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A Working Woman’s Paradox

I think and talk so much about being a “working mom” and “work/life balance” that I’m bored of it. Mr. Beez and I had the rare opportunity to grab a workday lunch together on Monday, and I asked him “you’re working all the time, and bouncing around with things at home, how are you not complaining about being burned out?” It turns out he is. Just as much as me. He just keeps his big mouth shut.

I admit it—sometimes I’m jealous of stay at home moms. You can chat my ear off all day about how hard it is to be a parent and keep a house, but it still demands minimal accountability. You don’t get fired for being a mediocre parent or having mountains of unwashed laundry. There’s a lot of stuff to do in keeping a house, but you can spend a day on the couch if you want to. Working involves external accountability. It involves risk. It involves prioritizing and balancing and playing politics. It is hard. Maybe not with all jobs, not every job is hard. But being a litigator is hard. It involves all those things at rapid pace and in an unpredictable environment.

I am thrilled that issues of work-life balance have come to the forefront, and employers and employees alike are focusing on how workers can thrive in the office while also being satisfied in their personal lives. We’re talking about this struggle, and it shows me that I’m not a special snowflake after all. I’m tired of my pity party about how hard it is to do the juggle. And every time I read a new response to something Ann-Marie Slaughter or Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer has said or done, I realize that the work-life struggle is not unique. Not in the least. And if everyone is having the same difficult time, well there really isn’t much to whine there about is there?

Today on Hello Ladies, I read through this infographic.

As I scrolled down, more and more things rang true. Yes, I agree that women often are less likely to take breaks during the workday (It took years for me to convince myself that, as the guys in the office have demonstrated, it really IS ok to go to the gym for a bit during the workday).

But then I hit the bottom portion:
47% of working moms say they would be happier if they didn’t work.
36% of working moms say they resent their partner for not making enough money for them to stay home with the baby/kids.

I’m sickened by the idea of an entitlement to stay home. If we are to achieve any real balance between the sexes, we need to stop this farcical argument that keeping a house is equally demanding (and beneficial to the family unit) as staying home. Not every person needs to work—income and family responsibilities can be divided in all kinds of different ways. But the idea that women resent their partner for not making enough money for them to stay home is abhorrent.

So I’m saying it: The idea that women have some birthright to not work and tend to the children and home is absurd and antiquated. And buying into the idea that women somehow deserve to not work undermines the value of those in the workplace who do.

Dear ladies: GET A JOB.
And quit complaining.

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This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

In addition to now charging up for two (count em TWO) trials, both to take place within April, I’ve apparently made a point to fill our weekends with ceaseless activity.  Late this afternoon, Mr. Beez begged “Please tell me this is the last weekend you’ve booked up.”  Lucky for both of us, yes, it is.  Next weekend we have an outing for our Anniversary and an Easter Sunday get together with my in-laws, but that’s it.  And most of the weekends in April are completely open, and are going to stay that way (or we are both going to lose our minds.)

I was going to do separate posts about each of the activities that we did this weekend, but then I’d be spending forever and ever writing blog posts.  So here’s the rundown of what happens when my enthusiasm for “doing stuff” goes unchecked.

Friday:  Bubble Time at the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater and dinner at Las Velas (Fajita Salad, yum)

Saturday: Gym workout for me, Gymkhana for the little one, Farm to Table Conference and SWAN Day Celebration

Sunday: Had new portraits taken of the little one (which involved much yelling and bribing), ran errands including Costco, saw Madama Butterfly, and desperate rush to catch up on work before the new week.

A Monday full of work actually seems relaxing in comparison.  So if you invite me somewhere in the month of April and I politely decline, please take no offense.  The last several weekends have been b-a-n-a-n-a-s.  Plus I’ve got a Groupon for a facial and a massage that I really need to put to good use.


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Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo! Culture Change

I can’t stand Marissa Mayer’s smug little face, which fueled my immediate outrage at her unexpected kibosh on working remotely at Yahoo! (read more about my disdain for her in my earlier post about her squandered opportunity to set a good example for maternity leave policies for working women)

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After a few hours of, you know, working and minding my own business, my disgust at this news somewhat subsided.  I learned that there was a bit more to the situation than the earliest reactionary headlines suggested.  In particular, Yahoo!’s policy change is designed to target employees who have been working solely from home, as opposed to working most of the time in an office environment, but with the flexibility to work from home when needed for family or personal reasons.

As much as I love to hate on Marissa, I can get behind spending the bulk of work time in an office environment when your job duties involve creativity and collaboration.  So it appears that the policy change is not so much about eliminating flexibility options for working families, as to change the work culture of the company.  I only hope that Yahoo! doesn’t eliminate the potential for occasional telecommuting when the need arises.  Because that would be a true jerk move.

Andlthough I haven’t seen nearly as much confirmation on this, I did hear whispers that she has also eliminated flex schedules.  That, my friends, I see as an unnecessary thumb-of-the-nose to working parents.  If true, elimination of flex time is inexcusable.  That deserves true scorn.

Working parents and their supporters so frequently demand, and praise, “flexibility” in the workplace.  But “flexibility” is so ill defined as to practically be meaningless. Similarly with “support” for working families.  We want the work environment to change to “support” working families, but what does that mean?

To me, a “supportive” work environment for working families means:

-The flexibility to work remotely when the need arises.

-Paid parental leave for a reasonable duration at the birth/adoption of a child.

-A workplace culture that trusts you to be a professional and accomplish your work (whether it’s at 3pm or 2am), without hovering over you and tying you to outdated notions of face time.

-Most importantly, a culture of flexibility. That means coworkers and superiors accepting that maybe you’ll be out for an afternoon here or there or sometimes you have to unexpectedly deal with illness or whatever, but not penalizing you for that.

-In an ideal world, employers would offer stopgap “Get Well” childcare.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be paid for by the employer. I’d be happy to pay for it out of pocket. Just if the employer could have a service in place to provide emergency childcare when your kid’s got the flu but you’ve got a deposition that took four reschedulings to find a date where eight attorneys could all show up.

-A change in perspective that these flexible measures are not just for parents/kids.  Everyone can benefit from this kind of supportive work environment.  Everyone needs a little flexibility, whether it’s to care for a child, a parent, your beloved Fido, or a mental health break for yourself.  Flexibility is not a women’s issue, it’s an everybody issue, and it can benefit everybody.

What do workplace “flexibility” and “support” mean for you?

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Snowy Pittsburgh

When the snow starts falling in Pittsburgh, this California girl prefers to stay indoors until Springtime breaks. The snow started yesterday, and I was thrilled that I had already arranged to have the day off. The roads were still snow covered today, and as I lazily awoke and stumbled about the house, I considered staying home today as well. After all, it would be a slow day and everything I needed to do, I could do from home.

Then Baby Beez woke up. In rare form.

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Yet another blurry picture, because this kid never sits still. Here she is breaking in her new cowgirl boots with a little boogie. She was bolting around the house. Suddenly, grown up time in the office sounded perfect.

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Coffee and privilege logs and pleadings. And I got to pick the music.

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Anna Quindlen, Jodi Kantor and the 92 St Y

Tonight I participated in an intergenerational panel discussion prior to my Temple’s showing of the 92nd St Y broadcast of Anna Quindlen and Jodi Kantor’s discussion of “21st Century Womanhood.”  My favorite part of our panel discussion was getting to learn things about the histories and careers of fellow congregants.  I know these women from sitting on the Temple board, and from sharing cookies after Temple, and from them fussing over my little one, but I didn’t know about their backgrounds and the things they have overcome in their careers.  My co-panelists have such interesting backgrounds, and have done so much, and I relished this opportunity to get to know them better.

In the 92nd St Y Broadcast, Quindlen and Kantor covered a broad array of topics.  They spent a lot of time talking about Michelle Obama, and focused on one issue that has particularly intrigued me about Mrs. Obama– the role of First Lady comes with certain expectations of nurturing, and motherliness, and mild personality.  Mrs. Obama is a highly educated and highly opinionated woman.  I am interested in learning about how it felt to her to make a transition into an identity of femininity that the public is more comfortable with?  I don’t doubt for a minute that her motivations between the Military Families and Lets Move campaigns are genuine, but what I’d give to sit down with her over a cup of coffee and discuss the process of selecting and cultivating a public persona in these circumstances.

Quindlen and Kantor also discussed Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, and brought a new angle to it that I hadn’t much considered.  Quindlen pointed out that Slaughter switched from a career in academia to a high stress position in government hundreds of miles away from home, and hundreds of miles away from her relatively young children.  Regardless of how dedicated a worker or a mother any woman is, in that mix of factors, there is no formula for total satisfaction.

Quindlen poigniantly stated, and I’m paraphrasing: When I signed up to be a feminist, I signed up for more opportunities. I didn’t think I was signing up to get to do everything.  Everything we do is a choice.  A man who puts in long hours at the office for career success gives up on time with his children, just like a woman who puts in long hours at the office for career success gives up on time with her children.  We all make choices.

Maybe I should focus more on making those choices that bring the most happiness to me and my family, instead of expecting satisfaction to come from doing all the things all the time all at once.