Archive: June 2008

Good-bye, Balance

Twenty-six months. More than 500 entries. Over 100,000 comments. I've had more fun on this blog than anyone has a right to with a computer screen. I've laughed, spit out my coffee, cursed, cried, learned invaluable lessons about work and motherhood, and fallen in love with hundreds of people I've never met. But as my friend Lila Leff says about motherhood in her Mommy Wars essay, "I see it as one of the greatest chapters in my life. But all chapters lead to the next chapter, and there is nothing worse than hanging around in a chapter after it has already ended." So it's time to move on, folks. I hope you'll understand that I need to focus on my memoir about surviving domestic violence, Crazy Love, which comes out from St. Martin's Press early next year. Please send me an e-mail if you'd like to stay in touch, or...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 20, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (188)

One Company Strikes A Balance

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the following research findings from the nonprofit Families and Work Institute: Only 16% of employers offer full pay for childbirth leave, down from 27% in 1998, based on a nationally representative sample of 1,100 employers by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute. The average maximum length of job-guaranteed leaves for new mothers shrank too, to 15.2 weeks from 16.1 weeks a decade ago; leave for dads fell to 12.6 weeks from 13.1. Employers aren't deliberately targeting new mothers with pay cuts; rather, maternity leave has been caught in the crossfire over rising disability costs in general. Most maternity-leave pay in the U.S. comes in the form of disability pay, allotted for the six to eight weeks typically needed to heal after childbirth. New mothers are being hit by a cost-cutting move among employers toward paying only a fraction of full pay to workers...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 19, 2008; 7:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Professional Help for Balancing Conflicts

Over the past two years, On Balance has dissected just about every angle of the shifting balance between work, family, guilt, ambition, economical self-sufficiency, caregiving and life. I have to say that getting a deluge of advice from On Balance posters is surprisingly helpful. But what if you need more, um, professional, help figuring out your particular juggling act? Back in March Annys Shin of The Washington Post explored the new phenomenon of professional coaches who help women (and men) navigate the murky waters of raising kids and working without losing our sanity, in Work or Family? Yes. As we all know but sometimes tend to forget amidst the daily chaos, there are myriad options: working part-time, not working, going back to work, switching to a lower responsibility job, etc. For a few hundred dollars -- not much compared to a year's salary -- professional life coaches can provide perspective,...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (19)

Rules for Ruling the Roost

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The New York Times Magazine on Sunday ran a long piece on how household duties are divided. The article focuses on the idea of "equally shared parenting," a concept that is being lived to its logical extreme by On Balance regulars Amy and Marc Vachon. The story extensively profiles Amy and Marc, whose commitment to equality goes all the way to the folding of the socks (Amy gets the white socks, Marc the darks), as well as a handful of other couples, who have tried to live (with varying degrees of success) with similar arrangements. Reading the piece, I was left with the impression that making equally shared parenting a reality meant instituting a set of fairly comprehensive rules about who does what and when. I understand why couples might want to swap child-care drop-off responsibilities based on work schedules, but I get nervous when smaller...

By Brian Reid | June 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (98)

Tips for Getting Kids, Spouses and Employees to Share

It often strikes me that children, spouses and employees act in surprisingly similar fashion when it comes to sharing. More accurately, when it comes to not sharing. Whether toys, money, responsibility or attention need to be divvied up, sometimes we're all children deep down. So how can we help our loved ones and co-workers discover the wisdom of sharing? Here goes. 1. Let them duke it out. Too often, we intervene too early and prevent people, even little people, from learning valuable lessons on their own. Toddlers can sometimes find the right compromise if parents step back. Ditto for competitive co-workers. 2. Make them take turns. Set a schedule for a favorite toy, seat next to mom, etc. With co-workers, it's time, attention and prized/hated jobs that need to be alternated. 3. Be fair and don't take sides. It's nearly impossible for anyone, of any age, to play fair in...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 16, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (35)

Naps and Balance

It is hard to believe that I am actually writing about naps and balance. However, today is Friday. We need some levity. Here goes. For several years, naps have played a big part in my balancing act of working, raising kids, avoiding insanity, divorce, and a premature heart attack. But it wasn't always this way. In early motherhood, I tried (and mostly failed) to nap when my kids were napping. Usually, I was too desperate to squeeze in work, phone calls and laundry to succeed. I considered coffee one of the key ingredients to surviving as a working mother. Eventually, the years of caffeination and sleep deprivation started eroding my health, concentration at work, and ability to speak civilly to my family and co-workers when under pressure. The magic solution came one day when I dropped all three kids off at their bi-weekly, hour-long computer class. I was parked in...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 13, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (79)

Life in the Break Down Lane

"Go nowhere, do nothing," a yoga teacher used to chant in a class I took a few years ago. Every time she said the words, I burst out laughing. The concept was radically opposed to everything I'd ever done in my life -- and contrary to the hectic D.C. lifestyle I grew up in and continue to immerse myself in. What could I do besides laugh? But I have to admit, the words caught my attention. Now there's apparently an entire range of support groups devoted to the concept, as reported on CNN.com's The Slow Movement. Groups include The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco; Take Back Your Time in Seattle; and Slow Food USA, a counterpoint to our fast-food culture. The groups advocate using time differently than our overworked, over-scheduled culture advocates -- to cook and eat food slowly, to gather with friends for no reason but to spend...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 12, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (74)

Have You Cracked a Glass Ceiling?

On Saturday, after a fun-filled mini-vacation at a friend's farm in Pennsylvania, I drove three hours with three...um...boisterous kids in back, dropped two off at soccer games in the sweltering D.C. heat, and then my nine-year-old daughter and I headed for Hillary Clinton's concession speech in downtown D.C. Why did I need to be there? Mommy Wars contributor Susan Cheever explained my reasons better than I could in her recent National Public Radio commentary, Why I Love Hillary: "Women like me usually run for president of the PTA or president of some nice arts organization. We don't usually get to run for president of the United States. At last, here's a woman who wants to play with the big boys, and she's qualified, and she's giving them a run for her money. And I love her for that." Meghan O'Rourke recently argued in Slate's Death of a Saleswoman that Clinton...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 11, 2008; 7:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

What Dad Really Wants on Sunday

By Rebeldad Brian Reid When I was a kid, I don't remember Father's Day being a commercial endeavor at all. Maybe a card was involved, or a sleeve of golf balls or a trip to the batting cages, but that was it. Flash forward a few decades, and now Father's Day has been given the consumer treatment. Even People magazine feels compelled to cut into its Brittany Spears coverage to bring readers a mammoth gift-ideas section. I'm all for doing as little as possible to note the day. But if you really want to make a big deal of things, forget about gift-wrapping a new GPS unit and try out: Breakfast at the greasiest spoon imaginable. As a kid, my father used to take me to a joint called Roosters that served two eggs, two pancakes, two strips of bacon, two pieces of toast and all the butter patties and...

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

Giving Your Kids (and Yourself) a Balanced Summer

Children dream of summer -- swimming holes, picnics, lazy days, cool movie theaters, outdoor concerts in the park, catching fireflies. One of the casualties of today's increased demands by employers -- coupled with our trend toward overscheduling kids with year-round activities -- is the relaxed pace of summertime. How do you keep summer's magic alive, without driving yourself crazy? Here are my and readers Top Ten Tips for a serene summer: 1. Plan in advance. It seems paradoxical, but one prime ingredient in an easy-going summer is organizing ... in January. Some camps fill up quickly, plane tickets cost less in advance, beach rentals book early. So as soon as you've finished paying for Christmas presents, start thinking summer. 2. Work with other parents from school, daycare, or your neighborhood. Imagine a team approach for a group of working parents. Each leaves work early one day every two weeks to...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 9, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Snapshots and Soundtracks

On Wednesday, Laura posted this comment: "I was driving to the gym and I passed this convertible, top down, blonde ponytailed woman driving, with a friend in the passenger seat and a ponytailed girl in back. And I thought, now, THAT's Moxie Mom. Or, you know, at least how I like to think of you. :-)" And this got me thinking: How do we see each other on this blog? We've been posting and laughing and fighting and explaining ourselves to one another for more than two years now. But most of us have never met or heard one another's voices. It's like stopping by your neighborhood park to see what your friends are up to -- except we never actually see each other, or even know each other's real names. Over the course of more than 500 columns and 100,000 comments, I've learned a lot about how deeply we...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 6, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (122)

Coaching Girls

One of my best friends and I met on a high school soccer field. We became friends when she and I discovered we were dating the same guy. But that's a story for a different day. Four years ago, now that we were grown-up married ladies with kids, including two daughters the same age, we decided to start a soccer team for girls. Lovely idea, right? Well, despite the fact that girls sports have changed dramatically since my days as a soccer forward, thanks to Title IX, the first problem was that we couldn't find an all-girls league for six year olds. Then we found a great local co-ed kids soccer league, but we couldn't find enough girls to fill a team. So, we took on a few token boys. We had eight great seasons together. One of my favorite coaching moments was when I asked the team to describe...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 5, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (99)

Angry Women

Two things about modern American womanhood constantly amaze me: that anger is integral to the compromises of working and at-home motherhood, and that our society is repeatedly surprised when women respond angrily to unfair treatment at home, at work, in politics and daily life. But a new milestone has been reached -- and it's not the number of Obama's delegates or the vice presidential innuendos in Clinton's latest speech. Rather, it's proof that women are becoming more comfortable expressing anger in public. Last week, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne ran a piece about women's anger at how Clinton has been treated in the Democratic race, Look What They've Done to Her. The comments started online at 10:30 p.m., not long after the article published. There were hundreds of -- yes -- angry, comments by 6 a.m. Dionne's columns are pretty popular, but other columns, like yesterday's on Obama's church, received...

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 4, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (130)

The U.S.: A Balance Laggard, No Matter How You Cut It

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The family-leave policies of the United States are generally the stock evidence used to demonstrate that we remain hopelessly behind the rest of the developed world in work-life policies, but thinking only about paid leave is actually a pretty crude yardstick to measure whether the federal government is really committed to policies that make work-life balance a reality. So, I'm grateful to the Institute for Women's Policy Research and the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California-Hastings, which last month pushed out a report (PDF) that compared the United States to 19 other countries on a whole bunch of other workplace flexibility metrics. The conclusions are no surprise: The United States is a laggard no matter how you look at things. The survey found 17 of 20 countries have laws on the books governing alternative work arrangements for parents. We're one of the three...

By Brian Reid | June 3, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sex & The City Reviews

Did you notice, starting Friday night, that women about town were dressed in brighter colors, with a little more spring in their high heels? One of the uniquely wonderful success factors in Sex & the City, which opened nationwide on Friday, is its ability to make women feel fabulous about being insecure, vulnerable, sexual, complicated, and shoe-obsessed. Here are my thoughts, mixed in with a representative sample from other On Balance posters: "It was fabulous. Yes, parts were predictable. And, yes, the girls seemed more fashion-obsessed than normal. But I just missed them. I loved seeing Carrie tell Big off. I loved Miranda showing vulnerability through her anger. The girls supported each other as they always do. Samantha did something with sushi I'd love to try. And I nearly wet my pants when Charlotte "Poughkeepsied" in hers. For fans of the series like me, watching the movie was like hanging...

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

 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company