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Sharon Meers

Sharon Meers

Sharon Meers is co-author of Getting to 50/50: How working couples can have it all by sharing it all. A former managing director at Goldman Sachs, she now works in Silicon Valley.

How Joe Biden can help working parents

In my early banking career, I oscillated between all-nighters and cross-country red-eyes. Not fun. But I enjoyed the delusion that these rookie years were the worst of it, that I was building life-long skills and endurance to face any test ahead. Then came kids.

Sensing my pre-child naivete, a few kind souls tried to open my eyes: "You won't have time to take a shower," said a friend who'd dodged bullets as a reporter and finished medical school with two infants. "Very tired, all the time, for years," my dad recalled, about starting out as a parent -- worrisome coming from a guy who'd survived foster care and World War II.

Still, I clung to that belief that it couldn't be that bad. Until a few months into working parenthood. Then, driving the highway to work one morning, exhausted after a string of bad nights, I had a weird cop fantasy: I imagined that a kindly patrolman pulled me over to give me a ticket - and an order: "Park your car, ma'am. Take a nap."

Last week, Vice President Biden's Middle Class Task Force reframed the problems of working parents "not as women's issues" but as "issues of middle class economic security." Great start.

Biden and Attorney General Holder vowed to collect better data on the working parent pay gap and better educate the public about laws to protect workers with kid duties. But can policy alone do the trick?

Only 25% of families have a parent taking care of things at home full-time. Why aren't the rest of us - the 75% of us responsible for both jobs and kids -- getting things fixed faster? Half the workforce is female. And eight-in-ten women become mothers. So primary care for children impacts at least 40% of workers at some point in their lives - and the majority if we acknowledge that many men are primary parents too.

My hunch is this: Compelling demographics aren't moving enough of us to action because we are flummoxed: Why and how should working parents change the workplace? Standing in the way of finding even basic solutions -- think paid leave, daycare, child sick days -- are a set of hazardous thoughts, sometimes unspoken, often emotional, that are hard to resist. I've fallen prey to at least three myself:

1.The underestimation: "Babies can't be that hard" (afflicting non- and pre-parents).

2.The overestimation: "Babies are infinitely hard," (suffered by new parents in the manic early years).

3.The exasperation: "A baby? Now?" (the look in the eyes of many bosses and co-workers, saying that having a baby is not convenient - ever).

First, it would help if we accurately talked about what it takes to bring new people into the world. While our children are a source of unspeakable joy, the process of raising them is not. "I'm so glad you'll have time to relax and bond with your baby," a non-parent said to me before my first maternity leave - the grittiness of 12-hours of daily breastfeeding and other post-partum charms invisible to both of us then.

Now we know: babies are just a wild amount of work, from the hurricane of infancy to croup and ear infections to pre-verbal tests of will and whining. After our first child recovered from hand-foot-and-mouth disease (which covered him in tiny painful blisters, making eating impossible and crying endless), my husband asked me: "Do you think the stork could deliver babies at age two?"

Second, let's admit inaccuracy can swing in the other direction -- that we parents can get a little nutty in the name of protecting our kids As a 20-something, I raised my eyebrows at overly fussy parents and vowed I'd be much more easy-going. Hah.

When a nurse hands you an infant and it's clear that you are actually responsible for another life, you find yourself succumbing to all sorts of scary ideas. There are plenty of bona fide threats to children, but the intensity of early parenthood can make it hard to draw the line between prudence and paranoia. I imagined an invisible army of microbes perpetually menacing my baby; I double sterilized bottles and used Purell in ways its makers never intended. My husband obsessed over SIDS, despite baby bumpers and doctor's assurances. He would get up at night to make sure our kids were still breathing.

As individuals, working parents can do a lot to help themselves - talking early and often about what's needed (and not) to raise the next generation. It's the third kind of hazardous thought - the workplace impulse to see kids as irksome - that Mr. Biden can help with most.

It's tough for me to confess, but the first time I saw a pregnant peer where I worked, the only words that came to mind were: "Why is she having a baby?" Child creation just didn't seem in the spirit of a hard-charging workplace.

Sadly, my sentiment then remains in the workplace today. Writing our book, Getting to 50/50, we learned how this view (that being a primary parent is incompatible with serious work) plays out in many venues today - including board rooms.

"What is she thinking?" a board member asked in a meeting a few years ago when he heard that a founder of the soon-to-be-public company was going on maternity leave. "She's thinking that she's 39," responded the only woman the room.

The board wrangled over whether the decision to reproduce meant the founder would be less focused on her job. Anticipating the worst, the board decided to re-allocate some of her pay to other executives - who weren't under suspicion for losing their edge to kids.

Research by Stanford professor Shelley Correll shows how all of us (men and women) list toward the belief that motherhood (aka primary parenthood) permanently drains commitment and competence from talented women. When a father of small kids is late or looks dazed in a meeting, we're more willing to assume it's an aberration, a passing phase, and he'll snap back to top form because he values his job. We give him the benefit of the doubt. Do we give women the same?

Biden's task force can do a lot to address the woeful miseducation of many people at the top. While only the minority of families have a parent at home, the majority of people who make the rules and set the tone at work come from these households.

In fact, the a Council on Contemporary Families paper recently pointed out that the mismatch between family cultures of . executives and the rest of the workforce is the largest blocker of sensible workplace policy.

Leaders with spouses at home need to stop assuming that this is normal - or necessarily desirable. Research shows that kids do at least as well when both parents work. Executives should also read the growing pool of business school research that further upends traditional thought: It says we get statistically higher results if we tell everyone (not just parents) to go home for dinner. That replacing 24/7 machismo with time out of the office yields better teamwork, better thinking and better output, according to the Harvard Business Review).

After spending a weekend with his kids alone, one male executive told me, "If every man in Congress had to do this, we'd have some very different laws." So let's give Mr. Biden a hand and do our part advancing the ball.

The next time a politician kisses a baby, let's tell him to hang on to the tyke for the weekend. And let's think of everyone we know who somehow missed the course in mano-a-mano kid management - our dads, brothers, uncles, buddies - and get them a multi-day childcare gig (solo flight, no helping hands allowed). Education can do a lot to turn dangerous thoughts into useful ones - and nothing teaches faster than a little baby bootcamp.

By Sharon Meers

 |  July 30, 2010; 5:15 AM ET
Category:  Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This is what feminists want. Power. Such as the power to live any lifestyle you want and have it subsidized by men. The government and non-profits are their sugar daddy--women-only organizations, billions steered to women only, bias laws and workplace regulations, etc.. The funniest part is that the most greedy and ruthless ones are (often) white middle class women who are the most priviledged beings on the planet. Tack onto that the fact that, although minorities are scapegoated, it is white women (often already well off) who have far and away benefited most from affirmative action. Well, guess what, you raising your kid is your business, don't burden me with financing your decisions that often include not living within your means, not having a husband, etc...

Posted by: actanonverba | August 4, 2010 5:45 AM
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these posts are hilarious. my mom in her late 70's decided to go back to work in the 70's after she had her last child. she got a baby sitter (family/friend)and when i was old enough to babysit i did. she worked and we benefited from the extra income. dad told her she didn't have to work and could be a stay at home mom and she didn't go for it. later she told me that she wanted to provide all of the xtra's to her kids and herself.

so if she could do it in th 70's when plant workers just didn't take off to attend to a chile what's the difference now?

Posted by: nall92 | August 2, 2010 4:35 PM
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We have twenty million people searching for work and millions of others, worked beyond belief.

Who is managing this mess.

It is a complete failure of organizational management. A complete failure of human resources management.

Where are all those B School graduates that learned how to optimally operate systems?

There has got to be a better way to do this.

Posted by: inono | August 2, 2010 3:36 PM
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"I really don't feel that having children is a choice...WHEN you have children is a choice, thanks to birth control. Since the advent of birth control, it appears that the procreation of children is now "optional". When did that happen?"

changingfaces,

You're kidding, right? Sarcasm? Irony?

If you're serious, then you are a very confused person.

Posted by: haveaheart | August 2, 2010 2:30 PM
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The best thing, of course, is to have two wives. When one child is at home with the stay-at-home Mom, all is well while theother Mom works. Then when she gets pregnant, the other wife helps out.

We are changing the way people work, but still stuck in the old system of families. We need to let more ways of making a family possible, and stronger.

Posted by: LeeH1 | August 2, 2010 10:32 AM
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Adrienne, you seem to suffer from "the 1950s were the ideal norm" disease. The truth is, most women have always done economically productive work and the 50s and 60s were a demographic anomaly. The difference was that a lot of economically productive work was centered around the home (farm work, shopkeeping, etc.). And on what planet are you living that things were better in the 50s and 60s? Depression among housewives ran rampant and racial and sexual discrimination were legally permitted, making life decidedly unpleasant for people who weren't fortunate enough to be middle class white males. And as for sexual harassment in the workplace, there is no definition of the term under which it was better in the 50s and 60s. There were fewer women in the workplace, but those women were invariably subordinates and treated as such. THey had no power to speak out against the disgusting jokes or the sexual pressure put upon them by their predator bosses. And lets not forget that women who worked were frequently paid less than men in equivalent positions because the men "might have to support a family". Now, of course, the fact that women might have a family is used as the reason to pay them less and men are praised for making minimal accommodations to "help out" with the women's work caring for their own children.

Posted by: burntnorton | August 2, 2010 7:01 AM
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Balance is the key. Sweden promotes parenthood to solve negative demographics. It's for economic reasons. Other EU countries are on the verge of bankruptcy due to generous social programs. But it's also true that for our own good we need to improve preschool childcare. Free K-12 suffers when the preschool years are neglected. As to the work or mother decision, it's a personal one. Realistically, most parents must work, and we should all have the right to self-actualize through career. But choices must be made and career options are many. As a teacher myself, work hours allowed me to raise my 6 kids without that much stress. But then again, the pay is not great. My high-power financier daughter, on the other hand, hires a full time nanny to help with her 3 kids. Her husband works fewer hours to help out, she rushes between school and after school activities, and it's hectic. But they take it in stride. My other daughter, an educator, chose to go to 80% time with 80% pay in order to be able to take her boy to school in the morning and attend school functions. As for government regulation, it might backfire, making it difficult for moms to find employment. In all of this, I think the crazy competitive culture makes most workplaces hotbeds of stress where there's no cooperation--bad for productivity. Folks who need time off for their kids are too paranoid to even admit it--afraid to come through as not committed or irresponsible. Again: balance, please!

Posted by: march12 | August 1, 2010 11:17 PM
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Send them home at dinertime ...

Interesting. I did some quick calculations on daylight throughout the year.

Based on a 5x8 40 hour week v. 5x10 50 hour week

pay rises 138%, if you get overtime, which you probably don't, and

you are home during daylight hours ...

51% less in Dallas
65% less in Milwaukee
(depends on latitude)

"mandatory" overtime steals sunshine. Ms. Meers might have an analytical point to her argument as well.

Posted by: gannon_dick | August 1, 2010 8:54 PM
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There was a time no too long ago when moms didn't work, and the world was a much better place. The roads were less congested, there was little sexual harassment in the workplace, men could tell ribald jokes around the office, there was peace an harmony all around. Today we have $h!t.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | August 1, 2010 6:43 PM
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What startles me about the reaction is the blithe brushing off of someone's concerns about raising a healthy human to adulthood.

"Oh if it is so tough, do not have kids!" "You chose to, now wallow in it!"
"How dare you expect me to assist in your child's rearing?! *I* was not [stupid] [incompetent] enough to have a child."
"Maybe if you were not so busy trying to make lots of money to waste it..."

Basically the people are doing what everyone does and that is judge without the facts or personal knowledge of what is going on with the family.

Once upon a time we did really live in small communities where the village helped raise the child. You see it in primitive societies today where in one case, the father goes and finds a second provider for the mother and child to ensure the survival of the child. Modern society's "I am not my brother's keeper" way of behaving is unlike anything before in history.

Also, unless you NEVER have kids, you really have no reason to kvetch over someone's coming in late and having to cover for them if they do because of a child...one day that will be you.

Posted by: emayrogers | August 1, 2010 6:39 PM
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I am lucky enough to be a Canadian citizen. When my wife and I were thinking of having children, we very quickly came to the conclusion that we couldn't do it in the U.S.: our quality of life would be hell. One year of unpaid mat leave and real health care made it an easy choice to move back. Plus, Canadian employers just offer more vacation and more flexibility.

To make life easier for families means paying higher taxes, though. Not wildly higher, just slightly higher. Is an expenditure in families worth it? I think so, but then I've got two very small children who I still get to spend a lot of time with.

Posted by: macndub | August 1, 2010 5:38 PM
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Raising children is difficult, period. What is hard is not necessarily that child-rearing is time consuming, which indeed it is, but that kids represents our perceived loss of control over situations. No government is going to help out on that count. We really do suck it up on that one, but no need for the stiff-upper-lip lectures there.

Does that mean the government can play no role? Government regulation should line up with basic morality in ensuring that working parents can take time off to respond to emergency situations involving their kids, which reasonable employers probably grant. Most people, even childless ones (like myself before 3 years earlier), should grasp that this is not a demand that emanates solely from self-centered power-mongering careerist women. Another area might be EU-style maternity and paternity leaves, but this would be stretching what many Americans could tolerate.

I concur with some that government could not do much to ease juggling kids and work over the long haul (certainly not if the latter means high-powered corporate careerism) without creating excessive levels of inequity (vis-a-vis non-working parents or working non-parents).

Posted by: pandw | August 1, 2010 4:37 PM
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Oh come on, there are lots of options and lots of in-between, and a little respect and understanding on a personal level in the workplace (as opposed to legislation) would go a long way. Women (or men for that matter) can maybe have lower-key jobs if they want to be more focused on their children and family. Not all jobs are so high-powered or require the level of dedication and 40-hours PLUS per week that we are hearing about. Are there no mid-level jobs that are just, well, jobs? And, why can't a woman (or man) take a 3-5 year "sabbatical" while their child is very young (with proper financial planning, obviously) and then ramp back up as the child becomes more involved in school? It is my opinion that parents must plan, must be creative and resourceful and can't necessarily have "it all" but can fashion workable lives for themselves. I don't think daycare or legislation is the answer, but thinking out of the box on the parts of employees and employers is...as well as a respect for the fact that parenting is important to society as a whole. I want respect, but I don't expect anyone to foot the bill.

Posted by: gbirgells | August 1, 2010 4:26 PM
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You have to be practical. Women's options are, 1:Be a corporate giant and do NOT have children, or 2: Stay home and have children and forget the corporate world or 3: Marry a man that sits home and raises the children.

These are simple concepts but corporate women ain't that bright, they want EVERYTHING and expect EVERYONE in the world to hand it over along with equal salary no matter the expense to their companies to accommodate their wishes and desires. Well forget it. We've had a bellyfull of handouts. Go home and raise your family or go to work. The world is sick of the accommodations.. You have to make choices. You can't just demand and crap on the world to get what you want like a little child.

Posted by: JamesChristian | August 1, 2010 3:01 PM
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Some of the comments on this board are very ignorant. I would like to remind the people of the world who think work reigns supreme that if people didn't procreate, many of you would be without jobs. After all, who would buy your widgets and services if mankind stopped making people that require them?

Aside from that, all of you who don't choose parenthood, you'll depend on the young people in the future to look after you and care for you in your old age, so you more than a passing interest in the way young people are raised today. Stop behaving as if you are islands unto yourselves. You are not.

And to the poster REVELZ - Good on you! People like you are what make communities good for everyone, families, and singletons alike!

Posted by: catweasel3 | August 1, 2010 2:53 PM
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Whose child is it? Yours? Were you forced to have the child? Were you raped? It's your child which also makes it your problem. If you have to blame anyone, blame Betty Freidan and Germaine Greer who started the revolution that all women should get out of the house and go to work, thereby lowering the average wage rates for everyone by taking less pay and bringing on the previously rare situation of both parents having to work. The only proper nanny for a child is the mother. Nothing else even comes close, certainly not a day care center. If women want to have a child and work then it's a little late to start complaining after you have the child when you went that route with your eyes open.

Posted by: Calabrese99 | August 1, 2010 2:27 PM
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The Whiner, a former managing director for Goldman Sachs, has had more than enough income to be able to live on one income for one to stay at home with the kids.

GREED and Ego are the only reasons to flog yourself with two pressure-cooker jobs like 10-12 hours in the shark tank of Wall St. banking that sucks the life out of you so that you might have 15 minutes of your kids' waking time to enjoy . . . or fight with their chronic bad mood because "mom is NEVER home" and "her JOB always comes first".

And depending on Joe BIDEN to fix workplace attitudes???? How you ever heard of the term "INDEPENDENCE"????? Why do you people trust the GOVERNMENT for your every need???

Posted by: IndependentMom | August 1, 2010 1:16 PM
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I really don't feel that having children is a choice...WHEN you have children is a choice, thanks to birth control. Since the advent of birth control, it appears that the procreation of children is now "optional". When did that happen?

If employers do not support working parents, there will be no children to grow up into future employees. There will be no children who will grow up to be your doctor when you are old and broken, or your nurse when you cannot afford one. Without employers supporting families, there will be no children who will grow up to be community activists, your mechanic, or your friendly shop keeper at the corner market. No, without employers supporting working parents, the employer will have to keep working until the day that they die...and there will be no one there to cover for them or take over either.

It takes a village to raise a child. Remember that? The additional stress you face in the workplace in the SHORT TERM is contributing to the greater good in the LONG TERM. We have grown into a nation of selfish people, with self serving values. It's no wonder we have to import our workforce now. With such draconian co-workers and employers who view child rearing and anything associated with it with such contempt, it is no wonder we are running out of workers to take over in the future and the demographics in this country are changing.

But guess what? Those new workers are having children at a faster pace than those who were born here.

So, get ticked at your co-worker leaving early to go to their kids soccor game. But don't be suprised by the future outcome and how your lack of support affects the future of YOU.

Posted by: changingfaces | August 1, 2010 12:38 PM
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Joe has already helped working parents. Much, much more than if a GOP'er had been in his Senate seat all those years... ;^)

- Balkingpoints / www

Posted by: RField7 | August 1, 2010 12:32 PM
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"Look if parenthood is martyrdom or too hard for you to figure out on your own, don't have kids. Don't expect other people to take on the care of your kids. Take care of them yourself. It is not the governments job nor is it your employers job."

What an idiotic comment. I suppose you object to the proverb "it takes a villiage to raise a child". Sage advice passed down through the generations doesn't hold a candle to you, does it?

Posted by: changingfaces | August 1, 2010 12:16 PM
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"Chicken or egg? Why would anyone bring a child into a world where the government is held hostage to right-wingers?
Posted by: DGSPAMM"

Wake up Rumplestilskin (sp?), Do you realize Democrats hold majorities in both houses and our President is a leftist?

I fully support leftist sympathizers NOT having children - if that is your mindset - it makes the world a safer place. I fully support anyone's decision on whether or not to have children, just as a I fully support the government butting out of how I raise my children and how you raise yours.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 1, 2010 9:40 AM
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Here's a simple solution to this dilemma.

Don't have kids until you can afford them and are able to pay for their care rather than have the taxpayers subsidize it.

What a concept.

Posted by: Darlene_Jr | August 1, 2010 8:26 AM
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Do we give women the same?
------------------------

No, we give them too much already...

Posted by: OneWhoSpeaksTruth | August 1, 2010 6:49 AM
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I find it really interesting to read the comments that say if you can't manage to stay home full time with your children, don't have kids. Do those posters realize that they're suggesting that children might perhaps be an option only for the wealthy? Or perhaps an option for those who choose to scale down? Since when are wealth and martyrdom the main criteria for parenthood?
We need to recognize that having children is a function of the human condition, something that many people wish to experience. There's value in making it a manageable process and attainable goal.
Posted by: TheBarbarian |
==========================================

Look if parenthood is martyrdom or too hard for you to figure out on your own, don't have kids. Don't expect other people to take on the care of your kids. Take care of them yourself. It is not the governments job nor is it your employers job.

Posted by: susangate1 | August 1, 2010 2:51 AM
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Chicken or egg? Why would anyone bring a child into a world where the government is held hostage to right-wingers?

Posted by: DGSPAMMAIL | August 1, 2010 12:56 AM
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We need to recognize that having children is a function of the human condition, something that many people wish to experience. There's value in making it a manageable process and attainable goal.
+++++++++++++++

It already is.

Posted by: moebius22 | July 31, 2010 8:52 PM
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I find it really interesting to read the comments that say if you can't manage to stay home full time with your children, don't have kids. Do those posters realize that they're suggesting that children might perhaps be an option only for the wealthy? Or perhaps an option for those who choose to scale down? Since when are wealth and martyrdom the main criteria for parenthood?

We need to recognize that having children is a function of the human condition, something that many people wish to experience. There's value in making it a manageable process and attainable goal.

Posted by: TheBarbarian | July 31, 2010 6:59 PM
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When you stop looking to big daddy government for your personal happiness, then I will listen to your old school feminism. The women I know have moved beyond the old cliches.

Posted by: nvlheum | July 31, 2010 4:26 PM
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Having children is a choice. Why should those who choose to procreate expect special treatment in the workplace or elsewhere?

I will agree with one point--too often the decision to procreate is based on ignorance, but that is true of countless decisions people make.

Quit whining.

Posted by: sage5 | July 31, 2010 3:46 PM
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It has nothing to do with misunderstanding the "so called" facts, it has to do with a difference of opinion on the role of government.

I think most of the commentators feel that it's none of governments business to get involved in this area.

Posted by: moebius22 | July 31, 2010 3:32 PM
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Most comments here fail to recognize a few basic facts:

1) we already have gov't policies in place that guide corporate behavior -- from tax cuts to subsidies to OSHA to wage laws, etc. It's not a question of "gov't v. no gov't" it's a question of "what kind of policy is best for a healthy society?" As the evidence indicates, today's policies aren't really working.

2) our society needs all hands on deck. In our globally competitive world, we cannot afford to leave intellectual capital untapped -- what a waste! Because most people are parents at some point, we need policies that keep their contributions coming -- at home and at work.

3) working parents are raising the next generation and we all live with the results -- whether criminal or kind. Doesn't it behoove us all to support the work of parenting so that kids grow into healthy adults?

With these facts in mind, what policies are wise? What policies are fair?

Posted by: truly1 | July 31, 2010 2:51 PM
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I loathe columns like this. This is such drivel, with a point that is really hard to decipher. As best I can tell, she seems to want our federal government to involve itself in helping us manage the "work-life balance," or whatever cheesy cliche is hip in HR now. And of course, we have to talk about how hard it is to be a working woman. It's not 1988 anymore. Get over it.

Let's get the government involved in planning our daily lives. No more families -- just government. Yeah, that's a great idea.

All the other posters have it correct: you don't want kids? Don't have them.

Posted by: CaughtInAMosh | July 31, 2010 1:49 PM
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Hey, watch that comment about Baby Boomers! Many of us were involved (as young teens and older) in the anti-war movement, in civil rights activities for African-Americans, Latinos, farm workers, women's rights, rights of LBGQT, anti-nuke, REAL pro-family policies, etc., etc., not to mention campaigning for people who would represent us well.

Posted by: wantakugel | July 31, 2010 12:10 PM
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There is no law in this country requiring you to have kids. If someone does not think they can balance a career and kids, or live with only one income, then don't have kids. But if you make the very personal decision to have children, then keep the decision personal, and don't cry and complain and whine that there aren't laws to make your life easier. Your views, Ms. Writer, are not progressive at all. It is self-centered, woe-is-me-because-I-have-children attitudes that sets the progressive agenda back by decades. Like I said, if you can't handle working and having kids, then don't work.

Posted by: skipmoskey | July 31, 2010 9:05 AM
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Christopher J. Kern
515 Lein Road
West Seneca, NY 14224
Home: 716-675-1193
ckern89@yahoo.com

Sharon Meers
Take you your book/crap and throw it in the garbage. When my daughter was two, I was working third shift and I noticed she had a speech delay. I got her in to see a pediatric specialist at Children’s in Buffalo and her adenoids were twice the size so I went back to the doctor (a woman) with a few questions. Oh yes she had low-grade ear infection for two years and it was not important enough to send her to someone who knew what they were talking about.

Therefore, the West School district was discriminating against the handicapped and the DOJ is pitiful, so while I listened to women crying in a local park who had developmentally disabled children, I was pissed and called up the state. Within 24 hours, there was a 180 from the superintendent.

What would you do if your child was handicapped, beat them into being normal.

Best Regards, 45Th President of the United States
Chris

Posted by: ckern89 | July 30, 2010 11:44 PM
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It seems like a lot of posters see this as demanding equal pay for fewer hours, which would clearly be a ridiculous demand.
But I'm not sure that that's the only way to address what seems to me a real issue. As a working mother of a toddler myself, I would be very interested to hear of a job where I could work fewer hours. But do these jobs exist? They don't seem to within most of the white-collar fields that I've seen. The trade-off seems not only to be less pay for fewer hours, but less pay for fewer hours at smaller wages per hour.
So would it be unreasonable, in this time of high unemployment, for the corporate world to offer more jobs (to parents and non-parents alike) that asked, say, 30 hours, with a 25% pay deduction. I agree that parents should not have special privileges. And I don't know what laws could do to help this. But to open the possibility of a sane work-life balance (rather than the stark choice between an all-consuming career and none at all), would I think be a worth-while national conversation.

Posted by: smontague28 | July 30, 2010 10:55 PM
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In every job I've ever had, the parents (male and female) are always running off to deal with some child issue or event. And the people without children work longer to get the work done. No, the parents aren't working at other times to make it up. And now you want MORE time off, child sick days?!?!!?

I'd love it if we could ALL get more time off as in Europe, where 6-8 weeks of vaction time is the norm. But I'm sick of hearing about how parents should get extra time off. Your employer is paying you to do a job. Why do you think your employer should be paying you to spend time with your children?

I sometimes think that in my next job, I'm going to say that I have two kids. That way I can leave early on beautiful spring days for soccer games and claim that I'm unable to work on the weekend or near the holidays. Oh and I can't stay late, ever.

Posted by: lalalu1 | July 30, 2010 10:27 PM
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It would be unfair to give parents benefits that non-parents do not get, at the same time you are requiring the non-parents to pick up your work for you. Having children is a personal decision. If you are willing to be paid less than the co-workers who do your job for you while you are unexpectedly absent, late or leaving early, that would be fair. I do think that part-time schedules are a good solution to this problem but many employers (including mine) have eliminated this option. Most of the working mothers in my office would love to work 3 days a week; it would bring in some income while still giving them the flexibility to do kid things. Another good option is telecommuting because you gain an hour or two a day without affecting your employer or your co-workers. But special deals for parents - not fair to the rest of us.

Posted by: Fiftythree | July 30, 2010 9:46 PM
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I continue to look forward to the first Sharon Meers column that is not a whinefest.

Posted by: jd5024 | July 30, 2010 9:41 PM
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I'm right up there with Wildbill1.

The planet is groaning under the weight of too many people.

Our environmental issues, energy needs, traffic congestion problems all stem from TOO MANY PEOPLE taking up one small planet. WHY in GOD'S name would you want to add one more to the mess? Does the planet need YOUR child that much? I am really astounded by the arrogance of people who want to have children and then want all the rest of us to pay them for it because it is "hard work." Note to baby factories: WE DON'T NEED YOUR KID. We need to sort out what it will take to make the planet livable for the people that are here and draw down the numbers as much as necessary -- anyone who has more ought to fined for pollution.

Posted by: Hyperlocal | July 30, 2010 9:07 PM
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Articles like this imtimidate me. My wife wants kids and I want a surfboard. Having kids sounds fun at first and then in the same thought sounds horrible.

Also, people want to amintain upper-middle class status. And with that comes the need for moeny and thus each parent working. If we could live with less one parent might be able to stay home.

And where are the grandmothers and grandfathers? Back when I was three in 1975, I went to my grandmothers house when my mother worked. It seems nobody does this anymore.

Posted by: momohund | July 30, 2010 8:49 PM
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I really liked this article and agree with Ms. Meers 100%. Also agree with Scully127; the Scandinavian countries are the happiest and smartest in study upon study.

Posted by: StowMom | July 30, 2010 8:39 PM
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Ohmigod - after the last two weeks I've had - and the week I have to look forward to - thank you so much for this!

Posted by: Peregrine2 | July 30, 2010 8:13 PM
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The reason we do not have any laws in place that even begin to support the idea of true "family values" is because this country does not value anything that cannot be turned into a commodity. It's a great place to make money if you can get it, but God help you if you're young, sick or elderly. Our government reflects our true values. We have no culture. Just work, work work. The rich get richer and pit the middle class against the lower class in order to maximize profits. Fight for your piece of the pie like a rat, and damn everyone else. Nice work baby boomers.

Posted by: meade11 | July 30, 2010 7:20 PM
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I am 4 generation working woman. I don't remember Great-grandma (tavern owner), grandma (actress) or mom (factory then office worker) needing Joe Biden's help. All husbands of the women above died early--mostly from their jobs--miner, musician, and factory then office worker. They didn't get help from either the govt or their unions. (overtime was a gift remember to plus up your earning power).

My children have learned the art of balance--they work (some "from home", which is NOT like not working as some in big business think) but also have chosen careers with set hours; overtime is not a gift to them; it is a detriment.

Quite frankly my kids actually thought about how this would all play out; I simply thought that it would all work and never realized how much my life was at work or at home--to me it was all part of who I am.

And it's not about gender--I hate these gender arguments; it's about parenting and whether your are a good one i.e. centered on the needs of your children as the come versus using your children as decorations of the status you have reached (you know who you are out there so don't look shocked). Trusting fate (or God) as I did probably wasn't the best way to approach having children; but trusting that everything would work out did make me carefree and able to do two jobs at once without thinking of either as a "job". Same for my spouse--the first surviving male on my side of the family past age 36......

Posted by: mil1 | July 30, 2010 7:05 PM
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Who are the folks that really need the help? I'd love it, but we really don't need it - we have two reasonable incomes. Yes, we do live in an expensive house - it was either that or increase our commute substantially (we'd like to see those kids at night. . .). So, our spare cash is seldom and it would be lovely to have extra sick time, cheaper day care, etc.

But the folks who really need it are the ones who are working hard, cutting corners and just getting by. They are less likely to have safety nets (like the hourly workers who lost days of pay during the power outage) and their children are much more likely to be affected. Let's focus on ways to help them out - the two white-color-worker family doesn't really need it.

Posted by: drmary | July 30, 2010 5:20 PM
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quit whining. its obvious your career is more important than you family.

live in a smaller house, drive a chevrolet, shop at walmart. you are the one that wants two incomes.

grow up. an employer owes you nothing because of your personal choices. every payday, the slate is clean.

sounds just like a banker. Maybe TARP can help fix your problems as well.

Posted by: wesatch | July 30, 2010 5:03 PM
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Society has no "structure to make raising children so hard." And previous generations did not need to beg gov't for help. They got through it.

It is not your employer's problem. In fact, keep insisting on day care, lactating rooms, and paid maternity leave and guess what? I won't hire any women, and I'm a woman myself.

Posted by: washerwoman | July 30, 2010 5:00 PM
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As a working mother of two, who pays lots of money in taxes-- after reading this article, the one thing that came to mind that the WH could do is to propose legislation that will enable working families to use the money we currently pay into social security for child care expenses NOW. (VS. paying them out in social security and medicare benefits to former stay at homes mothers who have now reached the age of 65 and don't deserve my money... At least then I could benefit from the money I'm mandated to pay into a system that will surely be bankrupt by the time I turn 67!)

Posted by: EinAlexandria | July 30, 2010 4:48 PM
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I'm a male primary parent of five, and I get what she is saying. If you have a supportive employer, do everything you can to show your appreciation.

Posted by: davetheman | July 30, 2010 3:29 PM
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Edwardallen54--go call your mother - you jerk.
Posted by: Momee | July 30, 2010 11:05 AM
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Why? He's right, she did chose to have children. I also made the choice to have achild and I don't expect people to bend over backwards to accomodate me. It was MY choice, not yours, not my boss's. I knew there were trade-offs and sacrifices going into it. I don't know why people should treat me any differently than someone who doesn't have a child.

Posted by: thought4 | July 30, 2010 3:24 PM
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As a working father, I concur with this article wholeheartedly. The workplace demands of full-time work these days are incompatible with being an involved parent. We need broad social change to take place, starting in DC, to begin to value families again.

Posted by: menthe | July 30, 2010 3:19 PM
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Maternity and Paternity leave should be offered to parents and non parents alike. Why shouldn't I get a 6 week vacation as a reward and celebration of my sex life?

Posted by: pamschuh9 | July 30, 2010 2:45 PM
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My goodness, if you can't handle motherhood, read Janet Lansbury's blog at Http://bit.ly/92q4Ec. Everything you ever wanted to know about raising confident, authentic kids.

Posted by: mcdume | July 30, 2010 2:09 PM
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LOL there's always some group starving for attention a pat on the back or what ever. Grow up. It was you who decided to do this and today 70% of children born are born to single mothers. Women WHP THINK they can handle anything. LOL Well good luck and don't expect anything from me. You made your bed now lie in it…..

Posted by: askgees | July 30, 2010 1:33 PM
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I just think it's funny that people who work and have kids now think somehow Joe Biden is going to make life easier for you. And tell the truth, what you really want is to force companies to give you time off to deal with children's issues. A lot of companies don't offer their employees paid sick leave - now you would force them to now do so, including for dealing with the kids? There's just something amazing about a person who willfully takes on a stressful job, agrees to have children, and then wants the federal government to devise a means by which both can be done in an enjoyable fashion, whatever that means.

Posted by: Pizen | July 30, 2010 12:56 PM
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In her closing sexist and misandrist remarks, Sharon Meers suggests the reason we do not have paid leave, daycare, and child sick days is becuase the ones making the rules- MEN, don't parent children or rely women to carry the load. These gender stereotypes undermine the "supposed" gender neutral thrust of her entire argument. Rhetorically speaking, are women part of the problem, or(as usual)is it all men's fault?


I offer the real reason why initiatives like paid leave, daycare,and child sick days have not caught on, is becuase:

-The economic burden imposed on business(especially small business)to provide such services.


-Americans also have differences of opinion on whether government should mandate these types of proposals...if they can mandate this, what else can they mandate?


-The discriminatory nature of these proposals is also an issue. For example, should a parent get child sick days when a worker without a child (who may care for his sick relatives or parents)cannot? If all of us are required to care for sick parents as well as children as part of life, maybe business should pay for a portion of my aging parent's care, or better yet, provide on the job nursing care- you see where this is going?

Moreover,this article is chock full of a variety of studies that make some assumptions that are simply not true. There is no pay gap between working men and women when you account for the fact that men and women work differently...the Federal government's own GAO did a study and could not account for one, which is likely why Biden's Middle Class Task Force is "once again"looking into the issue.

Posted by: moebius22 | July 30, 2010 12:40 PM
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If men had anything to say about it, there would be a whole lot less toddlers, to care for.

Posted by: dangreen3 | July 30, 2010 12:18 PM
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Oh, I don't know. I like to think that 'pushing 70', I've had it all--two ex-husbands, three children, great career, and now, single and debt-free. Sure, I had the main responsiblity for caring for my children, but you must realize that this takes organization, tenacity, energy, and cajones.

I was a high school dropout in my senior year. (Duh!) Ten years later with three children, a new second (now ex-) husband, and a fulltime job, I went back to school and earned my doctorate in eight years. As my kids played around my feet while I was studying, they taught me how to focus amidst chaos.

My ex was okay with the children, but definitely saw it as 'my job' to handle all the home responsibilities. He was a professor and I became a university administrator; we were both workaholics. The children took our careers in stride and, when they were young, always thought that we were fulltime typists, since we were always working on studies or articles. But, I always took the time to attend their many activities and chauffeur them around.

I guess it never dawned on me to do other than what was expected in raising my children or in fulfilling my job responsibilities. Fortunately, I had the energy and metabolism to practically work around the clock. Things are different nowadays, with technology, childcare, and frozen foods galore. :):)

But, parents need to own up to their responsibilities, not only to their children but for themselves too. No one else is going to do it for you. As my dad would say, "Are you going to do it; or, are you going to do it?"

Calamari Rambling

Posted by: calamari | July 30, 2010 11:58 AM
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Dumb headline - haven't most dads, politicians or not, taken care of a toddler for a weekend? This article seems a bit sexist and rooted in earlier generations with the well-worn suggestion that men don't share diaper duty. Don't most married fathers have wives who have jobs, get sick, visit relatives and travel for business?

Posted by: outragex | July 30, 2010 11:38 AM
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Seems like you hit the wrong note Sharon. Are you talking about yourself?.... cause you'd like to be editor.?

Posted by: epespinoza43 | July 30, 2010 11:26 AM
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The 25% of families who have a full-time stay-at-home parent are not necessarily supported by a rich CEO wage-earner. They might just be families choosing to have a full-time stay-at-home parent because they are willing to live that life-style and make that financial sacrifice because they think such a choice is best for their children.

While working mothers should not be subjected to a lower-level of expectation or opportunity in the workplace compared to fathers... it is high time Americans of any description, income level, job title or educational degree stop looking to the government or their employers to smooth their road for them or make up to them for the struggles of life.

Having children will change the pattern of your life. If you aren't mature enough to deal with that change without complaining and expecting your work life to continue as if you had not had kids, then... don't have any.

Posted by: m00dl3s | July 30, 2010 11:12 AM
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It's sad that we have allowed ourselves to be completely defined by our jobs. Will the world stop turning because I need to stay home with my feverish daughter? And in the whole of life, which would be more beneficial: one more day of work or taking care of a little girl who needs her mommy?
In our need to be considered successful or valuable to our employers, we lose sight of the fact that impressing the man or woman you probably call a "jerk" when you're out of the office means nothing if you don't have a happy, supportive family. Many of us will have several different jobs over a lifetime. We'll move or get promoted or quit or get laid off. But if we love our children, they will always have the memories of our love and affection.
Now, as I watch my father living out what are probably his final weeks, I remember how he didn't get a chance to focus on a career -- he worked whatever job he had to so we could be fed and sheltered. I'm able to have a career and give my kids a life I and my siblings never got, but it's because of his teachings and example that I am dedicated to both work and family -- but always family first. My employers and my employees know that if my father needs me, I'll be back to work when I can. This job will be there, or others will be there in its place. Family cannot be replaced. And for those of you who make nasty comments about parents bringing their problems on themselves, call your mother and tell her you love her. She needs to hear it.

Posted by: clovejoy1 | July 30, 2010 11:09 AM
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Edwardallen54--go call your mother - you jerk.

Posted by: Momee | July 30, 2010 11:05 AM
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Oh. My. God.

People have been having babies, well, FOREVER. I can't stand these whiny articles about the perils of high living, career minded parents that want help from everyone - PARENTING. Who decides to have kids then complains about the time it takes?

Please can take this article and discuss ad nauseum with all your other high income, stressed, oppressed and otherwise well-dressed moms - the rest of us will be living our lives and dealing with things on our own. No thanks to Joe Biden!

Jeez.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 30, 2010 11:04 AM
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At one point in my life I was a recruiter working with high-end executives and lawyers. The biggest complaint I received from potential candidates was that they wanted to work less hours but still maintain a similar paycheck. My response was always the same "Companies/Firms pay you a ton of money and because they pay you that money they have expectations that you work hard. You can certainly make the trade off for less work but with that come less money."

My point is simple...the idiocy that someone that work less should earn the same amount as someone that works more is pure PC rewarding of mediocre. If you want to spend time with your kids there is going to be a trade-off which means you earn less money. It really is your call and while that seems sad that's reality.

And to further tie it into a global scale...if you aren't willing to work hard someone else - probably in India or China will and probably for less money. the days of sitting around and sipping coffee in the uber-workers paradise of Europe and the desired goal of many liberals in the US is over. The only way the US is going to revive economically is for everyone to start working harder.

Posted by: SteelHop | July 30, 2010 11:01 AM
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I'd like to ask Ms Meers what steps she took as an MD at Goldman Sachs to change the corporate culture there to be more family friendly. I-banks are notoriously unfriendly to anyone who wants a life outside the workplace, whether for family or anything else. You had the money and power and ability to make a difference - did you?

Of course laws are necessary to protect working parents and to change the culture of work to be more in tune with the reality that 75% of parents also have day-jobs, but let's think about our own choices too.

(For those who think "it's your choice to have children - don't have them if you don't want to" - who is going to pay for your social security? As a fairly new parent who definitely resented the leeway given to parents in my workplace when I was single and childless, I see that what goes around comes around, and am very thankful for a little common humanity and empathy. Even if you don't have children, you might have to care for a sick or elderly parent or spouse at some point, or break your leg, and the laws that protect family leave will protect you too!)

Posted by: sumita_pahwa | July 30, 2010 11:01 AM
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I am a married woman with 3 very young children. I love them immensely and I miss them when I am off commuting and working and shuffling papers, earning a living and not relying on my fellow citizens to pay our way (from the comments, I am sure you would gripe about that too). There is a lot of joy and yes, a lot of work involved in parenting. Workplaces are not optional. In today's society, we must both work in order to afford to live. Not fancy. Not eating out. No Prada in our home. No leased BMW or SUV in the driveway. Just our plain vanilla life with our children. That said, it would be nice to have some accomodation made for illness. If I have to take off to care for a sick child, I am willing to work more hours at another time to accomodate your absence. Humans get sick! Newsflash! They need their mothers (and fathers too!). We are blessed that our parents are able to watch our children and not put them into those germ-factory daycare centers these days. Bring your sick kid to the daycare, just get into the office and let my kid get sick. You will get fired if you take off to care for the sick kid. Don't bring the sick kid to work. Don't stay home with it.
Comparing a child with a pet is something idiots do. I have both. They are both loved. They are not the same. Not even close. People who don't have children or pets are that kind of delusional. Before I was a mother, I thought life was busy. Now, I know the truth. Our society should embrace parenthood. In today's environment, you can work from home. You can telecommute. Perform your job duties and still make it to an after school event for your child. (If you did not have that long commute to contend with daily.) It is not about having it "all" - this is for you childless people who think we are "greedy". We want to be rewarded for working like slaves in the office. We also want to see our kid in the school play. What are we doing in the office 12 hours a day? What really happened to 9 to 5? Does anyone work those hours? I am up at 5:30 a.m. daily so I can make the commute and be on the job by 8:00 a.m. (and don't be late!) My supervisors are two women. One is childless. She has a dog. One is a mother who had nannies, is twice divorced and can't understand why I don't just farm my kids off to nannies too. Why do we need laws? Because we have people like these everywhere.
As for the choice to have a child? You arrogant, mean spirited people? You should take the time to call your own mothers, esp. if you were born AFTER Roe V. Wade and thank her for her CHOICE to have your sorry selves. Have a great Friday!

Posted by: OhioFed | July 30, 2010 10:45 AM
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Given that most of the men Congress are fathers, it seems they have learned nothing. I have to fault women for this though...why is it that men get away with not learning how hard it is to take care of a kid? Or how to do any household tasks?
Women don't make them. Yes, I said "make them".
Why?

Posted by: maybenot | July 30, 2010 10:41 AM
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Ugh, another woman complaining how hard it is to have a child and an i-banking career. You have made the choice to work in a very time consuming career and have a child. Deal with it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it is hard to care for a young person and work 80 hours per week.

I would argue that if you keep your expectations realistic, you can "have it all". I also started my career in a fast-paced environment. I worked 80-100 hours a week and loved it. Now that I am in my 30's, I have taken a slower paced job, at less pay. I have a great balance between caring for my young son and my career. Why does it work? I don't think my career is the end-all be-all of my life. I love working, but it is not the only thing in my life. I had a decade and a half where it was and it was great. Now I am on to bigger and better things.

Women can have everything in their lives, the kay is to not worry so much about having it all at once, but to enjoy it in parts.

BTW, once you get through the first couple of months, it is really not that hard to raise a child. Sure, there is less time for you, if any, but it can really be fun.

Posted by: thought4 | July 30, 2010 10:27 AM
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We don't just give the bleary-eyed male the benefit of the doubt -- we give him the Nobel prize! Nothing will ever change if we don't stop congratulating and oohing and aahing over the Dad who leaves work early to attend a soccer game or tells us he is "playing Mr. Mom" for the weekend while we denigrate working moms for being less than fully committed for doing the same.

Posted by: fmjk | July 30, 2010 10:22 AM
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"You CAN have it all, and you DESERVE it" is a pie-in-the-sky mantra now chanted by the secular culture but first coined by marxists, socialists, progressives, and communists. It causes much unnecessary suffering and discontent in today's world, and ignores the basic truth that, in adult life, one MUST choose among mutually-exclusive, time-and-energy-absorbing opportunities due to the inherent limitations of a single human life. For example, if a man and a woman choose to marry, have professional careers, and children, then their children will not experience the joys and security possible arising from focused, full-time parenting. If that married couple choose to "share" child-care responsibilities equally, then each of their careers will not be able to be as focused as if they did not havee such additional responsibilities, and THAT's the natural order of the world - charity never was, is not now, and never will be the appropriate concern of government.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | July 30, 2010 10:19 AM
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We need to decide whether healthy, well-educated and well-loved children are important to our society and thus whether parents are making a valuable contribution. From comments here, it's clear many see them as oversized pets that create an immense and unnecessary burden on others. Parents aren't getting much help from our business and cultural institutions unless children are seen as something more valuable than puppies.

Posted by: annenh | July 30, 2010 9:52 AM
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The "You Can Have It All" mentality really has got to stop. I'm not sure where this idea originated, but for the record... No, you can't. It doesn't even make sense. EVERYTHING comes with a price.

We all make choices, and every choice has an inherent opportunity cost: the things we give up as a direct result of the choices we make. If you want to focus on kids, you're giving up opportunities to advance your career. If you want to focus on your career, you're giving up opportunities to build a family. Either way, it's your choice. Suck it up and be accountable for your decisions.

Posted by: PSmith98 | July 30, 2010 9:46 AM
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wiki: personal tax rate in Sweden = 28.89%-59.09%

we can't have it all.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | July 30, 2010 9:31 AM
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Those making nasty comments here should check out NYT columnist and Princeton University economist Uwe Reinhardt's analysis of the source of wealth creation:

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/21/who-creates-the-wealth-in-society/

In short, Reinhardt concludes that, although businesspeople, and, in particular, CEOs, are continually patting themselves on the back for creating wealth, the real creators of wealth are parents and teachers, because they take a commodity of very little economic value, i.e., a baby, and turn him or her into a productive being that may then be exploited by business. In other words, without the workers and customers that are the end product of others' mostly low-paying or, in the case of parents, uncompensated work, business would be up the proverbial creek without at paddle.

Posted by: CMNC | July 30, 2010 9:29 AM
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Look, you cannot have it "all". Nor should you be so selfish as to seek it "all". Nobody forced you to have children. You chose that, despite all your other commitments. Live with it.

Posted by: trexroth | July 30, 2010 9:26 AM
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Wow, I'm amazed at some of the negative and uneducated opinions on this board. I think that's why we don't have laws that aim to create a balance in the workforce. I think Sweden has a great model for how to create equality in the workplace and home. For example, the government required companies to mandate paternity leave, and now that men take it and help raise children, there's more equal pay at work and men get more involved in raising children. The NYT recently ran an article about it.

Posted by: Scully127 | July 30, 2010 9:25 AM
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Toddler parents always write these types of articles. What no one tells you is how much harder it is during the early elementary school years with after-care, extra-curriculars, classroom obligations and your job plus commute. That's when your kids see that stay-at-home parents are at every school play, every recital, every practice and you are not. And when you get home you still have to help with homework, school projects and arrange playdates. Toddlerhood is a breeze by comparison. But school-age working parents don't write these articles b/c they don't have time!

Posted by: conchfc | July 30, 2010 9:21 AM
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The biggest cost of Milton Friedman's dreadful "it's the total money" definition of economics lies in its complete inability to properly define the creation of human and social capital. These kids are the future of our country. I never married, I never had a child. But I am an active auntie to my five nephews and a religious education professional because I know how much our nation is about realizing our human potential. If we don't unlock our kids' potential in their foundation years -- whether or not we are their parents -- we can kiss this country good-bye.

Posted by: revelz | July 30, 2010 9:07 AM
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Give me a break. If taking care of kids is such an ordeal, don't have them. There are ways to prevent them, you know. If you want companionship, get a dog. If you want to watch something grow, plant a tree.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | July 30, 2010 8:49 AM
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Biden and Attorney General Holder vowed to collect better data on the working parent pay gap and better educate the public about laws to protect workers with kid duties.
_____________
Is this really a DOJ issue or a Dept. of Labor and EEOC issue?

Posted by: WildBill1 | July 30, 2010 8:43 AM
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Simple solution: DON'T HAVE CHILDREN! Having kids is a choice (thanks to Roe v. Wade), and therefore, it they interfer with your career or weekend partying schedule, then don't have them. However, if you're like all the other thirty somethings who love the idea of having a family but not the work that's involved, then you only have yourself to blame.

Posted by: WildBill1 | July 30, 2010 8:39 AM
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From one who herself struggled with work/family questions and agrees with the unoriginal observation that raising kids is exhausting work: What laws, exactly, would you be proposing? What laws would make parenting easy, without creating rules that couldn't be abused and turned against employers? Beyond the "send them home at dinnertime" idea, which is great as a workplace culture for some work places, but even that wouldn't work as a law for everyone.

As for the columnist: She is not entitled to the tinge of self-pity. She is taking smug self-centeredness from one sphere (I-banking) to another (parenthood.) No-one forced her to work at Goldman Sachs; she chose that greedy killer culture. She had other job choices. She presumably liked it when she was pulling in bonuses, dressing in Prada and jetting to St Barth's for spring sun. Self-serving, to call for employer flexibility only now that she's in the category of needing accommodation.

Analysis: B. Conclusions: D-, or Incomplete.

Posted by: Hunter | July 30, 2010 8:38 AM
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This is a horrible article. I am a single mother, and I actually enjoyed spending time with my child. I did not at any point consider it to be a burden.
They are toddlers for such a short time. I now enjoy my memories of things we did together.
Love your children, appreciate them for who and what they are.
They will be on their own and gone, all too soon.

Posted by: leslieswearingen | July 30, 2010 8:32 AM
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Wow, there are a lot of nasty comments already. I think this is an important discussion, particularly the section regarding our misguided obsession with 24/7 availability.

Posted by: Arlington9 | July 30, 2010 8:30 AM
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No matter how much better we have it than previous generations, we just want more and more and more.

unfortunately, so many people think that they should be handed the 'more'.

if you want to spend more time with your kids your job is going to suffer. period.

Personally, i like our job culture where, generally, the person who contributes the most to the success of the company gets paid more and gets the promotions.

we all have choices to make, but don't tell me that society should adjust so you don't have to.

signed,
another working parent

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | July 30, 2010 8:18 AM
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Thank you Sharon for a thoughtful piece. I too when I was single and childless had a very different view of parents and kids. I thought, in essence, if you choose to have kids then it's your problem, not mine (or work's). And that coming in late, your child being sick and having to work at home, were problems of not being organized enough, and something I would never experience (HA!).

I also remember looking forward to maternity leave, envisioning relaxing days at home with baby where I could recharge for my return to work. HA.

So, now that I have a 2-year-old and have had my reality firmly checked, thank you, and realize how exhausting, challenging, and fun it is raising another human, I think, gee, do all other childless people think the way I do? Will we never understand each other?

And why is it that our society is structured to make raising children so hard if you have a 2-career couple?

I'm lucky that I have a great job and boss that understands the challenges of parenting, values my work and realizes that I'm a great employee and will bend over backward to keep me.

But it does seem to me that there are a lot of roadblocks thrown in the way of trying to combine careers and children, so that there is a huge divide between with child/no child in the workplace. VP Biden, help us!

Posted by: climategirl | July 30, 2010 8:18 AM
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Look, you had an option not to have children, so you brought your problems on yourself. No one twisted your arm to keep working, so why should the rest of us taxpayers be on the hook for any of the costs involved? You want to have kids, well that's fine with me. But it's none of my business how difficult or easy it is to raise them. It was all your choice.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | July 30, 2010 8:06 AM
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It might be hackneyed, but the general thrust rings true. We would do better as a society if we had a better mix of childcare options, more respect for having children, and less of the attitude in the corporate world about having kids. No=no future revenue, and countries are finding it not so nice to have shrinking populations. You want medicare and ss, embrace kids and make it easier. I look at my overeducated friends and despair that so many either no no or 1 kid. Sucks when you realize many of the smartest and most together people have no time for kids.

Posted by: Nuancematters | July 30, 2010 7:52 AM
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And yet somehow hundreds of generations preceding us, and the vast majority of humanity today, manage(d) harder lives and larger families with fewer resources and no government task forces.

I don't quibble with the author's argument that ideal workplaces would be more accommodating of parental duties and workers' wellbeing. But the absolute last thing we need is more laws, or more meddling by politicians and social engineers. Enough.

Posted by: thebump | July 30, 2010 7:45 AM
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Go work a few days in one of the male-dominated worst jobs, like lumberjack, dairy farmer or coal miner, before you complain about gender role assignments.

Posted by: WmarkW | July 30, 2010 7:43 AM
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Amen. As a working mom with you young kids, I completely agree with Ms. Meers sentiments. Well said!

Posted by: elizamore1 | July 30, 2010 6:53 AM
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Watch the kids for a weekend? Ha! You have no idea how easy you had it, dumping your kids off on daycare.

Gotta agree with blasmaic too, this blog was all over the place, impossible to read the full way through.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | July 30, 2010 6:49 AM
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So hackneyed.

Posted by: blasmaic | July 30, 2010 5:55 AM
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