Inspired by a New York Times article by Jessica Bennett
What does your child's failure, large or small, imply about you? Many parents, those who pursue careers and those who don't, seem to fear that a child's failure will imply that they aren't parenting well. Think about that; some people think that a child's failure isn't healthy and even go to unusual extremes to help their children avoid failing.
This topic caught our attention after reading an article in the New York Times called "On Campus, Failure Is on the Syllabus". It turns out that some students are so unfamiliar with failure that some colleges are offering courses to teach them how to do it.
As a working parent, this topic caught me off-guard because failure was an integral part of daily life around our house. While I always produced clean clothes for everyone, they weren't always dry. Homework and lunches were occasionally forgotten. Planes were missed; twice. Test scores weren't always worthy of display on the refrigerator. Vacation activities sometimes proved to be ... not so fun. And managers didn't always heap on the praise. And yet ... we survived. Sometimes we even succeeded. Each of us learned, at least theoretically, that when something doesn't turn out the way you want, you keep on going, try harder next time, and often need to change your behavior to avoid experiencing even more failure in the future. Failure isn't a showstopper, but it is often a signal that change is needed.
Many years ago a friend advised, "Let your kids fail on the little stuff when they are little so that they're not learning to deal with failure for the first time when they are older and the stakes are much higher." We took the advice to heart, but have to admit, even today, that watching anyone you care about fail is not easy. And it's not fun.
"Good parents" let their kids fail; they don't swoop in, solve problems that children could solve for themselves, and then declare themselves the heroes in their family stories. Instead, they encourage children to resolve their own failures, and they allow their children to feel the satisfaction and experience the increased self-confidence that those failure experiences produce. They let their children become the heroes of their own stories, and they teach them that struggle can be valuable. They understand that parents should attempt to keep their children safe, but that most failures don't compromise safety.
For all parents, and especially working parents, these realizations can be freeing. When we make room for failure, we spend less time doing and more time watching, supporting, and encouraging. As Retired USAF Colonel Gregory H. Johnson said at Michigan Tech's spring commencement ceremony recently, "Failure's not only an option, it's a requirement for succeeding in life."
As I mentioned in my recent Paris in the Springtime story, I vacationed alone in Paris last month. I landed back in Denver on a Friday evening, and in a mostly unplanned turn of events, my 23 year old son boarded the same plane and headed off to start his own solo travel adventure just a few hours later. I traveled alone in an attempt to add adventure to my life, and he traveled alone to visit friends he'd met when he studied in Sweden during his junior year of college.
Since returning from my trip, people have said many interesting things to me including these comments from two very capable young women: "I wanted to do that, but my dad wouldn't let me" and "I could never do that!"
These comments got me thinking. My experiences got me thinking too.
My first thought is that, for me, traveling alone felt safer than traveling with others for the following reasons:
I'm so glad that my son had the opportunity to travel alone while he was living in Sweden, and I'm glad that he's willing to keep doing it now. Business travel is often a solo trip, so these experiences will only help him as he establishes his career. Experienced travelers are best able to focus on their job responsibilities when their work requires them to function away from their home base.
If we want our daughters to be able to take advantage of opportunities to earn as much as our sons, we need to help prepare them for the work ... which often requires travel. It doesn't make sense to pay a person with less experience the same as a person with more experience.
Instead of teaching our daughters to be fearful, let's teach them to be capable.
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Paris was my most recent vacation destination. My husband was unenthused about spending time in a place where he would encounter so many language and logistical challenges, and I somehow tripped across the concept of "solo travel" on YouTube, so the next thing I knew, I was off to Paris ... alone.
Some people I encountered were surprised when they learned I was on my own. Others, all working moms, got it. It seems that people who have masterminded family vacations while juggling a demanding full-time career can at least relate to the appeal; doing only what you want and when you want to do it. I'm happy to report that it was just as luxurious as it sounds.
Before I left I had some concerns about spending 12 days on my own, so when I came across the concept of Airbnb "experiences", I booked a few; a small jazz concert, a "rooftops tour" and, the one that sounded the most interesting, "Make your own silk scarf in Paris". I'm not much of an artist, but this "experience" was described in a way that made it sound doable. And it turned out to not only be doable, but thoroughly enjoyable; it was everything I hoped it would be and more.
Our host, Marie-Sophie Boulanger, met the three of us who had pre-registered (Sharon from Hong Kong, Amy from the Bronx, and me) at a metro stop near her home in Montmartre. Then we were wisked into Marie-Sophie's home in a Parisian Haussmann building where we spent the next four hours creating our own silk scarf ... with lots of help from Marie-Sophie and the added bonus of making new friends. It was really fun!
But why do I share this story with you? It's because Marie-Sophie is a working parent and that was evident while we were in her home. It was Easter week, her 12 year old twin sons had the week off school, and she had to work. That meant that her boys were off at a day camp while we were there. And guess what? There were some issues; changes by the camp leader, phone calls from her sons, and adjustments that needed to be made. Amy and I, former working parents, could relate! We'd been there and done that. And watching Marie-Sophie juggle her work and her family only helped us appreciate the experience more.
We were reminded that working parents, wherever they may live, are all facing many of the same challenges.
Pointer to Fox News video about Dr. Anna Lee Fisher and her daughter Kristin Fisher
Dr. Anna Lee Fisher was the first mom to fly in space back in 1984. As, Anne McClain, also a mom, prepares to head to space later this month, and to commemorate International Women's Day, Dr. Fisher appeared on Fox News last week along with her Fox News Washington correspondent daughter, Kristin Fisher.
Watch the video of the conversation to gain insight into how a mom's decision to go into space when her daughter was 14 months old, influenced that daughter.
Interestingly, both of Kristin's parents worked as NASA astronauts.
-- Speaking of Business Travel
Working Parent Stories often mentions the fact that kids learn from parents and the kids of working parents learn unique and valuable lessons. Having just finished reading the book Educated by Tara Westover, it seems safe to claim that she learned some really unique lessons from her working parents. And many of them have turned out to be surprisingly valuable and definitely thought-provoking.
We're late to the party in terms of reviewing and praising this book given that Barack Obama included it on his 2018 Summer Reading List and Bill Gates recently gushed about it too. With that said, in addition to being a compelling memoir, it gives parents a lot to think about in terms of what aspects of parenting and education help a child the most.
Educated is a real page-turner* that will leave you thinking and thinking and thinking some more about what you've read, what it means to be a "good" parent, and what opportunities and responsibilities you provide for your children. After you finish the book, we recommend listening to interviews with the author posted on YouTube (like this one) to gain even more insight into her story.
* We actually listened to the audio version
Assuming that a person's future family status is unknown (i.e. they are not yet married):
Does it ever make sense to give different career advice to boys/men vs girls/women?
Serious question. Let us know what you think.
Disclaimer: This info is intended for people who are able to make general plans for their career in advance. It may also be helpful for people considering a career change.
Some people say that their job doesn't pay enough for them to be able to afford childcare. Or, to be more specific, their job doesn't pay enough for them to be able to meet the needs of their family, including childcare costs. Before you make plans to launch a career (and possibly incur the expenses associated with educating yourself for that career), find out which jobs don't pay enough to enable you to support a family (including childcare costs) and avoid those careers!
It's also smart to avoid educational expenses that lead to careers that don't pay enough to enable you to repay student loans if you need them.
The good news is that it's often possible to do something you will enjoy most days, without pursuing low paying jobs. For example, if you love teaching, but fear that being a school teacher won't pay enough to support the lifestyle you desire, consider becoming a corporate trainer which usually pays well. Or if you want to work with children, consider becoming a speech-language pathologist which can involve teaching children outside a traditional classroom.
When people pursue jobs that pay well, in addition to meeting their own needs and enjoying the freedom that comes from some level of financial flexibility, they also help people in low paying jobs by lowering the supply of people pursuing those lower paying jobs. Basic economics teaches us that when supply becomes scarce, wages rise. And wages usually rise faster when supply is reduced than they do by complaining, striking, or attempting to legislate pay rates.
Avoiding future frustrations takes planning and hard work, but it usually pays off in the end.
By the time my husband and I decided to marry we’d already determined that he could cook better than I could, he cared more about food than I did, and he was happy to take on a permanent role, at least for the foreseeable future, as “chief nutrition officer” within the family we were planning to establish. So I literally found it funny (at least I hope I laughed) when his mother informed me that I would need to make his dinner after we were married because he would be very tired when he came home from work.
The reason this was so funny was that we worked together. We met at work, we had similar roles and the same level of responsibility at work, we’d earned sort of similar degrees (mechanical engineering and computer science), and we had similar plans for the future (i.e. we both wanted to have children, raise a family and pursue our careers). So it really did strike me as funny that she mentioned he’d be tired at the end of the day. I remember thinking, and knowing me I probably said, “I think we’ll both be tired at the end of the day!”
A few years later we were excited when I became pregnant. (And boy was I tired at the end of those days.) Lots of people asked me, “Are you going to work after the baby is born?” To be fair, I wasn’t sure. I wanted to work after the baby was born, but had heard so many stories, even from co-workers with children, about how hard it is to come back to work after having a baby because you just miss the baby so much, so I decided to keep my options open. After getting advice from an experienced mother and colleague, I told my employer that I would definitely be returning, but my husband and I agreed I would stay home if that felt like the better option. I loved my baby before she was born, so actually assumed nobody would find it harder to return to work after giving birth than me. The thing was, I did love my baby. A lot. Maybe more than any mother ever. But I also wanted to return to work, so I gave it a try. In order to ease my transition, my husband stayed home with our daughter for the first month after I returned to work. And I was OK. The baby seemed OK too. Even my husband was OK. So we tentatively decided to see if we could make it work. Two years ago, and two days after our little bundle of joy turned 26, I finally decided to let up at work, and I retired.
I share this story because it highlights the fact that we don’t encourage men and women in the same ways when it comes to careers. Nobody ever told my husband that he should take on more work at home because I’d be tired after working all day, and nobody ever asked him (like not even one person) if he planned to return to work after our baby was born.
To be clear, I’m not blaming anybody for anything. When things change and cultural norms shift, people have questions and sometimes they even ask them. That’s OK. It’s good. And it’s how we make progress.
But, when we criticize women for pursuing careers with the same intensity as men and question their devotion to their children and families when they make the same career choices as men, we send them messages. Make no mistake about it. And those messages causes some women (but not all) to ease up, step back, and sometimes even drop out. And when that happens, and we all know that it happens, women’s ability to compete in the workplace is diminished. Companies, or at least the people who work at them, start to wonder if any given woman is really in it for the long haul. And many of the very capable women who could help close the wage gap, drop out of the game completely. It’s hard to be paid the same as a man if you’re not even getting paid.
Anyone who is serious about wanting to close the wage gap, who thinks that their sons and daughters deserve the same pay when they deliver the same value, has got to help close the encouragement gap first. If you’re a woman who thinks that women deserve to be paid the same as men when they deliver the same value, start by staying in the game. If you’re an employer who wants to be able to say that you’re paying women the same as men when they deliver the same value, find ways to help your women employees understand that their contributions are valued and actually helping them become better parents. If you’re a man who isn’t afraid of competing with women when proving your value in the work place, find ways to mentor women who are interested.
Change is never easy. That’s why we admire the people who make it happen. Be one of those people; a changemaker. Let’s close the encouragement gap. That may go a long way toward closing the wage gap.
A movie review
We enjoyed the CNN documentary RGB enough to conclude that we wanted to see "On the Basis of Sex" too, the "inspired by a true story" movie about events that occurred duing Ruth Bader Ginsburg's education and early career. And we're glad that we did because it provided a different view into Judge Ginsburg's history. (One, we should note, that is somewhat fictionalized. You can check the facts vs. fiction online.)
Not long ago, I attended a class called "Understanding myself from a cultural perspective". One of the most memorable things the instructor told us is that an outsider can't become a member of a group unless he or she has an insider advocate. In addition to being a thought-provoking claim, it got me thinking about responsibility; specifically, what responsibility do I have to help others who are on the outside?
This movie, and other stories I've read about Judge Ginsburg, highlight the fact that after finishing two years of Harvard Law School and then graduating from Columbia Law School (where she tied for first in her class), RBG couldn't find an NYC law firm that was willing to hire her. That's hard to believe in 2019, but apparently it really happened.
Ruth and Marty both worked while raising their two children; Ruth started out as a college professor and Marty spent his career as a tax attorney. It's well known that Marty was the family cook long before many men assumed such roles. Their successes appear to be linked in many ways.
Thankfully for Ruth, and all women really, her husband, Marty, remained convinced that she should continue to push the legal system until she found a crack; a way to practice law instead of just teaching others about it. It's an example of a person on the inside advocating for a person on the outside.
And it leaves us wondering, is there a person or people who are deserving of our advocacy?
Pointer to funny SNL video
Dads took center stage on SNL last week in their "Westminster Daddy Show" skit.