Archive: January 2007

Feet of Clay

Back in November, my husband proudly signed himself up to be a noon-time reading buddy on a Tuesday in January for our daughter's second grade class, an honor the parents vie for and the children eagerly anticipate. Since then, he has worked nearly around the clock on a business deal that ruined our Florida holiday (for two nights he slept on the resort veranda in order to take 3 a.m. calls from lawyers). Suffice to say, he's been distracted by work. Last Tuesday, he called me with this cryptic message: "I am the worst father ever. I can't even talk about it over the phone. Call me." Turns out, he had spent the morning in back-to-back meetings and arrived at his office to find an Outlook pop-up that read: 2nd Grade Reading Group, 12:30 p.m. It was 2 p.m. An hour later when I picked our daughter up at school,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 31, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (614)

Listen to LaTonya's World

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 Send me your original, unpublished story (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By LaTonya Poole

Today, we're trying a different type of Guest Blog -- an audio interview with LaTonya Poole, full-time government employee, mom of two kids under ten and entrepreneur. So, put on your headphones or shut your office door and hear about LaTonya's life juggling work, motherhood and starting her own business, N The Loop On-line.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 30, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The AirTran Toddler Fiasco

Forget Snakes on a Plane. The new horror flick is Toddler on a Plane -- playing at airports everywhere. When reports surfaced last week about a toddler who'd gone postal on a crowded plane, I thought: been there, done that. I once became hysterical myself after all three of my kids melted down simultaneously mid-flight. One of the hidden benefits of parenthood is that most of us become far more sympathetic towards crying children (and their parents) in no-win situations like the one the Kulesza family experienced in Florida on Jan. 14 when their 3-year-old daughter, Elly, refused to sit in her seat. "Elly was sitting in front of our seat crying," mom Julie Kulesza told the South Fort Myers News-Press in one of the many media stories about the incident, Antsy Tot, 3, Gets Family Kicked Off AirTran Plane. "The attendant motioned to a seat and asked if we'd...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 29, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (588)

Dress for Success

I'm feeling like we need some fluff this Friday -- something as close to retail therapy as we can get online without whipping out our credit cards. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) Two recent articles dug into the effects of attractiveness at work and that's what I'd like to debate (in a poofy way) today. Dressed for Work? For Women, Suits Still Wield Power by the Washington Post's fashion reporter, Robin Givhan, covers a New York charity breakfast for Dress for Success featuring "a variety of women in their ideal professional attire...represent[ing] a range of industries: media, entertainment, insurance and banking." Givhan's main point here is that everyone had on a blazer, no one was wearing a dress, and that it's a shame that designers have not come up with dresses exuding femininity, confidence and power. In the print version of the article there were several fantastic...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 26, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (422)

Family Leave: Back on Congress' Radar?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The United States is so backwards when it comes to family leave that I am prepared to celebrate any successes. The fact that our world-lagging Family and Medical Leave Act hasn't yet been gutted is, in a certain twisted way, good news, and this month has brought additional reasons for optimism. As Stephen Barr noted a couple of weeks ago, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), champion of the federal employee (and of the tortured, not-quite-right Internet-related metaphor), is pushing for a bill that would give federal employees paid leave -- eight weeks for moms, five days for dads. There are a whole bunch of reasons why this is hardly the ideal policy or the ideal time to push it. Naturally, I would have been a lot happier if Stevens had introduced the bill a decade ago, when his party was in power, a Dem was in the...

By Brian Reid | January 25, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (292)

Packing Your Husband's Suitcase

The nitty gritty details of people's lives fascinate me. Like this one: I had coffee last week with a friend who has one daughter. For the first four years of her daughter's life, her husband was a stay-at-home dad. My friend, a smart, feisty design and manufacturing entrepreneur, worked 14 hour days and traveled for two weeks at a time to Asia to visit her clients and manufacturing plants. I say all this just to establish that my friend is not a traditional stay-at-home mom (whatever that is), although now her husband works and she stays home. Over coffee, she casually mentioned that she had to pack her husband's suitcase that night because he was going on a four-day trip. She said it as if all good wives pack their husbands' suitcases. I experienced that horrible sinking feeling of: Here's another reason I am and will forever be a lousy...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 24, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (494)

Finding Balance While Making a Difference

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. Today's writer tackles the powerful role American immigration has played in her personal and professional life, in honor of President Bush's State of the Union speech tonight, which is expected to address his administration's domestic agenda, including proposals for alternative energy, health care and immigration reform. By Leslye E. Orloff I consider myself very lucky. I've spent my professional life helping immigrant women and their children, all victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, find the assistance they need. It's not easy, and finding time for myself and my family has always...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 23, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (260)

Flexible Work Arrangements

In the last 50 years, the percentage of American mothers staying home dropped from 76 percent to 28 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most working women (75 percent) work full time. One logical reconcilation between full-time work and full-time motherhood is flexibility in work schedules and telecommuting, so-called "flexible work arrangements" (FWAs). Our workplace is supposed to be logical, too. Logically most employers would be expected to embrace FWAs in order to attract and keep the largest pool of employees. But instead -- as many working moms can attest -- reactions to working moms in the last 50 years have often been negative. FWAs are hard to negotiate with employers, and it seems you can't read a newspaper in recent years without seeing something about well-educated women "opting out" of work because flexibility is so hard to find and reconciling full-time work with motherhood is apparently impossible...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 22, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (172)

Harder Than You Thought?

In an Esquire magazine interview this month, CBS Anchor Katie Couric has this to say about her life: "It's a little harder than I thought it would be. ... I didn't dress up in a blazer and sit at a desk when I was a little girl and read the news, so my life has unfolded in a way that I haven't really had that much control over. ... I had sort of a perfect life until I was forty. Jay used to say I was born on a sunny day -- everything just sort of went right for me. Everything changed when I turned forty." I love how frank she is -- about her success, about the tragedy of her husband's early death, about being a single working mom. Her candor reminded me of a conversation about becoming a parent I had with my husband awhile back. We were...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 19, 2007; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (259)

Book Deals, and the Deal with Books

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Every couple of weeks, someone in the comments wonders aloud whether I'm fishing for a book deal. This week, I'd like to come clean: There is no book in my immediate future, much to my chagrin. Initially, rebeldad.com was designed to be an open reference for a book about at-home dads. I was fortunate enough to get hooked up with a high-profile agent and I hammered out a proposal about three years ago. But, despite the best efforts of my agent, I couldn't find a big publisher to buy in. The comments I received were consistent: The writing was fine, the logic was sound, the topic was interesting. The problem? Guys don't buy parenting books. After two years of trying, I finally threw in the towel. I still wander the parenting section of Barnes and Noble, wondering where the books about dads are. A couple of...

By Brian Reid | January 18, 2007; 7:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

The M Word

Our culture is not exactly crazy about discussing a)older women and b)female plumbing. So it is no surprise that MENOPAUSE is a subject that causes even the most unflappable to cringe. But before you turn away from the screen, I promise you the words below are worth reading -- even if you are under 40 years old, even if you are a man. Here is your chance to learn critical facts about your future health and easy ways to become a more sensitive employer, husband or friend. A few facts: The transition to menopause typically occurs starting from age 40 to 58 and can last from one to 12 years. Menopause is characterized by irregular (and eventually, zero) periods, hot flashes, night sweats, changes in sleep habits, a slower metabolism and hormonal changes. You can still get pregnant while transitioning through menopause, so be careful! The most surprising thing about...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 17, 2007; 7:18 AM ET | Comments (285)

Finding Balance Through Exercise

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 Alison Korn For months after birthing twins, I waited to feel rested again so I could resume exercising. Ha! Laugh all you want. As a new mom, I didn't know I might never feel rested again. But soon enough I figured out that this reality shouldn't stop me from exercising in order to lower my stress level. I used to work out full time -- three sessions a day, six days a week -- with the Canadian national rowing team. After racing at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, I retired from...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 16, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Virtual Book Club -- On Her Trail by John Dickerson

Welcome to the On Balance Virtual Book Club. The discussion is ongoing and will continue until Feb. 2, 2007. The current book is On Her Trail by John Dickerson. For background, we tackled the book's topic -- a boy's view of his high-powered working mom -- in November 2006 in A Success At Work, A Failure at Home. The author, Nancy Dickerson's youngest son, John Dickerson, as well as others, disagreed vociferously with my feeling that John was too hard on his mother, and way too soft on his father, who was also quite ambitious and similarly neglectful at home. What do you think? Are working moms judged more harshly than working fathers? Do children, even adult children, ever become objective about their parents' attempts to balance work and family commitments? Did reading this book shed new light on your own mother's decisions about work and raising children? We will...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 14, 2007; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

How Do You Manage Stress?

How do you manage stress along with juggling work and family? Do you do bike with your kids? Take long walks with the dog? Or bang your head against the wall? The Washington Post Health section would like to hear how you manage the stress that is an inevitable part of our busy lives. Please e-mail health@washpost.com (200 words or fewer please) and with the subject line Stress Management. We'll publish some of the most interesting responses in the Tuesday Health section....

By Stacey Garfinkle | January 12, 2007; 5:07 PM ET | Comments (0)

How Much Truth To Tell Kids?

In Wednesday's discussion about the tradeoffs of having and not having children, Can Freedom and Kids Co-Exist?, posters talked about the importance of being honest (with ourselves, at least) about our moments of regretting having children. However, one poster chided me by saying she (or he) hoped my children would never read what I had written about the moments when I wish I did not have kids. This struck me because my children already know that I'm not always thrilled about being a parent, just as they know I'm not always thrilled with them. Throughout my childhood, I knew about my mom's regrets as well. This knowledge was good for my understanding of motherhood. It was also paradoxically good for my self-esteem. I knew I was worth all the freedom and career options Mom gave up. So I wanted to ask: Do you tell your children about the mixed blessings...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 12, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

In Search of a Role Model

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Ever since I transitioned from my life as a freelance writer/at-home dad to a full-time worker, I've spend a lot of time wondering if I really have this balance thing down, if I'm doing right by my kids, if I'm performing well enough at work. What I'd love is a role model for 2007-style fatherhood. But there's no one telling the 21st-century dads what their lives should look like. This is a blessing and a curse. The bookshelf is full of mother-authors vying to promote their viewpoint that moms should stay home or moms should work or moms should "sequence" or moms should home-school and so on. These would-be role models for how moms ought to be tend to be shrill and antagonistic, but at least there are some models for motherhood floating around out there. For dads, there's not much - no one is wagging...

By Brian Reid | January 11, 2007; 8:15 AM ET | Comments (343)

Can Freedom and Kids Co-Exist?

On Sunday night, CBS' 60 Minutes ran an interview of critically-acclaimed British actress Dame Helen Mirren, whose most recent role is in The Queen. Morley Safer interviewed Mirren on a number of subjects, including growing up as the granddaughter of a Russian nobleman and a butcher to Queen Victoria, her deep insecuriites as a 20 year old, making nude film scenes, her happy marriage to American film-maker Taylor Hackford, and what it's like to be the only actress ever to portray both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II. Then Safer asked the 61-year-old Mirren if she'd regretted not having children. "Absolutely not," Mirren replied without hesitation. "Because I don't have children, I've been able to be...free." Mirren waved her hand gesturing to the obvious conclusion: that freedom from being a mother has made possible all of the above. I, on the other hand, was feeling anything but free as...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 10, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (540)

What About Moms Who Want to Work?

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 Stephanie Himel-Nelson In one Guest Blog last year, Erin Armendinger wrote compellingly about her choice to put family before her career in At Your Funeral No One Reads Your Resume. Because of her difficulty in carrying a pregnancy, Ms. Armendinger discovered early what many working women do not understand until after they give birth. To quote the Johnson & Johnson commercials: "Having a baby changes everything." I agree with that. But I take issue with other parts of what Ms. Armendinger had to say: So many discussions about combining children and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 9, 2007; 7:53 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Sandwich Generation Searches for Balance

Many On Balance readers have asked to discuss challenges and solutions for those of us caring for kids and aging parents simultaneously. I'm not in this situation yet -- both my parents are independent and healthy -- so I don't have my own insights. But I came across some fascinating facts in an informative issue of US News and World Report, Taking Care of Mom & Dad that I thought could kick off a great discussion. According to US News, most Americans grow old in their own communities. In fact, "naturally occuring retirement communities" (NORCs) have recently begun to receive city, state and philanthropic funds, in recognition of how valuable it is for communities to provide for their aging residents -- and for locals to stay put. Some of these "villages" also establish memberships for residents over 50, with services such as a weekly ride to the grocery stores, exercise...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 8, 2007; 7:22 AM ET | Comments (190)

The Kindness of Other Moms

Two days ago, a minor childcare crisis arose. I had a meeting I couldn't miss from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. My older two children could stay in the after-school program; no problem. I'd arranged a playdate for my youngest child -- her school doesn't have an aftercare program -- but the playdate fell through. I called every babysitter I could think of. No luck there. So I started calling other moms. Mom #1 had a conflict -- she had to be at a meeting herself, and her babysitter was already watching four kids. So I called Mom #2 who was delighted to help. Problem solved. Then the bonus: A few hours later Mom #1 called me to tell me she had figured out a way to re-arrange her schedule so that my daughter could come to her house. I was, frankly, floored. She had spent a good amount of time...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 5, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (194)

Marriage Contracts

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I finally got around to reading Alix Kates Shulman's infamous "marriage contract." The document is nearly 40 years old, but the brief contract -- which declares that household roles are to be divided right down the middle, regardless of who is the chief wage-earner -- has continuing resonance. It was initially republished in all sorts of places, from Ms. to Life, and it was highlighted most recently -- in less-than-flattering terms -- in neo-traditionalist Caitlin Flanagan's 12,000-word Atlantic Monthly "Nanny Wars" screed a couple of years ago. Reading through the contract is eye-opening, and it's easy to understand why the piece has drawn the ire of so many over the years. There are few things less romantic, less in concert with the values of marriage, than spelling out each and every home responsibility in faux legalese. On that basis, it's easy to see why a "marriage...

By Brian Reid | January 4, 2007; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (303)

Nannies and Prejudice

Last week, the New York Times ran a front page story titled Nanny Hunt Can be a 'Slap in the Face' for Blacks, which outlined, in painful detail, how difficult finding a nanny can be for African American working moms. Finding good childcare is hard for everyone. Happy solutions almost always require luck, money, good judgment and perseverance. The article argues -- with anecdotal examples based on interviews with nannies and agencies in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Houston, plus factual evidence -- that black families face additional obstacles because of childcare providers who avoid working for black families. The reasons, according to the Times, "included accusations of low pay and extra work, fears that employers would look down at them, and suspicion that any neighborhood inhabited by blacks had to be unsafe." The Times's follow-up discussion revealed more difficult experiences facing black families searching for quality childcare: "My experience...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 3, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (322)

Eating Acorns

Happy 2007 and 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 Alexandra Moses I left my job 18 months before I had a baby. My husband took a job transfer and I saw it as an opportunity to make a change. I was bored at work, and this was a chance to find real happiness. Then I got pregnant. My job hunt in a new city was thrown into chaos, and the circuits in my brain went haywire. Yes, we wanted children, but I didn't know whether I'd want to stay home. I'd always assumed I'd have a job...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 2, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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