Alpha Girls

Last Sunday -- April Fool's Day -- the New York Times ran a front page article about a group of senior girls at Newton North High School outside Boston,For Girls, It's Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too (subscription or article purchase required). The girls are all "high-achieving, ambitious and confident," according to reporter Sara Rimer. They study Latin, are fluent in Spanish, have three years of varsity track, basketball, soccer, or another impressive sport under the belts around their slim waists. The pictures show them to be beautiful, thin, and athletic in addition to being articulate brainiacs.

We are living in the age of the most empowered 17 year old girls in history.

I'm not accusing the Times of getting this story wrong, or mocking these golden girls for their perfectionism. (Although I would like to see an article about high achievement among boys -- a seriously neglected media topic with long-term ramifications.) I believe the Times' portrait of these girls is accurate; in some ways, I was one of these girls myself 25 years ago, and I've seen today's version among the Washington, D.C. babysitter pool. I can predict their futures: They will all go to well-known colleges, excel there, head off to top business, law and medical schools, maybe a few to the Peace Corps or divinity school or Teach for America.

What I fear is the fate of these alpha girls once they have children. Years of hard work, prizes and promotions can't prepare them for the only true enemy to female ambition in America today: love for their children. For those who think the solution lies in not having children, another kind of torture awaits them.

In studying work/family balance among American women for the past several years, I've come to the conclusion that elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family. Not that anyone does -- or should -- feel sorry for us. However, these girls have been told and have seen for themselves that they can do ANYTHING they set out to do. But no matter how smart, hard-working and determined they are, they're not going to find a way to be on the playground and in the boardroom simultaneously.

"In many ways, caring for children is the exact opposite of ambition," writes Dr. Anna Fels in Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives. "It occurs primarily within the nuclear family; it does not involve skills that require high levels of training...and it provides extremely low levels of recognition. It's not just that our society does little to recognize mothering skills; children themselves are often comically oblivious to their parents' lives and travails. If recognition is what you're looking for, motherhood is not the place to find it...Parenting and ambition have very different benefits and constraints---in fact, they barely overlap."

What can we do to help our society's most ambitious girls navigate balance? There's no Kaplan work/family prep course (although that's a great business idea if anyone out there is game) no universal road to work/family bliss. The only thing we can do -- that many men and women are doing -- is to change our society over the next few decades so our daughters stand a chance of avoiding the mommy wars that plague us today.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 11, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Raising Great Kids
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"Years of hard work, prizes and promotions can't prepare them for the only true enemy to female ambition in America today: love for their children."

So, one can justly infer that those women who achive their ambition don't love their children!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 7:13 AM

"In studying work/family balance among American women for the past several years, I've come to the conclusion that elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family."

Yep, the decision to only work 40 hours a week as to have time for your family or keep working 80 hours to continue to advance is SOOO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT of an internal struggle than deciding between food on the table or medicine for the sick baby.


Posted by: Amazing, just amazing. | April 11, 2007 7:19 AM

Where is it written down that in order to be "elite", you have to essentially spend all your waking time at work? Or, is this "elite" status self-given in order to justify someone's ambition?

Posted by: John L | April 11, 2007 7:22 AM

"the only true enemy to female ambition in America today: love for their children"

Excuse me? Are you being inflammatory and ignorant on purpose?

There are plenty of ambitous women, former "perfect" girls who have successful careers and love their children. I am one of them (I really wasn't perfect as a high schooler, but I was very similar to the girls portrayed in the NYT article--first born feels she has to be that way). I am very offended.

The only valid point you make is that we're ignoring boys. I have a teenage son--smart, talented, etc who I feel is being "ignored" at school. The assignments seem very "girl oriented" (write an essay about your feelings....)and the girls seem to be recognized as being the top students. Needless to say he is going elsewhere next year, but I'm afraid this "girls are perfect, boys are defective" attitude is prevalent at many schools. I am hoping things even out by college when the boys finally catch up with regard to maturity.

And further--I believe that some of these "alpha" girls will burn out. If they "opt out" it will be because of that. If nothing changes for women in professional careers then what will happen for those who are ambitious will be: 1) professional school, 2) successful early career, 3) family--many will not opt out, but stay in and suffer discrimination and set backs to career and 4) few will ascend to the highest levels b/c of lack of mentoring, lack of a ticket into the boy's club, etc.

I think that your personal angst is showing through and is not necessarily generalizable to the rest of the mother population

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 7:25 AM

Everyone -- please try not to attack me or psychoanalyze me here (we've done plenty of that in the past, and I get your points!).

This is what I've seen in the years I've been working on the so-called mommy wars. It's logical -- women who invest the most in their career success have the hardest time with the inevitable compromises of motherhood. This does NOT mean to belittle other, more chronic survival struggles of less advantaged women in this country and other countries.

This internal disappointment, frustration and anger when it comes to juggling work and kids are real struggles for women in this country, and I worry for girls like the ones profiled in the Times article. All women -- especially the least advantaged -- will benefit from changes our society makes to ensure that juggling kids and work, whatever your job, becomes easier.

And sidenote: it is remarkable and disturbing that so little attention is paid to boys' challenges (and successes) today.

Posted by: Leslie | April 11, 2007 7:42 AM

Maybe we shouldn't change the world, but the ridiculous, uniquely American idea that you can have everything you want all at the same time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 7:46 AM

"I've come to the conclusion that elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family."

Sorry, Leslie, I disagree on this. Yes, when girls like this decide they want to have families, they will face an internal struggle over which path to choose. But that is because, given their talents and socioeconomic status, they have the most paths open to them to begin with. And because of those same factors, they will also have the most power to find -- or create -- a satisfying path.

That story was my mom, until she got pregnant with me her freshman year in college. Got married, had to support the family while my dad finished college, all the while finishing school on her own -- only to have my dad leave a few yrs later. I guess it's true that she didn't face much internal struggle juggling work and family -- she didn't have the luxury of choosing, so she didn't feel guilty about doing what she had to do to keep me fed, housed, and clothed.

Ask anyone who is working two jobs to feed their kids: would you rather live this life, or would you rather have all of the options these girls have, but along with that comes an "internal struggle" over which option to choose. Hmmm, gee, wonder what the answer will be? You know why my mom worked so hard all those years? To give me the opportunities those girls have -- to have the whole world open before me, and be able to choose my own path. Yes, freedom and choice, and the responsibility for your own life that comes with it, can be scary (just look at the former Soviet countries). But having the power to choose what we want our lives to be like is the most incredible luxury we have. If sometimes those choices are hard, well, that's a tradeoff I'm damn lucky to have to make.

Posted by: Laura | April 11, 2007 7:47 AM

For those who think the solution lies in not having children, another kind of torture awaits them.

-----------------------

Do you mean some internal disappointment that they will never find any other happiness or that they will suffer external judgement???

Posted by: Please specify | April 11, 2007 7:53 AM

As a woman with no children I would like to know what kind of torture I should expect to endure and when?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 7:54 AM

What! No religion in the Alpha Girls' balance!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 7:55 AM

I worry a bit about these girls too but for a very different reason... I think they in many cases they are less ambitious than they are afraid to disappoint. In high school you can please almost all adults (ditto in college) through hard work and still manage to have some fun. However, whatever path you pick afterwards you will get lobs fired your way from one camp or another. At some point you lose the "right" path, "right" choice and that can be a struggle (at least it was for me).

Posted by: ambition? | April 11, 2007 8:00 AM

This is shaping up to be a mean discussion today so I am going to say out of it.

Posted by: John Q | April 11, 2007 8:01 AM

As a woman with no children I would like to know what kind of torture I should expect to endure and when?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 07:54 AM

KLB unless you call sleeping in on the weekends and never having to wipe up bodily fluids that aren't yours torture, then I dunno what she's talking about. I'm so over the everyone's gotta have kids thing.

Posted by: Moxiemom | April 11, 2007 8:02 AM

"But no matter how smart, hard-working and determined they are, they're not going to find a way to be on the playground and in the boardroom simultaneously. "

I don't think this is a woman's issue. It is a career person's issue. An "elite" man is going to have just as much difficulty being in the boardroom and on the playground simultaneously. Men have always been told they can do ANYTHING they want. Yet they as a group have pretty much figured out that "duh, this means that I have to (at least sometimes) choose between boardroom and playground."

You can try to spin this so that it's an issue about girls and women but it's not. You have to make choices. Men do it. Maybe you should take note of that.

Posted by: A Woman | April 11, 2007 8:04 AM

Where is it written down that in order to be "elite", you have to essentially spend all your waking time at work? Or, is this "elite" status self-given in order to justify someone's ambition?

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We talk about elite athletics all the time & that never raises any eyebrows. Comparing academics is a messy business - I think US News does a huge disservice to HS students - but at some point I don't think it should scandalous to look at what the girls (and boys!) in this article have accomplished and say that it sets them apart from the average. Academic success isn't perfectly correlated to hard work but there is some relationship there.

Posted by: to John L | April 11, 2007 8:07 AM

I think it is harder to be one of these they have CHOICES. I understand what Leslie is getting at. A woman who's struggling to get by doesn't question her decision to work because it's not a decision -- it's a necessity. An upper- or middle-class woman who's well educated, excels at and loves her career but feels the pull to be at home with her children suffers (yes, I said SUFFERS) because she often has a choice to make, and if you choose to stay at work, you feel like you've let down your kids. Not everyone, not all of the time, but it's there. Obviously, of the two scenarios, give me the one where I have a choice every time.

I do feel for these girls, because the higher the pedestal you're perched on, the farther the fall will be.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 11, 2007 8:11 AM

"As a woman with no children I would like to know what kind of torture I should expect to endure and when?"

You'll never get a call from a kid in handcuffs!

You'll never have a grandchild put up for adoption!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 8:11 AM

I feel a Blog Stats survey coming on.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 8:12 AM

Thanks for the warnings of the torture I and other childless women will be forced to endure. I will take my punishment quietly.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 8:15 AM

"I do feel for these girls, because the higher the pedestal you're perched on, the farther the fall will be."

If a girl is smart enough to be fluent in Spanish, learn Latin, take care of herself phsycially, and go to top graduate schools, and isn't smart enough to figure out that you can't spend 70-80 hours a week at work and be with their children at the same time, then she deserves to have a nice fall off the pedestal.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 8:17 AM

Leslie - If you were one of these girls, and you think you succeeded, why wouldn't these elite girls succeed?

These girls have parents that have provided them with all the material things they need and I hope they get the emotional support they need as well. Whether you are wealthy or poor parenting has a much larger impact on someone's success or failure then a book on the mommy wars or a NY Times article.

The elite girls are just going to have to deal with life and babies and navigate the "playground vs. boardroom" like the rest of us - one day at a time. Anyone that relies on "society" for approval of their parenting is going to be sorely dissappointed.

KLB - Are you waiting with baited breath for torture to come knocking at the door?

Posted by: cmac | April 11, 2007 8:20 AM

Sorry, anonymous at 8:17, but I disagree that anyone deserves a fall of a pedestal. I remember being young, smart, talented, and driven and thinking I could have it all. Wrong. But there are still people out there who seem like they do have it all (thanks to the media, mostly and my own skewed perceptions), and that keeps me wondering if it's just me.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 11, 2007 8:21 AM

I think comparing "elite" career people to "elite" athletes is a strawman, though. No athlete stays at the top of his (or her) sport for more than 10 years, 15 years tops. By that time, if they managed their money wisely, they're set for life and can do whatever they want.

Is this "internal conflict" Leslie refers to within "elite career women" exclusive to US women? Or is it universal for all women in this situation? How do successful women in other countries manage having a family and a career?

As for men not having this internal conflict, ISTM that that may be because we're not as intimately involved in creating/raising the children. After all, we're not the ones having the child growing inside us, or being so intimately involved early on with caring for the child (although we can do so it's not as often). Men are typically in the supporting role when it comes to caring for young children, making it easier to balance the home/work decisions.

Posted by: John L | April 11, 2007 8:24 AM

There's a point here, but as usual Leslie has come off so condescending it's hard for some of us in the trenches to get past the BS. It's the same reason I cancelled my "Working Mother" sub--reading about how some CEO "always schedlued my business trips to Indonesia to be home for daughter's soccer game" while I'm trying to calm a sick infant and a con call made me throw the magazine against the wall!

Back to the point--I think burnout is a very real issue, and not just when they have kids. My superstar in high school sis is working at Macy's as a clerk at 25 b/c she dropped out of the pressure. She makes 8 bucks an hour, but somehow makes it work!

Posted by: ptjobftmom | April 11, 2007 8:25 AM

WorkingMomX-What you said!

I certainly had no idea what life was going to throw at me. As one of those overachievers back in high school and college, I thought life would somehow just work out. It didn't.

I discovered myself by making and living choices. Yes, there was angst while making those choices and I envied those who didn't have to choose (e.g., the guys). However, I believe I am a stronger person because I lived by and with my choices. This strength was something I didn't know anything about when I was in school.

Posted by: dotted | April 11, 2007 8:27 AM

Hi "Please Specify" -- I meant both -- society's bizarre judgment of women who choose not to have kids, and internal regret/mixed feelings that some, but definitely not all, childless women experience.

Sorry to be cryptic in the original post. I didn't mean to be.

Posted by: Leslie | April 11, 2007 8:32 AM

Dotted, you are so right. Our choices ultimately reveal so much about who we are, but making them can be hell. Say it with me: that which does not kill me makes me stronger. And then go get some chocolate!!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 11, 2007 8:32 AM

Leslie - If you were one of these girls, and you think you succeeded, why wouldn't these elite girls succeed?

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Leslie has talked about struggles with anexoria & written a book about external pressures. You come across as very content with your choices... which is the ideal. But giving a child self-confidence seems tricky in the same way as passing on faith (as opposed to religion). As far as I can tell my parents are perfect and did everything right - but I still lack self-confidence in many regards. I worry not that these kids are too ambitious, but they are too used to pleasing others.

Posted by: to cmac | April 11, 2007 8:32 AM

I will side with Leslie on this one. Motherhood is the great leveler. You don't get transcripts with A+ down every column, promotions, bonuses or any kind of external affirmation of your success. You cannot have it all. It is rare that a person can have the kind of success in their career, comparable to these girls academic success, without a lot of personal sacrifice - primarily in terms of time - time for yourself, time with family. I remember wanting to leave my law firm but not having the time in the day to put together a resume and do a job search. Obviously, this is all depends on one's definition of career success but when you look at their academic accomplishments and the direction they are heading it is a particular kind of career that is likely to be attractive to them. And, this kind of career is going to be very hard to maintain once children come into the picture. And, having to give up that world is not going to be easy when they've spent their entire childhood working towards that goal.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | April 11, 2007 8:33 AM

So those Alpha girls will just have to start thier own companies so they can feed their ambition and still be available for their kids! In my experience, these are not mutually exclusive.

What we REALLY need to do is redefine balance. It is tough to be in balance over any one day. If you expand your timeframe for balance to a week, a month, or a quarter, it is much easier to obtain WITHOUT the nagging guilt that comes from consoling a sick child while on a conference call. If that were me (ptjobftmom), I would either leave my phone on mute, reschedule the call, or have someone else cover for me. Worst case scenario, apologize for the noise and tell them they're lucky your not meeting in person!

The bottom line is about redefining what "having it all" means to you and not worrying about what anyone else thinks about it!

Posted by: ParentPreneur | April 11, 2007 8:36 AM

In some ways I have "succeeded" but it has been far more challenging than I ever imagined, and there is no doubt I failed at the career I originally set out to achieve. I think a system that only allows the luckiest, most determined, gifted women to "succeed" in juggling work and family is a flawed system.

The "elite" issue seems to sidetrack so many people on this blog. You can always find examples of someone more privileged or less privileged. But that doesn't diminish the pain felt by either party.

Also, these juggling issues are far more challenging for women (sorry, dads). More is expected of women in terms of daily childcare and household responsibilities, we are paid significantly less for our work, and societal bias makes others judge us (consciously or unconsciously) for choices men make without recrimination.

Posted by: Leslie | April 11, 2007 8:37 AM

I am not particularly ambitious but have still ended up climbing the career ladder. Never for a minute would I consider dropping out of the workforce to stay home with my DD. What a waste that would be of the 11 years I spent in college and grad school, how limiting for my future and what a bad example to set her. Of course I'd like more time for personal stuff, so would everyone. If my husband wanted to stay home, that'd be fine by me, but he likes working, too. Anyone who assumes that only women should be required to have the internal dialog about career vs family deserves a swift kick in the behind.

Posted by: Olney | April 11, 2007 8:37 AM

The dearth of articles of challenges and achievement of boys??? You've got to be kidding! I hope you won't have any problem in identifying the gender of the highest management of virtually all Fortune 500 companies today (excluding Pepsi and maybe a handful (if that many) of others), as well as the gender of most high positions of national and local governments. While, as a woman, I am gratified that more women are stepping up in the political sector, it is still a challenge for women to run the show in corporate governance at the level which really matters (not just a cog in the wheel).

Boys may face challenges, but it's still the boys who are in charge -- and, trust me, the boys know it. Girls and women face challenges which do not register *at all* with boys and men -- witness the comments from Don Imus, for crying out loud.

Posted by: sec | April 11, 2007 8:41 AM

"What can we do to help our society's most ambitious girls navigate balance?"

Internet resources like this blog are great, actually.

I've been reading for months now. I'm an overachieving type-A egghead doing space robotics for the government, and I'm expecting my first baby in May. Like a good egghead, I've been doing my research. (And yes, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that doing research about being a parent is nothing like actually being a parent. Got it.)

While I can't say anything for certain until my son is actually here, it's my hope that reading these many articles about work/family balance, and the many, many, many ways of coping with them will help me find my own ways of coping. It's raised my awareness of the issues I'm likely to encounter, and exposed me to multiple possible solutions and ways of thinking about the problem. It doesn't solve the problem for me, but it does give me some tools to apply to it.

Posted by: An Expectant Alpha | April 11, 2007 8:43 AM

"More is expected of women in terms of daily childcare and household responsibilities"

Expected by whom?? Just because women DO more of the childcare and household responsibilities doesn't mean that it's expected.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 8:43 AM

Here we go again. Not a day goes by in which the "Mommy Wars" topic splashes all over the newspaper, TV or Radio. Why? The answer is to generate buzz for the purveyors of controversy of course. The author of this article, and those like her, need to periodically raise this "issue" in order to keep their jobs and justify their existence.

When are you going to figure out that you're being used? Do what feels right to you, and don't worry about what other people say or think. Set reasonable expectations for yourself. Reach that point, and then you'll really be liberated.

Posted by: Adrienne Najjar | April 11, 2007 8:43 AM

Well, I was a driven kid, and a driven college student, and an ambitious worker. And now I have two kids and a husband and a house and it's a struggle--I don't want to slow down my career, but I also don't want to have to travel/work a lot of nights and weekends/be generally stressed from management responsibilities, at least to the extent that time/attention for my kids suffers. I also have to balance my internal balancing arrangements with my husband's career goals and ambitions, as well as his desire to be an involved father. It's hard. Not as hard as worrying about having food on the table, but it is my life, and the life of a lot of people who read the Washington Post, and we should be able to discuss on a blog without being judged for not having worse problems. I'm not a whiner--I was a successful student and am a successful adult because I work hard and look for solutions to problems. For the most part I get through each day just fine without beating myself up about the choices I'm making. But it would be nice to be able to discuss the tough days, or to learn more about how other people deal with particular challenges (snow days, sick days, childcare arrangements, what to do when both parents have to travel), without all the damn sniping.

Posted by: Arlmom | April 11, 2007 8:44 AM

Leslie,

I think part of the problem is worrying about how society judges us! True, sometimes that judgement results in reduced pay for the same work or being put on the "mommy track" without our consent. But rather than feel 'victim' to societal biases, I agree with you that we should work to change it! That is why I believe in the empowerment of entrepreneurship. Why not start your own company and prove that you can be profitable and still have a life - that is what I did and was able to extend that "life" to my employees.

I think it was Ghandi that said "Be the change you want to see in the world.."

Posted by: ParentPreneur | April 11, 2007 8:47 AM

Leslie - PLEASE!! More articles about the successes of boys! what about thousands of years of history, all of those dead white men we study in history class? I think that it is amazingly impressive that woman have done so much to catch up and even surpass men over a period of a generation. This should be discussed more!

Also, one of my pet peaves is now take our daughters to work, is now take our daughters and sons to work - misses the point entirely of introducing women (who once had only a few defined career choices) to new careers and options out of the box... We should also have perhaps - take our sons home to work, and follow a sahf for a day to see what family life and fatherhood is like rather than bring him to the office where he will end up...

Posted by: single mom | April 11, 2007 8:47 AM

1) I get all the recognition I need when I pick my daughter up from school and she runs to me happy and excited. If I lost my job tomorrow, I'd find another one so what. Dr. so and so is right that some people don't look on motherhood as being a hard job, but I think it is the hardest job I've ever had to do and I have been doing it way longer than the three years I have been blessed with my daughter.

2) I worked with an alpha girl who left to go to law school. She was the most self centered person I have ever meant in my life. When I got pregnant, she said gross. Refused to come into my cube because I had a picture of my sonogram framed and one day when I walked into hers she turned around disgusted and told me my stomach made her sick.

Not to say they are all like her, my babysitter is a wonderful alpha girl and is on her way to a good school and a bright future just like Leslie says.

However, when you think the whole world revolves around you because it always has, sometimes the reality of the real world is shocking. I sometimes think the motherhood will be the least of some of these girls worries.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 8:49 AM

I think that leslie has some good points. I actually wasn't necessarily one of those girls, but certainly went to high school with them (and most in my (public) high school went on to the ivy league or other elite private colleges-poor me only went to a state school). I understand what she is saying- many men don't necessarily have these choices ahead of them-but most men want to be able to have them. They aren't (as discussed before) necessarily discriminated against at work, but they want to be more involved.

But more is the fact that the focus has been on women and girls for so long that boys really aren't getting the attention they need. Boys are the ones typically diagnosed with add- but I believe this is more due to the fact that elementary schools have been cutting back on recess and boys need more physical activity than girls. Girls are attending college in record numbers, while boys are not going as much(which creates many other switches in our society, with jobs, marraige, etc). There is more than meets the eye.

Posted by: atlmom | April 11, 2007 8:49 AM

A Woman writes: "I don't think this is a woman's issue. It is a career person's issue.... You can try to spin this so that it's an issue about girls and women but it's not. You have to make choices. Men do it."

This is exactly right. The relevance of this point, for this discussion, is what young alpha girls can learn from BOTH their parents about how to make choices.

Certainly, these young girls can and should look to their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other female role models. But these young girls should also learn from the experiences of their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers as well.

And the same goes for young alpha boys too - learn from both your male and female role models about how to make choices for yourself.

Posted by: Skepticality | April 11, 2007 8:50 AM

"we should be able to discuss on a blog without being judged for not having worse problems"

Yes, but we should also not have to read things like this: "elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family". Even if you take those women who are struggling to put food on the table out of the mix, you're still left with a large percentage of women who might not be "elite" - they were B+ students in high school, they went to state universities with no graduate school, they work in midlevel positions in jobs they enjoy, they don't "have" to work because they could live a more modest life on one salary - do those women not have internal struggles juggling work and family?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 8:50 AM

Wow!!! So many people taking this post so very personally today. Definitely too nasty for my blood today. See you all tomorrow.

Posted by: JS | April 11, 2007 8:52 AM

Your post is sexist. The young men of today have nothing to do with the dead white men of the past. Shame on you.

Posted by: to single mom | April 11, 2007 8:53 AM

Today's blog fails to acknowledge that not all women want to have children. Some of these girls will never encounter the "enemy of ambition," because they will choose to pursue other callings. Other girls will not encounter it due to circumstances beyond their control. And others will decide it's better to do one thing well than two things average. Still others will devote all of their talents and ambition into raising their children. Why can they not also use their talents and skills to find a workable solution? It may be true that one cannot be in the boardroom and on the playground at the same time, but that glib example is hardly an accurate indicator of the likelihood of success at home or at work.

I also strongly disagree that children are "the enemy of ambition." It's almost to ignorant to warrant a response, but still worth pointing out that there are plenty of women out there who manage to succeed in their careers and in their families.

And what is wrong with telling girls they can do anything they set their minds to? I was raised that way, and guess what? I may not be able to break the space-time continuum, but I'm still going to find a way to do what I think is important. Period.

Posted by: lawgirl | April 11, 2007 8:54 AM

"For those who think the solution lies in not having children, another kind of torture awaits them."

What in the hell is THAT supposed to mean? How about those of us who don't want kids? I'm NOT not having them to excel, I'm not having them because it's just not something I've ever wanted.

Posted by: ilc | April 11, 2007 8:55 AM

According to everything I've read, boys are falling behind girls at every level and in every subject in school. So yes, I think we do need to be concerned about boys and what's happening to them.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 11, 2007 8:56 AM

Maybe you're underestimating these girls. First, maybe they won't have kids. And maybe they won't torture themselves with that decision. Second, if they do, maybe they'll find a way to achieve their perfect balance. In much the way my generation changed the world differently than the way my mother's generation did, maybe the next generation of superteens will get closer to achieving balance. Maybe they WILL find a way to be on the playground and in the boardroom at the same time.

"I'm afraid this "girls are perfect, boys are defective" attitude is prevalent at many schools."

I find this to be sad, and at the same time, baffling. How is it that girls excel so much more in school, but can't seem to bust through that glass ceiling in equivalent numbers? Is it biological? Are we mommy-tracking ourselves? Is it the guilt of more time spent away from home, the perceived emasculation of husbands making less, or just plain old-fashioned sexism? Or are the schools just making it too easy for girls to succeed, thereby giving them inadequate preparation for the real world?

Posted by: Mona | April 11, 2007 8:56 AM

The dearth of articles of challenges and achievement of boys???

---------------------------------------

I work at a college - 80% of honor society members and 90% of summa grads are female. The boys may earn more eventually, but parents have more (on average) to worry about when they send a son to college (90% dismissals are male). I teach a technical subject and do not assign any feelings essays in my courses. I am pretty sure people in other fields stick to their subject matter as well. It is a function of how (on average) students manage time, complete homework on time, and seek help when needed. The balance shifts as college goes on - but for GPA prizes it can be too late.

Posted by: kind of | April 11, 2007 8:56 AM

Indeed my post is sexist - the point is we should be proud of the accomplishments of women over the past generation without lamenting on what happened to the boys each time we discuss the success of women. We have many men in history that boys can look to as mentors and fewer women.

Also - the use of "elite women" by Leslie is quite offensive. Us less-elite, but career driven parents face the same challenges in parenting and balancing our goals.

Posted by: single mom | April 11, 2007 8:57 AM

what I disagree with in this article is the presumption that "perfect" girls are perfect because of their achievements. Yes, in the *me, me* world that would make you perfect, but we would be much better off if perfection was defined by how you made the world better. Where is the focus on helping others, being a good friend, being a good neighbor, and yes, being a loving parent? I believe one of the BIGGEST problems we have today is everyone's relentless pursuit of perfection, at everyone else's expense.

Posted by: jan | April 11, 2007 8:58 AM

For the "What? Who needs more articles about men?" crowd, you're confusing two very different things.

Leslie isn't saying that we need more history lessons about dead white males of the last 2000 years. Nor is she referring to the vast majority of Fortune 500 CEOs who are male - and probably in their 40s, 50s, or 60s.

Rather, Leslie is referring to the young boys, who are still in school or college, and face daunting challenges and choices and balance issues as well. This is the topic that has been virutally ignored, both in the social sciences and in the popular press.

Again, the relevant point for this discussion is that both young women and young men should look to both male and female role models, while still deciding how to make choices for themselves.

Posted by: Skepticality | April 11, 2007 8:59 AM

Indeed my post is sexist

At least you can see you have an issue.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 9:01 AM

Perhaps if the young men/boys see more equality in the home the young women will have a better chance of attaining it down the road.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 9:01 AM

The words "elite" and "ubor" appear in 189 post by 114 diferent contributors.

Top 3 listed below:

5 foamgnome
5 Leslie
6 Fred

Nothing surprising here.

Posted by: Blog Stats | April 11, 2007 9:05 AM

Blog stats, don't you want to search for

uber

not "ubor"?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 9:09 AM

I live in Newton, the city profiled in the NYT piece and I can tell you it's spot on when they described the mothers at Whole Foods and at the gym bragging to each other about what school their kids are applying to..how many sports they're playing, etc. etc. I have a 17-month old daughter who will eventually go to the great public high school in the article...i hope she does not feel the pressure to be perfect or have it all. I certainly don't. I work 3 days a week while she goes to daycare. some weeks i do wish i was back full time and others I say to myself "God, I'm glad I don't work any more than 3 days." the mothers in Newton, I think, sometimes get caught up in one-upsmanship with each other. some of the conversations I overhear are neauseating. that said, i think if these girls feel pressure to be perfect that some of that pressure is coming from the parents.

Posted by: Sophie's Mom | April 11, 2007 9:10 AM

"The words "elite" and "ubor" appear in 189 post by 114 diferent contributors.

Top 3 listed below:

5 foamgnome
5 Leslie
6 Fred

Nothing surprising here"

"Ubor" is a bit of a surprise. What is it?

Posted by: Office Dibble | April 11, 2007 9:11 AM

Was I the only one who read this article and felt a little sorry for these girls?

Sometimes it feels like America is becoming more and more like Japan -- the relentless emphasis on sorting out the kids by achievement, cram schools, the death of childhood, and kids feeling like "losers" if they don't reach the top of the heap, the way society gives everything to the few at the top and leaves nothing for everyone else -- and I find myself wondering if our society is going to eventually going to have the same kinds of social problems as Japan as well -- high rates of suicide, little time for leisure and family, and so forth.

These girls all seemed a little, well, lost to me. It reminded me of that ground-breaking article in the Atlantic MOnthly a few years ago about the "driven kids" at Princeton, with their daytimers and their Blackberries. It featured interviews with some of the faculty at Princeton as well as some psychologists, and it talked about the kids didn't really have any downtime or really understand who they were.

I LOVED the profile of the girl who wanted to be the theologian, because she seemed to be really thinking about what she wanted, not just jumping through the hoops. But I wondered about some of the other characters.

BTW, I just finished that novel "Acceptance" by Kate Coll, and I think we should do that for a "book of the month club" posting. It's about a hypothetical high school in the US and the families as they go through senior year and applying to colleges. Supposedly, the city is really Bethesda, and the high school somewhere in Montgomery County. It talks about that same issue in broader more accessible terms -- what is success in America? Is there more than one brand of success? WHy does everyone seem to fixate on only one type of success -- acceptance to an Ivy League school -- and so forth.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | April 11, 2007 9:13 AM

Leslie asks a great question:

"What can we do to help our society's most ambitious girls navigate balance?"

Her answer is "to change our society over the next few decades so our daughters stand a chance of avoiding the mommy wars that plague us today."

Unfortunately, I have to be skeptical of such an approach.

The reason is that if you examine the history of significant societal change, it is rarely driven by ideology. It is far more likely to be driven by technology (e.g. birth control), or by externally imposed pressures (e.g. foreign invasion).

My own view is that Leslie's goal of targeted societal change in two or three decades is too ambitious and unlikely to succeed.

In its place, I would suggest that it certainly is true that individual choices, summed over the population, can over time result in attitudinal, demographic, and political shifts that are detectable and measurable in social science surveys.

And that may be the best we can hope for. We can't predict or control the outcome, but we can try to make progress over time, and see how far we get before the next generation takes its turn.

Posted by: Skepticality | April 11, 2007 9:15 AM

As far as I can tell my parents are perfect and did everything right - but I still lack self-confidence in many regards. I worry not that these kids are too ambitious, but they are too used to pleasing others.

Posted by: to cmac | April 11, 2007 08:32 AM

I don't disagree with anything you posted. I may well be content but that does not mean I didn't struggle. I never take content and self-confidence as a sign of an easy life, most of the time it is worked out bit by bit, and if I may be so bold as to say, earned.

ParentPreneur: I love how you always hit home with the "start your own business" message. People too often look for satisfaction (personally and professionally) from external sources when they can get it interally as well. I know many entrepreneurs, most love having their own business, but it is 24/7. However is also reaps some of the greatest rewards, cheers!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 9:16 AM

>>Yes, but we should also not have to read things like this: "elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family"....a large percentage of women who might not be "elite" - they were B+ students in high school, they went to state universities with no graduate school, they work in midlevel positions in jobs they enjoy, they don't "have" to work because they could live a more modest life on one salary - do those women not have internal struggles juggling work and family?>>

I don't care where you went to school and what your GPA was. I consider you "elite" if you are highly professionally successful, which generally means you have staff and clients you are responsible for, decision-making authority, and business development targets. And it *is* hard to balance your family life with that kind of professional situation--when you HAVE to be the person who stays late, or travels on short notice, or comes in on the weekend to make sure the big proposal gets done. A person with a 9-5 job will still have balancing issues, but it's not the same if you can leave your job behind when you go home at night.

Posted by: Arlmom | April 11, 2007 9:16 AM

I read this article last week, and saw myself as a teenager in it. Kinda made me sad, because I realized a few years ago that I worried and obsessed way too much during a time that, in retrospect, should have been a bit more light hearted.

There's nothing wrong with focus and ambition, but as a fellow-student once told me in college, I needed "a good vice". At the time I was insulted. I see now he meant I needed to stop worrying and enjoy life a little and stop trying to be everything to everybody. A bit crude in the delivery perhaps, but an important message nonetheless.

So maybe we need an Ex Alpha Girl club. As part of the requirements these girls seem to crave, they must spend a few weekends with us over achievers.

We can tell them about our failed relationships, because all of our good intentions didn't change the fact that the man we loved started to resent our successes.

We can show them our surgery scars or physical therapy bills, brought on by pushing ourselves into a sport when we should have learned that sometimes its okay to lose, or that we need to accept the limits of our aging bodies.

We can show them our resumes, which show that even though we were destined to be trailblazers and world shakers, that sometimes luck just doesn't run our way.

And finally, we can tell them about our copious therapy, needed after a mini-nervous breakdown caused by all the above made us realize that the world wasn't how we thought it was going to be.

Then we lock them in an apartment for a weekend. They can only watch DVD's of movies with incredibly good looking men and non-serious plot lines (I'm thinking the Ocean's Eleven/Twelve movies). And the pantry is stocked with Ben & Jerry's (no sorbet, only the full-fat, 200% calorie type), pizza, beer & wine, and some crudite to cleanse the palate. Throw in some People and Cosmo magazines - let's be generous and throw in some Vanity Fair's as well. No phones. No computers. Just an environment designed for sloth.

That way they can learn that sometimes, learning how to stop and relax is the best thing for them. That being a little self-indulgent (in the proper setting) can go a long way. And THAT can help them learn balance.

Posted by: Former Alpha Girl | April 11, 2007 9:18 AM

"A person with a 9-5 job will still have balancing issues, but it's not the same if you can leave your job behind when you go home at night.


And maybe that's why the person chose the 9-5 job in the first place.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 9:18 AM

Leslie, I think this is one of your best posts yet. Maybe it's because I have a daughter, maybe it's because my wife could be considered one of these high-achieving Alpha Girls.

These girls/women spend 25 - 30 years exceling in a mans world on the same terms, they have "equal marriages," then they get pregnant and for the first time for many of them, they find that it's HARD to be a woman. That's gotta mess with your mind.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 11, 2007 9:19 AM

"Certainly, these young girls can and should look to their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other female role models. But these young girls should also learn from the experiences of their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers as well."

Posted by: Skepticality | April 11, 2007 08:50 AM

That's right! My wife learned from the experience of both her parents. What she learned is that she wanted to be a stay-at-home mother, married to someone who would support her in that endeavor.

"And the same goes for young alpha boys too - learn from both your male and female role models about how to make choices for yourself."

That's right, too! I learned from the experience of both of my parents. And what I learned from being raised by a stay-at-home mother is that I wanted my future children to be raised the same way.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | April 11, 2007 9:20 AM

to arlmom - so I guess your definition of elite also includes homicide detectives, ambulance drivers, nurses, and oh so many other professions where - in your words - you HAVE to be the person who stays late, or travels on short notice, or comes in on the weekend to make sure the big -insert type of work - gets done. Right?

Posted by: jj | April 11, 2007 9:22 AM

"However, these girls have been told and have seen for themselves that they can do ANYTHING they set out to do. But no matter how smart, hard-working and determined they are, they're not going to find a way to be on the playground and in the boardroom simultaneously."

They also can't be in the boardroom and the operating room simultaneously. If you want the time with children, you have to adjust your work hours. Maybe that means changing career aspirations. The true struggle may be choosing a career compatible with family rather than choosing career or family.

Maybe our mistake is in not teaching our children that the 'elite' careers are very time intensive and may require extensive travel and are not particularly family-friendly. Teach these young women and men, actually still girls and boys, that chilren require a lot of time as well. We prepare our children so much for their education and careers, but not so much for their family lives. Maybe some will change their academic paths because they know they want a different kind of life. Others will continue on because of their career ambitions.

I agree with the other poster who thinks that girls/boys who perform so highly may be doing it for external reasons (family expectations) as well as internal ambition/drive.

I think the solution lies in people taking more of a stand regarding how many hours and how much travel they will give their employers. I keep hearing that it is the corporate culture, or you must make partner or basically give up law, but if people stand together, then maybe change will occur. Think unions and strikes of the past. Those workers could not afford to lose their jobs and paychecks, but they stuck to their principles and the employers made changes.

Men doing more at home would ease the burden on women, but the work hours required for some positions are just ridiculous, no matter how much help their is at home. Even if I could afford a live-in staff so that I never had to deal with housework, yardwork, laundry, childcare, or cooking, I still would not want to work 60-80 hour weeks. I would rather be with my family.

Posted by: just sayin' | April 11, 2007 9:23 AM

is this really rocket science? ... i mean, what is the difficulty in understanding that the topic raised in the blog is apples and oranges? ... ambition? recognition? entitlement? ... i am hoping that today's young women who achieve to such stratospheric heights (tiny minority that they are among young women) AND the partners that they find as adults realize that one can not have everything and all their achivement does not give them a 'get out of hard choices free' card ... they, like us, can choose to be selfish and feel entitled to everything, no matter ho wmutually exclusive, or they can choose to be interdependent and think about building something beyond the reach of their fingertips ...

curious that a blog called 'on balance' can't distinguish unbalanced lives and unbalanced expectations when the topic arises

Posted by: dad o'2 - 21042 | April 11, 2007 9:23 AM

Updated "elite" stats to include "uber":

6 foamgnome
7 Fo3
7 Fred

Posted by: Blog Stats | April 11, 2007 9:24 AM

Diversion alert:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=3028515&page=1

Charges on Duke Lacrosse players dropped

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 9:27 AM

"I live in Newton, the city profiled in the NYT piece and I can tell you it's spot on when they described the mothers at Whole Foods and at the gym bragging to each other about what school their kids are applying to..how many sports they're playing, etc. etc."

Posted by: Sophie's Mom | April 11, 2007 09:10 AM

What makes Newton kids "elite"? I know people who live in Natick. Are kids in Newton smarter than kids in Natick? What's the average IQ of kids in Newton? Is there any connection between kids in Newton being really smart, and the great scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, being so smart that he discovered Newton's Laws of Motion? If kids in Newton inherit their intelligence from Sir Isaac Newton, doesn't that give them an unfair advantage as compared to kids from Natick? How many kids from Newton get into the elite school across the river ("Founded in 1877 by William Barton Rogers"), as compared to the children of the engineers I know at Natick?

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | April 11, 2007 9:28 AM

Umm, how about raising our boys to be more than just money-providers? After all, with a little luck, these young people will want to have a partner with whom to share their lives. Even a partner with whom to parent any children.

It's not a zero-sum game, where if one party wins, the other loses.

Of course, if it turns out that someone is homosexual, let's hope they too can find a good partner.

It's darned hard work.

But Leslie, it would be nice if you would branch out and talk with those who are on the lower, even the much lower, economic scale. It would add some additional perspective to your readers who are the economic elite, perhaps get some momentum going in addressing all sorts of issues.

Posted by: to Leslie | April 11, 2007 9:31 AM

Several posters have said men don't need to make these choices and that is completely false. I struggle daily and hourly with these decsions and choices. I just accepted a job with a $10,000 pay cut and lower profile to cut back my commute and spend more time with family. Men question their choices constantly and struggle with all of the issues Leslie described. If you think women are taught they can (and should) have everything, try being a man. Every one of my male friends also struggles with these issues. And of course, they don't compare to the challegnes most people face, but they still provide hours of self-doubt and conflict. And yes, I know, you need to make your choices and live with them, but hard to reconcile when there are so many options out there (working on this in therapy...)

Posted by: JDS | April 11, 2007 9:33 AM

To change the girls, maybe you can change the parents to actually parent them and show them that life is short and you should not take everything seriously. You don't need to be the best. Maybe the parents can stop using their kids to attain status. Maybe the parents can stop pushing their kids to attain goals that are semi-realistic. Maybe the parents can treat their kids as kids and not buddies. Maybe the parents can realize that quality of life is not about how large your house is or how large your bank account is but establishing peace in your piece of mind...

Posted by: Joe D. | April 11, 2007 9:34 AM

jds-you are correct about men also choosing. I was wrong. However, generally women choose and men do not. I was caught in generalities, societal expectations, and my own personal experience.

Posted by: dotted | April 11, 2007 9:35 AM

I guess the blog is full of Alpha girl readers. I was one of those and hopefully still am. I worked hard in my education and always strove to be the best or at the best place possible. Have I slowed my career with 'being mommy?' Yes, but only for the period they need me most. That is not forever, As a mother of two girls, I would not want to tell them that they cannot succeed at their chosen path. I hope to tell them that I worked to make it possible for them to have the balance I strive for so much.

I have a lot of guilt about the number of hours they have to stay in daycare, something their equally hard working father doesn't trouble himself over. But the other day, my four year old decided for costume day she wanted to be 'Dr Mommy' with lab coat and stethoscope. Today she wants to be President...So I think striving hard does have some benefits for your kids, male and female. That is what I hope to tell them when they are struggling with balance.

This striving hard also opens opportunities for them in the future: unfortunately access to some of the things these girls talked about in the article are only available to the children of striving adults.

Posted by: Sunniday | April 11, 2007 9:36 AM

For some reason, you can read the article for free here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/01/education/01girls.html?ex=1176436800&en=68649bb2de01c61c&ei=5070

Posted by: Ann | April 11, 2007 9:36 AM

"I don't care where you went to school and what your GPA was. I consider you "elite" if you are highly professionally successful, which generally means you have staff and clients you are responsible for, decision-making authority, and business development targets."

Wow, Arlmom, you sound like a prototypical Washingtonian. Do you ask people "what do you do" when you meet them, and then dismiss them if they don't meet your definition of elite?

FYI, I am not "elite" and don't have kids, and am perfectly happy to be a loser who doesn't have to worry about balance at all!

Posted by: Alexandria VA | April 11, 2007 9:37 AM

"I just finished that novel "Acceptance" by Kate Coll, and I think we should do that for a "book of the month club" posting"

Huxley's "Brave New World" is much, much more on point: human embryos conditioned to belong to one of five castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon.

Posted by: Officer Dibble | April 11, 2007 9:38 AM

Armchair Mom: no, you are not the only one who felt a little sorry for those girls. I did too.
So much achievement for what? I'm afraid the answer is "to have more".
I feel sorry for the current generation of kids: useless homework, little free time to be kids, multiple scheduled activities, no chilhood freedom.
When are we going to let the kids be kids?

Posted by: dionisia | April 11, 2007 9:38 AM

Joe D...
The american way is to want to be the best. The american way is to challenge, not to accept. I certainly don't want to change our society to remove the drive to excel in half its members. That is a sure fire way to second class citizenship for women.

Posted by: dotted | April 11, 2007 9:38 AM

"Diversion alert:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=3028515&page=1

Charges on Duke Lacrosse players dropped"

ABCNews is jumping the gun a bit, but the result is going to be the same. The press conference will be this afternoon. When Nifong left the case I told my wife the case was going to be dropped; it looks now as he seized on this case as his "signature moment" without all that much evidence and it has blown up in his face.

Posted by: John L | April 11, 2007 9:39 AM

I believe in providing the opportunity and encouragement for girls (as well as for boys) to demonstrate their talents in high school, as the NYTimes article about the Newton, MA girls discusses. But as a 67-year-old father, I can see that at some point these young rockets must run out of atmosphere and come down to earth and deal with the rest of us who are not accelerated as fast or who are are older and experienced. These young people at some point after their education ends and their career begins will over-reach: raw ambition and a life of coddled achievement does translate in the career world unless along the way there is a balancing that comes from learning sensitivity and respect for the experience of others. Otherwise the result is a snotty child/adult who will be appropriately deflated.
Working too-long hours is a way of optimizing a career, but this path to "success" pre-empts personal life. Containing the time required for the work-space is thus very important. Being a school teacher, for instance, is a way of exercising intellect while also not being required to compete at the office by being there 80 hours a week. Men and women all need to manage our career hours, and to say when enough is enough.

Posted by: Barre | April 11, 2007 9:39 AM

arlmom,

I agree with you that elite women have internal struggles regarding work and family conflicts.

However, I too was offended by "elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family"....

The internal struggle faced by women who are in a position to choose career or home because their paycheck is not a financial necessity is just as difficult for those women who are not "elite". I think it is more reasonable to say that "women who can afford to stay home face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family. Women who must work for financial reasons have less internal struggle, although all women (and men) who work have balance issues."

Posted by: to arlmom | April 11, 2007 9:41 AM

>>to arlmom - so I guess your definition of elite also includes homicide detectives, ambulance drivers, nurses, and oh so many other professions where - in your words - you HAVE to be the person who stays late, or travels on short notice, or comes in on the weekend to make sure the big -insert type of work - gets done. Right?>>

Sounds like these are jobs where people are told they have to come in at weird times/stay late as a condition of their jobs. Different kind of balancing issue--it's due to external requirements. Definitely challenging, I agree. But today's blog was about girls who are internally driven and pursue elite careers where a lot of the pressure and balance challenges are due to internal pressure to succeed. My boss doesn't tell me I have to stay late, or choose between the dance recital and the client meeting. I put myself in that position. It's a different kind of balancing act. That doesn't mean that all kinds of jobs don't come with their own challenges. But I disagree with posters who say that, because I put the pressure on myself (or these girls pressure themselves), that their balance struggles aren't somehow valid, or that we shouldn't try and figure out ways to mitigate.

Posted by: Arlmom | April 11, 2007 9:42 AM

As an alpha woman I just plain never wanted to stay home with kids. Not that I didn't think about having kids--but I always pictured being a breadwinning parent, helping with homework in evenings, NOT being a full-time nurturer. "Alpha" and "nurturing" aren't very compatible personality traits in my opinion (I certainly don't have both, anyway).

I don't see how this is setting me up for torture. Assuming Mr Bee was willing to be the nurturing parent, we'd have a family balance that is quite common in this century--one parent mostly in the home and one parent mostly out of the home, each covering off a portion of the family's needs for financial and emotional stability.

(Somewhat beside the point, Mr Bee is pretty alpha himself so I don't think we're going to do this at all. But that doesn't torture me either.)

Posted by: worker bee | April 11, 2007 9:48 AM

Leslie, the problem with your post (and which is a recurring problem with your posts) is that you take a REALLY snotty point of view. You believe that the internal struggles of the privileged are greater than those of the poorer, less privileged.

This is like saying it's so much harder for Americans who face 60 choices of what cereal to buy than it is for poor people in the Third World who have only one choice (say, cornmeal) of what to eat for breakfast -- and don't even always have that available.

This is just stupid and demeaning. People have pointed this out to you, but yet you insist on standing by your comments about elites having it harder. I have read your blogs long enough and pointed this out to you enough times to conclude that you are one of the snobbiest people around. You actually think you have it the hardest. No one is going to doubt that you, and other elite snobs, have faced difficult internal struggles, but to say that you have the hardest would be laughable if it weren't also so insulting.

Posted by: Ryan | April 11, 2007 9:50 AM

"To change the girls, maybe you can change the parents to actually parent them and show them that life is short and you should not take everything seriously. You don't need to be the best."

"Good enough to get by" isn't the standard for EVERY profession. Just most of them. If you or someone you love is scheduled to have an operation, do you really want the third-string surgeon handling the knife? I don't.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 9:50 AM

Dotted--I never mentioned one sex or the other.

Posted by: Joe D. | April 11, 2007 9:51 AM

Why does having children represent a failure of ambition? I was one of those elite girls, however, part of my ambition has always been to stay at home to raise my children, not because I think that I should as a woman but because that is personally important to me, just as going to a top law school and working at an elite NY firm were important to me. I chose my partner accordingly. Although I don't have children yet, I do not expect any sort of existential crisis. Yes, I'm sure it will be hard, mind-numbing work at times, but it will be worth it.

Posted by: Lurker | April 11, 2007 9:53 AM

Sorry, but it's the parents' fault. NO ONE SAYS NO AND MEANS IT!!!!!!! Can't STAND these overindulgent parents who are more focused on being their friend than their parent.

And parents are ALSO in the dark. They think their precious baby girl could NEVER be mean to anyone...BULL! WAKE UP!

Posted by: ChickieBaby | April 11, 2007 9:54 AM

Joe D
Yes you did mention a particular sex (gender).

you wrote "To change the girls" to start your paragraph. Further references don't mention gender, but given your start, they imply the conversation is directed to parents of girls...

Posted by: dotted | April 11, 2007 9:56 AM

I just read the article. Now I really, really feel sorry for these girls. They are flying so high on their expectations that the resulting crash will be devastating. Their perfection -- 360 degree perfection -- is not maintainable. These girls may very well peak early and then head down. Their way thus far has been paved smooth for them by their parents who are keen to give their children every advantage. When they're left to fend for themselves, I think it's going to be rough.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 11, 2007 9:57 AM

Bravo to ILC re her post below this statement, I'm still waiting for someone to truly define this torture Leslie writes of. Perhaps Leslie did not mean 'torture' precisely, let's give her the benefit of the doubt till she can detail what she means.

"For those who think the solution lies in not having children, another kind of torture awaits them."

"What in the hell is THAT supposed to mean? How about those of us who don't want kids? I'm NOT not having them to excel, I'm not having them because it's just not something I've ever wanted."

Posted by: nothavingchildren | April 11, 2007 9:57 AM

There is "no universal road to work/family bliss."

That about sums it up. The choices I made are different from the ones you made. I am satisfied with the decisions I made. Are you satisfied with the ones you made? I used to be very ambitious, but acquiring children has changed that greatly. Now, I am content with less than I had in the past. Others made different choices and are satisfied with the result. So far, in 41 years, I have always been able to turn an unsatisfying situation into a satisfying one, although sometimes it has taken a while for me to figure out what to change, and sometimes I had to give up trying to change something outside myself and just adjust my attitude (or switch jobs or other situation). I don't meant to make it sound oversimplified, but that is my approach in a nutshell.

Posted by: single mother by choice | April 11, 2007 9:58 AM

>>Wow, Arlmom, you sound like a prototypical Washingtonian. Do you ask people "what do you do" when you meet them, and then dismiss them if they don't meet your definition of elite?>>

What on earth in my posts suggested that? I was trying to explain my perspective on how Leslie was using "elite" as shorthand, and point out that the reason we often discuss "elites" on this blog is because that's who a lot of people in DC are, under the definition I suggested. I don't think I said anything that implied that I consider myself "elite" in the sense of being superior to other people.

I don't know what to think about the comment about the issue of balance being a struggle for women who don't have to work, whether or not their jobs are "elite." I guess I don't *have* to work, but I don't consider that a factor in my personal balance struggle at all, because whether or not I had to work, I would--I've never considered not working. I have practical issues with balance, not philosophical ones. But apparently I am in the minority of women on that one.

Posted by: Arlmom | April 11, 2007 9:58 AM

Dotted, The first sentence was directed at the females. The rest I held gender neutral (Kids) to show that parents need to stop doing it to their kids, male or female.

And it's not about showing your kids they can be the best but to stop pushing them. let them make their own direction and support them in that. The world needs less self indulgent adults...

Posted by: Joe D. | April 11, 2007 10:02 AM

One of the big problems I see with the women who have highly demanding professional careers is their choices in men. Like all women, they prefer men who are smarter and more successful than they are. On the other hand, successful men prefer beautiful women who can produce and care for beautiful children. It is time to get a clue. If you want to be a CEO, find a really beautiful man with a modest career who can be your balance.

Posted by: soccermom | April 11, 2007 10:04 AM

JDS is right about men's struggles with this. DH and I agreed that he would be the one to stay home with DS. DH had to basically put a stop to his self-employment for 3 years and went through a huge adjustment due to that. Wasn't easy for him at all. But, to his great credit, he did it. I am by no means an alpha girl, but I do make more money and hold the health insurance. We made choices and sacrifices that suited our family.

Posted by: bla bla | April 11, 2007 10:05 AM

I am/was one of the alpha girls. The difference may be generational for me as opposed to leslie. Also, I suspect that I lacked the neurosis you see in these girls later on.

I had my son much later, so I had achieved quite a bit and was wise enough to know what was really important when I had him. Made it alot easier for me. Didn't freak out like some of the crazy moms in my son's school, who are maybe 7-10 years younger.

Posted by: Angela | April 11, 2007 10:06 AM

"The bottom line is about redefining what "having it all" means to you and not worrying about what anyone else thinks about it!"

I agree 100%! I read this blog but don't comment much - but had to today. It seems that some of the "balance" issues discussed here have much to do with "fitting in" and caring way too much about what neighbors, friends, playgroups, co-workers & family think and say. It is difficult to figure out what is right for yourself & family, but given the resources available to these "elite" girls & women, they have many more choices and should have less of an issue with what others think!


Posted by: mariem99 | April 11, 2007 10:07 AM

I agree with Jan and Armchair mom. I also felt sorry for these girls and I think it's absurd how much our society demands "perfection" these days at the expense of everything that makes life worthwhile. I knew girls like this when I was in high school about ten years ago. (One of the interesting things about being an older member of Generation Y is that I notice trends about my generation years before the media catches on. But I digress.)

Anyway, while I participated in newspaper, color guard, and other activities in high school, I was almost always in bed by 10:30 on weeknights, watched my favorite TV shows (Seinfeld, X-files, Dawson's Creek - those were the days) and went out with my friends every Friday and Saturday. I believe downtime and time for fun are essentials for everyone at every age. Anyone who pulls an all-nighter is either a huge procrastinator or has taken on way too much.

There is nothing wrong with success in and of itself, but we as a society need to stop worshiping it. The reality is that 90% of teenagers will grow up to be fairly ordinary. It's simply not true that "anyone" can do "anything." You could also say that I "failed" at my first career choice, but now I'm doing something that makes me much happier. (I'm also a working mother out of necessity who will jump at the first chance to stay home or go part-time). These girls will probably be perfectly capable of supporting themselves and their families one day, but only a handful will stay "amazing." We need to tell teens to pursue what *they* want out of life, even if that's to be an auto mechanic, an artist, a stay-at-home parent, or anything else that's not a doctor or lawyer. We need to tell them that it's perfectly OK to be ordinary.

Posted by: Sarahndipity | April 11, 2007 10:08 AM

"so I guess your definition of elite also includes homicide detectives, ambulance drivers, nurses, and oh so many other professions where - in your words - you HAVE to be the person who stays late, or travels on short notice, or comes in on the weekend to make sure the big -insert type of work - gets done. Right?"

Don't forget about teachers. Everyone knows THEY'RE considered elite.

I think we need a Blog Stats report on how often Leslie has referred to HERSELF as elite.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:10 AM

I have to disagree with Leslie that elite women have it the hardest when juggling work and family. I'd say the working poor, especially poor single moms, have it much, much harder. Proof? Ask yourself whether you would trade places. I wouldn't. Sure, it's hard to reconfigure priorities after a lifetime of being told, and believing, life is about money, status, promotions and work. But I'd rather reconfigure priorities than attempt to work two low-paying jobs while finding someone to take my kids and make it month to month.

Posted by: chicagomom | April 11, 2007 10:10 AM

And I'd say Leslie is perfectly accurate to describe professional moms and dads as elite. Look at the median income for this country, as yourself how much more you earn than that, and then figure out whether you're elite. I'd venture to guess many, many people on this board, including Leslie, would qualify as elite. This is like people earning $200,000 claiming they are 'middle class.'

Posted by: chicagomom | April 11, 2007 10:12 AM

"Sounds like these are jobs where people are told they have to come in at weird times/stay late as a condition of their jobs. Different kind of balancing issue--it's due to external requirements."

How is coming in at weird times/staying late not a condition of the job for an executive? If it wasn't a condition of the job, than most executives wouldn't put in the kinds of hours that they do. And if they're choosing to put in the hours when they don't have to, then there's not much internal struggling going on - they're choosing to be at the office instead of at home.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:15 AM

I have to disagree with you Leslie -- it's not about what happens to these girls when they make decisions about motherhood - it's what happens when they face the world outside the cocoon they live in now. I don't care how smart they are - there will be someone smarter. (or prettier, more ambitious, etc). At 18 you are on the top of the mountain... it isn't until you hit 30 you realize how little you actually knew back then. Most women I know weren't truly comfortable in their own skin until they were on the other side of 30.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | April 11, 2007 10:15 AM

Put me on the list of those who would like to know what kind of "torture awaits" those of us who prefer not to have children.

I know several other coworkers who are married without children and they don't seem particularly tortured. Maybe the torture has not come yet and they are still "awaiting" it? Maybe I should let them know to be on guard.

Posted by: Lilybeth | April 11, 2007 10:15 AM

I think the truth is that people just need to recognize that there is give and take whatever path you choose and that's just a fact of life. It always comes back to priorities. If you choose to raise children (and do it well) you can have a full and rewarding career but you may not end up being CEO. The women who have chosen careers over children exclusively and are so offended by the remarks in this column, are clearly still relatively young (30s early 40s probably) and haven't realized yet what it is they gave up. As a married woman who left the working world completely to be a stay at home mother with her sons I have experienced this first hand. My husband's old college girlfriend (that he broke up with back then) never married and never had children. She's now in her early 50s, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and has nobody at the end of the day. This highly successful career woman was reduced to calling up her old boyfriend, getting together for drinks when she was (coincidentally going to be) in his city (under the guise of won't it be fun to catch up on old times) and instead put on this pathetic, almost groveling performance to convince him that he was her one true love who got away and even though he's married 'would he be interested in getting together with her again?' It was a sad display of a highly successful career woman acting out the advice of every grocery store woman's magazine with respect to looking up those old loves. I don't think she read the paragraph that it only works if he's not married. Even after they parted company that day she followed up with more pathetic emails "I wish you every happiness, but wish it were with me." My point in all this is that there is sacrifice at every turn in our lives. This is what we should be telling our children, male and female. Teach kids that life is about priorities, personal choice and balance. "Having it all" looks good on a motivational poster on the wall, but it's not real life. If a highly successful career one day means that you're lonely at the end of the day, it's because you've chosen "things" and recognition over people and relationships. It really is that simple.

Posted by: Linda S | April 11, 2007 10:16 AM

"Perhaps if the young men/boys see more equality in the home the young women will have a better chance of attaining it down the road."

DING DING DING DING!!!!!

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 10:18 AM

I read the original article and was not impressed. BTW, my sister, also not a stud jock but a good student and rennaissance girl was accepted to Middlebury without going to a sterling high school in a soulless suburb. HAH!

But the posts have been good, and I eventually had three thoughts.

1st: Why exactly should I pity these little sh*ts? Is it not a sign of a self-indulgent society to have a stellar education and still complain about it? As the earlier posts mentioned, they have loads of choices to go with their oodles of skills. Oh, the travesty. Trust me, two months ago in the Atlantic there was a much more compelling article on the attempted reconstruction of New Orleans public schools. The girls profiled in that were MUCH more intriguing...or maybe the writing was just better.

2nd: I couldn't gauge the parents profiled in the Times article. They seemed to incriminate themselves for a second, that they pushed their daughter to the limit. If that's more the case, this story gets more interesting.

3rd: Where were all these smart, beautiful girls when I went to high school? All the pretty ones I could have chased were dumb as radishes. Oh wait, they all live with attractive parents in wealthy school districts. Seems the Times has a target audience.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:18 AM

Well, my 20 year high school reuinion is coming up and I'll see where the elite has gone. In talking with friends who still live near there, they haven't acheived any more than I have. I'm sure this would havew killed thei 18 year old selves, but not so sure about their 38 year old selves. We'll have to see, won't we.


I think when leslie said torture, she meant the choice might be torture for many-to come to the realization that one may never have kids-if you wanted them-or that *having*kids would take you out of the boardroom-if that's what you wanted.

Posted by: atlmom | April 11, 2007 10:18 AM

oh blah blah blah! I'm so tired of hearing about how women should feel guilty either way (working too much but being "successful" or staying home and being a "good mom"). This type of psychoanalysis just adds to the guilt either way by subtly pushing the idea that there is no right answer but two slightly wrong answers. I disagree! I think many routes are right and none can truly be wrong. I am a successful (in the corporate world) female with multiple degrees and certifications, this makes me happy now and I truly enjoy it. I also know that when I have children in a few years, what will make ME happy is to stay home and raise them. This is MY decision and it will be right for me. Regardless of what others choose, as long as the decision comes from internal analysis and not a sense of pressure from the types who feel a compulsive desire to mold people into one or the other and designate the choice right or wrong, I truly belive that they will probably also be happy and successful in the most important arena- their own lives. To label these girls "alpha" at so young an age and infer that they are clearly superior (which is so cruel and unfair to the girls who are just as capable in different areans, or choose to specialize and excel in one area) is just another step in creating a new generation of hyper-sensitive and pressured adults. How did we get to this point, America?

Posted by: anon | April 11, 2007 10:20 AM

Someone last week suggested that Leslie write about this article. She does write articles about social policies would (hopefully) impact women with greater need more than they would her. You cannot please all masters everyday.

She said: This is what I've seen in the years I've been working on the so-called mommy wars. It's logical -- women who invest the most in their career success have the hardest time with the inevitable compromises of motherhood. This does NOT mean to belittle other, more chronic survival struggles of less advantaged women in this country and other countries.

She didn't say these girls will struggle more in general (which I assume she knows is false) but they are more likely to be the ones second guessing the ones they were (lucky enough) to make.

Yes other women struggle more... but if you look globally not locally the blue collar class and even the working poor are fat cats with loads of opportunities when placed next to the women of sub-saharan africa. Does this mean that some small corner in cyberchase would be remiss to discuss their troubles when there are much bigger problems elsewhere on the globe.

If she posts an article on something you don't find interesting read something else!

Posted by: sidenote | April 11, 2007 10:21 AM

Linda S.

People who marry and have children also get cancer and have "nobody at the end of the day" and look up old loves.

Posted by: Office Dilbert | April 11, 2007 10:21 AM

"So much achievement for what? I'm afraid the answer is 'to have more'."

I feel for the girls in this article, for the pressures they face. But I don't necessarily agree that it's all done in order to have more stuff. I think it's to have more options.

One of the realities of this upper-middle-class existence is that, while the parents typically have very good incomes, they cannot guarantee their kids will be able to stay in that socioeconomic position (ie, no massive inherited wealth or family business). Their kids will need to earn their own way in life. So the parents focus on giving their kids the best shot at doing so -- which has been defined as getting them the best education money can buy.

I think these girls have internalized the parental mantra that the Most Important Thing they can do is get into an "elite" college. And that is getting harder and harder to do -- look at the main girl profiled in the story, look at her credentials and clear intelligence, look at the great school she is going to and all of her achievements, yet she wasn't deemed "good enough" to get into her first choice college. So they try harder and harder, take on more AP classes, more activities, all in a continued effort to give themselves the best chance to get into their "elite" college. Because they have been trained that that is what they have to do to give themselves the most options and choices in life.

I do suspect some of these girls will be in for a rude awakening in a few years. Their lives have been to some degree scripted, with the responsibilities and rewards clearly laid out ("if I do X, Y, and Z, then I will get into ABC college"). But what happens when they reach the end of the script? What happens when they enter a world where you faithfully do X, Y, and Z, but then don't get the brass ring despite your best efforts?

I suspect this is where the girl/boy issue gets interesting. These girls have been very well-trained to follow the rules, behave themselves, and do what is expected of them, because that is what makes them successful at school. But that is not necessarily what it takes to succeed in business -- at least at the very high level that some of them aspire to. I wonder whether the very fact that many boys don't seem to be as good at following the rules and behaving at school is in fact putting them in a better position to succeed in business, where you have to be willing to take risks and push the envelope -- and whether facing criticism and negative consequences for their behavior in school helps them build a thicker skin and more resilience to deal with the inevitable failures.

Posted by: Laura | April 11, 2007 10:28 AM

America is better than Canada
England better than Ireland
Newton better than Natick
Staten Island better than the Bronx
Darien better than Greenwich
Alexandria better than Fairfax
Girlz better than boys
My dad's bigger than your dad!

The college admissions rat race for the high achievers has created a generation of useless grinds? I am not sure. When these kids get away from the HS gestapo, and out from under the thumb of uber-parents, I would hope they may find an equilibrium. The risk is that the experimentation with booze or other risky behavior may leave some serious fallout.

As a parent I see teaching my kids how to recognize choices, see consequences and reposibility as important as grades, athletic prowess or how they rank in the popularity hierarchy of their peers.

Type A Male Kids:

Uber-Boys can spend SO much time on athletics that their balance suffers, and academics take a back seat. But then again learning to handle defeat on the sports field serve these individuals, M or F, well once they are up against stiffer academic challenges. The problem with athletics for boys is often that there is no capacity for participation as so many enroll. My girls have a much easier time participating in sports because the pressure isnt as intense, and girls dont get "cut" from teams at young ages the way the boys do.

Academics:

The dumbing down of boys in school happens in our district. Boys peer pressure isnt for academic excellence, so we have to stay on top of things to make sure DS gets positive reinforcement on his effort. If you are smart you still get branded a geek etc by the popular boys... Also the tracks for advanced math, science etc I see as tilted in favor of the female students by the administration and faculty as early as elementary school. These professional spout the different developmental track of boys versus girls - and then stack the deck aginst the boys. The power to select these categories is firmly in the hands of women in our schools. This leads the more experienced parents to hold their boys back for pre-K so that they have a year more of maturity - and dont get selected out for acting their age.

So I am not surprised that the greater academic achievement in higher education is by the girls. Our country made a concerted effort to correct the bias against girls, and it is working like a charm. Culturally, empirically and quantifiably.

Maybe this will produce more Fortune 500 female CEO's? Bully for them. In the meantime a generation of male providers wont be able to compete with better prepared males from the subcontinent (ie Doctors from Mumbai) or computer technicians from europe (ie programmers/engineers from Russia).

Oh well. I am sure I offended somebody out there,

Yale is better than Harvard.
DKE is better than DU.
Rock is better than rap.
East Coast is better than West Coast.
College hoops is better than the NBA.
Go Rutgers!

Posted by: Fo3 | April 11, 2007 10:29 AM

At 41 (and married to the same great guy for 19 years), I have never had children. We both have doctoral degrees, and I was one of those alpha girls. I have not felt torture at not having kids, and neither has he; the worst is the people who look at us and remark "You'd have made great parents! Why didn't you ever have kids?" I find that question to be as intrusive as any other of an overly personal nature, because in the posing of the question, it implies a value judgment.

Many, including my alpha-girl female boss who is 10 years older than I and has two teens, look askance at you if you DON'T have them.

I read this blog for the lively debate. At first I was unaware it was about balancing children and work (I thought the parenting blog was about that), thinking it was about balancing life and work. Now that I know, I still stick around because there are many delightful 'regulars' I like to read. I also think that even though I am child-less, I might provide an alternative perspective (just as parents do).

Posted by: NW anon | April 11, 2007 10:30 AM

Leslie- I completely agree with today's post. I would consider myself an "alpha-woman", that-is until about seven months ago when my son was born. I've been back at work for nearly four months, and have already decided that my career ambitions mean nothing compared to what I am missing on a day-to-day basis in my son's life. While I was still pregnant, I really thought I could balance the career trajectory and being a mom. I know now that for me, one has to give way to the other. So, the husband and I are packing up and moving to a lower-cost, less hectic part of the country, and I'm leaving the "alpha-woman" mentality behind--something we NEVER would have considered even a year ago.


Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:31 AM

I was only able to read a few of the comments, but one of the things I see as a huge obstacle for both men and women is economic. Thankfully, it is one easily surmounted if you start early and actually understand some basic financial concepts. I was able to stay home for several years then move on to part time work because my parents had terrified me about money. This is not that they were so good, but because they were so BAD. I worked two summers before college and during the school year. While I did not understand money much myself, I knew it was better to have it than not. So I worked as a waitress, making between 23-35 dollars a night on average --this was 20 years ago. I saved half of any money I received for holidays, and gave my self an allowance for necessities. My parents did not give me money and only bought me things when it suited them, and also had me pay for things that they decided were my responsibility. I went to a private school which I did not like. They had me buy my uniform--not cheap--when I was 14 because I made what they thought was a poor financial decision--I bought a collectible that is now worth much more than I paid--but I didn't spend money on cigarettes!! I babysat full time that summer, so they thought I should help out. It would have really helped out if I could have just gone to public school!!! Sorry about the tangent. I was probably a little neurotic, but when I got married at 25 I had no student loans, a college degree, and 15K in the bank. I did not have a new car, a fabulous wardrobe or anything my peers had--like a wallet full of credit cards (seriously, my roommate had every store card plus several bank cards, and would shop all the time--I had one Visa for 'emergencies'). I went to an in state college and also had some scholarship money. I was able to finish school in 3 years, so saved more that way. I cannot understand the whole five year plan!!! Anyway, I am very financially conservative, but I still enjoy life, have traveled a lot (yes, on a shoestring), and while I still drive used cars, I feel fortunate to have the choices I have. My husband is also a tightwad!!

Posted by: Ramseyfan | April 11, 2007 10:38 AM

"So, the husband and I are packing up and moving to a lower-cost, less hectic part of the country, and I'm leaving the "alpha-woman" mentality behind--something we NEVER would have considered even a year ago."

But, I don't think Leslie and other 'elites' really see this as an acceptable option. They want changes that will give them more help with children and families and still allow them to be alpha-women.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:39 AM

It was a sad display of a highly successful career woman acting out the advice of every grocery store woman's magazine with respect to looking up those old loves. I don't think she read the paragraph that it only works if he's not married

One anecdote does not a rule make.

Posted by: to Linda S | April 11, 2007 10:40 AM

Nancy Pelosi. Didn't she raise five kids and still manage to have a life? You can do it all, just not all at the same time!!

Posted by: two words | April 11, 2007 10:43 AM

Re: Linda S. 's comments

As some others have noted--looking up old flames is not the exclusive domain of the childless, and, as another noted, "one anecdote does not a rule make".

Life is uncertain. Having a support group (beyond just a spouse, parents, etc), is important! And having kids doesn't guarantee they'll be there for you in old age, either, or, if they are, it will be done in a gruding minimum,due to a feeling of obligation rather than love.

Posted by: NW anon | April 11, 2007 10:44 AM

"elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family"

poor, poor elite women....i feel so bad for them.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:47 AM

If the alpha girls are suffering it just means that the "winners" of their generation are different individuals from the ones society expected.

I don't feel sorry for these girls just because they are expected to be "winners" and aren't.

There are plenty of balance winners in their generation; they just weren't the same girls who were featured in the article.

Everyone here is calling for society to change, well, if the Newton girls are not the winners any more, maybe that is a clue that society IS changing! Look on the bright side.

Posted by: kl;kl; | April 11, 2007 10:48 AM

The dearth of articles of challenges and achievement of boys??? You've got to be kidding! I hope you won't have any problem in identifying the gender of the highest management of virtually all Fortune 500 companies today (excluding Pepsi and maybe a handful (if that many) of others), as well as the gender of most high positions of national and local governments.

Yeah, because these couple of thousand men are representative of the millions of men in America who are not "in charge". Ask them the last time they saw their kids. Ask them about their balence. Ask the rest of us men who is in charge in their lives, what choices we have and what recognition we get.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:51 AM

I read the article and what stood out was that the girls all had their own credit cards and liked "True Religion" jeans, which I had to google because I didn't know what they were. $200 for jeans !!!, and these are high school girls. It's no wonder that the parents feel that their daughters need elite schools and elite jobs.

My daughter is upset because I think she should be happy with jeans from Kohl's, JC Penney, and Sears, but she only wants to shop Macy's, Nordstrom's, and Lord & Taylor. I hope she never hears of "True Religion".

I am in a family of non-elites in an elite area with a highly rated public school. The pressure on these kids is incredible. They are expected to be the best at everything, sports, arts, academics, volunteer activities, etc. It's no wonder most of them don't do their own laundry and household chores - there are not enough hours in the day. And family money makes a huge difference. Most of the kids who are on the sports teams play club ball which is expensive, so a regular kid who tries out can't make the team. Music as well, the children whose parents can afford extensive private lessons are in the school orchestra, but those whose funds are limited and can only have group lessons or whatever lessons they learn in music class tend to not be in the orchestra. SAT prep classes are several hundred dollars. Again, those who can afford it have an edge to college admission.

My daughter applied to several colleges based on her academic interests, GPA & SAT scores, our finances, extracurricular interests, distance from home, size of school, and overall general fit. She was accepted to her first choice and extremely happy until several friends dissed the school as not being good enough or "Oh, that's my safety". There is quite a bit of snottiness and snobbishness that comes along with the 'elite'.

She has also had wealthier friends talk about how their parents have worked so hard to be where they are. I have no doubt that they worked hard, but so have many others who are not as successful financially, and I wish that people would point out to their children that success in life is not always financial.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:55 AM

When I was in hi school the formula was to take ap and honors classes, be in some clubs, perhaps an elected office- of the club, involved in extra curriculars, etc and you'd at least get into an elite school if not an ivy. And today, that formula does not work- there are 1000 of those apps at a school that maybe takes 300 of them .

In hi school, one of the top 10 percent kids was all set for an ivy then didn't get in and went to stanford. She said her parents were a little upset(I suspect of her going so far tho). And the editor of the hi school yrbook didn't get into any of her top choices and was waitlisted at her safe school(yup, not so safe). I suspect there are many more of those stories out there now, tho with the competition heating up for each spot.

My SIL went to an ivy b/c she was an athlete, then on to grad school-then living in mom and dad's basement-never on her own or really having a job(that might happen when you do everything for the kids...) And now she is married and a mom. No elite status there, let me tell you. So all diff kinds of ppl go to all diff kinds of schools.

Posted by: atlmom | April 11, 2007 10:55 AM

I probably fit into that "elite" category (kinda icky word but I get the drift) -- 2 Ivy degrees, high-paying "prestigious" professional career, etc. etc. etc. What I've found is that the great education I had at those much maligned Ivy League institutions has prepared me to deal with the internal challenges of balancing my demanding job and the pressures of 2 young children and a husband with an equally demanding job. A firm grounding in the liberal arts--literature, philosphy, religion, history, economics, science, art history, music--these things give you the tools and perspective to understand that success is more than a paycheck, and that having a rich and fulfilling life is more than a corner office. My education has pushed me to think creatively about how I want to live my life and how I define success, and has given me the confidence to ask for what I want, and to dream big for myself and for my family, and not to accept the notion that I "can't have it all."

In short, I think the more educated you are, the easier the balancing is. We just need to redefine education--it isn't just about learning computer skills or accounting or other "job related" skills (which so many kids seem to focus on these days). It is about giving kids a love of learning and a desire to know about the world and to engage in it for reasons other than financial success. If we do that, the kids will be ok.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:56 AM

"Yeah, because these couple of thousand men are representative of the millions of men in America who are not "in charge". Ask them the last time they saw their kids. Ask them about their balence. Ask the rest of us men who is in charge in their lives, what choices we have and what recognition we get."

The answer is simple. Don't permit females to get an education. Then men wouldn't have to compete with them, only each other. Women are the enemy, they always have been, and always will be. If we keep their eyes on the ground, we will always be kings.

Posted by: Yeah! 10:51! | April 11, 2007 10:57 AM

"Music as well, the children whose parents can afford extensive private lessons are in the school orchestra, but those whose funds are limited and can only have group lessons or whatever lessons they learn in music class tend to not be in the orchestra."

Buy CD's and music scores. Listen, practice, and try out. If the kids really, really want to do something well, then they have to be prepared to put some serious effort into it.

Hey, my kids have private music lessons (yes, they practice too) and play rec league sports, and you bet they have plenty of chores. One earns better grades than the other, so far, but who knows what the future holds. More chores, probably.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:00 AM

We've all been sold a myth, and we've bought into it willingly. The reality is this: We simply can't have it all and do it all. We aren't superheroes. We cannot give ourselves to everything we want to, nor can we give ourselves at all times to each and every part of our lives. We can't give all of ourselves to our careers (working 9, 10, or more hours a day) and expect to be full of energy and attention in our private lives for our families, our friends, and ourselves.

Many of us go further than that, feeling that we have to contribute our time to virtually everything (further believing what we've come to believe is expected of us), trusting that we're achieving something only when we're running from one responsibility to the next, only to come up for a breath of air on the weekends. We feel that we have to be valued contributors at work, home, with friends, and in our communities, and all at the same time!

What inevitably happens is that we get so busy doing things that we lose sight of what we're doing and why we're doing it. We run from one commitment or obligation to the next attempting to have it all and do it all and we forget to look after our own needs and the needs of those around us. We become so all-consumed by doing things that we fail to experience life itself. We forget that we're human beings, not human doings.

We'll all be better off if we do ourselves a simple favor by disavowing ourselves of the perception that we can achieve everything if only we labor hard enough and long enough - that we can do ANYTHING we set out to do. Once we've accepted that, we can get on with the business at hand, that of creating a lifestyle for ourselves that is balanced, or if you prefer, choosing the life that we want, without all of society's expectations.

David B. Bohl
Reflections Coaching
REFLECTIONS on Balance the blog


Posted by: David B. Bohl | April 11, 2007 11:03 AM

Well, some elite girls get called "Nappy-headed hos" on a nationally syndicated radio show. Anyone here for more of that? That'll teach them to work hard and strive! If we call them names and maybe make them cry, they'll give up and go away.

Posted by: Do my ironing! | April 11, 2007 11:04 AM

I have to agree with Leslie on this. It is a struggle. I am about to get married. I have a successful, demanding career. I don't have a job where I can work set hours like 9-5 and be home in time for dinner every night or to pick up kids from daycare at a set time. Sometimes I have to work late to get the job done, and that's OK with me, because I like what I do. I want to keep advancing and am ambitious. Once I get married in the fall, we'll want to have kids in the next few years. I am 33 now, so we don't have too many years to put it off. I have absolutely no idea how to have my career and have kids. None. When would I see them? Who would take care of them? My finace's schedule is worse than mine. So, we would see these hypothetical children basically for an hour or so at night and on the weekends. That doesn't really sound like good parenting to me. How to do give up everything that I have worked so hard for all of my life, especially now that my career is finally taking off and I am finally making some money, to side-track it all for kids? It's a tough decision for me. Maybe it's not for everyone. But for me it is. Right now, it makes me not want kids at all.

Posted by: Elizabeth | April 11, 2007 11:05 AM

Someone here mentioned Leslie's past with anorexia. Hasn't anyone recognized the connection between anorexia and perfectionism? Leslie herself makes sure to mention how thin these perfect A-listers are. Methinks it would behoove us to check into the eating habits of these perfect girls, before they shrink themselves into nothing.

For a great deal of insight into the mind of a bulimic/anoretic, try Marya Hornbacher's "Wasted." It's a page-turner. It even cracks on Washingtonians and our self-important nature.

Posted by: Mona | April 11, 2007 11:05 AM

"And having kids doesn't guarantee they'll be there for you in old age, either, or, if they are, it will be done in a gruding minimum,due to a feeling of obligation rather than love"

This is also a broad generlization too. Is this how you feel about your parents? I am not being snarky, but I know that I would do anything for my parents because they have always treated me with love and respect.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 11:06 AM

One more thing about being "elite." When I was a kid, I didn't understand why my parents--both very smart, capable, blah blah blah--chose to limit themselves to our small town. I didn't get why my mom ran for the local school board instead of Congress, or why my dad stayed at his small company instead of going somewhere bigger where he would make more money, supervise more people, etc. I thought they should be more "elite." Now that I'm an adult and have kids, I get it. They chose to limit their sphere because that was how they achieved balance--just because they could "go far" in life (by my teenage elitist definition), they were happy and satisfied with what they achieved locally, and still had the time they wanted for us kids and for their various interests. I certainly don't think less of them because they didn't go as far in their careers as they perhaps could have.

My job is much more demanding, in terms of hours and travel, and supervisory and budget responsibility, than either of theirs. But it's in a field that really suits my interests and talents, so I want to stick with it. To work where I work, I also have to live somewhere with a much faster/more expensive pace of life--jobs like mine don't exist in small towns. I've learned a lot from my parents about balance, and I actually am pretty happy about my life. But I still value input from people who are in situations more like mine, and "elite" is one way to characterize that.

Posted by: Arlmom | April 11, 2007 11:06 AM

"If the kids really, really want to do something well, then they have to be prepared to put some serious effort into it."

I agree, but I still contend that having money makes it easier. You can improve basketball skills with a basketball and a public court. To improve gymnastics, you need access to a gym and equipment and other people (spotters). The access to gymnastics is more available to people with money. The same is true for a sport like skiing. And, yes, there are people who make sacrifices to provide these specific things, even if they are not rich. I'm just saying that, GENERALLY, people with more money have more opportunities.


Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:07 AM

"We'll all be better off if we do ourselves a simple favor by disavowing ourselves of the perception that we can achieve everything if only we labor hard enough and long enough - that we can do ANYTHING we set out to do."

God will provide.

Ambition is the work of Satan.

Posted by: to David Bohl | April 11, 2007 11:07 AM

"What I've found is that the great education I had at those much maligned Ivy League institutions has prepared me to deal with the internal challenges of balancing my demanding job"

Right!! Just like President Bush!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:08 AM

scarry

"I would do anything for my parents because they have always treated me with love and respect"

Didn't your mother tell me that she would have preferred not to give birth to you?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:09 AM

One of the big problems I see with the women who have highly demanding professional careers is their choices in men. Like all women, they prefer men who are smarter and more successful than they are. On the other hand, successful men prefer beautiful women who can produce and care for beautiful children. It is time to get a clue. If you want to be a CEO, find a really beautiful man with a modest career who can be your balance.

Best post yet

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:10 AM

"but I know that I would do anything for my parents because they have always treated me with love and respect."

Yes, but that's the kicker, isn't it? And when one's parents are abusive whack-jobs...do you feel obligated to come on home to enjoy more of the same?

I don't. So I came back when commanded to do so when my father was diagnosed with cancer, they threw more psychic battery acid at me, I left.

Some people are toxic, no matter what their relationship ties may be.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:10 AM

As a father of twin girl's my wife and I are concerned about this entire issue and the fate of alpha girls. We do not use mommy wars a descriptor that is so wrong and violent. We see it as competitive parenting, the 49ers vs. The Bears in December at Soldiers' stadium at 15 degrees F.

What we are doing to give the twins an advantage later in life and help them balance mommy or CEO decisions and prove to our neighbors and relatives that we kick parenting ass is to apply role-playing to their education.

Both my wife and I have liberal time off from our jobs so we can spend about four days a month home. What we do is we watch reruns of Donna Reed; Leave it to Beaver, and the Walton's with the girls. After the viewing we sit and deconstruct the show and the themes stopping to give thanks and pray for our entitled lives.

Once we are finished with the discussion the next day my wife stays home and in the morning gets up at 5am to make dollar pancakes, iron my shirts, do the wash, clean the house, make school lunches. She is dressed and in makeup. (The girls hate taking lunch because they can't use their American Express cards at school and no sidekicks for them as well). I sit and read the paper, that girls eat, and my wife is starting the meat loaf. We head off to work and school. When the girls get home they have milk and fresh made warm cookies. They all put aprons on and make dinner. When I get home I am handed a drink and TV is on for me to watch the news. My wife serves dinner and we talk about my day and me. After my wife does the dishes, serves desert, and the girls do their homework and practice ironing. This is old school role-playing

Sometimes we drive to Tri Chester NYC and walk take notes on shopping, stroller etiquette, talking on cell phones, shopping and buying ready made dinners, lunching with the stroller ladies, etc. We then rush home and begin the next role-play. We bring a housekeeper/au pair/child worker in the next day. My wife and I wake up and start Blackberrying. The housekeeper comes in and is getting the girls ready for school, reviewing their homework laying clothes out, getting breakfast. My wife then heads off to work after writing three memos and a contract. (The girls are required to read it and comment). My wife has a PA call to begin the scheduling for SAT prep courses, sports, tutoring, visits to museums, etc. The housekeeper/Au Pair is doing the chores and dinner etc. When the girls get home they have freshly bought brownies from Whole Foods and begin their homework and various life skill training: resume writing, how to maximize community service for career advancement, MBA school selection, sports practice, Blackberrying in the dark, etc. My wife sets up laptops for each girl who has to write emails, answer cell phone, blackberry, pick stock options, schedule parenting time, etc.

In two years girls will have to make a selection for their path and we will support either one.:
A. College, spring break, flip flops, cheerleading, sorority, graduate school, job, husband hunting, 2.5Ct ring, and breeding

B. College, Peace Corp, big sister, NCAA sports, working summers, graduate school, job, working 80 hour weeks, CEO, marriage, having children.


We consider this AP for life of the entitled child.

Posted by: NYC | April 11, 2007 11:10 AM

David Bohl,

CLAP, CLAP, CLAP

Yours is the best post I've ever seen on this blog.

Posted by: xyz | April 11, 2007 11:12 AM

April 11, 2007 11:10 AM,

Yes, everyone is different so that is why I said it was a generalization. I am sorry that your parents treated you poorly.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 11:14 AM

I agree, but I still contend that having money makes it easier.

Absolutely!

But having said that, if something is important enough, they will move mountains to accomplish it. Ambition + ability + hard work and effort gets you further than just wishing and hoping.

See Terry Pratchett's "Wee Free Men".

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:14 AM

I certainly don't think that these "elite" women face the most difficult struggles, but I do think that they are extremely prone to continually second-guess themselves and not be content with their decisions once they have children. This has certainly been my greatest struggle since having my son, and it is something I am working hard to unlearn.

As someone else pointed out, throughout school and even in most jobs, there are clear indicators or your success or failure, and many of us get very accustomed to striving for those recognitions or indications of success. With parenting, those don't exist, and the only thing is to love your child. You can bathe in their happiness when they see you, in their expressions of love and their growth and their little personalities, but you cannot ask them to tell you that you are a good parent, you cannot be looking to them to give you affirmation. You have to just love them and trust in that love, and that is a profound shift for a person who has spent a lifetime chasing after external goals and recognition.

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 11:14 AM

Nancy pelosi??? Didn't she marry money? I'm just sayin'.

Hey tightwad, (forgot yer nick) I'm the same way- the one thing my parents did was save money for college for us(wait that was my mom-dad woulda spent it if he had the chance). We lived in an expensive house we could not afford, so my dad would go around turning off lights(yeah, that's going to save enough to pay the property tax). I never understood why we couldn't have lived in a more modest house in the same area (same schools). I will never know.

In college I met a woman with 10 bros and sis's and they all went to catholic school. But mom and dad shelled out nothing for college. I never understood that either.

Posted by: atlmom | April 11, 2007 11:18 AM

I thought today's contributiohn from Leslie was one of the best she has ever done. I think she raised all the right points. I am surprised that people react differently and find something in her words that I don't see. When I was in high school I wanted to be like one of those girls. My grades were good enough but I was not beautiful. I don't think I ever "made" it into the alpha girl club until maybe my early 30's when I had finally arrived in my chosen career, got married, and felt compfortable in my own skin. Having struggled with infertility I think that having my own biological children was a gift from God. And it certainly did change my perspective on life. My "cool" career became a nuisance. Struggles between being at home and working were constant. On one hand, I felt that I would lose myself if I stopped working (plus I did not want to make my husband the only breadwinner, it was not fair to him); on the other hand I felt that I am missing the best years of my kids lives. I really don't want these girls to fail. I don't care if they are labeled "elite" or something else, but I hope that in 10 years when they have families or at least thinking of having them, working a 40 hour week would not be considered "lacking a committment to a job". Nancy Pelosi is not the only female politician. In France, a woman with 4 children is running for president and a single (or divorced) mother is the president of Chile. You may disagree with their politics but they certainly managed to have a career and a family. Maybe because in France or in Chile having a full time job does not mean working 80 hours a week? So, I hope that these girls succceed in having it all. Their success is also for the sake of the women in middle or low level positions who need to have an understanding working parent boss. When I left my former position for a decidedly non-powerful mommy track job, one colleague told me that she wanted to see women with children in the decision making positions; she felt that they add a unique perspective. I want those girls to have these opportunities.

Posted by: wannabe alpha girl | April 11, 2007 11:18 AM

I am intelligent. I am not elite. Now and then I wander into this blog because the topic seems interesting, and every single time I am completely turned off by Leslie's opinions. I cannot relate to her at all. I also really dislike all the generalizing that goes on.

I doubt she has any clue about my "internal struggles juggling work and family" to be able to compare them with those of elite women.

I am a graphic designer, not highly educated but intelligent, considered upper middle class for tax purposes, I suppose, but living in an average suburban community. I am constantly struggling with the balance of work and family - in fact, I am seeing a counselor about it right now.

I think that individual struggles vary widely and I don't think Leslie really possesses a wide knowledge of what real people are feeling and thinking. She professes to be some kind of expert, but I am not convinced. A lot of the responses she gets are great though!

Posted by: sotired | April 11, 2007 11:19 AM

To Linda S:
Alone doesn't always mean lonely. Some of us alpha people just don't place as much importance on relationships as you do. At the end of my day, I want to sit down with a good book, NOT be faced with a gang of family members.
Needless to say, you will not find me calling up my exes. I'm too busy with my own fulfilling life. The things I find fulfilling don't always require company. And it always irks me for some reason when I'm pitied by people who don't understand me.

Posted by: worker bee | April 11, 2007 11:20 AM

Report cards just came out. My HS daughter got a few Bs, Cs, and 2 D+s. Cool! At least I won't have to feel guilty about
not saving enough money to send her to an elite college because she ain't ever going to be accepted to one at the rate she's going.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 11, 2007 11:21 AM

"the only true enemy to female ambition in America today: love for their children"

Leslie,

This is absurd!

It may be true for affluent young women who have no obstacles to deter them.

But for working-class and poor women in this country, the enemies are vast and uncompromising. Like poverty. Like poor educational opportunities. Like poor nutrition and consequent ill health. Like racism, classism, and sexism. Like absence of respect or, indeed, any regard for what makes them unique.

Really, Leslie, your column today was over the top. When you alpha girls get insensitive, you really do it big time!

Posted by: pittypat | April 11, 2007 11:21 AM

Leslie, you would have gotten more publicity if you called them elite nappy-headed hos and non-elite nappy headed hos. Quick, someone call Rev Sharpton and Jesse Jackson! LOL. Lets stir up MORE HATE! Just what the world needs! Ghandi and Martin Luther King have to be rolling in their graves.

I thought that surely someone would have suggested you replace "empowered" with "entitled" by now... gosh... people really are going too easy on us whippersnappers today. ;-P

Once again, I find myself agreeing with Laura, ever the voice of reason.

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 11:21 AM

Ryan,

Thank you for the giant belly laugh that your 9:50 post generated!

I don't even like my job so much but I like money and prestige and the possibility of being a millionaire in less than ten years. Currently searching for daycare in the Bethesda area, I was tempted to complain about the $400/week price but reflected that at least we can pay it. Any guilt I might feel (ZERO) about leaving my daughter in a good daycare setting can't begin to compare to the stress someone who can't afford it must feel.

Posted by: Almost Alpha Girl | April 11, 2007 11:22 AM

I can sympathize with the struggles that this blog posting was highlighting, having been through my own angst about going back to work after my son was born - a decision made both on the basis of finances and intellectual stimulation. I think we make such a big deal about it simply because it comes as such a shock to so many of us how difficult it is to balance career needs/interests with motherhood. I sure didn't get it until I was in the situation myself.

However, the idea that the angst of "elite" girls & women represents the most difficult struggle - internal or external - is so clueless and self-involved that it boggles my mind. This seems to assume that women with fewer (economic) choices available to them are somehow less capable of emotional ties to their children. And it completely disrgards the practical struggles that lower-income women (and men) face when they become parents. Whenever I think my life is tough, I think of the teacher at my son's daycare, walking to work from the bus stop in 95 degree heat, while 9 months pregnant because she needs every penny of her miniscule salary. All those of us who have options, even if they are imperfect or painful ones, are not burdened - we're privileged.

Posted by: Chevy Chase MD | April 11, 2007 11:24 AM

"But having said that, if something is important enough, they will move mountains to accomplish it. Ambition + ability + hard work and effort gets you further than just wishing and hoping."

Agreed, but if you don't know until you try out for high school soccer that your years of recreational seasonal soccer aren't enough, that everyone who makes the team has 6 years of A level travel team experience plus winter indoor league, then you are just out of luck. And the children who played on the higher levels were those whose parents could afford the money and time involved in the travel leagues.

The ambition, ability, and hard work of the children can only go so far if the parents are not in a position (financially, emotionally, and time-wise) to support their efforts beyond a certain level.

As more and more children go to college rather than directly into work, service, or trade schools, I believe that acceptance at elite college will be even more difficult. There is more competition due to the sheer number of applicants, and more applicants than ever have resumes similar to the alpha-girls.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:25 AM

I think of the teacher at my son's daycare, walking to work from the bus stop in 95 degree heat, while 9 months pregnant because she needs every penny of her miniscule salary. All those of us who have options, even if they are imperfect or painful ones, are not burdened - we're privileged.


She has options too.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:25 AM

The answer is simple. Don't permit females to get an education. Then men wouldn't have to compete with them, only each other. Women are the enemy, they always have been, and always will be. If we keep their eyes on the ground, we will always be kings.

What does this have to do with what I said? My point was that the vast majority of men are not the ones in charge, nor do we see ourselves that way. We have jobs, families and pressures just like women (sort of) but no one is talking about us or cares. /end whine

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:25 AM

"At the end of my day, I want to sit down with a good book, NOT be faced with a gang of family members.
Needless to say, you will not find me calling up my exes. I'm too busy with my own fulfilling life. The things I find fulfilling don't always require company. And it always irks me for some reason when I'm pitied by people who don't understand me."

I like Worker Bee!

I like my kids too, but I'm not raising them with the expectation that they will be my sole source of companionship, support or amusement as I grow older.

Can introverts unite?

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 11, 2007 11:29 AM

I couldn't agree more with the eintre article. However, my great concern on this topic is in international development. We go to these poor villages all over the world and tell these wonderful young women in traditional societies that THEY can be anything they want. We give them a taste of the wider world, we educate them enough to make them question thier traditional values and roles and maybe teach them a handcraft. Then we move on to the next "deserving" community, without changing the overarching society to provide these opportunities and leaving the girls with thier withering aspirations, which would never even have been awakened without our intervention.

I too, was one of these girls and I followed the trajectory you describe until I met one of the boys that does not fit the same mold. This one was highly intelligent, played a sport for an Ivy League school, and came from a well-off family, but was never given a work ethic. I carried this man for seven years and allowed him to guilt me into leaving my fabulous job to stay home and care for our son.

I was hideously unprepared and unsuited to this position and struggled for two years with the added burden of having lost my income without his new promised one ever materializing. This is when I realized what we are doin to women all over the world ith our good intentions. Here I was educated, well travelled, expert in my field, but trapped on a desolate farm in a town where I had no family, no friends, and most importantly, no intellectual challenge nor outlet for my ambition.

After three years on my own, I have re-entered the workforce in a somewhat new field that I love and in which I am seeming to excel, but this required a year of soul-searching and two additional years of graduate school, PLUS caring for a child alone on a student stipend. This reformation and evenutal success was possible in our society, but not in many of the others into which we intrude with our good intentions.

Posted by: Diane | April 11, 2007 11:30 AM

"In college I met a woman with 10 bros and sis's and they all went to catholic school. But mom and dad shelled out nothing for college. I never understood that either."

Without getting into another religious debate, some people feel that a catholic education provides things that a public education does not. If a family values the catholic education highly, they may feel that it is important to provide that foundation for their children. The children can always get scholarships, work or borrow for college. If paying for college was a higher priority than providing a Catholic education, I'm sure they would have sent the kids to public school.

To each his own.

Posted by: to atlmom | April 11, 2007 11:31 AM

Clap, clap, clap! I'm going to post before reading the comments because this post so resonates with me. I was definitely an Alpha girl - my parents raised me thinking the sky was the limit and I was all about making my way in the world. By the time I was 26 I had my Harvard Business School degree - just as I had planned. But then I had my son and all my priorities changed. Nobody, not my mom, dad, absolutely nobody prepared me for the change motherhood will bring, about how I would be so unwilling to sacrifice time with my son to climb the corporate ladder that I had once longed to conquer. I always wonder what advice to give my daughter if I ever have one or even just to give to the Alpha girls of today. I'm sorry to say I have no idea!

Posted by: fabworkingmom | April 11, 2007 11:32 AM

Maryland Mother -- wouldn't that be like putting the two south poles of a magnet together? Or expecting everyone to show up on time for a meeting of Procrastinator's Anonymous? :-)

Chris --

Thanks for the kind words. But are you going to honor us with a musical exposition du jour, perhaps an homage to idiot Imus? (having missed the past several days here with stomach flu, I am going through serious bad lyric withdrawal!).

Posted by: Laura | April 11, 2007 11:33 AM

"Agreed, but if you don't know until you try out for high school soccer that your years of recreational seasonal soccer aren't enough, that everyone who makes the team has 6 years of A level travel team experience plus winter indoor league, then you are just out of luck. And the children who played on the higher levels were those whose parents could afford the money and time involved in the travel leagues."

Umm, if the kid(s) were that interested in continuing with a sport in high school, or wherever, didn't they think to ASK? Or go to any of the games to see what skills are REALLY required? And if they are not good enough, then to spend a year sucking it up as the team manager and getting coached on the side?

It's no guarantee of getting on the team, but it does guarantee someone will be better at the end of the season than they were before.

Not to mention, if you keep showing up and being a nudge, there is usually some sort of money set-aside for those who don't have the scratch on-hand. You simply have to ask. And ask. And maybe ask some more.

At least that's what I've seen with soccer, lacrosse, swimming and wrestling. I have no idea if that would work for gymnastics or not. Of course, if you have enough experience yourself to be a paid spotter, then eventually you may be able to afford better instructors.

It's called "hustle". It's not a guarantee. But it does tend to get you noticed.

Posted by: cash = access | April 11, 2007 11:34 AM

I must admit some would probably classify my as a former alpha girl, and possibly current alpha woman. I am attractive, intelligent, and very ambitious. I figure out what I want to do and do it.

Do I want to be the best lawyer AND the best mom around? Heck, no. What would be the point? To make others jealous?

There is a saying, "jack of all trades and master of none." It is possible to do everything, but probably not possible to do everything well. The solution is to either pick one thing and be the absolute best at it, or pick what is important and be the best you can be.

Are the female politicians the best politicans AND moms? Doubt it. Are they pretty good at both? Some are, and they may or may no be OK with that. But what else can they do?

Posted by: lawgirl | April 11, 2007 11:36 AM

Maryland Mother:

Three cheers for introverts!

Posted by: worker bee | April 11, 2007 11:37 AM

For every Alpha Girl, there must be an Omega Man, and I am HE."

While Alpha Girl's superpowers of crashing through glass ceilings and breastfeeding in public are truly astounding, her weeknesses of child education neglect cum daycare guilt leave you heartbroken. The source of her amazing powers: by patting herself on the back with an ego-boost that fuels her through every trial, she is able to look down and sneer upon the less elite meer mortals. Omega Man tries to bring balance with his sense of humor, but is often misunderstood and labeled a super-villian by Alpha Girl. Their heroic struggle is one of un-equalled proportions in which no topic is left unflogged. Did someone mention daycare? Look, up in the blog, is it a troll? Is it a post? No, it's uber Fred with his cultural tidbit of the day! Quick uber Fred, save us from the evil snarking with your superpowers, wisdom, and levity!

I am willing to sell the comic book and movie rights if anyone is interested... ;-P

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 11:37 AM

I hope these Alpha Girls do learn that having children is an option - and that they're successful with or without children. Because, as many of you know, they'll be the ones staying home with their sick child, not their husband.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:38 AM

Armchair mom,
I share your concern about the emphasis on superficial test-taking success etc. making this country more like Japan, especially with the emphasis in secondary schools shifting to passing standardized tests. In my over ten years in Japan, it seemed there was an inverse relationship to the ability to think for oneself and the level of education. All those years of memorizing in junior and senior high school with no room for self develoment takes a horrible toll on a person's mental, emotional, spiritual and moral development.
ALso, I recently went back to school for a science degree (in my 40s) and got to know many girls (and boys) like the ones in the NY Times article. I am impressed with their achievements, but they did seem to think that the real goal is looking good superficially -- as long as the teacher was impressed, how they got there didn't matter. I knew some so-called high achievers who didn't seem to think it wrong to fake results if they couldn't find the time to actually do the calculations in our lab assignments. The goal is to get a transcript, not an education.

Posted by: Diane, Baltimore | April 11, 2007 11:38 AM

"What can we do to help our society's most ambitious girls navigate balance?"

How about showing them that they don't have to do it all--and be it all to everyone else?

I think the single most important lesson I learned was to be yourself, FOR yourself. Only follow the Wife/Mommy/Career track if it's what you truly want.

Don't be a cookiecutter and do it just because everyone else seems to. That's the worst reason to do anything.

Same goes for boys, too.

Posted by: JRS | April 11, 2007 11:38 AM

I've given kids rides to practices and games, when it came up in conversation that someone was overtasked, or they asked. Not every time (sometimes the car was full), but many times.

I doubt every parent who can afford to pay for extra lessons or whatever would refuse to give a teammate, or their kids friend, a lift. Some will, but some people are jerks. Being a jerk is an equal-economic opportunity.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:40 AM

"Umm, if the kid(s) were that interested in continuing with a sport in high school, or wherever, didn't they think to ASK?"

Gee, I wonder why my kids didn't think to ASK about high school sports requirements when they were in elementary school playing rec soccer. Or get themselves to high school games - I guess they could drive themselves from their after-school programs at elementary and middle schools?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:42 AM

Chris

"For every Alpha Girl, there must be an Omega Man, and I am HE."

Where do you get this?

Are there Omegas in BRAVE NEW WORLD?

Posted by: top cat | April 11, 2007 11:47 AM

Megan: Loved your 11:14 post.
I know what you mean. It's not that I need external validation, per se, but my internal validation often comes from knowing that I am doing things right. And it really puts me at sea when there is no objective standard for "right".

Posted by: worker bee | April 11, 2007 11:48 AM

I just logged on for the day, and have only read Leslie's post and skimmed the first few responses, so I apologize if this has already been brought up -

It seems like the angst these women will feel (and, its probably true that they will do some soul searching once they have children) can be a positive process. Life brings everyone new challenges, but it is the lessons learned from it and how we handle the changes that sharpen and enhance our characters.

I feel Leslie portrayed this dilemma negatively, when it isn't necessarily so....

Posted by: Seattle | April 11, 2007 11:49 AM

"Umm, if the kid(s) were that interested in continuing with a sport in high school, or wherever, didn't they think to ASK?"

Because their uber moms were micromanaging the kids'lives and asking all the right questions years in advance.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:51 AM

There're only 24 hours in a day, people, and only 7 days in the week to do all the things that need (or you want) to be done.

Work, social life, children, housework, etc, all must be squeezed into these time periods. And sleep. And downtime.

Work 60-70 hours a week, sleep another 6/day, doesn't leave you a lot of time for everything else. Something has to give.

Sure you can hire someone to clean the house, take care of the kids, even pay your bills and organize your social life if you want to go that far (and have the money).

But then, did you have those kids just because everyone else did (another form of competition perhaps?), and the difficult part of having them (caring, raising, etc) is just another job you hire someone else to take care of for you?

If that's what an "elite, ambitious, career oriented" person ascribes to, count me out. Please. Success just for success' own sake is not worth it, not for me.

Posted by: John L | April 11, 2007 11:51 AM

Boy There are truly a bunch of nuts on this blog. No wonder your kids are scrwed up!

Posted by: Silver Spring, MD | April 11, 2007 11:52 AM

Interesting that people always feel the need to compare our young people with the Japanese in terms of achievement and drive. They fail to mention that the Japanese have the highest teen suicide rate in the world comparatively speaking. I'm happy to settle for less than perfection if it means my kids are happy and balanced individuals.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:53 AM

"Interesting that people always feel the need to compare our young people with the Japanese in terms of achievement and drive"

And interesting that it is viewed as a recent trend.

I went to high school in the '60s and the academic standards then were pretty much the same as they are now.

Frankly, I don't know how to pass a bar exam without forced memorization.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 11:59 AM

"Umm, if the kid(s) were that interested in continuing with a sport in high school, or wherever, didn't they think to ASK?"

Gee, I wonder why my kids didn't think to ASK about high school sports requirements when they were in elementary school playing rec soccer. Or get themselves to high school games - I guess they could drive themselves from their after-school programs at elementary and middle schools?

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 11:42 AM

Were your kids playing in middle school? And if they wanted to see a game, you or your spouse couldn't take them? There are a lot of evening games played at high schools. Not to mention on the weekends!

Sounds like they weren't really burning to do it. That's fine, but there's no point in getting snippy about it. If they really wanted to do it, I doubt you wouldn't have tried to get creative. Or encourage them to be creative.

Not to mention there is JV level. No guarantee of getting on the team, but there if a kid is driven enough, the coaches will KNOW THAT. Most coaches (and school music teachers) are so THRILLED to have a student who loves the subject or sport, that they usually put forth extra efforts on someone's behalf.

I know my one child lives to play a particular instrument. The music teacher(s) knew it too, and they were most helpful.

Posted by: Quitting/whining IS easier, though | April 11, 2007 12:03 PM

Worker Bee - exactly! I've also enjoyed your posts on being an introvert - as much as I love evenings with my family, there are days where all I want is to curl up with my book and a mug of tea...

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 12:06 PM

Maybe being an 'alpha girl' in high school is good training for living a busy, full, passionate life later on filled with family and work.

Posted by: chicagomom | April 11, 2007 12:06 PM

To Quitting/whining IS easier, though

"Most coaches (and school music teachers) are so THRILLED to have a student who loves the subject or sport, that they usually put forth extra efforts on someone's behalf. "

Assuming the school district can afford sports' coaches and music teachers; much less a JV level!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:08 PM

"Umm, if the kid(s) were that interested in continuing with a sport in high school, or wherever, didn't they think to ASK?"

Because their uber moms were micromanaging the kids'lives and asking all the right questions years in advance.

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 11:51 AM

You've never hung around the wrestling dads, obviously. Some of those guys make "The Great Santini" look like a push-over.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 11, 2007 12:08 PM

"And having kids doesn't guarantee they'll be there for you in old age, either, or, if they are, it will be done in a gruding minimum,due to a feeling of obligation rather than love"

This is also a broad generlization too. Is this how you feel about your parents? I am not being snarky, but I know that I would do anything for my parents because they have always treated me with love and respect.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 11:06 AM

Hi Scarry,

Oh, no, not at all--in fact I moved back home here from two years in Boston because my parents are aging, and, like you, I'd do anything for them.

My viewpoint comes from observing two elderly neighbor ladies of my parents--both have multiple grown children in the area, and both ladies rarely see them. I have driven one of them to the doctor's office on multiple occasions because she experiences atrial fib. It saddens them greatly, but my older parents and my brother and myself try to include them. Most recently, we invited them over for Easter dinner.

Posted by: NW anon | April 11, 2007 12:08 PM

To Quitting/whining IS easier, though

"Most coaches (and school music teachers) are so THRILLED to have a student who loves the subject or sport, that they usually put forth extra efforts on someone's behalf. "

Assuming the school district can afford sports' coaches and music teachers; much less a JV level!!!!


Posted by: | April 11, 2007 12:08 PM

That's what the PTA is all about. Making noise and making certain that the superintendents, etc. all KNOW what is desired. Then making more noise about funding. Usually $5-15 per year to join.

But hey! Whining about the parents who have the scratch to provide extras for their kids--that's an answer too.

Posted by: BL | April 11, 2007 12:11 PM

Though nowhere near elite, my best friend and I have achieved different levels of "succcess". She works more hours, has a cleaner house, cooks more - less takeout, spends as much time with family and spends more time with friends, and exercises more. And her husband does less at home than mine. The difference is that I sleep more. She is more energetic than just about anyone I know, and sleeps less.

Physical factors come into play when achieving balance. My friend is able to do more partly because she is awake 14 hours more each week than I am.

Time is the one constant. We all get 24 hours a day. What we do in those 24 hours is a big part of achieving balance. If you are driving 2 hours per day, then that's really all you can do during those 2 hours. If you are commuting 2 hours per day other than driving, you may be able to take care of other things during your commute. If you take your child to daycare at your worksite, then those 2 hours are spent with your child. If your child stays home with a nanny, then those 2 hours are spent away from your child.

I believe that it is possible to have ambition and children, but your ambition may be adjusted along the way. Live in the city to save commute time or live in the suburbs for the way of life. But you can't live in the suburbs and save commute time unless you find a job in the suburbs. So everyone has internal struggles whether you have children or not. If you want to live at the beach and be a lawyer, but there are no lawyer openings at the beach, then you can't do both.

Posted by: anon | April 11, 2007 12:11 PM

And sidenote: it is remarkable and disturbing that so little attention is paid to boys' challenges (and successes) today.

Posted by: Leslie | April 11, 2007 07:42 AM


oh - what a shame that these white boys have it tough! are you serious?? for the first time- women are sprinting ahead of men in school, enrolling in college at record numbers, in law school, in grad school, actually attaining coveted jobs and exec positions- AND NOW IT'S "THE POOR BOYS ARE BEING LEFT OUT?"

Maybe they should do precisely what women have had to do: WORK HARDER at a new field, in a new way of thinking. Little white boys have always had things handed to them. Why shouldn't they be expected to work at "writing about their feelings"??? Just as women have to buckle down and learn the math that is mythically too hard for us and easy for boys. But, guess what??? Now girls excel in math AND writing about our feelings. We can do it all.

Aren't you doing a disservice to boys by not expecting them to do more creative liberal artsy type of things? Poor boys- expectations are so low that no one expects them to do these things and learn in new ways.

maybe we should raise our sons the way we're raising our daughters now?


Posted by: boo hoo for the boys | April 11, 2007 12:12 PM

NW anon,

That is so nice of you. I wonder if the ladies did something to the kids to make them not care or they just don't care. I just can't picture kids not caring about their parents unless they were neglected or abused.

It is wonderful that people like you can come to their aid. I geuss I was just wondering if you made that comment because the comment about the single lady set you off or if you had personal experince with it.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 12:13 PM

How elitist can the Washington Post and New York Times get?
Reiner notes that no one "should feel sorry for us," (us being "elite women" and "amazing girls").
Indeed, ordinary Americans need not bother, because if these stories are to be believed America's elite women and their daughters already feel sorry enough for themselves. Woe unto them, for because they have so much they want more.
A pity indeed. In truth, what these stories really show is that too many journalists have grown up in such a bubble of
nannies, private schools and prestigious out-of-college internships that they are no longer in touch with most Americans.
And newspapers wonder why readership is declining. If Ivy-educated reporters wanted to write truly compelling stories of "amazing girls," they might try venturing out of upper-crust neighborhoods and meet girls working their way through high school in the rural Mid-West or urban ghettos. There are no shortage of amazing girls and boys across this country aspiring
for bigger things than their parents can give them. At the very least, it would give self-important journalists something to pat themselves on the back for.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:15 PM

The theme of this blog is reacting to last Sunday's lead article in the NYTimes. When I read it then and there I felt like the author should have expressed a point of view. But since reading it I have been writing my own impressions inside my own skull. This blog demonstrates that I am not alone. This topic is a conundrum for many people: where will these girls be in 20 years; how do I bring up my daughters (like them); will these girls have children; should I compromise my own career to have children?
This is what made this NYTimes article worthwhile: it has stimulated a lot of people to examine their own life choices. The activity on this blog shows that.

Posted by: Barre | April 11, 2007 12:16 PM

Worker Bee - exactly! I've also enjoyed your posts on being an introvert - as much as I love evenings with my family, there are days where all I want is to curl up with my book and a mug of tea...

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 12:06 PM

Introvert of the world unite, or not, introverts just want a little peace and quiet alone.

There were times when my kids were toddlers and I had been home all day, and as soon as my husband walked through the door I'd walk out. I'd got to Target to be alone. Quietly walking the aisles drinking coffee, ducking people that know me. Sad but true.

Posted by: CMAC | April 11, 2007 12:17 PM

I am a physician and full-time working mom. Why do columnists like this always assume that balance between family and career is impossible? I work for the federal govt at a job I absolutely love, but am home every day at 5 to be with my daughter.

Smart women like the alpha girls in the Times article can make an effort to find careers that allow for such balance. These jobs do exist. I gave up private practice to join the govt. for that reason.

Loving your kids and your work are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Penn alum | April 11, 2007 12:18 PM

I just want to say that you've hit the bullseye on the issues I am currently dealing with in my life. Dead center. No matter what I do, I can't be with my daughter while at the same time advancing my career. Thank you for teasing out this dichotomy so clearly.

I'm curious about so many angry (and frankly, mean) comments. Obviously I feel overwhelming grateful that I have a great career and don't have to worry about putting food on my table, but that doesn't mean these types of issues aren't valid and don't deserve consideration.

Posted by: Seattle Lawyer Mom | April 11, 2007 12:18 PM

Well, one solution would be for some of these girls to not give a rat's a$$ about what other's think of them and focus on being true to themselves. I've only read fraction of these responses in addition to Leslie's post and yet find numerous mentions of terms such as "women are expected to.." and "women are pressured to.."

Maybe if women listened more to themselves in addition to a tiny handful of people very close to them - a lot of this anxiety would disappear.

Posted by: ALP | April 11, 2007 12:20 PM

"The difference is that I sleep more. She is more energetic than just about anyone I know, and sleeps less."

The lack of sleep eventually will show up big time on your best friend's face when she is about 45.

From then on, she will look at least 10 years older than her biological age and a lot like her husband's mother.

Her husband will do even less at home, if he is still there....


Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:20 PM

Some no-cost advice: Give your best effort in all that you do; eliminate the distractions; and establish a personal sense of identity; then have children. With sober habits, be unselfish and keep the faith, and everything will make sense.

Posted by: LtCol George W Murray USMC (ret) | April 11, 2007 12:21 PM

"I'd got to Target to be alone. Quietly walking the aisles drinking coffee, ducking people that know me. Sad but true."

Oh man, CMAC, I am so there with you!! I never, before having a child, would have thought of shopping as a way of taking refuge, but the few times I have gone shopping by myself in the last year it suddenly felt that way. We've gotten a lot better at finding other ways for me to get time to myself lately, which is good.

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 12:22 PM

Pittypat, welcome back. The champion of the underpriveleged has a good spokesperson, and Leslie needs to hear what you dish out.

Posted by: anon for several reasons | April 11, 2007 12:22 PM

And sidenote: it is remarkable and disturbing that so little attention is paid to boys' challenges (and successes) today.

Posted by: Leslie | April 11, 2007 07:42 AM


oh - what a shame that these white boys have it tough! are you serious?? for the first time- women are sprinting ahead of men in school, enrolling in college at record numbers, in law school, in grad school, actually attaining coveted jobs and exec positions- AND NOW IT'S "THE POOR BOYS ARE BEING LEFT OUT?"

Maybe they should do precisely what women have had to do: WORK HARDER at a new field, in a new way of thinking. Little white boys have always had things handed to them. Why shouldn't they be expected to work at "writing about their feelings"??? Just as women have to buckle down and learn the math that is mythically too hard for us and easy for boys. But, guess what??? Now girls excel in math AND writing about our feelings. We can do it all.

Aren't you doing a disservice to boys by not expecting them to do more creative liberal artsy type of things? Poor boys- expectations are so low that no one expects them to do these things and learn in new ways.

maybe we should raise our sons the way we're raising our daughters now?


Posted by: boo hoo for the boys | April 11, 2007 12:12 PM

Posted by: right on boo hoo!!! | April 11, 2007 12:24 PM

"Little white boys have always had things handed to them."

Why does this have to be about race? It is bad enough that it is about gender. I wish people would just start seeing people for what they have to offer and not their race and gender. Quite sterotyping people. All white boys aren't elite or rich and the same thing goes for girls.

There are poor white boys you know. It's people like you who make me wish for another girl and not a boy.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 12:25 PM

We have the luxury of worrying about fulfillment because worrying about other things - like children dying, placing food on the table, clothing ourselves, finding shelter - is no longer a worry for many of us. We need to learn to appreciate the gifts that many of us have been given. We need to learn to enjoy the life that we are privledged to lead. Struggling to find balance is far more enjoyable than simply struggling.

My grandparents came to this country because they wanted their descendant to stop struggling. I had aunts and uncles who never lived to become adults. Every day when I come home from work, I look at the faces of my children. I am exhausted. The love I have for them gives me strength. Yes, I work hard at work and I work hard at work. But, worrying gets me no where.

Those who truly struggle in this world would laugh at what we worry about in this country. We are truly elitist.

Fathers struggle, too. Fathers of a generation ago had a more defined role. My husband works hard at work and wants to be more of a father than his father was. He does daycare duty and soccer because I have a longer commute.

To think that our daughters have to be pessimistic will only make them dread their future. Our children live in the most wonderful country in the world. Let them know that and stop worrying about things that are petty.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:25 PM

Megan - you just can't hide in your own house, they always find you.

I have posted on this before (for blog stats alert) but for my birthday and Mother's Day I ask for alone time. My hsuband get the kids out the house for the day and then we all go out to dinner, but I am alone for 5-6 hourse and it is lovely. I am rejuvenated then enjoy everything and everyone so much more.

Posted by: CMAC | April 11, 2007 12:26 PM

Leslie,

Your ideas are so outdated! And you should be grateful for that. Smart young women today set out to achieve success in their careers and raise families -- and we feel empowered to do it! I am 30 and recently married. My husband has already volunteered to be a work from home dad, and I think that's great! I am ready to continue with my career, maybe get another graduate degree and also have kids -- and yes, I will love them! My mother worked full time and cared for me and my brother. She also cooked dinner every day. Yes, she was super, but if she could do it, why can't I?

A proud Barnard graduate

Posted by: Barnard98 | April 11, 2007 12:26 PM

If these Alpha Girls are so smart then they should be able to be in such high demand that they can create opportunities for themselves- if they are so smart they can demand to work flex time or telecommute or get a better salary for less work. or they can start their own businesses and create it around the family.

I know because i did it. A few firms wanted me achingly- I leveraged this and got a regular ole' 9-5:30 job. With great pay and benefits and a good title.

Only smart EGOTISTICAL alpha girls run into such a problem with balancing family and career. It's only the narcissism tha interferes- NOT the realities. There are infinite EASY ways to integrate being smart and a go-getter with having a family. After all, isn't that what being an Alpha is all about?

Posted by: Proud to be an Alpha with balance | April 11, 2007 12:28 PM

The US has done a poor job recognizing the problem women, and parents generally, have in trying to maintain work schedules with having children. It is a quality of life issue, and we ignore it at our peril. In France, the government gives large financial incentives to people who have a child, and for this reason, the birth rate in France has been somewhat stable as compared to the rest of Europe, where it is plummeting. Without immigrants, the US population would be declining-people who actually care about meeting their responsibilities are finding it simply too expensive to have children.

Posted by: Carl | April 11, 2007 12:29 PM

Actually high school soccer games are played at 4:00 pm. Mom and Dad are both working then.

'Sounds like they weren't really burning to do it.' Actually, they weren't burning to do any one thing in elementary school - they were interested in trying a variety. We thought the childhood years were meant more for exploration of interests rather than choosing to concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of others. I suppose that if we had more time/money, we may have checked out what was available beyond the basic recreation program, even though the children weren't showing a burning desire at the earlier ages.

Also, we have more than one child, so the practical logistics of school and activities for more than one child when both parents work are harder to work out than if there is only one child or one parent works part time or stays home.

Sorry if you think I'm whining - just trying to show another side.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:30 PM

"The lack of sleep eventually will show up big time on your best friend's face when she is about 45."

LOL, we are both in our 50's now, and she doesn't look any worse than I do.

Maybe I should clarify that she is not sleep-deprived - she just naturally doesn't need as much sleep as I do.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:32 PM

"The difference is that I sleep more. She is more energetic than just about anyone I know, and sleeps less."

The lack of sleep eventually will show up big time on your best friend's face when she is about 45.

From then on, she will look at least 10 years older than her biological age and a lot like her husband's mother.

Her husband will do even less at home, if he is still there....

Must be great to have a crystal ball, and know how everyone will look, behave, even where they will be!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:33 PM

"Maybe being an 'alpha girl' in high school is good training for living a busy, full, passionate life later on filled with family and work."

I do have to agree here. There are plenty of "overacheiving" women out there with families. I think that it has more to do with personality type (and sleep, as someone else noted) than with the idea that motherhood squashes ambition. Some people are just better suited for the super busy lives. End of story. I have a feeling that these girls will be just fine, and hopefully they'll be the CEOs and researchers that provide great role models for our kids. It would be incredibly sad if they were told by society and parents that they "can't have it all." They should be encouraged to do everything they want. They are smart enough to figure out how to balance and when to take a break.

Where is the article about ambitious men who are terrified of giving up their goals to have a family? What are parents supposed to tell their overacheiving boys about "the real world"?

On the boys in school, I am more than a little amused by the idea that they're being "left out" while girls are excelling. Girls have overcome stereotypes and have stepped up to the plate to learn typically "male" subjects. Boys can tackle writing about "feelings," don't you think? Parents, don't you have faith in your boys, or are they too stupid? What or whom do you guys think is holding them back in school? More assertive girls? Harder classes? Kids can adapt to pretty much anything. Just ask the Japanese kids!

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 12:33 PM

"After all, isn't that what being an Alpha is all about?"

No. Alpha is a term for a ruling caste in Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD. Look up the rest.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:34 PM

I think the important thing for all children to understand is that life is about choices and when you make a choice, you often close a door for good or bad. When I chose to get married, I chose to be with this wonderful man, but I also chose to include another person in my decisions for my life. When I chose to have children, I pretty much closed the door to my dream job working for some NGO in India providing glasses to children who wouldn't otherwise have them. Do I mourn some of the closed doors? sure, but not for long. I also chose to stay at home, because for me (I'll say it again, for ME), I couldn't be the kind of parent I wanted to be and have the kind of job I wanted to have, so I chose to be at home and am happy with that choice.

We should celebrate the freedom of choice that we as women have, but recognize that there are responsibilities that come with those choices. Very few people can have it all, all at once as someone earlier said. That's o.k.

My greatest hope for my children is that they are happy. If being "elite" makes them truly happy then great, but I'm going to put a great deal more energey into helping them find and nurture their passion than I am into making sure they are in all AP classes.

Posted by: Moxiemom | April 11, 2007 12:37 PM

"for my birthday and Mother's Day I ask for alone time."

CMAC and Megan -- right back atcha. For my birthday this year, all I wanted was to go to the mall, without kids. And I even hate shopping!! But it was SO nice to just wander around and get a few boring things for myself (like the pair of khakis to replace the "dry clean only" ones that accidentally got tossed into the dryer 6 mos before).

Sometimes there is nothing so satisfyingly "alone" as being by yourself amidst a giant throng of people.

Posted by: Laura | April 11, 2007 12:37 PM

"Little white boys have always had things handed to them."

Why does this have to be about race? It is bad enough that it is about gender. I wish people would just start seeing people for what they have to offer and not their race and gender. Quite sterotyping people. All white boys aren't elite or rich and the same thing goes for girls.

There are poor white boys you know. It's people like you who make me wish for another girl and not a boy.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 12:25 PM

Actually, scarry, this article is about elites and the general differences in boys and girls in school. Schools have always taught for white boys. Now, that is changing with more bilingual schools and a less rigid more liberal arts type of education. And the white boys are suffering, while girls are flourishing. (for the record, i have a son and a daughter and i'm white) that's why i'm raising my boy to learn the same way i'm teaching my girl.

There are plenty of schools left that teach in the old style that suit boys better. Parents just need to learn what works for their kids.

But, that's the reality! You can't deny that it's a wonderful thing that girls are succeeding. I'm proud of the changes in schools!

Posted by: boo hoo for the boys | April 11, 2007 12:40 PM

naw... I was just making up a cheesy uber-hero catchphrase. ;-)

Imus you know can be quite callow,
It must have been a slow news day
Now all the malcontents will whine, that's their way.
They always have an axe to grind.

So the media will make a story,
and everyone can just complain
that he's been on the air for too long.
Can't you see he needs rogain?

Have you ever been called a nappy-haired-ho,
and held a press conference on TV?
You can't be whiter than a beagle
and get away with saying racist things.

It might have already been suppose-ed
but a riot they are trying here to start.
They want control the voting booth, of course they do.
and feed the hate inside of you!

Have you ever been called a nappy-haired-ho,
and held a press conference on TV?
You can't be whiter than a beagle
and get away with saying racist things.

Did I ever call you a nappy-haired-ho?
The rappers have said everything you should be!
Ho, and Fly, you could be doper and real phat yo,
but being white I dare not say any of these things
'cause Sharpton and Jackson would then throw things.

Oh, only reverends can say the racist things:
Jews, Jews, Jews, Jews are at fault for everything!
Lie, lie, lie away. You fed us a lie.
Oh, you, only you can say the racist things.
Oh, you, only you can say the racist things.

High, high, high ratings in the sky
so you do not even have to try
to stir, to stir
the hate in us, forget the Christian thing...

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 12:40 PM

Worker bee: I get you! I hate the perspective that the childless go home to lonely, sad lives that are to be pitied, and that we are clamoring around for relationships to fill our empty void. A house filled with loud kids running around is not my idea of balance, though I know children are a critical part of 'balance' for many people. I can't stand the idea of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, all in pursuit of 'having it all.' I would die of suffocation and exhaustion in five years if I lived like that. Give me peace, quiet, and the time and space to pursue the things that I feel lead to a balanced and fulfilling life, despite what the majority of society tells me I must do (that I must have kids in order to avoid leading a sad, pitiful, lonely life with no meaning). Rather, my life is filled with a wonderful, quiet bliss and the ability (time, money, space) to pursue my own definition of fulfillment. No clamoring for old exes or secretly pining for a living room full of kids here.

Posted by: Wyoming | April 11, 2007 12:42 PM

"And her husband does less at home than mine."

"Her husband will do even less at home, if he is still there...."

OK, you took my comments out of context. Her husband actually does less at home than my husband, but he still does quite a bit. We are not all married to selfish men who do nothing. She is happy with their division of household labor so don't even start with the wife as doormat line of reasoning. Some people forget that 'equal' doesn't mean every chore is divided 50/50.

Posted by: anon | April 11, 2007 12:44 PM

Actually high school soccer games are played at 4:00 pm. Mom and Dad are both working then.

'Sounds like they weren't really burning to do it.' Actually, they weren't burning to do any one thing in elementary school - they were interested in trying a variety. We thought the childhood years were meant more for exploration of interests rather than choosing to concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of others. I suppose that if we had more time/money, we may have checked out what was available beyond the basic recreation program, even though the children weren't showing a burning desire at the earlier ages.

Also, we have more than one child, so the practical logistics of school and activities for more than one child when both parents work are harder to work out than if there is only one child or one parent works part time or stays home.

Sorry if you think I'm whining - just trying to show another side.

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 12:30 PM

Interesting. There are high school games on the weekend around where I live.

I have two kids and a job, yet I'm able to cart them around to various areas for various activities. Admittedly, it's not getting up at 3 a.m. to get a child to gymnastics or to the ice rink, but it's still hard.

My kids were/are in rec league sports too. I too want the young years to be for trying things out--hence the kids having played a variety of sports (for cheap). One wants to try out for JV, so one has now played indoor soccer.

It's not too late for your kids, not really. At least they don't already need to have arthroscopic surgery on their knees from having blown them out in travel sports, for example.

What about instructional videos? Not the same, sure, but at least the concepts won't be brand-spanking new, either.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:46 PM

"Sometimes there is nothing so satisfyingly "alone" as being by yourself amidst a giant throng of people."

Laura, eloquent as always and spot on for me!

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 12:47 PM

I'm with scarry- why does everything have to be about gender and race? Can't we all just get along? I was a poor white boy, and I'm sorry I worked real hard to climb up the ladder. I'm sorry others have not made it as far, but people of my generation have been making the point more and more often that we value contributions and effort more than skin color... so we are making progress... unfortunately there are set-backs along the way when someone does or says something hurtful- or tries to incite more hate... but we are working to get past that and burry the hatchets of yesterday to make some progress... I think most of us are just getting sick and tired of the race/gender thing and want to be judged on merit alone if we are to be judged at all.

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 12:48 PM

"I've come to the conclusion that elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family. "

You are insane. Seriously, you're crazy.

Posted by: whiskey tango foxtrot? | April 11, 2007 12:49 PM

Wyoming

"No clamoring for old exes or secretly pining for a living room full of kids here. "

Ha! Ha! Same here.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:49 PM

Am I really supposed to feel sorry for these girls? I don't think so nor will I. I feel bad for the single mothers and fathers who don't have their pick of options because the world seeks to demoralize them and slam doors in their face every time they try to seek an opportunity to give their kids a better life.
These stories about the poor, helpless, upper class overachieving young people is not news. It's something that's been going on forever and will continue to go on. If these silver-spoon-born blondies feel overwhelmed with the choices they have in life, why don't they spread their wealth to people who are less fortunate. Otherwise, they should shut their mouths and so should their spoiled, elitist parents. Since when is having your pick of colleges, jobs and places to live a problem?

Posted by: RealWorldTruth | April 11, 2007 12:51 PM

Personally, I think the worst internal struggles occur in those who down two big macs, a large fry, and a diet coke... man, that has GOT TO tear you up!

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 12:51 PM

Wyoming -- I've got the "living room full of kids" you describe. I love my kids and we have a great time together, and I am truly blessed.

But can I come visit you at your house for the afternoon?

Posted by: Arington Dad | April 11, 2007 12:53 PM

boo hoo for the boys: I feel sorry for your son, the sexism and hatred of men just reeks in your post. Your son will learn from you that women are the better sex and he is just a useless extention of white male power

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:54 PM

Sorry, I forgot to clarify that I'm a single parent too.

It can be done. You (plural) have to be more creative about how to GET it done. The kids have to contribute some ideas, in addition to the practice, themselves. It's not handed to them on a platinum platter.

Good thing I was a hard-working kid in school, so I could have a career that pays well and has enough flexibility. I don't trust to luck.

Posted by: 12:46 | April 11, 2007 12:55 PM


boo hoo for the boys,

I have a daughter and I am not saying that I don't want her to do well, I want her to do far better than me, but you have to understand that your comment about little white boys can be upsetting to some people who may not have the same back ground as you or others on this board.

I know many people where I come from who are just happy to get their boys into a trade school or factory. Some are even ecstatic that they just graduated from high school. My point is that it is not fair to lump all little white boys together. They have not all had the same opportunities of the rich and elite. I did not mean to be insulting to you, but when you lumped all white boys together it rubbed me the wrong way.

I have also been around men of all colors who have worked their butts off to get ahead and they shouldn't be viewed as trying to hold down a woman. Individual by individual is my motto.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 12:55 PM

To Arlington Dad:

Ha! Anytime! I give you credit, though. You must have a stamina and patience that I am lacking.

Posted by: Wyoming | April 11, 2007 12:55 PM

"I have two kids and a job, yet I'm able to cart them around to various areas for various activities"

We have done this as well. It is the club play and travel leagues that don't work either because of cost or time committment. I know everyone can't do everything, but it seems that the kids can't be generalists anymore, just specialists. It's also standard practice at the elite high school to cut the sophomore if there is a choice between a freshman and sophomore for a JV position. The view is that the freshman could help out the team for 2 years, but the sophomore only one because juniors can only play varsity. My feeling is that the sophomore would not make the varsity team the next year if they are barely making the JV team, so I would tend to choose the sophomore since it would most likely be their last chance to play on a high school team. The freshman would have an opportunity to play JV the next year as a sophomore.

It just seems that everything is about winning more than about participation, even though studies have shown that students who are involved in their schools perform better academically.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:56 PM

Chris,

That is funny. This pregnancy has allowed me to eat more than the last and I have to say that cheesburgers are a once a week treat. No internal struggle here!

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 12:57 PM

Wyoming Mom --

"You must have a stamina and patience that I am lacking."

Nope -- I was dealt a different hand than you, that's all.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 11, 2007 12:58 PM

I think the saddest thing for those alpha girls is that coming out of college with those amazing degrees, they're going to run right smack dab into the Glass Ceiling at work. Then they get to discover that life is inherently Unfair and that most people prefer it that way, and work very hard to maintain that status quo.

Posted by: ljb | April 11, 2007 12:58 PM

"Since when is having your pick of colleges, jobs and places to live a problem?"

Got to invent troubles, so you can ignore those who are truly in a bad scene.

Rather than just throwing money at a problem, why don't they go and try and DO something about it too? In addition to giving money to whatever cause(s) they favor?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 12:58 PM

Introverted, sleep-deprived alpha girls unite!

Posted by: SheGeek | April 11, 2007 12:59 PM

Great name!

Posted by: To whiskey tango foxtrot? | April 11, 2007 1:00 PM

boohoohoo writes: maybe we should raise our sons the way we're raising our daughters now?

Exactly what the NEA has been trying to institute for years btw.

A horrible idea IMHO, ignores the differences between the sexes the same way communism igores human nature.

I favor a flexible approach to teaching based upon the strengths/talents of the individual student, or groups of students.

Do you believe boys and girls mature or learn differently?

From what I have read and seen unfortunately, the lesson plan to essentially feminize boys in the academic environment is well underway. Despite the condition that boys are far more active in the Kindergarden years, they are disciplined and negatively socialized for their active streak as it is only seen as disruptive. Middle school starts as early as 5th(!!) grade well before many students have matured to handle the organizational challenges of the multi-room/homeroom structure. Studies say girls are better listeners more focused, more mature at younger ages and generally their conduct is reinforced - would you disagree?

Despite aptitude students may not be considered for the advanced tracks in subjects beacuse they arent as easy to teach. Needless to say the teacher I had experience with was a very domineering woman. When my kid got sent down to grade level math, the parents of girls told me with relief how much easier the classwork became. um no boys that hadnt been held back in Kindergarten in that class...

Past discrimination does not justify the revenge of reverse discrimination.

Some whiners are so bitter. Life isnt fair, learn how to cope, work hard and move on to where you can find some reward or satisfaction. When all you care about is obeying the rules, pleasing the teacher, and being a bossy know-it-all: you got no shot a CEO much less competing with focused, driven, ruthless workplace that cares about production not politics.

Posted by: Fo3 | April 11, 2007 1:00 PM

realworldtruth, amen! There is too much suffering to cry for elites. If you excel in life, use your success for something good for society other than as a platform from which to white about the tough choices that others would LOVE to have.

"If recognition is what you're looking for, motherhood is not the place to find it..." Honestly, is there any better recognition than a scribbled on sheet of paper that says "I love you mom/dad!" in crayon? I guess some people value seeing their name in the lights, or in the paper, more than other places... how depressing not to receive such recognition. I would value the recognition my dogs give me when I come home more than any trite praise that could be heaped upon me by some other source! Then again, I am not one clammoring for an oscar, a grammy, or national publicity saying, Love me!, LOVE ME! LOOK AT MEEEEEE! Well, not that much anyway....

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 1:00 PM

It just seems that everything is about winning more than about participation, even though studies have shown that students who are involved in their schools perform better academically.

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 12:56 PM

Presumably the kids have friends, right? Drop a ball into their midst at a park. Suggest cross-country. Let the local rec league know that the older kid(s) is still interested in playing. I've seen rec leagues that offer adult teams as well. Speak up about it. Mention that assistant coaching the younger kids can be fun (and it sneaks in exercise too).

There is a whole big world out there, they needn't be constrained by whether or not they are on a particular team, with matching jerseys.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:02 PM

white about...ooops.... write about... blah... tai-poe

oh, btw, above is to Wind Beneath My Wings... if you didn't get it by now. ;-)

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 1:03 PM

... unless, of course, we decide that we'd each rather go somewhere private for a nap...

Posted by: SheGeek | April 11, 2007 1:03 PM

'they're going to run right smack dab into the Glass Ceiling at work'

Only a small percentage get to the top. There are more men at the top where I work because frankly they didn't have as many women in competition 20,30,or 40 years ago when they started their careers. As these older men move on and retire, and there are more women in the available replacement pool, we will see more women at the top.

You sometimes have to start at the bottom to get to the top, and that can take years. Twenty years from now we will see more women in competition for the top spots.

Before everyone tells me how wrong I am, that this is due to discrimination against women, let me say that I agree that there has been discrimination. But that's not the only reason that there are fewer women at the top. I, for one, believe that things have changed and are continuing to change toward gender-blindness.

Posted by: my thoughts | April 11, 2007 1:04 PM

"Honestly, is there any better recognition than a scribbled on sheet of paper that says "I love you mom/dad!" in crayon?"

Being able to provide said kid with a roof over their head, and the crayons and paper to write the note with? That takes money. Money takes work. No one is handing me money to pay my mortgage, or plan for my retirement, or for the kids college/trade school or whatever.

I'm too old to get the money the easy way--via prostitution or porn. Still not interested in trying to earn it that way either.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:06 PM

It's been a long time I've read this blog. Before, I thought Leslie had undertones of arrogance and elitism, but now she is simply admitting it. No, I don't suppose the rest of society does want to feel sorry for you. Damsels in distress don't garner much sympathy anymore, especially when the distress is an aggrandized self-diagnosis in which the damsel assumes that her group has a special type of distress peculiar only to her "elite" group. Nope. No sympathy here. Non-elite, unimportant not-so-special women, shall we call them, have balance issues and distress as well. I'm sure there's a psychiatric term for this sort of arrogance... megalomania?...no...narcissism?...no... paranoia?...no...egocentrism?...no...delusional?...no...overinflated self-perception?... getting warmer. We might just have to create a term for this condition. It's getting quite serious.

Posted by: dcp | April 11, 2007 1:07 PM

off you go then...

Posted by: to dcp | April 11, 2007 1:08 PM

dang it- I'm obviosly not elite at typing today- I meant "whine about"... my inability to articulate coherently makes me part of the problem and thus I now hang my head in shame...

....

ok, I'm done now. :)

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 1:08 PM

Sometimes there is nothing so satisfyingly "alone" as being by yourself amidst a giant throng of people."

Laura - I take my ipod to the grocery with me every Sunday morning for my "date" with Ira Glass. I get to hear my wonderful NPR shows uninterrupted and get the groceries done although sometimes people do wonder what I'm laughing at especially when I listen to "Wait, Wait Don't tell me." I actually look forward to Sunday a.m. grocery shopping.

Posted by: Moxiemom | April 11, 2007 1:10 PM

"There is a whole big world out there, they needn't be constrained by whether or not they are on a particular team, with matching jerseys."

Absolutely, and my kids do continue to play recreational sports as opposed to school sports.

I guess this article about alpha-girls having to struggle set off a nerve in me when I see how people without all the advantages and/or childhood experiences have a hard time competing in the high school arena. It is a little hard to feel sorry for the struggles of these girls, although in a way I do feel sorry for them. I hope their journey thus far has been enjoyable and not just a means to an end.

My last post today, I promise :).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:16 PM

"Despite the condition that boys are far more active in the Kindergarden years, they are disciplined and negatively socialized for their active streak as it is only seen as disruptive."

So, Fo3, are you suggesting altering the standards for an education because boys have special needs that negatively affect the class and learning of the girls?

Were you involved in the military discussion? Do you see the parallels? I hope that you would advocate for the standards being relaxed to allow women into combat positions because they have different needs.

"Past discrimination does not justify the revenge of reverse discrimination"

Indeed! But is having the same standards reverse discrinimation, or just equality?

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 1:17 PM

I can't do grocery shopping quietly as many of my co-workers shop at the same place on Sun am. We could have a party some weeks.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 1:17 PM

Moxie - I had a friend that took Sunday am's to herself at the grocery store. Her mother got on her case about not taking her kids to church "as a family" and she told her mother she worshipped at the alter of Giant - alone.

Posted by: cmac | April 11, 2007 1:19 PM

CMAC - that is so funny! I use the church of the commissary.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 1:19 PM

So, Fo3, are you suggesting altering the standards for an education because boys have special needs that negatively affect the class and learning of the girls?

I think he is saying that when determining these standards we should take both genders into account. Because as it stands now, we have tailored eduction to girls special needs that affect the learning of boys.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:21 PM

"So, Fo3, are you suggesting altering the standards for an education because boys have special needs that negatively affect the class and learning of the girls?"

Maybe we should go back to single sex classes.

I think the goal should be to develop teaching methods that are beneficial to both boys and girls and not one or the other. If Montessori schools recognize learning at your own pace, why can't we recognize learning within your own style? I think of boys as being more "active", not "disruptive".

BTW, I have 2 daughters, no sons. It is no less discriminatory to slant in favor of girls than it was to slant in favor of boys in the past.

Posted by: huh | April 11, 2007 1:21 PM

Girls need recess/exercise too!

Posted by: DC lurker | April 11, 2007 1:23 PM

Getting ready to toss the NYT article into the recycling bin - what a CRIMINAL waste of a tree.

Female high senior, who lives in an area where the homes are worth $750,00, whose mother attended Smith College and both parents are highly educated with advanced degrees:

Hang on to your hats for the shocker...

She gets into Smith (the legacy didn't hurt)!!!!

Wow! Amazing! What an achievement!

Must be, cause it rates a multi-page article in the New York Times!!!

You can fool some of the people some of the time....

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:23 PM

Legacy college admissions are nothing but a form of affirmative action for the elite.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:27 PM

"There is a whole big world out there, they needn't be constrained by whether or not they are on a particular team, with matching jerseys."

Absolutely, and my kids do continue to play recreational sports as opposed to school sports.

I guess this article about alpha-girls having to struggle set off a nerve in me when I see how people without all the advantages and/or childhood experiences have a hard time competing in the high school arena. It is a little hard to feel sorry for the struggles of these girls, although in a way I do feel sorry for them. I hope their journey thus far has been enjoyable and not just a means to an end.

My last post today, I promise :).

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 01:16 PM

There is something to be said for torturing your kids by insisting they learn to dance. With you! (insert evil mommy laugh)

For what it is worth, the best rec league wrestling coach I've met to date, didn't even START to wrestle himself until he was in college. He got pretty far with it too. No--he's not a scary wrestling coach/wrestling dad either. It can be done.

You could do worse than have the kids play some form of sport with you. I have to admit that it is TERRIBLY satisfying going to the batting cage and trying to beat the hide off a ball. Or playing endless frisbee with my dog.

But my kids are still willing to play tag with me. One of them (the teenager) even asked me to join GURPs with friends on Saturday nights! You bet I won't give that up.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:28 PM

Cmac - that's funny. I get the same trip from my parents. In the nice weather we go on family bike rides after I shop in lieu of any church. We spend hours together as a family and teach an appreciation of quiet, nature, family and fitness - our "church" I guess.

I do think there is value in dragging the kids to the store sometimes. If they are going to eat it, then they outta shop for it sometimes too - I just have to pay for it, literally and figuratively!

Posted by: Moxiemom | April 11, 2007 1:28 PM

GURPS???

Explain please.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:31 PM

To: Chris | April 11, 2007 01:00 PM

Just a counter point Chris. Having my twins pay me back at adjusted dollars when they start to work would be so much better then cute drawnings. I'm having my girls sign contracts to that effect now. It's not legal, but it sure does make them value time and money--MY time and money

Posted by: NYC | April 11, 2007 1:34 PM

"We have tailored eduction to girls special needs that affect the learning of boys"

I'd love to see proof of that. What are some examples?

Getting rid of recess? I hardly see how that benefits girls.

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 1:34 PM

GURPs is a role-playing game. But unlike D&D, you don't forget a spell after you cast it, for example. I think it is a better game, personally.

Posted by: 'Nuther She-Geek | April 11, 2007 1:34 PM

Legacy college admissions are nothing but a form of affirmative action for the elite.

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 01:27 PM


Yep, like George W. Bush at Yale.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:34 PM

Girls need recess/exercise too!

Posted by: DC lurker | April 11, 2007 01:23 PM

Whoa--did somebody actually suggest that kids, all kids, didn't need recess and/or exercise? That's nuts.

It would make ME nuts anyway.

Posted by: ADHD works for me | April 11, 2007 1:36 PM

"We have tailored eduction to girls special needs that affect the learning of boys"

You might want to learn how to spell education and some grammar before you write about tailoring education!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:37 PM

"tailoring education!"

Don't hem me in!

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 11, 2007 1:38 PM

Re: boys being left behind:

Any boy with a competitive bone in his body will work harder if he is outdone by the girls. Why? Male pride, of course! The kind of boys who take it lying down won't amount to much anyway. Nothing motivates boys better than the prospect of being beaten by a girl.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:40 PM

To my thoughts:

I sooooo agree. It is the same thing in a pro sports event: hey the umps gave them all sorts of calls. But, if the team was good enough it would not have come down to that one lucky call at the end of the game. The team would win outright. Same with perceived and actual discrimination-if you have to work harder-then you do.

I'm more of a moxiemom kinda gal, though...:)

Posted by: atlmom | April 11, 2007 1:41 PM

"Nothing motivates boys better than the prospect of being beaten by a girl."

That doesn't work with tests scores....

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:42 PM

It's really hard to feel sorry for the Alpha elite. Gag me with their silver spoon already! We all have difficult choices, whether we are elite and Alpha or merely ordinary and somewhere between Beta and Omega in society. It's harder the farther down you go, though, because fewer doors are open and fewer opportunities abound. Feel sorry for the Alpha elite? Only if it's because they've never been told the truth--that no one can have everything or do everything, regardless of how privileged they are or how hard they try. The rest of us learned that truth early on in life. Poor little elite Alphas. They are the last ones to know, I guess.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:42 PM

Examples are the results, more girls than boys attend college. More boys than girls drop out of school, more boys than commit suicide. More girls than boys enter medical school. More girls than boys enter law school. In every educational measure, girls outpace boys now. When the opposite was true, it was assumed that education was tilted towards boys and a concerted effort was made to change that. What I see now is that, when boys are getting the short end of the stick, nobody cares because "white boys have always had thisng handed to them"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:43 PM

Alpha girls or not, they are females, and for what females have to put up with, I automatically feel sorry for them.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 11, 2007 1:45 PM

You might want to learn how to spell education and some grammar before you write about tailoring education.

I'm a boy. Too stupid to spell.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:45 PM

Funny thing is, those elderly parents are probably suffering from the work-life balance problems of their kids.

Everyone has conceded that is hard to balance the demands of your jobs with the demands of your kids (of any age - toddlers or kids that need to be driven to activities).

Adding in elderly (or not) parents adds in a HUGE complicating factor. To see your parents regularly adds in an extra household, one more time commitment, and balancing between your family, your parents, and your spouse's (presuming you have one) family.

Not saying that it shouldn't be done of course, I am more saying that folks need to schedule this commitment just like they schedule their dentist appointments or their kids' sporting events. The phone calls, lunch date, occasional family dinner needs to go on the calandar or it will be edged out by the demands of daily life.

I think this is carelessly ignored not deliberately.

Robin

Posted by: Re: neglected elders | April 11, 2007 1:46 PM

When the opposite was true, it was assumed that education was tilted towards boys and a concerted effort was made to change that.

Uhh...that tilt didn't really begin in earnest until what? 25 years ago? Haven't males always had a higher rate of suicide and death due to homicides, vehicular accidents, etc.? That's not news, that's historical precedent.

But I don't want my son or my daughter to do less than well, overall. It may mean that one of them will have to work harder to earn a good grade, the other may have to practice longer or run further to make the team. Whatever. Life isn't fair, and sitting around whining doesn't change anything. Work at improving yourself.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:48 PM

Thank you for putting my thoughts on paper. It is a fact of life for all career woman.

Posted by: Nina | April 11, 2007 1:49 PM

I went to college with Esther Mobley's father. Her grandfather was a professor there--and also a very dear friend and professional ally of my father's. Her grandmother was a pharmacist at the local hospital and was a master at balancing everything on her plate. There were five kids in that family--Esther's father and his twin brother were the oldest--and they were not only smart kids, but decent, down-to-earth people with common sense.

I don't know Esther's mom, but her dad's side of the family is rock solid in terms of values, priorities, and knowing what's important. If she's inherited any of that or had it modeled to her--I'm betting she has, knowing her dad--she will do just fine.

Posted by: Midwestern Missy | April 11, 2007 1:49 PM

Maybe girls outnumber boys in schools, etc as listed above due to simple mathematics - there are more girls on the planet.

Posted by: mountainS | April 11, 2007 1:52 PM

"When the opposite was true, it was assumed that education was tilted towards boys and a concerted effort was made to change that. "

No, that is not true.

The bar exam has not been tilted toward females.

Can you give examples?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:55 PM

But I don't want my son or my daughter to do less than well, overall. It may mean that one of them will have to work harder to earn a good grade, the other may have to practice longer or run further to make the team. Whatever. Life isn't fair, and sitting around whining doesn't change anything. Work at improving yourself.

Yeah, because in this world education and recreational sports are equvalent. If life isn't fair and I should stop whining, then you all should stop whining about balance and tailoring society to help you achieve it. Work at improving yourself.

This entire blog could be characterized as "sitting around whining"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:55 PM

"When the opposite was true, it was assumed that education was tilted towards boys and a concerted effort was made to change that."

Okay, what was changed? And results are not examples. I am well aware of the your "results" of early childhood education. Only I don't think they are the result of education. I think there are a ton of factors that contribute to those outcomes, not whether or not they got recess. But please prove me wrong? What has changed to make school better for girls and cause boys to fail?

And no one has commented on double standard for boys standards versus male standards in school and the military. No one sees the hypocricy?

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 1:57 PM

My less-geeky brother would blow off math class all year in high school, except near the end of the second semester, when he studied like mad in an attempt to beat the score I had earned when I had taken the same class several years before. He usually came very close, much to the frustration of my parents and our teachers, who saw that his prior lower grades were due to lack of effort rather than lack of ability. Competition over test scores could work for some boys.

Unfortunately, the competition at this school was often in the opposite direction- the "cool kids" were those who made a great display of indifference towards school and their grades.

Posted by: SheGeek | April 11, 2007 1:58 PM

"The bar exam has not been tilted toward females"

This is an exam that is taken after the education. No one is talking about exams being slanted, they are talking about the process of education being slanted.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 1:59 PM

Arg. I meant "male standards versus female standards."

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 2:00 PM

"Only if it's because they've never been told the truth--that no one can have everything or do everything, regardless of how privileged they are or how hard they try. The rest of us learned that truth early on in life. Poor little elite Alphas."

I hope the "elite" aren't the only ones encouragaing their children's dreams and empowering them to work hard and strive to accomplish whatever they want.

Espeically if you aren't included in this vague "elite" category, don't you want better for your kids -- don't you want to give them the power to control their destiny? Why would you tell your child to expect less and discourage hard work and goals?

Posted by: Arlington Dad | April 11, 2007 2:01 PM

"The bar exam has not been tilted toward females"

This is an exam that is taken after the education. No one is talking about exams being slanted, they are talking about the process of education being slanted.

Are you saying they slept with the procter? I mean, they had to go through the process of education to take the exam.

No, wait, they slept with the college admissions officer! Of course!

Well, this is an equal-opportunity world, presumably the men could do the same. Or run a brothel to pay for college. Those Beta high school girls can be pretty hot, and profitable.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:02 PM

SheGeek


How did your brother know your test scores?
How did you know his test scores?

That stuff was confidential in my school and my house.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:02 PM

mountainS, all the more reason to legalize polygamy!

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:04 PM

"He usually came very close, much to the frustration of my parents and our teachers, who saw that his prior lower grades were due to lack of effort rather than lack of ability."

Sounds as though it were the grades that he saw and was trying to beat. Some schools also put the test scores, or the overall percentage, on the report cards.

Unless, of course, you are saying that if someone earns a good report card, particularly by a girl, it should be viewed as a shameful thing.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:05 PM

Lobotomize all girls at birth. That would put an end to this blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:06 PM

I'm just arguing my feelings based on stats I have read here and elsewhere. I could probably find enough info to make you think about it but probably not prove you wrong.

How can the result of early childhood education not be the results of education?

"What has changed to make school better for girls and cause boys to fail? "

I don't know, maybe boys are stupider.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:07 PM

"What has changed to make school better for girls and cause boys to fail? "

I don't know, but since it is boys failing we don't have to care.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:10 PM

The bar exam has not been tilted toward females"

"This is an exam that is taken after the education."

Unless you have attended a "bar review" law school, the bar exam has absolutely nothing to do with law school and everything to do with studying (forced memorization) for the bar exam.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:10 PM

I agree that done poorly, being a mother doesn't require high levels of training, but for me, I have grown emotionally and intellectually as a parent.

Problem solving is required, as is diplomacy, among many other skills.

That said, there are many people without formal education who develop these skills as parents, and in other aspects of their lives.

I always considered my self-taught father a very intelligent man, and my mother, likewise is also very bright.

As for low recognition, yes, it's a low recognition job. But many women toil in low recognition, low-paid job in the economy, too!

Posted by: Kate | April 11, 2007 2:10 PM

Leslie,
I thought this was a great post; it's spot on. Keep up the great work.

Posted by: Jennifer | April 11, 2007 2:10 PM

I'm not sure why we as a society should feel beholden to hand "Alpha Women" the Golden Ring that has eluded all of humankind: getting everything we want, when we want it, how we want it, without sacrifice.

There's no such thing as a free lunch for anyone, not even slim-waisted, highly-educated, bilingual women. It's called adulthood, and those of us that reach it should count our blessings, not bemoan some perceived failure of the world-at-large to deliver on selfish, childish expectations.

I suppose I am an Alpha Female, but I have no understanding for this egocentric whining.

Posted by: R is for realist | April 11, 2007 2:15 PM

"The bar exam has not been tilted toward females"

This is an exam that is taken after the education. No one is talking about exams being slanted, they are talking about the process of education being slanted.

Are you saying they slept with the procter? I mean, they had to go through the process of education to take the exam.

No, wait, they slept with the college admissions officer! Of course!

---Actually, I am taking it back to the elementary level. If children are taught in ways that are most conducive to learning, they are more prepared to take the tests that measure the learning. If you take gender out of it, I think you would agree that some learn better by reading and absorbing, some learn better through hands-on activities, and some learn better with a good lecturer.

For example, I think it was cmac who made it clear that introverts are happy going home to a good book and would see a houseful of children as unwelcome chaos. Others are happiest with a houseful of children and see going home to a good book as sad and lonely. Different strokes for different folks.

If children are taught in a manner that is best for all, then the exam at the end would measure the learning of all. But if the hands-on learner is taught exclusively by lecture, then they most likely will not perform as well as the learner who responds best to lecturing.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:15 PM

my goodness, what a snobby little bit of writing to start off today. ms steiner deserves to work for town & country mag (the worst fate I can think of)

Posted by: shocked & bored | April 11, 2007 2:17 PM

Personally, I have yet to meet anyone who didn't gain a lot from hands-on learning. Even those who did very well with lectures and reading.

Hands-on/interactive is where theory meets reality and goes for a test drive.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:17 PM

Anonymous at 2:06 PM wrote: "Lobotomize all girls at birth. That would put an end to this blog."

Anonymous at 2:07 PM wrote: "I don't know, maybe boys are stupider."

Clearly, we're back in the elementary school playground, where girls all have cooties and the boys are so icky. Let's elevate the discourse to a mature and responsible level, OK, kids?

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 2:18 PM

13$1!3 $#0u1D #@v3 p0$73d !N 1337 !f Sh3 !$ $0000 1337!!!

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:19 PM

"How can the result of early childhood education not be the results of education?"

There are lots of things other than actual classroom instruction that affect educational success, including parental involvement, peer expectations, and other forms of outside support. The fact that girls are more successful in schools now may reflect changes in attitudes from parents and an increasing belief among girls that it is cool to be smart more than a change in the style or content of classroom instruction. That's why Meesh is asking for examples as to how exactly classroom instruction is being tailored to girls.

And Meesh, I do think you make a good point about dual standards; though I think it depends on how you view the purpose of public education. Is our system intended to instill and test an objective set of standards that are deemed necessary for success in society? Or is our system intended to facilitate individual learning and growth? Both are valid, but they would lead to different conclusions about how much to alter classroom teaching and standards to accomodate different styles. Though either way, I don't believe such distinctions should be made based on gender, but based on the actual individual involved.

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 2:20 PM

How can the result of early childhood education not be the results of education?

It's the result of selfish mothers who go to work, rather than raising their children, as God intended them to do.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 11, 2007 2:21 PM

"But if the hands-on learner is taught exclusively by lecture, then they most likely will not perform as well as the learner who responds best to lecturing."

How does one prepare "hands on" for the bar exam?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:22 PM

I just wanted to comment on the high rate of suicide among Japanese teenagers that was mentioned earlier. It's not necessarily because of stress. The Japanese have a long, intimate history of suicide, starting with seppuku and hara-kiri. "Death before dishonor" is still a big deal there. And teens, while typically as over-achieving as their parents, aren't exactly forward-thinking individuals. They don't see suicide as permanent, if that makes any sense. In much the same way an American teenager might have unprotected sex without regard to the consequences, a Japanese teen might commit suicide because they don't exactly think it through. I know it sounds weird; I thought it was nonsense when I first heard of it. The movie "Suicide Circle" is more realistic than you realize. (Check it out; it's really good.)

Posted by: Mona | April 11, 2007 2:22 PM

"What has changed to make school better for girls and cause boys to fail? "

I think when you hear people talk about this it is the way schools are set up. Compulsory school age has been lowered to 5 in many states, whereas a generation or two ago is was more likely to be 6 or 7 or 8. So boys had more time to mature and be able to sit still. Whereas on average girls are more able to sit still for longer periods of time at younger ages. Doesn't mean they don't need physical activity during the day, but that they are able to do these things at a younger age for longer. There are other teaching methods that girls seem to adapt to better than boys, but this is just one example. And I'm not saying boys can't adapt, just what "some people" refer to when they talk about education being more tailored for girls than boys. A major problem is that teaching focuses more on teaching styles than learning styles, so therefore how best a teacher (which are mostly female) can teach and not how best a student can learn--whether boys or girls. It's particularly crucial in the elementary years as their are more pronounced development differences amongst children at any particular age.

Posted by: Egaads | April 11, 2007 2:23 PM

LOL @ pATRICK. Don't forget baking pies, cookies, or making pudding... we cannot forget that!

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:24 PM

This sums up my feeling on the matter:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2005-10-19-male-college-cover_x.htm

And even this article looks at the problem from the female point of view: "If we create a generation of men who aren't getting an education, that's bad for women." I mean, isn't it worse for the men?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:24 PM

catlady, its the girls that are icky. Surely you must agree, you're one of them.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 11, 2007 2:25 PM

"How can the result of early childhood education not be the results of education?

It's the result of selfish mothers who go to work, rather than raising their children, as God intended them to do."

Haha! Here we go again! :-P

Chris, your comment made me crack up. I don't read LEET, but I figured it out. :-) Hilarious.

Posted by: Mona | April 11, 2007 2:27 PM

oh please, I was reading books when other boys and girls were eating paste and knocking down blocks... but can I be leet too? huh? pleeeeeeze? I'm sorry I'm a boy and can't breastfeed in public! Will over-achieving poor white boys ever be forgiven if they work hard and succeed in life too?

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:28 PM

"Whereas on average girls are more able to sit still for longer periods of time at younger ages."

Isn't this because girls are socialized to sit still for longer periods of time at a younger age?

And has nothing to do with being "more able to sit still"?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:28 PM

Note to all elite women: "more able to sit still" is not an acceptable blurb on your college application/ job resume. I'm sorry.

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:30 PM

Leslie:

your comments remind me of those annoying commercials on the Fine Living Network. you know the ones that tell you how to bring more balance into your life by giving you tips on things like how to breathe, how to grow bonsai trees, or how to frame family photos. I guess there's an audience out there who needs this kind of advice. Those people bore me.

The Post would do much better to have a woman who has managed to have it all write about how she does it. I know several women who fit the bill. Or how about a successful man who also spends quality time with his family? You know what? I think a lot of people fit this description, but we only hear from the whiners who don't.

Posted by: a | April 11, 2007 2:31 PM

"What has changed to make school better for girls and cause boys to fail? "

I don't know, but since it is boys failing we don't have to care.

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 02:10 PM"

No no no no!!!! Please care, for your childrens' sakes! But do so by being informed. Look at some stats, for crying out loud. Is it really the case that things have changed in schools, or are you just finding the easiest target? Like Megan pointed out, there are lots of contributing factors to education. Blaming it all on "the system" is so... pointless. And if you don't know what has changed, how can you possibly change it back?

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 2:31 PM

i don't agree that "elite" positions are super time intensive. My sister in law is an emergency room physician and she just works 25 hours a week. Sme with her husband who is a VP at a computer tech business. I'm an Ivy League educated person, but I just work 9-5 and so does my husband-- we are both attorneys-- one for gov't other for non-profit. to my mind, the truely "elite" are those who have the resources and the luck, etc. to find themselves in well-balanced lifestyles.

Posted by: Jen | April 11, 2007 2:31 PM

"And has nothing to do with being "more able to sit still"?"

It has a great deal to do with sitting still. The curriculum at a public elementary school is very much geared toward children who can sit and listen and then respond appropriately. The children who can't do this often are labeled ADD, hyper, etc.

Posted by: TeacherLady | April 11, 2007 2:32 PM

"How does one prepare "hands on" for the bar exam?"

By doing lots and lots of practice questions, as opposed to listening to lectures or memorizing notes or making outlines. Not "hands on" in the literal sense, perhaps, but the point is that even with something like the bar exam there are different ways of learning the material that will be more or less beneficial depending on the individual.

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 2:34 PM

They are strictly generalities. But if you watch a group of young girls and a group of young boys the times when the girls would be sitting and doing something (perhaps coloring or playing) would occur more often than the nubmer of times boys would engage in those same activities. It doesn't mean that some boys are more likely to sit and read or play and a girl is will be up, walking, running, dancing, etc. They are just averages. Sort of like females on average are shorter than men, even though I know some very short men and some very tall women.

And I've no idea if it is how children are brought up or not, I guess that depends on the parents.

Posted by: Egaads | April 11, 2007 2:34 PM

Is it really the case that things have changed in schools, or are you just finding the easiest target?

the easiest target is a white male.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:34 PM

Megan said: There are lots of things other than actual classroom instruction that affect educational success, including parental involvement, peer expectations, and other forms of outside support. The fact that girls are more successful in schools now may reflect changes in attitudes from parents and an increasing belief among girls that it is cool to be smart more than a change in the style or content of classroom instruction.

So it basically comes down to societal support? That I guess we give to girls and not boys. That is sad for the boys: we know your failing but we don't care because your sister is doing great!

Don't you think that the total reversal in the eductional performance of our children warrants some attention? I know when the girls were behind it was a problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:34 PM

"If we create a generation of men who aren't getting an education, that's bad for women." I mean, isn't it worse for the men?

No, no, some of them look really cute in their little aprons. As long as they barbeque in the buff, we'll keep them around. There's always a younger one wanting our money.

Posted by: Rich & old | April 11, 2007 2:35 PM

Children are the enemy of a lifestyle that does not allow for the necessities of raising children.

I think the issue goes back to the fact that we teach "sucess" without teaching anything about life/relationships/good judgement/sense of self and fulfillment.

Posted by: Liz D | April 11, 2007 2:35 PM

"How does one prepare "hands on" for the bar exam?"

By the time you take the bar exam, I would think that you are men and women, not boys and girls.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:35 PM

Patrick, bring me my beer.

Posted by: Ya-right | April 11, 2007 2:36 PM

Egaads wrote: "Compulsory school age has been lowered to 5 in many states, whereas a generation or two ago is was more likely to be 6 or 7 or 8."

Not at all. Back when the first Baby Boomers were little, kindergarten-starting minimum age was 4.5 years, with midtermer admissions in February as well as the traditional September start. SAHMs with multiple small children back then often had no access to pre-school daycare, so were especially grateful to get their kids out of the house and into school at the earliest possible age. Reading, other than learning the capital letters of the alphabet, was not generally begun in schools till first grade.

The big academic crunch began in earnest as soon as the USSR launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957 (when the first Boomers were in 6th or 7th grade). Then it became public schools's patriotic duty to enrich their curricula so the US could "beat those dirty Russkies" in the Cold War space-race. Anyone else remember those paperback SMSG textbooks set in New Courier font (the first "new math"?).

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 2:37 PM

Chris

"I was reading books when other boys and girls were eating paste and knocking down blocks"

That paste did taste pretty good when you hadn't eaten for days.

Did someone drop you on your head after you read a couple of books?

That might account for your GHASTLY poetry.

(My office has a pool on the Imus poem authorship).

Posted by: Officer Krupke | April 11, 2007 2:37 PM

"So it basically comes down to societal support? That I guess we give to girls and not boys. That is sad for the boys: we know your failing but we don't care because your sister is doing great!

Don't you think that the total reversal in the eductional performance of our children warrants some attention? I know when the girls were behind it was a problem."

Of course it merits attention - the point is that it merits INFORMED attention, not just the assumption that the problem is female teachers making boys sit still. IF it's classroom instruction, then let's address that. IF it's insufficient support for boys outside of the classroom, then let's address that. But simply jumping from the result to an assumed cause based on one's feelings, as the post I was responding to said they were doing, is hardly a responsible or thoughtful response.

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 2:37 PM

"A major problem is that teaching focuses more on teaching styles than learning styles, so therefore how best a teacher (which are mostly female) can teach and not how best a student can learn--whether boys or girls."

Egaads, this is simply and fundamentally utterly wrong and untrue. This is why people say that homeschooling is much different than learning in a school. Teachers earn a college degree in learning styles. In an earlier post, I named three. Lesson plans are based on catering to those styles. And I don't see the value, in this discussion anyway, in noting the gender of most teachers. The majority of teachers have always been women, even before the alleged shift toward favoring girls. How were boys acheiving then? What was your point?

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 2:38 PM

That was not poetry! That was a requested song parody!

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:39 PM

No no no no!!!! Please care, for your childrens' sakes! But do so by being informed. Look at some stats, for crying out loud.

What stats? All that stats I see, boys are falling behind. Like you said to me, Prove me wrong :)

I have a daughter, so she will be just fine.


"Blaming it all on "the system" is so... pointless."

But ingoring it is even more so.


Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:42 PM

Chris, I had to ask my husband to decode the LEET. Very clever.

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 2:42 PM

"Note to all elite women: "more able to sit still" is not an acceptable blurb on your college application/ job resume. I'm sorry."

LOL, good one Chris!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:43 PM

Coming late to the discussion but I believe the studies show that boys are not doing worse then they (boys) had in the past. It is just that girls are doing far better then they (girls) had in the past. Boys are maintaining the same standards as before. I am not sure why boys are not gaining. I am not sure you can blame the school system or the parents for that one.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 11, 2007 2:46 PM

"Note to all elite women: "more able to sit still" is not an acceptable blurb on your college application/ job resume. I'm sorry."

I will not even look at it twice unless it states, "better able to sit still".

Posted by: Fight fiercely, Harvard! | April 11, 2007 2:47 PM

Just for a change of pace...I take umbrage at the following:

"In many ways, caring for children is the exact opposite of ambition," ... it does not involve skills that require high levels of training...and it provides extremely low levels of recognition."

Actually, doing it well, DOES involve skills that require high levels of training AND you have to self-educate - locating, absorbing and analyzing vast amounts of information, written and verbal, then apply the knowledge in a variety of different situations - not unlike in a high level corporate career. Yes, many parents don't take the time to learn everything they can about parenting but, there is a vast amount of scientific research and expert opinion that some of we "ex-alpha" girls do use our high level training to absorb and apply.

Recognition? By whom? By many - often!

From a grown child who says, "thank-you, you were always there for me!"; from a society, big or small that says "What a great son/daughter you have"; from a podium/camera/movie screen where you hear or see the words, "Thanks Mom!"

Sometimes from a grateful nation!

Posted by: MC Milker | April 11, 2007 2:47 PM

"I hope the 'elite' aren't the only ones encouragaing their children's dreams and empowering them to work hard and strive to accomplish whatever they want.
Espeically if you aren't included in this vague 'elite' category, don't you want better for your kids -- don't you want to give them the power to control their destiny? Why would you tell your child to expect less and discourage hard work and goals?"

Exactly my point, Arlington Dad. It's not just the elite Alphas who have those expectations and high goals set for them (or by themselves). Our boys went to very demanding schools--not because we wanted them to associate with wealth and power, but because of the high standards and expectations that are set in that environment. They knew that going in, and appreciate it. We gave them the best we could, even though it was finacially costly, because we wanted the best for them even though we are not part of the elite. They also were encouraged in other pursuits outside of academics and became both Eagle Scouts as well as accomplished musicians.

We also made sure that they knew that it was up to them to achieve and do their best, but that life is not always going to give them what they want and they need to be able to deal with that reality.

What seems to be missing from the article about Alpha girls is that balance and awareness of life not always being what they expect it to be, just because they are privileged and achieve so highly in school. That's the sad part. Even the most privileged and ambitious need that balance and awareness. If you expect everything to always be the way you dream it will be when you are in high school, you are in for a really rude awakening later on in life.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:48 PM

"Compulsory school age has been lowered to 5 in many states, whereas a generation or two ago is was more likely to be 6 or 7 or 8."

Not at all. Back when the first Baby Boomers were little, kindergarten-starting minimum age was 4.5 years, with midtermer admissions in February as well as the traditional September start."

There's a difference between the minimum age to start kindergarten and the mandatory school age. In some states it may be the same but in many it's not.

Virginia's Compulsary School age
"have reached the fifth birthday on or before... September 30...and who has not passed the eighteenth birthday; 5 year-olds can be excused"

Maryland:
"5 years old or older and under 16" with one-year exemption available for 5 year-olds"

Pennsylvania:
"From time the child enters school, "which shall not be later than the age of eight (8) years, until the age of seventeen (17) years""

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:48 PM

More women in college - not really equality until we have more women:

Truck drivers
Plumbers
Carpenters
Brick-layers
Landscapers
Sanitation engineers (garbage wo/men)
Roofers
Appliance repair wo/men
Etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:48 PM

Well, when all is said and done, at least I can say, I had fun.

Now THAT was ghastly. LOL, and you know what? I enjoy life and have fun being cheesy! If your office has a pool, apparently you are enjoying life too, so good for you (that rhyme was an accident, I promise) so don't forget to towel dry when you get all wet in it. :-)

Again, the above song parody was meant to acompany the music to Wind Beneath My Wings, and was not a poem. Weird Al does not have a monopoly on corn and until Leslie begs me to stop trying to provide balance in my own awful way, I will continue to do so. I feel I bring a lot to this blog... even if it is mostly crap and sillyness... so if you don't like it, don't read my posts. :-)

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:49 PM

Being a family & community oriented type of guy, you can guess what I think of the way these woman have been raised and driven into careers, as described in 'Alpha Girls".
They will probably not have enough children to replace themselves so their gene's will be lost to the human race and they will be Darwins losers for one thing.
They have consumed resources, and in effect denied the same number of qualified males from the education and careers that was spent on them, thus denying the males chances of having & supporting children & families of their own as well- more of Darwins losers.
The basic fact is its womens duty- to their people, their nation, the human race-
to have enough children to replace themselves at least, normally thought 3 children. People will not respect them when they get older, their health will suffer from lack of children & a mate, and they will likely die a lonely death.
Lose-lose all the way for most, imo. I'm sorry for them, and us.

Posted by: Pacthed | April 11, 2007 2:49 PM

Ah, circular logic. I see that our conversation is done.

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 2:49 PM

Egaads wrote: "Compulsory school age has been lowered to 5 in many states, whereas a generation or two ago is was more likely to be 6 or 7 or 8."

Seems to have been lowered in the poorer states:

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0112617.html

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:50 PM

But simply jumping from the result to an assumed cause based on one's feelings, as the post I was responding to said they were doing, is hardly a responsible or thoughtful response.

That was me. It is called a hypothesis and I think it is a good place to start. You guys do it all the time with the 77 cents on the dollar stuff and the glass ceiling stuff. By denying me that same opportunity to express my views you have become the equivalent of the anti-femminst of the 80s and 90s

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:51 PM

catlady,
It does depend on the state, some have lowered to 5 some have been that way for awhile, I was thinking further back however.

However, when recess time for 1st graders is cut to 10-15 minutes (and yes this is the case in Fairfax County) out of 6 hours of school time it can be hard for many kids, especially many boys who are active (also many girls who are active). Seat time is not what young children need and I think many boys have a harder time dealing with this since they are categorized more generally as "active." However, with all the standards that kids are supposed to meet and all of the facts that they are expected to retain, seat time is about the only way to cram it in.

Posted by: Egaads | April 11, 2007 2:51 PM

What is LEET? Inquiring minds want to know!!

Posted by: mountainS | April 11, 2007 2:52 PM

Is this the article you had in mind? www.educationsector.org/analysis/analysis_show.htm?doc_id=378705 - 85k - Apr 10, 2007 -

Here's a snippet:

Overall Long-Term Trends

A consistent trend emerges across these subjects: There have been no dramatic changes in the performance of boys in recent years, no evidence to indicate a boy crisis. Elementary-school-age boys are improving their per­form­ance; middle school boys are either improving their per­form­ance or showing little change, depending on the subject; and high school boys' achievement is declining in most subjects (although it may be improving in math). These trends seem to be consistent across all racial subgroups of boys, despite the fact that white boys perform much better on these tests than do black and Hispanic boys.

Evidence of a decline in the per­form­ance of older boys is undoubtedly troubling. But the question to address is whether this is a problem for older boys or for older students generally. That can be best answered by looking at the flip side of the gender equation: achievement for girls.

The Difference Between Boys and Girls

To the extent that tales of declining boy perform­ance are grounded in real data, they're usually framed as a decline relative to girls. That's because, as described above, boy perform­ance is generally staying the same or increasing in absolute terms.

But even relative to girls, the NAEP data for boys paints a complex picture. On the one hand, girls outperform boys in reading at all three grade levels assessed on the main NAEP. Gaps between girls and boys are smaller in fourth grade and get larger in eighth and 12th grades. Girls also outperform boys in writing at all grade levels.

In math, boys outperform girls at all grade levels, but only by a very small amount. Boys also outperform girls--again, very slightly--in science and by a slightly larger margin in geography. There are no significant gaps between male and female achievement on the NAEP in U.S. history. In general, girls outperform boys in reading and writing by greater margins than boys outperform girls in math, science, and geography.

But this is nothing new. Girls have scored better than boys in reading for as long as the long-term NAEP has been administered. And younger boys are actually catching up: The gap between boys and girls at age 9 has narrowed significantly since 1971--from 13 points to five points--even as both genders have significantly improved. Boy-girl gaps at age 13 ­haven't changed much since 1971--and neither has boys' or girls' achievement.

At age 17, gaps between boys and girls in reading are also not that much different from what they were in 1971, but they are significantly bigger than they were in the late 1980s, before achievement for both genders--and particularly boys--began to decline.

The picture in math is even murkier. On the first long-term NAEP assessment in 1973, 9- and 13-year-old girls actually scored better than boys in math, and they continued to do so throughout the 1970s. But as 9- and 13-year-olds of both genders improved their achievement in math during the 1980s and 1990s, boys pulled ahead of girls, opening up a small gender gap in math achievement that now favors boys. It's telling that even though younger boys are now doing better than girls on the long-term NAEP in math, when they once lagged behind, no one is talking about the emergence of a new "girl crisis" in elementary- and middle-school math.

Seventeen-year-old boys have always scored better than girls on the long-term NAEP in math, but boys' scores declined slightly more than girls' scores in the 1970s, and girls' scores have risen slightly more than those of boys since. As a result, older boys' advantage over girls in math has narrowed.

Overall, there has been no radical or recent decline in boys' per­form­ance relative to girls. Nor is there a clear overall trend--boys score higher in some areas, girls in others.

The fact that achievement for older students is stagnant or declining for both boys and girls, to about the same degree, points to another important element of the boy crisis. The problem is most likely not that high schools need to be fixed to meet the needs of boys, but rather that they need to be fixed to meet the needs of all students, male and female. The need to accurately parse the influence of gender and other student categories is also acutely apparent when we examine the issues of race and income.

Posted by: to FoamGnome | April 11, 2007 2:53 PM

2:28, I hope you mean brick-installers. Brick-laying just should not be done. Bricks are coarse, gritty things, and I bet the mortar would chafe.

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:53 PM

Egaads

Egaads is a perfect name for you!!

Have you heard of the "Scientific Method"?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:54 PM

Meesh, if the stats for educational performance were reversed and it was shown that they were lagging behind the boys in almost every measure. What would you think? Would honestly look for reasons outside the classroom?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:55 PM

Meesh, if the stats for educational performance were reversed and it was shown that they were lagging behind the boys in almost every measure. What would you think? Would honestly look for reasons outside the classroom?

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 02:55 PM

They aren't "lagging", the girls are simply catching up swiftly.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:56 PM

1337, or leet, for inquiring n00bs, is hacker, or h@x0r, jargon. I was being silly (surprise) in suggesting that if Leslie is so "elite" she should have posted her article in leet, the "elite" language of the aforementioned sub-culture of geeks.

:-)

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 2:56 PM

2:53: That is what I was precisely talking about. Thanks for the full article. I don't think I had a specific article in mind but that was definitely the concept that I was recalling.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 11, 2007 2:57 PM

"By denying me that same opportunity to express my views you have become the equivalent of the anti-femminst of the 80s and 90s"

Oh good grief, responding to point out the potential holes in your argument is not denying you the opportunity to express yourself. It is responding to the potential problems in your argument.

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 2:58 PM

Pacthed |

What is a man's duty?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 2:59 PM

"Note to all elite women: "more able to sit still" is not an acceptable blurb on your college application/ job resume. I'm sorry."

Chris, LOL.

I'm actually really interested in the concept that schools have changed to "favor" girls. In what way (not snarky -- genuinely curious)? Back when I was in school (in the Dark Ages of the 70s and 80s), we all sat around at desks and listened to lectures, changed classes, sat around at desks and listened to lectures, rinse, repeat ad nauseum. Some boys were stereotypically disruptive, some girls were stereotypically quiet and obedient. This would seem to me to be the same quintessential "girl" mode of teaching people are complaining about now.

The types of things that I was aware of that made the system more "pro boy" were fairly obvious anti-girl things. Like the studies -- even within the past few years -- that have indicated that teachers routinely call on boys more than girls (even when they do not believe they are doing so). Wasn't a problem for me, because I was an oblivious loudmouth (gee, can't imagine that, can you?), but it did allow a lot of my quieter friends to be overlooked. If that is being addressed, fantastic. But if that's all we're talking about, I'm not seeing how giving girls their fair share of attention would somehow be anti-boy. Unless within the past 5 years, we've transitioned to ignoring the boys in favor of the girls.

If anything, I think teachers today are more trained to deal with different learning styles (as Meesh noted), which should HELP those stereotypically active boys. Isn't one of the big arguments underlying NCLB the fear that education degrees now focused much more on learning theory than on substantive knowledge?

I agree with Megan: let's define what the real problem is, and look at all possible sources for it. Is it bigger class sizes, which will disproportionately affect those who struggle more to pay attention? Is it the continuation of a cultural drift that makes it "cool" to be dumb? If so, how have the girls managed to embrace their inner geek -- and how can we extend that to boys?

I've got one of each (both genetically doomed to geekhood), and I'm worried about this (ironically, girl is the one at risk of being labeled ADD, while boy is mellow and quiet as the day is long). But I'd like to know the real facts, and the real causes, not knee-jerk reactions or sound bites.

Posted by: Laura | April 11, 2007 3:00 PM

2:55, you're also (or again, hard to tell with anons) beggin the question. In order to answer your question, I'd have to first agree that the educational performance stats showed boys lagging. Which I don't, so I can't.

Posted by: Meesh | April 11, 2007 3:00 PM

foamgnome, I will take it for granted that you are referring to MY post at 2:53, and not that long-winded one above mine. ;-P

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 3:01 PM

Egaads, I think we were partly talking about different things. I was just saying that kids used to start school at a much earlier age than nowadays. Back then there actually was a stigma attached to being one of the older kids in class. Nowadays, some parents prefer to start their children in school at a later age in the belief that their child will benefit by being socially more mature than his/her classmates. But nowadays, there's also more access to, and social acceptance of, daycare and preschool services than there was when the Boomers were little.

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 3:01 PM

Reading that article makes me think I may be wrong. :0

They do seem to word it so as to avoid the conclusion that there is a problem for boys. An interesting point is that while girls have improved in every category, boys have basically remained the same. Isn't that indicative of boys falling behind. I know that if there is no improvement on the NCLB scores, that is assumed to be failing.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:03 PM

They're 17-year-old girls who are still in high school. A lot can change--for example, what are they going to do when their parents aren't right there to keep up the momentum? I think it's a bit early to wring my hands about how they'll balance their super careers and motherhood.

Posted by: Historian | April 11, 2007 3:03 PM

Sorry Chris, I was referring to long winded one that shows the actual article. Maybe next time.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 11, 2007 3:05 PM

Now that girls aren't being starved academically, their scores are reflecting their hard work and achievements.

Boys aren't being shunted aside any more now than they ever were. Overall, their scores are staying where they have been for the past 50 years or so. But if you've always been the front-runner, you don't get those exciting to witness backstretch drives.

Were the SAT tests any easier 40 years ago? Longer breaks between the sessions? Mandatory calisthenics in the hallways?

Posted by: ADHD works for me | April 11, 2007 3:05 PM

3:03: I guess it depends how you define falling behind. If you look at a quantative measure of boys alone. If the measure remains the same, then it is not exactly falling. It is simply maintaining. If you look at it as an index of change of girls versus boys, then boys would be in deed falling behind. But say the marker was a 90% achievement. And boys mainted scores at 90%. We certainly wouldn't say boys were failing. We would simply say they have not gone above the 90% marker.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 11, 2007 3:07 PM

"... let's define what the real problem is,"

Well that really is the problem, no one can agree on the actual problem.And what works well for one school with one set of teachers, administrators, kids, and parents, might not work well for another school/teachers/kids/etc.

And I didn't say that I believed there was actually a girl/boy disparity in the classroom, just what some "others"--you know those infamous other people--have ascribed.

Posted by: Egaads | April 11, 2007 3:07 PM

An interesting point is that while girls have improved in every category, boys have basically remained the same. Isn't that indicative of boys falling behind.""

Did you take a look at what those average scores were and have been? How much more improvement, on average, are you expecting to see? Not every child is "above-average", Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegone not withstanding.

Posted by: 2:55 | April 11, 2007 3:08 PM

Hey Fred!!!!

Chris & Pacthed have earned a very private Cave for Two. Please dispatch ASAP!

Could these two possibly be the products (more likely the by-products) of American schools??

The mind shudders!!!

Posted by: Officer Krupke | April 11, 2007 3:08 PM

Were the SAT tests any easier 40 years ago? Longer breaks between the sessions? Mandatory calisthenics in the hallways?

Posted by: ADHD works for me | April 11, 2007 03:05 PM

I would say it seems harder. There is now a writing section of the SAT.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 11, 2007 3:08 PM

Can we not talk about the bar exam please?

It's a little to close to laugh about!

Posted by: lawgirl | April 11, 2007 3:10 PM

Laura, I was actually the quiet type in school... in the 80s and 90s... I got called on only when the teacher wanted the right answer- to hurry through a lesson, particularly in Latin- (ha, take that Leslie! :-P ). Actually, I noticed that the teacher would call on the disruptive kids in an attempt to shame them into paying attention- which inevitibly backfired by the kid being more disruptive and eventually giving up... In fairness to my teachers, they seemed to alternate playing stump the student between boy/girl/boy/girl and paying attention/not paying attention. Girls were just as talkative as boys in the classroom. It was not until highschool that classes seemed to take on more discussion than lecture... though I had a few old teachers who engaged students in elementary school and jr high because they had been around long enough to know when some of us mere kids could handle a serious discussion. I think and hope that now more and more people realize the potential of children and seek to engage them more... but more and more are also being sidelined by the public education system.

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 3:11 PM

I would say it seems harder. There is now a writing section of the SAT.


Posted by: foamgnome | April 11, 2007 03:08 PM

See, now I wish they had had that available when I took the SATs, as it would have helped my score overall. I enjoy reading and writing.

Just like Worker Bee!

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 11, 2007 3:13 PM

Chris

" but more and more are also being sidelined by the public education system."

What do you mean?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:13 PM

"Were the SAT tests any easier 40 years ago? "

Haven't seen one lately, so I can't say.

The attitude toward the tests in my school district and family and neighborhood was a LOT different than it is today.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:19 PM

Your column was so funny - I was a high-achieving girl, went to the Peace Corps, fell in love, got married, and am now a mother. It's so true that motherhood is potentially fatal to ambition. My perspective and my ambitions have changed. Yes, I still want to be a writer, but I'm content using these - my middle years - to do the other thing that I have always wanted to do well - be a good wife and mother.

Posted by: Peace Corps Volunteer | April 11, 2007 3:20 PM

Pardon me officer, but you obviously never heard of ST Francis University, THE most elite of elite of all time! I wholeheartedly invite you to ST FU, as soon as possible.

Seriously now, why are you being such a rude troll? Occasionaly I do bother to pepper my paltry posts with some sort of insightful comments that may or may not meet your elite standards, but you on the other hand have merely an offensive boar (haha, boar... get it?). Can we not all just get along?

Alas, it is lonely in this dank dark cave, the "officer" has confined me to, but I have Plato's shadow creatures to keep me comfort. When I encounter a REAL human being, no doubt I will flee in terror at their GHASTLY appearance...

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 3:20 PM

What about Bohrers? Don't forget us!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:22 PM

The result is, boys scores have gone unchanged for 50 years. With all the strides in education, theoretically aimed at all students, shouldn't the results have improved a little bit?

It seems all the improvements in the school have been focused on improving ths scores for girls and they have worked wonderfully.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:23 PM

Chris

If you are saying "Officer Krupke - Krup You", you are a clever lad indeed!

But I highly doubt it.

Posted by: Officer Krupke | April 11, 2007 3:25 PM

lawgirl, good luck! :-)

Posted by: Mona | April 11, 2007 3:25 PM

by sidelined by the public education system I mean that often rather than teach a student, a teacher will just push them through the system... until you have people in college who can not in any way shape or form read, analyze, write, or use deductive logic (think for themselves) to understand when someone such as myself is talking out their @$$ and just being silly, or when they are trying to make a subtle point about something or other. A dew adieu a due.

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 3:25 PM

"The result is, boys scores have gone unchanged for 50 years. With all the strides in education, theoretically aimed at all students, shouldn't the results have improved a little bit?"

Maybe overall they are all they can be, and that continues to be true.

Not everyone is better than average.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:28 PM

The so-called elite are nuts and need to reel it in. Examples:

Signs of the Times
Ariel Milby explained her ostentatious sweet-16 party (televised in February on MTV) by pointing out that her dad owns his own oil company. "I love oil," she said. "Oil means shoes and cars and purses." "(Oil) smells like money...." [Arizona Republic, 2-15-07] [Fox News-Reuters, 1-17-07]

But it's not just 16-year-olds who are spoiled. Reuters reported in January that New York City party designers get $25,000 and up for kids' birthday and coming-of-age bashes, including one 60-guest celebration for a 1-year-old, who of course slept through the whole thing. (In December, at a spare-no-expense birthday party for a 7-year-old girl in Coral Gables, Fla., a cougar brought in to dazzle the kids attacked a 4-year-old, who required hospitalization.) [Miami Herald, 12-8-06]

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:28 PM

"I think and hope that now more and more people realize the potential of children and seek to engage them more... but more and more are also being sidelined by the public education system."

Chris, I too share your hope. I was fascinated by Mel Levine's "A Mind at a Time." As one of those kids who always was just naturally attuned to the "sit still and read" approach, I just always assumed that that was how you learn. Then I had my daughter (God's little joke at my hubris), who is physically incapable of sitting still. Only through reading Levine and some others did I realize that she's a "kinetic" learner -- she literally needs to move to help cement those connections in her brain (the way I needed to see the words on the page).

And, yeah, I'm a little worried about putting such an atypical kid into a system that is designed for the majority of people who learn very differently from her (especially in a class of @ 25, which is what the local -- very good -- elementary school offers for kindergarten). Thus our reliance on Montessori school so far -- I was always lost in things like science labs, where you actually have to go DO things, but she thrives on it. Which is one reason I'm really interested in learning about how schools are changing/expanding their teaching methods to address other kinds of learning styles.

Posted by: Laura | April 11, 2007 3:29 PM

Chris, you are an absolute riot! Thanks for the great laughs today. (From one who can tell when someone "...is talking out their @$$ and just being silly...or trying to make a subtle point...).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:29 PM

Mmm, roasted quail eggs and songbird tongue souffle'...

The elite (those with gobs and gobs of money) have always been prone to excess. Whether it was eating and vomiting and eating and vomiting, screwing everything in sight, keeping all the goodies to themselves, or feeding someone else's bairn to a puma, they have always believed that they are the Masters of the Universe! (TM)

What's new about that? Just more press.

Posted by: for 3:28 | April 11, 2007 3:31 PM

But ossifer, krupkly you jest!
Well, aside from eating Subway last year and staying at a holiday inn express (once) I DID get a 100% on my gifted test.


Speaking of Subway... is Jared packing it back on again now that he's "famous" or is it just me? LMAO!

Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2007 3:32 PM

Ambition and family love are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, I have never suffered at all for my choice not to reproduce. The so-called "torture" you claim is only in the heads of the insecure, and that's a whole different problem.

Posted by: Secure | April 11, 2007 3:33 PM

Chris

"I DID get a 100% on my gifted test."

THAT particular piece of paper (if it was paper)will come in very handy in impressing your cave mates!


Fred!! Where are you?

Posted by: Officer Krupke | April 11, 2007 3:36 PM

"including one 60-guest celebration for a 1-year-old, who of course slept through the whole thing.""

Funny, and happens a lot in certain zip codes and not only in NYC.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:40 PM

The whole assumption of this article is these women will be the primary childcare providers in their families, therefore curtailing their out-of-home achievements. This would only be true if the man they may be partnered with does not share the child rearing equally. I'm more disturbed that this wasn't mentioned as a necessary social change, in keeping with the other changes cited as part of the achievements of this new generation.

Posted by: Cally | April 11, 2007 3:42 PM

This would only be true if the man they may be partnered with does not share the child rearing equally.

Actually for these women to acheive their assumed goals, the man they partner with would have to be the primary childcare provider. You can't work 80 hours a week and do half the childcare.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:50 PM

For more on Alphas conditioned to be leaders and a society conditioned to consumerism check out:

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1932.

Posted by: thumbelina | April 11, 2007 3:52 PM

I'm more disturbed that this wasn't mentioned as a necessary social change, in keeping with the other changes cited as part of the achievements of this new generation.

For this to happen women (and men to some extent) must reverse the trend of "marrying up" economically.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 3:53 PM

What did Chris do to go to the cave?

I thought he had some nice and funny posts today.

Posted by: scarry | April 11, 2007 3:58 PM

Re SATs in olden tymes:

We took them at the nearby CSS on a Saturday. I was assigned to a lecture room in the Physics Building. During the break, another female (whom I didn't know) and I went out into the hall to look for the women's restroom. And looked. And looked. But only found men's rooms. Then we went upstairs, and still found only men's rooms. By this point our break-time was nearly over, so in utter desperation we took turns guarding the door of an empty men's room while the other one attended to business. We then raced back to the test room just barely in time, but it can't have enhanced our performance on the next section of the test. Not that I did badly on the tests overall, but clearly the male test-takers had an advantage over the females. Like Foamgnome, I excelled in Math, so did especially well on those parts -- on both the College Board's Aptitude and Achievement tests.

A tip I learned from my HS guidance counselor back then: If possible, try to arrange to take the Aptitude and Achievement tests on different days, because you're likelier to do better on the Achievement test if you're not tired from having already taken the Aptitude test in the morning. Does this still apply nowadays?

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:00 PM

Mona,

I passed! It's just still too recent to want to think about...

And for the record, I don't think it's gender biased one way or the other.

Posted by: lawgirl | April 11, 2007 4:01 PM

While Chris and I don't always see eye-to-eye, I'm a huge fan of his parody lyrics. He truly has the gift, in my elite opinion ;-)

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:04 PM

So the test was biased against women because you couldn't find a bathroom?

hahahaha

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:04 PM

Anonymous at 4:04 PM wrote: So the test was biased against women because you couldn't find a bathroom?

Nope, the other girl and I were smart enough to solve our bathroom-dearth problem in time. I'm just sayin' it didn't HELP matters any. But I did well on the tests, regardless.

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:07 PM

Not going to bother reading the bulk of the 405 posted comments. I grew tired of this blog long ago, but thought today's might be interesting. Instead I found, "For those who think the solution lies in not having children, another kind of torture awaits them."

I chose not to have children and have never felt "tortured". Sorry, not every female in the world hears a ticking bio clock as they approach 40, or feels that their life will be empty if they don't procreate. I feel that I'm in tune with my own needs and desires, goals and dreams. I didn't give up having a child to reach some lofty (and probably ultimately meaningless goal), I simply never wanted one in the first place. However, ever since I passed the age of 35, I couldn't help noticing that childbearing definitely changes a woman's life in ways few anticipate -- not always for the better. Just my observation.

Posted by: Childless, successful, and not tortured | April 11, 2007 4:11 PM

Anonymous at 4:04 PM wrote: So the test was biased against women because you couldn't find a bathroom?

Nowadays, Titles VII and IX would mandate equal availability of women's restrooms in classroom buildings at CSSs for female employees and students. Ditto for handicapped-access.

(A handicapped female SAT-taker back then would've had a legitimate complaint of unequal restroom access, but without legal recourse).

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:13 PM

But this is what you said: but clearly the male test-takers had an advantage over the females

sounds like you were claiming something ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:16 PM

4:16, it's not wise to stand between a woman and the bathroom when her bladder's full.

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:18 PM

no kidding, but you framed it as an example of blatant discrimination meant to make you fail. Did you even ask where the ladies room was?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:19 PM

sounds like a male handicapped person would have been in the same boat too.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:23 PM

"In many ways, caring for children is the exact opposite of ambition," writes Dr. Anna Fels in Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives. "It occurs primarily within the nuclear family; it does not involve skills that require high levels of training...and it provides extremely low levels of recognition. It's not just that our society does little to recognize mothering skills; children themselves are often comically oblivious to their parents' lives and travails. If recognition is what you're looking for, motherhood is not the place to find it...Parenting and ambition have very different benefits and constraints---in fact, they barely overlap."

It sounds as though what Dr Fels is saying here is the exact opposite of what has been touted on this blog for the months I have been reading it. The war between the SAHMs and the WOHMs can only be escalated with thinking like this as it appears to give ammunition to each side with no clear advantage to either one. Comparing the joys of parenting to the supposed desire for recognition of the ambitious woman is still comparing a chicken to a ski boat - no similiarities.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 4:26 PM

Much angst today (at least early). Had to skip to the end, to get this point in before picking up daughter for appointment.

Can't help but think that we have put so much pressure on ourselves and our kids because we are having such smaller families now. The pressure to have your offspring succeed wildly is therefore that much higher, and the numbers of people choosing to take drastic "alpha" steps seems to have increased markedly. To be sure there have always been test prep type alpha goofs around, but not like nowadays, and these type examples just show it's ragged conclusions.

I presume these expectations and the resulting anxiety is trickling down to the kids, and making both generations somewhat miserable. Or at least less than we could be.

Can't agree more that this is a mixed blessing, having this much time, disposable income and other luxury for what is essentially societal naval lint gazing.

Imagine what it'd be like if we had real problems...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | April 11, 2007 4:27 PM

The men(!) administering the test were not from the CSS. They had no more idea where the women's restrooms were than we did. And since it was on a Saturday, there were few other people around, especially since it was an SAT day.

But as I noted, this problem ostensibly no longer exists, thanks to enforcement of equal-access laws for restrooms. Someone on this blog board had asked what SATs were like in the past, so I replied anecdotally.

How would any reasonable person have felt if all the restrooms were for the opposite sex and s/he had to search and search for one, with a deadline looming to return to the exam room? It definitely wouldn't be an advantage, and might have distracted and tired the test-taker a bit, as well.

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:28 PM

When it comes to using the bathroom, once again, the women are disadvantaged. Sorry! compared to men.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 11, 2007 4:28 PM

To Father of 4: I believe you mean WRT using the bushes outside the building!

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:29 PM

How many other women have used the mens room at a concert?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 4:30 PM

KLB, the real question is, Has any woman ever NOT used a men's room in an emergency?

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:34 PM

catlady, I stand corrected again. You are very good at keeping me in line. :-)

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 4:35 PM

How many men have used the womens room at a hockey game?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:36 PM

----Were the SAT tests any easier 40 years ago?----

Don't know about 40 years ago but the SAT has been dumbed down twice in the fairly recent past.

In 1995, SAT scores were recentered, meaning that scoring methodology was changed to boost the average SAT score by 100 points. In other words, from 1995 on, SAT scores were artificially inflated by 100 points.

Then, in 2005, the SAT was dumbed down again. The two most challenging sections (Analogies and Quantitative Comparisons), the sections that actually tested critical thinking skills and required students to compare quantities/words and figure out the relationships between those quantities/words, were eliminated. In addition, a writing section (nice for subjective scoring) was added.

Posted by: MBA Mom | April 11, 2007 4:36 PM

Do you think it would be OK for a man to use the womens room in the same situation?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:37 PM

"Do you think it would be OK for a man to use the womens room in the same situation?

Posted by: | April 11, 2007 04:37 PM"

As long as they lift the seat and have good aim!

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 4:38 PM

Anonymous at 4:23 wrote: "sounds like a male handicapped person would have been in the same boat too.

Possibly. To some extent. Although at least the handicapped male SAT-taker would've had the company of non-handicapped male test-takers who could help locate the several convenient men's restrooms for him.

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:38 PM

catlady, I can write my name in the snow, cross the "t" and dot the "i".

I would like to see a woman that could do that!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 11, 2007 4:40 PM

Father of 4,
Now you are just bragging!

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 4:41 PM

Twenty years ago I went to an elite woman's college and knew several of these so-called "perfect" young women. By the time we graduated, two of them had had nervous breakdowns, and within one year after graduation, one had run up thousands in credit card debt and had to declare bankruptcy because her "perfect" grades and perfect ambition didn't translate into the perfect job that she expected.

Now it's 25 years on and most of the women I knew then have settled into their lives, had kids or not, fabulous careers or mediocre ones or just ok ones, marriages that thrived or fizzled. Life is everchanging. Some of them are happy for now, some who are unhappy now will be happy in a few years. My dear friend who was far more ambitious than I is on antidepressants because of a handicapped child and a failing marriage. She tried to pursue her dream and expected to "have it all".

I think that rather than tell any child they can "have it all," we need to tell them of life's realities. There are difficult choices at all life stages. Many people get to age 40 or 50 and find that life wasn't what they dreamed it would be, no matter how hard they worked or followed their glorious path.

Posted by: Melanie C. | April 11, 2007 4:41 PM

to: catlady

Your bathroom story brings back memories of engineering school. My major's building had only one bathroom for women down in the basement which faculty women had to share with students. The faculty men had a separate bathroom from the male students and there were male bathrooms on every floor.

Public health is more fair. At public health school there was only one bathroom on each floor (I'd guess traditionally male) so they alternated - every other floor had a male bathroom and every other floor had a female bathroom.

Posted by: dai | April 11, 2007 4:41 PM

Congrats, lawgirl! When you feel up to it, let me know what it was like!

4:37, if it was empty and someone was standing guard at the door, sure.

Posted by: Mona | April 11, 2007 4:41 PM

"Do you think it would be OK for a man to use the womens room in the same situation?"

Happens all the time in gay bars. I've met some fun guys that way!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:42 PM

I don't understand this On Balance argument today. Since when did life become fair? Since when did we not all have to make choices in our lives and life with those choices? The point of life is not to be perfect or 'Have it all'. The point is to enjoy life and those who share it with you, whether at work or at home.

Posted by: KBJ | April 11, 2007 4:42 PM

"I would say it seems harder. There is now a writing section of the SAT."

My child graduated HS and took the new SAT. Although there is a new writing section, there were other changes as well. For one, the analogies were removed.

I remember how many parents were upset that the writing portion was being added because they didn't have adequate time to prepare. (Not enough advance notice for extensive SAT prep). My child did not take any independent SAT prep courses and scored highest on the writing portion. My child's area of weakness is math, and adding the writing section actually helped. Rather than doing well in one of three sections, my child did well on two of three. It was the parents of the math stars who were concerned.

My child actually expressed disappointment that the analogies were removed.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:44 PM

You got it, KBJ! I never can see why so many follow this path of "perfection" and ambition and think that the result will somehow be a perfect life, free of stress, full of success and happiness. Never saw that happen to anyone, and it never will. Life is always going to be up and down, for even the best and brightest.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:45 PM

On second thought, I take my last post back. I don't think I would like to see a woman that can do that.

lso, I've got my share of times when I used the girl's room, but it wasn't my fault. Really.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 11, 2007 4:46 PM

"At public health school there was only one bathroom on each floor (I'd guess traditionally male) so they alternated - every other floor had a male bathroom and every other floor had a female bathroom."

My first year in college I lived in an old dorm that also had only one bathroom per floor. The official policy was that the floor alternated as you described, except between the hours of 2am and 6am, or something like that. And halfway through the year the pattern switched. Enforcement/respect for those official rules varied a lot per floor, to the point that one girl from the first floor would go to the third floor to use the then ladies room because the one that was supposed to be the ladies room on the first floor was always treated as coed. It was a little nutty.

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 4:47 PM

Some Bozo pulled the fire alarm while the SAT was being administered. I think the additional 35 minute fire drill break was more of a disadvantage than having to look for a restroom.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:48 PM

Father of 4 wrote: "I would like to see a woman that could do that!"

Women do not consider that any sort of achievement. Only men think it is.

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:48 PM

Father of 4 wrote: "I would like to see a woman that could do that!"

Women do not consider that any sort of achievement. Only men think it is.

--But elite women think that they can do ANYTHING if only they work hard enough.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 4:49 PM

Anonymous at 4:49 wrote: "--But elite women think that they can do ANYTHING if only they work hard enough."

Not ANYTHING useless, just anything important.

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 4:54 PM

Anonyjmous at 4:48 wrote: "Some Bozo pulled the fire alarm while the SAT was being administered. I think the additional 35 minute fire drill break was more of a disadvantage than having to look for a restroom."

Now, if only you'd been in Lilliput...

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 5:02 PM

"For those who think the solution lies in not having children, another kind of torture awaits them."

Exactly what kind of torture am I experiencing right now as someone who has chosen not to have children? I can't imagine being any happier than I am right now. Would I be in a constant state of absolute euphoria is I had children. That isn't what I have seen from my friends and family who have children. Their happiness level seems to be along the lines of what I am experiencing.

I haven't read the comments yet, but I am about the go up and do that. This one was a jaw dropper and if the purpose was to spark controversy you seem to have done it based on the number of posts I can see in the list.

Posted by: Married No Children | April 11, 2007 5:02 PM

"Not ANYTHING useless, just anything important."

catlady, don't you think that dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s is important? Here I thought that women were naturally more detailed oriented than men.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 11, 2007 5:02 PM

"However, these girls have been told and have seen for themselves that they can do ANYTHING they set out to do."

Then they've been lied to. No one - man, woman, or small furry green creature from Rigel 5 can literally do anything they want. We are all subject to limits. Hard work, perseverance, support from others and, more often than not, good luck can help us reach those limits (and maybe even push them back just a bit every now and then), but the limits will always be there.

If we really are teaching kids that they never have to choose, because they really can have it all, then we're setting them up for disappointment and disillusionment.

Building a good, meaningful life requires hard work - but it also requires choices.

If there is any one, single reason that "elite women face the most difficult internal struggles juggling work and family" it would seem to be that far too many of them have, apparantly, never learned this lesson. It's almost as if they don't believe it should apply to them. But ultimately, it applies to all of us.

Husbands - you have to choose, and if you choose poorly, you can lose your wife. Fathers - you have to choose, and if you choose poorly, you can ruin your relationship with your kids. Being limited and having to choose isn't a male/female problem - it's a fundamental part of the human condition.

Posted by: Demos | April 11, 2007 5:04 PM

To Father of 4: Attention to detail only matters when it's important. And maybe women are just better at discerning when it's important.

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 5:05 PM

After a heavy snow, a Secret Service agent came into the Oval Office and said, "Mr. President, I have bad news, worse news, and even worse news."

The President asked, "What's the bad news?"

"Well," the agent replied, "After the snowstorm, we found 'Screw Bush' written in urine in the Rose Garden."

"That's terrible!" the President replied. "What's the worse news?"

"We did a DNA test on the urine, and it was VP Cheney's," said the agent.

"My goodness!" exclaimed the flabergasted President. "What could be worse news than that?"

"It was the First Lady's handwriting."

Posted by: Old Joke Alert | April 11, 2007 5:14 PM

I think more of the gap is caused by an increase in girl's attendance than in a decrease in men's.

One important note is that the gap does not exist at the alpha end - Harvard gets plenty of qualified males. One crucial factor in the performance of boys is the behavior of Dad. If Dad reads and does bookish work at home - this is correlated to much less "gap" between male and female children. It is possible that schools can overcome the expectations set/modeled in the home - but "blame the teacher" is not the most obvious answer to me here.

Many HS boys expect to find good work (trade or manufacturing) without college educations. These jobs are decreasing, but in some cases they are correct. The more obvious traditionally female career salaries (nursing assistant, daycare worker) should send the gals off to college for the degree if they hope to be self supporting.

Posted by: gap | April 11, 2007 5:39 PM

testing

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 5:40 PM

1 2 3

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 5:51 PM

I am a 28 y.o. recovering Alpha girl. I was a superstar in HS, blah blah blah. I do feel sorry for some of the young ladies in the article, because regardless of how centered and mature they may come across, ultimately they are adolescents who know even less about life than a young adult like myself. They WILL be disappointed, b/c that is pretty much the price of admission to the human race. What I have learned is that once I was forced to abandon the script of "ambitious, young, privileged white girl," my life really started to get interesting. Whether or not their disappointment comes in the form of family/work balance depends on their values and I think it is sexist at best and incredibly reductionist to think one must have a Career (versus a job), big house, luxury car, perfect postmodern feminist husband who supports you, and of course overachieving children to be happy. It is forgivable for these young ladies to want that, because after all they are teenagers. Those of us even a little older should know better than to believe that there is a magic recipe to success or happiness. No one has it all. No one can even define "it all"! And for the record, I am using my "elite" college and j.d. degrees to stay home with my 3 month old son. My dream at 18? Hardly. The best thing to ever happen to me? Absolutely.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 6:03 PM

I had to stop reading the comments, but I wanted to say this to Arlmom:

I have a career in which I bring home work each and every night, which sometimes takes two hours to complete. I also work about 10 hours each weekend. I am responsible for a team of about 30, and I have to direct their projects and give frequent feedback, which must be quantified. I have outside clients to please, and I need to take continuing education courses and pursue advanced degrees to maintain my position.

By the typical DC standards you seem to follow (and I bet you ARE one of those people whose first question on meeting someone is, "what do you do?"), I am certainly an elite.

However...I am an elementary school teacher.

Do you still categorize me as an elite, Arlmom?

And I agree with the posters who criticized Leslie for her snobbish, insulated view of work/family choices. Perhaps the blog, since it claims to be about balance, should be renamed "On Gilded Scales."

Posted by: educmom | April 11, 2007 6:05 PM

testing

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 6:09 PM

To educmom: "On Gilded Scales."

I hereby nominate you for the best line of the day!

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 6:17 PM

I second that!

Posted by: Megan | April 11, 2007 6:40 PM

"On gilded scales" is good but so was "gag me with their silver spoon"

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 7:29 PM

Both awesome. How about renaming the blog On Gilded Scales, and Silver Spoon gets comment of the day?

Posted by: Mona | April 11, 2007 7:51 PM

Mona, how about we give our comment of the day the "Silver Spoon" award?

Posted by: catlady | April 11, 2007 7:59 PM

And we can weigh the merit on the gilded scales.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 11, 2007 8:48 PM

One of the big problems I see with the women who have highly demanding professional careers is their choices in men. Like all women, they prefer men who are smarter and more successful than they are.

Posted by: soccermom | April 11, 2007 10:04 AM

It's a safe bet that when some woman purports to make a statement that begins, "like ALL women", she invariably speaks for no woman I know. It also indicates that she believes the statement and justifies it in her own tiny mind by assuming every other woman thinks just like her.

Grow up, soccermoms of the world. Own your own choices, but don't think the rest of us women think like you do.

I wanted an equal partner, and found one. He wanted an equal partner, and found one. We didn't want someone just like us. We wanted soulmates. I have never met a woman who wants a man who is smarter or more successful than her. Like tends to be attracted to like. Water finds its level. If you are seeking a Sugar Daddy, you'll find him and *itch the rest of your life that he doesn't pitch in around the house. Imagine. Fortunately, only soccermom and her ilk are looking for that. The rest of us have our pick of nice guys looking for nice women with whom to raise a family, live a life, have a long-term romance. It's never easy, but not truly difficult, to figure out balance when you enter the relationship as equals.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 9:02 PM

actually 9:02 - I believe most women are raised to find someone of the same or higher educational level. I don't say it is right or wrong, but that's the way it is.

The next generation will have a tough time at that - because women are going to college and graduating in far greater numbers than men are. So there will be a limited supply of men with higher educational levels. Just the way it is.

As for boys vs girls and learning - I believe that they learn very differently. That's why when the prez of harvard made remarks several years ago that led to him resigning, I thought that MAYBE just maybe there would be intelligent discussion. That didn't happen.

My own theory is that boys and girls learn differently - and one reason that boys have been excelling in math and science in the past is that the curriculum typically would be geared to how boys learn (since girls, up til more recently, didn't study this stuff) - so boys would learn it all better, and voila - everyone thinks that boys have more aptitude.

Another theory I have is that at the youngest ages, most elementary ed teachers did not like math growing up - so they teach their students to not like math as well. Just a theory - prove me wrong if you disagree.

Posted by: atlmom | April 11, 2007 9:38 PM

I have four boys. I am surprised that Leslie and some of the posters feel that boys are discriminated against in school. By and large, teachers seem to treat boys and girls fairly, and subjects such as history, physics, etc., by the high school level, are sufficiently broad that gender doesn't seem to be the main factor affecting performance (except perhaps at the highest levels of math & science -- my second son attends a math-science magnet high school where my own observation has borne out comments made by Lawrence Summers, Harvard's pres back in January 2005).

There is an exception -- the addition of a writing component to the SAT means that boys fare worse, ceteris paribus, as generally their script handwriting is worse than girls'. But soon they'll probably allow the kids to use laptops so handwriting quality won't affect graders' impression (it has been shown with two identical essays, the one with superior handwriting gets a higher grade from the college board evaluators.)

These blogs really bring out strong opinions in everyone. As the mother of four boys, I simply don't see the educational system favoring girls. I do see our society driving girls crazy to be thin and beautiful, something boys don't have to contend with as much, although they seem to like to be muscular (my boys aren't stellar athletes, but they participate in high school athletics for this reason)

Posted by: suzyswim | April 11, 2007 9:51 PM

"it has been shown with two identical essays, the one with superior handwriting gets a higher grade from the college board evaluators"

Not surprising, sadly. When I was taking the GRE and the LSAT, coaches and tutors for both tests emphasized length on the writing sections. Their reasoning was that with the thousands of essays a judge must read, they only have time for a quick skim, and a long submission indicates that you actually have something to say. I am verbose by nature, so this was to my advantage, and indeed, I scored a perfect 6 on the GRE. The LSAT writing sample wasn't scored, but I'm sure it helped. (Though I do have terrible handwriting, and the LSAT writing section was handwritten--I'm sure that didn't help my case!)

Posted by: Mona | April 11, 2007 10:09 PM

"I believe most women are raised to find someone of the same or higher educational level. I don't say it is right or wrong, but that's the way it is."

You can believe anything, including in the tooth fairy. Your belief does not render the tooth fairy real. Ergo, that's not "the way it is" merely because you believe it to be so.

at 11:38, anon poster made the statement that, "Because, as many of you know, they'll be the ones staying home with their sick child, not their husband." Again, the fact that 11:38 and her friends approach life looking for a man to support her and assuming that all women stay home whenever their children are sick and dads do not, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I showed these comments to my professional husband and he had a good long chuckle that so many women think marriage and raising kids HAS to be like this.

It's sad when you settle, but don't assume that your experience is "like all women." Some settle. Many don't. There are happy Alphas, and quite a few happy Betas and Gammas.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2007 10:45 PM

I am a CS prof so my vantagepoint is a bit unusual, but I have thought about those things a bit. In the name of full disclosure I jumped off to the teaching college track... I am just not that driven.

... if there is a gap in HS performance in the sciences I think at this point it favors the girls. I think things have been and are still taught in a mostly lecture / problem set oriented way in HS science so I don't think it is a change in teaching style. I am guessing this comes down to average hours spent on HW by gender. (Please note the bell curves mostly overlap - you always need to look at the individual kids not the gender if you are talking about something other than trends.)

... When I did some gender/math reading about 10 years I was shocked to discover that 50% of college math grads were women. (>50% at teaching colleges and <50% at many research institutions). The gap there is not until grad school (and then it is indeed big).

... In engineering the gap is much smaller in industrial, environmental, civil, chemical, and materials science and MUCH larger in the pocket-protector-stereotype fields of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering -- the latter fields do not require any more quantitative skills which makes me think there is a social cause.
Similarly there is a bigger gap in physics than chemistry.

... I am not sure if you were online a few weeks ago for the discussion of academic life & balance - but it covered issued such as the fact that government postdocs/grant cycles etc. do not make any allowance for maternity leave. You have to have grants to get tenure at Harvard in the sciences & for many (non-superhero) women this means tenure or kids. I have heard of faculty members who promise their wives 1 or 2 nights at home per week. I have never heard of a mom giving so little to even a stay dad.

... Larry Summers upset his faculty because he dismissed the structural tenure/grant issues as not really the problem. I guess maybe it is ok to say that the gender difference among faculty is not a problem because it is better to have only faculty members driven enough to make personal life sacrifices at Harvard - if this is predominantly men so be it.


Posted by: to atlmom | April 11, 2007 11:08 PM

excuse the typos - too late I guess.

Posted by: to atlmom | April 11, 2007 11:10 PM

Mona,

Bragging yet again.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2007 6:59 AM

Late posting and didn't have time to read all the posts, but I actually really agree with Leslie on this point.

It isn't meant to belittle anyone, but the simple reality is that those of us who have spent the endless amount of time, money and energy on our careers find it harder to juggle work and family than someone who hasn't put as much time, energy and money into their careers.

I'm a lawyer at a top law firm and it is a constant struggle because I WANT BOTH. I absolutely love and adore my children and want to be there, but I also really love my career.

So hence, the internal struggles.

And call me an elistist, but the reality is that someone who hasn't put the time and energy into their careers probably doesn't face those some struggles. Why? Because why would they? They work for the paycheck and have no problem leaving at 5 everyday. That doesn't mean they don't have trouble finding balance - certainly they do. But I don't think that is the same as the internal struggles that Leslie is speaking of.

Posted by: londonmom | April 12, 2007 8:24 AM

Londonmom, haven't you considered that perhaps the truly elite have decided that while their children are young they will leave at 5 everyday, confident that because they truly are elite, they don't need to worry about working late hours? My supervisors leave at 4:30 every day. My sister in law and brother in law are highly level managers and a doctor and they work part time. to me they are more elite than you are because you feel you have to work late hours even though you'd rather leave to 5.

Posted by: Jen | April 12, 2007 10:29 AM

My sister in law and brother in law are highly level managers and a doctor and they work part time. to me they are more elite than you are because you feel you have to work late hours even though you'd rather leave to 5.

Posted by: Jen | April 12, 2007 10:29 AM

Then they have already put in the necessary time to "high level managers". It sounds as though Londonmom hasn't made partner (yet), but is putting in the time necessary now. While she has the youth, resilience and energy to work those 80-100 billable hours per week. It's a darn sight more difficult when you are 40 plus to put in that kind of effort.

Posted by: I dunno, but I been told | April 12, 2007 10:49 AM

right-- Londonmom is working toward being elite or alpha or what have you, but she isn't there yet. But she thinks that people who leave at 5 aren't as elite as her. But if they are doing what they want and she isn't doing what she wants, then who is really the "elite"? My in-laws both attended HArvard and worked extremely hard so that after they had kids they could slow way down. And they did-- not when the kids were older, but immediately.

I hope my children are inspired to that kind of lifestyle-- I know I am. It makes me wish I been more of an altha girl in high school so that I would have gotten into better schools later so that I would have more leverage to work fewer hours sooner in my career.

Posted by: Jen | April 12, 2007 12:49 PM

But she thinks that people who leave at 5 aren't as elite as her.

Well, she probably earns enough to buy and sell me a couple times over, so that qualifies as "elite" in my book.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2007 2:21 PM

"Maybe we shouldn't change the world, but the ridiculous, uniquely American idea that you can have everything you want all at the same time."

Amen to that!

Bottom line... in an instant, the choice to become mother means that this "me, myself and I" mentality goes out the window.

Pick one thing-- a career, or raising a child(ren), and do it well. You can be an "elite" in either situation. But this notion that balance can exist is a fallacy.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2007 2:32 PM

My in-laws are doing a great job of it-- both work part-time and are successful in their professions and as parents. They are happy, their kids are happy and their partners/employers are happy.

Posted by: Jen | April 12, 2007 4:11 PM

Pick one thing-- a career, or raising a child(ren), and do it well. You can be an "elite" in either situation. But this notion that balance can exist is a fallacy.

So...does this mean that fathers don't raise children? Or that you can't be capable of doing a good job at both? Both my parents worked and they did a good job at raising their children. So did their parents, and even my great-grandparents worked and raised their kids.

As for my African american friends, they all shake their heads and laugh at the notion that the only way to raise children well is to stay home with them. Generations of parents working...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 13, 2007 9:44 AM

Jen - I never said that people who leave at 5 aren't as elite as me. I think it is great that your in-laws have found a way to do it all. My guess would be that they probably waited longer to have children and are in careers that allow them more flexibility. That seriously is great for them. But not ever career allows such flexibility, but that doesn't mean I don't love my career of choice.

"I dunno" hit it right on - I took a few years off before going to law school so even though I am in my early 30s and have a family, I am not senior enough to make partner. I'm still putting in the time and energy.

Posted by: londonmom | April 13, 2007 12:50 PM

"I dunno" hit it right on - I took a few years off before going to law school so even though I am in my early 30s and have a family, I am not senior enough to make partner. I'm still putting in the time and energy.

Posted by: londonmom | April 13, 2007 12:50 PM

Sometimes delaying gratification seems so overrated, doesn't it?

Good luck--I hope you make partner soon!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 13, 2007 2:24 PM

Londonmom,
The bottomline is that you agree with Leslie's premise that we should be concerned about the future of these Alpha girls because their drive, smarts and determination will make life more difficult to balance than for those girls who are more laissez-faire about life.

I disagree completely-- I have complete confidence in these "alpha" girls. I'm sure that they will use their brains and determination to get exactly what they want out of life because, as elite/alphas, they will be the ones calling the shots.

And so will you someday! But in the meanwhile, tut-tutting those who are leaving work at 5 seems like sour grapes-- which isn't very alpha or elite. You are a very intelligent person and you have numerous options-- if you want to leave at 5pm, what is stopping you? You don't have to work at the "elite" firm-- you could go to a boutique firm-- or start your own-- or work for the govt-- or become a college professor-- or any number of other options. the point is you are in the position you are in because you made that choice. So are the people that are leaving at 5.

The idea that I should be worried about the angst of elite/alpha women who have the choices to frame their lives as they please if they were just brave enough to appreciate just how amazing they are strikes me as ludicrious!

You have the power, you have the intellect, you have the drive-- and yet you claim it is harder for you "to juggle work and family than someone who hasn't put as much time, energy and money into their careers"? If so, it only because you have chosen to live your life that way-- you could have chosen to be the one leaving at 5.

Posted by: Jen | April 13, 2007 4:42 PM

"Years of hard work, prizes and promotions can't prepare them for the only true enemy to female ambition in America today: love for their children."

I completely agree. I understand what you are saying. The enemy of my ambition is the love I have for my children. I have ambition and I have children. The love for one works against the other. I will never achieve what I dreamed I would achieve because my children are too precious. Nothing prepares one for this never-ending internal conflict. I worry more about my skills as a mother - because parenthood is soooo challenging. I don't worry so much about my competency at work.

Posted by: Maria | April 16, 2007 3:23 PM

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