Archive: May 2008

Can You Find Balance in a Flip-Flop?

Wow, you all have been really patient this week. We've tackled heavy subjects: abuse against women in the military, bias against female politicians and Brian's attempts to meditate his way to balance. Clearly, we need a fun Friday. And since it's almost summer, I thought flip-flops would be a good place to start. Yes, I have found balance in a new pair of pink rubber sandals. They are called The Stash because they come with a secret pocket to hide your money and keys. Perfect for the beach and yoga. Maybe not for the office (but I may just try it). And the secret panel has a jagged hard plastic edge you could use as a weapon to fend off the guy in the next cubicle who gets too friendly on Fridays. Very Agent 99. Each pair comes with a B4BC (Boarding for Breast Cancer) self-exam instruction reminder, so I...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 30, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (119)

The So-Called Ambition Gap

A new report from the Brookings Institution argues that there are fewer women in political office in the United States because of an "ambition gap" between men and women: Extensive research shows that when women run for office, they perform just as well as men...The fundamental reason for women's underrepresentation is that they do not run for office. There is a substantial gender gap in political ambition; men tend to have it, and women don't." Now wait a minute, here. Great news that women do as well as men in office; I'm glad to know those stats. And, according to the report, female politicians increased significantly in the 1980s and 1990s, although they don't come close to reflecting women's 51 percent population status: 24 percent of statewide elective officials, 16 percent of members of Congress, 10 percent of mayors, one presidential candidate... But it's quite a leap to conclude that...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 29, 2008; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (163)

Female Soldiers' Private War

Women constitute the fastest growing group of U.S. war veterans, according to a Memorial Day opinion article in the New York Times For Women Warriors, Deep Wounds, Little Care. According to Helen Benedict, a Columbia University professor and the article's author, women currently account for 15 percent of U.S. active duty forces. By 2020, women are forecast to make up 20 percent of all veterans under age 45. Like all women entering a male-dominated workplace, female soldiers face unique, unanticipated challenges. But one of the toughest facing women in the U.S. military is sexual abuse and harassment from fellow service members. Nearly a third of female veterans say they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military, according to Benedict. More than 70 percent report being sexually harassed by male colleagues. Benedict's numbers seem high for any workplace; abuse and harassment figures are notoriously hard to prove. But even...

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

Meditating Your Way to Balance?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, I was stressed about everything. Work stressed. Money stressed. Car stressed. The list went on and on. The to-do list on my whiteboard only compounded the problem, growing each hour instead of shrinking. My head was spinning and nothing was getting done. So, I decided to take a timeout and haul out the portable meditation bench gathering dust in the closet and try to just sit and breathe for a few minutes. Under normal circumstances, this would have sounded like lunacy, a high-minded way to put myself another 15 minutes in the hole. But I was desperate, and nothing else was working. I set a timer for 10 minutes, sat down and closed my eyes. By most measures, the effort was an abject failure. It didn't clear my mind or keep my brain from racing. In fact, pulling myself away from the monitors actually...

By Brian Reid | May 27, 2008; 12:30 PM ET | Comments (23)

Diamonds, Duds and Divorce

Okay, today's Thursday, but since a four-day On Balance holiday weekend starts tomorrow, let's pretend it's Friday. Here is our topic for today, shamelessly stolen from the May 26 issue of People Magazine: Diamonds are forever. Relationships, not so much. These two entrepreneurs help women sell the jewelry their ex-boyfriends and husbands leave behind. This is female entrepreneurship at its most unbalanced. A woman and her stepmother (who says they're all evil?) teamed up to start a Web site where women can sell the jewelry from their exes. They get to tell their stories of revenge and reinvention in the process. The site doesn't charge for the postings, making money instead from advertisements. And I have to say, the jewelry is gorgeous -- and a real bargain. Before you dismiss this topic as frivolous, I have to hand it to these women for providing a useful service. Sad but true:...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 22, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (105)

What Are You Doing May 30th?

May 30th. The date has flashed in my head for months in pink neon. I've gotten three invitations so far. Men, scratching your heads? Women nodding? Yes, it's the opening date for the Sex and the City movie. Ten days from now. I'm counting the minutes -- although a fund-raiser for my kids' athletic center means I can't go with any of my girlfriend groups planning the ultimate girls' night out. Why does this foursome inspire so much female camaraderie? The New York Times reports in This One Goes Out to the Ladies -- and Their Friends that mobs of women across the country have made elaborate opening night plans (including flying en masse to Manhattan to see the movie on location). Seems to me the show appeals to women who see ourselves reflected in the four female characters, originally appearing in Candace Bushnell's novel and then coming to life...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 21, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (112)

Salary.com's Assumptions About Division of Labor

By Rebeldad Brian Reid A couple of years ago, Leslie wrote about a nifty little PR gambit by Salary.com, which came up with a Web site that purported to calculate the value of work done at home by both go-to-work moms and at-home moms (it was later extended to dads, too). The original column received a lot of comments on whether there was any great perspective to be gained in attaching a dollar amount to labors at home. Salary.com is still at it, two years later, but what is really interesting is not how much they think we're worth around the house, but what they're assumptions are about what parents do all day. The Web site comes up with the final salary numbers by figuring out what real-world jobs a parent does at home, making the assumptions behind the final "salary" every bit as interesting as the number. Among the...

By Brian Reid | May 20, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (56)

Finding the Smart Time to Return to Work

This is the kind of advice that flies in when you're a working woman pregnant for the first time: "Infants don't really notice if it's you or someone else taking care of them -- go back to work right away, and take a break when they need you to help with their homework." "When your kids are teenagers -- that's when you really want to stay home. You know -- big kids, big problems." "I don't know what you'll be like but the night before I had to come back to work, I realized I couldn't leave my baby. It's better to stay home when they're so vulnerable, and go back when they starts school." In other words, welcome to the maelstrom of motherhood. Lots of good advice, but you've got to make your own decisions. To help out, here is the collective wisdom from On Balance readers: 1. Don't...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 19, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (54)

Why You're Not The Worst Working Mom Ever

In trolling for good pumping stories on mommy blogs for Privacy, Pumping and Protection, I stumbled across a section on Mommy Track'd (The Working Mother's Guide to Managed Chaos) devoted to the dumbest, funniest, most cringe-inspiring things we've done as moms. It is amazing and has changed my life. Bye-bye, Prozac! Because next time I do something terrible (probably within the next two hours before I go pick up the kids from school) I'm heading to The Worst Working Mom Moments. Seriously, it's better for your self-esteem than watching Desperate Housewives -- because these moms are real. And to the right of each horrible, hilarious story of the time Mommy X leaked breast milk during a presentation to the company sales force or Mommy Z got called out by her toddler for farting during a conference call, there's a "Been There, Done That" button you can click to out yourself....

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 15, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (84)

Privacy, Pumping and Protection

Virginia Woolf made famous women's need for A Room of One's Own. We've come a long way since 1929 when the book came out. Now we're all getting a room of our own -- to pump breastmilk at work. And it's about time; reading comments on Mommy Track'd about bosses barging in or co-workers wondering what you're doing in the bathroom for an hour is enough to show you why. According to yesterday's Washington Post Health section, a new D.C. law joins Maryland, Virginia and federal laws that protect a woman's right to breastfeed and pump at work. The Child's Right to Nurse Act requires employers to provide a private, clean space, presumably with an electrical outlet, for pumping breastmilk. The room must be located outside a restroom; anyone who has pumped on a toilet seat understands why this clause is critical. If your company doesn't comply, tell them what...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 14, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (54)

The Green Argument for Telecommuting

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, oil prices hit another record high, topping $126 a barrel and leading to a new rash of stories about gasoline spurting over $4 a gallon. Coincidently, my company opened a DC office last week, meaning that I'll be commuting (by car, rail and bike) at least part-time from now on. And that gave me plenty of time to think - while I sat in my car - about the green side of telecommuting. I've spent time in this space talking about the selfish reasons why telecommuting works from a business point of view and enables better work-life balance, but the time has come to talk the trend seriously from an environmental perspective. The folks at undress4success.com, a site focused on working from home, estimated that getting the 40 percent of Americans who could work from home off of the roads and into a home...

By Brian Reid | May 13, 2008; 6:45 AM ET | Comments (59)

Keeping Your Sanity as A New Mom

Ahhh ... those blissful early days of motherhood. My boobs looked large enough to feed half of Detroit. Flaps of fat swung around my belly like leftover gefilte fish. I was afraid to look down below; a simple trip to the potty required an inflatable donut, a sitz bottle of warm water, and endless courage. I cried like a wild animal when dusk fell. I screamed at my husband when he brought me a fax from work. A glance at the baby's umbilical cord brought me to tears. And then there was the Village, who days before had treated me like the Pregnancy Goddess of the Planet. My mother-in-law admonished us, after three days, that she didn't feel "involved" in her grandson's life. My excited younger sister drove six hours to meet her nephew -- but she had Strep throat so I wouldn't let her into the house. Hordes of...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 12, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (60)

Mother's Day

I recently had the pleasure of joining the Mocha Moms on National Public Radio's Tell Me More program to discuss how our moms shape us as mothers and what gifts we'd like to pass on to our children, in honor of the upcoming 100th Mother's Day on Sunday. I talked about an epiphany I had when I started my anthology Mommy Wars, which explores the challenges women face in juggling work and family, I didn't ask any of the 26 contributors to write about their own mothers. But all 26 did anyway. I learned a good lesson: Our stories of motherhood start with our own moms. Sometimes we replicate what our moms did right; at times we rebel against their mistakes. But our mothers imprint upon us a template of motherhood that sticks with most women for our entire lives. I was lucky that my mom took to motherhood easily,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 8, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (112)

SWAT Moms

According to The Wall Street Journal in How Stay-at-Home Moms Are Filling an Executive Niche: "Lots of employers would like to be able to hire cheap, temporary teams of seasoned pros with experience managing $2 billion investment portfolios, running ad campaigns or earning Ph.D.s in neuroscience," I agree -- although I'm stupified that corporate America has been so slow to locate these ideal teams of temp employees, since all of us know where to find them: the local playground. Welcome to a new acronym, the mommy "SWAT team": Smart Women With Available Time. This moniker describes just about every stay-at-home mom I know, high voltage, seasoned employees who are taking time off to raise our kids. "What's different about these teams is that they're available on short notice because the women are usually at home; they tend to work cheap because their main motive is to keep their skills fresh;...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (38)

At-Home Dads Not Kissing Under the Swings

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The usually spot-on "Brazen Careerist" Penelope Trunk dropped a bomb on my little corner of the blogosphere last week, putting up an anonymous guest post from an at-home dad who she said was "more honest with me about his life than any other stay-at-home dad I know." The honesty in the guest post that followed was mostly in the form of a confession of sorts about the time he cheated (or almost cheated ... it's not entirely clear). Trunk ends the piece by asking "Why do women hit on stay-at-home dads?" That question alone is more intriguing than the answer, which is that at-home dads -- in the experience of the many, many fathers I know -- don't get propositioned at all. They don't even end up in uncomfortable situations. But a quick glance at pop culture suggests the opposite: At-home dads must either be on...

By Brian Reid | May 6, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (72)

Top 10 Tips for Finding the Right Child Care

In 12 years raising three kids, I've sent my children to four different day-care centers in three states and hired at least 25 babysitters. I used full-time day care when my children were infants, as well as a patchwork of relatives, friends and paid in-home care. Our primary babysitter moved from Minnesota to D.C. with us, staying for seven years total. Finding -- and keeping -- good child care is one of the hardest, most critical, least understood components to working parenthood. You simply cannot go to work, or do a good job once you get there, without it. Here are my (and On Balance readers') top 10 tips for finding -- and maintaining -- high quality child care. 1. Spend the time to figure out what kind of care you need. The costs, advantages and disadvantages vary: day care, home-based center, live-in nanny, live-out nanny, nanny share, au pair,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 5, 2008; 7:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

What's Your Bumper Sticker?

Oh, the joys of Friday. No serious teeth-gnashing topics today. Let's talk about...bumper stickers and balance. Driving my kids around D.C., to and from doctors' appointments, school and play dates, I've been reading the bumper stickers on cars, imagining the drivers inside. "Soccer mom," one sticker said in deadpan black and white type. "Soccer dad -- and proud of it!" a truck cheerfully declared in fire engine red. My favorite, sure to slow my blood pressure: a cool blue and white Co-Exist, with each letter depicting a different religious symbol. My car doesn't say anything. The closest I've gotten to a bumper sticker were two McDonald's Happy Meal Brats with pink and orange hair that I superglued onto my old Ford Expedition in the spot where luxury cars show off their elegant metal symbols. The Brats made a lot of bystanders laugh before they fell off in a snowstorm last...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 2, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Do Dads and Mom Have the Same Back-to-Work Plans?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid This is apparently the season for at-home dads to consider returning to work. First, M.P. Dunleavey penned a piece for the New York Times about her at-home husband's impending move to go back to work full time. Then, The Washington Post Health Section, Mark Trainer raised the question of when his stint at home would end. Both Dunleavey and Trainer make similar points by the end of their respective pieces: At-home dads rarely see their gig as open-ended. There is a point at which almost every at-home dad decides that re-entry back into the workforce is inevitable. Dunleavey even goes one step further, suggesting that perhaps the eventual return to the workforce is taken more seriously if you're an at-home dad than an at-home mom: In all my musings about the difference between the lives of male and female breadwinners, this is one I hadn't considered....

By Brian Reid | May 1, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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