Archive: September 2007

Cars and Balance

Today, being Friday, we must look away from the importance of breast-feeding in public, women's equality 'round the globe, the silent struggles of stay-at-home dads, and whether it is okay for Britney to walk around naked in front of her two as yet uncorrupted young sons. Today's topic is one I have overlooked for far too long. A subject imperative to balance: your car. So tell us: What do you drive? What does your spouse (if you have one) drive? What key possessions do you have in your car? What role does your automobile play in the balancing act you call your life? How has this changed over time? Does your car have a name? And if you don't have a car, do you feel liberated or burdened by it? Here's my nitty gritty car history. When my husband and I started dating, I drove a 1976 copper VW Beetle...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 28, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (352)

It's In The Bag

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Unpacking my primary business bag/laptop carrier/backup diaper bag after a recent overnight business trip was a veritable archaeological dig into the past year of my life. ... Amid the papers, file folders and power cords were a diaper -- two sizes too small -- smushed at the bottom, a small tube of pre-packaged powdered infant formula, a couple of plastic stars, some doctors bills, corrected homework and a maraca. It's clichéd to talk about how silly the "at-home" prefix is nowadays. No parent, regardless of whether they're in the work force, is centered at home. The big bag is the new office, a place to stuff all the fragments of life we need to get through the day. There seem to be so many tiny spaces of time in the course of a day (waiting for school to let out, waiting for potty breaks, unexpected stroller...

By Brian Reid | September 27, 2007; 7:27 AM ET | Comments (153)

Driving Women Crazy

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits female drivers. This has always infuriated and saddened me. But Wajeha al-Huwaider's personal story, Saudi Women Petition for the Right to Drive, in Monday's Washington Post, brought home what this law means. Al-Huwaider, who is leading a campaign for the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, tells of a night when her baby became ill and her husband wasn't home (a democracy advocate, he was in jail that evening). Due to the ban on women driving, she couldn't get her infant to a hospital on her own. There is limited public transportation in Saudi Arabia. Taxis, driven by male strangers, are considered unsafe. Some wealthy women have full-time live-in chauffeurs, but most cannot afford them. That night, Al-Huwaider had to go out into the street at 2 a.m. and beg a ride to the hospital to save her child's...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 26, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (267)

A Layoff's Unexpected Bonus

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 Rodney McKenzie My summer started early this year with one of the realities of corporate life -- layoffs. While my family and friends welcomed spring, my staff and I said our "goodbyes." Even though my employer's decision to outsource didn't come as a total surprise, it was still somewhat traumatic to face maintaining a part-time single parent household with a child in private school on...well...no income. But that's it for the sad stuff; here is where the fun begins. My 10- year-old son, for whom I have joint custody with...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 25, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (209)

Parenting for Pay

I always thought the rub about parenting was that it's a dead-end job. You work like a dog for 20+ years developing a bunch of skills that are invaluable to your family's mental and physical well-being, but worthless on the open market. Your kids leave home and you are left with a box of overpriced Beanie Babies, some old kids' potty seats and a few cracked pacifiers, and you have to take a job making $5.85 an hour folding clothes for rich working moms who shop at Ann Taylor. But no more! It turns out that other parents who are either too busy or too inept will pay dearly for our child-rearing talents. And I'm not talking about the drudgery of working twelve hour days as a nanny or baby nurse. I mean becoming highly compensated Child Life Specialists who are taking over the intimate, mundane responsibilities that are no...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 24, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (123)

On Balance Sing-A-Long

Okay, it's Friday and time to let loose and be creative. Welcome to the first annual On Balance Sing-a-Long parody contest. We are all the judges, as usual. Frighteningly, Fred has come up with the rules: 1. Song must relate to blogging and work/life balance somehow. 2. Song must parody a highly recognizable melody. 3. Good songs must relate to recent On Balance topics. 4. An even better song must also mention two or more posters. A parody with a regular On Balance theme such as breastfeeding, being a SAHM or SAHD, etc is also encouraged. 5. Length should be no more than six stanzas. 6. Regular washingtonpost.com decency rules apply! Violators' comments will be removed. Repeat offenders risk getting banned. 7. There are two prizes: A really nice comment from me suitable for framing and a virtual ride in Fred's Creepy Van (tm) with the Hula Girl....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 21, 2007; 7:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

Parenting Magazines and the Missing Fathers

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I've ended up at the pediatrician a couple of times in the last couple of months, which has given me the opportunity to catch up on my parenting magazine reading. For some strange reason, after my first was born, I started receiving these magazines -- Parents, Parenting and Child all appeared at one time or another -- for reasons I never really understood. (Perhaps they were gift subscriptions. If so, let me know and I'll send you a much-belated thank-you.) Eventually, the magazines stopped arriving. This was a good thing. Inevitably, reading through the issues, my blood pressure would rise. Even leaving aside the "beauty tips," nearly every article was explicitly targeted at moms, with story after story filled with "mom tips" or "mom advice" or "a real mom's story." It was as if half of the parents just didn't exist. In the pediatrician's office, I...

By Brian Reid | September 20, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Commutes and Balance

Author Jane Smiley, whose book A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, wrote the following about commutes and balance in her Mommy Wars essay: Work was ten minutes from home, which was five minutes from the day care, which was across the street from the grocery store, which was five minutes from the school, which was two minutes from home. This is the cardinal rule for "having it all"--have it all inside a very small perimeter. Almost no one lives like this in large metropolitan areas, unfortunately. Which leads us to the subject of "commutes and balance," the subject of a recent, memorable USA Today article sent in by Vegas Mom. Roughly 15 million Americans leave for work before dawn each day. Michigan mom Martha Perry leaves by 6 a.m. and doesn't get home until 7 or 7:30 p.m. She and her husband have one two-year-old child; her...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 19, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (208)

My Three Most Annoying Questions

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 Constance Thomas As an at-home working mother, I've found people repeat particular sayings that rub me the wrong way every time. Here are my three most annoying questions and comments and my answers. 1. "Do you work?" I often bite my tongue to stop myself from responding "Doesn't everybody work?" I can count on one hand the number of people I've met in my lifetime who would categorically respond that no, I don't work. Here's my typical response..."I work at home. No, no, I don't mean I'm a stay-at-home mom....

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

Moms in a Positive Light

Finally, a national publication has published an article about motherhood that I cannot attack for any reason: The New Mommy Track, which ran in U.S. News and World Report's Sept. 3 issue. The cover showed a happy mom (gasp) holding an equally happy-looking baby. The subtitle read: "More mothers are finding smart ways to blend work and family. How you can, too." Astonishingly, there was no guilt, negative innuendo, infuriating quotes, cherry-picked statistics, mixed messages, or hidden agendas. Instead the article was filled with realistic, practical advice from believable working and at-home mothers, and every statistic rang true. (At least to me.) Such as: * A new generation of American mothers are rejecting the "superwoman" image as well as the "soccer mom" stereotype. * The happiest moms are negotiating flexible schedules at work and fuller participation of fathers at home. * Women are rejecting the traditional rules of the working...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 17, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Crackberries, Cellphones and Balance

My five year old recently mastered dialing my husband and my cell phones. Since then, she calls me when I'm on date-night with her father, when I'm at yoga class, when I'm in meetings, when she is upstairs and I am downstairs. A few weeks ago, during a rare dinner out alone, my husband and I got five calls from her in twelve minutes. In an emergency, she could save her own life by making a phone call. Technology is wonderful. And sometimes it's not. A year ago, my husband agreed to limit his Blackberry to the first floor of our house after I complained about how unsexy it was to wake up to the buzzing black rectangle on my pillow. We now answer our daughter's calls -- the first time. She has learned to leave wonderfully entertaining voice-mail messages. I struggle myself with being an e-mail addict; I just...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 14, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (114)

Should Leave for Moms Equal Leave for Dads?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid As most of you know, family leave policies are one of my favorite hobby horses, and I have a pretty straightforward view of things: The more paid leave offered for the birth of a child, the better. Work-life balance is improved, worker retention is better and parents get time with the kids that they might not otherwise have had. Of course, in the United States, long paid leave isn't required by the government, so such policies aren't exactly standard. In fact, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, good leave policies are exceedingly rare. The IWPR looked at the 100 companies on Working Mother magazine's list of the most family-friendly workplaces and found that even among these standout companies, half provide six weeks of leave or less. That's pretty unimpressive. But even more interesting is how dads are viewed by these paragons of family-friendliness. Half...

By Brian Reid | September 13, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (114)

Women, Divorce and Money

I recently went to a Mommy Wars book club event where the subject turned to women, divorce and money. Many of the moms sitting around the host's living room admitted that they knew little of their family's finances -- busy with daily childcare and household management, these women had a "divide and conquer" strategy, with their husbands taking line management of the family's financial health. A few did not have a checking account or credit card in their own names. One at-home mom, married 21 years, said that watching her sister go through an ugly divorce changed her attitude. "I went to the bank and got my own account the next day," she explained ruefully. "You never know what's going to happen." Watching former CNN anchor Paula Zahn's personal and professional life implode over the last few months is a strong warning for all women. In March, tabloids reported that...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 12, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (132)

Anna's Journal 09-11-01

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 Gregory M. Cork As we approached the sixth anniversary of the day that pretty much changed everything, I reread my journal entry to my daughter Anna from 9/11/2001. Just as I hope that Anna will get something from this journal entry in years to come, I hope you get something from the entry now. September 11, 2001 Dear Anna, You'll learn about what happened in New York and in Washington today probably even before you start school. It's easily the most awful day your mother or father has been alive...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 11, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Down Side of Negotiating

Okay, you've all had a few months to reconsider your position on Asking for What We Are Worth and Gender-Based Taxation. A review of the facts: The gender pay gap starts within one year of college graduation. Women working full time earn 77 percent of the salaries of men working full time. In case you're thinking the differential is due to women's maternity leaves and time off to care for children, think again, because women who work full time and have never taken time off to have children earn about 11 percent less than men with equal educations and experience. To add to the brew, consider the findings in a recent Washington Post Science article Salary, Gender and the Social Cost of Haggling. Intrigued by the "pay gap", Professor Linda Babcock from Carnegie Mellon University and Hannah Riley Bowles from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government systematically studied gender differences when...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 10, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (81)

On Balance Recipe Swap

With everyone back to school and our insane fall schedules in full gear, what better way to find everyday balance than through a recipe swap from other overscheduled parents and friends. A few weeks ago several posters suggested this one, and accordingly, I'm thrilled to announce the first ever On Balance Recipe Swap. Especially because I'm a lousy, uninspired cook and I need all the help I can get. So bring on your tastiest, easiest, quickest, most nutritious recipe ideas. Here are mine (all two of them): Sauce Cook one package ground turkey meat in large skillet Add 1-2 jars of pre-made spaghetti sauce Add chopped fresh or canned tomatoes Optional: Add chopped carrots, onions, spices or a little white wine Simmer at least one hour (the longer the better) Serve on pasta, rice or solo for dinner, lunch or even breakfast (it's been known to happen!) Stephanie Chicken (Named...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 7, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (129)

Old New Parents

By Rebeldad Brian Reid When, at the tender age of 25, I sat in the waiting room before my wife's prenatal visit, I felt like some kind of teen father, surrounded by bulging bellies and nervous fathers who looked like they had at least a decade more of life under their belt. I figured it was a weird Washington phenomenon -- the average age of a mother having a first child was 24.9 in 2000 -- so I figured I was the normal one and didn't think too hard about it. Until last week. My erstwhile cube-mate Paul Nyhan at the Working Father blog pointed last week to a bevy of stats compiled by the National Centers for Health Statistics that show that it's not my imagination: The proportion of older parents is accelerating. The number of moms giving birth from age 35 to 39 was up 28 percent between...

By Brian Reid | September 6, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Passports and Child Protection

My vacation last week with my kids, our first trip outside the United States, nearly imploded due to a very good cause: Tighter U.S. passport restrictions. Although the new application procedures have caused headaches for millions of Americans and State Department employees (who are currently processing more than 500,000 applications per week to ease the backlog), the regulations directly benefit millions of American children. Most of us have heard of the new rules requiring passports for Americans traveling to the U.S. from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America. But two other changes that regulate children's and parents' passports are designed to safeguard kids -- and they seem to be working. The Passport Denial Program began in 1998 but is gaining widespread effectiveness. As reported in The New York Times Passport Rule Helps Collect Child Support (fee or subscription required), the State Department, working with the U.S. Department for Health...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 5, 2007; 6:30 AM ET | Comments (62)

Firing My Son

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 Paul Kidwell I just hired my son to design a web site for me. He's 15 years old with a strong talent for web design. I thought I'd help him fill some idle hours and put a few extra dollars into his wallet. After our initial meeting, the project seemed like it was moving forward. I had given him a fair deadline of two weeks. For his first "deliverable" I asked him to provide me with an estimate of how many hours he felt it would take him to design...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 4, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (114)

 

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