Tag Archives: women

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.


  • 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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Filed under Business Advice, Career-Life Fit, Mothers & Fathers, Work-Life Fit

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…

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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.

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Download the full report.

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6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make

Tonight I’ll be leading the chapter meeting for our local Mothers & More chapter on “The 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make.” Join us and bring a long a new or gently used purse for our donation to Elizabeth house! Here are the “mistakes” I’ll be discussing with moms tonight.

1. Making “To Work or Not To Work” Decisions Based Solely on Short-Term Family Budget

When mothers wrestle with questions about whether to stay employed or not, or whether to scale back employment to make room for family, the conversation usually centers on whether the current family budget can afford those changes. Can we still pay the mortgage or rent? Could we trim expenses to make up for lost income?

Too often, all the longer-term implications are left out. How will this decision impact my ability to save for retirement? My Social Security benefits? How will this decision impact my future earning potential?

Whenever faced with an employment or financial decision, ask yourself:

How will this decision affect the short- AND long-term finances of my family?

How will this decision affect my own short- AND long-term financial security?

2. Falling Into the “Can I make enough to pay for childcare?” Trap

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. Estimating the income we thought I could make in a job with reasonable hours, we subtracted taxes, childcare, and work expenses. There wasn’t much left. Working for pay didn’t pay much. So we decided I wouldn’t, because we could afford for me not to.

Three different things lead many mothers into this trap. Continue reading


Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Economy, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes

The Day I Was Miffed That No One Thought I Was a Boy

Caster Semenya from Times OnlineOver breakfast yesterday and again today, I read in the LA Times about Caster Semenya, the South African runner accused of being a man, Runner Caster Semenya has heard the gender comments all her life. And even in the midst of our family morning rush, I have to admit to being more than a little emotional about the story, and with good reason.

Just a few weeks ago, I was back home in Minnesota for my youngest sister’s wedding. After the reception, I stayed up late into the night with a few of my friends, my middle sister and my parents and we found ourselves reminiscing about our days of playing fastpitch softball all summer with my dad coaching. My friends and I marveled at my father’s memory of it all. He could tell us things like who we were playing, the name of the other team’s pitcher, where we were, and what the score and count was when my best friend hit the homer that won the game that won that tournament that year.

We didn’t remember all that. But one memory that was vivid for all of us and replayed together that night came flooding back once again these past two days as I read about Caster. One summer, playing in a national softball tournament, a team we beat accused of us of being boys because we were too good.

It was 1984. We were 14 and 15 year old nobodies from a small town in Minnesota in our first national tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. The other team was powerhouse from Kansas, a regular in the tournament, with sharp uniforms and looking like they belonged there. But we were winning.

We were good, really good. Looking back, I’m still amazed at how much talent we had in our small town at that particular point in time. Our catcher and third baseperson in particular had been playing ball together for years. Together they were wicked good, and as the other team’s runners tried to take their standard lead off third base after each pitch, they would pick them off.  So fast no one could see it coming.

Much to the other team’s surprise and dismay, we won the game.

After the game, there was some commotion, but I don’t remember much until someone told us the other coach was accusing us of cheating, that some of our players were too good to be girls and must be boys. He didn’t like losing. Kept saying we all had boy’s names and looked like boys. Well, we did have a lot of nicknames like Pete and Kenny and hardly anyone was called by their first names on the field, and yes most of us had short hair. And while my daughter today plays softball with ribbons in her hair, you wouldn’t have caught any of us dead playing softball with ribbons in our hair back then.

There were rumors of having a nurse examine some of our players. The next thing I remember is standing with our whole team in a dank concrete room in the back of the center stadium building. Several of my teammates were visibly upset. At 14, the idea that we might have to “strip” in front of a stranger to prove we were girls was pretty scary. I can guarantee you we all remember those few moments of anxiety when we didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was miffed, but for different reasons. I was pretty sure I wasn’t on their list of suspects because I wasn’t good enough.

It was like the opposite of being told “You throw like a girl.” Especially in 1984, it was sort of a back-handed compliment to be accused of “throwing like a boy.” So for all of us I think, we were a bundle of conflicted feelings – secretly proud at being so good, horrified to think we might have to submit to an exam, hurt deeply that someone was questioning who we were – our identity as a girl.

My dad, an attorney, wouldn’t let them single any of us out. We would all be in the room to hear the accusation. And all of us remember watching as my dad took them to task, verbally outmaneuvering them at every turn. Just like Caster’s supporters, my dad and our parents were “outraged by the questions and request for testing.” We all had submitted birth certificates as part of the registration. My dad told them in no uncertain terms that they had no good reason to question us, short hair and superior softball skills weren’t evidence of gender. No one would be singled out, he made clear. If there were to be any exams at all, then every girl would have an exam, and if that happened then they could count on a lawsuit as well. We watched in awe as my dad defended us, defended our right to be that good at softball and be girls at the same time. The tournament commissioner apologized, there were no exams, and we were back on the field for another game thirty minutes later.

That one experience contained lessons in so many things it is still hard to unpack them all even years later.

It was a lesson in standing up for yourself, for each other, and for what’s right and fair.

It was a lesson in bouncing back, we had to play again right away. But we lost, and who knows how much of that loss can be attributed to being rattled by it all.

It was a reminder that much of what we learn from playing sports has nothing to do with the sport itself.

And it was a hard lesson in how deep-rooted and combustible the assumptions about girls and boys, men and women are. Gender is still something people want to be black and white. Anything gray, any behavior or appearance just outside the prescribed lines, is tinder waiting for a spark.

This morning, Caster Semenya’s story flashed a spark on the tinder of my own bottled up emotions. Plus, her story is overlaid with the issue of race too. Some claiming that it is also “another example of demeaning Western attitudes toward black Africans, particularly women.”

So to Caster and her family and friends, I share your outrage regardless of the details, I hope your story gives us another chance to challenge everyone’s assumptions about gender and race and make some progress, and I have one piece of advice…

you might want to hire my dad.



Filed under Gender Issues, News & Commentary