The title of a recent episode of Think on NPR caught our attention. We wanted to avoid it, but given the choice between silence and listening to it while I got ready to start my day, I opted to listen. And I'm glad I did.
The episode is called "Can Moms Who Stay Home Catch Up On Careers?" I'd wished it was called, "Can Parents Who Stay Home ...", but by the end of the conversation, I got it and wasn't as bothered.
For 48 minutes, the host, Krys Boyd, talked with Pamela Stone, professor of sociology at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Pamela has written two books of interest and the latest one was co-authored with Meg Lovejoy and called Opting Back In: What Really Happens When Mothers Go Back to Work.
Women and men considering a short break from their careers will want to consider the info shared during this podcast.
Spoiler alert: If you are a high potential employee and do opt out, even for a very short period of time, it's very unlikely you'll pick up where you left off when you return to the workforce.
An idea for working parents who struggle to fit it all in during the holidays
Originally published: Dec 6, 2017 | Updated: Dec 7, 2019
What if you didn't attend one of your child's holiday programs this year? Not all of them, just one. What if you explained to your child that sometimes, most of the time, he or she is your highest priority and that means that you miss other important things so that you can be with him or her? And what if you went on to explain that sometimes, when you know he or she is safe and happy, other things are a higher priority? Like people in need, planning for the future, or even your job.
Is it possible that action would give your child gifts that could last a lifetime? Might you give them the gift of learning to perform for others, not just you? Might you give him or her the gift of independence (if only for a few minutes)? Might you give him or her a gift they'll greatly appreciate in the future when, as a working parent, he or she knows for sure that a child can feel happy and loved without constant attention from parents?
Working parents throughout social media are in the midst of expressing frustrations that surface during the holidays every year. They're frustrated when school holiday performances and activities are scheduled in the middle of the workday. They wonder how they're expected to be in two places at the same time. They want to be great parents and they want to be great employees. They become frustrated when the system appears to conspire against them.
It might make sense to ask your kids if they think it's important that you attend every single holiday activity. You might be surprised (and relieved) to hear their answers.
Update Dec 7, 2019: Another idea: Send someone in your place (someone with more time) like a grandparent, uncle or aunt, a cousin, a neighbor or a friend who would be honored to fill-in for you. It could be a win-win!
The older I get, the more I'm able to understand both sides, or even multiple sides, of controversial issues. Winners and losers (real and/or perceived) often emerge as a result of the decisions we make related to these topics, and the positions people take are often related to their perspectives and past experiences.
Affirmative action is one of these controversial topics because it relates to ways in which we favor one group of people over another, and many view themselves as potential winners or losers based on the way we implement the policies.
When not frustrating, it can be entertaining to step back and listen to those with the loudest voices. For example, I've known members of the military who are clear about their opposition to "affirmative action". Interestingly some of these people received their own military assignments during a time when the ultimate form of affirmative action was being implemented; qualified women and even some qualified men weren't even allowed to apply for the very positions these people feel they "earned".
Some who are perceived as very successful in their careers today have spouses who deliberately limited their own career potential in order to support them. Certainly this is a form of affirmative action within a family. Sometimes the spouse who limited his or her own career potential was even making more money or appeared to have more career potential than the spouse they held back to support. It's most common for this form of affirmative action to manifest itself when one spouse shifts from full-time to part work, takes on a job that doesn't demand as many qualifications as they're capable of providing, or in extreme cases, one spouse drops out of the workforce for a significant period of time or even permanently.
In the US, affirmative action is usually defined to be the practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups that have experienced discrimination in the past, but I think it's more than that. Affirmative action, in my mind, is about asking ourselves what kind of future we want to experience and then taking deliberate steps to create that future. Families do this all the time.
During vacations when our kids were young, we'd usually ask the kids to navigate from the car to the plane when we arrived at an airport. We didn't do this because our kids were better navigators than we were or because that process was the most efficient for our family. Instead we did it because we wanted our kids to be able to navigate for themselves in the future; we were trying to create the future we wanted to experience. We believed that the short-term investment would pay off in the future.
Personal examples of how each of us implements affirmative action on a daily basis are endless. As far as I can tell, affirmative actions works. Maybe that's why some people don't like it. But when it's done right, we all win in the end.
Featuring Marie-Sophie Boulanger
Back in April, a Working Parent Story called Paris in the Springtime highlighted Parisian working parent, Marie-Sophie Boulanger. She is currently in the midst of a professional transformation which is both interesting and inspirational.
Marie-Sophie spent the first 25 years of her career as a journalist. She then shifted her focus to capitalize on her creativity by painting on silk scarves and teaching others to do it via DIY workshops. During one particular period, she was inspired to paint on a silk wedding dress, enter it in a contest, and ... she won a prize! After posting photos and describing the experience on social media, her work caught the attention of some wedding fair planners who invited her exhibit her dresses at an upcoming fair in Paris.
Having only painted one dress at that point, Marie-Sophie improvised! She quickly found a very talented stylist, Valérie Guilbert, and overnight, with Valérie sewing and Marie-Sophie painting, they formed Ermance et Marie and produced four dresses in time for the show, Salon du Mariage, which was held in September at the Parc des Expositions at Paris Porte de Versailles.
To see more of these one-of-a-kind custom-designed dresses (or to schedule an appointment), visit the Ermance et Marie web site.
Submitted by Kelsey Sprowell
I had a profoundly human experience on an airplane this morning and after tumbling it over in my mind, it seems fit to share it.
First, some background: I should have been home from my business trip by now. My flight from Louisiana to Dallas was delayed by more than three hours last night so I missed my connection to Cedar Rapids and was rebooked on a flight this morning. At the gate, the agent changed my seat; when I boarded, another woman and her elderly mother were sitting there, so I picked another. The steward came through and reshuffled us again, and then we sat on the tarmac for a while waiting out a storm. I overheard the woman behind me tell the steward that she’d never traveled with a baby, and I noticed she had an infant. All of this is to say: it seems like a Godwink that any of this happened in the first place.
A half an hour into the flight, I was caffeinated to the gills and absently reading some stories saved on my phone for exactly such an occasion when there was a big thud, and then gasps. The passenger behind me had fallen asleep and dropped the baby. She picked up the baby, who had startled, but not cried. The passengers around us looked around uncomfortably - what do you do when someone drops a baby?! I threw my phone in my bag, unbuckled my seatbelt, got up, and reached out my arms for the babe. I had a million thoughts at once: this one looked about four months old, and this was obviously Grandma, not Mom. People, babies are so freaking hard, and when my girls were that little, I often felt like the only reason I didn’t drop them when I fell asleep is because of some biochemical muscle activation that kicked in because I grew them myself, and this lady clearly didn’t have that advantage. I flew with my kids a bunch; it’s like traveling with a bobcat and all of the materials in its enclosure. No one offers to help, but everyone offers judgement. Grandma handed me the baby as I told her, “I’m a mom, my babies are at home, let me hold your baby so you can get some sleep.”
After I sat down again I noticed that the woman across the aisle from me was crying. I held her gaze for long enough to prompt her to talk, and she said, “I’m sorry. I’m flying home from dropping my son off at rehab. I’m so scared.” I asked if she wanted to sit next to me, and she said no. I asked if she wanted to hold the baby - by this point Grandma had fallen back asleep - and she said yes. We took turns passing the baby back and forth.
After Grandma woke up, she told me the baby’s name was Peanut. The woman across the aisle told me her son’s name was Max and that he’s 22. I cried with her getting off the plane, because I know that mama love, and I can imagine what her heart feels like leaving her kiddo in Texas. We all parted ways, and I can’t stop thinking about any of them.
So if you’re the praying type, remember Peanut in your prayers, and also her mom and grandma, and definitely Max and his mom, too. And for God’s sake, go out of your way to be nice to people. Being a human is hard work. The world needs it.
Having worked as a woman in high tech for 32 years and rarely, if ever, encountering, or at least recognizing, any sort of discrimination, patronization, or hostility, I've been perplexed by all of the news reports, studies, and recent conversations about the obstacles women face in high tech careers. Until today.
During a thoughtful conversion with a new friend about what it's like to be a woman pursuing a high tech career, all of the information I've gathered over the last 57 years fell into place. Suddenly it made sense and felt profound. Maybe you've already figured things out. If not, read on.
When I entered the workforce in the mid-1980s, there were a lot of horror stories about the things women were enduring in the workplace.
One of my co-workers talked about having been selected to paricipate in a management program for high-potential new-hires with her previous employer. Participants were requierd to give a monthly presentation to a large group of managers. As a "joke", the managers lined the walls of the conference room with centerfold posters, which she encounted as she walked into the room to give her presentation for the first time. She ignored them and gave the presentation. The posters weren't there the next month. That was progress.
Another co-worker told about a time that a male colleague followed her into a storage room, closed the door behind them, and attempted to assualt her. She got away.
Just about every woman I know who is older than I am has a story ... or stories. My expectations were set early on, and I was on guard. For years.
The thing is, I didn't have any of those experiences. I don't remember people trying to embarass me or make me feel uncomfortable at work, and I was certainly never assaulted. From my perspective, there were no problems. The women before me had done the heavy lifting, they'd paved the way, and I was sincerly grateful for all they'd done so that my experiences were different. In fact, I almost always felt respected, supported, and encouraged to strive for more. I have been happily sharing my perspective with others for years; especially younger women.
In fact, many of my colleagues and friends have shared this message with the following generation. "Join us," we say. "Things have changed! You will be respected, accepted, and you will thrive."
So when the next generation does join us, it is with different expectations than we had when we entered the workplace. For them, the expectation is not only different, but higher. Much higher. The next generation of women arrives expecting to experience equality, encouragement, acceptance and more. They're not impressed when they avoid assaults or harassment.
They expect more. Much more. And I think they're going to get it.
An opportunity for parents in the USA, UK and Germany to help other working parents
An Invitation to Parents in the USA, UK and Germany to Participate in a Research Study About Employing Nannies in the Home
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are studying what parents who employ nannies and other domestic employees think about certain issues that come up when you have someone working in your home.
Do you employ a nanny or au pair to take care of your child(ren)? If so, the researchers would like to interview you for 30 minutes, and they'll provide you with a $25 honorarium if you participate.
If you're willing to participate, please call, text or email Julia Bernd directly (to maintain confidentiality) as follows:
-- Call/text Julia Bernd: +1-650-862-0509
-- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Facebook Private Message: julia.b.bernd
Michigan State basketball head coach Tom Izzo recently added five new players to his team for the 2019-20 season. They stand 6'9", 6'8", 6'7", 6'2" and ... 5'8". This, of course, begs the question: What makes a 5'8" player compelling for Izzo, a Hall of Fame coach who has led eight teams to the Final Four? The answer is simple; the 5'8" player is his son, Steven.
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press published earlier this week and a WXYZ Sports video clip, Coach Izzo told Steven that if he made his private high school's basketball team during his senior year, there'd be a spot for him on the MSU basketball team as a walk-on. Steven earned a spot on the Lansing Catholic High School team last year, so Dad Izzo, true to his word, made room for him on the MSU team this year.
As you might imagine, Izzo's decision to add his son to the MSU team has generated a lot of chatter. And his response may resonate with many working parents; “I’ve given up 18 years of my life [working at MSU] and he’s given up 18 years of his life [not seeing much of his dad in the winter]" The Free Press article continues, "Izzo wanted to be clear this isn’t simply about time. By taking his son as a walk-on, he’ll get to teach and mentor his son the way he does his players."
Many working parents would probably appreciate the opportunity to bring their kids to work more often. Many of us would like to be able to spend more time showing our kids what we do everyday in the office, in the field, or wherever our work is done. Few of us have that opportunity, even though we also make sacrifices by putting in long hours, participating in late-night phone calls with colleagues living on the other side of the world, and sometimes traveling to locations that take us away from our kids for days or weeks on end. And most of us do it for a lot less than the $4M per year that Izzo is earning.
Maybe a job where you can favor your children is something to aspire to. Maybe Izzo has earned the right to show some favoritism and reap this personal reward because of the results he's achieved. Maybe he'll be able to teach his son more on the court than is possible at the kitchen table. Maybe children of successful parents deserve special preferences. And maybe the other players will benefit from Steven's participation on the team.
Or maybe the lessons we take away from this story are as old as time: Family connections can make or break opportunies, it's often difficult to speak truth to power, and when coaches win, oversight weakens.
What do you think? What can working parents learn from this story?
It's 2019. As you know :) This fact is asserted because it's important to the story.
I'm on the planning committee for a small event. The committee is comprised of over ten people; all of us are women except one. We're all in our late 50s, and most of us have, or had, careers. We're professionals. We do a lot of our collaboration via email.
So it caught me off-guard when one person, the only man on the committee, made an out-of-the-blue reference to a woman's physical appearance, not one of our committee members, in one of his "reports" (sent via email). It was presented as a joke, but didn't seem funny. And ... it's 2019. Has he been following the news? What would it take for him to understand that women dislike these kinds of comments within this context? This guy has a spouse and kids. Would he have made the comment if his spouse or kids were on the committee? I doubt it.
Often the first to speak up, I've decided to hang back to see how others (who know him better) respond. To date, it's been nothing but crickets.
To the few people who haven't seen the memo: It's 2019, and when people are working together to accomplish a task, irrelevant comments about physical appearance aren't appreciated by most - at least among the people I know. It creates an awkward situation. And it leaves people with the impression that you're totally out of touch.
Is this a really big deal? No. Is this really surprising? Yes (at least for me). Having spent 32 years working in high tech, I'm happy to report that I didn't encounter many who seemed so out of touch with current expectations regarding respect.
If we want our daughters and sons to be treated fairly, and respected for their ideas, we need to model the behavior we hope they'll experience. Let's start doing that right now.
Review of the Netflix Limited Series
Some previous Working Parent Stories (like Heard, Seen, Validated, Believed and Kate's Doctors) have highlighted employees who do a great job, at least in part, because of something that has occurred in their personal lives. Sometimes that something is being a parent and sometimes that something aligns with a different personal experience.
The Netflix limited series Unbelievable is one of these stories. (It's based on a true story previously published in ProPublica.) While the first episode of the series is difficult to watch, the next episodes provide a bit of a respite for viewers so that we can focus less on the crimes and more on the investigations. And very quickly we're led to believe, probably not surprisingly, that different detectives attempt to solve crimes using different skills sets and different styles. The big question that looms while watching this series is whether or not there are consistently significant differences between the way men and women strive to solve sexual assault crimes against women.
Additionally, and maybe more importantly, the series leaves many of us asking ourselves some questions about our own attitudes toward the victims of sexual assault as well as those that perpetrate the crimes against them.
At Working Parent Stories, we talk a lot about why we think it's important for women to pursue careers with the same intensity as men. This series helps make that case.
Editor's note: When we started watching the series we assumed we'd complete the eight-episode series in about eight days. But it's pretty compelling, and we're struggling not to watch "just one more" each evening. Prepare to binge.