunt. The article made clear that Neanderthals are alive and well -- or at least Neanderthal opinions about women's equality. The New York Times describes a hypothesis by two scientists at the University of Arizona, Mary C. Stiner and Steven L. Kuhn, in Current Anthropology, which describes itself as "one of the leading international scholarly journals in anthropology since 1961." The suggestion in their article, titled What's a Mother to Do? is that Neanderthals did not die out in the Upper Paleolithic period from biological or cognitive differences vs. modern humans, as other anthropologists have surmised for centuries, but because women tried to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 19, 2006; 9:30 AM ET | Comments (366)

Daddy Wars

When I talk to parents conflicted about balancing work and family, I often suggest they talk to their kids because, often, kids are far more pragmatic and less angst-stricken than parents (or than parents think kids are). Several months ago, I wrote an On Balance entry about kids' views on working moms. ABC News recently took the same tack and asked kids their opinions about dads juggling work and family in Moms Are OK at Work or at Home, but Dads Still Face Stereotypes. The story recaps work by University of Maryland researchers Melanie Killen and Stefanie Sinno, who asked 121 boys and girls ages 7 and 10 about working and stay-at-home roles for moms and dads. The kids thought it was good for moms to stay home -- and good for moms to work. "The researchers found that kids think moms can do both -- work outside the home...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 18, 2006; 9:15 AM ET | Comments (289)

The New Girls' Network

I recently got an e-mail from a former babysitter who is looking for a job in my field in New York City. I wrote a recommendation and sent her resume to various potential contacts. Then I thought for a second about the times I'd helped other babysitters move on to non-childcare fields. After she graduated from college, my first nanny worked in marketing at my division of Johnson & Johnson. For various other childcare providers (babysitters and daycare center employees) I've written business school recommendations, vouched for them to human resources personnel, filled out questionnaires for City Year and foreign exhange programs. Over the years, I've helped lots of women -- and men -- who had nothing to do with my childcare needs. But "former babysitters" is by far the biggest category of people I've assisted and mentored. All this got me thinking: Is there a burgeoning "Girls Network" of...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 15, 2006; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (201)

The Manifesto Project

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Today, I have a challenge: I want you to share your universal truths about parenthood. E-mail me (at rebeldad+manifesto@gmail.com) a manifesto of no more than 500 words on any parenting/balance topic you can think of, and I'll post them all at rebeldad.com/manifesto.html and highlight the best of them on the main rebeldad.com page and/or this space. I'm inspired by a recent project from one of the more interesting bloggers out there, Hugh MacLeod from gapingvoid.com (occasionally NSFW). He's been calling for manifestos of 500 words or less on any topic and posting some of the more interesting ones. It's fascinating to see the big-picture thinking that has emerged. I want to expand this kind of knowledge-sharing, so please pass along your thoughts. They don't have to be perfect. Just true. Here's my attempt, for reference. Parenting takes no specialized knowledge, and reading parenting books does precious...

By Brian Reid | December 14, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (336)

Lessons from Female Firefighters

When confronted with yet another story of family-unfriendly policies, prejudice, corruption, or abuse of power by men at work or elsewhere, women often seem to lament: If only women had more power, the workplace -- and the world -- would be a better place. Women should rise to the highest positions of power in every field, I believe, but despite my pro-female leanings, I've never agreed with what seems to be this somewhat naive view. I've never come across evidence, anecdotal or scientific, that women are inherently more kind or fair than men. Power can corrupt anyone; perhaps women appear less abusive only because we have less access to power. Case in point: Minneapolis achieved a unique milestone two years ago. The city had the highest percentage of female firefighters (70 out of 447), the country's first all-female fire company and the first openly lesbian fire chief of a major...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 13, 2006; 9:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Mom Runs a Funeral Home

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 Jennifer Budd Wright I have a job that always sparks conversation. One that usually goes like this: "What do you do?" "I am a funeral director." "Reeeaally?... Have you ever watched Six Feet Under on HBO? Do you do everything? Reeeaally?" I was raised in a funeral home, so I find my work perfectly normal. I am very good at what I do and I am a hard worker. I think women tend to be more empathetic and I have been told that I have the ability to put people at...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 12, 2006; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (152)

Best Buy Goes 100% Flextime

If anything could persuade me to move back to Minnesota, this might be it. Business Week reports in Smashing the Clock that the nation's leading electronics retailer, Best Buy, is expanding a successful experiment to give ALL employees at its corporate office 100 percent flexibility and the company plans to roll out the clock-free world to its retail stores. So far, productivity of employees living the new work environment has risen about 35 percent. The Minneapolis-based company calls the move ROWE, for "results-only work environment." The policy -- the brainchild of two HR people "seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours," reports Business Week. "Workers pulling into the company's amenity-packed headquarters at 2 p.m. aren't considered late. Nor are those pulling out at 2 p.m. seen as leaving early. There are...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 11, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (138)

The Blame Game

During our Nov. 29 discussion about John Dickerson's book about his mother, Foamgnome raised a provocative point: "It seems like blaming your parents is an American pasttime. Is this a recent trend or has it always existed? At some point, you need to move on from your childhood. Unless you were abused, I think you should pull up your socks and learn to deal with the past. Take the good things from your childhood and repeat them, actively don't do the bad things, and ignore a lot of the stuff in between. Why do Americans spend so much time worrying about what didn't happen and just start focusing on what they can do today?" I think about this all the time. My parents were a lively mix of wonderful and faulty, and for years I blamed them for a lot of my problems. I'm shocked to look back now and...

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

Make Your Voice Heard on FMLA

By Rebeldad Brian Reid It was almost exactly five years ago that my parental leave ended and I prepared to go back to work. Thinking about saddling back up to my desk every day was not appealing. The bonding and 3 a.m. feedings and first smiles and desperate calls to the pediatrician changed me in a fundamental way. I couldn't go back to being the guy who put in 12-hour days at his desk and who traveled at the drop of a hat. I had more important things to attend to. If I were to pick, the decision to take family leave ranks up there as one of the single most life-altering choices I've ever made. And I still thank my lucky stars that I worked at a company with a generous policy and lived at a time when family leave was a protected right. Family leave is on my...

By Brian Reid | December 7, 2006; 7:12 AM ET | Comments (229)

More New Moms Staying Home

Last Thursday, Sue Shellenbarger's Work & Family column for the Wall Street Journal, More New Mothers Are Staying Home Even When It Causes Financial Pain, recapped 2004 data from a cross-sectional historical study of mothers' work-force participation (cut by moms' education levels, ethnicity and husbands' incomes) analyzed by Emy Sok and Sharon Cohany at the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data will be included in the February 2007 Monthly Labor Review (look under Publications on the BLS Web site). Here's what Shellenbarger found: * The trend of moms staying home is more widespread than articles like the New York Times Opt-Out Revolution suggest, with women at all income levels taking job breaks. * More mothers of infants (less than 12 months old) are staying home (48 percent in 2004 vs. 41 percent in 1997) than mothers of older children. * Well-educated mothers with bachelor's degrees and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 6, 2006; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Job Hunting Down Under

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 Kirsten Lees A friend of mine went for a job interview recently. She's the other side of 40 (her first big mistake) but since she's still got all her teeth and her not-inconsiderable brain is in excellent working order -- not to mention her award-studded resume, including international work experience -- she thought she'd get a good hearing. The interview lasted an hour. The questions were probing -- no problem -- but the line of questioning became increasingly personal. My friend did her best to answer honestly and to stay polite....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 5, 2006; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Soldier's Wife

Terrible news out of North Carolina last week: The wife of a soldier serving overseas killed herself and her two young children by sitting in a car and running the engine inside their garage, according to a Cumberland County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman in Fayetteville, N.C. Faye Johnson Vick, 39, 2-year-old Jason and 3-month-old Madison were found dead Tuesday afternoon in the car. Autopsies on Wednesday showed that the cause of death was carbon-monoxide poisoning. Vick's husband, Lt. Col. Jason Vick, had been deployed to Iraq since August, the same month his daughter Madison was born. Vick, commander of a supply battalion in the dangerous Anbar province, had already served tours of duty in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, including in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, said Col. Billy Buckner, a Fort Bragg spokesman. A local North Carolina station's Web site, WRAL.com, reported that Faye Johnson Vick had a history...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 4, 2006; 7:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Holiday Newsletters: Pro or Con?

In Nov. 17th's blog about Pets & Parenthood, Armchair Mom brought up a good free-for-all topic: Do you like or hate holiday newsletters? I am generally in favor because they are often entertaining (intentionally or not) and a good way to stay in touch with a large number of friends and family (especially efficient for overworked parents). Plus, you can always toss the letter, unread, without offending anyone. The Washington Post's Sunday Source section recently ran a tip sheet for creating a good newsletter, most of which seemed pretty commonsensical. My guidelines for success are identical to creating a good print ad: Keep the copy short, use lots of visuals and sneak in as much humor as possible. What's your view? Do you love or loathe holiday junk mail from your nearest and dearest?...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 1, 2006; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (188)

 

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