Can You Teach Kids About Balance?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Last week, Leslie asked about the utility of work-life balance classes for all of us, an idea that seemed to be relatively warmly received. But it got me thinking: If classroom education about balance is good at age 30 or 40 or 50, what should we be teaching our high school kids about it? Our sixth graders? Kindergartners?

There seem to be a couple of keys to the whole work-life thing. One is organization. It's nearly impossible to maintain a rich home and work routine when things are a mess. And the second is compromise -- the ladder-climbing workaholics invariably sacrifice personal or family time to get that corner office.

There's no trick to emphasizing organization with kids (though getting them organized is a whole other matter), but I have a hard time teaching the idea of compromise. I can't see the benefit of warning my kids about the maddening reality that it is nearly impossible to be the world's authority in your chosen field while maintaining a robust home life.

My kids are still at the age where I want them to believe that they really succeed at everything. Heck, I was even piqued earlier this week when I real Laura Sessions Stepp's piece in the Health section, suggesting that perhaps learning to do it all was less important for girls than "constructing a well-balanced life."

"Constructing a well-balanced life" hardly seems like a worthwhile goal for the teenage years (or younger), when everything ought to seem possible. Maybe a discussion of work-life balance isn't ripe until the 20s, when most of us start learning about life the hard way.

Right now, I'm opting for the path of least resistance with my kids, trying to teach balance by example (both good and bad). But that hardly seems like the best approach. How have some of you more veteran parents balanced the desire to tell your children they can do anything with the reality that doing it all is close to impossible?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  January 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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Its not about placing limits on their aspirations as much as understanding that there are only so many hours in the day. We allow each child two activities at a time. e.g. dance and Brownies or soccer and Tennis. WHy because there are only 7 days in a week and it is also important to be well rested and spend time as a family. If you model it for them they will make good choices. They need to understand that all choices have consequences so if my daughter wants to be the next Indiana Jones, she needs to know that maintaining a marriage and having children may be something she will need to sacrifice.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 17, 2008 7:46 AM

"How have some of you more veteran parents balanced the desire to tell your children they can do anything with the reality that doing it all is close to impossible?"

I don't think the way you do, so I didn't have this struggle.

Setting an example is the best way to teach.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 17, 2008 8:04 AM

Hi all, long time no see.

Brian, for what it's worth, I monitor some blogs run by some younger 20-something adults (long story) who universally see Laura Sessions Stepp as hypocritical and out-of-touch. There is a long list of reasons for this, not the least of which is her 60's-era view of young women and their place in society vis relationships. You may want to re-think citing her as a source of credible information.

2 cents.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | January 17, 2008 8:06 AM

I can only assume that it was someone who worked at Capitol One who put in the fraudulent application because why else would it suddenly have been deleted?

I am getting nowhere with the fraud department or anywhere else at Capitol One--do any of you know what other recourse I might have? I HATE the idea that Capitol One is now messing with my identity and hate feeling so powerless.

Thanks and sorry for the totally off topic post.

Posted by: maggielmcg | January 17, 2008 8:45 AM

Holy cow - what's going on today? I agree with chitty.

"I don't think the way you do, so I didn't have this struggle.

Setting an example is the best way to teach."

Well said.

Welcome back, ProudPapa - glad to have you back!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 17, 2008 8:47 AM

Sorry--I only posted half of my totally off topic post--sorry for the repeat ...

****
Sorry--this is completely off topic but I'm hoping someone might be able to give me some advice about identity theft. I found out via my credit report that someone used my social security number to apply for a Capitol One credit card. I have been speaking with Capitol One for three days now and they confirmed--multiple times--that there had indeed been a fraudulent application using my social security number. They were going to give me a copy of the fraudulent application so I could would have the name and address of the person who stole my identity but yesterday the "system was down" and they said call back later and ask for a copy of the fraudulent application.

I called back today and spoke to at least 10 different people, all of whom now say that there is nothing in their system about this--no application under my social security number, etc.

I can only assume that it was someone who worked at Capitol One who put in the fraudulent application because why else would it suddenly have been deleted?

I am getting nowhere with the fraud department or anywhere else at Capitol One--do any of you know what other recourse I might have? I HATE the idea that Capitol One is now messing with my identity and hate feeling so powerless.

Thanks and sorry for the totally off topic post.

Posted by: maggielmcg | January 17, 2008 8:53 AM

Maggie: One thing to do is to ask for a supervisor (but I'm assuming you've done this?).

The next step is to tell them you will be filing a complaint with the banking commissioner (your state or theirs - which is Virginia). That usually gets them helping you quickly. If not, then actually FILE A COMPLAINT which isn't so difficult, with the banking commissioner - you should be able to find all the information you need on line.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 8:58 AM

Maggie, I think the best thing you could do is call the different credit reporting agencies and put a freeze on your account. Beyond that I don't have much to recommend.

On Topic - I think this American idea of "You can do and be anything" is a real double edged sword. While we want our children to have limitless options and achieve their dreams, we do them a disservice when we don't recognize that they do have limits as we all do. We act as if every child can and would be happy being a CEO when in reality there is a whole group of people better suited for trade work. When we push every child into college we set a certain number of them up for failure, just like the families that send their kids to audition for American Idol when they can't sing. Its a fine line, but I think our high schools could do a better job helping kids discover what their strengths and joys are and then help them find an appropriate path as opposed to the idea that college is the be all end all for every student.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 17, 2008 9:04 AM

Agreed, Moxiemom. College at 18 isn't for everyone (or any age, for some people).

We're saving for college for the kids, but I say all the time that if the kids don't want to go, then I will not force them. It is(or can be) a lot of money, that if they are not ready or serious for, then why should I spend it? My husband doesn't necessarily agree, but he said they're little, we have a lot of time to discuss.

Of course, they're not going to be sitting on the couch playing video games either. I'll charge them rent if they're living at home, and if I'm not happy with what they're doing - rent might go up (not that I wouldn't be okay with them taking a min. wage job, but I wouldn't be okay if they were only working, say, 10 hours a week or something like that). They could then learn how much it s*cks to work for min wage and how education would give you opportunities.

But if they would want to be, say, a pastry chef, and not go to college, but go to culinary school - that is fine. That would not have been fine if I said that to my parents when I was younger. They had certain expectations about what they wanted me to do, and going to a four year college was one of them. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty happy with everyone getting an education, but not everyone is suited for the same thing.

I suspect my kids will know that education is important to my husband and I since we have four degrees between us.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 9:11 AM

I would like to see our high schools make sure the kids can read at grade level, write a grammatically correct sentence, and balance a check book before they put them in the college pipeline. Oh, and make sure they register to vote. After that they can talk about college.

Posted by: babsy1 | January 17, 2008 9:15 AM

"Setting an example is the best way to teach."

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 17, 2008 08:04 AM

One would think so, and certainly my wife and I try to follow the example of our parents, and hope that our children will follow our example. However, even the ancients realized that this does not always work:

"Damnosa quid non imminuit dies?
Aetas parentum, peior avis tulit
Nos nequiores, mox daturos
Progeniem vitiosiorem."
-- Horace, Odes III.6, published 23 B.C.

["What do the harmful days not render less?
Worse than our grandparents' generation, our
parents' then produced us, even worse,
and soon to bear still more sinful children."
-- translation by Tony Kline]

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 17, 2008 9:23 AM

My mom was always neat and organized and nobody appreciated what she did, so I rebelled by being a total slob. I'm better now, but she tried to teach me by example and by telling me what to do.

I think it all depends on the kid. We make our daughters do a list of chores to make it easier for the whole family and easier for them to get out the door in the morning. It has more to do with overall balance for the whole family, not them balancing their own lives, but maybe it will help them when they do the same with their kids.

Amy
Mom to 3
www.sofiabean.com

Posted by: amy | January 17, 2008 9:28 AM

I agree with Chitty re teaching by example -- with the exception that parents who had fewer chances in life may aspire for their children to do better, whether via more education (academic, technical or vocational, as Atlmom aptly pointed out) than the parents were able to get, through military service, or by finding other opportunities.

I agree with Moxie that schools can help students find and develop their interests and strengths. Alas, not everyone has what it takes to do whatever they think they may want to do in life -- e.g., I'll never be an artist because I simply lack the talent, and a tone-deaf person shouldn't be allowed to become a musician (let's hope, although it's hard to tell with some nowadays!) -- but with luck and perseverance they'll find their niche sooner or later.

Finally, Happy New Year to ProudPapa -- it's good to hear from you again, as sometimes it feels kinda lonely being a liberal on this blog in your absence ;-)

Posted by: mehitabel | January 17, 2008 9:29 AM

Amy

"My mom was always neat and organized and nobody appreciated what she did, so I rebelled by being a total slob. "


Darwinism takes its course....

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 17, 2008 9:31 AM

I agree with those who say that balance is taught by example. I could hardly expect my children to live balanced lives if I didn't do so myself. I think that if they see their parents happy with their own lives and doing things that make them fulfilled, they will tend to do the same.

But specifically, for us personally, it means not joining sports teams that require them to forego all other sports and activities because of the practice and travel schedule and the monetary and time cost to the family, i.e. not spending 3 out of the 4 weekends a month attending soccer tournaments hours from our home. Having time EACH day to spend with friends and family. Not attending schools where so much emphasis is put on homework that it interferes with the rest of the child's life (this has been a happy luck of the draw for us, but I would like to think I would take a stand against unrealistic homework if I was put in that position.) Participating in a balanced slate of activities including music, sports, community service, social.

Posted by: fake99 | January 17, 2008 9:32 AM

Maggie, re: atlmom's suggestion: It looks like you'd have to contact the OCC regarding a complaint because Capital One is nationally chartered.

From http://www.scc.virginia.gov/division/banking/complaint.htm

(the website of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, Bureau of Financial Institutions):

"Commercial banks having the word "National" or using the title "N.A." (national association) in their title, are organized under and subject to federal law. Requests for information or complaints concerning these national banks should be directed to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (phone 1-800-613-6743)."

From Cap One's website:

"Capital One, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, is a financial holding company whose principal subsidiaries are Capital One Bank, Capital One, N.A., and Capital One Auto Finance Inc."

For the OCC's website, see http://www.occ.gov/AntiFraudConsumer.htm

Other than that, I don't have any good suggestions, except to follow up with the credit bureaus and keep looking for a higher-up at Cap One.

(When I had this problem recently with Chase Bank, it was handled satisfactorily in a very short time, fortunately for me. Note that they WOULD NOT supply me with a copy of the fraudulent application, but they did provide the details and provided important info to the authorities in Florida, from where the application was filed.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 17, 2008 9:33 AM

"My mom was always neat and organized and nobody appreciated what she did, so I rebelled by being a total slob. I'm better now, but she tried to teach me by example and by telling me what to do. I think it all depends on the kid. We make our daughters do a list of chores to make it easier for the whole family and easier for them to get out the door in the morning. It has more to do with overall balance for the whole family, not them balancing their own lives, but maybe it will help them when they do the same with their kids."

But you're confusing teaching balance with teaching responsibility. They might be related a bit, but I don't think that making your child do chores will necessarily teach them to live a balanced life. They'll learn how to do household chores earlier than you did, sure - maybe they'll keep neat homes themselves starting with their first apartment. But that doesn't mean that they won't be workaholics who don't have time for their families, or slackers who can't keep a job thus can't support their families.

Posted by: fake99 | January 17, 2008 9:51 AM

The most important key for "having it all" is recognizing that *you* define that final word. If you really want something -- if it's your 'all' -- then you will have the devotion, interest, energy etc to go for it and will enjoy doing so. Having it all does not mean acquiring every skill, interest, product that every else has or believes you should have. It means having what is the key to your own happiness. The people who truly have it all do so because they've not let others weigh them down with stuff that doesn't truly matter.

Posted by: topicaltimely | January 17, 2008 9:54 AM

Thank you so much for the advice--I feel so much better knowing I'm not totally powerless with regard to Capitol One. And I did freeze my credit--thanks.

On topic--I could not agree more with moxie. I think the DC area is unique in that it's a given that every kid needs to go to college. Around here it's ok to end up being a pastry chef or a mechanic--but only after you've graduated from college. Then it's considered "artsy" or something, not just that the kid couldn't hack it in the "real" business world. To announce that your kid is deciding to take "a year off" after graduating high school is like admitting that she/he got arrested or something.

My husband grew up in Western Mass and there they had and still have a two-track educational system--college track and vocational track. I never heard of anything like that around here, or at least not in Montgomery County.


Posted by: maggielmcg | January 17, 2008 10:00 AM

My high school had two tracks, but there was a huge stigma attached to vocational. My parents thought (they never went to college) that a college degree was the be all and end all, that one was guaranteed to have a job, security, etc. Obviously, that's not true - it might have been once, blahblahblah.

It was very strange, because my dad's sister and bro had not only college degrees, but higher education, and he maybe took some classes at some point. But it was my MOM who insisted we go to college, that they save for it, etc, my dad never had much faith in higher education (he'd always say we were majoring in 'bar' cause he thought all we did was drink at school). No one in my mom's family went to college - until her first cousins (who were a few years older than US - about 15-20 years younger than her) and they were boys (and only 2 of 3 of them went anyway).

So my mom's take was that we should get jobs where we work in an office - and they should never be hourly. Which is kind of contradictory to what has actually evolved in the workplace - where there are TONS of people who are making a fine living being consultants and who work hourly.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 10:21 AM

"How have some of you more veteran parents balanced the desire to tell your children they can do anything with the reality that doing it all is close to impossible?"

As a preliminary thought, we never had the desire to blow smoke up our children's tuckuses with this "you can do anything" excrement, so there's no balancing act.

OTOH, I don't think it's sufficient to merely model balance, without providing your kids with the back story. Do you have balance because you chose industries and careers wisely? Did your parents pay for your undergrade and/or graduate education freeing you from education debt? Did you marry, or break-up with, a spouse who wanted to stay home with the kids? About two weeks ago, we discussed with our son how we reached the decision for me to pursue a legal career, e.g., what our lives and job prospects looked like at that time, the various paths we could have pursued, what our Ben Franklin list looked like, and how we think our decision worked out. If a kid only sees the life his parents have developed over time, as it is today, he may not have the facts he needs to develop a balanced life for himself.

welcome back, ProudPapa.

Re: identity theft. As you no doubt know, identity theft is a crime under Virginia (as in most states) law. Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-186.3. Consider contacting the Virginia attorney general's office.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 17, 2008 10:28 AM

Gershwin said it best:

I got plenty of nothing
And nothing's plenty for me
I got no car - got no mule
I got no misery

Folks with plenty of plenty
They've got a lock on the door
Afraid somebody's gonna rob 'em
While there out (a) making more - what for

I got no lock on the door - that's no way to be
They can steal the rug from the floor - that's OK with me
'Cause the things that I prize - like the stars in the skies - are all free.

Posted by: anonfornow | January 17, 2008 10:40 AM

important things to teach:

NO ONE can do it all, and it's harmful to try. You are teaching your kids this whether you realize it or not. Either you are openly trying to do ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, failing (necessarily, though you might not recognize it), and being perpetually frazzled as a result; OR you are making choices about which things are important for you to devote time to. The kids see it either way and learn it, consciously or unconsciously.

I think it's really fascinating that parents think that teenagers should be allowed to believe that ANYTHING is possible while they're teens, then they should go through "the necessary disillusionment" in their 20s. For me and for alot of my friends, I fell into a horrible depression in my 20s when I went through this "necessary disillusionment." I think that's completely unnecessary. What's wrong with telling a 6th-grader the actual statistics about how many people actually become astronauts or NBA stars? What's wrong with teaching that fulfillment is found in ordinary life, NOT only after you achieve (a very statistically unlikely) super-stardom? In my opinion, teaching realistic expectations about life would NOT stifle the driving instincts teens and 20-somethings have to succeed: it would allow them to channel their energies properly, toward realistic and satisfying goals.

How is that NOT better than being told your whole life, "Oh sure, you can be an astronaut, if you just work hard and study!" then spending years chasing that goal, then being turned down by NASA, and having no idea what to do with your life, since clearly the possibility of 'true fulfillment' has been "stolen" from you?

Why is it looked down upon to guide young people toward realistic goals for themselves?! I am a HUGE proponent of vocational high schools. A lot of kids know they want to be mechanics or bricklayers or whatever, and it's a FAR better use of their time (and taxpayer money!) to train them in a useful vocation than it is to shove them towards college if they aren't suited for it.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 17, 2008 10:41 AM

"How have some of you more veteran parents balanced the desire to tell your children they can do anything with the reality that doing it all is close to impossible?"

As a preliminary thought, we never had the desire to blow smoke up our children's tuckuses with this "you can do anything" excrement, so there's no balancing act.

OTOH, I don't think it's sufficient to merely model balance, without providing your kids with the back story. Do you have balance because you chose industries and careers wisely? Did your parents pay for your undergrade and/or graduate education freeing you from education debt? Did you marry, or break-up with, a spouse who wanted to stay home with the kids? About two weeks ago, we discussed with our son how we reached the decision for me to pursue a legal career, e.g., what our lives and job prospects looked like at that time, the various paths we could have pursued, what our Ben Franklin list looked like, and how we think our decision worked out. If a kid only sees the life his parents have developed over time, as it is today, he may not have the facts he needs to develop a balanced life for himself.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 17, 2008 10:28 AM

mn: HURRAH! HURRAH! If every parent took your approach, and had some open and revealing conversations with their teens, disillusionment in your 20s and "The Quarter-Life Crisis" would be FAR less common. Your approach is EXACTLY what I plan to do, and I'm thrilled to hear that it actually works!!!!

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 17, 2008 10:46 AM

newslinks: most of that is good - but I think for kids, it's great to dream. My five YO says he's going to be a motorcycle rider (I'm not sure how well that pays). When we are talking about something or other and I say: maybe you can be suchandsuch when you grow up - he ALWAYS answers with (and you can hear the attitude, even though this is the web): Moooom: I'm going to be a *motorcycle rider*!

I think it's fine for him to do that - in any case, it's not like I could argue with him to change his mind, ya know.

And I don't think that having dreams and aspirations are bad. They are very good. BUT - as I think someone said - kids/adults need to learn that if they work hard at something, they may still fail, and that's okay - they shouldn't be defined by whatever it is. Similar to the discussion yesterday that turned into a fertility discussion - I think that's one of the most difficult things - there are plenty of people dealing with it - many of them have 'worked hard' for whatever they have, they think: okay, now I'll get pregnant. And it's a totally random thing whether one is fertile or not (some factors may apply, age, prescriptions one is one, etc) but reality is, it's random, there's nothing anyone did to be or not be fertile, etc. - and yet, for some, no matter how hard they 'work' at it, they may never have biological kids.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 10:51 AM

mn: Are you saying you shouldn't start reading the book in the middle - LOL?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 17, 2008 10:51 AM

"Why is it looked down upon to guide young people toward realistic goals for themselves?! I am a HUGE proponent of vocational high schools. A lot of kids know they want to be mechanics or bricklayers or whatever, and it's a FAR better use of their time (and taxpayer money!) to train them in a useful vocation than it is to shove them towards college if they aren't suited for it."

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 17, 2008 10:41 AM

Yeah. Send them to vocational school to learn how to be tool and die makers, so they can compete with tool and die makers in Red China making $5 a day. Send them to vocational school to learn how to be bricklayers, so they can compete with illegal alien bricklayers making $2.50 an hour. Send them to UMBC to get a degree in computer science so they can be a systems programmer, and then they can compete with a systems programmer in India making $120 a week. And still pay the mortgage and the gas & electric bill.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 17, 2008 11:04 AM

Oh, Matt. Realistically, the plumber makes a lot of money. The tile guy makes a lot of money. Those jobs are hardly going to be exported elsewhere.

AND - if you think you can just hire ANYONE to do jobs around the house, you have hardly been involved in the day to day running of a house. I have people who don't call back, who are shady, who don't want the job, who just don't show up. If you are a handyman, and you do the work you say you're going to do, and you charge me what you say you're going to charge me AND you don't steal stuff from me YOU ARE WORTH YOUR WEIGHT IN GOLD.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 11:08 AM

I'd like to chime in on the practical side of the matter.

Working with "troubled" teens, I saw that lots of them lacked basic skills that adults need.

In my perfect high school, kids would learn the following:
balancing a checkbook
making a budget and tracking spending
filling out applications
participating in an interview
making a resume
doing laundry
basic nutrition and making balanced meals

I think that kids who start out with these life skills will be well equipped to balance life in the future.

Posted by: Meesh | January 17, 2008 11:27 AM

"And I don't think that having dreams and aspirations are bad. They are very good. BUT - as I think someone said - kids/adults need to learn that if they work hard at something, they may still fail, and that's okay - they shouldn't be defined by whatever it is."

Dreams and aspirations are not bad, and it's fine to say that, if you pursue your dream and fail, that's okay. But here's how this plays out -- unless, of course, you have mumsy and daddy to cushion the fall.

You decide when you are 15 that you want to be an architect. You pursue a 5-year architecture degree from a good school and graduate $20K (let's be conservative) in debt. After 6 months, you have not landed a job in architecture. (30% of architecture grads are not able to achieve employment in their field.) You can continue beating your head against that nail, or you can pursue other jobs -- however disappointed you are. 1 year after graduation, when you decide to give up your dream and pursue other jobs, heartbroken and confused because you thought you could achieve your dream, you can't get an interview because the HR directors at the insurance companies don't think you'll be happy doing anything other than being an architect and your degree is considered specialized. You're supporting yourself through this job search by temping and have no health insurance. Now you're 24 with no health insurance, no experience, and no career path. Do you go back to school to get a master's degree in a different field? That will create more education debt and you won't be a good prospect for marriage until you're at least 27. So much for having kids early. and so on and so on and so on.

The point is, yes it matters if we set our kids up for failure by not going through this sort of decision tree and discussing the consequences of taking certain paths. Changing paths is costly. It may delay other life choices like kids. It may also impede your ability to achieve balance later in life. All I am suggesting is that there are consequences to, well, not discussing consequences. And if balance matters, we should be willing to discuss the consequences of making certain choices and that certain choices are inherently more risky -- whether those choices are to pursue a dream like, "I want to win American Idol" or a dream like "I want to be a world-class pediatric cardiologist."

Posted by: anonfornow | January 17, 2008 11:28 AM

"30% of architecture grads are not able to achieve employment in their field"

In other words, 70% of architecture grads DO find employment in their field.

Posted by: mehitabel | January 17, 2008 11:41 AM

Yeah. Send them to vocational school to learn how to be tool and die makers, so they can compete with tool and die makers in Red China making $5 a day. Send them to vocational school to learn how to be bricklayers, so they can compete with illegal alien bricklayers making $2.50 an hour. Send them to UMBC to get a degree in computer science so they can be a systems programmer, and then they can compete with a systems programmer in India making $120 a week. And still pay the mortgage and the gas & electric bill.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 17, 2008 11:04 AM

This assumes that the same people who are suited for becoming computer programmers are also suited for bricklaying. That has not been my experience. Certain people are drawn towards certain kinds of work. Rather than glorifying some fields over others, what's wrong with presenting your kids with tons and tons of possible jobs, then letting them explore the fields that interest them?!

In my industry (manufacturing!), linepeople start at $18 an hour in most plants. That's NOT peanuts, and it's a hell of a lot more than burger-flippers make. Stop denigrating hard-working, happy blue-collar workers!!! What do you know about their lives?

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 17, 2008 12:02 PM

When my kids complain about their chores I ask them, "What do you want to be when you grow up, a mid-level government bureaucrat?"

Not that there's anything wrong with being a mid-level government bureaucrat. The profession offers plenty of opportunity for balance.

Posted by: DandyLion | January 17, 2008 12:12 PM

There is definitely a "kid-version" of the work/life balance issue. As a child who was placed in gifted classes from third grade on, I can say that my family defintely did NOT emphasize work-life balance for me. The message I would have liked to receive is that good grades, homework and extra-curricular activities are important, but so is taking time to play, have family time and be thankful for what you have accomplished.

I don't think you necessarily have to couch work-life balance in terms of "you should strive to be successful, because you can be, Teenager. But when you have kids, you'll have to balance your job with being a great mom/dad." You lead by example, that's how you teach. And you help set your kids' future priorities by helping them to balance their kid priorities from Day 1.

Posted by: JEGS | January 17, 2008 12:16 PM

Matt - so do you think the better option is to have them go to college, spend $80K to study something they don't love and then get a job in an office that may or may not lay them off at a moment's notice and spend 10 hours a day doing something they hate? Having worked numerous jobs I hated, I can attest that you lose a little bit of your soul each week. This way they may or may not have financial security and they can die of a heart attack at 52! Besides President, name a job in this country that someone from another country couldn't do. There is no right answer for everyone.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 17, 2008 12:16 PM

Oh yeah, when I brought a bad grade home from school, my mother would ask me the rhetorical question, "Do you want to be a ditch-digger when you grow up or what?"

Backhoe operators not only make good money, but their profession and skills are well respected.

Posted by: DandyLion | January 17, 2008 12:18 PM

Matt: A lot of blue collar skilled workers make more then the office professionals. I saw this report on McNeil Lehrer, where this US company who made some kind of huge construction equipment, brought its work back to the US because they couldn't find skilled welders oversees. The welders made on average 100K a year. Of course it sounded like rough work but it was highly skilled work. It took two years of training on site. They recruited mostly from HS and post HS vocational schools. I wouldn't put down blue collared skilled labor. It is very different then the supermarket cashier. I agree with moxiemom, a sucky job just kills you a little at a time.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 17, 2008 12:54 PM

anonfornow: are you saying that kids *shouldn't* aspire to be architects cause the job market might be tough? That seems overly harsh.

Before I got to college, the people at the college i went to told me: get an engineering degree, then an MBA, and you'll be all set. I thought: how could someone working in a college OFFICE just KNOW what the job market was going to be 6 or 7 years from now?

AND, not only that, what if I didn't WANT to do that? What if it wasn't interesting? Then i'd be stuck doing stuff I hate. And be miserable. Money isn't everything...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 12:59 PM

and, the other thing:

Life is what happens when we're making other plans.

I mean, each step is part of a journey. Just cause you get that architect (or other) job, doesn't mean you're *done*.

I tell my kindergartner all the time that even mommy and daddy are out and learning and taking classes. Cause we're always learning new stuff. Cause we should Cause we're never done.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 1:02 PM

"Cause we're always learning new stuff. Cause we should Cause we're never done."

No comment.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 17, 2008 1:07 PM

i think the point to all of this is that it's better for kids when parents communicate with them more about all kinds of things, not just the list of topics that parents think are on the "pre-approved kid-parent topic list".

Most kids want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a fireman, or an astronaut, because those are the only professions they know exist! If you talk with your kids about the plethora of careers out there, and discuss the pros and cons of each (to include likelihood of attainment, $$$, years of education required, costs involved, years of typical service, etc), then your kids will be far better informed than their peers and far more likely to make good decisions about their aspirations.

If your kids want to paint, great! Give them information about successful artists. Take them to gallery openings. Talk about the career path--how you start, when you advance, etc. Find an artist they can interview to get a personal story of how they got to their level. This applies to any field they may be interested in. There are lots more opportunities for kids to get exposed to these things than they realize. Many companies have intern programs, lots of people mentor kids, and tons of organizations have volunteer opportunities for kids to explore different fields.

Through Habitat for Humanity, for instance, your kid might discover he loves carpentry or plumbing or electrical work, etc. Through volunteering at a local hospital, your kid might find he loves working with patients, especially the elderly, and end up going into geriatric medicine.

I'm just sayin':
pre-college academics are fine, but they're not all that exist in the world. If you shrink your kids' worldview so that they think the only important things in the world happen through college-educated people, you have done both them and everyone they encounter throughout life a disservice. Give respect where respect is due: LOTS of different jobs need to be done, and we should value all who do them, NOT denigrate them because they didn't go to college.

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 17, 2008 1:09 PM

Well said newslinks.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 1:19 PM

from Rebeldad's post:
There's no trick to emphasizing organization with kids (though getting them organized is a whole other matter), but I have a hard time teaching the idea of compromise. I can't see the benefit of warning my kids about the maddening reality that it is nearly impossible to be the world's authority in your chosen field while maintaining a robust home life.
_________

But you can emphasize to them that they have to study for their algebra test AND practice the trumpet, and be sympathetic if they lose their first-chair trumpet spot that week because they had to study algebra during the time they would have preferred to practice the trumpet. There's a valuable lesson to be learned there that will stay with them throughout life.

As a side note, generally speaking I don't want to emulate the Duggars (they're the ones with 17 children!!!) but they do have some terrific organizational tips. One example: each of their kids is assigned a color, and ALL of their belongings are marked with a dot of that color. It must save them hours and hours of time during laundry sorting and folding and putting-away!

http://www.duggarfamily.com/

Posted by: newslinks1 | January 17, 2008 2:08 PM

"Matt: A lot of blue collar skilled workers make more then the office professionals. "

Posted by: foamgnome | January 17, 2008 12:54 PM

I wasn't slamming blue-collar occupations, any more than I was slamming the systems programmers with college degrees from UMBC whom I mentioned after the tool and die makers and the bricklayers. I was just putting in my perennial jeremiad against globalization. I want to see Congress enact tariffs that will bring the price of goods produced with maquiladora labor in Mexico, coolie labor in Singapore, child labor in India, and prison slave labor in Red China up to the price of the same goods produced under safe working conditions by union labor earning a living wage with union benefits in the good ol' USA. And I want to see Congress create a Federal cause of action for private citizens, unions, cities or rival businesses to sue the employers of illegal aliens for $20,000 statutory damages for each worker whom the boss cannot prove is here legally.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 17, 2008 2:18 PM

AND, not only that, what if I didn't WANT to do that? What if it wasn't interesting? Then i'd be stuck doing stuff I hate. And be miserable. Money isn't everything...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 12:59 PM

Maybe it's just a matter of perspective, atlmom. I have had more than a few jobs I hated and was not in position to leave them or evaluate my state of misery. The rent was due. I needed those jobs.

I could be misunderstanding, but I don't think anyone is making the point that money IS everything. The point I hear Matt and others making is that certain career choices may provide more balance because they may provide more financial security or flexibility. It's tough to achieve balance while you're juggling a full-time job and two part-time jobs to make ends meet. Happiness and "interesting" is what you get to evaluate when you don't have to sweat whether the kids are fed and the mortgage has been paid.

People who are struggling don't have much time to worry about whether their current job is "interesting". So maybe the point is that we owe it to our kids to honestly discuss how career choices and balance inter-relate - no more, no less.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 17, 2008 2:21 PM

You are kidding yourself if you think that most of the manufacturing jobs are not leaving this country.

Posted by: getreal22 | January 17, 2008 2:39 PM

What are we teaching our kids by our own examples? Here are some things I've been wondering about:

-The large number of girls who went home early from our kids' elementary school last week to get ready for the Hannah Montana concert.
-The fact that a number of parents in our neighborhood regularly pull kids out early for swim meets that start early on Friday night ("what with the traffic and all, you just need to leave really early . . .") and the number of "away" gymnastics/swim/skating etc. meets that require that the kids miss school on Friday and also Monday.
-That fact that when I signed my son into school late one day last week there were a good thirty or forty names ahead of his on the list with the notation "slept in" next to them. When I asked the school secretary what that was about, she said, "Oh, you know, the basketball game ran until eleven o'clock last night."

Would you/have you ever let you child miss part of a day of school/a whole day of school/sleep in due to a sporting event/a Hannah Montana concert? How widespread is this trend?

Posted by: justlurking | January 17, 2008 2:45 PM

MN: with all due respect, you deleted THIS portion of my post:

"Before I got to college, the people at the college i went to told me: get an engineering degree, then an MBA, and you'll be all set. I thought: how could someone working in a college OFFICE just KNOW what the job market was going to be 6 or 7 years from now?"

And then proceeded with what you DID put in there. So clearly the person I was speaking to was speaking to someone who was coming to their college (or thinking about it) and they were trying to give me career advice on that - which EVEN AT 18 I thought was crazy.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 2:55 PM

justlurking: you are SPOT ON. When I was in grad school, I was appalled that the administration gives out basketball tix on a first come first served basis. Since said bball team is typically a top 25 team, that means that kids sleep out for DAYS to get said tickets. So they miss class. No one seemed to think that was a problem. I was not allowed to dock kid's grades for attendance.

Second, we have a wedding in charlotte next year the sunday BEFORE thanksgiving (why oh why couldn't they do it the sunday AFTER?) my kid has off from school wed - friday that week. So my DH is saying we should just take that whole week for vacation. I'm on the fence about it (okay, so he'll only be in first grade, but still...but then again, not much gets done that week...so on the other hand...). But I'm worried about what it teaches the kids - surely!

BUT NO WAY would I let that happen in high school! Wow. I personally would take a 1/2 day off here and there and turn in a note to the office - but my 1/2 day off was spent doing homework in the cafeteria (NO JOKE). Seriously. My mom knew about it when the office would call and apparently told the office I was home (I found that out YEARS after college). But, personally, my parents weren't worried, and as long as I got my work done, etc, there were no problems at all (they only saw report cards, as mentioned the other day - no looking over homework daily or anything - but really, I knew my big way out was to get an education and then I'd never have to live with my parents again!).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 3:05 PM

I think the more we broaden our kids' worldviews the more likely they are to find their own balance, whatever that is.

I kind of seriously doubt that I can even begin to fathom what future workplaces might look like or what balance will mean. I don't think my parents could have prepared me in my teens to be able to turn off a Blackberry - a device that was fairly literally science fiction at the time, or how to compete for jobs across a global marketplace.

What I can do for them though is let them be exposed to lots of people's choices and lives & talk to them about them (nicely, not like "see that drunk there? don't be him.")

For me this means making sure they have the chance to connect with different generations (grandparents and other seniors have a way of bringing up balance in a totally different way), and with different classes and situations (like volunteering in a food bank program).

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | January 17, 2008 3:14 PM

Would you/have you ever let you child miss part of a day of school/a whole day of school/sleep in due to a sporting event/a Hannah Montana concert? How widespread is this trend?

Posted by: justlurking | January 17, 2008 02:45 PM

Yes. We prioritize life over checking the box on 180 days. Would I let either of my kids routinely miss school for a concert? Heck, no. Would I let my kids stay up late, through whatever overtimes are involved for the North Carolina/Duke game once or twice a year (depending on the schedule)? Absolutely. They will also be late to school on Ash Wednesday, if need be. If you really want to be annoyed, please know that we also plan to take them out of school for three days in February for a family vacation. Maybe if each moment of every school day becomes so valuable that our kids can't excel and miss 6 - 10 days a year, I'll treat each school day as sacrosanct. Until then, not so much.

School has its purpose and place. It is not the be-all and end-all of our household. Life is.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 17, 2008 3:14 PM

seems to me like the kids pretty much have this down cold . . . not too many of them suffer from an imbalance in their "work/life" equation.

Posted by: RBCrook | January 17, 2008 3:32 PM

in high school, tho, I did miss a few days when I went with my mom visiting colleges. So it's not completely out of the ordinary, but I would try not to do it frequently.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 3:34 PM

To MN and others: Does your children's school lose state tax funding for each day your child is absent for reasons other than illness? Districts tend not to be amused by parents who take their children out of school for reasons that cost them state money.

A few days' absence also inconveniences the teacher(s), who must duplicate efforts, may have to take extra time to administer make-up tests, provide extra tutoring to the child, etc. -- or provide assignments ahead of time for the child to complete while away.

For watching the occasional big game which might run late, the unabashed basketball fan in me would definitely allow the child to watch, but I'd suggest an afternoon nap beforehand -- heck, I STILL do that myself when I can during March Madness!

Posted by: mehitabel | January 17, 2008 3:35 PM

and we just got my kid's 'report card.' My DH made some comment about how he's not horribly upset if our kid doesn't get 100 for attendance, that that's not the most important.

Yes, we take the kid(s) out of school for the high holidays (up to 3) in the fall. We will every year. It is that important to us.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 3:37 PM

Our school is unlikely to close for the high holidays in the fall (no matter how many jewish kids there are), and we are not going to have our kids go to school those days. And the chances of me sending my kids to jewish day school is infinitely small. It is that simple.

They check attendance and make a big deal, I suppose, BECAUSE of state funding. But kids get sick, etc...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 3:40 PM

Atlmom: From a public health perspective, I cringe when I read the occasional news story re some kid who never missed a single day of school from K-12. I can only imagine how sick the poor kid must've been when shipped off to school by the parents at least once or twice a year, as well as all the other unlucky kids who might not have caught what s/he had if only the 100%-er had been kept home while contagious.

Posted by: mehitabel | January 17, 2008 3:41 PM

of course, there's the famous woody allen quote that I love:

90% of life is just showing up...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 3:41 PM

I agree with mn.188- about letting the kids miss a day of school. Are their grades good? Are they struggling to pass or getting straight A's in honors classes? If it is the latter missing a day for a family event is no big deal. After all aren't don't we all complain about work places that insist on face time over work product? Insisting attendance is the be all for school can be the same thing.
One caveat missing to much will affect your grades, my daughter learned that the hard way when her asthma landed her in the hospital and she missed a lot of school.

Posted by: mom_of_1 | January 17, 2008 3:41 PM

Atlmom, Back in my day a few kids took off from school on High Holy Days, but then didn't attend synagogue. Of course they sometimes got "outed" at school the next day by those who did attend services ;-)

Posted by: mehitabel | January 17, 2008 3:43 PM

well, for the 'other' fall holidays, my mom ALWAYS said: sure you can miss school, but you have to go to synagogue. I never did miss school those days.

But we all knew the days, and we all knew the 'rules' - i.e. , no tests/big work due/etc if more than xxx% of kids were out of class...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 3:46 PM

Atlmom, likewise at colleges and universities which hold classes on Good Friday -- no exams, papers or projects due that day.

Posted by: mehitabel | January 17, 2008 3:53 PM

mehitabel: and really, we should be teaching our kids that if they are sick, they should stay home. They don't get 'sick' days at school - they can stay home if they are not feeling well/contagious. Hopefully that MIGHT teach your kid that when they have a job, they should stay home - cause these days, many people think the world will fall apart if they stay home and they just infect everyone else in the office. Not so good.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 3:54 PM

Am I the only one who thinks that the late basketball game or event presents an opportunity to teach the child that, yes, you can enjoy yourself, but you do need to get up the next morning on time and the consequence of the fun is that you are tired the next day. You don't get a pass because you were having fun.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | January 17, 2008 4:26 PM

Moxie asked: "Am I the only one who thinks that the late basketball game or event presents an opportunity to teach the child that, yes, you can enjoy yourself, but you do need to get up the next morning on time and the consequence of the fun is that you are tired the next day. You don't get a pass because you were having fun."

No, Moxie, you're not the only one. But I think it's a good teaching moment to get the kid to take a nap beforehand, if you can reasonably anticipate that they'll be staying up late.

Posted by: mehitabel | January 17, 2008 4:30 PM

moxiemom: I completely agree with you. I talk with my 5 YO about why he has to go to bed, etc, usually he's fine - cause he's usually ready. But when he gets up and he's tired, and I say: oh, you'll have to go to sleep earlier tonight, I think he gets it. It's the younger one who I am sure I will eventually be fighting with.

But yeah, if they're tired the next day, they are going to learn a valuable lesson.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 4:31 PM

mehitabel: we do that too - if dad's taking the kid to a hockey game or something, we tell him that they are going to do something special, and he has to rest, and no he can't do XYZ (go to a friend's house, or whatever) cause he has something special to do. If he doesn't want to do that special thing, then he can do what he wants, etc.

We talked to them very young about stuff like that - i.e., we had a special night tonight (doing whatever) and so we don't get the usual number of stories before bedtime, or whatever they don't get to do. That there are choices, and they can't do it all.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 4:33 PM

maggie: if you're still reading:

Michele Singletary indicated today that you could file a complaint with the FTC about identity theft.

http://www.ftc.gov/

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 4:40 PM

Regarding teaching balance to kids, I think it's crucial. And kids need to learn to achieve balance themselves. Just this week, DD told her art teacher that she would not be able to enroll in an extracurricular art class because she had other commitments. She made that decision independently, so she must be learning something.

We also (mostly) abide by the two activity rule, with an occasional foray into 3 if the third is a short-term commitment.

Re: taking kids out of school for family activities. This is something we weigh on a case-by-case basis. We've emphasized the importance of school with DD and she knows it's #1. But there have been some occasions when she has missed school, mostly for dance-related events. Last year, she danced in the Nutcracker with the Moscow Ballet during their tour and had to be absent for one day for a rehearsal with the ballet company. That commitment made the cut, LOL. I make a point to talk to the teacher personally, provide a note to the principal, and pick up any missed work. She knows she may have to give up playtime on a weekend to make up the work and it's a sacrifice she's willing to make.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | January 17, 2008 5:25 PM

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