Archive: February 2008

Do You Kiddie Cam?

Okay, it's Friday! Here's a light subject with a potential dark side, perfect for our Friday Free-For-All. Busy moms, dads and pet owners everywhere: There's a new and improved way to connect with your "children" (two or four pawed) with an easy-to-use, inexpensive tool: The "kiddie cam." You set up a Web cam with a live Internet feed on your home computer and presto! You can see and talk to your family while at the office or on the road or even at the gym! Free Internet services like Skype and a variety of Web cam software make all this easier, more affordable, immediate and interactive than traditional Nannycams. Now, in the interest of candor, I do not kiddie-cam. The last thing I want to know is what my children, now ages 10, 9 and 5, are actually doing to my home and each other when I'm not there. I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 29, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (21)

The Importance of Being Hip (or Pretending To)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Today, my wife and I are boarding a plane for Miami for our second annual long weekend away from the kids. My suitcase is packed with the usual South Florida essentials (sunscreen, swim trunks, sunglasses and, um, maybe a flashlight and some extra batteries). But I'm also bringing along what passes for the hippest pieces of clothing in my wardrobe. I have a vintage T-shirt or two, a pair of the "nice" denim, the leather sandals. It's not the usual uniform for me. The idea will be to spend 72 hours shedding the usual trappings of a life split between kids and work, where I'm either wearing baggy corduroys and a sweatshirt or a pair of pressed pants and a jacket. I'm sure we'll spend some time sipping silly cocktails made with exotic booze and maybe even throw caution to the wind and hit a club...

By Brian Reid | February 28, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Inappropriate Questions

On Sunday night, my older kids and I were glued to E! Network's red carpet interviews of Oscar nominees. The Academy Awards Show itself is too long, too late, and often too boring for us to watch. But the pre-Oscar interviews were fun -- mostly. Jessica Alba was pregnant in purple -- by Marchesa, who seems to have quite a thing for roses. (Mario Anzuoni - Reuters) Until Ryan Seacrest, wonder boy host of American Top 40 and American Idol, interviewed future mama Jessica Alba. The 26-year-old actress looked like a poster girl for gorgeous, elegant pregnancy in a wine-colored Marchesa strapless gown. Then Seacrest ruined the moment by staring at her decolletage and asking, to my disbelief, whether she was going to breastfeed her baby. Alba was equally put off. "That's a very personal question, Ryan," she demurred. Seacrest continued to stare her down. "Actually," she finally conceded. "I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 27, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (115)

Passion, Work and Motherhood

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 Catherine Clifford When I was in high school, I only knew one type of passion (hint: it had nothing to do with work). So, when my son, a junior in high school, came home from Career Day fired up about finding his passion, I was all ears. He was in charge of the day, which they called FYI (Find Your Inspiration). He and his peers invited "cool adults" (aka not Mom or Dad) to discuss how they chose their respective career paths. As...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 26, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (46)

Nutty Golfers Find Sanity

Finally, my faith in male humanity has been restored -- by the National Golf Foundation. Over the years I've known many a smart, likable man who golfed with excessive passion. Friends from business school and my 10 years at Johnson & Johnson hit the links every weekend and often on weekdays before work. I golfed exactly once, on a Leo Burnett client outing. That was enough for me (and the three colleagues in my foursome). Men's golf obsession puzzled me at first. But once my acquaintances had kids, their continued pursuit of breaking 90 gradually undermined my faith in men's collective sanity. They were away from their families for 60 hours during the week, then they'd get up early on Saturdays and Sundays and disappear into the black -- um, green -- hole for another four or more hours? Where were their priorities? I know three men who came within...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 25, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (52)

The Amazing Mom Song

If you could sing a song about your work/life balance, how would it sound? Anita Renfroe, mother of three and a comedian (totally redundant, but that is her profession), condensed years of parenting into a three minute ditty set to the William Tell Overture. Over six million people have watched it. If you haven't seen the YouTube video yet, get to it right this minute. Renfroe told of her inspiration to sing her heart out to the CBS Morning Show late last year. "When my three kids were under six, people used to tell me to treasure this time, if I blinked I'd miss it, Renfroe told CBS. "And I used to go home and blink and blink and they didn't go away." Here are a few of my favorite lines (you can also check out the full lyrics). But trust me -- it's far better to hear Renfroe belt...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 22, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Is There Value in Mom-Only (or Dad-Only) Playgroups?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid When I try to piece back together the first couple of years of parenthood, it ends up being a mosaic of different playgroups. There was the regular Wednesday morning coffeehouse run with all of the other infant-toting parents on the block. There was the weekly city-sponsored playgroup, which leavened the chaos of a room full of toddlers with a professional leader who knew a thing or two about kids. And then there was the library story time gang and the noontime post-preschool gatherings at the playground. All those groups were crucial to keeping my wits about me during that time. They were a kind of inoculation against the isolation of spending most of your time with pre-verbal children and the boredom that often creeps in when each day starts feeling exactly like the day before. Making the playgroup rounds as an at-home dad meant that I...

By Brian Reid | February 21, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (74)

Help! My Children Don't Match My Wallpaper!

When my two oldest children were four and two, I met an adorable toddler at our local playground, one of those blonde cherubs that belongs in a Gerber commercial. Her late-in-life parents were equally charming and we became couple friends. They invited us over -- to their house, they explained, because they hadn't been able to find a babysitter who met their specifications. The steak was delicious, but we couldn't stomach a second date, because of, um, their home. It was a sleek modern townhouse with equally sleek modern art on the walls, sharp edged exotic stone tables, angular leather chairs and white shag carpet. My husband and I sipped Evian while gazing upon a staircase that floated through the living room without handrails or kickbacks, just lovely beautiful air, a lethal weapon for any baby who had reached the crawling stage. One look at that staircase and my husband...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 20, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (65)

Spinning the Illusion of Balance

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 Katherine L. Farnham It's Wednesday morning. My husband is on a plane to California. I'm driving to a distant meeting. I'm late because my dog threw up as we left. Meanwhile, I must rearrange my schedule for another meeting, apply to pre-K for next year and plan a long-overdue weekend party. My head reels with all I need to remember. Then, my mother calls. Instead of sobbing about my insane life, I spin. I don't mention that I'm exhausted, or that juggling four...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 19, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (79)

Telling the Boss

In the olden days, telling your husband you were pregnant was a big deal. Now the big deal is telling your boss: Reader teaspoon2007 posted this question in the comments earlier this week: "This may or may not be on topic, but I'm curious what people have told their bosses when they are pregnant with the first kid, have the option to stay at home, and are not sure if they will want to or not? We have been saving my salary and trying to live on my husband's in case that day comes, but I have no idea if I'm going to love staying home or hate it or want to work part time. This is not an immediate issue for us but it might be in the next few years, and I'd be curious what others' experience is. In theory, I wouldn't have to say anything, but I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 15, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Defining 'Sick'

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last Thursday, I was getting ready to bundle the little one up when she started coughing a little bit. Nothing too dramatic, kind of a low-grade hairball-esque hacking. Then she threw up. It wasn't much -- less than a tablespoon. Fifteen minutes later, she let loose with another micro-barf. I immediately scrapped the day-care plan and started preparing to hunker down for the day. I decided she was clearly Sick, with a capital "S." Naturally, she was fine after that. She was in great spirits. There was no more heaving. I struggle with how to determine how sick is too sick. Some things, including vomit, are beyond debate. The stomach flu is too much of a disaster to subject anyone to the risk. Ditto high fevers. But cold season is still upon us, which leaves the whole lot of gray area of coughing, sneezing and green...

By Brian Reid | February 14, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Beer for Teens?

Friends around the dinner table. One father talked about his 17-year-old-son's request to host a party, at home with parental supervision, where beer would be available to his friends. My kids are young enough that I haven't faced this one. But another mom at the table with teenagers spoke up immediately. "Absolutely not. Never." I was surprised by how adamant she was. She explained that she'd recently been to a school-sponsored "Drugs and Drinking" seminar that warned of the dangers of permissive parents. Her takeaway was that kids whose parents let them drink at home drink earlier, drink more, and are at increased risk for developing alcoholism. I asked what her feelings would be once her children left home to go to college. "Nothing I can do about drinking there," she said. Now I am not a drinker myself. I may feel differently in a few years, but my current...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 13, 2008; 6:15 AM ET | Comments (137)

Bonbons and Lattes

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 Linda Nazareth The at-home moms spent the morning eating bonbons while I was at work, I said, sarcastically to myself. No wonder they got here first.” At least that's what part of me wanted to snap when my daughter said I was the last mom to arrive for kindergarten pick up. What I really said was, "“Hey, I missed all the lights, okay? And school was over like four minutes ago." I rolled my eyes and she rolled hers back. My sarcasm about...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 12, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (85)

The Hillary Effect on Young Girls

On Parenting's column last week about kids and voting, Bringing Up Voters, got me thinking about my nine-year-old daughter. For her, Super Tuesday was a bigger event than the Super Bowl. She stayed up until 10 p.m. tracking vote tallies and woke me at six the next morning to see the final results. She's curious about the mechanics of our voting system and which states matter most. She feels sorry for Ron Paul and Mike Gravel for getting so few votes. She is ecstatic that her birthday falls in early November, so that she will be able to vote only a few weeks after turning 18, nine long years from now. From age nine to 18, I expect she will learn a lot about the lack of balance in our country in terms of experiences and opportunities for men and women, and other forms of bias and prejudice. There's much...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 11, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (119)

Wisdom of our Mothers

Monday evening. Nine-year-olds' basketball practice. Sitting on cold bleachers next to another mom. A five-year-old on each lap. Talk turned to the usual suspects -- work, homes and husbands. My friend had recently returned to work after nine years at home. She told me advice she'd been given by her Korean mother. Marry a man who will be home for dinner. Remember that even if you work outside the home, a woman will always be judged more harshly by the state of her kids and her house than by her career success. We laughed at this terribly retro advice. We laughed extra hard because 10 years into motherhood, it seemed terribly wise. My husband is rarely home for dinner, but he is home every second he can be. He coaches three soccer teams and two basketball teams. He takes the kids away for fun one-on-one breaks (whether it's to Sunday...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 8, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Kids, Politics and Rebellion

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Thank goodness spring has arrived early. The ground is now nice and thawed, which has made it much easier for just about everyone in my neighborhood to stick a sign in their front yard advertising their candidate of choice next Tuesday. It's not just the signage that has sprung up. We have buttons and stickers all over the place, including plastered all over the local kids. Which raises the question: Does pounding children with a specific political message do any good? We've certainly spent a great deal of time around the dinner table lately talking politics with our oldest daughter, who is very interested in the fact that there's a woman in the hunt. And while she can't rattle off progressive talking points on the war or offer an opinion on health coverage mandates, she is familiar with the finer points of Title IX. We're not...

By Brian Reid | February 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (26)

Kid Conflicts with Friends and Colleagues

Today, naturally, politics are on nearly everyone's mind. But here's a small-p political dilemma: Love Your Friend, Hate Their Kid? It's rare that I meet any kid I don't like. So largely, I like my friends' and colleagues' children. Maybe the firstborns and only children are a little spoiled, but hey, been there, done that. The reverse is more common: Love the kids, wonder about the parents. Also, I find it more likely to love my friend -- and feel queasy about her husband or romantic interest. A third awkward situation: You're dying for kids, your friend, colleague or boss can't imagine ever being a parent. At Johnson & Johnson, my former employer, most of us with young children used the employee day-care center for children six weeks through kindergarten. This created some dicey situations. I met pathologically maladjusted children of overworked parents who complained that the center was only...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 6, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (52)

The New Dad -- In the House and on TV

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 Peggy Drexler If television reflects the state of the sexes, men are in trouble. I've watched two episodes now of ABC's Cashmere Mafia and I see a gaggle of males who are insecure, dependent, jealous and damaged. I caught a few episodes of Big Shots, and I see stooges with money -- self involved twits who endlessly discuss their sorry lives over Scotch and cigars. Just this week on the first episode of HBO's In Treatment, a patient tells her therapist about her...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 5, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (21)

Is Your Kid A Genius?

Short answer: Probably not. Last month Newsweek revealed to parents something teachers have long known. They're No Baby Einsteins reports that 95 percent of kids are not gifted, no matter what we parents think. And the lack of genius is good news despite the "epidemic of specialness" rampant among parents today. "What parents don't realize is that there is still a normal curve," explains Wendy Mogel, Los Angeles-based psychologist and author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. "Most kids are in the middle. Some kids will never love to read or never be good at math and they can still lead productive, happy lives." Like many new parents, there were moments when my husband and I thought our firstborn was a genius. He learned to read before kindergarten and could do multiplication and simple division by age six. Wow! But it turns out he was just exceptionally eager to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 4, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (54)

Heartache Leave

Innovations come from the most unexpected places: Japan, the country of salarymen, geishas and employment-for-life, is setting a new standard in work-life balance and employer compassion. Tokyo-based Himes & Co. now offers "heartache leave", paid time off after a bad break-up with a partner. "Not everyone needs to take maternity leave but with heartbreak, everyone needs time off, " explained Miki Hiradate, chief executive of the company. Workers 24 and younger can take one full day of heartbreak leave per year, while those 25-29 get two days and those 30 and older, three. "Women in their twenties can find their next love quickly, but it's tougher for women in their thirties, and their break-ups tend to be more serious," Hiradate added. The company also instituted paid sales shopping leaves, giving employees four mornings off per year to shop. "Before, women could take half-days off to go to sales, but you'd...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 1, 2008; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company