Archive: October 2007

Political Babies

Did anyone read Libby Copeland's Washington Post article yesterday about political insiders planning their babies around election cycles -- instead of ovulation cycles? The article was cute-silly titled Blue or Pink States. It was a tetch annoying in that inside-the-Beltway Washington way (mentioning lots of political couples that most people, including me, have never heard of). But the article focused on an essential question that affects many normal folks outside Washington politics: How far can you go in terms of planning pregnancies around major events in your career? Are you playing God if you wait to get pregnant until after a major milestone such as turning 30, getting a promotion or making partner? Is plotting your babymaking distasteful, wise, disgusting, or purely practical? All of the above, is my answer. Of course some people plan babies around their work goals. This doesn't make work more important than children -- it's...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 31, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Assistants On The Treadmill

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 Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Maggie Leifer McGary I was watching Oprah while I was on the treadmill one morning last week and Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, was the guest. She has a new book out, Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), the premise of which is the concept of the "360 degree life;" e.g. work/life balance. Oprah's cameras followed Black through her typical day: treadmill at 6:30 a.m., dash to the office, meetings, event after work, then home...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 30, 2007; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Going Childfree

We've heard from happily child-free people on this blog in No Kids For Me. We've gotten stories about people going to extreme measures to have children in Ladies, Freeze Your Eggs. I've tackled my own mixed feelings about having kids in Can Freedom and Kids Co-Exist?. Now there's a large-scale study exploring the subject: Dr. Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, a University of Florida sociologist, and colleague Gretchen Pendell anaylzed two surveys of 11,043 adults 25 and older to assess attitudes about childlessness in America by asking such questions as whether "it is better to have a child than to remain childless" and whether "the main purpose of marriage these days is to have children." The results, announced last week by a University of Florida press release, are published in the November issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. Acceptance of childlessness by both men and women has clearly been gaining ground...

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

Balance Amidst the California Wildfires

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday (or in special cases like this one, on other days), "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. Your essay will be published using your full name. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Barbara A. Rose I've never faced the typical home and work balancing act, as I don't have children and am not married. But I know what balance is now. In southern California where I live, starting this past Monday every television channel dumped its regular programming to broadcast about the wildfire emergency caused by the Santa Ana winds. Calls went out for volunteers and materiel at Qualcomm Stadium. Requests were made...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 26, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (57)

Truth or (How) Dare (You)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Of all of the balancing acts carried out each day -- work vs. family, time with kid one vs. time with kid two, the need for sleep vs. the need for exercise, eat in vs. order out -- one of the ones that still vexes me is the response to judgmental comments from the parenting peanut gallery: explain vs. ignore. This came up a few weeks ago when I let it slip that we were a formula family. There is an excellent medical reason for this -- physicians for both my wife and our daughter said nursing was out of the question at the time. And while neither my wife nor I has been chastised in person lately (the little one is old enough to render the whole formula/breast thing moot) it brought back memories of all the questions we did receive about our choice of...

By Brian Reid | October 25, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (273)

Is the Car the New Dining Room?

I've heard it a million times: Part of raising kids right is eating dinner together as a family every night. In our family, our three kids eat dinner together around 5 p.m.; my husband and I cherish our 9 p.m. dinners together once we've put the kids to bed. So, I've wondered every time I heard the "family dinner" advice: How come I don't feel like we're missing out? And then I figured it out. In our family, our minivan is our dining table. The place where we talk about our day. Squabble. Report test scores. Give the blow-by-blow on whose best friend is no longer her best friend and why. We spend at least an hour a day in the car together. It's our family time. Some might think this pathetic, or clear evidence of the decline in American family values. Not me. I'm just relieved to have discovered...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 24, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (100)

Church Moms

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. Your essay will be published using your full name. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life. By Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans She caught up with me as I walked away from the church. That Sunday morning, I had been leading worship at our 1,500-member contemporary evangelical church service. I was the only woman priest on the four-person clergy staff. My husband, also a priest, served in another parish. Our daughter was in first grade at a public school near our home, and our son was in the Pre-K class at the church day school. As a trailblazer -- the...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 23, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Perfect Man?

After 42 years of searching, I've found the perfect man. My apologies to the most important man in my life: It's not you, honey. It's a total stranger who took a year off to care for his daughter and lived to tell the tale of playgrounds, playdates, the joys of having a glass of wine with the stay-at-home mom crowd, and surviving interrogation from his hard-charging doctor father (What do you do all day? When are you going back to work? I never changed a diaper -- why are you?). I spied Brian Braiker's October 8 Newsweek article Just Don't Call Me Mr. Mom over the shoulder of a gray-bearded gent on an airplane last week. I was prepared to hate Mr. Braiker, a Newsweek staffer and father of two. Did he expect glorification for attempting, for 12 measly months, what millions of women do every day for our entire...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 22, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (103)

Volunteer Vampires

I have three kids ages 10 and under, which means I've been to three back-to-school potlucks since school started six weeks ago. For each potluck, I received a colorful printed invitation in the mail. I also got three reminder e-mails from the volunteer parents (coincidentally or not, all happened to be moms) organizing the events. My husband got them, too. We got hounded about whether we were coming because the volunteers needed to know how many folding chairs to set up. We got e-mails telling us what to bring according to the first letter of our last name. For the most recent event, the volunteer mom flagged me down as I was rushing from school to work. She wanted to confirm -- a week before the potluck -- exactly what side dish I was bringing. When I got the cute invitations, I smiled. When I got the first e-mail, I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 19, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (154)

Looking Across Cultures for Good Family Models

By Rebeldad Brian Reid In the latest family-focused issue of "Greater Good," a social science magazine, one of the lead essays introduces two families enrolled in a multi-year study of the American family: the Evanses, a standard-issue, two-kid, two-income suburban clan, and the Lopezes, a six-person Mexican-American family headed by first-generation immigrants with three jobs between the two parents. The question? Which of the two families "enjoys a greater quality of life and tighter family bonds?" The authors suggest that the Lopez family, despite the external stresses, are better off in the family department, in no small part because the work-life balance issues that bedevils many Anglo-American families (and, indeed, have given rise to this blog) are countered by tighter family bonds of all sorts. The authors of the piece, Ross Park, Ph.D., the director of the Center for Family Studies at the University of California, Riverside; Scott Coltrane, Ph.D,...

By Brian Reid | October 18, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (99)

Unbalancing Halloween

When I was a kid, Halloween "tricks" meant shaving cream, toilet paper, and a few sketchy rumors about razors in apples and spiked candies. But like everything about childhood in the United States, Halloween has changed dramatically, in ways that kids (and parents) 30 years ago wouldn't have believed possible. Exhibit A: Sprint Nextel offers products that "Make Halloween a Treat" including the Spring Family Locator, a GPS feature that allows parents to slip a phone or PC into a child's costume and then track their location without interrupting the child's activities. The Locator gives the address and surrounding landmarks within a specified radius so you can "follow" your child during trick-or-treating, even if they're too old for you to tag along. All for just $9.99 a month. Sprint also has FamilyWatchdog Mobile, which allows parents to use their phones to view maps of where registered sex offenders live and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 17, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (83)

Doctor Mom

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 S. Aziz A friend asked me recently, "How's it going juggling work and family?" I paused. I knew the right answer was, "Really well! I love my job. I love being a mom. Blah blah blah." Before I could say anything she said, "You must be really good at it now that you've been doing it for a year." In my mind I ran through the last year. I have a fifteen-month-old now who is adorable. I'm a doctor at a hospital 45 minutes from home. Even with my limited...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 16, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (70)

The Happiness Curse

The Washington Post Science page recently covered a decidedly non-scientific subject: happiness. Turns out there is a study, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, testing the idea that happiness is the sum of positive and negative events that happen to us each day, instead of longer-term achievements such as a stable marriage, children or economic security. "Researchers found that people need a certain ratio of positive to negative events to be happy," the article explained. The problem for Americans, who report being generally happier than people from most other countries, is that we are too happy. "Being happy raises your expectations about being happy. When good things happen, they don't count for much because they are what you expect. When bad things happen, you temporarily feel terrible, because you've gotten used to being happy." Finally, a scientific answer: We'd be happier if we were unhappier....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 15, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (90)

What Kind of Helicopter Parent Are You?

According to ABC News' Helicopter Parents Hover Over Kids' Lives, an ongoing nationwide study of parents conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has dissected today's overinvolved parents and placed us in the following five categories (which I have embellished based on real-life experience): Black Hawk Parent -- Gets angry and often overreacts to real or perceived slights to child such as a disappointing grade, exclusion from a party, rejection from private school or college. Goes straight to the top (teacher, principal, coach, admissions head, etc) when upset about treatment of child and has hard time seeing other parents', children's, or administrators' perspectives. Toxic Parent -- Overly involved in child's development to the point of occasional paranoia. May Install nannycam in infant's room. Schedules playdates with every child in kindergarten to make sure kid is "popular." Logs onto teenager's MySpace page to research friends, activities, and social...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 12, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (102)

Newsmagazines Discover Dads!

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Time and Newsweek have both discovered fathers this month. To be more specific, they have discovered that 21st century fathers may have some traits make them different from the pops of past generations: They're diaper-changing guys who aren't afraid to sit down to a tea party with a doll and a couple of stuffed rabbits. Time's take was the more comprehensive of the two and nails all of the biological research and demographic stats that confirms the trend, though the story would have been far better if they gave up on their obsession with the pointless question of whether being a dad means being less of a man. But even after reading through the stories, no one they really defined what the "new father" really looks like. That omission of the standards for fatherhood in 2007 left me a little cold about the recent mini-boom in...

By Brian Reid | October 11, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (105)

Confidence Game

In California on a business trip last month, I met a mom with two kids who'd graduated from business school in the late 1990s. She'd been home with the kids for five years, she explained, but was looking to go back. I assumed she'd return to the field she'd entered after business school. "I want to go into something non-profit," she said instead. Now, I firmly believe that nonprofit careers are tremendously rewarding, but my heart sank a bit from the ambivalence etched on my new friend's face. I suspected I knew what she was thinking. Over the years, I've studied working and stay-at-home moms, I've met dozens of successful former lawyers and businesswomen in a range of lucrative fields who lose their confidence after staying home for a few years. They assume they can't return to their original fields, despite their successful track records. They erroneously think going into...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 10, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

From Single Girl to Supermom

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 R. Freeman Balance has suddenly become my big issue. I always assumed, being the child of parents under 50, that I'd have decades before I dealt with end-of-life issues first-hand, and that my kids would be grown and I'd be settled in my career by then. I'm 28, and have been married for two years. I work for a large software development firm, doing process quality analysis, a job which I didn't think I'd like until I started doing it a year and a half ago. My partner is a...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 9, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (40)

Rerun of Your Choice

Today is Columbus Day, a holiday for some, and a holiday for On Balance. So please go check out the On Balance archives, where nearly 400 white hot discussions are waiting for you. Remember We've Raised a 'Me' Generation? The Opt-Out Myth? Rally for Breast-Feeding Rights? To Keep or Not Keep Your Maiden Name? People of Cleavage? We've got a lot of gems in the On Balance archives. Pick your favorite and tell us all about it. See you tomorrow!...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 8, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

Moving Truck in the Driveway

Yesterday, I visited my good friend Michele, who has two sons ages five and five months. Michele is in the process of moving, a word I can barely utter without hyperventilating. Her house was filled with large brown boxes, packing tape, pacifiers, baby bottles, diapers and a breast pump on the dining room table. Tension, stress and endless details swirled like dust mottles throughout the house. For me, the only appropriate response to the idea of moving with small children is to hold up my fingers in the sign of the cross, a la the Exorcist. I recently counted the number of times I've moved in my life: 24 times in 42 years. I figure that's enough for one lifetime. Especially now that I have three kids and moving has gone from an expensive experience in soul-numbing exhaustion to legitimate cause for several nervous breakdowns. Planning, packing, unpacking, finding new...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 5, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (80)

Is the Quest for Balance a Joke?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My fellow dad-blogger, Paul Nyhan of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has given up on the whole balance thing. He declared last week, in a post titled "Work-Family Balance is a Joke," that there is no sweet spot of work and family and soccer and violin and date nights that will leave every member of the family happy and energized at all times. The best you can hope for is to embrace the chaos and live for the moment. In a way, Paul is right. You can't live a serene life when there is a kid involved, and the more kids, the more nuttiness. This is an immutable fact, a derivation of the second law of thermodynamics. I know that there exist out there "slacker" parents who proudly hew to the noble and shrinking tradition of letting the kids do what they may, but even that comes with...

By Brian Reid | October 4, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (66)

How We Fight

Add this query to that list couples are supposed to talk about before getting married: Do you like to fight? Because a 10-year study of 4,000 Massachusetts men and women shows how married couples argue directly affects their physical health. Women who "self silence" during arguments were four times as likely to die during the decade-long study period vs. women who openly told their husbands how they felt, according to Marital Spats, Taken to Heart in yesterday's New York Times. It didn't matter whether the woman described her marriage as a happy or unhappy one. Another study that videotaped couples arguing, conducted by a psychology professor at the University of Utah, showed that the way a couple fights can be as important a risk factor in heart disease as smoking or high cholesterol. "When you're suppressing communication and feelings during conflict with your husband, it's doing something very negative to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 3, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (117)

I'm the Mommy

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 Kamyra L. Harding I am the Afro-Caribbean-American mother of a bi-racial preschooler. My son is pale like his father. People often assume that I am my son's nanny. Or a black sitter for a white child. Or a family friend, stepmother or aunt by marriage. This never happens when the three of us are together; I guess we interact like an obvious family unit. For four years I've struggled with my reaction to this assumption. Long ago, I lost interest in the socio-economic, political messages. My feelings have disintegrated from...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 2, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (160)

Pitfalls of Dating Down

When talking about salaries on this blog, most of my time has been spent pondering the frustrating injustice of the gender pay gap. On average, women in this country earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Unfair indeed. We now have a different pay gap to examine. Last Sunday, the New York Times explored Putting Money on the Table: With Rising Incomes, Young Women Discover the Pitfalls of "Dating Down." Despite the odd placement in the Sunday Styles section (how does women's earning power qualify as style?), the revelations were fascinating. Young women are catching up -- indeed, surpassing, men. At least in New York. According to the article and another piece that ran in August, the median income of women age 21 to 30 in New York who are employed full time was 17 percent higher than that of comparable men. The new pay gap...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 1, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (151)

 

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