Tag Archives: caretaking

Helicopter Parents and Tiger Moms: Turns Out Neither Knows Best

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There was an opinion piece in the New York Times this weekend called “Raising Successful Children” which generated quite a bit of discussion.

The article examines the latest parenting research which found that giving children autonomy and allowing them to make mistakes leads to the best long-term outcomes.

My parents did a great job with this. I was sent to a sleep-away summer camp for the most of the summer every year in my formative years. I feel like this helped shape who I am more than almost anything else.

I worked for a wonderful organization called Amigos de las Americas which provides opportunities for young people to live in remote villages Latin America, where their autonomy is simply not in question.

These types of experiences can really help young people develop confidence in their abilities. The Times article lays out research to prove this hypothesis.

But it seems that it has become harder for parents to give their children space to make mistakes and to develop their independence. The article points out that there has been much attention devoted to “helicopter parents” and “tiger mothers” in the news in recent years.

I am not a parent and I can imagine that it would be difficult to find the balance between protecting your children and letting your children forge their own path. But I am intrigued and curious about what makes it more difficult for parents to do this today than when I was younger.

Certainly, when I was younger, we had parents who lived vicariously through their children, but I don’t feel like there was quite as much of what I see as overprotecting children.

What do you think? Do you think that parents are more protective now of their children that when you were young? Do you think this has to do with the increased dangers in our society like gun violence and crime? Do you struggle with this as a parent? Have you found any tips or strategies you would like to share with others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Ritalan Generation: Why do some children fall behind in school? (newsofthetimes)

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving kids permission to just be (newsofthetimes)

A New Kind of Playground: What happens when young children are connected with technology? (newsofthetimes)

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Education, Love, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Technology, Youth Leadership

Marissa Mayer: Iconic figure or simply the face of future leadership?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

The press has been buzzing with news of the recent hire of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who, at 37, appears to be the first Fortune 500 CEO to be hired while pregnant, the youngest Fortune 500 CEO in history and only the twentieth female Fortune 500 CEO.

I read a story on CNN’s Management and Career blog about how she is also one of the few examples of successful businesswomen who “fully owns her femininity.”

What does this mean? I am intrigued by how enthralled we seem to be with this woman’s story. I understand that she is only the twentieth female to head a Fortune 500 company. And 37 is young for such a high-level position.

I certainly hope that she excels in the role and serves as a model to young women everywhere.

But the water cooler debates have been raging. I have heard discussions regarding whether Yahoo will regret its decision or whether Ms. Mayer will be able to handle the pressures, especially with a young child. And now, it seems, the press has moved on to debate her clothing choices.

As far as women have progressed in business, and there is no question that women have broken through many glass ceilings, it is clear that women still face significant gender biases in the workplace.

Marissa Mayer is being examined like a rare specimen in a museum and Yahoo is under intense scrutiny. Who is this unique creature? And what company would make such a bold decision?

I don’t see Ms. Mayer taking the helm of Yahoo as an iconic event. I know plenty of 37 year olds at the top of their careers who want children and plan to start a family after age 35. This is a trend I have discussed before, where women put off having children until they feel their career is where they would like it to be.

I am quite confident we will see more of this type of female leader in the future as the next generation reaches their potential. There was a thoughtful article called Marissa Mayer: Are the Rest of Us Shooting Too Low?, in the Forbes Magazine Work In Progress Blog about the conflict many women face when making choices about their personal potential.

With time, the media will probably continue to report on the woman’s hair and clothing – I suppose they need to report something. But I hope that the simple fact that a woman who is named CEO of a Fortune 500 Company is also going to be a mother will become yesterday’s news.

The more pertinent question is whether Marissa Mayer can lead Yahoo out of its recent slump. And if she is unable to do so, will her gender be cited as the reason for her failure? There have been several news stories questioning Ms. Mayer’s management style, so I don’t think that these questions are unfair.

Of course, these stories may come from a segment of society who generally believes that women are less competent leaders, so I will take these with a grain of salt and cheer her on from the sidelines.

What do you think? Do you think that this story deserves all the attention it has received in the press? Do you think that Marissa Mayer will be more likely or less likely to implement family-friendly policies at Yahoo? Why do you think the press feels a need to focus so much attention on the hairstyles and clothing of women in leadership positions, be they corporate CEOs or politicians? Do you think that we will reach a tipping point anytime soon where a female CEO will be less noteworthy? Why or why not? And what do you think about Yahoo’s choice to hire a 37 year old pregnant woman as their CEO at this challenging time?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like:

Does Anyone Care About The Lack of Women in Leadership Positions? (newsofthetimes.org)

Sheryl Sandberg’s Top 3 Tips To Keep Women in High Level Positions (newsofthetimes.org)

Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement (newsofthetimes.org)

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, equality, Parenting, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Have you put a lot of thought into this decision?

An article in the New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized” is raising eyebrows this week. The article explores the recent boom in organic food products and takes an in-depth look at the body that regulates what is certified organic and what is not.

In particular, the article examines the National Organic Standards Board, which is the board that decides which non-organic ingredients can be included in certified organic foods.

The article points out the number of large corporations who have been taking advantage of the new market. For example, it surprised me to read:

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.      

Copyright JC Politi Photography

But certainly the most concerning portion of the article is the description of the people serving on the National Organic Standards Board.

While there is certainly room for corporations to serve on the board in the slots allocated for those interests, it is troubling to learn that executives from General Mills and other major corporations have served in positions reserved for consumers.

It appears that Congress specifically designed this board to ensure that it would represent a broad range of interests, but the appointments to this board have clearly been corporate-heavy.

Our family buys organic because we are concerned about the hormones and additives and preservatives that are found in most foods today. I understand that buying organic is a luxury, but we feel that it is an investment in our long-term health. This article makes me wonder if we are being duped.

What do you think? Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Why have you made the choices you have? Are you concerned about big businesses controlling the organic food standards or do you think that having big business involved is the only way to grow the industry to scale? Where do farmers markets fit into this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!  

If you liked this, you may also like:

Grist BlogPost: Multinational Food Corporations Thank You For Buying ‘Organic’

Let Them Eat Sat: Who Funds These Studies?

What Foods Are Good For Me This Week?

Who Needs Government Anyway? Except… 

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Fitness, Food, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures

Do you Prioritize Your Life or Your Work? Maybe It Is Time to Rethink

An article on the Harvard Business Review blog called, “If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will,” really made me think. I also read a thoughtful blog post on a similar subject over at Truth and Cake called “Save Your Own Ass.”

The concept behind both of these posts is simple: take care of yourself first because if you don’t, no one else will.

The Harvard Business Review article tells the story of a man who attended a meeting the day after his child was born, because he thought he should. While attending the meeting, the man realized that he really should have been with his wife and newborn child instead of at this routine business meeting.

This got me thinking about times when I have felt conflicted between work obligations and home obligations. One of these moments happened just last week.

As many of you know, we had a wildfire directly in front of our house last week. I was scheduled to drive five hours for an all day work meeting last Friday. I felt that I had to go to the meeting, but was concerned to travel so far from home at that moment.

I felt like I “should” make the meeting. My bosses over the years have been very supportive when I needed to bow out of something because of an emergency at home. It is not pressure from my employers that has made me feel that I need to meet my obligations at work, regardless of the situation at home.

I ended up calling into the meeting last week instead of travelling, which I thought was a good compromise. And we were fortunate that the weather and the firefighters helped quell the fire quickly. My colleagues at the meeting were very understanding as, I’m sure, the colleagues of the author of the Harvard Business Review blog post would have been on the day after his child’s birth.

I don’t know what makes these types of decisions more difficult than they need to be. Perhaps at times like these I need to remember to repeat my new mantra gleaned from the sage bloggers at Truth and Cake and the Harvard Business Review: Take care your yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.

What do you think? What is it that makes us often feel the need to neglect the things in life that are most important, even when it is not necessary that we do so? Is it because we take for granted that the people and things we love will always be there, but work is fleeting? But doesn’t that make it even more important that we tend to our personal needs, lives and loves? Have you learned any lessons about this the hard way or the easy way that you would like to share? Any tips for people who struggle with these types of decisions?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up? 

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

Does Anyone Care About the Lack of Women in Leadership Positions?

Give Me a Break: Why Do the US Jobs Offer So Little Vacation Time?  

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Forest Fires, Health, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Women, Youth Leadership

The Ritalan Generation: Why Do Some Children Fall Behind in School?

David Brooks has an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times about how today’s schools leave some children behind.

He points out statistics showing that boys are falling behind girls in school and he posits a theory that this is because our school culture has become too homogenous. He claims that contemporary schools only promote teamwork and collaboration, instead of also including competition and military values.

His theory is that a diversity of teaching styles could help prevent some of the more active children from falling through the cracks and acting out.

I like the idea of diversity of thinking and feel that always adds value. But the bigger issue for me has to do with the homogeneity of the courses and teaching methods in schools today. The focus on teaching to a test has required teachers to shy away from using less traditional teaching styles and methods.

If teachers were able to tailor their classes more, perhaps they would able to find alternative ways to engage students with different learning styles.

Another factor to consider when discussing hyperactive children in the classroom is the overuse of medication that has proliferated over the past twenty years. I wonder if this is a direct result of the inability of teachers to tailor their classes because of the pressures to teach to the test.

That direct correlation may be a bit of a stretch, but if we are going to talk about kids who are falling behind, we must talk about the impact of the overmedication of our youth.

Kids in my generation were not overmedicated and there was no pressure to teach to a test. We had plenty of hyperactive kids – in fact I was probably one of them – but without medication, we turned out fine.

That last statement makes me sound like an old lady, talking about walking three miles barefoot to school in the snow when I was younger, and maybe that is who I have become. But I think it is interesting to explore our cultural history in order to find a path forward.

I have a philosophy for the most part of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I am sure the education system had significant problems when I was younger, but it does seem to have even more challenges now.

I am not a teacher, but I know that several of my readers are and many parents also read this blog. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts about this and suggestions for solutions to ensure that all kids can learn the skills necessary for future success.

What do you think? Do you feel like the culture in schools is homogenous to a fault? Do you think that this could be addressed, in part, by allowing teachers to have more flexibility in the classroom? How do you feel about the medications that so many kids are prescribed today? Do you think that hyperactive children are falling behind in school? And what suggestions do have to address this issue?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

How Micromanaging Educators Stifles Reform

Making Education Brain Science

Forget Them! What Do YOU Want to Be When You Grow Up?

 

 

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Education, equality, Ethics, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Sports, Stereotypes, Youth Leadership

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving Kids Permission to Just Be

Photo Courtesy of Danny Brown

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery  and put some money aside. When he is an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.

“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds.”…

“In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

 

A New York Times article, “Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary” has been on the list of the most e-mailed articles for some time now. This topic fits with the theme of the last few weeks on this blog, so I thought I would explore this issue further.

The article discusses the tendency, at least in the United States, for people to push their children to excel at all levels, filling their time with activities and events which provide further opportunities to compete with their peers.

I am sure many of you read about a commencement speech earlier this year where the speaker told the students that they were not exceptional. The reactions to this speech were heated.

But perhaps the speaker was just trying to give the students permission to find value and define success differently than their parents and society prescribe. Perhaps the speaker was trying to help students understand that it is OK to have both strengths and weaknesses.

The constant drive to compete is positive in many ways. It can lead to innovation and progress.But at what price? Where is creativity encouraged?

What about the artist who is not strong at math or writing, but can compose a symphony or paint a beautiful landscape? Where is the encouragement for this type of success?

Where is the recognition of people who may not be academics, but build and maintain personal relationships better than most?

Part of the stress many of us feel, where people run themselves ragged at all times and fail to disconnect from work, even when on vacation, seems to come from this drive. People think, “If I don’t stay connected, will people think that I am not a hard worker? Will I appear to lack ambition?”

What are we teaching our children with these messages? Are we teaching our children to develop the same neuroses that we have developed, where the prioritization of work over relationships is sorely misaligned?

This problem has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It is striking to me, how every speech by a major politician is peppered with statements that the United States is the best country in the world.

There are many areas where the United States excels and there are also areas, like healthcare, where the United States has much to learn from the rest of the world. The US has strengths and weaknesses, just like any person or child. And is there really anything wrong with that?

What do you think? What do you think accounts for people’s relentless drive to be the best and to push their children to be the best? Have you dealt with these pressures as a parent or an employee? Do you have any tips for others who would like to readjust their priorities and goals? Do you feel that this drive alienates potential teammates in a workplace or a social environment? Why do you think this issue has gotten so much attention lately? Do you think the intensity of the pressures have increased recently? And if so, why do you think that is?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

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Filed under Books, Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Health, International, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel, Women, Youth Leadership

The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

Without the ability to be gay and treat serious things lightly after the serious thinking is done and the decision is reached, I doubt whether any man could long carry the job of being President of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt

An article in the New York Times called “Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let it Happen to You,” is interesting, especially in light of the robust discussions we have had on this blog about the challenges of finding work-life balance.

The article discusses things that we do to ensure that we are unable to relax, even when on vacation.It offers several helpful tips and suggestions.

We all know how this works and this article validates our experience. The first few days of vacation, it can be difficult to unwind. The last few days of a vacation, we dread returning to real life. Hopefully, we can find a few days in between, where we actually relax.

With the onslaught of technology, especially e-mail and smart phones, many of us remain connected even while on vacation. I am guilty of this myself. I don’t want to return to an avalanche of messages in my inbox, so I handle minor things while on vacation.

But I have considered the dangers of doing this. If something significant occurs and I learn about it while on vacation, what happens to the relaxation and disconnection that is meant to help prepare me to handle these crisis in a better way upon my return?

I lived in New York City when I graduated from college. I remember being overwhelmed by the intensity of the city. I thought Central Park would be a refuge from all of that, but I found the intensity still palpable; it like people were intensely relaxing.

I have written much here about the importance of slowing down and finding a balance between work and life. But if we cannot even give ourselves permission to disconnect when we’re on vacation, what hope do we have?

CopyrightJC Politi Photography

The good news in the article is that we seem to view three day weekends and one day holidays differently than we do vacations.

So, this 4th of July, for those of you in the United States, let’s commit to turning off our work messages completely.

Let’s enjoy the heat that slows everything to a snail’s pace and notice the coolness of the water when we swim and the savor the tastes of the food on the grill and a refreshing cold drink. Let’s take time to laugh with family and friends and play with our pets. Now THAT is freedom!

What do you think? Do we feel the need to remain connected when we are on vacation because of the expectations of our employers or do our employers have these expectations because we remain connected on vacation? Do you have trouble disconnecting when you are on vacation? Do you check e-mail when you are gone?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Health, Parenting, Peace, Photos, Relationships, Social Media, social pressures, travel

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mohandas K. Gandhi

An article on the Opinionator blog of the New York Times called “The Busy Trap” is getting a lot of attention this week.

This article explores the notion that the frenetic pace so many of us engage in on a daily basis is self-imposed. While the author’s approach seems a bit self-indulgent and impractical, he has a point.

So many of us rush from place to place or appointment to appointment and collapse at the end of the day in front of the television in exhaustion. It appears that we are encouraging our children to do the same. There must be another way.

While I understand that most of us cannot live lives devoid of professional work, finding a balance within this reality has become my personal quest.

One of the lines that spoke to me in this article was this:

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.

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My most creative and innovative ideas come, not when I am rushing between meetings, but during times of relaxation, sometimes through exercise or through conversations with friends. I know I am not alone.

Some companies, I believe Google is one, reserve 20 percent of their employees’ time for creative endeavors that interest that particular employee. Some of the most innovative ideas have come from this unstructured time.

We all know this. And yet, we fill our calendars to the brim, feeling inadequate if we have a Saturday evening without plans. In fact, that Saturday evening may turn out be the exact time when you discover the key to your own fulfillment, simply by being, instead of doing.

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way.
Douglas Pagels

What do you think? What is it that makes us feel the need to stay busy? Do you think this has to do with a general discomfort with being alone? Have you struggled with this? Do you have any tips to help people stop the constant spinning?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, Parenting, Peace, Photos, Relationships, social pressures, Technology

Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement

 

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As readers of this blog know, I do not usually stay on any specific topic for more than one post, but we seem to have hit a nerve on the last few posts, so I am going to keep with this theme for one more day.

There was in interesting post over on CNN’s Management and Career Blog entitled “Exposing Management’s Dirty Little Secret.”

The tagline of the article reads: If employees aren’t as enthusiastic as they could be, it’s not because the work sucks; it’s because management blows. While obviously, this is a broad statement, there is certainly some truth.

The article talks about three factors that contribute to employee satisfaction and engagement:

The scope that employees have to learn and advance (are there opportunities to grow?);

The company’s reputation and its commitment to making a difference in the world (is there a mission that warrants extraordinary effort?); and

The behaviors and values of the organization’s leaders (are they trusted, do people want to follow them?).

My husband works in Human Resources and much of his work focuses on efforts to track and improve employee engagement in corporations. We discuss these issues frequently and agree that opportunities for growth and adequate compensation are critical components to keep employees engaged. And they are certainly the basic ingredients for success.

But the discussions on this blog over the past few days have made me think about a fourth, equally important but more elusive factor. What kind of work-life balance does a particular job offer its employees?

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have discussed some of the reasons many women leave high level positions in earlier discussions. But this issue is certainly not confined to its impact on women. And change will only come if we expand the discussion to include the impact on men.

A few thoughtful readers commented on the benefit to a company’s bottom line of having healthy, balanced employees. I do not have data to support this claim at my fingertips, but I would imagine that companies that provide these types of intangible benefits have more loyal employees and less turnover.

This must impact the bottom line.

What do you think? What makes you want to stay in a job or look elsewhere for work? Do you know of any companies whose employees are exceptionally engaged? To what do you contribute this success? How much of a role do you think a manger plays in this and how much is determined by the overall corporate culture? What energizes you at work?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Sheryl Sandberg’s Top 3 Tips to Keep Women in High Level Jobs

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Yesterday’s post about an article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” written by a women in a high-level position with the State Department, who chose to leave her job in order to spend more time with her family generated quite a discussion yesterday. I would like to continue the discussion today.

Many thanks to Diana from TalktoDiana for her passion and engagement. In the comments section, she shared this TED Talk, by Sheryl Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, which I would like to share with all of you today:

This video confirms many of the statistics included in the Atlantic article. Ms. Sandberg also posits some theories about the root causes behind the statistics. She discusses three important reasons why she believes that there are not more women in leadership positions, and offers advice for women who would like to change these realities. Her advice includes:

Women need to sit at the table

Make your partner a real partner

Don’t leave before you leave

I will not go into detail on these three reasons, as I could certainly do no better job than Ms. Sandberg in explaining this complex issue. But I encourage you to watch the talk if you are interested in helping think through this more.

The first reason will resonate with most women. Women simply have less faith in their abilities to succeed than men. It is a fascinating reality that I do not fully understand, but we have all seen and felt it in action. As an example, Sandberg highlights data showing that most women do not negotiate salaries and most men do.

The second reason will also resonate: women need to stop doing all the work at home. The statistics – and people’s personal realities – show that this is an expectation which makes it hard for women to reach professional heights they might otherwise like to reach. Perhaps women need to stop enabling this reality. (I should mention that I do not suffer from this particular problem. My husband is much tidier and a much better cook than me – good man.)

The third reason really intrigues me. Don’t leave before you leave. Sandberg points out that many women make professional choices and changes before life circumstances require them to do so. I know this to be true, as I believe will other women.

I remember applying for a job several years ago. We had just moved to a new city and I had been volunteering and looking for work for several months. While my husband and I have been fortunate professionally, our lifestyle requires two incomes.

My husband and I had been trying to conceive a baby and I was absolutely convinced that I was pregnant, which is probably a subject to which many couples can also relate. I was called in for a promising job interview.

I distinctly recall talking with my best friend about whether or not I should disclose the fact that I was pregnant to the potential employer. My best friend, who is one of the superwomen described in the Atlantic article who is currently doing it all with a high level job and two small children, said “Don’t say a word.”

I turned out not to be pregnant. Wise advice from a wise woman. I believe that this type of thinking is what Sandberg refers to in the TED Talk. I am not sure why women do this, but we frequently adjust our plans based on what might be, rather than what is. I appreciate Sandberg’s advice and plan to put her suggestions into action. Thank you again to Diana for sharing this TEDtalk with us.

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, I also came across an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Being Murphy Brown in a June Cleaver World.” Apparently, there is an entire column in the Wall Street Journal called The Juggle dedicated to just these issues. This article just confirms my suspicion that regardless of the choices a woman makes she will feel inadequate in one portion of her life or another.

There is so much to discuss here. But I believe the key is to start having an honest dialogue about how society can enable women and men to contribute to professional society, and also allow them to have fulfilling and contented lives at home – without guilt.

I am thinking about gathering personal stories about people’s experiences with these dilemmas to turn into a book. Women and men both have a lot of stories to tell. I would love to speak with high-level professional women to learn about how they have handled this and lessons they have learned along the way.

What do you think? Does the TED Talk resonate with you? Do you have feelings of guilt regarding your adequacy as a parent or a professional, or both? Or have you been forced to make these difficult choices? How did you decide which road to take? How do you think we start to shift the paradigm, as Hugh suggested yesterday? What else does this bring up for you? Do you think there is a book idea here or are there too many books on this topic already? Any thoughts on how I should get started?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.   

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Does Anyone Care About the Lack of Women in Leadership Positions?

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An article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” has spread like wildfire through my Facebook and Twitter feed, and with good reason. The article is long, so give yourself some time if you decide to read it, but it is a chilling account of the difficult choices that women face when deciding where to focus their energies between career and family.

Some might say that chilling is too strong a word to describe this issue, but I would bet that people who would say that are not 40 year old females. This article raised more issues than I can describe in a short blog post. But I will give it my best shot.

It seems that my generation of women has been set up in some ways – entirely unintentionally, but set up for failure nonetheless. Whatever choice a woman makes about where to focus her energies, she pays a price in other areas of her life. And she frequently feels guilt regardless of which choice she made.

Many of my friends focused on establishing themselves in their careers in their 20s and early 30s, which are prime child-bearing years. By the time these women turned their focus to starting a family, after becoming more established in their careers, their biological clocks have frequently run out.

I cannot tell you the number of women I know who have had to turn to medicine to enable them to have children. Aside from the financial expense of taking this route, the emotional toll on a woman and her partner is substantial.

This article argues that if companies and organizations want to have women in leadership positions, things have to change. In addition to the author of the article, who held a high-level position in the State Department, it highlights several other prominent women, including Mary Matalin and Karen Hughes who both made the decision to leave high-level positions because they could not achieve the work-life balance they needed. I applaud the author for her courage in choosing to speak out on this complex and highly-charged subject.

I remember applying for a high level, stressful job several years ago. When asked how long I would expect to stay in the position,  I told the interviewing panel that I would likely stay for a long period of time if I could achieve a good work-life balance in the position. I was the last of two candidates – guess who did not get the job?

This is a fundamental cultural issue. We must begin the conversation now. Perhaps if we start the conversation, younger women will not be faced with the same choices that women of my generation have faced. Companies will have more women in leadership positions and be able to take advantage of the human capital that comes with this. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Some highlights from the article:

The best hope for improving the lot of all women, and for closing what Wolfers and Stevenson call a “new gender gap”—measured by well-being rather than wages—is to close the leadership gap: to elect a woman president and 50 women senators; to ensure that women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders. Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.

Ultimately, it is society that must change, coming to value choices to put family ahead of work just as much as those to put work ahead of family. If we really valued those choices, we would value the people who make them; if we valued the people who make them, we would do everything possible to hire and retain them; if we did everything possible to allow them to combine work and family equally over time, then the choices would get a lot easier.

What do you think? If you are not from the United States, do you feel like women face these same pressures in your country? If not, why not? What ideas do you have to change this dynamic? How can we make corporate and organizational leaders think differently about the lack of female talent in leadership positions? How do we help people understand that there are options that will keep talented individuals for longer periods of time if we just allow for a little more flexibility? Have you or your family faced these challenges? How have you handled them?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, International, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? Dividing Women Does Not Serve Anyone

There was an opinion piece in the Opinionator section of the New York Times, which is their online commentary section, entitled “Mommy Wars Redux: A False Conflict.” This article includes a critique of a book that was recently translated into English called “The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women,” by Elisabeth Badinter.

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As a woman, I can’t help but feel that all of the seemingly-fabricated conflicts trying to pit stay-at-home moms against working moms or against working women who are not mothers, feels like an intentional effort to divide women along class lines.

The truth is that most women do not have a choice whether or not to work outside the home in order to provide for their children. And some women who do have a choice, make the choice to work because they believe that outside intellectual stimulation can help make them better parents.

While the article in the New York Times is fairly academic, I appreciated this statement, which rings true for me:

…under current social, economic, and cultural conditions, no matter what one chooses, there will be costs: for stay at home mothers, increased economic vulnerability and dependence on their spouses, which can decrease their exit options and thus their power in their marriages; for working mothers, the high costs of quality child care and difficulty keeping up at work with those who either have no children or have spouses at home taking care of them, which exacerbates the wage gap and keeps the glass ceiling in place.

While I realize that every woman’s experience is different and every life decision requires couples to make difficult choices, I quickly tire of the rhetoric trying to divide women. This is a critical issue that needs examination, but the divisive rhetoric does not help move this issue forward.

What do you think? Wouldn’t all women support more family friendly policies in the workplace, including policies that enable men to spend more time with their children or policies that make quality child care more affordable? Why do you think people try to divide women like this? Do you have any tips for moms who are trying to work and take care of their kids to create a better work-life balance? Or are you a stay-at-home mom who has tips for other stay-at-home moms about how to manage those stressors? What do you think it will take for Congress or State Legislatures to finally do something to encourage or require more workplaces to establish family-friendly policies?

This is a complex issue and I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Filed under Career Planning, equality, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Women

Can We Make a Glass Look Half Full? What if our Life Depends on it?

There was an article in the New York Times earlier this week entitled “A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full.” It talks about the health benefits of optimism and lays out some suggestions for how we can all be more optimistic. It seems that these stories are ubiquitous lately.

I am always fascinated by these stories. Can a person really change their entire outlook from one of pessimism to one of optimism? And if not, how helpful is it for those of us who are not naturally optimistic to hear that this is bad for our health?

I have always believed that I am an optimistic person, but even I recognize things in this article that I could not live up to in the quest to be a true optimist. I am sure that friends from high school will painfully recall that I was always sure that I would fail every test after I took it – And I suppose that does mar my credentials as an optimist.

I find it hard to believe that a person can truly change something that seems to be so much a part of the fabric of who that person is. But I would love to hear from all of you and be proven wrong.

I do like the strategies suggested in the article and think they are worthy of note:

Regardless of the nature of your work, identify some aspect of it that is personally fulfilling. If your job is scrubbing floors, stand back and admire how shiny and clean they look.

Surround yourself with positive, upbeat people. But be aware that if you are chronically negative and always see only the dark side of things, the optimists in your life may eventually give up on you.

Focus on situations that you can control, and forget those you can’t. I would also suggest using voting power, money or communication skills to forward a goal that is beyond your personal control.

But I am not overly optimistic that these strategies will change the lens through which I see the world.

What do you think? Do you think a person can work to change their outlook from one of pessimism to one of optimism? And what about vice versa? Do you think that a person can become a pessimist based on their life experiences? Do you have any tips or strategies for people who are interested in changing their outlook to become more optimistic? Have you, or one of your family members or friends, successfully worked to change? So much of this seems rooted in negative self-talk – have you found ways to quiet that inner critic that you would be willing to share?

I would love to hear your thoughts. And thank you for reading!   

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Filed under Education, Health, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Women

A New Kind of Playground? What Happens When Young Children are Connected with Technology

The Wall Street Journal published an article today entitled “What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out With an iPad.” I fully expected this article to be a story lambasting parents for using an iPad as a way to get some valuable quiet time in houses that are rarely quiet. I expected that this article would highlight the horrors of letting your child use an iPad, but that is not what this story is about at all.

I love my iPad. Honestly, it has changed my life in ways I never thought possible. I was sold on an iPad, when one of my colleagues told me that I could listen to legislative committee hearings from any location, instead of being chained to the committee room. But I have come to use my iPad for so much more.

This is not a commercial for iPads. But I am not a techie gal and this device has raised my technological ambitions more than I ever could have imagined. I am addicted – which is why I was sure the research would show that we should not expose our children to such addictive substances.

It turns out that some research has shown that iPads can help children learn! In fact, the article points out:

“One study using an iPod Touch and sponsored by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop found children 4- to 7-years-old improved on a vocabulary test after using an educational app called “Martha Speaks.” The 13 5-year-olds tested averaged a 27% gain. A study using a different educational app had a similar result, with 3-year-olds exhibiting a 17% gain.”

While I am still unsure about the implications of small children using an iPad for extended periods of time, and this article does encourage moderation, how refreshing to learn that there may be a tool to entertain our children that we don’t have to feel guilty about using!

What do you think? Do you allow your kids to use an iPad or other type of similar device? Do you feel that these tools present opportunities for your kids to learn?  Have you felt guilt about using these tools to keep your child busy when necessary? Have you found any strategies that have helped ensure that your child does not become dependent on these tools? Does this article make you, like me, feel better for your own addictions?

Please share your thoughts! And thank you for reading.

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Filed under Education, Parenting, Relationships, Social Media, Youth Leadership

Taking Responsibility for Death

This week’s story was published in today’s Sunday New York Times. I haven’t decided if I will just pick out weekend articles or if I will also write during the week. I suppose it will depend on whether or not there is a story that begs discussion that I stumble across during the week. It will also depend on whether I have the energy at the end of a day to think much about it. But the more comments we recieve, the more I will feel inspired to write. That is really meant to be the heart of this blog – it is meant to be a space where people can safely discuss important issues that challenge every one of us on a daily basis. So, please dive in and share your thoughts!

I have also been thinking about what I meant when I wrote that I don’t want this blog to be political. Any one who knows me knows that I wear my politics on my sleeve and that I am very passionate about current political issues. But politics have become so polarized and I do not want to buy into this polarization. All of us, regardless of political persuasion, deal with significant issues every day in which we can find common interest and comfort from people from all walks of life.

This week’s story is entitled “Taking Responsibility for Death” and can be found here: http://nyti.ms/H2tZ26 I find it interesting that this is one of the most e-mailed stories of the day today at the New York Times. This is an article that discusses the difficult reality that all of us eventually face when confronted with the fact that every one of us will face the death of loved ones, and ultimately of ourselves. It discusses some practical steps that all of us should take to prepare for this inevitability.

I wonder if this is the most e-mailed article because sending someone something that a respected newspaper has published about this topic is an easier way to open the discussion than to bring it up more personally. With the commonality of this issue, why are we all so uncomfortable to talk about end of life issues? And how – when every person, regardless of political affiliation, will deal with this reality – has this issue become so politicized?

I have some close friends who lost family members at a very young age and they have shared with me that people simply do not know what to say to try and console them. They have shared that people do not have to try to think of the perfect thing to say – that it helps for a person to simply acknowledge what they are going through. But so often, people are afraid to say anything at all. What is it that makes people so uncomfortable, even when trying to support a friend who has lost a loved one or who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, to look the realities of death in the face and to stand together to face the issue head-on? And does this discomfort change as people get older – does it lessen or does it get worse?

And how many of my (many ;-)) readers have thought about developing a living will? Or talked with their parents about their end of life issues? In fact, how many of you have a legal will at all? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could move beyond the taboos associated with talking about death and dying and support each other more as we struggle through these difficult issues?

This week, I challenge each of us to do one thing to make sure that we have our legal and personal affairs in order to make things easier on the people who depend on us when it is our time to go. And to remember that life is short, so we need to appreciate every precious moment we get to share with the people we love.

Thanks for reading. Please share your thoughts!

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Filed under End of Life, Health, Parenting, Relationships