Archive: Moms in the News

Angry Women

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 4, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (130)

The So-Called Ambition Gap

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

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 29, 2008; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (163)

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)

Birth Business

I used to think pregnant women who wanted to give birth at home were nuts. Now, I'm not so sure. Over the weekend I watched talk show host Ricki Lake's new documentary, The Business of Being Born, just released by Red Envelope Entertainment and International Film Circuit and getting lots of chatter in newspapers such as the New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and the mommy blogosphere. The film advocates a few extreme views I disagree with. Many ob-gyn doctors, as well as moms who've given birth via Caesarean, are portrayed as uninformed buffoons. Some natural birth proponents argue on-camera that there is a medical conspiracy in our country trying to "cheat" women out of giving birth naturally; that our obstetrics system is in crisis, a category I'd save for places such as east Congo and Iraq; and that women who have babies without "intervention" love their infants more...

 

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

Do Women Want a Woman in the White House?

With 328 days to go until the 2008 presidential elections -- and less than a month before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary -- analysis about Hillary Clinton's status as the first female front-runner is heating up in media coverage. Not surprisingly, one area of dissection is Hillary's appeal to women, particularly working women and moms of all ages, ethnicities and household incomes (working and staying home). The Wall Street Journal argues that female executives are less than supportive of their alpha female peer. "So far, she's doing better among women of more modest means," writes Monica Langley in a front page Weekend Journal piece, Friends of Hillary. Despite the fact that 40 percent of Sen. Clinton's top fund-raisers are women, and high-profile business women such as Diane von Furstenberg, Meg Whitman and Geraldine Laybourne support Clinton, professional women overall seem to be proving a harder sell. "One theory...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 12, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (69)

Women at the Top

Very cool stand-alone section in last week's Wall Street Journal --The Fifty Women to Watch 2007 Report. Fortunately, I got the report before my nine-year-old daughter blacked out the front teeth and added curly mustaches on the women's 50 smiling faces. Here's the good news: * The women range in age from 32 to 61, across industries, countries and ethnicities. * Some have been stay-at-home moms, some have stay-at-home husbands, some have no children -- a diverse set of successful juggling acts. * Several started at McDonald's and as lowly "assistants" or entrepreneurs and made their way to the top through hard work and talent alone vs. educational or family connections. * Women at the top are mentoring other women to be their successors. * The Wall Street Journal, 2.7 million circulation, devotes a stand-alone report on women in business every year. And now the bad stuff: * Women still...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 28, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (27)

Mommy Tattoos

Tattoos have long been symbols of two metamorphoses: undying passion for a person, group or activity; and survival of trauma such as prison or war. Getting a tattoo marks you as a member of a club, whether it's a street gang, "Chitty Forever," or Harley-Davidson owners. So, it's hardly a surprise that moms are starting to get tattoos. Becoming a mother irrevocably changes us from one person into another. We give and get jewelry, professional photos, and keepsake ornaments to symbolize our undying passion for our child or children. Why not a tattoo to show our membership in the motherhood gang? After decades of 50 percent divorce rates, romantic love between two adults seems to have been replaced by romantic love between a mother and her child, and the growing popularity of mommy tattoos reflect this romanticization of mother-child love. You might break up with or get dumped by your...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 26, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (131)

Home for the Holiday

A frightening story: Rhode Island stay-at-home mom Katie Corcoran went missing on September 5, leaving behind her husband and two sons, four-year-old Thomas and nine-month-old Chase. Family and friends searched for her. Many feared she was dead. A happy ending was reported in the November 26 People Magazine: Earlier this month, a stranger found 35-year-old Katie living on the streets of Baltimore and contacted Rob through a Web site he had set up when Katie disappeared. Rob flew to Baltimore and asked Katie if she wanted to come home. Her simple reply: "Yes." It turns out she was suffering from postpartum psychosis, a rare mood disorder that affects only one to two in 1,000 women who have given birth. Although she had not experienced depression when Thomas was born in 2003, within weeks of Chase's birth in January, her husband Rob found her wandering the house at night. "She said...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 21, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Going Childfree

We've heard from happily child-free people on this blog in No Kids For Me. We've gotten stories about people going to extreme measures to have children in Ladies, Freeze Your Eggs. I've tackled my own mixed feelings about having kids in Can Freedom and Kids Co-Exist?. Now there's a large-scale study exploring the subject: Dr. Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, a University of Florida sociologist, and colleague Gretchen Pendell anaylzed two surveys of 11,043 adults 25 and older to assess attitudes about childlessness in America by asking such questions as whether "it is better to have a child than to remain childless" and whether "the main purpose of marriage these days is to have children." The results, announced last week by a University of Florida press release, are published in the November issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. Acceptance of childlessness by both men and women has clearly been gaining ground...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 29, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pitfalls of Dating Down

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

 

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

Driving Women Crazy

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits female drivers. This has always infuriated and saddened me. But Wajeha al-Huwaider's personal story, Saudi Women Petition for the Right to Drive, in Monday's Washington Post, brought home what this law means. Al-Huwaider, who is leading a campaign for the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, tells of a night when her baby became ill and her husband wasn't home (a democracy advocate, he was in jail that evening). Due to the ban on women driving, she couldn't get her infant to a hospital on her own. There is limited public transportation in Saudi Arabia. Taxis, driven by male strangers, are considered unsafe. Some wealthy women have full-time live-in chauffeurs, but most cannot afford them. That night, Al-Huwaider had to go out into the street at 2 a.m. and beg a ride to the hospital to save her child's...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 26, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (267)

Parenting for Pay

I always thought the rub about parenting was that it's a dead-end job. You work like a dog for 20+ years developing a bunch of skills that are invaluable to your family's mental and physical well-being, but worthless on the open market. Your kids leave home and you are left with a box of overpriced Beanie Babies, some old kids' potty seats and a few cracked pacifiers, and you have to take a job making $5.85 an hour folding clothes for rich working moms who shop at Ann Taylor. But no more! It turns out that other parents who are either too busy or too inept will pay dearly for our child-rearing talents. And I'm not talking about the drudgery of working twelve hour days as a nanny or baby nurse. I mean becoming highly compensated Child Life Specialists who are taking over the intimate, mundane responsibilities that are no...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 24, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (123)

Moms in a Positive Light

Finally, a national publication has published an article about motherhood that I cannot attack for any reason: The New Mommy Track, which ran in U.S. News and World Report's Sept. 3 issue. The cover showed a happy mom (gasp) holding an equally happy-looking baby. The subtitle read: "More mothers are finding smart ways to blend work and family. How you can, too." Astonishingly, there was no guilt, negative innuendo, infuriating quotes, cherry-picked statistics, mixed messages, or hidden agendas. Instead the article was filled with realistic, practical advice from believable working and at-home mothers, and every statistic rang true. (At least to me.) Such as: * A new generation of American mothers are rejecting the "superwoman" image as well as the "soccer mom" stereotype. * The happiest moms are negotiating flexible schedules at work and fuller participation of fathers at home. * Women are rejecting the traditional rules of the working...

 

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

Higher Wages, Healthier Children, and Time Off

Finally, a small bit of good news has come out of the Iraq war: Last week, before Congress recessed for August (the "Summer District Work Period" is how it's described on the U.S. House of Representatives Calendar), the Senate approved an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow the family of wounded military personnel to take up to six months of unpaid leave without losing their jobs. Current law -- the same that allows for unpaid maternity leave -- allows only 12 weeks. One of the more heart-wrenching back stories of the war has been families forced to choose between caring for injured veterans (often in military hospitals far from home) and keeping their jobs. In the last week of work, Congress improved "balance" in our lives in other important ways, according to a Reuters recap yesterday. "We have made more progress in the last seven days...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 8, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (188)

People of Cleavage

Much attention has been paid to Senator Hillary Clinton's cleavage since its July 18th debut during a speech about education televised on C-SPAN. The Washington Post's fashion critic, Robin Givhan, touched off a firestorm when she compared Hillary's rather modest decolletage to a male politician appearing in public with his fly unzipped. Since then, several incisive writers including The Post's Ruth Marcus and Howard Kurtz and Judith Warner from The New York Times (The Cleavage Conundrum, subscription or fee required), as well as the Clinton campaign spokespeople, have weighed in. What does it mean to be a "person of cleavage" these days? Is too much attention paid to Hillary's appearance because she's female? It once was political suicide for a woman to show cleavage in a business or political setting; A V-neck shirt suggested that you wanted to be remembered for your physique. (The assumption being you'd never be remembered...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 30, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (291)

Single Purpose?

More women are single today (51 percent vs. 35 percent in the 1950s) than any time in recent history. Women are marrying later when they do marry. There is a new book on the subject, Now and Not Yet, that tackles being single from a conservative Christian viewpoint. I'm reluctant to broach anything having to do with God, but I'm going to try to do this topic justice anyway. The author is Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, living in Arlington, Va. In the book's introduction, she writes "Life is about more than marital status, and singleness is more than a holding pattern. This book is about redeeming the time between now and the not yet for which we hope." In a Washington Times interview, she explains "Today women have all kinds of career opportunities, but obstacles seem to be in the way of finding...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 21, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (393)

Pro-Choice or No-Choice?

Twenty years ago, I sat in a friend's kitchen talking with her mom, a 50-something mother of three children. I'd known their family for years. My friend's mom changed my life forever when we started discussing, rather hypothetically, abortion. "I had one," she said. "After my three kids were born. I got pregnant by accident, we didn't want a fourth child, and I had an abortion. It was the right thing to do -- and it wasn't a big deal." That was one of the only times a mother talked to me about ending an unwanted pregnancy. Most women I knew who'd had abortions were closer to girlhood than motherhood. They'd been terrified about the responsibilities of raising a child -- something they knew nothing about. Abortion had been an unpleasant but welcome solution to a problem they couldn't face. My friend's mother was different. She knew exactly what having...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 13, 2007; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Michelle Obama's Front Page Move

On Thursday, well timed for Mother's Day, 43-year-old Michelle Obama announced her decision to leave her job as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals. The Washington Post ran the news as a front page article, Michelle Obama's Career Timeout; many other news organizations gave the story similar prominence. Michelle Obama went to Princeton and Harvard Law School, and devoted decades of hard work to building a successful, lucrative career. She has two daughters, now 8 and 5, and has shown she has the drive and temerity to juggle motherhood and demanding full-time executive responsibilities along with supporting her spouse's political career. I'm sure it's big news to her that she's leaving the "high paying position in a successful corporation" (her words, according to The Post) she worked her life to achieve. Her next job may be First Lady if her husband, Democratic hopeful...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 14, 2007; 07:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Elizabeth Edwards, Political Wife

"I'm absolutely ready for this," Elizabeth Edwards said at Thursday's press conference, after she and her husband, John Edwards, announced that the breast cancer that surfaced during the 2004 campaign had returned, in a more severe, incurable form. "I mean, I don't look sickly, I don't feel sickly...I'm as ready as any person can be for that." Incisive Vanity Fair/Washington Post writer Marjorie Williams argued eloquently in "The Political Wife, RIP," that political wives who contort themselves to support their husbands' careers were a species close to extinction. Williams, who published a posthumous collection of essays, The Woman at the Washington Zoo, died of liver cancer in January 2005 so she didn't see Elizabeth Edwards at last Thursday's press conference. She didn't see John Edwards pledging to continue his bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Elizabeth, 57, and the mother of four children, has "long been the center of...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 26, 2007; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (410)

Are You Mad?

We know about law enforcement's much-criticized practice of "racial profiling." And now a new term has been coined to describe employers' practice of using a woman's parental status to decide whether to hire her, when to promote her, and how much to pay her: maternal profiling. The practice is illegal but, like many cases of discrimination, hard to prove and hard to prosecute. The victim who protests often faces future discrimination as a whistleblower that paradoxically makes it riskier for her to protest than it is for the employer to discriminate. Last Thursday, the New York Times ran a story Mom's Mad. And She's Organized that describes post-feminist, pro-mom groups, including MomsRising, Mothers & More, and the Mothers Movement Online, that have sprung up recently to fight maternal profiling and other workplace discrimination against moms. These advocacy groups have given power to moms -- who have traditionally been hamstrung by...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | February 26, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (234)

14 Years of FMLA -- February 5, 2007

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the original Family and Medical Leave Act(FMLA). Yahoo. But as we've discussed before in On Balance, FMLA, which is rightly considered "landmark" legislation because no safeguards existed before it and over 50 million workers have benefited, provides important but fairly minimal protection: Employees who've worked for 12 months and put in at least 1,250 hours at companies with 50 or more employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they are ill or if they need to care for a sick family member or new child. Senator Chris Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut and one of the original authors of FMLA, is proposing new legislation to expand FMLA, to put into law what some companies currently offer on a volunteer basis. Sen. Dodd's bill will push for at least six weeks of paid leave for an employee to care for themselves,...

 

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

Flexible Work Arrangements

In the last 50 years, the percentage of American mothers staying home dropped from 76 percent to 28 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most working women (75 percent) work full time. One logical reconcilation between full-time work and full-time motherhood is flexibility in work schedules and telecommuting, so-called "flexible work arrangements" (FWAs). Our workplace is supposed to be logical, too. Logically most employers would be expected to embrace FWAs in order to attract and keep the largest pool of employees. But instead -- as many working moms can attest -- reactions to working moms in the last 50 years have often been negative. FWAs are hard to negotiate with employers, and it seems you can't read a newspaper in recent years without seeing something about well-educated women "opting out" of work because flexibility is so hard to find and reconciling full-time work with motherhood is apparently impossible...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 22, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (172)

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)

The M Word

Our culture is not exactly crazy about discussing a)older women and b)female plumbing. So it is no surprise that MENOPAUSE is a subject that causes even the most unflappable to cringe. But before you turn away from the screen, I promise you the words below are worth reading -- even if you are under 40 years old, even if you are a man. Here is your chance to learn critical facts about your future health and easy ways to become a more sensitive employer, husband or friend. A few facts: The transition to menopause typically occurs starting from age 40 to 58 and can last from one to 12 years. Menopause is characterized by irregular (and eventually, zero) periods, hot flashes, night sweats, changes in sleep habits, a slower metabolism and hormonal changes. You can still get pregnant while transitioning through menopause, so be careful! The most surprising thing about...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 17, 2007; 07:18 AM ET | Comments (285)

Lessons from Female Firefighters

When confronted with yet another story of family-unfriendly policies, prejudice, corruption, or abuse of power by men at work or elsewhere, women often seem to lament: If only women had more power, the workplace -- and the world -- would be a better place. Women should rise to the highest positions of power in every field, I believe, but despite my pro-female leanings, I've never agreed with what seems to be this somewhat naive view. I've never come across evidence, anecdotal or scientific, that women are inherently more kind or fair than men. Power can corrupt anyone; perhaps women appear less abusive only because we have less access to power. Case in point: Minneapolis achieved a unique milestone two years ago. The city had the highest percentage of female firefighters (70 out of 447), the country's first all-female fire company and the first openly lesbian fire chief of a major...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 13, 2006; 09:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Soldier's Wife

Terrible news out of North Carolina last week: The wife of a soldier serving overseas killed herself and her two young children by sitting in a car and running the engine inside their garage, according to a Cumberland County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman in Fayetteville, N.C. Faye Johnson Vick, 39, 2-year-old Jason and 3-month-old Madison were found dead Tuesday afternoon in the car. Autopsies on Wednesday showed that the cause of death was carbon-monoxide poisoning. Vick's husband, Lt. Col. Jason Vick, had been deployed to Iraq since August, the same month his daughter Madison was born. Vick, commander of a supply battalion in the dangerous Anbar province, had already served tours of duty in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, including in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, said Col. Billy Buckner, a Fort Bragg spokesman. A local North Carolina station's Web site, WRAL.com, reported that Faye Johnson Vick had a history...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 4, 2006; 07:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Rally for Breast-Feeding Rights

On the busiest travel day of the year, The Washington Post ran a front page business story about a mom who had been kicked off a Delta Air Lines flight for refusing to cover her baby's head with a blanket while breast-feeding, despite any specific Delta Air Line "Refusal to Transport" justification. The article, Mothers Rally to Back Breast-Feeding Rights, described "nurse-ins" held on Nov. 21 at Reagan National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport by more than 100 breast-feeding moms to protest the lack of support for nursing in public. The protest was important enough that individual women took time off from work to participate, according to The Post. The incident was reminiscent of last June's New York City protest by 200 "lactivists" in response to Barbara Walters's complaints on ABC's The View about a woman breast-feeding next to her on an airplane flight. According to the New...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 27, 2006; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (425)

Are Parents Better Employees?

As most have heard by now, after Democrats won control of the House, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the next Speaker of the House and first woman to hold the job when Congress convenes in January told CBS News anchor Katie Couric that she's broken "the marble ceiling." Pelosi also remarked that raising her five children was the best preparation for the highly visible job as "elect of the elect" presiding officer of the House. The same day, I heard Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, speak at a luncheon in Virginia about her experience running H-P and various divisions of At&T and Lucent Technologies during her groundbreaking career as a female business executive, the subject of her new book, Tough Choices. She, too, echoed Pelosi. "Parents make great employees because they've mastered two of the most critical tasks of successful management: multi-tasking and prioritizing." While it was great to hear...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 20, 2006; 07:25 AM ET | Comments (262)

Ladies, Freeze Your Eggs!

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

 

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

Breaking Down Parents' Time

Nice to witness the reality of parenting today reflected in the New York Times article yesterday, Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children. (Thank you to posters who pointed it out.) Along with photos showing happy, everyday moments between moms, dads and kids, the article summarizes University of Maryland sociologist Suzanne Bianchi's time diary data, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, which was also discussed here in 40 Years of American Parenthood back in April. Non-working and working mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, the article reports. From 1965 to 2000, the increases in time shared between parents and children increased dramatically. Married mothers (paid and unpaid) spend 22 percent more time with their children today vs. a generation ago. Married fathers have more than doubled the time they spend with their children. And single moms...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 18, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Which Works Better -- Public or Private Schools?

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the pros and cons of public vs. private schools, Opting Out of Private School (payment or subscription required for full text). The article described the pressures on private schools as many public schools successfully raise their standards (and college acceptance rates), and profiled several parents and kids who had happily switched from private to public schools. Of course, first and foremost we want to send our kids to schools that are best for them, right? But the piece got me thinking: What kind of schools are best for working and stay-at-home parents? I haven't exactly studied this angle -- nor has anyone else that I know of -- which is why I want to hear from everyone, including parents trying relatively new options, such as group homeschooling and online (long-distance) learning. I've sent my kids to four different daycare centers, two...

 

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

Going Places on the Mommy Track

Ponder this: "The old Mommy Track was a path where up-and-coming women found that having children effectively disqualified them for top positions. They either took themselves out of the running, settling for lower-level positions with more predictable hours and less responsibility, or their male bosses assumed that because these women had children, they wouldn't or couldn't give their all to the office. Now, some employers in high-pressure professions such as law, medicine, accounting and finance -- that years ago may have fired women who became pregnant -- are finally giving working mothers what they've wanted for years: a shot at the top jobs but with flexible hours, part-time schedules or other concessions to their caregiving responsibilities. They are increasingly willing to change the criteria for young mothers to reach top positions, giving them more time or the ability to leave for several years of child-raising and come back . Breast-feeding...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 4, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Getting Back on Track

Just when I was about to accept that the sexist, clueless men who run America will never, ever recognize what an easy, cost-effective investment it is to support working moms with childcare, tax breaks, legal protection at work and incentives for family-friendly business practices, out comes Newsweek's annual issue devoted to women, Women & Leadership: The Next Generation. More than three million people subscribe to Newsweek; I figure the editors there wouldn't devote an entire issue to lauding powerful women unless at least a few of the readers agree that "powerful women" is not an oxymoron. Anna Quindlen's Everyday Equality essay alone -- it's on the last page but I always read her first -- will carry me for at least another week. If you read the magazine from the front like you're suppposed to, the first feature is a package of short bios on successful working women, mostly celebs...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 25, 2006; 08:50 AM ET | Comments (166)

Modern Moms, Outdated Laws

Do you and your spouse both work? Do you face simple, daily hurdles from your work hours to the cost of childcare to the income taxes you pay? If so, you are most definitely not alone. Two-income families now constitute two-thirds of all married couples; women account for 59 percent of the American workforce. Yet working women ages 22-55 are paying some of the highest tax rates in the country and married women who work outside the home are likely to pay the highest marginal tax rates in the country. These are just a few of the troubling facts contained in a new book Leaving Women Behind: Modern Families, Outdated Laws, co-written by Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel and John Goodman and Celeste Colgan of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). "The entry of women into the workforce has been the greatest economic and sociological change in our...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 20, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (275)

Thank You Ann Richards

I thought Ann Richards was too tough to die. She raised four kids; stared down alcoholism in 1980, osteoporosis in 1996 and esophageal cancer since March of this year; celebrated her 60th birthday by getting her motorcycle driver's license; got the Lone Star State to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment; and was one of the first to laugh at George H.W. Bush ("Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."). During her four too-short years as the first female governor of Texas elected in her own right, she oversaw the hiring of the first black and female Texas Rangers; appointed the first black University of Texas regent; put the first teacher in charge of the State Board of Education; reformed the state prison system and state-wide education. At the end of her term, her popularity polled higher than 60%. The only thing...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 15, 2006; 07:50 AM ET | Comments (144)

Tennis and Today's Working Mom

Two significant events marked this year's U.S Open tennis tournament in New York. Kicking things off, the world's largest public tennis facility became the world's largest sports facility named for a woman. The USTA National Tennis Center renamed itself in honor of four-time U.S. Open singles champion Billie Jean King (it's worth noting that this "renaming" opportunity could have been sold to one of the many blue chip Open sponsors such as American Express, Lexus, TIAA Creff or others). Then, at the end of the tournament, Martina Navratilova capped off her 34-year career by winning her 41st U.S. Open championship and announcing her retirement with well-deserved fanfare. You may well ask what these elite athletic occurences have to do with women balancing work and family. Here's the answer: Bille Jean King and Martina Navratilova, along with tennis rival and colleague Chris Evert, sure know how to break a glass ceiling....

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 13, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Breast-Feeding Takes Giant Leap

Ten years ago, it was essentially inconceivable that a story about working moms who breast-feed would be a a front page national news story. Maybe something buried in a Health or Women's section, hidden behind the words "lactation" or another innocuous descriptor chosen to avoid making men squirm. But here we are, moms: Note the historic date of Friday, Sept. 1, 2006, when the New York Times ran a front page story and home page video on its Web site about how hard it is to breast-feed at work: On the Job, Nursing Mothers Are Finding a 2-Class System. There were even color pictures of one woman's milk baggies in the office freezer next to some black bean enchiladas and two photos of moms pumping at their offices. The story itself is newsworthy, with the seeds of social advocacy planted in the reporter's words: "Doctors firmly believe that breast milk...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 6, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (262)

Child Care for All

The 10-year anniversary of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (a.k.a "welfare reform") has prompted analysis of the key components of the 1996 law's success. According to the New York Times, the number of people on welfare has dropped 60 percent to 4.4 million since former president Bill Clinton collaborated with a Republican Congress to reverse six decades of social welfare policy of free monthly cash handouts for the nation's poorest citizens. Public assistance now includes work requirements, time limits, tax credits, childcare subsidies and health insurance for low-income working parents. A report by the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service Domestic Social Policy division studied single moms in particular to analyze how welfare reform has affected them, in part because opponents' biggest concerns were how mothers and children would be impacted. (A copy of the report is available through the Congressional Research Service.) Single mothers are now...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 30, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Slaves to Our Kids -- or Other Moms?

A friend from Columbus, Ohio, called me to vent about a woman who was proudly proclaiming -- in print and on television -- that she was bored by her children. Don't know how I missed her myself (maybe because her original piece ran in a British newspaper while I was frantically packing for our vacation) but here it is: Sorry, but my children bore me to death!. I read Helen Kirwan-Taylor's piece in The Daily Mail expecting to hate her myself. To my surprise, I did not. Here are a few tidbits of what Kirwan-Taylor, a 42-year-old American working mom who lives in Britain with her husband and two sons, wrote: "I know this is one of the last taboos of modern society. To admit that you, a mother of the new millenium, don't find your offspring thoroughly fascinating and enjoyable at all times is a state of affairs very...

 

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

Forks Along the Gold-Plated Street

Single Western Mom sent me an interesting article about women who leave Wall Street, The Fork in the Road, which ran in the New York Times while I was drinking the Disney World Kool-Aid two weeks ago. A bunch of posters have mentioned the article on the blog as well, so I thought it was worth hearing what everyone thinks. My views about Wall Street were shaped during the 1980s and 1990s, first when I lived in New York City and nearly every man I met worked on Wall Street, and later at Wharton business school, which feeds a steady stream into Wall Street firms (including DH). The elite, exclusive, hard-charging world of Wall Street is certainly not for everyone, male or female, child-free or child-encumbered. However, all working women, whether or not you've worked on Wall Street, can learn something by studying Wall Street dynamics because of the extremes...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 21, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (150)

Can Moms Be CEOs?

Lots of good facts in Amy Joyce's recent Washington Post column about the ongoing dearth of top female executives in Fortune 500 companies, Her No. 1 Problem. The article recaps the results of a Catalyst study analyzing the number of women in corporate officer positions in 2005. The news is not good. Catalyst, the nonprofit research and women's advocacy group, has created a pyramid to demonstrate women's representation at work compared to men. The large bottom section: 46.4 percent women, 53.6 percent men. Women in management: 50.6 percent. Fortune 500 top earners: 6.4 percent women. Female chief executives: 1.6 percent. Catalyst president Ilene Lang sums up the past decade succinctly: "progress has almost come to a standstill." Amy Joyce makes the same point: "If things keep growing at the rate they have for the past decade (0.82 percentage points per year), it would take 40 years for there to be...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 16, 2006; 07:16 AM ET | Comments (292)

Blue Collar Blues

Great article several weeks ago in The Oregonian titled Power Moms Not Only Ones Needing Help. (Thank you, Mother of 4, for bringing it to my attention.) The main point is that middle and lower income families don't get sufficient media attention. "The shift workers. The retail clerks. The waitresses and the line cooks. The single mothers with no give, and the dads whose employers offer zero flexibility...[T]he media...keep hashing over the same old question: How do white-collar women raise children without squandering their college degrees and man-worthy careers? As a result, the public debate about improving the work-life balance reflects the specific desires of well-paid professionals: better part-time work, longer leaves, more flex time and fewer hours. These worthy ideas sound like fever dreams to the tens of millions of women (and men) with bigger problems on their hands. They are the people who need extra shifts to make...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | August 9, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Secrets of the Upper Class

The folks at New York Magazine who brought us the definitive mommy wars article in 2002, Mom vs. Mom , have done it again -- captured motherhood in its zaniest, most insane, competitive, hilarious moments. The July 24 issue includes Emily Nussbaum's brilliant commentary about the infamous discussion board UrbanBaby, Mothers Anonymous. (Quick background for the uninitiated: UrbanBaby was founded in 1999 as an upscale motherhood message board and is now available in seven cities nationwide. The site is anonymous and you can search for just about any subject you want to discuss -- marriage, divorce, returning to work, pregnancy complications, potty training, preschools, sleep training, celebrities and sex.) Emily describes the site's appeal best: "On UrbanBaby, the private lives of city mothers are lit up and exposed. All the houses are glass there, and everybody's got a rock. ... because UrbanBaby is anonymous -- and online, anonymity acts like...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 31, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Business Schools Target Stay-at-Home Moms

According to the Wall Street Journal's "Career Journal" some of our country's elite business schools are discovering the talents of stay-at-home moms. The schools seem serious about attracting moms to new custom-tailored executive education programs -- in large part because business schools, unlike law and medical schools, have had an extremely hard time recruiting women to their programs in consistently large enough numbers to bring the percentage of female students above 30 percent. Finally, business schools (and large employers who traditionally recruit freshly-minted MBAs such as Deloitte & Touche, Citigroup and Booz Allen Hamilton) are increasingly showing interest in women who left work to raise children but are now interested in returning (see Sue Shellenbarger's Work & Family piece from February for more about corporate mentoring, networking, and training programs for re-entry moms). The Career Journal article reports that Harvard, Wharton, Dartmouth and other top b-schools are "[s]eeking to tap...

 

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

Ask A Working Woman

The AFL-CIO, which bills itself as the largest organization of working women in America, is sponsoring the 2006 Ask A Working Woman Survey. The online survey, which the AFL-CIO describes as "our chance to be heard as working women," lets you rank the importance of laws that would improve working women's lives, offers an opportunity to complain about how woman-unfriendly your job is, and asks the usual demographic age/education/ethnicity questions. It takes less time to complete than snickering through Father of 4's latest rant. I recommend it to all of you who love to express opinions (ie, everyone). Smart idea, this survey. Can't wait to see everyone's answers, which will be delivered to all U.S. representatives and senators as well as state and local officials around the country on Labor Day. In the meantime, here's the best question: In 600 characters or less, describe the most important thing members of...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 17, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (252)

Hirshman and the Value of Working, Round Two

Former lawyer-cum-philosphy professor Linda Hirshman continues to fire up debates over the value of working vs. stay-at-home motherhood. For some of the latest coverage, see The Los Angeles Times She's The Woman All The Other Women Love or Hate and two articles in Slate, Emily Bazelon's Understanding Betty Friedan and Megan O'Rourke's A Working Girl Can Win. Although I disagree with the way Hirshman blames stay-at-home moms (she calls them "dropout daughters" on page 66 of Get to Work, compares staying at home with kids to riding a motorcycle without a helmet, and accuses at-home moms of not being tough enough to "stick it out" at work once they have children), she's getting a lot of women -- and men -- talking about work, economic independence, power and choices. The heated discussions she generates are an unmitigated public good. Hallelujah! After debating Hirshman on Washington Post Radio and Fox News...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 5, 2006; 09:57 AM ET | Comments (236)

Why We Need Britney

Britney Spears's success as an entertainer and businesswoman is almost beyond comprehension: She's worth a reported $100 million and clocks in as the only female recording artist in history to have four consecutive albums debut at No. 1. And she's 24. She's also a new mom, pregnant with her second child, married to a sexy 28-year-old cad with two children by another woman. Within a year of having her first child, she's seemingly set on breaking records for irresponsible motherhood, albeit with campy, glamorous accoutrements. She's driven on the Pacific Coast Highway with baby Sean wedged between herself and the steering wheel, received a visit from California Family Services investigating her child's fall off a high chair, motored along in a convertible with Sean asleep in a front-facing child seat, and nearly dropped her baby on a New York City sidewalk. Britney recently defended herself as a wife and mother...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 22, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (170)

All Women's Fault

Linda Hirshman, a retired philosophy professor-cum-provocateur with an ego bigger than Mumbai, seems to be making a second career infuriating moms -- those at home and those at work. Hirshman wrote a condescending American Prospect article last year deriding women who stay home with children, 60 Minutes interviewed her in October 2004 about her pseudo "analysis" of the percentage of women profiled in the New York Times Weddings section who were staying home with children five years later, and Good Morning America featured her on their infamous "Mommy Wars" segment this spring, which prompted the National Organization of Women to circulate a petition in protest. Hirshman just published the modestly-titled "Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World." Most moms have not been too happy about her views; in response, Hirshman told her side in a Washington Post Outlook piece yesterday, "Everybody Hates Linda." To me, what's fascinating...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 19, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (464)

Bed Rest and Work? HOW?

In March, an op-ed piece in the New York Times about bed rest opened my eyes to how common the treatment has become. Each year 750,000 (1 in 5) pregnant women are prescribed bed rest to treat ailments ranging from low amniotic fluid to pregnancy-induced hypertension--without clear medical evidence that bed rest is therapeutic. Having endured that frustrating experience herself, the writer of the New York Times piece, Sarah Bilston, wrote a novel, Bed Rest, which I reviewed for the Washington Post Book World. I didn't like it much. Bed rest is simultaneously terrifying and boring -- to go through yourself and certainly to read about in your non-existent leisure time. Plus, in a cop-out that trivializes the challenges facing pregnant women everywhere, Bilston dodges the real issues at stake: high medical costs, lost pay, and debilitating double whammy that 1) your baby's health might be at stake and 2)...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 12, 2006; 10:16 AM ET | Comments (71)

$48.9 Million Babies

The Washington Post and other newspapers reported yesterday that Verizon settled its landmark 2002 class-action pregnancy bias suit for $48.9 million -- the second-largest pregnancy discrimination settlement ever. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission calculated that Verizon predecessors Nynex and Bell Atlantic illegally denied 12,326 current and former female employees pension and other benefits when pregnant or on maternity leave from July 1965 through December 1983, violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, all of which protect women's equal rights in the workplace. Although lawsuits are expensive, unpleasant undertakings for all involved, this settlement -- and the future legal protection it suggests -- are good news for the 64 million working moms in this country, 51% of whom return to work within four months of giving birth. Before laws were enacted protecting working women, we were required...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 7, 2006; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Lies Moms Tell

Parenting magazine just published a survey of 1,800 moms and the lies we tell. Turns out we lie most to our kids (89%), our husbands (87%) and our friends (72%). I'm stunned that "employers and co-workers" didn't make the cut. What do moms lie about? With husbands, seems we lie most about money (45%). Sex is a close second. With our kids, women say little white lies are a necessary evil (53%) and that the truth would just upset them. We lie to our friends about our husbands (36%), their husbands (18%) and their kids (33%). I'm trying to figure out if I lie, too. I don't to my kids -- even when it comes to my first marriage, the facts of life, and other difficult subjects. My husband? I don't lie to him, but I do omit a few things (price tags come to mind). My friends? What good...

 

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

A Celebrity Mom Guilt Trip

What do celebrity moms have to do with us regular ones? Most times, absolutely nothing. But the frenzied media coverage of famous moms' attempts to balance work and family does reflect how conflicted our society feels about moms who work. This cultural unease, refracted on the pages of a magazine with nearly four million weekly readers, makes it distinctly uncool for regular moms to feel good about working motherhood. Here are some tidbits about motherhood from the pop press lately to show what I mean. The Evening Standard features Madonna castigating herself as a "crap mother" because she works. (As if any of us need to punish ourselves for the inevitable tradeoffs between work and kids. The rest of the world does a good enough job on its own). "I'm always going, 'Oh my God, I'm a crap mother.' I want to get home and put my kids to bed...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 11, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (84)

Women of the Future

On April 12, The Economist ran a story about the future of the world economy lying in female hands. Among the facts cited: Girls now perform better at school than boys; more women are getting university degrees than men; women are filling most new jobs. Worldwide since 1970 women have filled two new jobs for every one taken by a man. Educating girls is likely the best single investment that can be made in to boost prosperity in developing countries. In the United States, men's employment rate has decreased 12 percentage points to 77 percent since 1950. Women's employment has increased from one-third to two-thirds in the same period. Women now make up almost half of America's workforce. Why? Since the 1950s, many formerly male educational institutions in the U.S. have opened to women, paving the way for women to get better paid, and more diverse, jobs. There's also been...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 1, 2006; 07:35 AM ET | Comments (92)

 

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