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Mothers and Fathers in the Land of Oz

When my husband and I read The Wizard of Oz to our daughter several years ago, we discovered that L. Frank Baum wrote a sequel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, in 1904 and it was included in the old book we were using so we read that to her too.

My husband ended up being the one on duty the night he finished the last chapters of The Marvelous Land of Oz. When we woke up the next morning, he brought me the book and said, “You have to read this passage.”

Scene: Scarecrow, now the king, and his friends are returning to the Emerald City after a journey.

As they passed the rows of houses they saw through the open doors that men were sweeping and dusting and washing dishes, while the women sat around in groups, gossiping and laughing.

“What has happened?” The Scarecrow asked a sad looking man with a bushy beard, who wore an apron and was wheeling a baby-carriage along the sidewalk.

“Why, we’ve had a revolution, Your Majesty – as you ought to know very well,” replied the man; “and since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I’m glad you decided to come back and restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in Emerald City.”

“Hmm! said the Scarecrow thoughtfully, “If it is such hard work as you say, how did the women mange it so easily?”

“I really do not know,” replied the man with a deep sigh. ‘Perhaps the women are made of cast-iron.”

I laughed of course – and marveled at the way that short scene and bit of dialogue so masterfully draws attention to and challenges traditional gender roles.

Baum flips the roles and conjures an image of women sitting around gossiping and laughing and men wheeling baby carriages and sweeping.  Readers laugh at the absurdity, but it is the fact that we find this absurd that shows us the real absurdity of traditional roles that have women doing a disproportionate amount of the family work.

Plus, Baum has the women staging a “revolution” in order to get their leisure time. More than one woman I know has felt she had to stage a “revolution” in her own home to get a fairer sharing of the family work.

Finally, Baum’s men, the stereotypically “strong” gender, are wearing out from the work and suggesting maybe the “women are made of cast-iron.” All of which draws attention to the fact that caring for family is really hard work that often goes unnoticed.

If Baum could think it up in 1904, by 2011 we ought to be able to conjure up a real-life Marvelous Land of Oz where mothers and fathers share the sweeping and minding of the children and both have some time to sit around gossiping and laughing too.

Kristin

  • Share the passage with friends or your spouse. What do you think Baum is trying to say here?
  • Often the best way to break down our own subconscious stereotypes is to be exposed to people who are counter-stereotype, whether they are real or made-up. Can you think of other fictional characters that break the mold of the “traditional” father or mother?

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Good Enough is the New Perfect

Join Becky and Hollee (and me! I’m the co-host) to talk about their new book, Good Enough is the New Perfect, modern motherhood and family/work balance.  Through their extensive research, Becky and Hollee discovered that the happiest and most successful moms are taking control of their lives and finding ways to mesh their family priorities with their professional goals.  We will talk about perfectionism,  tips and tricks for making things easier, and coming to terms with work/life choices.

Date: April 28, 2011
Time: 1:00pm EST / 10:00am PST

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Creating a Family Vision

Our family makes its way through an annual New Year’s resolution process that serves us pretty well.

This year was different.

Our family is dealing with a lot of transition: our daughter transitioning to middle school; both my husband and I changing our employment – in ways that drastically change family time and the way we share family work; and the transition for our extended family that came along with my father-in-law’s brain bleed and ongoing recovery. Frankly, this year knocked us on our butts.

I thought our family needed to shake things up a little this New Year’s.

We did our standard steps. We reflected on 2010 together over Christmas Day dinner. My husband and I went out on our annual date night (this year at the Dal Rae) during which we usually can manage to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the next one by the time dessert is served. This year, we weren’t even done processing 2010 by the time we paid the check.

So I proposed  to my husband and daughter that it was a good time to create a family vision. (well, that implies they had an option, and they knew they didn’t) Continue reading

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Filed under Change, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, Resolutions, Uncategorized

Guess Who Said This?

So can you guess who said this?

“The fault line between work and family [is] precisely where sex-based generalization has been and remains the strongest. . . . Stereotypes about women’s domestic responsibilities are reinforced by parallel stereotypes, presuming a lack of domestic responsibilities for men. These mutually reinforcing stereotypes create a self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination.”

Democratic politician? Liberal think tank?

Surprise.

It was former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, in a 2003 opinion.

Stereotypes about mothers and fathers impact families of all political stripes. What have you done lately to bust your own stereotypes?

P.S. Check out this quiz for some examples of the types of parallel stereotypes about mothers and fathers that Rehnquist had in mind.

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Filed under Family Work, Fatherhood, Gender Issues, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes, Uncategorized

New York Times: Financial Advice By Women for Women

Great article in the New York Times today, Financial Advice By Women for Women.

“Women live longer, earn less and take more breaks from the workplace to care for children and elderly parents. And though studies show that women tend to save a slightly higher percentage of their paychecks then men, they ultimately end up with smaller balances because of their lower earnings.”

Does that mean women need specially tailored financial advice?”

My answer would be yes – especially for mothers – because as the article points out, there tends to be a “gap in financial literacy between women and men” at all ages, and motherhood in particular often leads to employment decisions that compromise earnings.

The article includes links to multiple online resources and recommended books to help women close that gap.  You can find even more at my Remodeling Tools webpage.

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In the Battle of Banks vs Families, Elizabeth Warren is the Champion of Families

Fast Company magazine (one of my faves since oh 1998) has a great interview with Elizabeth Warren, “It’s Banks vs. Families, Who Will Come Out on Top? Q&A With Elizabeth Warren.” Elizabeth Warren is THE person to listen to about Main Street vs Wall Street…if you live on Main Street.

If the Q & A gets you interested, there’s more. My blog post from  January on Busting Stereotypes about Families and Money highlights Warren’s eye-opening research on the reality and reasons behind the dire financial state of families today – including links to a video of a presentation Warren gave on the topic.

Hard to make time to understand all this, but Warren makes it digestible and accessible.

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Jailed for Bringing Kids to Jury Duty!

While I’ve always believed parents should serve on juries, this is nuts!  @nytimesmagazine: Jailed for Bringing Kids to Jury Duty

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Shared Parenting is Possible – If You Know Why It’s Hard

I’m so happy for my friends Amy and Marc Vachon whose book, Equally Shared Parenting, came out this past Tuesday. Already they’ve fit in a TV interview with Fox News and with New England Cable Channel. Plus a mention in a post on Lisa Belkin’s New York Times blog, The Motherlode, which was the genesis of the book as well. Belkin’s post asks the question “Can parenting be truly equal?” but I think a better question is “Why in the 21st century when so many couples go into parenthood expecting and wanting to share family work and family life do they find it so darn hard?” My  own book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today provides answers to this and several other related questions by using the story of the journey my husband and I took from having fallen into unexpected traditional roles to the kind of family life and team approach we really wanted.

Subconscious assumptions, or mental maps, that  mothers are best at caring for family and fathers are clueless create a double standard and set couples up to fall into a trap where mother still does most of the family work even if that’s not what we want or plan on. This is not genetics at work. So many things conspired to make it hard for us to have the family life we wanted – Continue reading

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Our Favorite New Year’s Tradition – Making Resolutions Together

I’ve always been a New Year’s Resolutions sort of person, but the process became so much more powerful about ten years ago when my husband and I started making them together. Our New Year’s Resolutions ritual was one of many experiences that helped me realize one of the key points of my book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today –  I couldn’t remodel motherhood on my own; my husband and I needed to work together to remodel motherhood and fatherhood to get the lives we wanted.

Getting a Balcony View Together

Taking the balcony view means stepping back far enough from the drama of life to get a different perspective, which I’ve found is a key step for any personal change. Especially at the end of 2009, a year that has been uncertain and unsettling for our family like so many others, I know we will need to break out of our routine to get a balcony view.

My husband and I ask my parents for gift certificates to new restaurants every year for Christmas so that we can try something new together, a proven way to recapture that just-fell-in-love feeling. We start by looking back at the scribbles in my journal from the previous year’s New Year’s date. Those notes are usually just enough to transport us back twelve months and help us reflect on the year gone by. The new restaurant, new food, and a bit of wine are usually just enough to give us a fresh perspective on the future.

Involving Our Daughter

Now that our daughter is old enough, we do this step before our date night, so our daughter’s perspective is included in our plans.  Continue reading

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Tool for Charting Family Vacation Time

As families across the country face a week (or more!) with kids out of school, parents who may or may not have days off themselves, and competing demands for who wants to do what with their time, I thought I’d share a facilitation tool I’ve adapted for our family when we have extended family or vacation time.

I put a piece of chart paper up on a wall in our TV room and list the vacation days in two columns. With a pad of sticky notes and a pen in hand, the three of us start listing all the things we want or need to do with our vacation – one per sticky note and putting them randomly on the page. Anything already scheduled gets written right on the page itself. This is a brainstorm – everything that comes up gets a sticky note to be sorted later.

Then we step back and start prioritizing and moving things around. Something really important – like our annual trip to go ice skating together in downtown Los Angeles – gets placed first on a day we are all free.  Something that Kate and I want to do together – like organize her room – gets placed on a day and time when David is already busy doing something else like watching a football game.

Any leftover sticky notes stay at the bottom of the page. As our vacation time unfolds, we move things around as needed, trying to make sure the most important things for each person and for the whole family stay in the schedule somewhere.

I’ll confess that each year both my husband and daughter resist a bit when I say, time for our vacation chart! Yet, each year, we have fun doing it together and the process helps us make sure that even if we can’t fit everything, we fit in the most important things for each of us and all of us.

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