Monday, April 28, 2008

One Mom's Quest

I received a note from Kiki Peppard who read my post about maternal profiliing and shared her story (link here) about her work in Pennsylvania to pass a bill to prevent employers from asking questions about kids.

You may recognize Ms. Peppard if you watched the documentary the Motherhood Manifesto. (You can find it on MomsRising website if you haven't- you should see it!). Ms. Peppard shares her story of being denied employment after admitting that she had children. She has been fighting for this legislation for over ten years, with no success yet.

While I completely support Ms. Peppard's efforts, I don't think that legislation is the way to make real change in the workplace. It is an important component to the solution, but only one part. There will always be idiot employers out there who make bad decisions, such as not hiring moms because they think they are unreliable. And a law to penalize them is a good idea and will protect many women (although if you make such bad decisions, won't your business fail anyway?).

But, I believe that every time a parent negotiates some flexibility in their work, we make some progress toward changing the nature of the work world. Further, as employers begin to see that they can attract and retain top talent through offering flexible work arrangements that allow people to have a life outside of work, real change will begin to evolve.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Maternal Profiliing

One would think that in 2008, you could not deny a woman employment because she has children. But, it seems that this isn't the case. A recent study published in the American Journal of Sociology found that women with children are half as likely to be called back after an interview than women without children. (See related story at Many employers believe that women with children are not reliable or not committed to working.

In most states it is not illegal to ask women if they have children. As long as they ask both men and women the same questions, a company has not done anything illegal. However, if a company asks about kids, they are likely going to use that information to decide not to hire a mom. Of course it is difficult to prove that an employer only asks women about having kids. Further, it is difficult to prove that the kids are the reason the company didn't hire someone.

Some suggest maybe the laws need to change. Right now it is illegal to ask about children in 22 states. I haven't been able to find any evidence on whether or not such laws have any effect on actual outcomes for women. Similar laws in other states certainly couldn't hurt, they would at least give women some recourse if they believe they were discriminated against.

However, I believe maternal profiling will end only when real change takes place in the workplace. When companies are able to offer flexible work options that allow moms (and dads) to meet their family obligations and also get their work done, companies will realize that a mom isn't such a bad hire.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Conference Travel

This week I am traveling out of town to speak at a conference. I will only be out of town for a few nights, but I look forward to it as if it was a vacation! Conference travel offers several perks to the working parent:

- Low-guilt childless travel. My husband and I occasionally get away for a day or two, but I always feel bad for leaving the kids and also for imposing on a family member to take them (of course I don’t feel bad enough not to go, just a little bad). But when I travel to a conference, I can’t feel bad because I must go. It’s not like I am electing to take a vacation, I have to go for my job. Further, I leave the kids with my husband. Instead of feeling bad for imposing on someone, I feel good to give him some ‘quality’ time with the kids.

- Sleeping alone, all night. I’ve mentioned before that I often wake in the night to visitor from down the hall. No such thing in a hotel room by yourself! Good sleep, all night.

- A break from work. Unlike other business travel, conferences typically give you a chance to relax and learn in an un-stressful environment. Even though I am speaking at this conference, I don’t have to work too hard. It is more about networking, picking up some interesting information, and a few nice dinners out.

And so, while I will miss the kids and will get a little behind in my work, I am looking forward to my few days away!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Motherhood as a Career Obstacle

When it comes to work and family concerns, women continue to face more challenges than men. This fact holds true even in other parts of the world. Spain's first female defense minister is expecting a baby soon and some have commented that she should not take the 16 weeks of paid maternity leave she is entitled to (see article here).

The challenge is even greater in the U.S. which doesn't even provide new moms with the benefit of paid time-off. As noted in the above article:

"There's a clear penalty to motherhood and caregiving in this country," says Eileen Appelbaum, director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University. "Basically we've said to women, if you can conduct yourself in the workplace as if you were a man, without any other responsibilities, being available day and night, then (and only then) will your pay and opportunities will be similar."

As long as women play the game, they can be successful. Pick your career or pick your family. This is the dilemma faced by women in the workforce. While many have negotiated the flexibility they need in order to be successful both at home and at work, change is still needed. In addition to making changes in your own work arrangement, you can join the effors of MomsRising to promote open and flexible work here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

TV Turn-off Week

Next week is National TV Turn-off Week. I like the idea of trying a week without TV. I am not sure if we will try it for a week, but we might go for a day or two. I know that there are many kids and families that spend hours every day sitting in front of a TV. While cartoons were a Saturday morning treat when I was a child, they are now on 24 hours a day, on multiple channels. Clearly, 5 or 6 or even more hours of TV for chlidren is not a good idea. If they are watching TV, they are missing out on doing things kids should be doing, including playing outside or doing crafts.

But, is a little TV such a terrible thing? I let my kids watch some TV each day. They watch a half-hour or so in the morning while I take a shower and then another half-hour while settling down for bedtime. Sometimes when my daughter is taking a nap, my son has the TV on while he plays with his Legos or something. Many will say that I let them watch too much. But I am not so sure.

I probably do watch too much TV myself. But, after a long and stresfsul day, sometimes just mindlessly watching TV (with reality being my favorite) helps me to de-stress.

So my question, is a little TV all so bad? While I am sure my kids could watch less TV, and I am pretty set on not letting them watch more, do I need to feel guilty about them watching what they do? I watched TV as a kid and I haven't turned out so bad. And, even though it is a passive activity, my kids do learn things. Most of what my kids know about careers (police, fire, etc.), they have learned from videos. And often they will do something such as spell a word or explain something new to me based on something they caught on a show.

With everything else I am supposed to feel guilty about, is a few hours of TV here and there really so bad? Or can I just give myself some slack on this one?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


A family in our community is dealing with the discovery of a rare form of cancer in their 3 year old daughter. She has had surgery, radiation and is now in the midst of chemotherapy, all in just the last few weeks. And while she still has a long battle ahead of her, the prognosis is good.

And so on days when I feel stressed, when I wonder how I am going to get everything done that I need to, I try to remember everything I should be grateful for. I tried doing a gratitude journal once, as I read that writing down the positives in your life will help you focus on those and improve your overall happiness and well-being. But I kept forgetting to write in it. Go figure. Under stress you forget often to take time to be happy. But today I thought I would take a minute and list some things I am grateful for.

- Two, healthy and happy kids. While they have had some health issues, and we struggle with some things such as their speech development, overall they wake up every day feeling good and happy.
- A stable income, a nice home, and all of the necessities we desire. While we may not be able to buy all of the things we'd like, or do everything we want to, we really do live a comfortable life.
- A good marriage, while we certainly have our share of fights, Dave and I get along better than most.
- Many great friends. I am never in need of a friend to call, or someone to go do something fun with. My husband and I both have been fortunate to surround ourselves with wonderful people.
- An enjoyable and self-fulfilling career. I truly enjoy what I do.

All in all not a bad list. There really isn't too much more that I want from life. Often, just focusing on the good and having a positive attitude can help any day be a better one!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Love and Logic?

I have heard lots of good things from parents who have attended a "Love & Logic" parenting class. They claim to teach how to raise responsible kids, and the parents I know who have taken the class seem to agree.

One friend told me about how she used to be stressed every morning trying to get the kids on the bus on time. After taking the Love & Logic class, she abandoned her stress and gave her kids the responsibility. She wakes them up on time and tells them what time they need to be ready. But, if they miss the bus, they have to pay her for a ride to school from their own allowance money. The result? No more missing the bus, and no more stress for mom.

An article in my local paper today shared some insight of this strategy of "bucking the trend of helping kids do everything." (See article here from the Cleveland Plain Dealer).

The strategy seems like a win-win solution to today's parenting stresses. Kids win because they grow up to be responsible people. Parents win because they are able to have some sanity (and more time). I know, for example, that I spend too much time in the mornings helping my 3 year old get ready for the day. I know she is capable of dressing herself and getting her shoes/coat on to leave, but I tend to take the time to do it for her most days.

I've ordered the book giving out the Love & Logic parenting advice. Will let you know of any gems I find.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A view on the 'Soccer Mom' show

I know I've mentioned the TLC "Secret Life of the Soccer Mom," which I haven't watched again because I find the show so frustrating. Which is bad, as I am a reality TV junkie and watch so much other crap. Anyway, Mary McNamara recently wrote an article in the LA Times that explains my frustration with the show much better than I have. I won't even try to summarize as she sums it up so well, check it out here.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Yesterday morning my son's day just didn't start off well. It was just one of those mornings that he was still a little tired, and very grumpy. I decided that his whole day would go better if we just didn't rush out of the house. I had a class at 10am, but other than that, had some flexibility on my work start time for the day. As a result, we were out the door without any stress, just a little later than usual.

For me, this is what flexibility means. I have the flexibility to work when I need to, and change my schedule when I have to. I don't know how I would manage if I had to rush my kids out the door each morning just to make sure I am seated at a desk at an arbritary time.

There are consequences to my decisions on when to work. If I have a client with a need, I need to deliver to them on time. I am accountable to my students to get their work graded and returned in a timely manner. But how and when I accomplish these things is up to me to determine.

Obviously not all work can provide total flexibility. If you work in a retail store, for example, you can't just show up when you want. But, there is still an opportunity for some flexibility. Can you pick your schedule in advance? Or have the option to trade a shift with someone else if needed?

But if you work somewhere that doesn't have a customer element, or some other reason to be seated at a desk at 8am, it is time to look for some flexibility. Most companies have attendance policies in place because they don't do a good job of measuring performance. That is, they don't know how to determine if you are working hard, so they focus on making sure you are there on time. Seat time is measured instead of productivity.

And so a proposal for more flexibilty should include your ideas on how to measure your performance. What will you be accountable for? How will it be measured? While doing so won't guarentee that your request will be granted, determining how you will be evaluated is a key step in the process.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Career Re-entry

I've been talking with some folks at the college I teach about creating a career re-entry program. A career re-entry program helps professionals who have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time build both the skills and confidence they need to return to work.

There is a Boston-based consulting firm, iRelaunch, that specializes in assisting individuals and corporations with career re-entry. They list several such programs on their website (here).

When returning to work after being at home for an extended period, you must also overcome the barrier of the gap on your resume. This burden is lessoned if you have made efforts to keep your skills sharp while at home. But, as pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article (here), you may need to take a different approach in your search.

If you are dealing with a significant gap in your resume, simply responding to online job postings will probably get you nowhere. You need the opportunity to talk with decision-makers and tell your story in order to convince them that you are worth the risk. The best approach to get you to the decision-makers is through networking. Here is some advice on networking from the Riley Guide, click here.

I would love to hear from parents who have successful re-entered the workforce after some time at home, drop me a comment or an e-mail (contact info at

Sunday, April 6, 2008


We live in the Midwest and are fully exposed to all four seasons. While in the depths of winter I often think I'd enjoy a warmer climate, I actually do enjoy the chance to experience the cold and snow. It is fun to get bundled up occasionally and play in the snow. And looking out over a snow covered lawn while sitting by a warm fire inside has to be one of the most "comfy" moments you can have.

But the best part of winter is that it makes you truly appreciate the coming of Spring. While an April snowstorm is not unusual in Ohio, for the most part the weather has made a turn for the better. It is warm and sunny today and the kids have enjoyed an entire day outside. It is almost as if Spring comes just as we can hardly stand to be inside any longer.

Spring brings out a lot of excitement as the leaves return to the trees, flowers bloom, outdoor sports activities start and for me, a slow down in work! As I approach the summer, my new career plan to pursue full-time college teaching means I will pretty much have the summer off. I will be teaching a summer class, and will continue some research and writing. But, for the most part I am free to do as I please. And this summer I plan to relax and enjoy myself and the kids as much as I can!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Girl's Night Out

I've done something I swore I would never do, I've joined a Bunco group. My opposition to Bunco was based on my perception that it was a ritual of suburban housewives. Joining a Bunco group to me meant that you were officially un-hip, and just another joiner of a group with no purpose.

For those of you who don't know, Bunco is a a rather simple dice game that is played with a dozen or more players. It involves rolling dice to earn tally's, kind of like Yahtzee, but with more simplicity. You move around to different tables, occasionally yell out "Bunco" and otherwise just eat, drink and chat.

But after a couple of invitations from some friends, I decided to go check it out. My impression of the game was confirmed, it is really pointless. It involves no skill, strategy or even much thought. But the night out that accompanies it makes it a great girl's night out, and I now have my calendar marked for the first Friday of every month, "Bunco."

Part of the fun for me is that the group I've joined is a great mix of women. They are all married, but they are young to old, childless to moms of teens. Some work, some stay-at-home. The workers range from school teachers to financial managers. But they all have one thing in common, they are women looking to connect with other women.

I've only been twice, but have found myself enjoying the conversations. Giggling like teenagers at some points, at other times discussing serious child-rearing concerns. The main objective of the night is to just get out of our own world and spend a few hours just having a good old fashioned girl's night out.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

More on housework...

Housework is one of my least favorite things, yet I keep feeling the need to talk about it. The fact is, you just can't get away from it. And the less time you have to do housework, the more you notice it isn't getting done.

Yesterday the cleaning ladies came, which is both stressful and joyful. It is stressful because we have to get the place picked up enough to be cleaned. You may think that isn't a big deal, but you would cringe if you had to see my house before we picked up. It is overwhelming.

But now it is clean! I am reminded once again that having clean surroundings really does make you feel better. It is worth the effort, and perhaps we should have the cleaning ladies come more often. It is a potentially a very worthwhile investment.

The good news is the kids are getting big enough to help out more, so maybe we won't let it get so out of control. They are now responsible for picking up their rooms and the playroom and will get an allowance at the end of the week if they do a good job. We probably should have started this earlier, but at 5 and 3, I think now is a good time to learn responsibility. My 3-year old doesn't quite get it. But, my son is setting a good example for her, and she is at least trying.

Maybe next month when the cleaning ladies come it will only be joy, without the stress.