Laura Tropp's blog

Final Reflections

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This is my last blog post for Mama PhD here at Inside Higher Ed, as the column will retire this month.

At first, I was sad at this loss to share my thoughts and hear from others. This column, developed to continue the conversation after an academic book of the same name was published, became a place for mothers in academia to write about their triumphs, struggles, and experiences. I certainly will miss writing my posts and reading the posts of my colleagues. Yet, part of me is optimistic that the end of this column demonstrates that progress has been made over the last nine years.

In some ways, the idea of the name “Mama PhD” has been troubling to me at times. I believe that part of the goal of accomplishing better workplace conditions for woman is also to recognize the need for the participation of others, including dads, in raising children. I wondered sometimes whether we were excluding the point of view of others facing their own challenges. In fact, I was tempted to have my own spouse take on a guest post, curious at how his perspective on the same issue would differ. The name also seems limiting in acknowledging that there are all types of families doing what we label as “motherwork,” and maybe a better label would be “caretaking work.”

With the explosion of social media and more recognition of what popular media have labeled as “work-life balance,” we are also seeing wider discussions of the challenges in this area, whether in academia, government, or corporate organizations. People offer suggestions, complaints, and new models for approaching the balancing of work and life issues, many of which I’ve referred to in my blog posts.

Our work, though, is not yet done. We do not hear often enough from those in less-privileged positions, and we should recognize that even the ability to discuss achieving better work-life balance, both inside and outside academia, is itself a privilege. This is something I’ve struggled to acknowledge in my posts.

I leave this last blog post with hope that ideas from these discussions will influence experiences at home, work, in communities, and within governments. I thank my editor Scott Jaschik for all his work during my time writing this column. I also thank Dr. Elizabeth Coffman, who brought me to this column in the first place. Most importantly, thank you to those who have read and commented on my blog posts during these years. It’s allowed me to see my own struggles within a larger community and understand that the caretaking of one’s family is not just a mother issue, but a human one.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Next Best Thing

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We are living during a period I like to call “The Age of the Next Best Thing.” We are offered so many options and choices, or at least the appearance of such, that we can always click on or navigate to something else. With the invention of call waiting, DVRs, and the Internet, consumers constantly are presented with the choice of either enjoying what they are watching at the present or click on something else.

It’s not long ago that we lived in a time dominated by broadcast media, when you were pretty much stuck with only a few network options. I grew up in this time. I remember having not many choices of what to watch on television, but having to negotiate with my siblings and parents which program we would watch. Now, if you don’t like what you are seeing, you just switch the program on your personal media device.

I remember a time when I answered the phone without knowing who was calling before I said hello. When the call-waiting feature became available, the idea that I could choose who to talk to didn’t occur to me for a long time. It seemed obvious to me that the person who called me first would receive my attention.

Today, people are caught up in a complicated system of conversations and relationships, both in person and via all their technologies of communication, simultaneously. I’ve seen people out to dinner together but carrying on completely different conversations through text, email, and occasionally even a Google Chat or Apple FaceTime session.  The next best thing is always around the corner, so the present here-and-now doesn’t always get priority.

How far we will let the next best thing invade all aspects of our lives? Even our notion of how to spend our time may shift. A new study reports that people are happier if they outsource less-desired tasks. That seems obvious to me, of course. I’m always happier when someone else cleans the toilet or takes out the garbage. Having said that, perhaps we should study the opposite: what do we gain by completing our annoying tasks rather than ignoring them in favor of doing more pleasing ones. Perhaps this method allows us to enjoy the anticipation of completing the annoying task and feeling the accomplishment of the dreaded task being over.

Ever since the New York Times published an article about open marriages last spring, I’ve been seeing more and more coverage about this topic, and even a fiction book about it. Certainly, open marriages are not a new phenomenon, but I’m not surprised about the current fascination with it. The idea of marriage, with its connotation of finality, doesn’t seem to gel with our age of choice. It’s made me think about other areas in life in which people resist making a commitment. I’ve been watching my friends send their children to summer camp, and many are picking camps that change its focus each week, like baking, theatre, sports, and even circus.

These children will be our future students, where we expect them to choose one college, one major (maybe two), and one degree. Will the one-college model make sense to students who have grown up with the idea that they can have multiple choices and can change their minds constantly? We are already aware of the number of students transferring between colleges. The most common reasons they cite for this decision are cost, a desire to move closer to or further away from home, or the school not being a great fit. But, what if another reason is that the idea of committing to only one school for that long no longer seems right?

I wonder if, living in the age of The Next Best Thing, we need to learn how to manage choices and decision-making, or build a practice of coping with not having choices. I’m not saying that we should submit to completing our worst chores all day long or stay married to the wrong person, but I am arguing for teaching the value of managing choices wisely, and for knowing when to accept a decision and stick with it.

 

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Thursday, August 17, 2017
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Just Joking Defense

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The other day, one of my children said something mean to her sister. When I confronted her, her defense was, “I was just joking.”

This week, I saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders on television say that Trump was just joking during a speech he gave in Long Island this past weekend, where he basically encouraged police brutality when handling suspects. Trump “jokes” repeatedly, from police brutality, to threats of firing Tom Price for not winning the healthcare repeal vote, to encouraging Russia to “find” Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.

I’m willing to tolerate a certain amount of joking with my children, as it helps develop a social sense of humor and learning. Recently, a young child told me a joke and I was enthralled not because it was funny, but because I saw a key moment in his development, when his understanding of humor clicked. He was able to negotiate his reality enough to find humor in the joke.

Humor and joking have a place both in our personal stories and throughout human history. A History of Laughter describes the potential that humor has to bond humans but also to separate and isolate them. The “just joking” defense, however, uses the joke as a form of deflection.

This is a way for children to test boundaries: when they’ve crossed one, they can back away and not take ownership over what they said. This process allows children to learn. They realize where the social boundaries are, and (hopefully) won’t cross them again. By the time someone grows to become an adult, they should have a clear understanding of where these boundaries are. An adult who uses the just joking defense no longer is testing boundaries but is attempting to escape punishment for crossing them.

What bothers me most about adults using the just joking defense, however, is that someone is trying to not only escape blame, but reassign it. Instead of listeners reprimanding a speaker who says something cruel, insensitive, or wrong, they are told they are being overly sensitive for taking offensive. The just joking defense also ignores the power construct within it. Oftentimes, the punch line of an offensive statement attacks a group with less power within society. Finally, the just joking defense cuts off conversation and dialogue, something we need more of in our culture. Instead of being able to engage in a conversation about why joking about police brutality is offensive, the conversation is immediately cut off.

Some will say that this is merely a phenomenon of the current US President, and let’s hope it is. Yet, if we continue accepting the just joking defense, where everything can be laughed off as a joke, then words themselves no longer matter. New forms of communication, like Twitter and Snapchat, encourage the use of quick bursts of communication and the pairing of pictures with short captions, at the expense of context and the thoughtful construction of language. The Twitter

President expresses his Id on Twitter, then claims it doesn’t mean anything when people express outrage at his offensive statements. It’s not his fault, he says, but ours.

Humor is important to our culture, but people need to grow out of using a certain type of humor in order to become responsible members of society. It’s crucial for our children and a healthy society that words and meaning matters. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can, have, and still hurt us.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017
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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Public Pause

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I’ve been fascinated by the amount of public shaming in parenting community Facebook accounts around the country. Most of these  groups, formed by parents and community members, start out as a well-meaning way to connect people, often mothers, but then end up turning into a source of contention.

The amount of drama has caused some to drop out, like this woman writing about why she quit these groups.Some groups in the New York City area have become filled with so much drama that they’ve become the subject of a New York Post article.

When I first moved to my town two years ago, I was delighted to find a Facebook group to be a source of much valuable information, from where to find someone to remove the snake in my yard, to what time the school bus shows up during a snow delay. Once I spent some time reading the Facebook pages, though, I’ve started to find it filling me with a little bit of fear.

I’ve watched so many people become “outed” for perceived bad behavior. Whether it is a worker at a local business who is unfriendly or rude, a restaurant that provides bad service, or a teenager who drives their car too fast in a residential zone, at any time someone can be “called out” by someone else who posts on the group page and thrust into the public eye -- whether they belong to the Facebook group or not. In fact, it prompts a variation of the cliched question: if someone posts about you in the online wilderness but you never know about it, did they still offend you?

Certainly, I can’t defend teenagers who nearly plow down small children while racing down the street, but I can sympathize with the parent of this teenager who is now being blamed for their child’s actions and implicitly labeled a bad mom (because, quite honestly, I don’t see fathers being called out as much as moms in these groups). In the past, your recourse to wrongdoing was to call the police or confront the person. Now, in less than a minute, you can create your own public humiliation spectacle for them.

In his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson examines people who had their lives torn apart publicly after achieving adverse notoriety, sometimes unintentionally and other times as a result of bad behavior. While the Facebook communities do not often reach the level of public attention that the people Ronson writes about have seen, within a small community even one posting to a large group of people is enough to publicly shame someone.

While I was thinking this over and considering opting out of the Facebook groups, I had an experience that made me reconsider. My husband and son traveled to Paris and accidentally left behind my son’s Epi-pens on a plane in London. Immediately, I posted a query on a Facebook group with a global audience. Within minutes, I received not only advice about how to procure this necessary medicine in Paris, but also offers of help, including a stranger who happened to be travelling to Paris that volunteered to pick up the lost medicine and meet my husband in Paris with it. This experience reminded me of how the Facebook groups can and do work at times, a helpful community of people virtually holding each other up.

I can’t blame the technology for the problems I’m seeing on these groups. Instead, I recognize the Faustian Bargain that my mentor Neil Postman said technology brings. A new technology gives to us, but it also takes something away. These Facebook groups have the potential to give parents a virtual community and new power, but used unwisely, they can isolate and place fear in people going about their daily lives. The technology doesn’t encourage people to pause before they post, but we can. And we should.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017
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Don’t Anger A Grandma

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The Trump Administration’s latest travel ban is yet another controversial move to limit entry to the United States. Last week, the Supreme Court, which will wade into the issue in the next year, left clear that for now the ban could not be imposed on people who “…had a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The meaning of this “bona fide” relationship is vague and now the subject of great debate. As detailed in the New York Times from a diplomatic cable, The Trump Administration has decided that “close family” includes a parent and parent-in-law, spouse, child, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and sibling. Missing from this list are grandparents and grandchildren. The administration says that it has based this new travel restriction on existing law and diplomatic guidelines. I’m certainly no expert on immigration law, but I have been studying something that clearly the administration doesn’t get and they would be wise to think about: the evolving roles of grandparents.

I’ve been working to understand how the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren in the 21st Century has changed. What the Trump Administration may not get is that this relationship often is much more connected and closer than ever before. First, there are simply more of them. As this New York Times piece illustrates, as more people in wealthier countries live longer, a larger group will reach the grandparent phase of life. Second, they are often in an intertwined relationship of care. As studied by the Pew Research Center, grandparents are increasingly playing important roles in helping their children with childcare and more families are beginning to think about how to help their parents with future senior care. Third, the grandparent world is becoming a stage all of its own, with products and services marketed to them. Many people in the middle and upper classes have reinvented their roles as newfound nurturers. However, for those in more vulnerable positions, grandparenting is necessary for survival of the family. 

One thing I’ve also discovered while talking to grandparents around the world is that the connection to their grandchildren is often a visceral one, and the bond that the grandchildren have towards their grandparents is filled with affection but also a real commitment to each other’s success. A travel ban that ignores the influence of this group is a dangerous one, in my opinion, not only for the integrity of the family but also politically. As the Baby Boomers continue to age, this is the group that is now identifying themselves as grandparents. This generation has proven time and again that, when they are motivated and recognize their power, they can change the world. When this group is told that a family connection that is so valued to them does not matter as much as other family relationships, it may motivate them to action. I imagine that a group with the only thing to lose is a meaningful connection to their grandchildren, would be a fury unleashed. Declare grandparents as not a bone fide connection, and you risk mobilizing this entire generation of active grandparents against you.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Breaking the Beauty Talk Cycle

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I’ve been spending much time over the years thinking how to raise children with healthy body images within an image-obsessed culture that too often promotes unrealistic beauty ideals. It hasn’t been easy. Studies on the dangers of obesity abound. Yet, studies on the risks of body shaming are also plentiful. Often, the two sets of studies result in a competing desire to make sure your children are not eating too much while avoiding implying to them that they are.

I’ve looked for books that can teach my children about beauty myths, but there is not much for a young audience. Most of the books directed to their age focus on diet, eating, and wellness. The American Girl franchise’s book on liking yourself emphasizes individual decisions rather than the ways culture influences how we see ourselves. Other books, for girls at least, focus on positive role models. Strong Is the New Pretty has a pictorial presentation on girls accomplishing various feats, but the best part of the book is what it doesn’t talk about: competing images girls receive from the media. I haven’t really found any books focusing on ideologies of beauty that are written for the 8-10 year-old market. In my ideal world, Naomi Wolf would refashion The Beauty Myth for the pre-adolescent market. In the meantime, it’s been left to me to try to explain beauty myths and then reconcile why I dye my hair rather than letting it remain grey (age myths) and shave my legs (woman beauty expectations).

My first effort to avoid body shaming was to ban all negative body talk in the house. This experiment didn’t really work, because what I hadn’t realized was how damaging the positive body talk can be as well. In complimenting someone on their hair or how they look in a certain outfit, it sends the message that appearance matters and implies that when you do not offer a compliment, it might be a day when you do not look as well. Also, moments focused on image steals away time when we could talk about what someone thinks, or how someone’s day went.

Our new plan has been to ban body talk of all kinds in the house, whether someone might see it as a compliment or not. This has made a huge difference in our lives. I can’t say whether it is helping anyone’s self-esteem because I can’t figure out how to measure that, but I can say it’s opened up our minds to how often we unknowingly spent time focused on our bodies instead of our minds. Now, we stop ourselves, police ourselves, and we’ve changed the focus of our conversations. Just this morning, my daughter and I debated whether saying someone’s dress looked pretty was a form of body talk. The answer is less important than the fact that we are asking that question.

I recently read Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women by Renee Engeln. Engeln picks up where Wolf leaves off, writing about what happens when a culture continues to be obsessed with beauty. She interviews girls and women and discusses what she calls “Beauty Sickness,” which she describes as an unhealthy focus on how your body looks at the expense of feeling good about your body. She makes an interesting suggestion to refocus discussion on not what your body looks like, but how your body works for you and what it does for you.

I’m not naïve to think that my children, especially my daughters, won’t receive messages about their bodies from their peers, but I do think that they can now contextualize the remarks. When people visit our house and comment on someone losing weight, we are all polite, but at the same time we give each other a knowing smile now. Later, after they’ve left, we look at each other and say, “body talk.” We then move on and talk about something else.

 

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Longing for Grandma’s Wisdom

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I read with interest in the New York TimesHow to Raise a Feminist Son.” It advised parents to allow boys to express their feelings, including letting them cry, providing them with role models, and accepting them for who they are. The author included studies that indicate that boys who watch women who are employed outside the home have more egalitarian views about gender. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie may have inspired the column. The book offers advice on how to raise feminist daughters, including that one should teach their daughters to love books and not see marriage as her goal in life. Mothers should also treat themselves well and not try to do it all. 

I know this advice is just trying to be helpful, and the reason I read it in the first place is because I certainly share their view of wanting both my son and my daughters to be feminists. However, if I take this advice on top of all the other tips, advice, and warnings I’ve seen this year, I become overwhelmed.

This year I was warned that my math anxiety combined with my desire to help them with their homework, might actually be backfiring and preventing them from being good at math. Of course, I can imagine the importance of encouraging strong self esteem in children, but a piece in the New York Times reminded me to avoid body shaming because even parents, apparently, body shame their children and make them feel bad about their weight, which could have lasting negative effects. Yet there is constant talk about avoiding obesity in children, and one study indicates that one-third of parents don’t think they are doing a good job feeding their children. Then again, CNN reported another study indicating that parents who think that their children are overweight may result in them gaining weight. Though the study didn’t prove why this may happen, some reasons offered in the news report include that body shaming may result in children secretly eating and avoiding activity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep infants in the same room as you (but not in your bed!) for at least the first six months of their life and preferably for the first year. I know from experience that I never would have gotten any sleep at all that way. Then, just this past Monday, a new study indicated that babies older than four months likely would get better sleep in their own room. Parents now must decide between what is clearly contradicting advice. Finally, in trying to help balance work and family life, many feminists advise that women should model working for their children, yet a newer study suggests that many millennials desire a household where one person stays at home. This might indicate that the modeling we’ve been doing is not demonstrating the success of both partners working, but instead, how difficult it is.

Trying to be a feminist mom, to me, is a stressful experience filled with constantly sorting through media reports and “experts” that offer contradictory advice. I’m supposed to help my child avoid obesity but not body shame. Yet, even thinking they are overweight might hurt my chances for success there. I’m supposed to model to my children my own working outside the home to eschew traditional roles, but in doing this, I have to also pretend that everything is easy so that they don’t decide that “having-it-all” (which also I’m not supposed to strive for, apparently) is just not worth it.

Now, it’s possible (likely, even) that if I go back to each of these individual studies, I’d interpret them differently than the media does, but the reality is that I don’t have time to do this. As a scholar who craves information, research, and studies and who is teaching my children to think the same way, the easy and constant access to information is both liberating and frightening. I’m almost beginning to long for the days prior to the Internet, when you just had the family doctor, your parents and in-laws, and your neighbors to tell you what were doing right or wrong. Are others discovering worry and guilt within the constant barrage of new information and advice? What studies have you found the most interesting or alarming?

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Invisible Labor of 'Morning Joe'

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I’ve been watching the coverage of the recent engagement of MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzesinski. Many have been suspicious about their relationship from the beginning. Since their formal announcement, the media coverage of their engagement continues. Someone has compiled footage of their time together, now seen through the lens of their falling in love. There is even speculation on how the show might change because of their marriage.

Apparently, the show may become better because of this human-interest component. The couple has been described as “famously cagey” about their personal relationship. That doesn’t surprise me because, as someone whose partner also is an academic, I’ve found navigating the workplace waters to be tricky at times, and we aren’t even televised live on television.

At a previous point in American history, spouses worked together by need. Living on a farm necessitated that both members of the couple would need to contribute just to make sure all the tasks were done. While I have no idea if this led to a happier lifestyle, some would say that women had more equality in that environment, where domestic space and work space were more blurred. 

Joan Williams, in her book Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do about It (a great read, by the way), explores the development of the separate spheres of work for women and men. These days, modern couples working together are considered more the exception than the rule. Working Mother magazine, for example, lists “15 Power Couples Who Work Together.” Working together is considered so difficult to navigate that people give advice for negotiating it. Scholars also explore the effects of couples working together within both businesses and personal relationships (main results: it’s complicated).

Many of these articles position the major concern as impacting the personal satisfaction of couples or the problems that emerge within a business. In fact, that’s never been a major concern for me. Instead, I’ve always worried about the impact on my identity as a woman. My husband and I briefly considered, when we both had brand-new doctoral degrees and a marriage certificate in hand, a job opportunity that would have placed us at the same university. We rejected it, mainly for its location, but also for our desire to carve out our own identities.

We happily attended conferences with our different last names, glad that attendees and senior scholars who did not already know us wouldn’t be the wiser. In some ways, I think it’s made it harder for us. Our interests overlap, and we spend much time discussing, editing, and proofreading each other’s work, but only one name ever appears on the final copy. Sometimes, I imagine a different world where we collaborated and would have twice the publications. But, in my mental picture, I’ve never gotten past the question of who would get first author. Even though in theory both authors matter, I know I would resent being listed as second and feel guilty for being first.

In Morning Joe, the first author is clear simply from the name of the show. Those who have followed the couple may remember previous stories about Joe apologizing to Mika for calling her snotty. Some have even called out the show as sexist. Joe has such a history of interrupting Mika on air that the MSNBC website has a page where he justifies his reasons for his interruptions. Apparently, she does more of the organization off camera, and he interrupts her on air to keep the show on time.

In my own relationship, I sometimes do more of the organization, or what scholars label as the emotional labor (prepare the kids’ water bottles, remember the times for their practices, wash and find their uniforms, and make sure the homework is done), as he takes center stage (actually taking them to the basketball game). This works out fine for us, as we are both working towards the same goal: happy, active children, and we are mutually invested in both being happy ourselves. At work, though, goals, happiness, and priorities are often at odds. We already know from numerous reports, studies, and everyday experiences that that women’s labor often goes unrecognized.

When Joe is rude to Mika, we could just pretend she has a mean co-worker, but when her co-worker is also her husband, will that change how we see their interactions? Or, will her new status as his wife be what actually gives her more public power on the show? Perhaps their dynamic is less gendered than personality driven. Either way, as the show now has wedding bells ringing in the background, my suspicion is that Mika may move into the role of star, but as the bride and not a journalist.

 

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mother’s Day 2017

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It’s that time of year again when Mother’s Day is upon us. This year, I’ve decided to give a shout out to some moments, driven by individuals, companies, or organizations, that are helping to make some aspects of motherhood more visible:

  • This year in the U.K., a company is releasing Mother’s Day cards that deliberately target same-sex parents, allowing some visibility to a too-often-forgotten group.
  • The moms of the Black Lives matter movement are helping to make the personal political and spoke at this year’s Democratic National Convention.
  • Sheryl Sandberg, enduring a personal tragedy at the loss of her husband, relied on her experience to spread awareness about the challenges of being a single mom in the United States in her new book, Option B. Another book shout out goes to Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies, who provides a really fascinating view into the lives of single mothers, by choice and otherwise.
  • For all the moms and grandmothers who used the Women’s March as a chance to teach female empowerment to their daughters and fight back against messages of misogyny, this shout out is for you.
  • Thanks goes out to the folks at Hulu for making Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale popular again, inspiring a new generation to watch, and then read, this cautionary story.
  • More thanks to Salary.com for translating a mother’s worth as a salaried number, because some folks need numbers to understand value.
  • To Beyoncé and Serena Williams, who continue to inspire discussions about women, pregnancy, and active lifestyles.
  • Finally, thanks to the mothers who are not just moving on after the election.

I had fun creating my list; I encourage you to add to this list in the comments so that together we can build on increasing visibility of issues, ideas, and people connected to motherhood.

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Work-Life Balance Fail

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I recently read this article about how Millennials are less likely than the previous generation to believe in egalitarian households. Some even explicitly say that they prefer women within a relationship to perform more of the domestic responsibilities. Different scholars have offered various explanations for this study, including shifting attitudes reflected in the latest election or men’s loss of dominance in the workforce, but Stephanie Coontz’s suggestion is the most intriguing to me: that the young people being surveyed may be forming their beliefs from having watched their own families struggle to achieve a work-life balance.

Coontz argues that the United States lags (way) behind in offering solutions for better work-family balance than most other countries. In part, because of a lack of serious and extensive family/work-friendly legislation, people and companies have been trying to engineer their own successful balance. Just this past weekend, one woman wrote about her experience of taking her baby to work, which is becoming a trend, according to the article. Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, in part because of her personal family tragedy, is now beginning to rethink her advice to lean in, acknowledging the more complex pieces of the work-life puzzle. Professor Robert Kelly received international attention when his children crashed his live interview with the BBC. People could relate to his struggle to engage in a serious work event with his children in the background. Less attention, as usual, is generally given to those in the lowest-paid jobs in our society, where work-family conflict is not simply a lifestyle challenge, but a lifetime crisis.

I think about my own family-work balance and worry that my children will feel the same way as these Millennials. As much as I’ve had tons of support (I live with my parents, who act as additional caregivers), I always feel an imbalance between my work and obligations to my family. My children are disappointed when I miss a school event (though I try to attend most). When I accidently place a homework folder in the wrong child’s book bag, I blame myself even if I know, in theory, it should be the child’s responsibility.

Recently, when I was talking to my friends about their daughters’ ambitions, we were surprised to discover that all of our daughters talked about wanting to be a mom first and then finding a job that they can do in addition to their primary role as caregiver. My daughters frequently ask me about future possible jobs and how many hours they each require. Our kids are all under ten years old, and my friends and I were surprised by their attention to their future work-life balance.

In some ways, this may be a good thing; perhaps their thinking about balance this early will allow them to grow into becoming leaders who find a better way than our generation has. In other ways, though, it’s sad that they already see this balance as a problem, and that they are thinking at this early age about the limits they will have to face. Let’s work to pass policies that will reduce those limits, so that they do not have to face the same challenges in the future that we do now.

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