Archive: July 2007

Calling For Balance On 'On Balance'

A few days ago, my three kids were bickering endlessly with each other for the trillionth time. I told them "I've done everything in my power to stop your fighting and I've decided you three simply deserve each other. So keep on bickering to your heart's content!" They laughed and stopped fighting. It's time to do the same thing now with all of you. This summer, the anonymous nastiness on this blog has become counterproductive to what has been, in general, a very productive discussion for the past 18 months. Not everyone is at fault here, but everyone will now be required to register with washingtonpost.com before they are able to post comments to the blog. We value honest opinions; disagreements and even anger are a normal part of conversations about work/life balance and parenthood where philosophical divides are common. Requiring registration does not mean we don't want to hear...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 31, 2007; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (271)

People of Cleavage

Much attention has been paid to Senator Hillary Clinton's cleavage since its July 18th debut during a speech about education televised on C-SPAN. The Washington Post's fashion critic, Robin Givhan, touched off a firestorm when she compared Hillary's rather modest decolletage to a male politician appearing in public with his fly unzipped. Since then, several incisive writers including The Post's Ruth Marcus and Howard Kurtz and Judith Warner from The New York Times (The Cleavage Conundrum, subscription or fee required), as well as the Clinton campaign spokespeople, have weighed in. What does it mean to be a "person of cleavage" these days? Is too much attention paid to Hillary's appearance because she's female? It once was political suicide for a woman to show cleavage in a business or political setting; A V-neck shirt suggested that you wanted to be remembered for your physique. (The assumption being you'd never be remembered...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 30, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (291)

Cartoons!

I always have felt a titch sorry for American kids who grew up in intellectually superior homes without televisions, or those in adventurous diplomatic or military families who spent significant parts of their childhoods living in exotic, enriching locations abroad. Because they missed a defining elxperience of American childhood: watching cartoons. Cartoons constitute our shared history, our culture, at least for kids born after 1960. Cartoons shaped part of my own work/life balance, primarily due to one favorite cartoon: The Flintstones. And one very special episode, where Fred and Wilma trade gender roles. Fred dons Wilma's frilly white apron and has a fine old time cooking, cleaning and gabbing with Barney. Wilma puts on a hard hat and roars away in Fred's bulldozer. This episode showed me in no uncertain terms that the divine beings in my life (cartoon creators) believed men and women could trade gender roles with ease,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 27, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (192)

When Life and Work Collide

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My little one may be -- pound for pound -- one of the louder creatures on this Earth. We like to attach cute euphemisms to her happy utterances ("awwww ... she's squawking again"), but I must face facts: A scream is a scream, and she's extraordinarily good at it. And now most of my co-workers know of my daughter's talent. Last week, I was in the car with the whole family during one of those rare but inevitable periods in which each family member needs to be picked up, dropped off or otherwise delivered somewhere during a staggeringly small window. (And one of those periods where being a one-car family has serious drawbacks.) In my delusional state, I assumed that we could get everyone where they belonged by 4 p.m., when my conference call began. We were still 5 minutes from home when I hopped on...

By Brian Reid | July 26, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (389)

Men Speak, Women Stay Silent?

The common stereotype is that women like to talk more than men. One neuropsychiatrist even reported in The Female Brain that women use 20,000 words per day compared to only 7,000 for men. A recent article, The Last Word: Men Talk As Much As Women, along with a study reported in Science, refuted these findings. Turns out women and men both speak about 16,000 words a day, or 15 words per waking minute. (Individuals vary, naturally.) But in educational and professional settings, I've always been troubled by a verbal inequality between men and women. Starting in high school (1980s), then college (late 1980s), then business school (1990s), and in meetings in various business and volunteer roles since then, I've taken informal note of how often women speak in public and how often teachers or people running meetings call on women. What I found is that 1) in a free-speak forum,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 25, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (446)

Between Two Cultures

Welcome to the "On Balance" 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 Ann I am Chinese-American. My husband is American-born Caucasian. When my husband and I first married eight years ago, questions about how to raise children, what cultural beliefs and values to instill in them, and what traditions to pass on to them never entered our minds. I had known for most of my life that I did not want children, and my husband was unsure, so we thought we would not have children. Somewhere down the road, I changed my mind and my husband wanted to be a father. Now,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 24, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (336)

Labor Imbalance

This summer my three kids are in three different day camps. (What was I thinking?) I've done a lot of driving and listening to the radio as a result. I recently heard an intriguing Diane Rehm Show that made me think about something I rarely consider: starting another career when my children are grown. By 2030, one in four Americans will be over 60 years old: some interpretations of Bureau of Labor Statistics predict a coming labor shortage as more baby boomers retire. However, instead of living out their lives in retirement, more and more Americans are opting for second careers later in life, because they want to -- or need to. Employers are catching on. Forget about recruiting Generation Next. A growing number of businesses are targeting stable, experienced, reliable folks over 50 years old. Employers as diverse as food and beverage retailers, churches, police forces and others are...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 23, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (208)

Moms Running the House -- and the Senate

Great article in yesterday's Washington Post about the record number of moms in Congress raising young kids today: Mom's in the House, With Kids at Home: For Congresswomen With Young Children, a Tough Balance. Turns out we currently have 10 (count 'em, 10!) moms in Congress raising kids under 13, including Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). Not surprisingly, these moms face the same work/family balancing act most of us moms face. What's different is that their kids are thousands of miles away from their offices, and their decisions about combining work and raising children are made under a political spotlight. Nice to know these high-voltage public servants also confront our country's lovely double standard -- their male colleagues are congratulated for being involved in their children's lives, while big question marks arise when women with young children run for office....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 20, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (218)

Adding an Animal to the Balancing Act

By Rebeldad Brian Reid This year, on New Year's Eve, we came home from the Humane Society with a puppy. Dasher was three months old, super-cute and appeared to be the shyest and calmest of his litter. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Our previous dog, Bebe, had died in August, and I assumed it was time for the click-clack of nails on hardwood again. This was an incredibly dumb assumption. My wife and I got Bebe as an adult dog, so we weren't fully prepared for the onslaught of puppy-ness. Our youngest was sleeping through the night, but suddenly I was waking up at 3 a.m. again, taking my freckled pooch out to the back lawn. Dasher quickly got bigger and much, much more energetic. Despite training classes, in-home training, frequent walks, trips to the dog park and so on, he remains a huge handful. As...

By Brian Reid | July 19, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Dr. Mom

Back in May, The Wall Street Journal ran an intriguing Health Journal piece Paging Dr. Mom: The Role Mothers Play in Health Care (subscription or fee required). Reporter Tara Parker-Pope described when mothers, including her own, diagnosed life-threatening ailments, including appendicitis, a brain tumor, and an intestinal blockage, in their children before doctors could identify the problems. Combine this uncanny ability to sense children's illnesses with a factoid from the Kaiser Family Foundation that 80 percent of mothers choose the family doctor and ferry children to most appointments -- and moms become the heroes of pediatric healthcare. Throw this powerful role into the work/family balance and we've got several paradoxes of motherhood: How do we balance this role in our children's lives with our work obligations? How do we remain the hero while sometimes delegating our children's health care to husbands, family members, and child-care givers? Do you ever feel...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 18, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

52 and Used Up?

Welcome to the "On Balance" 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 Karen Bernstein At 52, I am too young to be used up. But it appears that employers see it differently. I have been searching for fulfilling full-time employment for more than two years. It doesn't seem to matter that I have a college degree, a post-graduate paralegal certificate and a strong professional employment history. Apparently, the black mark on my resume is that my professional experience came to a halt twenty years ago. It was not intended to be that way; life got in the way. I was going to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 17, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (412)

Hi Boss! I'm Pregnant - Again!

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday (or on days like today when Leslie is on vacation), "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 Melissa Weber Telling my boss I was pregnant the first time was easy. Everyone I knew, including my boss, expected to hear the news at some point. I had been married for 12 years, I was in my mid-30's, and you could hear my biological clock ticking from the next room. When I finished the first trimester, I happily walked into her office to announce our good fortune. She smiled, we hugged, and we prepared for my maternity leave. With...

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

Part-Time Looking Pretty Fine

Yesterday The Washington Post took a second pass at the Pew Center research on work/family balance we dug into last week with Part-Time Looks Fine to Working Mothers. The findings of mothers nationwide show what I've long believed: The key to work/life balance when you have young children is working part-time. The majority of working moms (60 percent) find part-time work most appealing. That spreads across education and income levels. Ten years ago, the same survey showed far fewer (48 percent) of moms found part-time work appealing. Even single moms agree, with 46 percent saying that part-time is the best option. For perspective, 72 percent of men describe full-time work as the ideal. A few other interesting findings: Ranking yourself highly as a mother is inversely related to your education level and work status. The higher a woman's educational achievements, the lower she rates herself as a mother. And mothers...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 13, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (234)

Scoring Free, High-Quality Babysitting

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I can't remember exactly what the going rate for babysitting was when I was a teenager, but I don't ever remember the wrinkled bills my next-door neighbors pressed into my hand at the end of the night making much of a material difference in my life. Now, as a parent, babysitting has the potential to make a much bigger material difference. The New York Times reports that high school kids are bringing in much as 15 bucks an hour to make mac-n-cheese, supervise some tooth brushing and read a book or two. Even by the slightly more modest standards of my neighborhood, dinner and a movie means $40 in babysitting. At a couple of dates a month, that's $1,000 a year. I haven't shelled out for babysitting in years, instead falling back on the it-takes-a-village approach to care that I've mentioned before. In my child-dense neighborhood,...

By Brian Reid | July 12, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (397)

No More Nancy Drew

I often look at my eight- and five-year-old daughters and wonder what their struggles will be balancing work and family as adult women. I don't think they will have as hard a time as my peers and I, American women born in the 1960s, have had. Much has changed for the better in the past 40 years. The majority of today's mothers work and thus enjoy the choices that come with economic independence. There are fewer and fewer glass ceilings for women to bash through (although enough remain to keep my daughters occupied, if they so choose). And this makes me oddly sad for my daughters. I'm sure they will have plenty of fascinating life challenges in other ways. However, as much as my inner mommy war drives me (and my family) nuts, belonging to this particular generation of American women has proven exhilarating, frustrating, and demanding -- and ultimately,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 11, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (355)

Teenagers, Romance and Balance

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By WorkingMomX About two years ago, my stepdaughter, then a senior in high school, announced that she had decided to move in with her boyfriend (also a senior) instead of attending one of the many colleges to which she'd been accepted. Our initial reaction was anger and disbelief, followed closely by pleading, and then by despair. We realized that since she was going to be 18 soon there was little -- if anything -- we could do to save her from herself. Six weeks after they moved in together, their relationship exploded...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 10, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (364)

Singled Out

In response to On Balance's Single Purpose? entry, writer and Ph.D. holder Bella DePaulo sent me her hilarious, superbly researched diatribe in favor of living well single, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. Go Bella! She is living "happily ever after" in the fabulously-named Summerland, Calif., which I dream of as a new singles paradise in stark contrast to my endless rounds of laundry, wet bathing suits found 10 hours later on now-wet carpets and restless nights searching for a bed where neither my kids nor my husband will find me. Bella is onto something big. As all of you single and/or childless posters have let us know in absolutely uncertain terms, the work/balance movement is heavily biased towards heterosexual married families with children. In homage to and mockery of The Feminine Mystique and Perfect Madness, her first chapter is titled...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 9, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (283)

Fourth of July Tales

Okay, another light summer Friday. Let's share our tales of Fourth of July work/family joy, sweat, frustration and family. One working mom friend with a five-year-old daughter, two-year-old twins, and a husband who also works full-time, whispered to me at a Fourth of July parade, "I'm so glad the Fourth fell on a Wednesday this year. It totally took away the pressure to make a great weekend away somewhere. The kind of thing I never imagined I'd feel before I had kids." Of course I understood. A July Fourth holiday that lasted only 24 hours -- instead of July Fourth Weekend -- felt like an excuse to take the laid-back route for once, like a rainy day after weeks of nonstop sunshine. My friend's household of three kids under six, a dog, and two working parents provides plenty of fireworks every single day. Who needs more? My three kids are...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 6, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Labor Department on FMLA: We Hear You

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Back in December, I posted that the Department of Labor had pushed out a Request for Information on the Family and Medical Leave Act. At the time, I was concerned. Gutting of FMLA has been a growing priority for the business community, and this administration does not have a reputation for being particularly amenable to regulating the workplace. Apparently, more than a few of you took the opportunity to tell the government how FMLA had worked for you. To those who took the time: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. The Department of Labor ended up sifting through more than 15,000 comments (or what DOL dryly noted was "a very heavy public response") using those comments as a basis for a just-released 181-page report that solely summarizes the general sentiment of the thousands of comments. At first glance, the news is good: ... indeed, the overwhelming...

By Brian Reid | July 5, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (319)

Two Navels At Work

Welcome to the Tuesday guest blog. Every Tuesday "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Melissa Weber It's an embarrassing photo: silly and undignified. At least it's better than the one of us eating straight from a peanut butter jar. Coworkers can be so cruel. Standing in profile in my best maternity work outfit, I am bloated and fat-faced. Kellie, who looked better pregnant, stands with her back to mine. Our navels point aggressively in opposite directions. The occasion was a joint baby shower held in our honor at work. We were coworkers who had conceived (and a months later, delivered our first babies) at nearly...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 3, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (339)

The New Disconnect: Kids and Marriage

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center yesterday released an 88-page demographic recap of surveys and interviews of 2,020 adults on the subject of marital satisfaction, including nine factors that make up a happy marriage. In what the report described as "the single most striking finding," only 41 percent of Americans said children were very important to a successful marriage, a 24 percentage-point drop versus 1990, when 65 percent of Americans described children as very important to a successful marriage. Children still matter -- 85 percent of parents with children under 18 described them as a top source of personal fulfillment -- but kids are not as integral to a happy marriage. The other major difference versus 1990 was chore-sharing, which increased by 15 points to 62 percent. For a recap of the survey results, see yesterday's Washington Post To Be Happy in Marriage, Baby Carriage Not Required. I wonder whether this...

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

 

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