Archive: April 2008

Do Parents Have the Right to Force Religion on Their Kids?

My Southern Baptist father and WASP mom raised us kids with exposure to many religions -- I went to Catholic, Presbyterian and Jewish services with relatives and family friends -- but they invoked little religious influence. I'm technically Presbyterian and I married someone Jewish; our kids are "half and half," which so far has worked out fine in our non-denominational urban universe. So I guess I am naturally baffled by parents who feel it is their right to "force" children to abide by their religious choices, such as an Oregon case earlier this year that attracted national attention when the Oregon Supreme Court blocked a divorced former Southern Oregon man from circumcising his 12-year-old son against the wishes of the boy's mother. According to the Oregonian, the court ruled that the trial judge failed to determine whether the boy wanted to have the procedure -- a voice of reason here...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 30, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (154)

A Journey With Cancer

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 Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration.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 A.A. Camp Four years ago, I had thyroid cancer. Breast cancer is my second journey with the disease. Now I follow the same painful path my mother and grandmother trod for many years. My thoughts have turned inward the past few months as I continue through cancer diagnosis and treatment. I would like to know many things that can't be found out. I think of many things that I can find out but do not really want to know. My thyroid cancer was...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 29, 2008; 7:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

Top 10 Tips for Equality at Home

If your boss treats you unfairly, you've got options: You can quit, file a lawsuit, call in sick, or, at the very least, complain incessantly to co-workers. When your home life feels unfair, your options are more limited and more complicated. It's harder to find and maintain equality at home amidst the chaos of working, tending a marriage, raising children and managing a semi-sane household. Unequal division of chores and child care tends to creep up on a couple, and resentment (okay, fury) can build before you realize it. So, achieving a balanced division of labor at home seemed a worthy topic for On Balance. Here are readers' Top Ten Tips: 1. Find a partner with similar values when it comes to home life. If you marry someone whose mother waited on him (or her) hand and foot, it shouldn't surprise you when your beloved expects all compromises to come...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 28, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Using The Internet To Find Balance

At a recent conference, I met a young woman who didn't have kids. She works at a public relations company and her card indicated she was an expert in "social media," a fancy word for...blogging, Twittering, IM-ing and chatting online. "When I have kids," she said. "It will be so different from my mom's experience. I'll just be able to Google 'how to get rid of diaper rash' at 1 a.m. and have thousands of other moms' advice at my fingertips." How right she is. The Internet has radically changed parenthood. Access to health information, practical advice and emotional support has dramatically reduced the isolation that most new mothers and fathers, whether we work or stay home, often feel. For me, of course, my favorite online support site is right here. In addition to regular doses of criticism (not necessarily a bad thing), On Balance has given me dozens, and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 25, 2008; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (108)

Flying Solo

By Rebeldad Brian Reid So the fates, after reading my post last week on my to-and-fro travel schedule this year, decided to turn the tables on me. My wife is out this week on business. She now has the business-trip-gift dilemma, and I am reminded of how much more tricky work-family balance is when you don't have a partner. It has been a fortunate aspect of my life that she hasn't had to travel that much in the past couple of years, and I'm re-learning how to make the transition from tag-team parent to short-term solo operator. Though it's going to take a few more trips before I really get the hang of this, I'm trying to follow a few basic strategies: Structure, Structure, Structure: Every parent knows that a certain amount of rigidity is needed to keep a household on track. Kids have to be up, fed and out...

By Brian Reid | April 24, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Do You Care Whether Jennifer Lopez Breastfeeds?

Listen to some TV and radio headlines, or sneak a peek inside People or US magazines, and you'd think the decision whether or not to breastfeed a baby was right up there with going to see the Pope. Jessica Alba gets pestered by Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet of the Oscars preshow. Jennifer Lopez decides not to breastfeed her newborn twins and watch out -- mommy blogs, People magazine, and even The Wall Street Journal all weigh in. What's even more weird is that the question seems to be strangely impersonal. Not "do you want to breastfeed your baby?" Instead, the spotlight is "Is she breastfeeding?" In other words, we're being asked to care about whether other moms, even celebrities we've never met, should breastfeed their babies. I do not care whether Jennifer Lopez or anyone else breastfeeds her babies. I sincerely doubt any other moms give a...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 23, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Eviction Notice

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 Dawn Zamanis I am a divorced single mother to five sons under age 15. I work from home as a freelance writer. I live with a benign brain tumor. I've fallen off the proverbial balance beam so many times over the years, all I've got to pass on today is my conviction that balancing life means keeping life in perspective. Five years ago, it might have appeared that I had it all. I was married, living in a sprawling mini-mansion on the west...

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

Top 10 Tips for Responding to Inappropriate Personal Questions at Work

We've all been on the receiving end of painfully personal questions. In the white-collar corporate factories where I've worked, protocols abound, so people are hyper-sensitive to blundering into one's personal life. As a result my awkward questions always come from a) relatives and b) acquaintances. (I find that friends, whom I can pick and choose, don't venture into inappropriate territory too often). One relative inquired, a few days before my wedding, how often I got my period and did I know when I ovulated. A male relative asked me when I'd be able to fit into my jeans again -- two weeks after my first child was born. Another wondered, over dinner with my second husband, whether I missed my first husband. In fairness, I blunder as well. My worst was the time I asked the mother of my daughter's new best friend where they were from. "Ethiopia," the mom...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 21, 2008; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Family Leave Fracas

Here we go again: The United States government cannot figure out how we can be a country that values capitalism and families. On Tuesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved cutting a proposed eight weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees to only four weeks. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CAlif.) recapped the compromise by saying that four weeks of paid leave would make the government "a leader in strengthening families" and represent a "prudent fiscal approach," according to The Washington Post's Federal Diary. Four weeks? What planet do our elected officials live on? Four weeks after giving birth, breastfeeding and getting by on two to four hours of uninterrupted sleep, I could barely leave my house. Contemplating leaving my four-week-old infant so I could waddle back to full-time work was a barbaric concept that made both tears and breastmilk leak from my body. Our government has an opportunity...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Business-Trip Gift

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I am not a huge fan of business travel, yet somehow this year I have seen the inside of at least 10 airports and three train stations. In the last month, I've spent nine hours stuck in the Indianapolis airport, had the pleasure of watching the moon rise over the Potomac from the tarmac of National Airport for four hours and shared a redeye flight with approximately 130 13-year-olds on a school trip. Not a single one of them feel asleep. Neither did I. All of this to-ing and fro-ing has given me fresh perspective on one of the more subtle and complex aspects of business travel: the obligatory business trip gift. I have no idea where the idea that kids who are deprived of a parent for a few days deserve a guilt-inspired, overpriced gift-shop trinket got started, but the children seem to instinctively know...

By Brian Reid | April 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Men, Alimony and Balance

One of the shocks of getting divorced hit me the day my first husband petitioned for alimony. When we'd met, he had earned four times my salary, but he hadn't saved much and had credit problems. To help him through graduate school, I took out loans for his tuition in my name. I had police reports and family court documents to prove why we were splitting -- that he'd physically abused me for four years. Despite these factors, he could still apply for alimony -- financial support from me. I fought him on this request and won, although to get out of the marriage I lost more than I gained, financially at least. However I learned a lot of priceless lessons, including the fact that most U.S. divorce laws are as nutty, unfair and incomprehensible as love itself. Alimony paid by an ex-wife was fairly rare in the early 1990s...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 16, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

One Mom Heads Back to Work -- Reluctantly

By Amy Mueller For the past two and a half years, I have been a stay-at-home mother. We have one child, a girl. Since I have become a parent, most other things have taken a back seat in my life, including daily showers and wearing make-up. I have been OK with that. I welcomed this change with open arms. I have a community of wonderful women surrounding me who relate to my priorities: We want our kids to be happy and comfortable, and that is more important to us than the newest shade of eye shadow or Coach purse. But I digress. Last week, I started my first full-time job since the birth of my little girl. I don't have a choice in the matter, as our family needs the extra income. My husband and I talked to our toddler about the changes. She knew she was going to start...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 15, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (203)

Top 10 Tips for Getting Promoted

The frustrating reality for parents today: The standard work model required from roughly age 25 to 45 is Monday through Friday, eight to 10 hours per day. We need to invest sweat equity at work to keep our jobs and get promotions and raises and benefits. Unfortunately for the children involved, that time frame is when they need parents most. Parenthood and work inevitably and repeatedly collide, demanding that we be in two separate places at once. But many people are still accomplishing the impossible, figuring out how to work diligently, stay late, schmooze the boss, build rapport with co-workers, volunteer for overtime, get promoted and still leave at five for day-care pickup. Here's how On Balance readers juggle getting ahead with being there for our kids. 1. Do your job and do it well when you are there. 2. Technology, technology, technology. Get a Blackberry and use it. Invest...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 14, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Our Stupidest Fights

As a companion to Monday's Top 10 Tips for Marital Bliss, today's discussion is sharing stories of the stupidest fights we ever had*. What are the dumbest fights you ever had with your spouse, your kids, your boss, your co-workers, your siblings or parents? What, if anything, did you learn about yourself and the relationship, as a result? I have so many on this list I don't know where to begin. Here's a brief recap: I once kicked a hole in my sister's bedroom door because she wouldn't lend me a shirt. I was only 15, but still. I once threw my husband's top dresser drawer on the floor, cracking his (dead) grandfather's gold watch face. My husband cried as he held the broken watch. The fight was about the cost of fabric for our bedroom curtains. I was 38 this time. I have witnessed my two older children fighting...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 11, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Beyond the At-Home Dad Thing

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, I had my 15 minutes of fame, appearing on the Today Show as something of an expert on at-home fathers. That was a somewhat uncomfortable position to be in: I haven't been an at-home dad by any definition for a couple of years, despite my continued interest and blogging. If anything, I've morphed into a great believer in the idea that you can charge hard in your career without ignoring the little ones. It's not that I don't believe that at-home dads are doing wonderful things. They are redefining gender roles and are overwhelmingly committed to their kids. I have all the respect in the world for guys who have made that choice, and I want them to have as much support as possible. But I'm increasingly mystified by the press attention paid to at-home fathers. At the end of day, what I did...

By Brian Reid | April 10, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Financial Hurricane Katrina

News about the national mortgage foreclosure crisis dominates the media and Washington politics these days. In February 2008 nearly 225,000 properties in the U.S. were in some stage of foreclosure, up nearly 60 percent versus a year ago, according to the New York Times. And thousands of families have lost -- or nearly lost -- their homes due to predatory foreclosure firms called "default servicing companies" and law firms that get paid by the number of motions they file in foreclosure cases. Up to two million families may default on their homes in 2008, writes Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post. Relatively few homeowners are getting the help they need. In Boston, foreclosures increased 169 percent from 2006 to 2007, yet the city government made its first and only attempt to unite 1,500 at-risk homeowners with concerned lenders via a workshop two Saturdays ago. The department of Housing and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 9, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (137)

Finding a Needle in a Haystack

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 Kathleen Wiant I worked full time as a mother of one. I loved working. I didn't like my son being in day care all day. Upon having my second child, I asked my employer if I could work part-time in the office while managing my full-time sales territory. I wanted to be evaluated on performance, not face time. The CEO and President at the time, a working mother of four named Carol Clark, agreed. The arrangement proved beneficial to both the company and...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 8, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (45)

Top 10 Tips for Marital Bliss

Marital bliss? Some days I'm happy (really happy) to settle for marital survival. Here are the top 10 tips for keeping a marriage together, contributed by On Balance readers: 1. Be nice. This is stupidly simple, but it works. Even when you feel like hell, or have a beef with each other, or are tense or tired, make the effort to be kind and gentle with each other. Make the partnership a safe harbor where the other person wants to be. This means taking a breath, biting your tongue and going easy even when that's not exactly how you feel. 2. Before you get married, find common ground on your most important issues -- where you want to live, the role work plays in your family balance, how you will handle your finances, whether or not you want children (and if you are older, what lengths you will go to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (75)

The Pregnant Man

Have you seen pictures of The Pregnant Man? He's cute. Friendly, open face. Nicely toned arms. Buff chest...and...a swollen belly, covered in unmistakably male belly hair. An unmistakably unbalanced, shocking image. In case you didn't see Oprah yesterday, this is no man in an Empathy Belly. The short explanation is that "he" is transgendered, a biological woman who went through most of the steps to become an anatomically-correct man, except that he kept his uterus. So he can and did get pregnant, through at-home artificial insemination. His name is Thomas, he's 34, married to a woman named Nancy, who had a hysterectomy and can no longer have children. They live in Oregon. Their baby -- a girl -- is due in July. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't find this gross. As Thomas says, "The desire to have a child is neither a male or female desire. It's...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 4, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (113)

The Joke's On Dad, But That's Not Funny

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I've always believed that the comics section of The Washington Post may be the truest part of the paper, in the sense that a three-panel strip, done well, can tell us a lot more about the human condition than a 3,000-word story. Not every strip can get to that level of truth every day. "Calvin and Hobbes" used to do it, as did the dearly departed "Bloom County." And "Doonesbury" did a damn fine job of illustrating "truth," too. But "Doonesbury" creator Gary Trudeau is taking a break, and The Post is trying out some new strips. The first up is one about an at-home dad/writer called "Daddy's Home," and it's been running for the past couple of weeks. I want to like any effort that puts dads-as-parents in the spotlight -- I really, really do -- but "Daddy's Home" is an illustration of how much...

By Brian Reid | April 3, 2008; 9:47 AM ET | Comments (19)

Identity Crisis

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 Vindhya Chari As a professional who left work to be at home when my second child was born, I have had a year and a half to think about what life, work and family balance mean to me. The major stress of not working, besides real or perceived financial dependence, is my loss of identity. I always defined myself by my role at work. The first couple of months I stayed home, I faltered when introducing myself. It was surprisingly difficult to say...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 1, 2008; 7:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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