Archive: May 2007

The Transformative Power of Dinner

By Rebeldad Brian Reid About a year and a half ago, a Wall Street Journal piece by a lawyer named Cameron Stracher caught my eye. It would have been a standard-issue op-ed decrying the loss of family dinners if not for the brief author's bio at the end of the piece, which noted that Stracher had a blog, dinnerwithdad.com, all about his efforts to make it home to eat dinner with his family most nights. He'd even sold a book proposal on the topic. At the time, I had my doubts that a high-powered lawyer and law professor who commuted 55 miles each way into New York City could actually pull off regular dinners. And, quite frankly, I couldn't see what the big deal was. I had to wonder: Had family dinners become so novel, so incredibly rare, that the topic deserved a book-length treatment? The book is out now,...

By Brian Reid | May 31, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Small-Town Child-Care Woes

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog -- except that today is Wednesday. Once a week "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Leslie Powell Is it just me, or is high-quality child care impossible to find if you live well outside a major urban area? I live in a small town in Connecticut. Not in the part of Connecticut within commuting distance of New York City. Farther out, where the closest Starbucks is several towns away and New Yorkers are mostly glimpsed in the dusty, narrow aisles of antique shops on weekend afternoons in summer. The headaches started when I went back to work full-time about...

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

A Letter From The Other Side

Last Saturday, The Washington Post published The Case to Stay Home, a letter from Jennifer Wolff of Bowie, Md., who was responding to reporter Amy Joyce's Outlook article How to Handle the Return. Ms. Wolff, who described herself as a "full-time mother and homemaker," advised the pregnant Ms. Joyce to "follow her heart," which she clearly believed meant staying home full-time once her baby arrives in June. While I disagree with Ms. Wolff -- following your heart can also mean continuing to work once becoming a mom -- she went on to say something I fully endorse: "The Post, with all its working mothers, seems to almost exclusively print the viewpoints of mothers who work outside the home." Ms. Wolff is correct. A great deal of mainstream media coverage neglects the views of moms (and dads) who stay home. When mothers and fathers leave work, their voices, unfortunately, often get...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 29, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Studies Show Working Wives + No Kids = Happiest Marriages

Lovely nuggets in a recent Denver Post article about a book that recaps new national research into working women, kids and marital happiness. The book, published earlier this year by Harvard University Press, is Alone Together: How Marriage in America is Changing. Here are some of the highlights, according to the article: * So-called "egalitarian marriages" where wives work outside the home and husbands do their share of housework and childcare are more likely to last versus the marriages where wives don't work. * These "egalitarian marriages" increased from 1980 to 2000 and are happier than traditional marriages. * More equitable housework may help marital stability since wives initiate about two-thirds of U.S. divorces. * In 1980 as well as 2000, childless couples were generally happier than those with children. My 2 cents is that "equality" is the key to a happy marriage -- but that an egalitarian marriage has...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 25, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (316)

Surviving the Weekend Without Divide-and-Conquer

By Rebeldad Brian Reid A long weekend could not have come at a better time for me. The yard is a mess, the playroom closet is so full of junk that I can't close the door, the car could use a good cleaning, and we're about a dozen Cheerios away from a bare cupboard. Once upon a time, my wife and I would divvy up the tasks with great precision, each grab a kid, and each begin an individual march through the to-do list. It was classic "divide and conquer." But about six months ago -- collapsed on the couch on a Sunday night -- it dawned on us that we'd managed to go through an entire weekend without doing much more than crossing paths. Given the challenges of coordinating jobs, school and the other weekend commitments, the weekends were exactly when we should be spending some family time together....

By Brian Reid | May 24, 2007; 12:01 AM ET | Comments (455)

Opting Back In

Thank you to everyone who responded to my call-out back in February for moms who'd been home with kids for three to 10 years and either had returned or were looking to return to work. Based on an assignment from More Magazine, I interviewed more than three dozen women ages 35 to 55, went to conferences at top business schools for "on rampers" and interviewed recruiters and hiring managers across the country. The results were reported this week in the June issue of More Magazine, Back in Business, and in Newsweek's Trying to Opt Back In. Based on conventional wisdom, women can't leave work for more than a few months without jeopardizing their pay levels or their entire careers. Right? Well, the moms I talked to said WRONG: I was not able to find a single college-educated mother who was unable to return to full-time work within twelve months. "I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 23, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (274)

Generation Gap With Mom

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Chasmosaur Let's face it -- most of us go to our mothers for advice, as much as we may or may not want to. I've only been married a few years, but I've pretty much already stopped asking my mother for marital wisdom. Not because she's a bad role model -- she's an amazing woman. She's a Super Mom in many respects. She gave up school after her second child was born but went back to it later and now makes Martha Stewart look like an indifferent entertainer/gardener/interior designer. But I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 22, 2007; 5:01 AM ET | Comments (336)

Spoiled Rotten (By Us)

Following up Friday's talk about Slacker and Alpha parents, let's take a peek into what our kids might be like in the future through ABC News' Meet the New Millennials. "Millennials" are Americans born after 1981, the invisible tipping point where it suddenly became de rigeur for parents to micromanage our children's lives with flashcards, Baby Einstein videos, playdates, violin lessons, sports therapists, and tutors for every kind of special need, real or imagined. Now these "kids" have entered the workplace, with interesting results. "They grew up with an 'everyone gets a trophy' sense of entitlement," one 57-year-old employer says of his 20-something Millennial employees. "They are members of a generation that thinks it should get a trophy just for waking up in the morning." Typical problems include arriving to work on time, working towards long-term goals, dressing appropriately (the same employer had to tell a young female employee that...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 21, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (336)

Are You A Slacker Mom?

Last week, USA Today ran a front page Life article about so-called Slacker or "Beta" Moms. The piece described the movement away from Super or Alpha Moms, those hyper-organized, earnest parents who turn parenting into a high-pressure career with 24/7 obligations and non-stop stress (unfortunately, however, without the accompanying promotions and pay raises). My e-mail was flooded by people sending me the article, I'm hoping for professional reasons, not as in Hint, hint, Leslie, this is you. "Our children are people -- not projects," one Slacker Mom was quoted. "Motherhood is not a contest." So -- fess up. Are you a Slacker Mom (or Dad)? Or an Alpha? Tell us your most extreme parenting moments -- or ones you've witnessed in others. Have you consciously chosen a particular parenting style? Or did it choose you? Where is the happy medium between being a perfectionist and a couch potato when it...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 18, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (338)

Can You Make the 4-Hour Workweek a Reality?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My secret vice is reading about productivity, so much so that whatever gains in efficiency I've seen are probably swamped by the sheer amount of time spent thinking about efficiency. So, I just couldn't resist the hype around the current hot productivity tome, The 4-Hour Workweek, which posits that anyone can work extremely short weeks while scooting around the globe. From what I can tell, the book is aimed at a rather narrow subset of people who have jobs that can be done from anywhere, who don't need to be immediately available to anyone at work, and who have limited personal obligations (like, say, family). Still, there appears to be plenty of food for thought, including this step-by-step plan for working from the road. The plan, essentially, involves coming up with an excuse to be out of the office for a couple weeks but volunteering to...

By Brian Reid | May 17, 2007; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Finding Balance in Divorce

In the past year, two of my closest friends got divorced. It's our time -- when our kids were younger, I used to joke that no one had time to get divorced. Unfortunately I was right -- now that we've all been married a dozen years or more and our children are increasingly independent, some people do have time to realize how miserable they are together. Luckily, in both cases, the custody arrangements have been 50/50. Not too much ugliness. Kids seem okay -- but of course, kids often seem okay in the short run, and problems surface later. On Mother's Day, I read an Associated Press article that really got me. Returning Troops Battle for Lost Custody of Children profiled several divorced moms and dads who had to transfer custody of their children temporarily when they were mobilized. When they returned to civilian life, they lost custody permanently because...

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

Care for the Caregiver

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Amy Stuart Taylor I'm a 37-year old married mom of eight-year-old twin boys, currently living in Indiana. I stayed home until my sons were three and then returned to work part-time as a school psychologist. A year ago--bored with testing and diagnosing kids and having rediscovered my love of writing--I quit. This year, I've freelanced and tried to discern where to go next. Now, I'm hoping to dive back into the workforce as a writer or journalist. Here's my observation. Many of my friends chose careers like teaching, counseling, nursing, ministry,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 15, 2007; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Michelle Obama's Front Page Move

On Thursday, well timed for Mother's Day, 43-year-old Michelle Obama announced her decision to leave her job as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals. The Washington Post ran the news as a front page article, Michelle Obama's Career Timeout; many other news organizations gave the story similar prominence. Michelle Obama went to Princeton and Harvard Law School, and devoted decades of hard work to building a successful, lucrative career. She has two daughters, now 8 and 5, and has shown she has the drive and temerity to juggle motherhood and demanding full-time executive responsibilities along with supporting her spouse's political career. I'm sure it's big news to her that she's leaving the "high paying position in a successful corporation" (her words, according to The Post) she worked her life to achieve. Her next job may be First Lady if her husband, Democratic hopeful...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 14, 2007; 7:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

What Do You Want for Mother's Day?

Sunday is Mother's Day. The American version of the holiday was officially established 99 years ago by Anna M. Jarvis, who campaigned for the creation of an official Mother's Day in remembrance of her mother. On May 10, 1908, the first official Mother's Day celebration took place at Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, W. Va. and a church in Philadelphia, Pa. Many other cultures officially (and unofficially) celebrate the important work mothers do with a range of holidays and festivals. What values do you honor on Mother's Day? When you think of "a good mom," what qualities come to mind? What do you usually get -- or give -- for Mother's Day? Do you think we've achieved recognition that motherhood is real work? I believe the best Mother's Day gift is to tell another mom she's a good mom. We don't do enough of that in this country -- maybe...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 11, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (293)

How Much Scheduling is Overscheduling?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid About a month or so ago, I was given an especially good thrashing in the comments for suggesting that overscheduling might not be all bad. A number of astute readers pointed out that "overscheduling" was -- by definition -- a negative. And while I can't argue with the correction of my language, I'm still flummoxed by the question of how much is too much when it comes to extracurricular activities. All of this is colored, in some ways, by my own upbringing. As an adult, I can skate, swim, ski, golf and read music, tremendously useful skills (golf excepted) that I began acquiring by the time I was six. I don't remember being dragged on daily marches from swimming to gymnastics to hockey to piano lessons, but -- somehow -- all of that happened for me, one way or another. So, I have a bias toward...

By Brian Reid | May 10, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (413)

Mother's Day

Last week, I gave a live radio interview over the phone at 6:40 a.m. My husband stood watch outside our bedroom, blocking our three kids from interrupting. He did a fine job. Afterwards, I opened the door and blurted out, "I did a terrible job," which was exactly how I felt. My two daughters, ages 8 and 5, came running from their rooms. They both said, "Mommy, you don't do a terrible job at anything!" I'm still amazed by their show of support -- and by the example I unconsciously set for them of how to inflict self-criticism as a woman. Giving coherent radio interviewers, especially over the phone, particularly before 7 a.m., is hard. But instead, I was hard on myself. So in honor of Mother's Day coming this weekend, let's tell stories of the good -- and bad -- role models we set for our daughters. Am I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 9, 2007; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (385)

Maternity Leave -- What's Fair?

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Michele Degani I received a job offer a few weeks ago. It was great except for the maternity leave policy, which HR told me was generous. The policy: First year of employment, you can buy short-term disability (STD), which might pay 60% of your salary while you're out, but the details are gray. After one year, the company gives you three weeks of time off with full pay, and then you get nine weeks of STD at 60% of your salary. I'm 42, and have a one-year-old daughter. I married my...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 8, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (523)

Lower Taxes For Women?

In the United States, work is literally more rewarding for men than women. Men earn more -- the gap between wages paid women who perform the same job as men is stuck at roughly 77 cents to the dollar. Additionally, the so-called marriage tax penalizes second earners, usually women. Not surprisingly, women (in general) cease working at rates far greater than men, especially once we have children. In economic terms, women's elasticity of labor supply is higher than men's in the United States. Several reasons drive this behavior, the primary ones being lack of affordable, high-quality childcare and the fact that women earn significantly less than men do. The free labor market has failed to correct these inequities, although women have had access to the workforce in large numbers for over four decades. The solution to these gender-based labor inequities could be simple, according to new research, Gender Based Taxation,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 7, 2007; 7:05 AM ET | Comments (326)

I Am Woman, Hair Me Roar

On Monday, I had the good fortune to go on Fox News Live to talk about my research into stay-at-home moms returning to work. I got across all my key messages in a three-minute segment and managed to breathe at the same time. At home later that day watching the show on Tivo with DH, all I could think was: My hair looked like soggy cardboard. On national tv. I love that I care so much about hair. Finding joy (and agony) in your hair is a quintessentially female characteristic, like believing you can will cars to not hit your children, like believing a pair of new shoes can change your identity. [For anyone new to On Balance, let me explain that Friday is reserved for light subjects, like hair, summer vacations and shoes. Solving the problems of the world occurs Monday through Thursday.] I -- usually -- have pretty...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 4, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (276)

The Ol' Snip-Snip

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Biology is inherently unfair. No matter how seriously you take gender equity, men can't bear children. No pregnancy. No childbirth. No way around that. For my wife, pregnancy and childbirth were not particularly fun. And despite the occasional 1 a.m. runs to the Quickie-Mart to feed the crave du jour, there wasn't much I could do. So when the time came to discuss ... ahem ... permanently capping our family size, I willingly volunteered to have a vasectomy. Heck -- it was the least I could do. My wife, in good humor, agreed that a little shared sacrifice wouldn't be a bad thing. I went under the knife last month. I must report back, however, that there is no way that my procedure comes anywhere close to balancing out the physical-effects-of-pregnancy-and-childbirth ledger. Yes, it's a long 30 minutes in the operating room, but I was shuffling...

By Brian Reid | May 3, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Start-Ups and Balance

A year ago, Laura Deutsch, a 33-year-old New York teacher, was home on maternity leave after the birth of her first child when an idea for a new business came to her. These days, her company, Baby Bites NYC, runs 25 events a month for new and expectant moms. Her business has been featured on The Today Show, Montel Williams and in Newsweek. "My business has completely changed my life," Deutsch explains. "Owning a business that helps women make the transition to motherhood is a thrill. But there is no longer a clear division between work and the rest of my life. I have to make myself stop work at some point each day or I would keep working and working, and I make it a point to have quality time with my family each night." "Balance" between kids, work, household chores and family time is hard enough even when...

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

Asking For What We're Worth

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Shellye Archambeau You know what I find frustrating? That so many smart, hard-working women make less money than men. Only 77 cents on the dollar, according to the latest Labor Department report. However, I don't believe there is a conspiracy. Senior managers are not plotting and planning to underpay women. Having spent over 22 years in the male-dominated technology industry, managing organizations of all sizes, it continues to disappoint me that in most cases women aren't asking for the money they deserve, and therefore aren't getting it. In most large and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 1, 2007; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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