Archive: Free-for-All

Naps and Balance

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 13, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (79)

Snapshots and Soundtracks

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 6, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (122)

Can You Find Balance in a Flip-Flop?

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 30, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (119)

What's Your Bumper Sticker?

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

 

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

Using The Internet To Find Balance

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 25, 2008; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (108)

Family Leave Fracas

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 18, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Our Stupidest Fights

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 11, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Pregnant Man

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 4, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (113)

Privacy and Balance

A few weeks ago, my husband went out of town unexpectedly on Saturday night. I had scheduled a babysitter, so I went to the movies alone (Juno) for the first time in about 12 years. And I have to admit, I experienced a kind of bliss. I didn't have to discuss which movie to see, how early to get there or where to sit. No one wanted to sit in my lap. No one asked me to go potty in the middle of a critical scene. There is a balance between giving yourself over to your family, your work, your volunteer responsibilities ... and keeping something for yourself, even if it's just going to the movies solo once every dozen years. This issue comes up more and more in my family, as we confront "family bed chaos" (how many children and adults can you fit on one mattress and still...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 21, 2008; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (32)

Dumb and Dumber

On Tuesday, Moxie Mom made many of us spit out our coffee with the following suggestion: "In light of the recent Spitzer situation and as a complement to the piece last week, I'd like to see an article in the WaPo about how dumb men are -- doing stuff like this again and again." The article Moxie mentions is We Scream. We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get? by Charlotte Allen, a 1,700 word rant on how stupid women are for their enthusiastic support of Obama, which drew howls when it appeared in the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section. In light of Eliot Spitzer's mea culpa, Moxie's question is well worth discussing. So, today, let's tackle this: When it comes to blowing opportunities, are men or women dumber? History is littered with the names of men who sacrificed political or professional power, destroyed their families and their self-respect for seemingly...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 14, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The One-on-One Trick

Eleven years ago, when my first child was a few months old, I met a mom in Gymboree class. She had three kids. She asked me out for coffee afterwards, and we sat in Starbucks with our babies for 45 minutes, new mom alongside wise mom. I never saw her again, but she gave me advice I never forgot. "How many kids do you want?" she asked. I didn't know. I solemnly told her my husband wanted five. (This still makes me crack up. Five? We'd be dead.) "No more than three," she said, definitively. "Because think about it -- you need some one-on-one time with each kid in order to be a really good parent, right?" Knocked upside down and blissed out by early motherhood, I'd never thought about parenthood in such concrete, futuristic terms. "Each week, my husband and I each spend about an hour one-on-one with each...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 7, 2008; 07:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

Do You Kiddie Cam?

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 29, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (21)

The Amazing Mom Song

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 22, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Telling the Boss

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 15, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Wisdom of our Mothers

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 8, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Heartache Leave

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 1, 2008; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Stepparent Two-Step

At a party recently I met a fascinating man. An adventurer who had been with the Peace Corps for several years, he had returned to the States and reunited with his long lost first love from high school, who in his absence had married, had a daughter, and divorced. A very romantic story. Then I asked what it was like to be a step-dad to a 15-year-old girl. "Awful," he said. "A totally impossible job. I am completely a third wheel, unwelcome, unthanked. But I love her, she's a great kid, and obviously I'm really happy about being with her mother. Everything I do is like training for a marathon. My goal is that in 10 or 15 years, all my hard work will pay off and we'll have a great relationship." Good grief. I was surprised (and you know me -- thrilled) by his candor. It is really difficult...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 25, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (61)

Dangers of Looking Your Age

During Wednesday's discussion about younger parents, we kicked around age-related bias. The biggest questions: When does ageism start at work? And what can you do about it? For the record, age-related discrimination at work is illegal in hiring, promotions and firing decisions. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects employees 40 and older. My research on stay-at-home moms who return to work has found that ageism starts to kick in around age 50. However, like a lot of bias, it's tricky to prove. Ageism affects both men and women. It's a surprise to many employees because until it affects you, ageism is easy to ignore. Age-discrimination is particularly shocking for stay-at-home moms who left the workforce in their late 30s or early 40s, before ageism was on their radar. They try to go back to work in their late 40s or early 50s and find ugly surprises. Women...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 18, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (60)

Can You Teach Work/Life Balance?

Survey Methodology: The 2007 "State of Work-Life Balance" survey was conducted online in November 2007. In total, 341 people qualified for and completed the survey. All participants were employed at the time of taking the survey.

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 11, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (35)

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)

PTA Do-Gooders

Continuing with our New Year's Resolution theme, I wanted to cite some truly good deeds done by a group that often gets picked on in the mommy blogosphere: the school parent teachers association, or equivalent group. Sometimes, the parents become so enthusiastic and strident that they make good cartoon targets, especially for those of us who might feel a tetch guilty about not volunteering. But a few dedicated parents can make an incredible difference in the life of the school, its children, teachers, and the very parents who poke fun at the uber-volunteers. Here are three examples from my life: In the 1970s, my mom single-handedly started an after-school sports program at my elementary school in D.C., Horace Mann, that provided cheap, incredibly fun activities for boys and girls for more than two decades. She hired a sports teacher who organized co-ed softball, kickball, soccer, capture the flag, gymnastics and...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 4, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (43)

Holiday Drama, Trauma and Joy

Today, our last Free-for-All of the year, let's get into the holiday spirit by sharing our favorite holiday "balance" tales. The time your boss made you work Christmas Day. The year you gave yourself the present of quitting a hated job. The New Year's Eve spent finishing your application to law school. Whatever happened yesterday or your dreaded obligations for next week. I once had to go to Mexico to work a trade show on Thanksgiving. The trip turned out to be really fun, although my relatives back home in turkey town thought "working on Thanksgiving" constituted some kind of sacrilege. It is easy to forget that Thanksgiving is an American holiday. My worst Christmas, without a doubt, was the year my first husband and I split up. The break occurred a few days before December 25, and naturally we canceled our holiday plans together. I had no place to...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 21, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (51)

Grown-Up Tattletales

A few days ago, I was hanging out at school pick-up while my kids got their backpacks. I talked to a friend's eight-year-old son until his nanny drove up to get him. He got into the car and had barely shut the door before she peeled out. He didn't have his seat belt buckled and there was no booster in sight. I thought: What do I do? Stop her? Call my friend, who recently returned to a full-time job after several years as a stay-at-home mom? Mind my own business and figure she is okay with her babysitter's lax attitude toward car safety? I called my friend and told her. She thanked me but otherwise seemed unconcerned. Oh well, I thought; I did what I thought was right. Then just a week later, another mom stopped me in car line. "I saw your daughter running down Wisconsin Avenue last Monday...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 14, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (115)

No More Company Holiday Parties?

According to The Wall Street Journal's Independent Street, nearly half of U.S. small business owners are planning a holiday for their office, store or business in 2007, up one percentage point from 2006. Every company I've worked for, large or small, has had a holiday party for employees, and often spouses. The results have ranged from lovely to boring to a chore for all involved. My best was a party where a group of us in sales planned, cooked and served a holiday meal to the highest performing group in our division. The worst -- a holiday party when I saw my (married) boss kiss one of my (married) peers. Yuck! What's your take? Are holiday office parties helpful to morale -- or are they obsolete? What are the best -- and worst -- holiday office parties you've been to? If it were your decision, would you revamp or remove...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 7, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (73)

Vacation Creep

So far this school year, my kids have had five holidays. Winter break starts on Thursday, Dec. 20 -- and school doesn't start again until more than two weeks later. By then, they will have had 71 full days of school and 16 vacation days. Plus a couple of sick days, here and there. That's less than five school days for every day off. Not exactly a real world scenario. In my last job, I had 10 paid vacation days a year, a sprinkling of national holidays like Thanksgiving and July 4th, balanced against roughly 243 days worked. With means I ALREADY would have used up all vacation taking care of my kids during their school breaks before the school year was half over. Now, don't get me wrong. I love vacation days with my kids. School is not meant to be daycare. I also am cognizant of the fact...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 30, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pajama Party

True Confession Friday: Some mornings, when there are no children awake to ask a favor from, I sneak outside in my pajamas to get the newspaper. (And I do sneak, quickly and quietly.) However, in the past two weeks, I was surprised to see the following: 1. A mom waiting with her child at the school bus stop in her nightgown. 2. Another mom walking her teenage son to school in sheer white pajamas without undergarments. I felt like stopping my car and lecturing each woman about public decency and setting an appropriate example for her children. Instead, I decided to ask you all what you wear outside in the mornings. Because maybe it is just me who thinks adults walking down the street in the morning in one's pjs sets the bar for decency awfully low. (At 2 a.m. after a few too many nightcaps is another story.) Do...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 16, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (95)

Marathon Moms

Okay, I'm flabbergasted: The winner of this past Sunday's New York City marathon had a baby in January? I'm particularly impressed because I could not possibly have run a marathon 10 months after having a baby. Okay, I couldn't have run one at any point in my life before I had a baby, either. And Katie Holmes ran it, too, less than two years after having Suri and after training a mere three months? Whatever... But wait, wait -- there are a few things I've done since having a baby that have surprised me. I wrote a book between the hours of 9 p.m. to midnight every night, after working a full day at my job and wrangling my three young kids through dinner, baths, stories and into bed. I have put in a day's work and taken care of my kids -- good care -- after getting less than...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 9, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (99)

On Balance Potluck

Two weeks ago we dissected potluck pros, cons and protocols. The discussion got an idea cooking: Let's have our own potluck. No need to RSVP, since rsvp-ing for a potluck defeats the simplicity of an easy way to get-together. But tell us: Where should we go? What should we bring? Can we serve hootch online? (This may violate Wash Post policies; I'd better check.) Should we include kids or not? Spouses? Mothers-in-law? I think so -- the more the better and I'd love to see everyone's families. I call dessert -- my pseudo-homemade chocolate chip cookies that taste better than made-from-scratch. What will you bring? Note: On Balance has a new platform for our widget. If you downloaded the On Balance widget to your site before yesterday, it may not work for much longer, so you should grab the new one using the widget link below....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 2, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (141)

Volunteer Vampires

I have three kids ages 10 and under, which means I've been to three back-to-school potlucks since school started six weeks ago. For each potluck, I received a colorful printed invitation in the mail. I also got three reminder e-mails from the volunteer parents (coincidentally or not, all happened to be moms) organizing the events. My husband got them, too. We got hounded about whether we were coming because the volunteers needed to know how many folding chairs to set up. We got e-mails telling us what to bring according to the first letter of our last name. For the most recent event, the volunteer mom flagged me down as I was rushing from school to work. She wanted to confirm -- a week before the potluck -- exactly what side dish I was bringing. When I got the cute invitations, I smiled. When I got the first e-mail, I...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 19, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (154)

What Kind of Helicopter Parent Are You?

According to ABC News' Helicopter Parents Hover Over Kids' Lives, an ongoing nationwide study of parents conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has dissected today's overinvolved parents and placed us in the following five categories (which I have embellished based on real-life experience): Black Hawk Parent -- Gets angry and often overreacts to real or perceived slights to child such as a disappointing grade, exclusion from a party, rejection from private school or college. Goes straight to the top (teacher, principal, coach, admissions head, etc) when upset about treatment of child and has hard time seeing other parents', children's, or administrators' perspectives. Toxic Parent -- Overly involved in child's development to the point of occasional paranoia. May Install nannycam in infant's room. Schedules playdates with every child in kindergarten to make sure kid is "popular." Logs onto teenager's MySpace page to research friends, activities, and social...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 12, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (102)

Moving Truck in the Driveway

Yesterday, I visited my good friend Michele, who has two sons ages five and five months. Michele is in the process of moving, a word I can barely utter without hyperventilating. Her house was filled with large brown boxes, packing tape, pacifiers, baby bottles, diapers and a breast pump on the dining room table. Tension, stress and endless details swirled like dust mottles throughout the house. For me, the only appropriate response to the idea of moving with small children is to hold up my fingers in the sign of the cross, a la the Exorcist. I recently counted the number of times I've moved in my life: 24 times in 42 years. I figure that's enough for one lifetime. Especially now that I have three kids and moving has gone from an expensive experience in soul-numbing exhaustion to legitimate cause for several nervous breakdowns. Planning, packing, unpacking, finding new...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 5, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (80)

Cars and Balance

Today, being Friday, we must look away from the importance of breast-feeding in public, women's equality 'round the globe, the silent struggles of stay-at-home dads, and whether it is okay for Britney to walk around naked in front of her two as yet uncorrupted young sons. Today's topic is one I have overlooked for far too long. A subject imperative to balance: your car. So tell us: What do you drive? What does your spouse (if you have one) drive? What key possessions do you have in your car? What role does your automobile play in the balancing act you call your life? How has this changed over time? Does your car have a name? And if you don't have a car, do you feel liberated or burdened by it? Here's my nitty gritty car history. When my husband and I started dating, I drove a 1976 copper VW Beetle...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 28, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (352)

On Balance Sing-A-Long

Okay, it's Friday and time to let loose and be creative. Welcome to the first annual On Balance Sing-a-Long parody contest. We are all the judges, as usual. Frighteningly, Fred has come up with the rules: 1. Song must relate to blogging and work/life balance somehow. 2. Song must parody a highly recognizable melody. 3. Good songs must relate to recent On Balance topics. 4. An even better song must also mention two or more posters. A parody with a regular On Balance theme such as breastfeeding, being a SAHM or SAHD, etc is also encouraged. 5. Length should be no more than six stanzas. 6. Regular washingtonpost.com decency rules apply! Violators' comments will be removed. Repeat offenders risk getting banned. 7. There are two prizes: A really nice comment from me suitable for framing and a virtual ride in Fred's Creepy Van (tm) with the Hula Girl....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 21, 2007; 07:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

Crackberries, Cellphones and Balance

My five year old recently mastered dialing my husband and my cell phones. Since then, she calls me when I'm on date-night with her father, when I'm at yoga class, when I'm in meetings, when she is upstairs and I am downstairs. A few weeks ago, during a rare dinner out alone, my husband and I got five calls from her in twelve minutes. In an emergency, she could save her own life by making a phone call. Technology is wonderful. And sometimes it's not. A year ago, my husband agreed to limit his Blackberry to the first floor of our house after I complained about how unsexy it was to wake up to the buzzing black rectangle on my pillow. We now answer our daughter's calls -- the first time. She has learned to leave wonderfully entertaining voice-mail messages. I struggle myself with being an e-mail addict; I just...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 14, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (114)

On Balance Recipe Swap

With everyone back to school and our insane fall schedules in full gear, what better way to find everyday balance than through a recipe swap from other overscheduled parents and friends. A few weeks ago several posters suggested this one, and accordingly, I'm thrilled to announce the first ever On Balance Recipe Swap. Especially because I'm a lousy, uninspired cook and I need all the help I can get. So bring on your tastiest, easiest, quickest, most nutritious recipe ideas. Here are mine (all two of them): Sauce Cook one package ground turkey meat in large skillet Add 1-2 jars of pre-made spaghetti sauce Add chopped fresh or canned tomatoes Optional: Add chopped carrots, onions, spices or a little white wine Simmer at least one hour (the longer the better) Serve on pasta, rice or solo for dinner, lunch or even breakfast (it's been known to happen!) Stephanie Chicken (Named...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 7, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (129)

Contest: New Name for Stay-at-Home Moms

"Stay-at-home mom" is one of the most inaccurate job descriptions on the planet. SAHMs are rarely at home, and given that 57 percent report planning to return to work one day, they're clearly not staying anywhere. And more and more, SAHMs are actually dads. The world needs a new, accurate, respect-inspiring, gender-neutral descriptor for moms (and dads) whose full-time job is raising their children. And who better to come up with the right term than all of you? Strap on your thinking caps and shoot off your ideas. The prize for this competition will be eternal fame, on this blog at least. My ideas: sabbatical parent, temparent, director of child development. I'm sure you all can do better, so let's hear your ideas....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 31, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (182)

Babies at Work?

A regular On Balance reader, Carla Moquin, recently went live with her a passion project: Getting babies to work. Or more accurately, encouraging employers to allow babies at work, when and where appropriate, so that new parents can return to their jobs with their babies for the first several months of life. As part of her consulting company, Babies in Business, Carla spent nearly two years researching and interviewing dozens of organizations with babies-at-work programs. Benefits include: * Lower turnover among new parents * Increased morale and productivity * Enhanced teamwork and collaboration * Better recruitment * Increased respect and loyalty from customers and clients There are relatively few companies nationwide that offer this unique employee benefit. Carla's out to change that. Babies in the Workplace includes a list of businesses that currently allow babies. The site also contains details about benefits for families, businesses and society and tips for...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 24, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

'High School Musical' Hype

Tonight at 8 p.m. there will be a blessed two-hour break in bickering, pinching, shoving and teasing in homes across the country. The reason? The debut of the Disney Channel sequel to the 2006 made-for-TV tween hit, "High School Musical." My two older kids, 10 and 8, have been talking up the debut -- and negotiating to stay up late to watch it -- for more than two months. In honor of "High School Musical," I bought the DVD version of the 1978 hit "Grease." "It was the "High School Musical" of my childhood," I told my kids. My best friend Skippy and I went to the Uptown Theater by ourselves to watch it. Skippy was from New York and knew sophisticated tricks like how to stand on the toilets between shows so we could sneak back in for another free show. And another. We watched Grease in the theater...

 

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

Bad Boss Contest

Now here's a contest no one wants to win: Working America's annual My Bad Boss Contest. Working America is the 1.6-million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO - aka the unions who brought workers the 40-hour work week followed by the weekend. The group reaches out to working people who don't have unions to bring them together as a powerful voice on economic issues. Some of the stories submitted to the Bad Boss Contest are outrageous, some hilarious. You can take the Bad Boss Quiz and read others' stories. Together they tell a poignant story about the workplace and family life. People who can't get time off to go to funerals, take care of extremely sick spouses or relatives, or care for a new baby. Last year the contest received more than 5,000 entries. While I understand the employer perspective -- the work does need to get done -- my own...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 10, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (121)

Kids, Clothes and Balance

My mom distinguished herself in my early childhood by letting us kids dress ourselves at age four or five. We quickly learned some critical life lessons: Wool tights are a bad choice in June in Washington D.C. You will not be smote if you wear ratty red Converse sneakers to church. Sleeping in a wet one-piece leads to an interesting bathing suit-shaped rash. The most important lesson was that she trusted us to make decisions (albeit small ones) for ourselves. This freedom also made her child-care burden a little lighter since she didn't have to dress us four kids on a daily, or hourly, basis. How we dress our kids -- or were dressed as kids -- says a lot about us. My husband picks out entirely different outfits for our five year old than I would (and he doesn't get stressed by things being inside out, unmatched, or backwards)....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 3, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (99)

Cartoons!

I always have felt a titch sorry for American kids who grew up in intellectually superior homes without televisions, or those in adventurous diplomatic or military families who spent significant parts of their childhoods living in exotic, enriching locations abroad. Because they missed a defining elxperience of American childhood: watching cartoons. Cartoons constitute our shared history, our culture, at least for kids born after 1960. Cartoons shaped part of my own work/life balance, primarily due to one favorite cartoon: The Flintstones. And one very special episode, where Fred and Wilma trade gender roles. Fred dons Wilma's frilly white apron and has a fine old time cooking, cleaning and gabbing with Barney. Wilma puts on a hard hat and roars away in Fred's bulldozer. This episode showed me in no uncertain terms that the divine beings in my life (cartoon creators) believed men and women could trade gender roles with ease,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 27, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (192)

Moms Running the House -- and the Senate

Great article in yesterday's Washington Post about the record number of moms in Congress raising young kids today: Mom's in the House, With Kids at Home: For Congresswomen With Young Children, a Tough Balance. Turns out we currently have 10 (count 'em, 10!) moms in Congress raising kids under 13, including Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). Not surprisingly, these moms face the same work/family balancing act most of us moms face. What's different is that their kids are thousands of miles away from their offices, and their decisions about combining work and raising children are made under a political spotlight. Nice to know these high-voltage public servants also confront our country's lovely double standard -- their male colleagues are congratulated for being involved in their children's lives, while big question marks arise when women with young children run for office....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 20, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (218)

Part-Time Looking Pretty Fine

Yesterday The Washington Post took a second pass at the Pew Center research on work/family balance we dug into last week with Part-Time Looks Fine to Working Mothers. The findings of mothers nationwide show what I've long believed: The key to work/life balance when you have young children is working part-time. The majority of working moms (60 percent) find part-time work most appealing. That spreads across education and income levels. Ten years ago, the same survey showed far fewer (48 percent) of moms found part-time work appealing. Even single moms agree, with 46 percent saying that part-time is the best option. For perspective, 72 percent of men describe full-time work as the ideal. A few other interesting findings: Ranking yourself highly as a mother is inversely related to your education level and work status. The higher a woman's educational achievements, the lower she rates herself as a mother. And mothers...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 13, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (234)

Fourth of July Tales

Okay, another light summer Friday. Let's share our tales of Fourth of July work/family joy, sweat, frustration and family. One working mom friend with a five-year-old daughter, two-year-old twins, and a husband who also works full-time, whispered to me at a Fourth of July parade, "I'm so glad the Fourth fell on a Wednesday this year. It totally took away the pressure to make a great weekend away somewhere. The kind of thing I never imagined I'd feel before I had kids." Of course I understood. A July Fourth holiday that lasted only 24 hours -- instead of July Fourth Weekend -- felt like an excuse to take the laid-back route for once, like a rainy day after weeks of nonstop sunshine. My friend's household of three kids under six, a dog, and two working parents provides plenty of fireworks every single day. Who needs more? My three kids are...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 6, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Truly Unbalanced Topics

Okay, it's true: Sometimes I stretch the topic of "balance" to cover intriguing subjects that have basically nothing to do with work/life balance. To take this to its logical extreme I've been collecting various posters' suggestions for utterly unbalanced topics. Here are my top five favorites for today's Free-For-All: Balance and People Who Think Dogs Are As Important as Babies. Balance and the Iraq War. Balance and Every Known Detail About Scarry's Second Pregnancy. Post-Breastfeeding Boobs and Balance. Polygamous Marriage and Work/Life Balance: A New Family Structure for the Future? Please add your own ridiculous ideas for future "unbalanced" topics....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 29, 2007; 07:40 AM ET | Comments (346)

Yum, Yum!

Time to get back to Lite Fridays. We've talked shoes and balance, hair and balance...Now let's talk comfort food and balance. The topic today: What are your three top favorite foods from childhood? What do your memories say about how you were raised and how you want to raise your kids? Mine were: Lemon Coolers. A round shortbread cookie, covered in powdered sugar and filled with explosive dots of lemon flavor. Available in New Hampshire, where my mom took us for a few weeks each summer to escape the D.C. heat (in the days before central air conditioning). Suzie Q's. A spongy rectangular chocolate cake filled with sweet white cream. There were four of us kids, and my mom had the devilish, former-math-teacher idea to make the child who cut the cake pick the last piece. So if you held the knife, you cut the Suzie Q into the most...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 22, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (211)

School's (Almost) Out

Yesterday was my kids' final day of school. We got home from the last-day musical and the children ran through the house screaming with excitement. Ahh, summer. I felt like running from the house, screaming in fear. How do we survive the summer in the age of micromanaged parenthood? Gone are my mother's days, when she opened the screen door at 9 a.m. and told us to come back in time for lunch and then repeated the drill in the afternoon with instructions to come back in time for dinner. Children today need constant structure and guidance, as well as swim lessons, play dates, reading and math drills so they don't fall behind their classmates, and daily applications of sunscreen and tick repellant before they step outside. This is -- arguably -- fine for the kids. But it's exhausting for us parents, whether you work or stay home. A few...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 8, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (361)

Does Sanity Trump Balance?

About 10 or 15 years ago, every expert on working motherhood began talking about the need for "balance" between work and family. Following the work-work-work 1980s and 1990s, the new concept of "balance" was critical to accomodating work and family demands. The term helped women (and eventually men, too) justify asking for jobs with minimal travel, bosses who understood the importance of taking one's child oneself to the pediatrician, a nanny who didn't spit nails if you had to stay at work an hour late, etc. But like so many phrases that become overused, "balance" has become a vanilla-flavored catch-all. In a recent New York Times Life's Work column, After Baby, Boss Comes Calling, reporter Lisa Belkin wrote "This growing demand for balance, or what I prefer to call sanity..." Her words made me realize: I don't want balance in my life. I'm not a see-saw. No day feels "balanced"...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 1, 2007; 07:10 AM ET | Comments (345)

Studies Show Working Wives + No Kids = Happiest Marriages

Lovely nuggets in a recent Denver Post article about a book that recaps new national research into working women, kids and marital happiness. The book, published earlier this year by Harvard University Press, is Alone Together: How Marriage in America is Changing. Here are some of the highlights, according to the article: * So-called "egalitarian marriages" where wives work outside the home and husbands do their share of housework and childcare are more likely to last versus the marriages where wives don't work. * These "egalitarian marriages" increased from 1980 to 2000 and are happier than traditional marriages. * More equitable housework may help marital stability since wives initiate about two-thirds of U.S. divorces. * In 1980 as well as 2000, childless couples were generally happier than those with children. My 2 cents is that "equality" is the key to a happy marriage -- but that an egalitarian marriage has...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 25, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (316)

Are You A Slacker Mom?

Last week, USA Today ran a front page Life article about so-called Slacker or "Beta" Moms. The piece described the movement away from Super or Alpha Moms, those hyper-organized, earnest parents who turn parenting into a high-pressure career with 24/7 obligations and non-stop stress (unfortunately, however, without the accompanying promotions and pay raises). My e-mail was flooded by people sending me the article, I'm hoping for professional reasons, not as in Hint, hint, Leslie, this is you. "Our children are people -- not projects," one Slacker Mom was quoted. "Motherhood is not a contest." So -- fess up. Are you a Slacker Mom (or Dad)? Or an Alpha? Tell us your most extreme parenting moments -- or ones you've witnessed in others. Have you consciously chosen a particular parenting style? Or did it choose you? Where is the happy medium between being a perfectionist and a couch potato when it...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 18, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (338)

What Do You Want for Mother's Day?

Sunday is Mother's Day. The American version of the holiday was officially established 99 years ago by Anna M. Jarvis, who campaigned for the creation of an official Mother's Day in remembrance of her mother. On May 10, 1908, the first official Mother's Day celebration took place at Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, W. Va. and a church in Philadelphia, Pa. Many other cultures officially (and unofficially) celebrate the important work mothers do with a range of holidays and festivals. What values do you honor on Mother's Day? When you think of "a good mom," what qualities come to mind? What do you usually get -- or give -- for Mother's Day? Do you think we've achieved recognition that motherhood is real work? I believe the best Mother's Day gift is to tell another mom she's a good mom. We don't do enough of that in this country -- maybe...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 11, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (293)

Mother's Day

Last week, I gave a live radio interview over the phone at 6:40 a.m. My husband stood watch outside our bedroom, blocking our three kids from interrupting. He did a fine job. Afterwards, I opened the door and blurted out, "I did a terrible job," which was exactly how I felt. My two daughters, ages 8 and 5, came running from their rooms. They both said, "Mommy, you don't do a terrible job at anything!" I'm still amazed by their show of support -- and by the example I unconsciously set for them of how to inflict self-criticism as a woman. Giving coherent radio interviewers, especially over the phone, particularly before 7 a.m., is hard. But instead, I was hard on myself. So in honor of Mother's Day coming this weekend, let's tell stories of the good -- and bad -- role models we set for our daughters. Am I...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 9, 2007; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (385)

I Am Woman, Hair Me Roar

On Monday, I had the good fortune to go on Fox News Live to talk about my research into stay-at-home moms returning to work. I got across all my key messages in a three-minute segment and managed to breathe at the same time. At home later that day watching the show on Tivo with DH, all I could think was: My hair looked like soggy cardboard. On national tv. I love that I care so much about hair. Finding joy (and agony) in your hair is a quintessentially female characteristic, like believing you can will cars to not hit your children, like believing a pair of new shoes can change your identity. [For anyone new to On Balance, let me explain that Friday is reserved for light subjects, like hair, summer vacations and shoes. Solving the problems of the world occurs Monday through Thursday.] I -- usually -- have pretty...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 4, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (276)

Stupendous Summer Vacations For the Whole Family

Summer is coming -- fast. Not fast enough for me. What does "family summer vacation" mean to you? For me, the trip is a rite of passage. During my childhood, this meant a 10-hour unair-conditioned car drive from D.C. to New Hampshire, the station wagon filled with cats, parakeets, snakes, junk food, suitcases and four sweaty, bratty kids (me being one of them). I don't understand how something so miserable could also be so unbelievably fun. I also do not understand how my parents survived each trip. I have no desire to repeat the experience as a parent. But here are my fantasy family vacations (that I have not, and may never, actually pull off): -- A camping trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas -- Renting an RV to tour the California coast -- A week at Hershey Park in Hershey, Penn. -- A private tour of Yellowstone...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 27, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

If Your Shoes Could Talk

This has been a serious week here on the blog. Appropriately so, in a week when the topics have been the Virginia Tech murders, safety at work, home and school, and whether moms are sacrificing our financial future in the quest to be the perfect parent to our children. But it's Friday, and we've got to talk light. So, today, we're going to dig into...shoes. And I promise I'm going to work in the word "balance" at least three times, so no complaining that this entry is off-topic. A woman from New York City who worked with me at The Washington Post persuaded me a few years ago that a woman's shoes tell you everything about her personality and her approach to life. I've never looked at my shoes the same way again. I went right out and bought a pair of sexy high-heeled clogs with fake fur on them...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 20, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (434)

Tax Man (or Woman) Cometh

This year we get two extra days to finish our taxes: April 15 falls on a Sunday, and April 16 is Emancipation Day, a holiday in the District of Columbia where the Internal Revenue Service is headquartered. But we still need to get our taxes mailed or e-mailed less than four days from today. So what are you doing this weekend? When I was in college, I insisted on wresting my taxes from my father, although I was still listed on his form as a dependent. A decade and a half later, motherhood took away my ability to give a hoot about who did my taxes. So now, in addition to changing the cat litter every Sunday, my darling husband does our taxes, along with a few other household chores. But I know many stay-at-home wives who handle the family's finances, including taxes. I'm sure every family has their own...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 13, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Birthday Party Balance

It's Friday! No serious subjects allowed. So here goes: Earlier this week, I threw our five-year-old's birthday bash. Rented a moonbounce, invited a haphazard bunch of kids a few days in advance, served Goldfish, water, cake and ice cream sandwiches I bought at Safeway that day. No goodie bags. The weather was sunny and 80 degrees. I had as much fun talking to the parents as the kids did jumping around. Flash back five years before, when I threw my oldest child's fifth birthday party. In a Perfect Madness moment, I invited every kid in the class (with siblings, we had over 40 children). This required renting out an entire gym, which wasn't expensive but required complicated insurance waivers. On the eve of the big day, my husband and I created diagrams of the various simultaneous sport games offered so that every kid would feel included. The huge birthday cake...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 6, 2007; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (392)

What Is Balance, Anyway?

Vegas Mom wrote about how she balanced working, caring for her five-year-old daughter and taking charge of her husband's care after a debilitating accident. Fred wrote about balancing being a husband, a dad and a son. I've written about day care, breastfeeding, packing your husband's suitcase, stay-at-home moms, working-full-time moms, teenagers, Disney World, and my own balance between achieving career milestones and raising my three children. All these topics seem to be -- one way or another -- about balancing work and family. Yet nearly every day, no matter what the topic, someone here seems to cry "But this isn't about balance!" So what is balance, anyway? Do you have to have children in order to struggle with balance issues? How do you find your own balancing point in life? What makes you think you are balanced -- and others are not -- or vice versa? What happens when you...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 29, 2007; 10:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

Do You View Your Parents Differently After Having Kids?

Parenthood usually marks a tectonic plate shift in our relationship with our own parents -- although usually everyone is too ecstatic and overwhelmed to notice at first. Then, a few weeks, months or years into parenthood, most people note with surprise how differently they view their own parents and their childhoods. For me, I became profoundly grateful for everything my mother and father sacrificed for me, the emphasis they placed on my getting a good education, the love of sports, animals and books they passed along. I gained new understanding of what good parents they were. My mother never lost her temper, not once, despite the frustrations I know she faced as an at-home mom to four rambunctious kids. I'm still amazed that my father, a busy Washington lawyer, came to visit me at every summer camp, every school, every place I lived as a teenager and young adult. I...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 23, 2007; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (267)

Summer Send-Off

Fresh off my kids' smashingly successful solo trip to Florida to visit their grandparents, and looking ahead to summer, here's our topic for today: What do you think about sending kids away, either to camp or relatives, for a chunk of the summer? I'm not sure I could ever send my kids off for more than a week or two. However, my husband went to eight weeks of sleepaway camp starting when he was seven. I went when I was 13. I know people who ship their kids to grandparents (especially when they live near a beach or in a rural setting) for most of the summer. The parents get a break, grandparents or other relatives get to bond, kids experience a new level of independence (and a change of scenery). Sounds like "balance" all around. What's your take? How old do kids need to be before you send them...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 16, 2007; 08:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

Million Dollar Kids

Last Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported in The Million-Dollar Kid (free preview; subscription required for full article) that "The government says families in the top-third income bracket will spend $279,450 to raise a child born in 2005 through age 17 -- or about $16,000 a year. The government clearly hasn't been to some kids' birthday parties lately." The Journal went on to recalculate the total cost of raising a child, estimating expenses ranging from about $800,000 to $1.6 million (in 2007 dollars) to feed, house, clothe, educate and entertain a child through the age of 17. For the high-end, the Journal included what some parents consider extravagances -- and others call necessities: athletic fees, tutoring, MP3 players, iTunes downloads, overseas travel, nannies, a flat screen tv, years of private school education, a cellphone, a lavish Sweet 16 or bar mitzvah celebration. Parents always caution that kids are expensive, but...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 9, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (389)

Do We Owe Our Kids an Education?

A great topic was suggested a few weeks ago: Do parents owe children an education? So many parents today have the knee-jerk reaction: Of course, we owe our children everything we can possibly give them. But this question is worth pondering. Technically, we don't. U.S. laws require we send our children to school, public, private, parochial or otherwise, but that's not the same as owing them an education. We give our children an education, whether we intend to or not, by the way we raise them and the type of family life we create. I want to give my children an education, because mine -- the education I got in school and from my family -- made such a difference in my life. But how much do I "owe" them? I'm not sure. What do you think? What do you owe your children? What does everyone else? Are your guidelines...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 23, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

After-School Solutions

It's the nemesis of every working couple I know: Who cares for the kids when work is in session and school is not? After-school, summertime, winter vacations, sick days, last-minute business trips...the list has a life of its own. This is what I've done: * Offer our primary babysitter flexibility (she's a musician and pulls a lot of all nighters) in exchange for short notice fill-ins when we need her. * Choose public and private schools with excellent afterschool programs until 6 p.m. * Develop a reciprocal arrangement of pitch-hitting with network of parents. * Keep a long list of alternate babysitters who are available on short notice * Take advantage of the plethora of affordable summer camps in my area. Juggling three kids means I need a lot of Plan Bs. And this aspect of "balance" is one reason I don't have a fourth child. What about you? What...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 16, 2007; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

RIP Anna Nicole Smith

Last September, On Balance ran an obituary honoring Ann Richards, the first female governor of Texas, mom of four, and a very tough, classy lady. Although I know some of you may argue with me, I think it's just as appropriate to honor another Texas native, Anna Nicole Smith, who died suddenly yesterday at age 39. Ann Richards had the advantages of a stable and supportive family, in which she was an only child, and the benefit of an education from Baylor University. Anna Nicole Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan near Houston in 1967. She was one of six children born to a single mother. She dropped out of high school, married, gave birth to her son, Daniel, and divorced before she was 20 years old. She left her son with her mother to gain a financial toehold by becoming a topless dancer. She made the cover of Playboy...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 9, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (364)

Worst Advice Ever

We've talked about the best advice we've gotten on combining work and family. Let's talk about the worst advice: the ridiculous, the intentionally alarmist, the completely impractical. For me, some of the worst advice has been: to never wear a wedding ring to a job interview, to not have kids if I were truly ambitious, to never breastfeed in public if I wanted people to take me seriously as a professional woman, to never bring my kids to the office, and to plan my pregnancies around my career plans. Fortunately, all this was drowned out by the many moms and dads I met through work who told me that having kids was the best thing they'd ever done in life, and that I should follow my heart. The worst advice I give is when working moms who are pregnant with their third ask if going from two kids to three...

 

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

Dress for Success

I'm feeling like we need some fluff this Friday -- something as close to retail therapy as we can get online without whipping out our credit cards. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) Two recent articles dug into the effects of attractiveness at work and that's what I'd like to debate (in a poofy way) today. Dressed for Work? For Women, Suits Still Wield Power by the Washington Post's fashion reporter, Robin Givhan, covers a New York charity breakfast for Dress for Success featuring "a variety of women in their ideal professional attire...represent[ing] a range of industries: media, entertainment, insurance and banking." Givhan's main point here is that everyone had on a blazer, no one was wearing a dress, and that it's a shame that designers have not come up with dresses exuding femininity, confidence and power. In the print version of the article there were several fantastic...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 26, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (422)

Harder Than You Thought?

In an Esquire magazine interview this month, CBS Anchor Katie Couric has this to say about her life: "It's a little harder than I thought it would be. ... I didn't dress up in a blazer and sit at a desk when I was a little girl and read the news, so my life has unfolded in a way that I haven't really had that much control over. ... I had sort of a perfect life until I was forty. Jay used to say I was born on a sunny day -- everything just sort of went right for me. Everything changed when I turned forty." I love how frank she is -- about her success, about the tragedy of her husband's early death, about being a single working mom. Her candor reminded me of a conversation about becoming a parent I had with my husband awhile back. We were...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 19, 2007; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (259)

How Much Truth To Tell Kids?

In Wednesday's discussion about the tradeoffs of having and not having children, Can Freedom and Kids Co-Exist?, posters talked about the importance of being honest (with ourselves, at least) about our moments of regretting having children. However, one poster chided me by saying she (or he) hoped my children would never read what I had written about the moments when I wish I did not have kids. This struck me because my children already know that I'm not always thrilled about being a parent, just as they know I'm not always thrilled with them. Throughout my childhood, I knew about my mom's regrets as well. This knowledge was good for my understanding of motherhood. It was also paradoxically good for my self-esteem. I knew I was worth all the freedom and career options Mom gave up. So I wanted to ask: Do you tell your children about the mixed blessings...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 12, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Kindness of Other Moms

Two days ago, a minor childcare crisis arose. I had a meeting I couldn't miss from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. My older two children could stay in the after-school program; no problem. I'd arranged a playdate for my youngest child -- her school doesn't have an aftercare program -- but the playdate fell through. I called every babysitter I could think of. No luck there. So I started calling other moms. Mom #1 had a conflict -- she had to be at a meeting herself, and her babysitter was already watching four kids. So I called Mom #2 who was delighted to help. Problem solved. Then the bonus: A few hours later Mom #1 called me to tell me she had figured out a way to re-arrange her schedule so that my daughter could come to her house. I was, frankly, floored. She had spent a good amount of time...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 5, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (194)

Best and Worst Holiday Memories

Naturally, our last chat before the holidays needs to be about "balance" during the holidays -- arguably the hardest time of the year to feel at peace with work and family obligations. Please share your funniest, most poignant, most frustrating tales of holiday joy, mirth and disillusionment as you go about juggling work and home during this special and crazy time of year. Here are a few of mine: Last December, I ordered an assemble-it-yourself ping-pong table as my nine-year-old's big holiday gift. I was so busy finalizing year-end numbers at work that I didn't have time to open the huge, heavy box until a few hours before Christmas, when I discovered over 200 pieces to assemble; 150 of which were tiny screws. My husband and I stayed up until 2 a.m. outside under our deck in the backyard putting the thing together. We both have MBA's but it's safe...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 22, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (145)

The New Girls' Network

I recently got an e-mail from a former babysitter who is looking for a job in my field in New York City. I wrote a recommendation and sent her resume to various potential contacts. Then I thought for a second about the times I'd helped other babysitters move on to non-childcare fields. After she graduated from college, my first nanny worked in marketing at my division of Johnson & Johnson. For various other childcare providers (babysitters and daycare center employees) I've written business school recommendations, vouched for them to human resources personnel, filled out questionnaires for City Year and foreign exhange programs. Over the years, I've helped lots of women -- and men -- who had nothing to do with my childcare needs. But "former babysitters" is by far the biggest category of people I've assisted and mentored. All this got me thinking: Is there a burgeoning "Girls Network" of...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 15, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (201)

The Blame Game

During our Nov. 29 discussion about John Dickerson's book about his mother, Foamgnome raised a provocative point: "It seems like blaming your parents is an American pasttime. Is this a recent trend or has it always existed? At some point, you need to move on from your childhood. Unless you were abused, I think you should pull up your socks and learn to deal with the past. Take the good things from your childhood and repeat them, actively don't do the bad things, and ignore a lot of the stuff in between. Why do Americans spend so much time worrying about what didn't happen and just start focusing on what they can do today?" I think about this all the time. My parents were a lively mix of wonderful and faulty, and for years I blamed them for a lot of my problems. I'm shocked to look back now and...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 8, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Holiday Newsletters: Pro or Con?

In Nov. 17th's blog about Pets & Parenthood, Armchair Mom brought up a good free-for-all topic: Do you like or hate holiday newsletters? I am generally in favor because they are often entertaining (intentionally or not) and a good way to stay in touch with a large number of friends and family (especially efficient for overworked parents). Plus, you can always toss the letter, unread, without offending anyone. The Washington Post's Sunday Source section recently ran a tip sheet for creating a good newsletter, most of which seemed pretty commonsensical. My guidelines for success are identical to creating a good print ad: Keep the copy short, use lots of visuals and sneak in as much humor as possible. What's your view? Do you love or loathe holiday junk mail from your nearest and dearest?...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 1, 2006; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (188)

Pets & Parenthood

On Tuesday, for inexplicable reasons, our Guest Blog discussion took an unusual turn into the realm of pets vs. children. Quite a fascinating detour. Pet owners argued that pets are as important as kids. Parents (some with both pets and children) argued that if you have children, there is no comparison. I have three kids, three pets, and abiding affection for children and animals; I once supervised a childless employee with two dogs whom I regularly allowed to go home early to care for his pets. I can see passion and merit on both sides of the argument. So I wanted to continue the discussion by asking a few more questions. What do American pet-owners and parents have in common? What role do pets play in a balanced life? How are today's Americans different from citizens in other countries or our ancestors in terms of devotion to pets and children?...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 17, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (333)

Keeping Down Child-Care Costs

Last Friday, I moderated a panel discussion about work/family issues at the Wharton Women in Business conference in Philadelphia. The alumnae on the panel, mostly very successful Wall Street moms, shared nitty gritty details about how much their husbands helped with the kids, how frequently they traveled, and most important, what kind of child care they had. Not surprisingly, a lot of the curiosity from current, pre-mom business school students in the audience focused on child care -- and how incredibly much it costs. Reality is simple: When your kids are young, you cannot work full-time outside of your home without child care or a stay-at-home spouse or relative. Our federal government does blessedly little to help parents find affordable, quality child care -- and it does little to encourage the proliferation of good child-care providers, a nice entrepreneurial option for moms who have to work but would like to...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 10, 2006; 07:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Bliss of Business Travel

Usually, I complain about business travel. The guilt of saying good-bye to my four-year-old, the Excel spreadsheet required to manage my older children's activities while I'm away, my husband's 7 a.m. phone call to my hotel room asking whether it is okay to send a child to school with a 102 degree temperature. But the New York Times ran a cover story this week cataloguing the bliss of business travel, Working Mothers Find Some Peace on the Road. Even though I've been in eight cities in the past 28 days (everyone whose e-mails and phone calls I've not returned, please note my excuse), I agree wholeheartedly: it is nice to get away from it all, as long as it's just for a night or two at a stretch. Although men travel more for business than women, the percentage of women business travelers increased from 39 percent in 2000 to 43...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 3, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (134)

Attacking Other Parents -- And Hurting Ourselves

We've all noticed it. Many posters have commented on it. So let's talk about it: While some discussions on this blog stay on course as civil debate from which we all learn, many others turn negative and mean-spirited. Why do discussions about balancing work and parenting sometimes spiral into negativity? What should we do about it? Differences of opinion are part of what makes this blog interesting to read. Anonymity gives us the freedom to be more opinionated than face-to-face conversations. The resulting honesty can be utterly refreshing. But attacking the poster -- not just their views -- is unfair and unproductive. Smart, thoughtful contributors have left this blog permanently because of the attacks. That's a loss for all of us. So my suggestion: Let's agree to keep the discussion positive. Let's not attack a poster personally, but focus instead on disputing his or her opinions. And if someone gets...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 27, 2006; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Kids, Chores and Money

A few months ago when buying clothes for my kids, the 20-year-old male salesperson stunned me by folding the pants and T-shirts with aplomb. I asked how he'd learned that not-insignificant skill. "When I was 10 and old enough to reach the dials on our washing machine, my mom had me do my own laundry. Folding is one of my talents." My parents taught me many invaluable life lessons, but when I left home at 18 I had no clue how to balance a checkbook or change the oil in a car. A few years later, having paid too many bank overdraft fines and ruined my first car, an old Chevette, by ignoring that flashing green "oil" light on the dash, I was a lot more self-sufficient. My three kids are still too young to reach the washing machine dials, see inside a car's engine or to grasp the concept...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 20, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (262)

When Kids Are Home Alone

During the recent blog entry called Home Alone, Just Wondering posted a question about balancing home, family and work on those days or hours when children -- not adults -- are home alone. Great question. I remember a Saturday years ago, out running errands with a baby in a Snugli and another in a stroller, I bumped into friends whose kids were a decade older. "Where are Zach and Ben?" I asked. "Home alone!" the parents gleefully told me. Until that moment, it was inconceivable that my own children would one day be able to stay home without adult supervision. When are kids old enough to stay home alone by themselves? How long do you leave them alone? How do the guidelines change based on your children's personalities? Have work demands ever forced you to leave your children home alone when you knew it wasn't in the kids' best interest?...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 13, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (160)

Choices

This summer, my kids met some other kids on the beach. Eventually, as these things often go, I hooked up with their mom. We got to talking about the choices she'd made about balancing work and family. Turns out she'd left work she loved to raise her three children, and spoke wistfully of how, over the past 15 years that she'd been home, her husband's career had reached the enviable point where he was running a nonprofit organization. I asked if she felt good about her decisions. "I feel good about my choice to stay home with my children. But I don't feel good about myself." I see many at-home moms who feel this way: 100% sure they made the right decision, but just as sure their self-confidence has suffered as a result. Working moms seem to feel the opposite -- good about themselves, not 100% sure that being a...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 6, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Surviving the Arsenic Hours

Great suggestion from last Wednesday to have a free-for-all on how working and stay-at-home parents survive the so-called "arsenic hours" between 4 and 8 p.m. Not sure whether the moniker has stuck because we want to slip our kids arsenic or take it ourselves, but we all know exactly what that chaotic time period feels like when you're managing the transition from school and work to home and homework and seemingly endless childcare and household chores. My first pediatrician warned me that the vast number of childhood accidents occur during this time, when both parents and kids are tired, hungry and generally frazzled. The best advice I ever received was from my high school pal Kyra who told me to give my kids dinner as early as possible. I had some strange rule in my mind that one had to wait until 6 p.m. By then all heck had broken...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 29, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (150)

To Keep Or Not To Keep Your Maiden Name

One of the tangents in the comments of last week's Ann Richards' blog tackled keeping or discarding your maiden name once married. Although not as significant as childcare, pregnancy discrimination, equal pay or other profoundly important working mom issues, I always find the highly personal-equally public decision about what name a woman uses to be fascinating. I've done both -- I didn't change my name during my brief, miserable first marriage (good move there) and I did change my name when I married husband No. 2 six years later. Mostly, I changed my name because my feminist zeal had faded and it mattered more to me that my kids and I had the same last name than what that last name was (although gee, I wish I lived in a world where the man agonized over giving up his identity). Did you change your name when you married? How has...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 22, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (666)

Back to School

By now, whether our kids are in public, private, long-distance learning or home-schooling, we're all back to school. Let's take a day to reflect on the best parts of the summer and sketch out our goals for balancing work and family this coming year. Looking back, I think this was the best summer my family has had since becoming a family. We had balance: two longish vacations (during which I truly laid off work), a mix of day camp and hanging out at home. Time alone mixed with time with friends and extended family. Perhaps the biggest factor: This was my second summer since scaling back from full-time work. Summer is truly summer again for us because I'm no longer a stressed-out hairball on a regular basis. (Although I don't want to paint too rosy a picture: I have many days where I wonder who I am without my ambition,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 8, 2006; 06:53 AM ET | Comments (92)

Sliding Along the Work-Home Spectrum

One of my first discoveries while writing Mommy Wars was that American women do not fall into clear-cut "working mom" and "at-home mom" categories. Far more moms work part-time than I ever imagined. And today's full-time working mom might take a year or five off once she's gotten a key promotion or hit a certain savings goal or plain old burned out. Ditto for the most devout stay-at-home moms -- I've been stunned more than once by a mom's sudden transformation from paint-splattered T-shirt and jeans to suit and pantyhose when the right job comes along (note to prospective employers: Convincing elements always seem to be flexible hours, good pay, challenging work). Real-life moms slide back and forth on a spectrum from Full-Time Work to Full-Time-At-Home-With-Kids, depending on their kids' ages, families' financial needs and moms' desires. Over the 10 years I've been a mom, I've worked full-time, part-time and...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 1, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (50)

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)

Losing -- And Finding -- Yourself in Motherhood

This past Tuesday, an On Balance poster named "Thought" (who doesn't yet have kids) wrote: "One of my biggest fears of motherhood is losing myself." Ditto. I lost a lot of myself when I became a mom. The carefree, spontaneous, going-out-on-Saturday-night parts. Along with a good portion of the drive to achieve I'd nurtured since elementary school. Once I had kids, the price of ambition became too high, since it required vast periods of time away from my children. But motherhood brought new, priceless gifts as well. A deeper capacity for love and self-sacrifice, increased sympathy for others, a belief in some kind of god (with whom I could bargain to protect my children), a fearlessness and confidence and inner peace I'd never known before. What about you? What's your advice to "Thought" and other men and women afraid of losing parts of themselves when they become parents? And what...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 18, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (176)

Psycho Temps

Today's entertainment is the antics of the most psychotic temps and consultants who showed up at your workplace. And no disrespect meant here: We couldn't get by without the good, hard-working temps and the agencies that provide them. But we all have a tale or two about the not-so-good ones. ... Let's hear it for Psycho Temps!...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 11, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Canceled Vacation Tales of Woe

Here we go, the perfect August free-for-all: your chance to make us laugh and cry with your stories of vacations canceled by work demands. Being a good little workaholic, I don't often take vacation (okay, okay, so I'm actually on vacation right now), hence I don't have any heartbreaking stories of my own canceled breaks. But one August my husband begged me to try out a rented shack in East Hampton and I relented. After driving eight hours from D.C., we arrived at 2 a.m. on a Monday with our three kids (ages four months, three years and five years) in tow. That morning at 9 a.m. my husband got an urgent call from the office. He wasn't even upset that he had to leave. He couldn't predict when he'd make it back, if ever. That first day was okay. It rained the next day and every day until my...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 4, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Your Worst Job Ever

Continuing in the spirit of Devil Bosses and Devil Employees, let's hear about the worst job you ever had or the craziest thing a boss ever asked you to do. My worst job: I spent one entire summer in college alone in a small room with a huge mound of black charred documents and a copier machine. There had been a fire in one of the biology labs and my job was to photocopy what was left of the crispy remains in the hopes that some of the research could be salvaged. By the end I'd turned the pile into several neat stacks of white paper. I was allowed a small radio and 30 minutes to eat lunch. The longest summer of my life....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 28, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Devil Employees

By popular request, today's free-for-all: the worst employees you've come across. My horror stories, strangely, didn't have to do with actual work, and they are hardly horror stories. But I've racked my experience and these are the best I can cough up. They both had to do with...clothes. Specifically, how employees dressed at corporate offices. One 20-something woman, a recent graduate from a prestigious MBA program, wore a white thong underneath a short, very sheer, white skirt. Neither men nor women could get much work done when she walked by. Another was an intern who wore flip-flops daily. (She didn't get asked back.) Both seemed sincerely puzzled that their choices weren't appropriate office attire. The experience taught me why hyper-specific company dress codes came about in the first place. I admit these are both pretty lame, boring stories. I hope you all have better ones. Can't wait to read 'em....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 21, 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)

Finding Great Babysitters

As we all know, you can't work (or get much else done) without good child care, preferably that doesn't cost a fortune. What's your best advice for finding -- and keeping -- good babysitters? My two cents: Finding babysitters is a learned skill. As a new mom I was terrible and had to use babysitting agencies, which were expensive and not very good for finding occasional sitters (much better for finding full-time nannies). I've now learned to constantly be on the lookout for good sitters. Over time, I've found teenagers and college students to be the best. The right ones take babysitting seriously and appreciate the money. When I spot someone who seems friendly and eager to spend more time with my kids, I immediately ask for their number (although I never ask my friends' sitters -- no poaching seems to be the rule here in D.C.) I've found a...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 7, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (173)

Free-for-All: Dads Just Want to Stay Home

My husband likes to joke that he'd love to stay home with our kids. He does not mean he wants to play Candyland, make their lunches, ferry them around town to basketball/art camp/computer class/speech therapy, grocery shop, and try really hard not to scream at them at 6 p.m. What he means is he'd love to skip work, see the kids more, work out at the gym, take a nap every afternoon and occasionally play golf, while someone (me or a babysitter) actually took care of our children. For him, "staying home" is code for "goofing off." Perhaps I should take Perry's banter more seriously. Richard Castellini, senior career adviser for CareerBuilder.com, reports that the company's recent "Working Dads 2006" survey showed that 40% of working dads would stay home with their children if their spouse or partner earned enough to support their families. The survey included more than 225...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 30, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (123)

The Comedy of Parenthood

The 2002 publication of Allison Pearson's novel "I Don't Know How She Does It" proved -- contrary to my and so many women's earnest beliefs that "having it all" was possible -- that working motherhood is, in fact, a comedy gone haywire. Like last week when my husband had an early morning meeting and, with the usual degree of chaos, I fed and dressed our three kids and myself and marshaled us all into the car and drove all the way to my youngest's day camp -- only to remember that her camp met at the park next to my house that day. Instead of grimly gritting my teeth and calling to cancel the meeting I was already late to, I could have (should have?) laughed. There are plenty of "laughable" moments. The once-a-week "accidents" my 4-year-old has all over her pants, underwear, socks, sneakers and our new carpet once...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 23, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Do Dads Volunteer?

Last week, I went to a thank-you luncheon for more than 60 parent volunteers at my childrens' school. There were working moms, stay-at-home moms and one grandmother. Not a dad in sight. Was this lunch an anomaly, or is the school volunteer ethic strictly pink? What's going on? I see lots of dads coaching kids' sports teams and a few PTA presidents. But almost no Room Dads or male volunteers working at the book sale or the bake sale or the other every day volunteer events. Why don't fathers volunteer more at schools? Is it simply that there are 5.6 million stay-at-home moms in America and only 147,000 stay-at-home dads? Is some kind of subtle bias at work?...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 9, 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)

Friday Free-For-All: Best Mom Advice Books

My name has gotten on some publisher's mailing list, so in the past three months I've received the following deluge of motherhood self-help books: Motherstyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths; How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Home Moms; The Working Gal's Guide to Babyville; and Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids. Clearly, the book industry has caught on to moms' angst. I'm just not sure if reading self-help books will actually help. My all-time favorites -- although not technically self-help or parenting books -- are Anne Lamott's diary of her son's first year, Operating Instructions, because she showed me how joyful, difficult and hilarious motherhood can be; and Dr. Anna Fels' Necessary Dreams, because it elightened me about how normal it is for women, myself included, to be conflicted about our ambitions. What do you think?...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 26, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Friday Free for All -- Our Best Moments as Moms

In response to repeated suggestions last Friday during our worst moments as moms, here we are on the flip side: Tell us one of your best moments. To get the discussion started, I'll tell two of mine. (It's much harder to write about my strengths as a mom than vice versa!) First, on Mother's Day my kids and I competed against each other for who could chew the most sticks of sugarless gum at once. The rule was that I had to double the kids' count. My personal best was 34 pieces of Trident Bubble Gum and I still lost to MJ who successfully masticated a whopping 28 pieces. My husband videotaped the event. It was disgusting -- I can still taste the buckets of sickly sweet liquid dripping down my throat. But it was a helluva lot of fun, and I sure hope the kids remember me in my...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 19, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (44)

Friday Free-For-All -- Your Worst Moments As a Mom

As we head off into the pink glow of Mother's Day this weekend, I want to give you (and myself) a true Mother's Day gift: the knowledge that you are not alone in the terrible things you (sometimes) do and say to your kids. We've all been there. Now's the time to fess up and share the worst mistake you ever made with your kids. To get this started, I'll go: Quite recently, overcome by stress and how much I hate driving around in city traffic with my kids bickering in the back of the car, I let loose. I called my son a complete idiot and screamed at the top of my lungs at my daughter to Shut Up. My voice was so loud I believe it shook my Ford Expedition. My kids did pipe down after that. Before you stop reading and start commenting, I've got one more...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 12, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (115)

Friday Free For All -- A Working Mom's Secret

I was in New Jersey last weekend, visiting the small town where I lived when my first child was born. One of my former neighbors, who freelances for Johnson & Johnson, stopped by to say hello. It was a sunny Saturday. Downtown was filled with moms, strollers and multiple offspring. As we were catching up, I remembered that when I lived there, the average number of kids per woman was three or four -- pretty high compared with nearby Manhattan and other larger towns. During the week, moms ruled the town. You rarely saw dads during daylight hours, since they were all commuting into and out of New York. My friend surprised me with a confession: "You know, for years my neighbors never knew I worked. As a freelancer, my hours were flexible and I worked at home a lot. I pretended that I was a stay-at-home mom. You were...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 5, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (65)

Friday Free-for-All: Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

This Thursday, April 27, is National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Most of you are probably familiar with the program, which was founded by the Ms. Foundation for Women to create an opportunity for girls (and eventually boys when the program expanded beyond daughters) to share and communicate their expectations for the future. Thousands of companies, schools, parents and kids participate each year -- with mixed results. I've heard some kids complain about being bored by their parents' work environments (imagine that) and some employees resent the disruption of having children at work. Others love the opportunity to show children what work is really all about and the sense of community created by the day. What's your take? What are the pros and cons of National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day? More information is available at www.daughtersandsonstowork.org....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 21, 2006; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (66)

Friday Free-for-All: Your Worst Childcare vs. Job Dilemma

No matter how we try to avoid direct conflicts between our jobs and caring for our kids, we've all had them. You know what I'm talking about: The phone call from the school nurse 10 minutes before your big presentation. A babysitter who calls in sick -- on your first day at a new job. A critical deadline and a school play on the same day, at the same hour. I'll start: I've always vowed that my kids' birthdays were off limits from work, but just last month, the "Mommy Wars" book launch party was scheduled for the same day as my son's ninth birthday, and there was nothing I could do to change it. My solution was to plan a three-day birthday extravaganza: a celebration at the ESPN Sports Zone the night before, a sleepover with his best friend the night of the party and a flag-football party the...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 14, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (108)

Friday Free-for-All: Let's Hear From Single Parents

Although just about every day feels like a free-for-all on this blog, today really is one. The topic is single parenthood. On the live chat yesterday, one of the questions was about issues facing single parents. Rather than me spouting off, let's hear straight from single parents. How do you balance everything when it's just you doing the balancing? What's the upside to single parenthood? What's the hardest thing you do every day? What's the biggest misconception about single parenthood? If you could change one thing (anything) about the world to make single parenthood easier, what would that be? Give us examples, anecdotes, anything that you think illustrates your lives....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 7, 2006; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (121)

 

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