Archive: November 2007

Vacation Creep

So far this school year, my kids have had five holidays. Winter break starts on Thursday, Dec. 20 -- and school doesn't start again until more than two weeks later. By then, they will have had 71 full days of school and 16 vacation days. Plus a couple of sick days, here and there. That's less than five school days for every day off. Not exactly a real world scenario. In my last job, I had 10 paid vacation days a year, a sprinkling of national holidays like Thanksgiving and July 4th, balanced against roughly 243 days worked. With means I ALREADY would have used up all vacation taking care of my kids during their school breaks before the school year was half over. Now, don't get me wrong. I love vacation days with my kids. School is not meant to be daycare. I also am cognizant of the fact...

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

A Crash Course on Workplace Re-Entry

By Rebeldad Brian Reid One of the classic arguments against taking time away from career to raise kids is that even a few short years out of the workforce is enough to seriously damage long-term earning potential and professional advancement. For some, it's getting mommy-tracked (or daddy-tracked), and others don't even make it that far -- just getting back into the workforce is a significant obstacle. But if you have three days open in January, an advanced degree (MBA, JD, MA, or MBA) and $1,175, Baruch College in New York has a program for you: "Opting Back In," a program designed to allow participants to leave with: A professional-looking updated resume A personalized plan of action to return to work A personal pitch Refreshed negotiation skills A support network of like-minded individuals looking to return to work The cynical part of me scoffs at the whole deal: I can't imagine...

By Brian Reid | November 29, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (47)

Women at the Top

Very cool stand-alone section in last week's Wall Street Journal --The Fifty Women to Watch 2007 Report. Fortunately, I got the report before my nine-year-old daughter blacked out the front teeth and added curly mustaches on the women's 50 smiling faces. Here's the good news: * The women range in age from 32 to 61, across industries, countries and ethnicities. * Some have been stay-at-home moms, some have stay-at-home husbands, some have no children -- a diverse set of successful juggling acts. * Several started at McDonald's and as lowly "assistants" or entrepreneurs and made their way to the top through hard work and talent alone vs. educational or family connections. * Women at the top are mentoring other women to be their successors. * The Wall Street Journal, 2.7 million circulation, devotes a stand-alone report on women in business every year. And now the bad stuff: * Women still...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 28, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (27)

Mothering from Scratch

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 Amy Nathan When my son was three I became a new mom -- again. What I learned in those first few hours as the mother of two was more than I'd found in any book of maternal expectations. Although I was an expert at being my little boy's mom, when it came to my newborn daughter, I was mothering from scratch. I considered myself a veteran of the mommy wars. I'd survived preschool admissions and the carpool line. But only a few hours...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 27, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (83)

Mommy Tattoos

Tattoos have long been symbols of two metamorphoses: undying passion for a person, group or activity; and survival of trauma such as prison or war. Getting a tattoo marks you as a member of a club, whether it's a street gang, "Chitty Forever," or Harley-Davidson owners. So, it's hardly a surprise that moms are starting to get tattoos. Becoming a mother irrevocably changes us from one person into another. We give and get jewelry, professional photos, and keepsake ornaments to symbolize our undying passion for our child or children. Why not a tattoo to show our membership in the motherhood gang? After decades of 50 percent divorce rates, romantic love between two adults seems to have been replaced by romantic love between a mother and her child, and the growing popularity of mommy tattoos reflect this romanticization of mother-child love. You might break up with or get dumped by your...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 26, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (131)

Home for the Holiday

A frightening story: Rhode Island stay-at-home mom Katie Corcoran went missing on September 5, leaving behind her husband and two sons, four-year-old Thomas and nine-month-old Chase. Family and friends searched for her. Many feared she was dead. A happy ending was reported in the November 26 People Magazine: Earlier this month, a stranger found 35-year-old Katie living on the streets of Baltimore and contacted Rob through a Web site he had set up when Katie disappeared. Rob flew to Baltimore and asked Katie if she wanted to come home. Her simple reply: "Yes." It turns out she was suffering from postpartum psychosis, a rare mood disorder that affects only one to two in 1,000 women who have given birth. Although she had not experienced depression when Thomas was born in 2003, within weeks of Chase's birth in January, her husband Rob found her wandering the house at night. "She said...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 21, 2007; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

For Henry

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 Jill Lakin Schatz "Your baby knows how to be born." These words of a friend rang in my head during the delivery of my son, Henry, which was fairly brief and characterized by relief that he came out with all ten toes (I worried too much Diet Pepsi at the end of my pregnancy would reduce the number to nine). But did I know how to be a mother? The early months of motherhood were filled with trying to be the perfect mother;...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 20, 2007; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Unfair Prosperity

Good news: Two out of three Americans fall into the "upwardly mobile" category. According to new research from Pew Charitable Trusts tracking 2,367 nationally representative Americans over the past four decades, this means two-thirds have higher incomes than their parents. More good news: Standard-of-living growth was most evident among low income families; four out of five children born into the bottom 20 percent of wage earners surpassed their parents' income levels. However, improvements were split along race and gender lines. According to yesterday's New York Times Op-Ed essay by Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth, today nearly 70 percent of African-American babies are born out of wedlock and 45 percent of black households are headed by single moms. Downward mobility is a troubling trend among African Americans, with nearly half of black children born into middle class families slipping into the lowest income group within...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 19, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pajama Party

True Confession Friday: Some mornings, when there are no children awake to ask a favor from, I sneak outside in my pajamas to get the newspaper. (And I do sneak, quickly and quietly.) However, in the past two weeks, I was surprised to see the following: 1. A mom waiting with her child at the school bus stop in her nightgown. 2. Another mom walking her teenage son to school in sheer white pajamas without undergarments. I felt like stopping my car and lecturing each woman about public decency and setting an appropriate example for her children. Instead, I decided to ask you all what you wear outside in the mornings. Because maybe it is just me who thinks adults walking down the street in the morning in one's pjs sets the bar for decency awfully low. (At 2 a.m. after a few too many nightcaps is another story.) Do...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 16, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (95)

How Not to Write About Parenthood

In my little corner of the world, where news about dads is scrutinized as closely as the play-calling of Joe Gibbs, there's been a huge buzz around a first-person piece of daddyhood in this month's Men's Vogue. Penned by Pultizer Prize-winning war correspondent Charlie LeDuff, it details one man's move from the stereotypically macho to the saccharine-sweet. And while I think it is absolutely fabulous that LeDuff is loving at-home fatherhood and can't help but talk about it, the article is nonetheless symptomatic of everything wrong with first-person writing about family life, and it serves as a useful guide for what magazine (and newspaper) editors ought *not* to do: 1. The mere act of becoming a parent and experiencing the joy of raising a child is not, in itself, interesting. Parents probably already know that joy. Those without children probably don't want to hear additional prattling. Living an interesting life...

By Brian Reid | November 15, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Kids Come Second?

Two years ago, the New York Times Modern Love column ran an essay that got stuck, apparently permanently, in that large storage space between my ears where the mommy wars simmer. The author, Ayelet Waldman, wrote in Truly, Madly, Guilty that after four kids and 12 years together, she was still in love with her husband -- and that she was not in love with her children. "If a good mother is one who loves her child more than anyone else in the world, I am not a good mother," she wrote. "I am in fact a bad mother. I love my husband more than I love my children." Her candor set off a firestorm of criticism from other moms who wrote the Times angry letters and blogged in rage that a mother could place her husband above her children. And now someone else has reignited the debate. Despite commenters...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 14, 2007; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

View from the Front Lines

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 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 Peggy Drexler I've never liked the term: working mother. It says that I am some kind of sub-category; not a full member of the club. Maybe I'll feel better about it the day I hear someone called a "working father." The label combines a bit of praise for a super-human effort with a whiff of disapproval for the fact that balancing work and family means someone is getting short-changed. I was on the front lines of that conflict for many years. Then one day, I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 13, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Can Scandal Help a Woman's Career?

Here's a new gender-driven double standard: Can notoriety help, rather than hurt, a woman's career? In scandals surrounding Citigroup in the past year, two of three main players were male (the chairman and the chief of global investment) both of whom were forced to resign amidst allegations of impropriety and disastrous financial results. The third character, Maria Bartiromo, the host of CNBC's two-hour daily show The Closing Bell, has seen her career soar following the scandal. She's landed a slew of interviews with major political and business figures and has hit record ratings for CNBC, according to the New York Times As Citigroup Chief Totters, CNBC Reporter is Having a Great Year. Even her sexist moniker, The Money Honey, is a plus for her career -- so much so that Bartiromo has trademarked the nickname for herself. There are other noteworthy recent examples. Think Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 12, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (76)

Marathon Moms

Okay, I'm flabbergasted: The winner of this past Sunday's New York City marathon had a baby in January? I'm particularly impressed because I could not possibly have run a marathon 10 months after having a baby. Okay, I couldn't have run one at any point in my life before I had a baby, either. And Katie Holmes ran it, too, less than two years after having Suri and after training a mere three months? Whatever... But wait, wait -- there are a few things I've done since having a baby that have surprised me. I wrote a book between the hours of 9 p.m. to midnight every night, after working a full day at my job and wrangling my three young kids through dinner, baths, stories and into bed. I have put in a day's work and taken care of my kids -- good care -- after getting less than...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 9, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (99)

Balance and the Presidential Race

The 2007 elections are now over, which means you'll again be able to watch TV without seeing ads for candidates you've never heard of before. Instead, we can start thinking about the first Tuesday of next November, when the presidential candidates will most certainly clog up airwaves far worse than any would-be Virginia senators could....

By Brian Reid | November 8, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Baby Einstein and Other Paradoxes

In Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All, Time Magazine recently crowed that a study shows Baby Einstein and other "educational" videos for children under two are not just mental pablum, but actually hurt kids by potentially delaying language development. When Baby Einstein videos burst onto the mommy scene 10 years ago, targeting new moms with stats about how the programs stimulated children's brains, we were bad moms if we didn't buy them. Now we are bad moms if we did buy them. Although I never truly swallowed that these videos made children smarter, I always thought they were harmless ways to entertain a toddler while I got dinner ready, checked in with my mom or folded laundry. Now, it turns out I was a bad mom by letting my kids watch them. Which seems to always be the message for moms. Practically every decision we make regarding child-rearing has...

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

Including Samuel

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. Please note that this Guest Blog ran last Tuesday. Technical difficulties prevented many readers from seeing it. There is also an interview with Dan Habib and his wife Betsy McNamara in today's Washington Post Health section. By Dan Habib When Samuel was four years old, I sat at his hospital bedside as he lay in a medically-induced coma. He had developed pneumonia from complications following surgery. Samuel's neurologist, Dr. James Filiano, encouraged me to be a photojournalist in the midst of my fear. "You...

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

Queen Bees at Work

It's one of the thorniest, least-discussed issues for working women today: How to deal with the more senior woman who has sacrificed family for her career and believes that the "hard way" she got ahead is the only way to advance. Part-time, flex-time, staying home with a sick child, leaving work early to watch a soccer game -- you don't get leeway from her because no one gave her any sympathy when she was struggling to balance work and family (or no family). Today, we've got more than 40 years' worth of women entering U.S. colleges, graduate schools and professional workforces in record numbers. Workplace norms are changing rapidly -- I only have to think back to the floppy ties and slipped-off wedding rings that were common practices in the early 1990s when I got out of graduate school. Today, it's natural that we see generation gaps among working mothers...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 5, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

On Balance Potluck

Two weeks ago we dissected potluck pros, cons and protocols. The discussion got an idea cooking: Let's have our own potluck. No need to RSVP, since rsvp-ing for a potluck defeats the simplicity of an easy way to get-together. But tell us: Where should we go? What should we bring? Can we serve hootch online? (This may violate Wash Post policies; I'd better check.) Should we include kids or not? Spouses? Mothers-in-law? I think so -- the more the better and I'd love to see everyone's families. I call dessert -- my pseudo-homemade chocolate chip cookies that taste better than made-from-scratch. What will you bring? Note: On Balance has a new platform for our widget. If you downloaded the On Balance widget to your site before yesterday, it may not work for much longer, so you should grab the new one using the widget link below....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 2, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (141)

The Worst Things to Say

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, I wrote about some of the more frustrating questions and accusations that I had to field as a parent. The Wall Street Journal's Juggle Blog took up the topic a couple of days later, coming up with some of the most common doozies that they've heard. But we're only scratching the surface. I'd like to present the top four worst questions for go-to-work and at-home parents, and I hope you all will top these with your own in the comments section. The four worst things to say to an at-home parent: Don't you miss adult interaction? (Compared to what? Sitting in a cubicle hammering away at a keyboard for 8 hours a day?) Do you think you're being a good role model for your kids? (Yup. I'm happy. And I'm sure seeing a happy parent is every bit as important for role modeling as...

By Brian Reid | November 1, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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