Chore Wars – Finally Equal?
August 25, 2011 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (1)

Household duties have long been a battle ground for couples, especially when children enter the picture. Ruth David Konigsberg’s recent cover article in Time Magazine, Chore Wars, sheds new light on the age old perception that women do much more work than men. After doing research, Konigsberg reports that hours spent in paid and unpaid labor for men and women in 2011 are practically the same. This is not to say that chores are split 50/50, but the extra amount of time men spend in the office counter-balances the time not helping in the home. The exact number, 8 hours and 11 minutes for men and 8 hours and 3 minutes for women per day, has never been as equal as it is now.

What’s more, Konigsberg sites data from the The New Male Mystique, which shows that it is actually fathers who are having a harder time handling dual roles of professional and parent – not mothers. The imbalance over household jobs clearly isn’t completely gone, nor are the frustrated and overwhelmed feelings that accompany. But it does look like we are slowly getting closer to equal.

 

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Part Time Work/Part Time Home
April 26, 2011 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Toddlerhood, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off

Imagine this: You work your job Monday through Thursday. Your husband works Tuesday through Friday. Your babysitter works Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. Everyone has time at work and time at home with their children. Is this a dream? It is a dream in America, but in the Scandinavian countries it is a growing reality.  Pia Dijkstra, a member of Parliament in the Netherlands comments, “Our part-time experience has taught us that you can organize work in a rhythm other than nine-to-five. The next generation,” she added, is “turning our part-time culture from a weakness into a strength.”

Of course, nine to five in America is practically considered part-time. So we’ve got our work cut out for us. We can use the Netherlands as a role model. Parents report consistently that a mix of work time and home time are the most fulfilling. Children are getting the time they need with their parents and adults are getting both the satisfaction that comes from working and time with their children.

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When Dad’s Play With Kids They help Their Marriage
April 7, 2011 · Posted in Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off
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A recent study in the Developmental Psychology Journal reports on the correlation between parenting responsibilities and spousal relationships. The study, conducted by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, found that the more play time spent between father and child, the more encouraging and collaborative the parenting relationship would be.
Greater father involvement in play was associated with an increase in supportive and a decrease in undermining coparenting behavior over time. In contrast, greater father involvement in caregiving was associated with a decrease in supportive and an increase in undermining co-parenting behavior.
Children greatly benefit when both parents have a role in the custodial duties as well as play time. Here is one way to reduce the tension between shared tasks like meal-time, bathing and getting ready for school. Recognize your inevitable differences and try not to be so critical and controlling of one another. It will be incredibly helpful for the relationship to accept that everyone has their own way of doing things. And for dad’s – watch and learn from the person who has been, for the most part, in charge of caregiving responsibilities. Much benefit  will come from seeing what works for your spouse. Along the way, you will adapt your own unique style of parenting that can compliment your wife’s.
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Create A New Adult Relationship With Your Family Of Origin
December 23, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off

By Lisa Merlo Booth

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to stay in the same family role we played when we were children.  Perhaps you were the peacemaker of the family and still find yourself trying to keep the peace among everyone.  Some people are the family scapegoat, forever seen as the troubled or irresponsible one.  Still others are the quiet ones, who just try to stay out of the line of fire.

Regardless of the role we played years ago or how much we’ve changed since then, our families have an uncanny ability to pull us back into our old roles and patterns like no one else in our lives.  We could have been working on ourselves for years and then — wham — we see our families and we’re right back to being that little girl or boy again.

Part of this phenomenon happens because, no matter how much we’ve changed, we tend to act the same as we always did when we get back to our old home turf.  It’s as though we become that young child again – the one who has to throw a tantrum to be heard or has to silence to feel safe or…

The reality, of course, is that this re-enactment truly is not the case.  We can choose to be different with our family, just as we can choose to be different with anybody else in our life.  All it takes is a conscious decision to not play by the old rules, good boundaries and healthy self-esteem (not an easy task, I realize).  We need to decide how and who we want to be in this world and then have the courage to be that person regardless of the audience.

In my own life, I am the youngest of five children.  Naturally, I was seen as the baby of the family.  I played that role well for many years, until I finally realized that it didn’t fit me anymore.  As I began to step up in my interactions with my family, I began to change that story.  I didn’t need to cower in the presence of my father or have everyone do things for me that I was able to do for myself.  I could share my opinions, set limits and speak honestly and confidently about what was going on for me.  As I began to step up, I started to break through the chains of my old family role.  Although, I’m sure there are times when my old role creeps back, it feels really good to not be acting like a nine-year old every time I go back home.

I constantly hear stories about raging fathers who are still hotheads in their 70s or mothers trying to micromanage their adult children.  Whatever the issue is with your parents or siblings, remember that you’re no longer that nine-year-old who had to just take it.  You are a grown adult who is responsible for taking care of yourself and your family—even if that means setting limits on your own parents.  Break the chains of your old family role and have the courage to have an adult relationship with your family.  Set limits when you have to, share your opinions when you choose to and make requests when you’d like to.  Take all of these actions with a centered, powerful strength that is always respectful.

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Couldn’t Have Said It Better
November 9, 2010 · Posted in Breastfeeding, Parenting, Social Action, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off

Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying, feminist and mother writes a truly provocatice article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, Mother Madness. She exposes attachment parenting for what it is–a prison for women. It highlights that the race for the perfect child is a strategy to ignore bigger problems and politics. Here are some excerpts, but do read the whole article.

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you know that we have endured an orgy of motherphilia for at least the last two decades. Movie stars proudly display their baby bumps, and the shiny magazines at the checkout counter never tire of describing the joys of celebrity parenthood. Bearing and rearing children has come to be seen as life’s greatest good. Never mind that there are now enough abandoned children on the planet to make breeding unnecessary…

Someday “attachment parenting” may be seen as quaint, but today it’s assumed that we can perfect our babies by the way we nurture them. Few of us question the idea, and American mothers and fathers run themselves ragged trying to mold exceptional children. It’s a highly competitive race…

Our obsession with parenting is an avoidance strategy. It allows us to substitute our own small world for the world as a whole. But the entire planet is a child’s home, and other adults are also mothers and fathers. We cannot separate our children from the ills that affect everyone, however hard we try. Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach…

Some parenting gurus suggest that helicopter parenting became the rage as more mothers went to work outside the home. In other words, it was a kind of reaction formation, a way for mothers to compensate for their absence and guilt and also for the many dangerous and uncontrollable things in the modern family’s environment. This seems logical to me. As we give up on ideals of community, we focus more and more on our individual children, perhaps not realizing that the community and the child cannot be separated…

In the oscillations of feminism, theories of child-rearing have played a major part. As long as women remain the gender most responsible for children, we are the ones who have the most to lose by accepting the “noble savage” view of parenting, with its ideals of attachment and naturalness. We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules.

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Down Time For Brains
October 19, 2010 · Posted in Parenting, Technology, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off

Like a great meal, it makes sense that in order to process information or experiences you need time digest. Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime, New York Times, August 24, 2010 explains that rats need time free from stimulation to process their last periods of experience. If those periods are interrupted, the integration of the information is impaired. Now of course, humans aren’t rats, but we all know that it is getting harder and harder to just be without our iphones, blackberries, laptops and games (me included). For ourselves, and for our children, it is important to have enforced unplugged times so that we can develop our intellectual abilities, memory and the digestion of material or experience. I may have to go on a “stimulation diet” to aid my brain digestion. Doesn’t sound too appealing but like all healthful activity we are glad we did it in the end.

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Nursing and Returning to Work
October 7, 2010 · Posted in Breastfeeding, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (1)


New mother’s returning to work are in a highly sensitized state. Since child birth and new motherhood are such charged and radically new experiences, the return to work can be seen as anything from devastating to a perfect escape, and all the points in between. What most women have in common is a fear about leaving their baby with a new caretaker who may be largely unknown. Tremendous guilt around leaving their baby or because they are ashamed they are not feeling bad about leaving the baby is also common. There is worry about not being able to accomplish their old job at the same level of competency and there are usually ambivalent feelings about the job itself since all values and priorities are shaken and changing. Of course there are also feelings of missing the baby and the idea that they “should” be at home. It is a very complicated and tender time but often women get back into a rhythm in a few months.

The new law will go a long way to begin to help women more seamlessly move from their nursing identity to their professional identity. At this time these two identities are very hard to reconcile for most women. One way to do this is to educate mothers that the nursing experience is more flexible than they are lead to believe. Many women can nurse in the morning, when they arrive at home and before their baby goes to sleep or in the middle of the night. They may not need to encumber themselves with the pumping process at work at all and may enjoy their nursing experience more that way. If a mother decides to pump at work, acknowledgement that she is nursing and plans to take time at work to pump breast milk is the most important factor. Most women are embarrassed or even frightened to bring it up to bosses both male and female. Having a policy in place that is discussed BEFORE the maternity leave would be tremendously helpful in setting the stage for a better transition. Any workplace that provides a comfortable, private space for pumping will help to lessen the feelings of shame or uncertainty regarding their nursing status.

The Breastfeeding Information Council recently released a 5 step guide for nursing moms returning to work.  Below is an expert from this write up that speaks specifically to the importance of preparing for this transition in advance.

step 5: Prepare — Plan your employee’s Return to Work Prior to her maternity leave

This is the most critical step of all. For many women, the decision to breastfeed is both personal and private. BBIC research indicates that 53% of working mothers claim that they do not feel the need to discuss their intention to pump with their employer. Of those that do, only 35% initiate the conversation with their employer prior to their maternity leave.16 Yet, planning ahead ensures greater peace of mind for the employee when she knows that she is supported in her decision to continue to breastfeed after returning to work. It also helps the company prepare for a new mother’s return to work.

here are some helpful tips to ensure the conversation happens:

• Discuss the employee’s plans for breastfeeding, including whether she intends to pump when she returns to work and for how long; understand that while plans may be discussed prior to leaving, those plans may change

• If you are not comfortable having this discussion with your employee, find someone who is – perhaps another mother or a colleague with whom she is close

• Provide her with the company’s written policy, as well as any other supporting material that you may have to help her prepare for her return to work and a sample policy is included Appendix B

• Listen and have a two-way dialogue – understand that a working mother’s needs may vary and some flexibility may be required

• Explain that the company and its staff are fully supportive of the new mother in her choice to continue breastfeeding, and outline the process for filing a complaint about any harassment to which she may be subjected.

Appendix C contains a handout with helpful tips for a new mother returning to work.

“If a mother decides to pump at work, acknowledgement of her decision is the most important factor in helping her feel supported when she returns to work. Many women are embarrassed or even frightened to bring up the topic of breastfeeding with both male and female supervisors. Having a policy in place that is discussed BEFORE the maternity leave would be tremendously helpful in setting the stage for a better transition.”17

Lisa Spiegel, M.A., LMHC, Soho Parenting Center, BBIC Advisory Board

“It’s important that employees communicate with their employers, preferably while still pregnant, and let them know that they intend to pump when they return to work. You want to give your company as much opportunity as possible to come up with a suitable arrangement for you – you don’t want to spring it on them that you need a place to pump on your first day back.”18

Carole Lucia, Contributing Editor, Breastfeeding and Health, Fit Pregnancy

step 3: Write a simple, straightforward

Breastfeeding Policy

A good breastfeeding policy doesn’t need to be complex. It simply needs to include the essentials of how the company supports its nursing mothers. Appendix B has a sample breastfeeding policy template that can be used to develop your own.

The policy should be written in the same tone and voice as your other corporate policies and should:

• Clearly state that the company supports nursing mothers returning to the workplace and that all staff are expected to do the same

• Summarize the legal requirements for complying with the Healthcare Reform Act

• Define or suggest reasonable break times and state whether these are paid or unpaid

• List private places where a nursing mother can pump

• State that the policy will be discussed with nursing mothers prior to their departure on maternity leave

• Provide a means for a nursing mother to lodge a complaint if she feels that she is being harassed or discriminated against because of her decision to pump at work

“A mother will try and replicate the frequency of her breast emptying while at work with a breast pump. Frequent pumping will allow her to continue to produce breast

milk, so that she can provide her baby with expressed breast milk for the following day.”14 Shery Leeder, IBCLC, BBIC Advisory Board

“Novice pumpers are undertaking something that is new and unfamiliar to them. They have to adjust to the fact they’re expressing their breast milk while their work world

swirls around them. This can translate into difficulties relaxing, which can lead to the need for a longer break for pumping, especially in the beginning.”15 Carole Lucia, Contributing Editor, Breastfeeding and Health, Fit Pregnancy

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Why Have Kids?
September 9, 2010 · Posted in Parenting, Toddlerhood, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off

by Bethany Saltman

One of Azalea’s best friends told her that Elvis ate too many cookies, then died. Every now and then, in a particularly contemplative moment, Azalea will ask, “Mommy, why did Elvis do that to himself?” It’s a good question. Why do any of us do what we do? Even though there are infinite and unknowable karmic causes to every action, I wish we could at least ask Elvis what he thought he was doing when he excessed himself into oblivion.

Even when people are alive and well, asking “Why?’ doesn’t seem to get very far. What can seem like such an open-ended, heart-in-the-right-place approach, actually, once it hits the air of a real conversation, feels like a dead-end, at best, or accusatory, at worst. Take me asking my mom why she married my dad (He was a good dancer. Say what?). Or why she had kids (Because, honey, I really wanted to be a mom). Actually, take asking anyone why they had kids, especially if they are in the midst of the dealing with said kids in the moment. Usefulness and appropriateness aside, I wonder about it all the time. Obviously there are many good reasons to procreate, not the least of which is the next generation of humans. But…well…it’s complicated, too.

So I was intrigued when New York magazine recently ran a cover story called, “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting.” In the piece, Jennifer Senior, herself a parent, refers to many of the recent and well-publicized studies indicating that parenting is very low on the list of what makes us happy (one particularly stunning study shows that Texas moms rated childrearing number 16 on their list of pleasurable activities. Housework was among the 15 that were more fun). While this data is not new, what was interesting to me was how Senior developed the question: Are people deluded into thinking that parenthood will make them happy, or is there something about parenting itself (expectations, guilt, etc.) that makes it such a significant hurdle to happiness?

One of the most intriguing parts of the discussion came from a conversation Senior had with Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness. He had this to say:

“‘When you pause to think what children mean to you, of course they make you feel good…The problem is, 95 percent of the time, you’re not thinking about what they mean to you. You’re thinking that you have to take them to piano lessons. So you have to think about which kind of happiness you’ll be consuming most often. Do you want to maximize the one you experience almost all the time’—moment-to-moment happiness—‘or the one you experience rarely?’”

In other words: What is it about parenting (or anything for that matter) do we thinkwe are drawn to? Or repelled by? Is it the idea of parenting that we like, the happiness that we “experience rarely,” or the actual work of raising children that gives us a good feeling? And, I would add, can we just schlep the kid to piano lessons, or do we have to think about that, too? It’s another way of asking: Who am I? Really! Are some parents “hating” it because they don’t like the activity of raising kids or is that they are not, in fact, experiencing it all? Because they are so busy thinking about whether or not it makes them happy?

I made the decision to have a child because I was curious. Initially drawn to monastic practice, which in the Mountains and Rivers Order requires childlessness, I realized after two years of residential training that this was not the path for me. However, I felt like my body had this other, equally compelling capacity for exploring humanness that I would be crazy to ignore. And luckily T was on board. So we went for it. Which was the easy part. Staying curious is more difficult. Does being a mom make me happy? As my late teacher Daido Roshi used to say, “Only you can make you happy.”

And since Azalea was born, it has been clear that this life would be a challenge to the ways I had always made myself happy. The love and connection I felt with Azalea was immediate and profound (and is the most stable love I have ever known), but the vocation of being a mom did not come as easily. As we know, babies and children need constant attention, and this was difficult for me to give freely. In fact, it wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized the depth of my own needs, and saw that I had pretty much constructed my entire life as a way of protecting some boundary that felt critical to keeping me, if not happy, at least not actively freaked out. At the same time, I knew I really, really wanted to become more flexible, to open my heart as wide as it could go. And that letting go of my self-concern required more than a weekend retreat about compassion, which is another reason why I had wanted to be a monk. I needed to sign myself up for life.  So instead of committing myself to a life of service to a sangha, I made a vow to Azalea. Either way, the practice is the same: devoting myself to the life of another. Realizing who it is that gets in the way.

Right now, Azalea is in her grandparents’ car, driving back from the beach, smelling like sunscreen and sweat, maybe asleep. Hopefully happy. But who knows? At any moment, she will arrive and this happiness I feel, sitting alone, writing, thinking of her, will transform. My attention will shift away from my ideas of parenting to the thing itself. I may resist it, and even ask why—why did I do this, why is it so hard? If I believed in God, I would pray to be returned to my vow. But no such luck. I have to do it myself. And I will. And my questions will continue, through the sand washing and feeding, the negotiating and the playing, and all the answers I need will run through the house, begging to be chased.

This article first appeared online in Chronogram Magazine, July 28, 2010.


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A Win For Nannies Is A Win For Women
June 8, 2010 · Posted in Caregivers, Parenting, Social Action, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (1)

The New York State Assembly and Senate have recently passed versions of a new bill instating the rights of domestic workers. Sick days, paid vacation, and overtime will finally be protected benefits even for domestic workers who are not legal citizens. The New York Times article, For Nannies, Hope For Workplace Protection describes the bills that Governor Patterson will likely combine and sign into law.

This legislature will help close the gap between domestic workers and the rest of the workforce. The fact that these rights are only being granted in the year 2010 highlights that this is not only a work-status issues but a gender issue as well. Discrimination against women is alive and well. Domestic workers are by and large women. We as a society still collude in thinking that this is lower status, invisible work. Women’s work. These changes will be a major step forward for our society and a move towards recognizing the care of children and home as truly important work.

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Make The Big Picture, Little.
May 18, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Parenting, Pressure on Children, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (1)

big_dog_little_dogIn the last year the most used piece of advice I have given is this – ‘The little things matter.’  The walk on the way to school, eggs together at the diner, the conversations at bath time – all of these seemingly simple activities mean so much in your relationship with your child.

Parents are sadly bombarded with pressure about which school, what activities, feeding only breast milk-the list goes on and on. Many get a skewed sense of what is important about being a parent and get caught up in the sweeping tide of anxiety about over achievement for their children and for themselves. They will admit, “I spend more time pumping when I get home from work than hanging with the baby, I have to get the milk.” “I leave the bath to the babysitter so I can check my email when I get home so I am not over-run with work when I get into the office the next morning.” Or “I spent every night in the last two weeks working on the school auction, I want her to see how dedicated I am to her school.” The frantic energy and the desire to do a good job is palpable.

We are on the wrong path here. The culture is pushing us to ignore the little things. Small opportunities for closeness with your child, looking at the world with them, just being. The big busy picture means nothing to them. And when you slow down and take time to think about it–it isn’t that important to you either.

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