Category Archives: Marriage

Mothers & Fathers: Share Family Responsibility Not Just “Tasks”

“Tell people what to do and they’ll take responsibility for the task. Tell them Why they’re doing it and they’ll take responsibility for the solution.”

~ Simon Sinek

This quote I got via email from Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, is a great reminder for mothers and fathers of how important it is to share the responsibility for family work, not simply have mother delegate tasks to father. Who does the laundry and who makes pediatrician appointments may seem petty on the surface, but there is so much more at stake – our relationships with each other and with our children. Those relationships are the “why.”

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Filed under Family Work, Fatherhood, Marriage, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips

Tax Day Question: Can I Make Enough to Pay for Childcare?

When our daughter was born, my husband had just started his second year at a law firm and I had just been laid off from a part-time job. We sat down together to decide whether I should look for a new job or not. The question we asked ourselves was, “Could I make enough to pay for childcare?” If not, we reasoned, it would make sense for me to take care of our baby myself.

Little did we know that the question had nothing to do with the cost of childcare and everything to do with tax policy.

You see, before World War II, the United States used an income tax system of separate filing for married couples in which tax rates applied to each spouse’s income separately.* As Ed McCaffery, author of Taxing Women, explains in his book, when the war ended and the costs of war went away, Congress saw an opportunity to reduce taxes. They did it by eliminating separate filing and replacing it with mandatory joint filing for couples. At the time, Congress also had an interest in wanting families to return to normal. In other words, they wanted mothers who had entered the workforce during the war to go back home. Joint filing would encourage them to do just that. As the legislative counsel of the treasury at the time remarked, “Wives need not continue to master the details of . . . business, but may turn . . . to the pursuit of homemaking.”

Joint filing introduced what McCaffery calls the “secondary earner bias.” The one who earns less, even today usually the woman, will be taxed more, which acts as a powerful but unseen disincentive for her to be employed.

Sue Hill Zamparelli for "This is Not How I Thought It Would Be"

How does it work? Married couples filing jointly are required to combine their incomes, no matter who earns what. However, the money doesn’t go into a common pool that is all taxed at the same rate.  As my friend Kimberly Tso explains in her blog post at The Two Penny Project, “Our federal income tax system uses graduated marginal rates. This is how to think about it: Imagine each dollar that you earn is stacked one on top of the other. Next, picture a large wedding cake next to the stack of dollar bills. Each tier of the cake (called the tax bracket) has a corresponding tax rate that increases as you go up each tier. …You only incur the higher tax rate if your stack of bills reaches that layer.” (See picture for example using hypothetical tax rates.) The policy goal of taxing the top layers more is for individuals who earn more to pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes compared to those who earn less.

For a couple, combining the incomes into one stack and then applying increasing rates to each layer has another effect—the secondary earner bias. When my husband and I faced the question of whether I should find a job or not, we thought of his job and his income as primary because he already had a job and he earned more. So we also thought of his income as first in the stack—where it would get taxed at lower rates. Continue reading

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Filed under Economy, Marriage, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood

Creating a Family Vision: Part 2

In “Creating a Family Vision” I described how my husband, daughter and I spent part of our vacation in January creating vision board collages.  We each thought about the day of our daughter’s high school graduation and then collected magazine images that reflected our feelings and dreams for our family. As promised, here’s what we did next.

After we’d shared our vision board collages, we ate dinner and then returned to the magazine-covered floor to continue creating a family vision.

We reviewed the list of words we’d written down as each of us talked about our vision board collages. Bold, over the top, party, humor, joy, travel, contentment…

“Our next step,” I said, “is to brainstorm how we would finish these three sentences.”

  • We are…
  • We believe…
  • We want…

“We are…” is what makes our family unique.

“We believe…” is what we believe in and value.

“We want…” is what we want for our family over the next 8 years.

“So let’s start with ‘We are…’ What makes us unique?” I asked.

“We do vision boards,” my husband deadpanned. Continue reading

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Filed under Holidays, Marriage, Recommendations, Remodeling Motherhood Tips

Shifting Attitudes on Marriage

Fascinating short Washington Post summary of the Time Magazine/Pew Poll on shifting attitudes toward marriage. Including this little tidbit listed at the end of the article that has major implications for workplaces, schools and families.

-About 62 percent say that the best marriage is one where the husband and wife both work and both take care of the household and children. That’s up from 48 percent who held that view in 1977.

Here’s the full Time Magazine article on the poll, Who Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution.

No surprise that marriage is changing – since everything else is. The changes in our economy that have led to greater inequality, the changes in the roles of men and women in the workplace and as mothers and fathers. All of it is undergoing sea change that will force us to remodel everything, including marriage.
Here’s the short version of the story of how my husband and I remodeled our marriage after we had our daughter and confronted our own outdated stereotypes about the roles of mothers and fathers – Remodeling Marriage: Our Next Wedding
For the full story, including the description of the event itself – our “next wedding” – pick up my book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today.

 

P.S. Here’s the link to the full Pew Report, The Decline of Marriage and the Rise of New Families.

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Is a Celebrity Divorce in OUR Future?

David and I got a bit concerned about our own marriage this weekend when we read this New York Times article, Brant vs Brant: Divorce Celebrity Style,  and noted the uncanny similarities between us and the Brants. You see, Peter Brant is a billionaire with his own polo team and Stephanie Seymour is a former Victoria’s Secret model. Just like them, we’ve been married 16 years. Plus, David now works for a billionaire with his own polo team …and I’ve been wearing Victoria’s Secret underwear forever. Since we seem to be the very image of the Brants, I hope we can avoid a celebrity divorce ourselves!

We did share a good laugh. And laughter is good for the relationship right? : )

What do you do to take care of your own marriage? Is it getting as much attention as your relationship with your kids?

P.S. For more on this topic, check out my post Remodeling Marriage: Our Next Wedding.

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My Mother’s Day Resolutions

My book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today, tells the story of my journey navigating the changes in every aspect of my life after we had our daughter nine years ago.

I have recently admitted to myself that I am in the midst of a set of changes  that are likely to be as difficult and challenging as those I went through nine years ago. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Family Work, Marriage, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, Resolutions

Why Moms Benefit from Feeling LESS Good at Family Care

Recently MSNBC.com featured a new study in an article titled, Too Helpful Dad, Resentful Mom?: Men involved with child care may hurt women’s self-esteem.

The study found that:

“When mothers perceived fathers to be competent caregivers, the more time those dads spent solo with children, the lower was mom’s self-competence rating [related to caregiving]. But when mothers considered spouses relatively incompetent caregivers, increased father-only time with kids was unrelated to mothers’ self-competence.”

In other words, when dad is good at taking care of the kids, mom perceives herself as less good at it than when she thinks dad is lousy at taking care of kids. But note, it’s not that mom perceives that she’s WORSE at caregiving than dad is, just that she feels LESS good at it if he’s good at it, and BETTER at it if she thinks he’s clueless. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Family Work, Fatherhood, Gender Issues, Marriage, Motherhood, News & Commentary

Identity Disconnect: Stereotypes About Mothers and Fathers Can Divide Us

A recent post to Mamapedia, “Does Motherhood Equal Identity Loss?” explored the identity changes that come with motherhood and quickly gathered over a hundred comments saying, “I am faced daily with the question of my own personhood. For weeks I’ve been milk maker, soother, diaper changer and occasionally ‘lady who showers and smells nice’… I stress ‘occasionally’ here.” I felt there was so much to say about identity that it is the only topic to have TWO chapters dedicated to it in my book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today, some of which is here in my Identity Pie blog post.

What we don’t often realize is that the same reasons we experience major shifts in our own identities are often the cause of a disconnect between us and our husbands. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Family Work, Fatherhood, Gender Issues, Marriage, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood

Interview with Equally Shared Parenting Authors Amy and Marc Vachon

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’m thrilled to share a special Q&A interview with my friends Marc and Amy Vachon whose book, Equally SharedParenting: Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents just came out last month. Listen in to our conversation here and then check out their book and the additional resources on my Remodeling Motherhood Tools page!

~ Kristin

Amy Vachon, Kristin Maschka, Marc Vachon in MA

What were the hardest assumptions of your own that each of you had to overcome to make ESP work? And can you each share your most memorable example of a time when your ESP arrangement challenged someone ELSE’s stereotypes about mothers and fathers?

Marc: Early in my career, I presumed that it was my responsibility to maximize my earning power to support a family someday. This led to the standard male prescriptive to forge ahead with long hours and an unbalanced dedication toward work. Letting that assumption go took courage (especially since I didn’t have role models to follow as I approached my boss with a request to work part-time – as a single guy). But it allowed me to create a life that I love daily. My work focus changed from wanting to retire early to wanting to work forever.

Amy: The most difficult assumption I had to shake was probably the notion that I had more responsibility for the home and the children. I still catch myself stressing out about little projects or an upcoming dinner party, and have to remember that these tasks can be jointly planned and handled – as long as I let Marc work alongside me as a true peer.

Both: We can think of two separate examples that highlight how others’ stereotypes can rub up against the notion of an equal partnership. In the first, Amy was picking up our daughter from Kindergarten in the school playground when our then 2-year old son threw a temper tantrum and stomped off a few yards away. A random mother was heard commenting snidely, “Who is that kid’s mother?” Yet a couple of months prior, Marc was handling the same pickup, in the same playground, with the same 2-year old throwing a tantrum (what can we say – a 2:20 pickup time doesn’t always mesh with a toddler’s nap schedule!). This time, a random mom approached Marc to ask if she could intervene to calm our son down. She explained that she was “very good at these types of things.”

The second example happened when our daughter was about 2, and fell off a swing at a friend’s birthday party. She ran right past Amy, all the way across the yard into Marc’s arms for comfort. The other parents at the party were too polite to say anything, but we often wonder if they thought Amy had failed as the “mother” in that moment. Amy felt a twinge of self-consciousness, but we both mark that event as one of those times when we could say, “We did it – we gave her two parents she could go to and this is cause for celebration!” Continue reading

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Filed under Book Review, Family Work, Fatherhood, Interview, Marriage, Motherhood

Remodeling Project #1: Casserole Dish, I Curse You

I’m so excited to have my first guest post from a reader of This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today.  Well, in this case a reader AND a contributor. My friend Tod was so helpful while I was writing and you’ll find several quotes from him in the book. He was also present for the margarita night I held with several fathers described in Chapter 11. I knew Tod’s irreverent voice and perspective as a father would be perfect for a guest post this month when I wanted to focus on marriage and sharing family work, and he didn’t disappoint. Hope you enjoy it and take a look at his blog! Then join the conversation over at my Remodeling Motherhood Facebook Group too.

~ Kristin

Casserole Dish, I Curse You

There is a glass casserole dish that is currently the bane of my existence. OK, well, maybe not the bane. But definitely a bane.

You see, when I do the dishes and put them in the drying rack, I’ll put them away the next morning. But I have an unspoken rule: “I will only put away dishes when I know where they go.” This rule works very well for the arcane tools that could either serve to frost a cake or well serve a medieval bloodletter. And since I didn’t get those tools out, it makes sense that I shouldn’t necessarily have to put them away. Plus, the frustration my wife displays when these tools turn up missing (usually because I put them in the wrong place) makes me wonder if, once found, she’ll first use them to decorate a cupcake or the other use mentioned above.

However, this unspoken rule is not currently serving me well with the casserole dish. Continue reading

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Filed under Family Work, Fatherhood, Guest Posts, Marriage, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood