Archive: Conflicts

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (188)

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (19)

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (74)

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (84)

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (72)

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (137)

Religion's Role

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The holiday season is upon us. Not the mass-consumption holiday season, but the time of year when members of many of the world's faiths celebrate their most holy days. As usual, I'll be sitting out the religious observances and wondering if I'm missing something. I was raised largely without religion and probably entered a church less than a dozen times -- counting weddings -- in my first 18 years of life. I missed the theology, but didn't feel like there was much else lacking. I grew up in a small, close community, and I have no complaints about the moral foundation that my parents gave me. I've never known anyone to live his life by the "golden rule" as absolutely as my father. But when my first child was born, we thought that it would be good to raise our children in some sort of religious...

 

By Brian Reid | March 20, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (71)

Is There a Balance Between Love and Marriage?

"Is it better to be alone, or to settle?" asks single mom/philosopher Lori Gottlieb in Marry Him in this month's Atlantic Monthly. To me, the question has never been so simple. I've been married twice, both times for an irresistible mix of passion, respect, love and hope for a future together -- but fear of being alone wasn't a factor. The failure of my first marriage was more complicated than the issues Lori Gottlieb explores, as is the success of my second union. But she sure does tackle some wonderfully provocative dilemmas, like the ones listed below (and guys, please feel free to flip the gender assumptions; she writes about women settling, but clearly equivalent questions can be asked of men): Every woman I know --no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure -- feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 19, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (92)

Playing Games with Balance

By Rebeldad Brian Reid About a week ago, I stumbled on a simple yet extraordinary autobiographical video game called Gravitation. It's the brainchild of a guy named Jason Rohrer, and it chronicles -- if that's the right word -- his efforts to achieve balance. The gameplay, elegant as it is, almost defies expectation. Essentially, you have the choice to play ball with your child (modeled in the game after Jason's son Mez) or do "work" by collecting stars. But each decision about work or family affects the way the game progresses. Start to finish, the experience takes only 8 minutes, and it's probably best to experience the freeware game (if you can get away with it today) before reading about it. I caught up with Jason to talk through how the game came into being and how it reflects his day-to-day reality: Most people tend to think of work and...

 

By Brian Reid | March 13, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (12)

The Sickening State of Paid Sick Leave

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I know it's March, and the crocuses are beginning to pop through the ground, but it seems like we're nowhere near the end of the cold-and-flu season. I continue to live with the fear that I'll wake up feverish or that my kids will wake up vomiting. But I don't have any worry that a few days of the flu will wreck the family budget. My employer offers me five paid sick days a year, putting me in the lucky 52 percent of the private-sector workforce that has an option to take a day or two to recuperate (or help a little one recuperate) without putting myself in any kind of fiscal jeopardy. The flip side of this, of course, is that 48 percent of private-sector workers aren't as lucky. And low-wage workers are even less likely to be able to afford a day of recovery....

 

By Brian Reid | March 6, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

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; 07:00 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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (115)

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (52)

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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (74)

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; 07:00 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; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (52)

The Money Date

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Economically, things are looking bad. The Post has put the unraveling of the stock markets on the front page nearly every day this week, George Bush is huddling with congressional leaders on a stimulus package, and the Federal Reserve just made the biggest one-day cut in short-term interest rates since "I Just Called to Say I Love You" was the number one song in America. So it's probably a good time to start talking about finances. Or -- since you probably don't want to take any financial advice from me -- it's time to start talking about talking about finances. After all, money is the number two reason for divorce, and it's not hard to imagine why: it's easy for the embarrassment of financial troubles to lead to a breakdown in communications, which sets a whole relationship into a downward spiral. I was speaking to a...

 

By Brian Reid | January 24, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Work-Life Surprises

When my husband and I got married 12 years ago, we both were in our early 30s, just out of graduate school, getting our toes wet in new careers, and in loooove. We figured we had a good life plan that included two strong careers, a rent-controlled apartment in New York City and plans to have five (count 'em, five) kids together. Looking back, it's hard not to scream "What were we thinking?!?!" Because, of course, life since then has been one surprise after another. If I could time travel, I'd go back and whisper to myself: Honey, fasten your seatbelt, the roller coaster ride is about to begin and you're not getting off for the next decade. First, we had trouble having a baby. Then, in two years we had two babies. We moved to New Jersey, back to New York City, then off to Minneapolis. My husband changed...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 23, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

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...

 

By Brian Reid | January 17, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (69)

Young Parents, Dumb Parents?

In the 20+ years of my career, the conventional wisdom for ambitious working women has been to wait as long as possible before you have children. Invest in your education and get as many promotions under your belt before your belly expands so much you can't put on a belt. Then have your kids (max: two) close in age so that you can compress the most intense phase of child-rearing. It was survivalist advice from early feminists. For many of us, it worked. Lots of moms I know found it easier to juggle work and raising kids because we waited until we had a modicum of career and economic security--insurance against the prejudice everyone told us we'd experience as working moms. But the unforeseen side effect was the creation of a different prejudice, this time against women who had children before age 30, prejudice that goes something like this: Didn't...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 16, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (157)

The Playdate Paradox

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Ahhh, January. It's that wonderful time of year when, freed of holiday obligations, everyone is returning to the usual social patterns. For the kids, that means that return of playdates. For me, that means the return of sweaty palms from thinking about playdates. I'm sure you know the problem: There is a certain assumption about reciprocity when you schedule a playdate. No one wants to be that parent that can never be bothered to allow other children in their home. But as someone working full-time for pay, my ability to host kids after school is a bit more limited than I would like it to be. I certainly don't want to say no when my daughter is invited over elsewhere, but I do feel a bit of trepidation about figuring out how to return the favor. Clearly, I'm not without options: The weekend playdate is always...

 

By Brian Reid | January 10, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (77)

Playroom Pitfalls

It's a mundane aspect of parenting that few parents-to-be deem important enough to discuss in advance: what kind of playroom to have in your home? Saturday's Washington Post explored different options in Room to Romp. Now that the days of fenced-in "playpens" have largely disappeared, many parents find their homes deluged with kids' toys and the question quickly becomes: Do we want a playroom, or do we let the entire house become the playroom? Part of my "balance" is that I never wanted our home to be overtaken by kids' paraphernalia , no matter how brightly colored or well-designed. During 10 years of motherhood spanning two apartments and two townhouses, I've found myriad solutions that worked at the time: keeping toys out of sight in storage boxes and coffee table drawers, limiting toys to the kids' rooms, and giving each child a large cubby in our kitchen. At one point,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 9, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (59)

Passing a Girl the Ball

A year ago, an Outlook article in The Post Is America Too Racist for Barack? Too Sexist for Hillary? posed the hypothesis that the two Democratic front runners, both minorities, faced different challenges due to their minority status. While being a white woman establishing herself in the 1970s and beyond helped Hillary Clinton in her education and career, being a black man would help Barack Obama more in terms of national electability for the presidential office. "Compared with Clinton, says George Lakoff, a linguistics professor and Democratic message guru, 'Obama clearly has it better,'" the article reported. "While many Americans have a sincere sense of sentimentality and nostalgia for... outdated gender roles, a much smaller number have that kind of feeling for racial segregation. There is a sense that, by electing a female president, the nation would be meeting a standard set by other liberal democracies; the election of a...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 7, 2008; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

New Year's Resolutions

2008 already? I hate New Year's Resolutions. They often seem so lame, narcissistic and cliched, hopeless even before the year starts. But given that most cliches turn out to have at least some truth in them, I thought we should give it a whirl. I'm all for hoping that you can change your life and our world for the better. However, if I could "resolve" anything for 2008, it wouldn't be losing weight or some other minor change in my life (although I have plenty of flaws that need fixing). I'd shoot much higher. My New Year's Resolutions would be that: 1) No one would abuse a child ever again. To me, this subset of domestic violence is one of the single biggest problems our culture faces, leading to medical, legal and judicial intervention, higher crime rates, and perpetuation of a cycle of violence as some abused children grow up...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 2, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Working Women Are Happy (And So Are Their Husbands)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid It's been awhile since we had a nice balance brouhaha, but I knew there was one boiling when I saw this headline at the BBC: "Mothers 'are happier' having job." The folks over at Salon picked up on it, too, running a piece that declared "The whole 'working mother' thing actually works." Of course, I couldn't trust the media to get all the facts right, so I dug up the research, from the UK's Institute for Social and Economic Research. According to the study, satisfaction with life is lowest for women who don't do paid work; those who work full-time have the highest ratings. I'm not a social scientist, but all of this seems compelling and seems to stick a pin in the idea that working women are caught in a life of two-sphere drudgery. On the flip side, it's not fair to label at-home parents...

 

By Brian Reid | December 20, 2007; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Duplicitous Female Maze

A disturbing New York Times Modern Love column ran recently. It's about a 41-year-old woman reflecting on being raped in college and the collusion of her sorority sisters in the aftermath. Both sexes behave appallingly in Kelly Valen's tale of losing her virginity in an alcoholic stupor while her date's fraternity brothers watched from a nearby window ledge. (As an aside, the frequency of these so-called "Ledge Parties" and other bad boy behavior make me quake about sending my daughters out into the world of higher education.) Afterwards, when she clearly needed a sisterhood of support, her sorority voted she was no longer "sorority material" and forced her out of her college home. Now, as the mother of three daughters, she wonders about a lifetime of navigating what she calls "the duplicitous female maze." "In the two decades since, I've been a full-time lawyer, a working mother and a stay-at-home...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 17, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Holiday Balance and Budgets

By Rebeldad Brian Reid There's plenty to be crazy about this time of year, what with the eggnog-induced weight gain and the hand-cramping that comes with writing out addresses for holiday cards, but this year I seem to be acutely aware of the year-end financial stresses. Maybe it's the uncertainty of waiting to see if there'll be a holiday bonus in my stocking, or maybe it's just the cumulative effect of dozens of holiday purchases. I'm just coming off of the sticker shock of cooking at Thanksgiving (there's no such thing as a cheap 20-pound bird), and all of a sudden I'm faced with sixty bucks for a tree (borderline-outrageous for a guy whose childhood Christmas trees grew in his backyard), plus a few dollars on lights at Target, plus the Secret Santa gifts, plus end-of-year tips, plus the family presents and kid presents and Santa presents. In some ways,...

 

By Brian Reid | December 13, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

CEO vs. Parent I.Q.

Finally, a simple answer to my most burning question (not): Should I be a CEO or a gazillionaire entrepreneur? The University of Chicago business school has ranked the top traits for excellent CEO performance vs. entrepreneurs, according to the recent Are You CEO Material? in the Wall Street Journal. Take the test yourself: Group A (CEOs) Persistence Attention to detail Efficiency Analytical skills Setting High Standards Group B (Entrepreneurs) Strong oral communication Teamwork Flexibility/adaptability Enthusiasm Listening skills Now I know why I'm neither the next Bill Gates nor the next Jack Welch: I have a few but not all of either group's traits. But in addition to being an interesting aptitude test, this research got me thinking about another list: good parenting traits. Here are my top qualities for excellent, balanced parenting (and like the other groups, I've got a few, but not all of these critical success factors in...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 10, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (63)

Vroom -- A Woman Revs Up a Man's World

Forty-four year old Tammy Darvish just shattered a particularly tough glass ceiling -- or maybe it's more accurate to call it a garage roof. Darvish is the vice president of Darcars Automotive Group, a 26-dealer automotive sales company based in Silver Spring, Md. Tamara Darvish is the first woman to be elected chair of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association. (Kevin Clark - The Washington Post) According to an article about Darvish in yesterday's Washington Post, Once in a Miniskirt, Now She Wears the Pants, she's become the first female chairman of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association, a 90-year-old group which until now has only had white men at the helm. Her current partnership position marks quite a road trip from her start in her family's dealership back in 1984, when her brother and father had her dress up in a white leather miniskirt, red high heels...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 5, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (84)

How Not to Write About Parenthood

In my little corner of the world, where news about dads is scrutinized as closely as the play-calling of Joe Gibbs, there's been a huge buzz around a first-person piece of daddyhood in this month's Men's Vogue. Penned by Pultizer Prize-winning war correspondent Charlie LeDuff, it details one man's move from the stereotypically macho to the saccharine-sweet. And while I think it is absolutely fabulous that LeDuff is loving at-home fatherhood and can't help but talk about it, the article is nonetheless symptomatic of everything wrong with first-person writing about family life, and it serves as a useful guide for what magazine (and newspaper) editors ought *not* to do: 1. The mere act of becoming a parent and experiencing the joy of raising a child is not, in itself, interesting. Parents probably already know that joy. Those without children probably don't want to hear additional prattling. Living an interesting life...

 

By Brian Reid | November 15, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Kids Come Second?

Two years ago, the New York Times Modern Love column ran an essay that got stuck, apparently permanently, in that large storage space between my ears where the mommy wars simmer. The author, Ayelet Waldman, wrote in Truly, Madly, Guilty that after four kids and 12 years together, she was still in love with her husband -- and that she was not in love with her children. "If a good mother is one who loves her child more than anyone else in the world, I am not a good mother," she wrote. "I am in fact a bad mother. I love my husband more than I love my children." Her candor set off a firestorm of criticism from other moms who wrote the Times angry letters and blogged in rage that a mother could place her husband above her children. And now someone else has reignited the debate. Despite commenters...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 14, 2007; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Balance and the Presidential Race

The 2007 elections are now over, which means you'll again be able to watch TV without seeing ads for candidates you've never heard of before. Instead, we can start thinking about the first Tuesday of next November, when the presidential candidates will most certainly clog up airwaves far worse than any would-be Virginia senators could....

 

By Brian Reid | November 8, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Baby Einstein and Other Paradoxes

In Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All, Time Magazine recently crowed that a study shows Baby Einstein and other "educational" videos for children under two are not just mental pablum, but actually hurt kids by potentially delaying language development. When Baby Einstein videos burst onto the mommy scene 10 years ago, targeting new moms with stats about how the programs stimulated children's brains, we were bad moms if we didn't buy them. Now we are bad moms if we did buy them. Although I never truly swallowed that these videos made children smarter, I always thought they were harmless ways to entertain a toddler while I got dinner ready, checked in with my mom or folded laundry. Now, it turns out I was a bad mom by letting my kids watch them. Which seems to always be the message for moms. Practically every decision we make regarding child-rearing has...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 7, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (114)

Queen Bees at Work

It's one of the thorniest, least-discussed issues for working women today: How to deal with the more senior woman who has sacrificed family for her career and believes that the "hard way" she got ahead is the only way to advance. Part-time, flex-time, staying home with a sick child, leaving work early to watch a soccer game -- you don't get leeway from her because no one gave her any sympathy when she was struggling to balance work and family (or no family). Today, we've got more than 40 years' worth of women entering U.S. colleges, graduate schools and professional workforces in record numbers. Workplace norms are changing rapidly -- I only have to think back to the floppy ties and slipped-off wedding rings that were common practices in the early 1990s when I got out of graduate school. Today, it's natural that we see generation gaps among working mothers...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 5, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Worst Things to Say

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, I wrote about some of the more frustrating questions and accusations that I had to field as a parent. The Wall Street Journal's Juggle Blog took up the topic a couple of days later, coming up with some of the most common doozies that they've heard. But we're only scratching the surface. I'd like to present the top four worst questions for go-to-work and at-home parents, and I hope you all will top these with your own in the comments section. The four worst things to say to an at-home parent: Don't you miss adult interaction? (Compared to what? Sitting in a cubicle hammering away at a keyboard for 8 hours a day?) Do you think you're being a good role model for your kids? (Yup. I'm happy. And I'm sure seeing a happy parent is every bit as important for role modeling as...

 

By Brian Reid | November 1, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Political Babies

Did anyone read Libby Copeland's Washington Post article yesterday about political insiders planning their babies around election cycles -- instead of ovulation cycles? The article was cute-silly titled Blue or Pink States. It was a tetch annoying in that inside-the-Beltway Washington way (mentioning lots of political couples that most people, including me, have never heard of). But the article focused on an essential question that affects many normal folks outside Washington politics: How far can you go in terms of planning pregnancies around major events in your career? Are you playing God if you wait to get pregnant until after a major milestone such as turning 30, getting a promotion or making partner? Is plotting your babymaking distasteful, wise, disgusting, or purely practical? All of the above, is my answer. Of course some people plan babies around their work goals. This doesn't make work more important than children -- it's...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 31, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Truth or (How) Dare (You)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Of all of the balancing acts carried out each day -- work vs. family, time with kid one vs. time with kid two, the need for sleep vs. the need for exercise, eat in vs. order out -- one of the ones that still vexes me is the response to judgmental comments from the parenting peanut gallery: explain vs. ignore. This came up a few weeks ago when I let it slip that we were a formula family. There is an excellent medical reason for this -- physicians for both my wife and our daughter said nursing was out of the question at the time. And while neither my wife nor I has been chastised in person lately (the little one is old enough to render the whole formula/breast thing moot) it brought back memories of all the questions we did receive about our choice of...

 

By Brian Reid | October 25, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (273)

The Happiness Curse

The Washington Post Science page recently covered a decidedly non-scientific subject: happiness. Turns out there is a study, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, testing the idea that happiness is the sum of positive and negative events that happen to us each day, instead of longer-term achievements such as a stable marriage, children or economic security. "Researchers found that people need a certain ratio of positive to negative events to be happy," the article explained. The problem for Americans, who report being generally happier than people from most other countries, is that we are too happy. "Being happy raises your expectations about being happy. When good things happen, they don't count for much because they are what you expect. When bad things happen, you temporarily feel terrible, because you've gotten used to being happy." Finally, a scientific answer: We'd be happier if we were unhappier....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 15, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (90)

Rerun of Your Choice

Today is Columbus Day, a holiday for some, and a holiday for On Balance. So please go check out the On Balance archives, where nearly 400 white hot discussions are waiting for you. Remember We've Raised a 'Me' Generation? The Opt-Out Myth? Rally for Breast-Feeding Rights? To Keep or Not Keep Your Maiden Name? People of Cleavage? We've got a lot of gems in the On Balance archives. Pick your favorite and tell us all about it. See you tomorrow!...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 8, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

Is the Quest for Balance a Joke?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My fellow dad-blogger, Paul Nyhan of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has given up on the whole balance thing. He declared last week, in a post titled "Work-Family Balance is a Joke," that there is no sweet spot of work and family and soccer and violin and date nights that will leave every member of the family happy and energized at all times. The best you can hope for is to embrace the chaos and live for the moment. In a way, Paul is right. You can't live a serene life when there is a kid involved, and the more kids, the more nuttiness. This is an immutable fact, a derivation of the second law of thermodynamics. I know that there exist out there "slacker" parents who proudly hew to the noble and shrinking tradition of letting the kids do what they may, but even that comes with...

 

By Brian Reid | October 4, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (66)

How We Fight

Add this query to that list couples are supposed to talk about before getting married: Do you like to fight? Because a 10-year study of 4,000 Massachusetts men and women shows how married couples argue directly affects their physical health. Women who "self silence" during arguments were four times as likely to die during the decade-long study period vs. women who openly told their husbands how they felt, according to Marital Spats, Taken to Heart in yesterday's New York Times. It didn't matter whether the woman described her marriage as a happy or unhappy one. Another study that videotaped couples arguing, conducted by a psychology professor at the University of Utah, showed that the way a couple fights can be as important a risk factor in heart disease as smoking or high cholesterol. "When you're suppressing communication and feelings during conflict with your husband, it's doing something very negative to...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 3, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (117)

Pitfalls of Dating Down

When talking about salaries on this blog, most of my time has been spent pondering the frustrating injustice of the gender pay gap. On average, women in this country earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Unfair indeed. We now have a different pay gap to examine. Last Sunday, the New York Times explored Putting Money on the Table: With Rising Incomes, Young Women Discover the Pitfalls of "Dating Down." Despite the odd placement in the Sunday Styles section (how does women's earning power qualify as style?), the revelations were fascinating. Young women are catching up -- indeed, surpassing, men. At least in New York. According to the article and another piece that ran in August, the median income of women age 21 to 30 in New York who are employed full time was 17 percent higher than that of comparable men. The new pay gap...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 1, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (151)

Commutes and Balance

Author Jane Smiley, whose book A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, wrote the following about commutes and balance in her Mommy Wars essay: Work was ten minutes from home, which was five minutes from the day care, which was across the street from the grocery store, which was five minutes from the school, which was two minutes from home. This is the cardinal rule for "having it all"--have it all inside a very small perimeter. Almost no one lives like this in large metropolitan areas, unfortunately. Which leads us to the subject of "commutes and balance," the subject of a recent, memorable USA Today article sent in by Vegas Mom. Roughly 15 million Americans leave for work before dawn each day. Michigan mom Martha Perry leaves by 6 a.m. and doesn't get home until 7 or 7:30 p.m. She and her husband have one two-year-old child; her...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 19, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (208)

Women, Divorce and Money

I recently went to a Mommy Wars book club event where the subject turned to women, divorce and money. Many of the moms sitting around the host's living room admitted that they knew little of their family's finances -- busy with daily childcare and household management, these women had a "divide and conquer" strategy, with their husbands taking line management of the family's financial health. A few did not have a checking account or credit card in their own names. One at-home mom, married 21 years, said that watching her sister go through an ugly divorce changed her attitude. "I went to the bank and got my own account the next day," she explained ruefully. "You never know what's going to happen." Watching former CNN anchor Paula Zahn's personal and professional life implode over the last few months is a strong warning for all women. In March, tabloids reported that...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 12, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (132)

The Down Side of Negotiating

Okay, you've all had a few months to reconsider your position on Asking for What We Are Worth and Gender-Based Taxation. A review of the facts: The gender pay gap starts within one year of college graduation. Women working full time earn 77 percent of the salaries of men working full time. In case you're thinking the differential is due to women's maternity leaves and time off to care for children, think again, because women who work full time and have never taken time off to have children earn about 11 percent less than men with equal educations and experience. To add to the brew, consider the findings in a recent Washington Post Science article Salary, Gender and the Social Cost of Haggling. Intrigued by the "pay gap", Professor Linda Babcock from Carnegie Mellon University and Hannah Riley Bowles from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government systematically studied gender differences when...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 10, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (81)

Passports and Child Protection

My vacation last week with my kids, our first trip outside the United States, nearly imploded due to a very good cause: Tighter U.S. passport restrictions. Although the new application procedures have caused headaches for millions of Americans and State Department employees (who are currently processing more than 500,000 applications per week to ease the backlog), the regulations directly benefit millions of American children. Most of us have heard of the new rules requiring passports for Americans traveling to the U.S. from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America. But two other changes that regulate children's and parents' passports are designed to safeguard kids -- and they seem to be working. The Passport Denial Program began in 1998 but is gaining widespread effectiveness. As reported in The New York Times Passport Rule Helps Collect Child Support (fee or subscription required), the State Department, working with the U.S. Department for Health...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 5, 2007; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (62)

Life in the Carpool Lane

It's been three years since I traded my full-time, in-the-office job for 100 percent flexible hours working from home. I make about the same amount in terms of salary, and my family transitioned to my husband's benefits coverage. The big benefit to our family is that I'm far more available to my kids, ages 10, 8 and 5. Although I'm happy with my work/life balance these days, every few months I feel the pull of the office and wonder when it will be time to return. Here's what dumbfounds me: Between our three kids we've got three soccer teams, three basketball teams, one pediatric practice and two speech/reading therapists. Thank God our kids are in the same school these days or I might not be able to work at all. I could say "no" to my kids more often. But good health, physical exercise and competence in reading and talking...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 22, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (296)

The Strength to Give

My cousin cared for his wife, at home, for seven years as she slowly died from frontal temporal degeneration, an incurable neurological disease. He has Multiple Sclerosis himself. Instead of golden years of retirement together, he and his wife both faced incurable illnesses. During those long years before his wife's quiet death this past spring, I often wondered how he and other caregivers find the strength, patience and hope to care for a loved one with a terminal illness. In addition to taking her to doctor's and therapy appointments, my cousin offered daily kindnesses I can hardly fathom. It took 90 minutes for him to feed her at each meal. In addition to bathing her every day, he washed and styled his wife's hair as she would have done herself. He went to Nordstrom's cosmetics counter to learn how to apply her makeup (and did a good job, too). He...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 15, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (116)

Back to School Boogie

Rebel Dad (and others) have already sent their kids back to school. Mine head back the day after Labor Day. Summer is over -- or close to enough to catch a whiff of new textbook smell. For the first time since becoming a mother, all three of my kids will be going to the same school. It's an 11 minute drive from my house (which also happens to be my office). The school offers a fantastic, affordable aftercare program that lasts until 6 p.m. every day (and they do homework!). For the first time in 10 years I don't need full-time childcare. For my oldest child, back-to-school means he's getting his first locker and two free periods a day. My youngest is afraid of kindergarten -- the great unknown. My middle child is furiously completing a diary about everything that happened this summer (hour-by-hour). For me, this back-to-school season means...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 13, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (219)

Revolution by Lawsuit

On this blog and in my own life, I've heard myriad stories of employer discrimination against moms, almost-moms and dads. A woman fired while she was pregnant because her employer assumed she wouldn't return from maternity leave. Another who returned to find her responsibilities drastically reduced. A senior executive transferred to a job that required extensive travel and evening entertaining -- after she had given birth to three children in three years. A man ridiculed for taking paternity leave. I have my own stories, too. None of us filed lawsuits. We were afraid of ruining our reputations or wasting our time within a system that seemed unfair or uncaring about our determination to be good employees and good parents. Now, one woman has convinced me we all should have been braver. Joan Williams was the subject of last Sunday's New York Times Magazine's article Family Leave Values. Williams, a legendary...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 1, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Calling For Balance On 'On Balance'

A few days ago, my three kids were bickering endlessly with each other for the trillionth time. I told them "I've done everything in my power to stop your fighting and I've decided you three simply deserve each other. So keep on bickering to your heart's content!" They laughed and stopped fighting. It's time to do the same thing now with all of you. This summer, the anonymous nastiness on this blog has become counterproductive to what has been, in general, a very productive discussion for the past 18 months. Not everyone is at fault here, but everyone will now be required to register with washingtonpost.com before they are able to post comments to the blog. We value honest opinions; disagreements and even anger are a normal part of conversations about work/life balance and parenthood where philosophical divides are common. Requiring registration does not mean we don't want to hear...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 31, 2007; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (271)

When Life and Work Collide

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My little one may be -- pound for pound -- one of the louder creatures on this Earth. We like to attach cute euphemisms to her happy utterances ("awwww ... she's squawking again"), but I must face facts: A scream is a scream, and she's extraordinarily good at it. And now most of my co-workers know of my daughter's talent. Last week, I was in the car with the whole family during one of those rare but inevitable periods in which each family member needs to be picked up, dropped off or otherwise delivered somewhere during a staggeringly small window. (And one of those periods where being a one-car family has serious drawbacks.) In my delusional state, I assumed that we could get everyone where they belonged by 4 p.m., when my conference call began. We were still 5 minutes from home when I hopped on...

 

By Brian Reid | July 26, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (389)

Men Speak, Women Stay Silent?

The common stereotype is that women like to talk more than men. One neuropsychiatrist even reported in The Female Brain that women use 20,000 words per day compared to only 7,000 for men. A recent article, The Last Word: Men Talk As Much As Women, along with a study reported in Science, refuted these findings. Turns out women and men both speak about 16,000 words a day, or 15 words per waking minute. (Individuals vary, naturally.) But in educational and professional settings, I've always been troubled by a verbal inequality between men and women. Starting in high school (1980s), then college (late 1980s), then business school (1990s), and in meetings in various business and volunteer roles since then, I've taken informal note of how often women speak in public and how often teachers or people running meetings call on women. What I found is that 1) in a free-speak forum,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 25, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (446)

Adding an Animal to the Balancing Act

By Rebeldad Brian Reid This year, on New Year's Eve, we came home from the Humane Society with a puppy. Dasher was three months old, super-cute and appeared to be the shyest and calmest of his litter. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Our previous dog, Bebe, had died in August, and I assumed it was time for the click-clack of nails on hardwood again. This was an incredibly dumb assumption. My wife and I got Bebe as an adult dog, so we weren't fully prepared for the onslaught of puppy-ness. Our youngest was sleeping through the night, but suddenly I was waking up at 3 a.m. again, taking my freckled pooch out to the back lawn. Dasher quickly got bigger and much, much more energetic. Despite training classes, in-home training, frequent walks, trips to the dog park and so on, he remains a huge handful. As...

 

By Brian Reid | July 19, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Are You "Done?"

In the last year, two friends, like me in their 40's with three young children, changed their minds that they were "done" having kids. Now, they each have a new, fourth baby -- nearly a decade younger than their three others. Their babies are divinely cute. My friends are giddy with happiness, acting like grandparents with their first grandchild. The three older children help with baby care, making the moms' second swing at motherhood far easier. But when one of my friends knowingly asked me if I were "done," I almost spit out my coffee. Right now, I can't imagine having another child. My husband, an only child, originally wanted five. After two, he suddenly changed his forecast that three would be perfect. I agreed -- I grew up in a large clan and my philosophy has always been that children should outnumber the adults. But three is plenty chaos...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 4, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (362)

Finding Balance in Divorce

In the past year, two of my closest friends got divorced. It's our time -- when our kids were younger, I used to joke that no one had time to get divorced. Unfortunately I was right -- now that we've all been married a dozen years or more and our children are increasingly independent, some people do have time to realize how miserable they are together. Luckily, in both cases, the custody arrangements have been 50/50. Not too much ugliness. Kids seem okay -- but of course, kids often seem okay in the short run, and problems surface later. On Mother's Day, I read an Associated Press article that really got me. Returning Troops Battle for Lost Custody of Children profiled several divorced moms and dads who had to transfer custody of their children temporarily when they were mobilized. When they returned to civilian life, they lost custody permanently because...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 16, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Start-Ups and Balance

A year ago, Laura Deutsch, a 33-year-old New York teacher, was home on maternity leave after the birth of her first child when an idea for a new business came to her. These days, her company, Baby Bites NYC, runs 25 events a month for new and expectant moms. Her business has been featured on The Today Show, Montel Williams and in Newsweek. "My business has completely changed my life," Deutsch explains. "Owning a business that helps women make the transition to motherhood is a thrill. But there is no longer a clear division between work and the rest of my life. I have to make myself stop work at some point each day or I would keep working and working, and I make it a point to have quality time with my family each night." "Balance" between kids, work, household chores and family time is hard enough even when...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 2, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Upsetting the Stay-at-Home Mommies

Yesterday's Washington Post Outlook section carried a smart article called The Mommy War Machine that argued that much of the so-called "mommy wars" between working and at-home moms doesn't exist except in the media and among writers trying to promote their books. I don't disagree that media stories often oversimplify and sensationalize the problems facing American mothers -- but I also cannot deny that I see lots of evidence that women experience a "mommy war" driven by guilt, tension and understandable jealousy on both sides. There's another, even more debilitating war inside moms' heads as we struggle to come to peace with our choices, or lack of choices, about how we combine work and raising kids. This inner mommy war too often spills out in public disparagement of moms who've made different choices. Last Wednesday's New York Times' Mommy Books: More Buzz Than Buyers quoted Leslie Bennetts defending her book...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 30, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (453)

How to Wreck Your Career

Some working parents argue that becoming a parent makes us better employees: wiser, more seasoned, better negotiators, swifter prioritizers, more sympathetic managers. I'm sure some of this argument is true. But most working parents would also agree that kids are a major distraction from work, whether through sleep deprivation, mental and physical exhaustion, and unexpected absences from work due to calls from the school nurse (or principal) and children's sick days. Now there is a study out that tries to measure the correlation between parenting and productivity at work. Three Canadian universities -- the University of Ottawa, Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and Hamilton's McMaster University -- collaborated on A Test of the Links Between Family Interference with Work, Job Enrichment and Leader-Member Exchange published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (subscription or fee required to read full text). "Interfering" factors included financial crises and caring for elderly parents, in...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 23, 2007; 07:40 AM ET | Comments (304)

Red Flags at Work, School and Home

Cho Seung Hui, the 23-year-old in Monday's Virginia Tech rampage who killed himself and 32 others, was described in The Washington Post as an "eccentric loner." A quiet, apparently shy student on a large college campus, Cho's disturbed creative writing caused one professor to refer him to Virginia Tech's counseling service and another to alert university police, according to The Post. Interviews with his fellow students don't reveal much: An English major who largely kept to himself. Originally from South Korea, Cho graduated in 2003 from Westfield High School in Fairfax County. Essentially, someone whose behavior raised only a few red flags, which were ignored by authorities because Cho had made no direct threats. Yet so many people now ask a valid question: Could anything have been done to prevent Cho from killing 32 innocent students, professors and employees? This is the logical question in tragedy's aftermath. It's the most...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 18, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (340)

It's a Logic Gap, Not a Pay Gap

The pay gap, again? This time Carrie Lukas, vice president at the Independent Women's Forum and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism," weighs in that the pay gap is actually a good idea in A Bargain at 77 Cents to a Dollar. "I have a good education and have worked full time for 10 years...throughout my career, I've made things other than money a priority. I chose to work in the nonprofit world because I find it fulfilling. I sought out a specialty and employer that seemed best suited to balancing my work and family life...I'm not making as much money as I could, but I'm compensated by having the best working arrangement I could hope for...Surveys have shown for years that women tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and personal fulfillment than men." Fine. Great. I agree -- kind of. I, too,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 9, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (330)

Staying Anonymous in the Balance Battles

By Rebeldad Brian Reid In the past month, we've been treated to a wide assortment of guest columns: a 54-year-old's reflections on fatherhood, a childless employee's tale of discrimination, a Nevada mother's experience with a family medical emergency. Though disparate, these guest blogs shared one notable commonality: they were all written anonymously. A lot of time and thought went into these pieces (Fred's piece may well have been the best single post I've read on this blog), and they were published by the online arm of one of this country's most storied newspapers. To refuse the opportunity to attach a name to those efforts seem a little weird. (The anonymity in the comments is more understandable but less welcome - an opportunity to escape responsibility - and I'm thankful that most commenters stick with their nom-de-plumes.) I am left wondering if some of the reluctance to take credit reflects a...

 

By Brian Reid | April 5, 2007; 07:10 AM ET | Comments (362)

Bosses and Birth Control

I recently found myself in the ladies room of a large international consulting firm that operates in 49 countries. On the bathroom stall was a glossy flyer outlining the five things employees need to do to protect themselves from germs and viruses that can cause illness...and obviously cause employees to take sick days. When you employ 150,000 people worldwide, a few sick days per employee costs millions of dollars in lost productivity. It makes sense to me that a large employer is willing to spend money to keep its employees healthy (and hard-working). So, naturally, it baffles me that another large employer has gone to court rather than cover a prescription medicine that prevents employees from taking months and months off from work. That employer is Union Pacific Railroad, which last month received a favorable U.S. Court of Appeals response to a class-action lawsuit filed by its female employees. The...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 2, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (362)

The Opt-Out Myth

We've nearly beaten to death the media myth of moms who "opt out", but a recent recap of skewed coverage of working and stay-at-home moms in the January/February Columbia Journalism Review --The Opt-Out Myth-- was so succinct and clearly thought-out that I just had to call it to everyone's attention. The author is E.J. Graff, Senior Researcher at the Brandeis Institute for Investigative Journalism and head of the Gender and Justice Project, where she investigates "serious inequities, injustices and human rights issues that confront many women." The Opt-Out Myth mentions an interesting analysis of 119 newspaper articles from 1980 to 2006 showing how undue prominence is placed on "the opt-out storyline," conducted by Joan C. Williams, director of the University of California Hastings Center for WorkLife Law. It goes on to cite New York Times articles from the last 50 years that repeatedly highlight how much women looove to stay...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 19, 2007; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (433)

In Defense of the Dual-Earner Household

By Rebeldad Brian Reid One of the great myths of the work-life balancing discussion is that (as neotraditionalist rabblerouser Caitlin Flanagan once put it) "when a mother [or father] works, something is lost." The idea that kids with two working parents are somehow getting shafted is plausible enough to fuel an avalanche of books of the glories of at-home parenthood, but the actual data on this point is always pretty meager. That's why I was excited to read through this essay from the American Prospect's incredibly exhaustive series of essays on work-family balance (titled "Mother Load," but thankfully cognizant of fathers). In it, author Kathleen Gerson talks to a number of young adults about their perceptions of family, starting with their impressions of their own upbringings. And here, she drops a bombshell of sorts: Those who grew up in dual-earner homes were least ambivalent about their parents' arrangements. More than...

 

By Brian Reid | March 15, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Growing With Your Kids

Most of this blog, like most of my parenting experience, has focused on "balance" issues that arise when your kids are under 10. But what about the future? Soon enough "letting go" will become part of the balancing act. The famous adage is "little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems." My oldest just turned 10 and I've gotten glimpses of what the saying means. His birthday present was a cell phone so he can be in touch when he's off by himself at sports practices or with friends. He doesn't believe in Santa Claus. The other night when our five-year-old daughter asked my husband what "divorce" means -- right when DH vowed that Mommy and Daddy would never get divorced -- my son rolled his eyes. He is beginning to not believe in us the way he always has. As parents we have to let go a little bit...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 14, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Happily Ever After?

As women spend more time working -- and have let/ encouraged/ demanded their husbands do more with kids -- fatherhood has changed dramatically in the United States. Because of this, dads' roles as parents have changed even more in the last 25 years than moms'. Along these lines comes I Think I Love My Wife, a movie that opens March 16 starring, co-written and directed by comedian Chris Rock. Rock, who is married and has two children, calls the movie "a serious comedy about dads and marriage and parenthood." The basic plot, as far as I can tell from previews, reviews and Rock's February 28 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, is that the main character's life is idyllic -- beautiful wife, lovely kids, good job, trustworthy friends. But he's bored with domestic bliss in a midlife, "is this all there is?" way, and easily distracted by a friend's seductive...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 13, 2007; 07:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Private Mommy War

A year ago my anthology, Mommy Wars, which explores the inner battles of working and at-home moms, was published. The paperback came out yesterday (with cool James Bond silhouettes of moms on a funky orange cover) . In between the two pub dates, I was lucky enough to appear on the Today Show, the Diane Rehm Show, and a slew of other TV and radio programs. I talked to -- and heard from -- hundreds of working and at-home moms across the country about their own private mommy wars. This is what I found. Women everywhere -- in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, in smaller places like Orinda, Calif., and Warren, N.H. -- were eager to talk about their lives juggling work and raising kids. Moms in red states and blue states all benefit from open, honest dialogue about our mommy wars, which is part of this...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 28, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Lesson in Valentines

In ancient times, before I became a mother, Valentine's Day was a romantic, decidely adult holiday, celebrated with lingerie, chocolate and sex. Since I've had school-age children, the holiday has been hijacked. Now, in late January I start worrying: How far other parents will go this time and how far below that standard my children's offerings will fall. I've seen enormous gourmet cupcakes personalized with each classmate's name in fancy script icing, lacquered doilies that look as if they belong in a vintage museum, homemade heart-shaped cookies on a stick, and last year one mom burned CDs with her child's favorite love songs. Who can keep up? Every impressive Valentine dumped from my children's backpacks screams at me: bad mother! In my pathetic way, I've tried everything: making homemade cards (mangled lumps of red construction paper and glue), buying cheap cards at CVS or slightly more chic cards from a...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 14, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Oprah's Motherhood Poll

As part of Oprah Winfrey's recent, memorable segment, My Baby or My Job: Why Elizabeth Vargas Stepped Down, the show conducted a poll of 15,000 working and stay-at-home moms. Respondents' annual income levels ranged from "less than $20,000" to "over $100,000." The survey results, although not surprising, were fascinating; it is always interesting to see people's feelings in black and white. More than 80 percent of both working and at-home moms feel that stay-at-home moms do not get the respect they deserve. (I do not think moms, period, get the respect they deserve.) Nearly 100 percent of both groups describe their children as happy. (If true, this makes me wonder how therapists are going to make a living 20 years from now.) Sixty-six percent of working moms would quit to stay home with their kids if they could; only 36 percent of stay-at-home moms wish they worked. (This surprised me,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 12, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (425)

Feet of Clay

Back in November, my husband proudly signed himself up to be a noon-time reading buddy on a Tuesday in January for our daughter's second grade class, an honor the parents vie for and the children eagerly anticipate. Since then, he has worked nearly around the clock on a business deal that ruined our Florida holiday (for two nights he slept on the resort veranda in order to take 3 a.m. calls from lawyers). Suffice to say, he's been distracted by work. Last Tuesday, he called me with this cryptic message: "I am the worst father ever. I can't even talk about it over the phone. Call me." Turns out, he had spent the morning in back-to-back meetings and arrived at his office to find an Outlook pop-up that read: 2nd Grade Reading Group, 12:30 p.m. It was 2 p.m. An hour later when I picked our daughter up at school,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 31, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (614)

How Do You Manage Stress?

How do you manage stress along with juggling work and family? Do you do bike with your kids? Take long walks with the dog? Or bang your head against the wall? The Washington Post Health section would like to hear how you manage the stress that is an inevitable part of our busy lives. Please e-mail health@washpost.com (200 words or fewer please) and with the subject line Stress Management. We'll publish some of the most interesting responses in the Tuesday Health section....

 

By Stacey Garfinkle | January 12, 2007; 05:07 PM ET | Comments (0)

Can Freedom and Kids Co-Exist?

On Sunday night, CBS' 60 Minutes ran an interview of critically-acclaimed British actress Dame Helen Mirren, whose most recent role is in The Queen. Morley Safer interviewed Mirren on a number of subjects, including growing up as the granddaughter of a Russian nobleman and a butcher to Queen Victoria, her deep insecuriites as a 20 year old, making nude film scenes, her happy marriage to American film-maker Taylor Hackford, and what it's like to be the only actress ever to portray both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II. Then Safer asked the 61-year-old Mirren if she'd regretted not having children. "Absolutely not," Mirren replied without hesitation. "Because I don't have children, I've been able to be...free." Mirren waved her hand gesturing to the obvious conclusion: that freedom from being a mother has made possible all of the above. I, on the other hand, was feeling anything but free as...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 10, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (540)

The Sandwich Generation Searches for Balance

Many On Balance readers have asked to discuss challenges and solutions for those of us caring for kids and aging parents simultaneously. I'm not in this situation yet -- both my parents are independent and healthy -- so I don't have my own insights. But I came across some fascinating facts in an informative issue of US News and World Report, Taking Care of Mom & Dad that I thought could kick off a great discussion. According to US News, most Americans grow old in their own communities. In fact, "naturally occuring retirement communities" (NORCs) have recently begun to receive city, state and philanthropic funds, in recognition of how valuable it is for communities to provide for their aging residents -- and for locals to stay put. Some of these "villages" also establish memberships for residents over 50, with services such as a weekly ride to the grocery stores, exercise...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 8, 2007; 07:22 AM ET | Comments (190)

Nannies and Prejudice

Last week, the New York Times ran a front page story titled Nanny Hunt Can be a 'Slap in the Face' for Blacks, which outlined, in painful detail, how difficult finding a nanny can be for African American working moms. Finding good childcare is hard for everyone. Happy solutions almost always require luck, money, good judgment and perseverance. The article argues -- with anecdotal examples based on interviews with nannies and agencies in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Houston, plus factual evidence -- that black families face additional obstacles because of childcare providers who avoid working for black families. The reasons, according to the Times, "included accusations of low pay and extra work, fears that employers would look down at them, and suspicion that any neighborhood inhabited by blacks had to be unsafe." The Times's follow-up discussion revealed more difficult experiences facing black families searching for quality childcare: "My experience...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 3, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (322)

More New Moms Staying Home

Last Thursday, Sue Shellenbarger's Work & Family column for the Wall Street Journal, More New Mothers Are Staying Home Even When It Causes Financial Pain, recapped 2004 data from a cross-sectional historical study of mothers' work-force participation (cut by moms' education levels, ethnicity and husbands' incomes) analyzed by Emy Sok and Sharon Cohany at the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data will be included in the February 2007 Monthly Labor Review (look under Publications on the BLS Web site). Here's what Shellenbarger found: * The trend of moms staying home is more widespread than articles like the New York Times Opt-Out Revolution suggest, with women at all income levels taking job breaks. * More mothers of infants (less than 12 months old) are staying home (48 percent in 2004 vs. 41 percent in 1997) than mothers of older children. * Well-educated mothers with bachelor's degrees and...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 6, 2006; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Success At Work, A Failure At Home

A few weeks ago, a Washington Post Book World review prompted me to buy a thought-provoking attempt by a writer named John Dickerson to understand his mother's determination to combine work and motherhood in the 1960s and '70s. On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News' First Woman Star tackles working motherhood from the view of the child -- in this case, a smart boy warped by his mother's desire to have a fantastic career and children. This doesn't seem greedy now, but in the 1960s, this dual ambition stood out. And what a career she had. A girl from a small midwestern town with big dreams, Nancy Dickerson graduated from college in 1948, when many American colleges and graduate schools didn't accept women. Television journalism was almost entirely dominated by men, but that didn't stop Dickerson from moving to Washington and forcing her way into the old boys...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 29, 2006; 07:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

Do Men Want Moms to Quit?

I recently sat around the dinner table with several couples talking about how we all balanced work and family issues. One of the stay-at-home moms, an insightful former psychiatrist who'd studied at three internationally-known universities, talked about her decision to quit her psychiatric residency shortly before the birth of her first child. "My boss and mentor -- an older woman who had supported me for years in my medical program -- was furious. She clearly felt betrayed." The mom shook her head sadly. Then she perked up. "But the men in my program were just great. They were much more supportive of my decision to stay home." I didn't say anything because I didn't know her very well. But this is what I thought: Of course her boss felt betrayed. And I bet those men were supportive of this genius dropping out of the rat race of academia, a world...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 22, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Ladies, Freeze Your Eggs!

I was at a party recently when a brilliant, childless, 40-something unmarried friend confided she'd just frozen a bunch of her unfertilized eggs so that she could bear her own biological children once she met Mr. Right. "I wish I'd done it when I was 25," she explained. "But there is new technology to preserve unfertilized eggs and my doctor discovered I have really healthy eggs for a 40-plus woman." Wow, what a good idea, I thought, but kind of... random. Probably not the solution for everyone. A few days later, at the annual Wharton Women in Business conference, an older Wharton grad was asked by the audience of 20-something Wharton business school students for her best advice about balancing work and family. After a pregnant (ha ha) pause during which the room of 500 women got preternaturally quiet, she broke the silence by shouting like a Nascar announcer kicking...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 15, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (381)

Power Mom Vargas' Return

Elizabeth Vargas, the co-host of ABC's World News Tonight who stepped down shortly before the birth of her second child this past summer, returned to work with a 20/20 segment last Friday called Mother's Work. The piece profiled the struggles of three working moms -- and Vargas herself, with lots of shots of her at home with her children. One of the moms said her daycare bill is double her mortgage. Another thinks one problem is that culturally, women are trained not to ask for help. Carol Evans from Working Mother magazine argued that companies couldn't survive a day without the 58 million working moms in America. Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd revealed that every time he brings up the subject of a national maternity leave program or child care on Capitol Hill, other politicians present a "stonewall." And Vargas herself asked, "Why has so little been done regarding paid maternity...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 13, 2006; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (271)

Children Aside, We're All In This Together

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Lately, the comments have hosted some child-free vs. parent fighting. I find that conflict as tired as all of the other trumped-up "wars": the myth of dads fighting dads, moms fighting moms, city parents fighting suburbanites, at-homes fighting go-to-works, dogs fighting cats and so on. The rallying cry of the child-free is usually some variation of "why should workers with kids arrive late/leave early/telecommute/work part-time/etc. when I can't?" The better question is this: Why shouldn't everyone, regardless of rugrats, be able to arrive late/leave early/telecommute/etc.? Folks, we're all on the same side here. Just as I think we'd have a happier, more productive workforce if parents weren't given the stark choice between 50+ hour workweeks or full-time at-home parenthood, I think we'd have a happier, more productive workforce if everyone had a few more options about how to arrange their lives. Making sure that everyone has...

 

By Brian Reid | November 9, 2006; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (176)

Moms in Paradise

A list of government benefits offered to parents with young children in European countries, France in particular: * Monthly childcare subsidies * Summer camps for children that cost as little at $1.50 a day * Tax deductions based on the number of children in the family * Lengthy paid maternity and paternity leaves * 4-8 weeks of annual paid vacations * Laws guaranteeing moms part-time jobs * Less guilt, frustration and stress for moms combining work and motherhood Sounds like paradise compared to what moms face in the U.S. Here's what we get: * 48 to 72 hours of hospital care when we give birth * Six weeks of paid disability leave and our same job back -- if our company has 50 or more employees and we've worked there for a year or more * Ostensible legal protection in the case of gender or pregnancy-related discrimination at work --...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 25, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Home Alone

When was the last time you spent a night alone in your own home? Recently, my husband took our three children to visit his mother in New Jersey. I drew up a list of 100 things to do, like clean the playroom, organize the kids' clothes, catch up on e-mail and bills, have coffee with a new friend and get some work done. As they drove away, I felt like cheering. I ran back inside, cleaned up the kitchen and family room (silently chanting and it's gonna stay clean for 48 hours!), put on some jazz music and breathed a huge, decade-long sigh of relief. I realized it had been almost 10 years since I'd spent a night alone in my own home. I'd been away -- on business trips or to visit a relative with a new baby. My husband has spent many nights alone, on business trips or...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 9, 2006; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (168)

The New Daddy Wars?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Say what you will about The New Republic (and here in Washington, you probably do have something to say about it), but it's generally a pretty thoughtful magazine. Not always right, but thoughtful. TNR has covered parenting issues with some depth in the past, and Jonathan Cohn put up a blog post on the magazine's site earlier this year aptly noting that discussing Mommy Wars without daddy voices isn't likely to move the discussion very far. So I was actually excited to see that they gave the cover treatment to the "Mommy Wars" this week. But despite the intellectual heft of the piece, by James Wolcott, it's not particularly interesting or novel; really, do we need another piece taking hundreds of words to point out that Caitlin Flanagan is a hypocritical pseudo-housewife? But what is interesting to me was Wolcott's intro, and though the article is...

 

By Brian Reid | September 28, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Meow!

Add this one to the pile of recent nauseating articles by men purporting to understand women: an article belittling the trade-offs facing working and at-home mothers, which appears in the October 2nd issue of The New Republic (available by subscription) under the following catchy title: Mommies, mommies, mommies. The subtitle is Meow Mix. There is nothing terrible about the article (except that I, of course, disagree with the reasons it slams my book Mommy Wars). It's the five words in the title that really get at the heart of what's wrong with our culture when it comes to respecting women. I'm not sure I need to say anything more. But, of course, I will. Mostly, how could a writer and editor smart enough to remain employed by a national consumer magazine sanction a title that compares women to felines? This is my main point here. The days of comparing women,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 27, 2006; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (208)

Share Your Memories of 9/11

We all seem to have incredibly vivid memories of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. These are mine: I was four months pregnant and still pretty nauseauted. It was our kids' second week at new schools since we'd just moved to D.C. from Minnesota. My husband and I dropped our son at his elementary school at 8:30 (he'd just started pre-k) and then I let Perry off near his office. As I was driving our two-year-old to her daycare center I heard on the radio that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. I immediately called Perry -- we have many friends from business school on Wall Street. He'd heard about the crash, too. "Those twin-engine planes are so dangerous," he said. I settled our daughter into daycare and went to work. Someone told me a second Wall Street building had been hit. Then my phone rang. It was a...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 11, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (254)

Five Tricks to Tame Technology

By Rebeldad Brian Reid People who love balance love to hate the insidious way that wireless devices have proliferated, and there has been much hue and cry over "Crackberries" and electronic leashes and the way wireless devices have turned the home into a branch of the office. I don't buy it. The technology isn't intrinsically evil or flawed or dangerous. Instead, it seems pretty clear that our behavior hasn't kept up with the wireless gizmo revolution. Don't like your Treo buzzing at dinner? The solution is pretty simple. Shut it off. Or throw it into the Potomac. You own the device, not the other way around. I've been developing some rules for myself to develop the discipline needed to keep my various beeping and vibrating and chirping devices at bay when it comes to family time, and I'd love to hear yours: 1. Remember Why You Went Wireless: There are...

 

By Brian Reid | September 7, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (105)

Career Women Beware!

The recent flurry of blogs, online magazine articles, tv and radio rants, and the rewriting of research statistics and history prompted by Forbes.com's Tuesday column originally titled "Don't Marry Career Women" has been so enthralling that Brian Reid and I both had to weigh in for today's Free For All. Leslie: The bad news: a smart, well-educated senior editor (Michael Noer) at a prestigious national magazine (Forbes) is so utterly out-of-touch with the 80 million moms and 63 million working women in the United States that he wrote an article titled "Don't Marry Career Women" for Forbes.com. A few choice phrases: "Guys: a word of advice...whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career. ... Recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy...

 

By Stacey Garfinkle | August 25, 2006; 06:40 AM ET | Comments (302)

Could You Be A Stay-at-Home Mom?

An accomplished working mom I know who has three children under the age of four spent the last year testing the waters of stay-at-home motherhood. She took a six-month sabbatical from her job in media production. Then, with mixed feelings, she decided to stay home for good -- or at least until her children are in full-day school. I ran into her right after we'd both gotten our preschool's emergency forms for this fall, the kind with a blank line next to EMPLOYER. "I couldn't finish the form," my friend told me. "What I do for work -- that's my identity." Work is not necessarily every parent's identity -- first and foremost, a job means a paycheck and health insurance --but I identified with her conflict. Many women I know have spent the past 20 years or more working -- in high school and then in college and afterwards to...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 24, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Devil Bosses

Inspired by the Meryl Streep movie "The Devil Wears Prada," Washington Post business reporter Amy Joyce described several "devil bosses" in her Life at Work column last Sunday. The article made me recall a few nasty bosses of my own -- including one tyrannical Iraqi woman who inflicted upon me the fear and intimidation tactics she'd learned growing up in a series of British boarding schools. But none compares to the woman who made all employees in her department stay at work during a two-foot snowfall that ended up closing the entire company for two days. We all had young children in day care and school whom we needed to get to -- and then get home safely -- but she was oblivious, even as afternoon darkness fell. We knew she was largely clueless and not intentionally endangering our children, but we were all so intimidated by her past tirades...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 14, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (223)

Your Job or Your Kid?

Work & Family columnist Sue Shellenbarger of The Wall Street Journal recently ran an excellent recap about increasing legal protection for working parents with special-needs children that bodes well for all working parents. New Rulings Clarify Job Protections for Parents of Children With Disabilities (subscription or payment required) described several parents who had been fired for attending to their children's crises, even when they had continued to get their jobs done without accommodations. The parents sued -- and two of three rulings, in Chicago and Springfield, Ill, supported their rights as caregivers who had been discrimated against at work. According to Shellenbarger's article, under current law the Americans with Disabilities Act outlaws discrimination against caregivers to the disabled. (See www.caregiver.org or www.wrightslaw.com for helpful information.) However, the ADA does not require employers to provide different schedules or job responsibilities to accommodate parents, and employers and employees may disagree on whether...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 12, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (132)

Breast-Feed -- or Else

Last Tuesday, the New York Times ran a front page science article titled "Breast-Feed or Else." It included lots of interesting information about moms who breast-feed (charts showing that they are wealthier, older, better-educated) and evidence of indisputable longterm health and (possible cognitive) benefits to children. The article also communicated a warning: U.S. public health officials are very publicly, very judgmentally proclaiming (through a two-year television awareness campaign and lengthy newspaper quotes) that not breast-feeding may be hazardous to your baby's health. Okay. Close to my edge, but not over my edge. Hypothetical next steps is where the debate gets sticky. Should women be forced to breast-feed? Should we be punished (I see $50 pink tickets) if caught giving baby a bottle? What if a woman determines, because of postpartum depression or health issues or her need to return to work quickly, that it is in her best interest, if...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 26, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Singletary Weighs in on Postnups Debate

Yesterday's postnup debate prompted some people to ask what Michelle Singletary would say about them. So, we asked Michelle to weigh in. Here's her response: Prenup and Postnup Debate By Michelle Singletary I found the blog discussion and comments very interesting yesterday. The question of the day was whether it makes sense to have a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement. A few folks suggested I should weigh in on the topic, and so I shall. In my latest book, "Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich," I tell it like it should be. A prenuptial agreement is a plan to fail. A postnuptial agreement (a prenup done after the fact) is an exit strategy. Both are battle plans. Many will disagree with me, thinking this woman clearly hasn't got a grip on the high divorce rate in this country. I...

 

By Stacey Garfinkle | June 15, 2006; 08:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Postnups for Stay-at-Home Parents

Last week I heard a segment on American Public Radio's Marketplace about postnuptial agreements. Postnups are growing in popularity as a smart way to help married couples cope with battles over money -- who earns it and who spends it. Anxiety over long-term financial security is a common issue undermining couples' happiness, especially when one parent scales back or gives up a career to be their children's primary caregiver. The financial "what ifs?" can run an endless loop in many stay-at-home moms' (and dads') minds when they don't have a paycheck and benefits in their name. Marketplace interviewed New York lawyer Cynthia Rubin, who has drafted agreements to protect the parent who forgoes his or her earning potential to stay home with children. "[A]n identity change [can] cause a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in a marriage...[I worked with] a couple who had decided the wife would stay home with...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 14, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Friday Free-for-All -- 19 Years "Wasted"

Last Saturday, I read from Mommy Wars at a Frederick, Md., Borders. During the discussion afterwards, a stay-at-home mom talked of her difficulty re-entering the workforce after 19 years at home raising her children. She looked to be in her late 30s, youthful, fit, energetic, confident, and at peace with her choice to stay home for nearly two decades. "I've loved being home raising my children -- nothing compares to the bond a mom has with her kids. Now, my three kids are teenagers, I've gotten a new degree, and I'm ready to go back to work," she explained. "But last week, a woman in human resources told me I'd 'wasted the last 19 years' taking care of my children. What could I say?" First, let me express my outrage that anyone, especially a woman in human resouces, would be so mean-spirited and unwise as to offend a potential employee...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 2, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (116)

Business Trip Hair Pulling - Er Logistics

Three months ago, I had a business trip to New York. A quickie--one night and one day. Before kids, this jaunt would have required five minutes to throw pantyhose, makeup and a calculator into a carry-on. These days, getting ready to absent the mommy throne for 36 hours is akin to preparing for the Winter Olympics. The day away presented unique challenges. MJ had a girls-only party after school, one mom's attempt to transform the alarmingly catty first-grade girls into a cohesive group. Bravo -- and MJ needed to be there. I arranged for her to go to the party and home with a classmate (two phone calls; three e-mails; 20 minutes total). The same night, X. had basketball practice. Coach forbids absence except for illness. Our sitter drove him there and back (20 minutes spent writing directions to the suburban hinterlands where the team plays). She picked up MJ...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 24, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Moms on Moms

I was on The Jim Bohannon radio show recently when a woman named Jennifer called to talk about her stay-at-home mother's attitude towards working motherhood. Jennifer, a nurse with a 14-year-old daughter, rarely works a predictable eight-hour day, often having to stay late to care for patients. Her teenage daughter has always understood. Her mother hasn't. "It's been terrible for years. She makes me feel like a bad mother because I work." Maybe Jennifer's work makes her mother feel bad that she stayed home? My mother, a stay-at-home mom for most of my childhood, always encouraged me to work. At one point, The Washington Post offered me a second full-time job, in addition to the one I was doing. Two full-time jobs at once -- crazy, right? I called my mom to ask for advice. I was pregnant with our third child, and we'd just moved to Washington. I thought...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 20, 2006; 06:50 AM ET | Comments (119)

Multi-Tasking Takes Its Toll

My friend, Jen, a single working mom, took a week off to take care of household chores. "I painted every room in the house, had the air conditioning fixed, installed a new hot water heater, paid my taxes and put up six sets of curtains. It took me one week to do what it takes a stay-at-home mom a year to get done." There is no more efficient human being than a working mom. When you're trying to cram two parallel lives into one day, getting everything done as quickly as possible equals survival (and maybe an hour more of sleep). I've cringed at hearing more than one working mom use the descriptor "just some fat, lazy stay-at-home mom." I've heard stay-at-home moms admit that their brains get fuzzy, that weekdays blur together, that there's a lack of urgency about getting the curtains up when you can always do it...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 23, 2006; 10:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

Is This What Moms Really Want?

More than 100 extraordinary (and at times infuriating) responses were posted to the Friday, March 17, entry ("What All Moms Want"). It surprised me that so many were negative, snarky and defensive. Hallelujah to those of you who tried to be constructive and supportive. The conversation clearly has got to continue. Here's what struck me as the most thought-provoking observations ( in case you don't feel like reading 41 pages of comments). "We are still our own worst enemies." -- DM "Do we really want a world in which the only people who make our laws, start new businesses, do scientific research to make medicines, protect our environment, advocate for children in the legal system, are all men?" --Sammy "Why are women willing to call themselves by hostile and demeaning labels?" --Nana "How happy the politicians that control the money in this country and give us no good daycare, no...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 20, 2006; 08:25 AM ET | Comments (76)

 

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