Archive: March 2007

What Is Balance, Anyway?

Vegas Mom wrote about how she balanced working, caring for her five-year-old daughter and taking charge of her husband's care after a debilitating accident. Fred wrote about balancing being a husband, a dad and a son. I've written about day care, breastfeeding, packing your husband's suitcase, stay-at-home moms, working-full-time moms, teenagers, Disney World, and my own balance between achieving career milestones and raising my three children. All these topics seem to be -- one way or another -- about balancing work and family. Yet nearly every day, no matter what the topic, someone here seems to cry "But this isn't about balance!" So what is balance, anyway? Do you have to have children in order to struggle with balance issues? How do you find your own balancing point in life? What makes you think you are balanced -- and others are not -- or vice versa? What happens when you...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 29, 2007; 10:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

With Workplace Help, Dads Would Step Up More

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I spend a lot of time, here and elsewhere, defending the modern father -- particularly the young dad -- suggesting that fathers today are more engaged in family life and more willing to put work second. I draw on my own experiences, the experience of a network of other guys committed to work-family balance and a growing list of surveys and polls that suggest guys want more time with the kids. But let me be honest: Neither I, nor the guys upon whose experience I draw, are particularly representative. There remains a yawning gap between the picture of fatherhood that I like to paint and the reality on the ground. Yes, guys are doing more, but let's put this in perspective: Dads are averaging less than an hour a day of child-care (counting weekends). That's a heckuva lot better than 1965, when fathers only put in...

By Brian Reid | March 29, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Family in Crisis

Welcome to this week's guest blog -- switching days this week because of the day-care study. Every week "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 Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration.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 Vegas Mom I dove into the car to retrieve my ringing cell phone. I'd just dropped my daughter off for her last day of preschool and was running late for work. I gasped, "Hey, what's up?" My husband's voice sounded different, strained. "I'm hurt." When we got married 15 years ago, we promised to love and care for each other "in sickness and in health." We were young and in love. I'm not sure either of us understood the gravity of...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 28, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (336)

Day-Care Dangers Overblown?

Headline on the front page of yesterday's New York Times: POOR BEHAVIOR IS LINKED TO TIME IN DAY CARE Nut graph body copy also found on the front page: A report from the largest, longest-running study of American child care has found that keeping a preschooler in a day care center a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class--and that the effect persisted through sixth grade. The finding held up regardless of the child's sex or family income, or the quality of the daycare center. What the New York Times did not emphasize on its front page yesterday: that the increase in problem behaviors is extremely slight, reflected in a one percent higher score on a standardized assessment of problem behaviors for each year spent in a day-care center. That a huge part of the problem among children may originate not in day...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 27, 2007; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (354)

Elizabeth Edwards, Political Wife

"I'm absolutely ready for this," Elizabeth Edwards said at Thursday's press conference, after she and her husband, John Edwards, announced that the breast cancer that surfaced during the 2004 campaign had returned, in a more severe, incurable form. "I mean, I don't look sickly, I don't feel sickly...I'm as ready as any person can be for that." Incisive Vanity Fair/Washington Post writer Marjorie Williams argued eloquently in "The Political Wife, RIP," that political wives who contort themselves to support their husbands' careers were a species close to extinction. Williams, who published a posthumous collection of essays, The Woman at the Washington Zoo, died of liver cancer in January 2005 so she didn't see Elizabeth Edwards at last Thursday's press conference. She didn't see John Edwards pledging to continue his bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Elizabeth, 57, and the mother of four children, has "long been the center of...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 26, 2007; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (410)

Do You View Your Parents Differently After Having Kids?

Parenthood usually marks a tectonic plate shift in our relationship with our own parents -- although usually everyone is too ecstatic and overwhelmed to notice at first. Then, a few weeks, months or years into parenthood, most people note with surprise how differently they view their own parents and their childhoods. For me, I became profoundly grateful for everything my mother and father sacrificed for me, the emphasis they placed on my getting a good education, the love of sports, animals and books they passed along. I gained new understanding of what good parents they were. My mother never lost her temper, not once, despite the frustrations I know she faced as an at-home mom to four rambunctious kids. I'm still amazed that my father, a busy Washington lawyer, came to visit me at every summer camp, every school, every place I lived as a teenager and young adult. I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 23, 2007; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (267)

College Kids: Aware of Work-Life Realities?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Two things have landed in my inbox in the last couple of months that have filled me with nostalgia. The first was an invitation to my 10-year college reunion. The second was the January issue of a Georgetown student publication, the Independent, which took on the topic of the "Mommy Wars." The piece looked in-depth at work-family balance, with explorations of at-home fatherhood (hooray!) and perspectives from some of the school's professors. The twist was that this was focused on college students, including an anonymous poll of 70 women on campus. Granted, 70 anonymous Georgetown women can hardly be taken as representative of America's young people, but it's a start. The poll, interestingly enough, asked students first about where they saw themselves in 10 years (10 years!) and 83 percent of the women polled said "married and working." In addition, the poll also contained this observation:...

By Brian Reid | March 22, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (350)

Slugs in Recliners

Last year, I told you about some fascinating University of Maryland time-diary studies from the past 40 years analyzing how moms and dads in America spend their days. Yesterday, a Washington Post recap of the research cited sociologist Suzanne Bianchi's key findings that working and non-working mothers today spend 14.1 hours per week tending "primarily" to their children -- feeding them, caring for them, playing games -- vs. only 10.2 hours per week for moms in 1965. Despite all our guilt, moms today spend more time with our kids, on average, than our mothers did. And more time than fathers -- mothers today put in twice as many hours as men in terms of childcare and housework. And dads? Well, the changes are equally noteworthy. Fathers today have nearly tripled the hours they spend with their children. They have more than doubled weekly housework from 4.4 hours in 1965 to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 21, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (440)

55 Years of Balance

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 Fred I will be 55 this year. Not an amazing accomplishment nowadays, but I have outlived two of my seven brothers. I am grateful for outliving my father and mother. Mother died several years ago and dad three years this month. My father was a typical '50's era dad: strong, silent, work-focused and somewhat withdrawn. The one thing that I always knew was that Dad loved Mom unconditionally and almost blindly. She loved him in the same way. This always baffled me a bit, and I wonder if I love Frieda...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 21, 2007; 6:45 AM ET | Comments (433)

The Opt-Out Myth

We've nearly beaten to death the media myth of moms who "opt out", but a recent recap of skewed coverage of working and stay-at-home moms in the January/February Columbia Journalism Review --The Opt-Out Myth-- was so succinct and clearly thought-out that I just had to call it to everyone's attention. The author is E.J. Graff, Senior Researcher at the Brandeis Institute for Investigative Journalism and head of the Gender and Justice Project, where she investigates "serious inequities, injustices and human rights issues that confront many women." The Opt-Out Myth mentions an interesting analysis of 119 newspaper articles from 1980 to 2006 showing how undue prominence is placed on "the opt-out storyline," conducted by Joan C. Williams, director of the University of California Hastings Center for WorkLife Law. It goes on to cite New York Times articles from the last 50 years that repeatedly highlight how much women looove to stay...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 19, 2007; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (433)

Summer Send-Off

Fresh off my kids' smashingly successful solo trip to Florida to visit their grandparents, and looking ahead to summer, here's our topic for today: What do you think about sending kids away, either to camp or relatives, for a chunk of the summer? I'm not sure I could ever send my kids off for more than a week or two. However, my husband went to eight weeks of sleepaway camp starting when he was seven. I went when I was 13. I know people who ship their kids to grandparents (especially when they live near a beach or in a rural setting) for most of the summer. The parents get a break, grandparents or other relatives get to bond, kids experience a new level of independence (and a change of scenery). Sounds like "balance" all around. What's your take? How old do kids need to be before you send them...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 16, 2007; 8:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

In Defense of the Dual-Earner Household

By Rebeldad Brian Reid One of the great myths of the work-life balancing discussion is that (as neotraditionalist rabblerouser Caitlin Flanagan once put it) "when a mother [or father] works, something is lost." The idea that kids with two working parents are somehow getting shafted is plausible enough to fuel an avalanche of books of the glories of at-home parenthood, but the actual data on this point is always pretty meager. That's why I was excited to read through this essay from the American Prospect's incredibly exhaustive series of essays on work-family balance (titled "Mother Load," but thankfully cognizant of fathers). In it, author Kathleen Gerson talks to a number of young adults about their perceptions of family, starting with their impressions of their own upbringings. And here, she drops a bombshell of sorts: Those who grew up in dual-earner homes were least ambivalent about their parents' arrangements. More than...

By Brian Reid | March 15, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Growing With Your Kids

Most of this blog, like most of my parenting experience, has focused on "balance" issues that arise when your kids are under 10. But what about the future? Soon enough "letting go" will become part of the balancing act. The famous adage is "little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems." My oldest just turned 10 and I've gotten glimpses of what the saying means. His birthday present was a cell phone so he can be in touch when he's off by himself at sports practices or with friends. He doesn't believe in Santa Claus. The other night when our five-year-old daughter asked my husband what "divorce" means -- right when DH vowed that Mommy and Daddy would never get divorced -- my son rolled his eyes. He is beginning to not believe in us the way he always has. As parents we have to let go a little bit...

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

All Possible Compromises

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 Susan Burns I have the best of jobs and the worst of jobs. I have taught engineering at the college level for 10 years, and I cannot imagine a more enjoyable and fulfilling career. The yearly influx of young, eager students who are interested in learning what I am interested in teaching renews my soul in a fundamental way every time I teach a new class. However, while my hours are somewhat flexible, they are demanding, requiring long days. Unfortunately, I have a big-city commute. As a compromise to try to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 13, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (360)

Happily Ever After?

As women spend more time working -- and have let/ encouraged/ demanded their husbands do more with kids -- fatherhood has changed dramatically in the United States. Because of this, dads' roles as parents have changed even more in the last 25 years than moms'. Along these lines comes I Think I Love My Wife, a movie that opens March 16 starring, co-written and directed by comedian Chris Rock. Rock, who is married and has two children, calls the movie "a serious comedy about dads and marriage and parenthood." The basic plot, as far as I can tell from previews, reviews and Rock's February 28 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, is that the main character's life is idyllic -- beautiful wife, lovely kids, good job, trustworthy friends. But he's bored with domestic bliss in a midlife, "is this all there is?" way, and easily distracted by a friend's seductive...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 13, 2007; 7:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Million Dollar Kids

Last Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported in The Million-Dollar Kid (free preview; subscription required for full article) that "The government says families in the top-third income bracket will spend $279,450 to raise a child born in 2005 through age 17 -- or about $16,000 a year. The government clearly hasn't been to some kids' birthday parties lately." The Journal went on to recalculate the total cost of raising a child, estimating expenses ranging from about $800,000 to $1.6 million (in 2007 dollars) to feed, house, clothe, educate and entertain a child through the age of 17. For the high-end, the Journal included what some parents consider extravagances -- and others call necessities: athletic fees, tutoring, MP3 players, iTunes downloads, overseas travel, nannies, a flat screen tv, years of private school education, a cellphone, a lavish Sweet 16 or bar mitzvah celebration. Parents always caution that kids are expensive, but...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 9, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (389)

Dads Key to Solving 'Care Crisis'

By Rebeldad Brian Reid In her Monday post on the comprehensive, if not entirely on-base Nation piece on the child-care crisis, Leslie asks, "Is Childcare A 'Woman's Issue?' " It's a good question. Child care certainly shouldn't be a 'woman's issue.' And, Leslie's conclusions to the contrary, it is less of a woman's issue than ever before. Today's dads are down with the cause. They are in the trenches. There has never been a time when men have been more involved, and the foundation of any political change will be further increasing voices of fathers in this discussion. Men are playing a bigger role, with younger dads, in particular, becoming increasingly involved in family life. Indeed, if there is a failing in the Nation piece, which exhaustively lists every possible policy-based care solution, no matter how expensive, it is that the author neglects the importance of changing attitudes -- not...

By Brian Reid | March 8, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Turning 50,000

Sometime today, in all likelihood, On Balance will reach a remarkable milestone: 50,000 comments in less than one year. The equivalent of at least five books. So. instead of our usual race to be the first poster, one of us will be the 50,000th. When washingtonpost.com asked me to start an online column about juggling work and family last year, I thought moms needed a forum to dish about our daily lives. What's surprised me most is that everyone -- fathers, babysitters, doctors, teachers, nannies, grandparents, and people who don't even have children -- have joined in. Since the blog's start, we've written hundreds of thousands of words dissecting 245 columns about supermoms, single moms, stepfamilies, postnups, the lies moms tell, our best (and worst) moments as moms and dads who stay home, Britney Spears, Anna Nicole Smith, Ann Richards, Linda Hirshman, business trips, guilt trips, and $100,000 nannies. Thanks...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 7, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (547)

Looking for Balance in All the Wrong Places

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 Robert Drago Young women seeking success in both career and family life are often advised to find men who cook and employers with family-friendly policies. Where has this advice taken us? As I find in Striking a Balance, the advice helped some: Parents in dual-earner couples now split child care almost equally. But the strategy was generally a failure. According to the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce, fewer than two million mothers held career jobs working at least 45 hours per week while 12 million held jobs paying less...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 6, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (376)

Is Childcare A 'Woman's Issue?'

Great article in the March 12 issue of The Nation, The Care Crisis. Although we have shelves full of books that address work/family problems, we still have not named the burdens that affect most of American's working families...a profound "care deficit"...Three decades after Congress passed comprehensive childcare legislation in 1971 -- Nixon vetoed it -- childcare has simply dropped off the national agenda...the political atmosphere has only grown more hostile to the idea of using federal funds to subsidize the lives of working families...It is as though Americans are trapped in a time warp, still convinced that women should and will care for children, the elderly, homes and communities. Every working woman I speak with, especially those with more than one child, suffers from never-ending worries about childcare. How much it costs, whether her caregivers are nurturing her children and keeping them safe, whether her life will fall apart tomorrow...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 5, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (480)

The Path to Better Child Care

Studies show that 90 percent of a child's brain develops by age 5. The obvious fact that teachers, other children and indoor and outdoor facilities offered my kids far more stimulation and learning opportunities than I (or another single caregiver) could provide at home is one reason I always felt that day care was a great choice. Or should I say good day care was a great choice. Now a new "state report card" issued by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) points to "an urgent need in every state to improve standards and oversight of child-care centers." In plain language, a lot of states failed the NACCRRA test, and the association believes substandard day care is a national problem. With children of working mothers spending an average of 36 hours each work week in child care, improving the quality of care nationwide is in...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 2, 2007; 6:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Commuting and the 'Dead Zone'

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I miss my commute. At least, I think I do. I have the hazy memory of someone who hasn't had to do the cross-D.C. trek in a few months, and the limitations of the Washington-area highway system aren't as sharp in my mind. Still -- I miss my alone time in the car/Metro/bike. (I've commuted in every possible way -- save rowboat and cross-country ski -- in my 10-odd years of Washington work.) The commute is on my mind after I read a piece by the always-wonderful Sue Shellenbarger, who writes the work and family column for the Wall Street Journal. Shellenbarger shone a light last week on the "Dead Zone," that terrible time in the evening after work when you simply lack the ability to communicate with your family. I know I suffer it, stumbling out of my home office into the height of arsenic...

By Brian Reid | March 1, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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