Tag Archives: families

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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‘Safe’ Social Networking Tailored for K-12 Schools

This school year, the students in Robert A. Miller’s 5th grade class at Port Orange Elementary School in Florida have been chatting with historical figures. They’ve given Thomas Jefferson advice on how to write the Declaration of Independence and touched base with Benjamin Franklin. In early spring, they had conversations with explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as the duo made their way west. The explorers sent back detailed descriptions of prairie dogs and the sights they saw on their travels. Students had to restrain themselves from revealing to the explorers the pivotal role that the recent addition to their team—a pregnant Native American woman named Sacagawea—would play.

Students are having conversations with those celebrated figures (played by Mr. Miller), as well as each other and their teacher, using the social-networking site Edmodo, which is designed specifically for use in schools. “It makes learning more interactive” Mr. Miller said. “It’s a way to extend the classroom after hours, but I’m also using it to present lessons.”

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Filed under Education, Kids & School, Social Media

5 Rules You Should Eliminate Now

Love Margaret Heffernan, and rarely have seen so much truth about organizations packed in so few words.

Published originally on BNet.com.

The dirty little secret of business today: there really are no agreed-upon ways of doing business anymore. Every company does everything differently, and you can’t really compare them because there are no controlled experiments. So it isn’t a science.

But here are five very old rules that I see successful companies breaking all the time. I thought they’d give you some food for thought – unless you’re already breaking all of these– which I very much doubt.

1. Set working hours

Forget 9 – 5. Try to get rid of face time. All your team should have goals they’re accountable for but when and where they’re achieved really doesn’t matter. Some people work well at night, some early morning, some don’t get up til noon. I’ve always told my employees that, as long as they didn’t mess their co-workers around, I didn’t care what hours they worked. No one let me down.

2. Limit vacation time

The communications firm Global Tolerance doesn’t give employees vacation allowances. They just trust people to manage their time on and their time off in such a way that co-workers and clients aren’t disappointed. With a 40% per year growth rate for the last 4 years, this does not appear to have hurt them. To the contrary, it’s one of the things that has provoked high levels of commitment.

3. Agonize over maternity leave

Everywhere I go, business owners tell me that, sure, they want to hire women – but especially in small companies, losing a key employee for weeks or months on end, due to maternity, isn’t feasible. In Europe, where there’s statutory maternity leave (actually there is everywhere in the world except Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the U.S.), being required to give women time off enrages many men. Every woman I’ve ever employed wanted to come back to work and wanted not to lose touch. With each one, I reached a different agreement about how we’d manage the time off – and in no case was I disappointed. Some did a day a week all through their leave; some wanted to come back early and take time off later. All these formations worked.

By the way, individuals may choose whether or not to have kids but they can’t choose whether or not to have parents. So think about maternity leave as your rehearsal for the day when most of your workforce have elderly parents they need to attend to.

4.  Fire slowly

Everyone makes mistakes hiring, whether they are quick and instinctive or slow and methodical. And usually that mistake is obvious in the first 6 months. Do not think you can turn this around. It’s distracting, time-consuming and you will fail. If you goofed, ‘fess up and move on.

5. Skimp on severance

This comes via Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of Pure Digital. “We gave our workers four to six months’ severance, even if they’d worked only four months. You might think that’s crazy. But it was our mistake to hire that person. And it’s not that much money, really.” Of course those employees left the company feeling pretty good about it – and spreading the word that it was a good place to work. Cheaper than headhunters!

Are there any old rules that you’re breaking? Would you try breaking these five? Why or why not?

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School Network Readies Students for College and Career

A great read about Linked Learning in the latest Education Week.

With a program called Linked Learning, California educators show that academics and career and technical education don’t have to be mutually exclusive

Porterville, Calif.

To the national debate about whether students should pursue career and technical education or college preparation, a California program wants to add an emphatic declaration: Yes .

The refusal to choose between one instructional emphasis or the other symbolizes the work being done to build career pathways in nine school districts as part of Linked Learning , an initiative cited as a national model of career and technical education.

One of the places the project is unfolding is in a cluster of high schools in a district that serves a predominantly Latino, low-income community here among the Central Valley’s…

Continue Reading >

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Families Matter: Designing Media for a Digital Age

Important information for parents and educators!

by Lori Takeuchi, Ph.D. | June 2011 | View Bio

DOWNLOAD: Executive Summary | Report

Families Matter focuses on two complementary studies that document how families with young children are integrating digital media into the rhythm of daily life. Results from a survey of more than 800 parents of children ages 3 through 10 reveal how parents nationwide feel about raising children in a digital age. In-depth case studies provide further insight into these statistics, probing how parent attitudes toward technology, along with family values, routines, and structures, are shaping young children’s experiences using digital media. This research assumes an ecological view of development and learning, which considers the many different spheres of influence — from parents to peers to the social and economic context — that a child now must navigate while growing up.

You will need Adobe Reader to view this report.

Download the full report.

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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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My 6 Fave Discoveries from 2010

As a Happy New Year gift, I wanted to share 5 of my favorite things I discovered in 2010 – along with one RE-discovery. Hope you’ll share yours too!

1. CaringBridge

When a friend or family member has a serious medical crisis, CaringBridge makes it easy to keep everyone updated on the situation without having to field a bunch of separate calls and emails from caring people – for free. I put a site up when my father-in-law was in the hospital this spring. Recently, he asked to understand more about what happened, and I was able to go to CaringBridge and print a slick book that included all of our updates and all our friends messages of hope for him. www.caringbridge.org

2. Insurance for iPhones

When my iPhone was stolen out of my car this past spring, I did some digging and discovered State Farm will insure iPhones! Now both our iPhones are ensured for loss or theft. Continue reading

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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

On Carpool and “A Market Punishing to Mothers”

I was about to go to sleep tonight when I thought I’d just quick check my New York Times app on my iPhone. There in the Latest News list was a piece by David Leonhardt – A Market Punishing to Mothers. My exhaustion from a day of trying to juggle caring for our 9 year old, helping out my in-laws, oh and yes, doing my job disappeared for a moment – replaced by giddiness that someone was calling attention to the economic challenges uniquely faced by mothers.

It’s a great piece. As Leonhardt says,

…our economy exacts a terribly steep price for any time away from work — in both pay and promotions. People often cannot just pick up where they have left off. Entire career paths are closed off. The hit to earnings is permanent.

The fact that the job market has evolved in this way is no accident. It’s a result of policy choices. As Jane Waldfogel, a Columbia University professor who studies families and work, says, “American feminists made a conscious choice to emphasize equal rights and equal opportunities, but not to talk about policies that would address family responsibilities.”

“Family responsibilities.”  Hmmm, I believe that term covers things like driving carpool to summer camp, taking three cell phone calls from the 9 year old at camp, calling to arrange overnight care to help my mother in law care for my recovering father in law, scheduling someone to come repair our washer that keeps staining our clothes, and then picking up carpool crew from camp. All while fitting in my job early in the morning, in between carpools, and late at night.

“Women do almost as well as men today,” Ms. Waldfogel said, “as long as they don’t have children.”

Yes, I’m with Mr. Leonhardt. It’s time to take the next step and stop just talking about policies that would address the family responsibilities both men and women have for both children and their aging parents. It’s time to DO something.

(Also see my April post on The Wage Gap Between Mothers and Everyone Else)

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Filed under Career-Life Fit, Economy, Gender Issues, Money, Motherhood

Why I Hate the Mom Salary Survey

This past week leading up to Mother’s Day, Salary.com published its 10th Annual Mom Salary Survey which calculates that Stay-at-Home Moms Would Earn US$117,856 if paid for her family work. Employed mothers, the survey says, would earn US$71,860 above their regular salary for their mom duties – less because they pay for some childcare.

I hope the 10th Annual Survey is the last. Continue reading

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