Archive: February 2007

The Private Mommy War

A year ago my anthology, Mommy Wars, which explores the inner battles of working and at-home moms, was published. The paperback came out yesterday (with cool James Bond silhouettes of moms on a funky orange cover) . In between the two pub dates, I was lucky enough to appear on the Today Show, the Diane Rehm Show, and a slew of other TV and radio programs. I talked to -- and heard from -- hundreds of working and at-home moms across the country about their own private mommy wars. This is what I found. Women everywhere -- in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, in smaller places like Orinda, Calif., and Warren, N.H. -- were eager to talk about their lives juggling work and raising kids. Moms in red states and blue states all benefit from open, honest dialogue about our mommy wars, which is part of this...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 28, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Foamgnome Weighs in On "One"

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 Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration.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 Foamgnome I sit at my computer and contemplate another job switch. I had a bad incident at work several weeks ago. My three-year-old daughter was sent home from preschool with a stomach virus. My husband was out of town on a business trip. I ended up missing two and half days of work. Back at work, my new boss was upset that I took off for my sick child. I am not sure what he expected me to do because she was not eligible to go to day care and we...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 27, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Are You Mad?

We know about law enforcement's much-criticized practice of "racial profiling." And now a new term has been coined to describe employers' practice of using a woman's parental status to decide whether to hire her, when to promote her, and how much to pay her: maternal profiling. The practice is illegal but, like many cases of discrimination, hard to prove and hard to prosecute. The victim who protests often faces future discrimination as a whistleblower that paradoxically makes it riskier for her to protest than it is for the employer to discriminate. Last Thursday, the New York Times ran a story Mom's Mad. And She's Organized that describes post-feminist, pro-mom groups, including MomsRising, Mothers & More, and the Mothers Movement Online, that have sprung up recently to fight maternal profiling and other workplace discrimination against moms. These advocacy groups have given power to moms -- who have traditionally been hamstrung by...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 26, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (234)

Do We Owe Our Kids an Education?

A great topic was suggested a few weeks ago: Do parents owe children an education? So many parents today have the knee-jerk reaction: Of course, we owe our children everything we can possibly give them. But this question is worth pondering. Technically, we don't. U.S. laws require we send our children to school, public, private, parochial or otherwise, but that's not the same as owing them an education. We give our children an education, whether we intend to or not, by the way we raise them and the type of family life we create. I want to give my children an education, because mine -- the education I got in school and from my family -- made such a difference in my life. But how much do I "owe" them? I'm not sure. What do you think? What do you owe your children? What does everyone else? Are your guidelines...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 23, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Blessing of A Skinned Knee

This Virtual Book Club selection is The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. Last summer, one of the moms from my son's basketball team told me about Wendy Mogel's The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children. My friend raved about it, saying it was the only parenting book that made any sense to her. I ordered the book the next day, and I, too, came to adore it. The book was originally published in 2001 -- a tough year to publish just about anything due to 9/11. The paperback has experienced a grass-roots resurgence, and Mogel was profiled last October in the New York Times Magazine. Practical, common-sensical, easy to read, the book is particularly applicable to American parents raising children in urban, privileged settings. It is filled with advice on how to raise your children to respect you and other adults,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 23, 2007; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Part-Time Perils

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I'm closing in on kind of a weird anniversary: Next month will mark five years from the time I walked away from the full-time workforce into the wild world of part-time work, part-time-at-home-fatherhood and full-time angst. I've since rejoined the professional rat race, but you've probably noticed that I still spend a lot of time writing about the magic of part-time work. I'm not the only one -- this blog is full of tales of do-it-all parents whose work arrangements make it possible to get some sort of rudimentary balance between work and family (Tuesday's wonderful guest blog on equal parenting is only the most recent example). As I think back over my days as a part-timer, I'm realizing that it was no picnic. And though I don't have a moment's regret about my arrangement, no one ever warned me about any drawbacks. So, in the...

By Brian Reid | February 22, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (62)

A Flight of Independence

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were pondering the upcoming four-day President's Day Weekend. Aside from our confusion over exactly when three-day weekends became four-day weekends for schoolchildren, we were torn. We both had too much work to take time off. But why should our work schedules mean the kids couldn't do something fun? So, last Friday, my husband and I drove our two oldest children, ages 8 and almost-10, to the airport. They got on a a plane and flew BY THEMSELVES to visit their grandparents in Florida. Sure, there were other people on the plane, and my husband's kind, responsible, adoring, semi-retired mother and stepfather were waiting at the Florida airport by the time the plane took off from Washington. So, it wasn't a big risk. But it felt huge to us as parents. Some parents in my neighborhood have let their kids walk to school...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 21, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Equal Parenting

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 Marc and Amy Vachon Our 4 ½-year-old daughter learned her days of the week by which one of us was home with her. If Daddy is dishing out breakfast, it must be a Tuesday. If Mommy's here, it's Friday. Her schedule may vary from day to day, but she figured out the pattern pretty quickly. Now that her little brother has joined the family, he, too, has become familiar with the dance we call Equally Shared Parenting. We've been semi-regular contributors to this blog for awhile now, and wanted to chime...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 20, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (179)

After-School Solutions

It's the nemesis of every working couple I know: Who cares for the kids when work is in session and school is not? After-school, summertime, winter vacations, sick days, last-minute business trips...the list has a life of its own. This is what I've done: * Offer our primary babysitter flexibility (she's a musician and pulls a lot of all nighters) in exchange for short notice fill-ins when we need her. * Choose public and private schools with excellent afterschool programs until 6 p.m. * Develop a reciprocal arrangement of pitch-hitting with network of parents. * Keep a long list of alternate babysitters who are available on short notice * Take advantage of the plethora of affordable summer camps in my area. Juggling three kids means I need a lot of Plan Bs. And this aspect of "balance" is one reason I don't have a fourth child. What about you? What...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 16, 2007; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

I've Seen the Ads, But I'm Not Buying

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Madison Avenue needs to get with the program. Twice in the last week, someone has sent along a link to a television commercial that derives -- or attempts to derive -- humor from the idea that dads are dolts at home. The first is a McDonalds spot from last year that shows a global cast of children chatting excitably in a number of foreign languages. In the last few moments, we learn what the kids were so worked up about, as a scene from the United States plays and a boy screams to his brother: "Dad's making dinner!" An international cast of dads is shown next, each clutching a bag from the Golden Arches. It's a sweet ad, until you think about the message: In all cultures, in all languages, dads don't/can't make dinner. Similarly, a reader forwarded me a video on Kia's site in Canada...

By Brian Reid | February 15, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Lesson in Valentines

In ancient times, before I became a mother, Valentine's Day was a romantic, decidely adult holiday, celebrated with lingerie, chocolate and sex. Since I've had school-age children, the holiday has been hijacked. Now, in late January I start worrying: How far other parents will go this time and how far below that standard my children's offerings will fall. I've seen enormous gourmet cupcakes personalized with each classmate's name in fancy script icing, lacquered doilies that look as if they belong in a vintage museum, homemade heart-shaped cookies on a stick, and last year one mom burned CDs with her child's favorite love songs. Who can keep up? Every impressive Valentine dumped from my children's backpacks screams at me: bad mother! In my pathetic way, I've tried everything: making homemade cards (mangled lumps of red construction paper and glue), buying cheap cards at CVS or slightly more chic cards from a...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 14, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Helping Hand for One Boy's Hero

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 Parresol I am a single mother of two children, and, for four years, I have received assistance through Virginia's child care fee system. Some people may think parents who receive child-care assistance are sitting at home, taking advantage of the system. But the people in my program are hard-working and have full-time jobs or are going to school to receive a higher paying job or better career. The average yearly cost to put two school-age children in day care before and after school, plus all day in the summer, is...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 13, 2007; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (410)

Oprah's Motherhood Poll

As part of Oprah Winfrey's recent, memorable segment, My Baby or My Job: Why Elizabeth Vargas Stepped Down, the show conducted a poll of 15,000 working and stay-at-home moms. Respondents' annual income levels ranged from "less than $20,000" to "over $100,000." The survey results, although not surprising, were fascinating; it is always interesting to see people's feelings in black and white. More than 80 percent of both working and at-home moms feel that stay-at-home moms do not get the respect they deserve. (I do not think moms, period, get the respect they deserve.) Nearly 100 percent of both groups describe their children as happy. (If true, this makes me wonder how therapists are going to make a living 20 years from now.) Sixty-six percent of working moms would quit to stay home with their kids if they could; only 36 percent of stay-at-home moms wish they worked. (This surprised me,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 12, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (425)

RIP Anna Nicole Smith

Last September, On Balance ran an obituary honoring Ann Richards, the first female governor of Texas, mom of four, and a very tough, classy lady. Although I know some of you may argue with me, I think it's just as appropriate to honor another Texas native, Anna Nicole Smith, who died suddenly yesterday at age 39. Ann Richards had the advantages of a stable and supportive family, in which she was an only child, and the benefit of an education from Baylor University. Anna Nicole Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan near Houston in 1967. She was one of six children born to a single mother. She dropped out of high school, married, gave birth to her son, Daniel, and divorced before she was 20 years old. She left her son with her mother to gain a financial toehold by becoming a topless dancer. She made the cover of Playboy...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 9, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (364)

Just Say No

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The one constant in the self-help books I'm more attracted to -- those on productivity and goal-setting and time management -- is the immense power and utility of the word "no." The problem, the argument goes, is not always that us unbalanced types are not working hard enough. It's that we're doing too much. So a couple of years ago, I decided to say "no" more, and it hasn't made much of a difference. "Just Say No" is no more effective a work-life strategy than it is an anti-drug message, and I'm just now beginning to realize why. Saying no is supposed to eliminate conflict, clear up space on the calendar and allow for free time. But that's not the way it works in reality, for me, anyway, when guilt and obligation come into play. The word "no" is invariably followed with something else. If I...

By Brian Reid | February 8, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (352)

Breastfeeding at the Podium

Glorious moment last week: I was getting ready to lead a talk at the Wednesday Morning Group, a working and stay-at-home moms' networking organization in the Washington, D.C. area that meets one morning a week to discuss a parenting topic or listen to a speaker. The head of the group gave a brief, funny, wonderful introduction in front of about 120 moms. All while she breastfed her five-month-old daughter. Watching her effortlessly, unselfconsciously, confidently speak into the microphone while casually holding her baby to her right boob was one of those "aha" moments. When I had my first child 10 years ago, I remember how painfully difficult it was to breastfeed in front of others, and how most women retreated to a private room or even their cars when baby got hungry. Maybe if there had been men in the auditorium last week something would have been different, but I'm...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 7, 2007; 7:13 AM ET | Comments (583)

9/11 Dad

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 Steve Fox My eight-year-old son recently came home with a book titled: September 11, 2001: The Day That Changed America. My first reaction: What's THAT book doing in an elementary school? Then I remembered that whole censorship thing. As a journalist, I'm supposed to be against that. As a parent, I want all 9/11 books moved to the middle school library. I asked my son why he had picked out the book. He said: "I wanted to read about it because you never talk about it and I wanted to see...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 6, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (549)

14 Years of FMLA -- February 5, 2007

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the original Family and Medical Leave Act(FMLA). Yahoo. But as we've discussed before in On Balance, FMLA, which is rightly considered "landmark" legislation because no safeguards existed before it and over 50 million workers have benefited, provides important but fairly minimal protection: Employees who've worked for 12 months and put in at least 1,250 hours at companies with 50 or more employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they are ill or if they need to care for a sick family member or new child. Senator Chris Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut and one of the original authors of FMLA, is proposing new legislation to expand FMLA, to put into law what some companies currently offer on a volunteer basis. Sen. Dodd's bill will push for at least six weeks of paid leave for an employee to care for themselves,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 5, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Worst Advice Ever

We've talked about the best advice we've gotten on combining work and family. Let's talk about the worst advice: the ridiculous, the intentionally alarmist, the completely impractical. For me, some of the worst advice has been: to never wear a wedding ring to a job interview, to not have kids if I were truly ambitious, to never breastfeed in public if I wanted people to take me seriously as a professional woman, to never bring my kids to the office, and to plan my pregnancies around my career plans. Fortunately, all this was drowned out by the many moms and dads I met through work who told me that having kids was the best thing they'd ever done in life, and that I should follow my heart. The worst advice I give is when working moms who are pregnant with their third ask if going from two kids to three...

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

Telecommuting Meet Career Advancement

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Telecommuting took a hit a couple of weeks ago. A survey of executives conducted by Korn/Ferry found that 61 percent of execs believe that telecommuters will damage their career prospects by working from home. But that's not the weird part. Those same executives believed overwhelmingly (78 percent) that telecommuters are at least as effective -- if not more so -- than their in-office colleagues. I've argued here before that telecommuting, for the huge swaths of the workforce for which it is practical, is enormously beneficial. It gives employees the option of working where they work best, it eliminates time-sucking commutes, it can aid in work-life balance, it reduces the expense of office space and so on. And while I have no desire to belittle the importance of face-to-face contact in corporate culture, let me be honest: the pleasure of discussing "The Office" at the office is...

By Brian Reid | February 1, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (263)

 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company