Category Archives: rant

Undercover Working Mom

Many years ago, a childless friend and I were discussing another friend’s kids.  As childless people are prone to delusions about the realities of parenthood, she said that this friend’s kids were unruly because they didn’t get enough attention from their working mom.  No mention of dad.   My response was a very lame “Really?”  My mom worked and she is great but I didn’t have a strong opinion on the subject at the time; parenthood seemed so far away.  I had no idea that the so-called “Mommy Wars” was a-brewing!

Another time, my husband’s colleague said that his wife had quit her job to stay home and that this was best for all kids.  We were still pre-kids but I’m proud to say that my husband responded by saying that you can’t generalize working mothers.  He had a working mom and also knew I planned to keep working  once we had kids.

Now that I’m a working mom, I think back to those two conversations and have a stronger reaction.  I still believe the “Mommy Wars” (working vs. stay-at-home moms) are more hype than reality.  People just have time or energy to judge others that often.   At the same time, I was curious to find out if working moms are really judged or pitied by those who stay home.

Recently, I took some vacation time to attend a Toddler/Parenting class with my younger one.  He’s shy and needs the social interaction.  It was a weekday morning so I only needed to take a partial work day off.  I enjoyed having that extra bonding time and shortened work week!

A part of me had this crazy idea: I could pretend to be a Stay-at-home mom and find out what other SAH-moms really think of working mothers.  Are you ready to find out…..?

Drumroll please….

Can you handle the truth?

Find out next Wednesday….

This isn't me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

This isn’t me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

No, seriously. I didn’t pretend to be a SAH-mom and I didn’t try to set up attacks by denigrating working moms first to get a reaction.   There were at least 2 other women who were planning to return to work after some years off.  All the other people I spoke with were either full-time stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  Note: I live in a middle-class neighborhood so there weren’t any nannies at the class.

Some observations:

A few of the moms were a bit incredulous that I, a working mom, had taken my vacation time to do this toddler play class.  This probably took me out of the line of fire IF any of them were prone to attacks on working moms.

I was sort of the stereotypical working mom when it came to scrapbooking. It’s not that I don’t cherish memories of my kid(s) but I am not crafty or creative.  I  shamelessly copied other’s mom’s scrapbooking ideas.

I did spend a little more time playing or watching my kid than some other moms. However,  I wanted him to play with other kids so I made sure not to hover too much.  I didn’t judge the other moms at all for using this time for adult conversation. After all they’re home with their kids all day so they didn’t really need this extra time.

I panicked when it was my turn to bring snacks…

My kid was a bit unruly and grabbed food off other kids’ plates.  I wonder if his behavior reflected badly on me.  If it did, I was oblivious to any mean stares.

The good news is that I had an easy time talking with these women.  Many were very nice, smart and interesting.  I didn’t really feel a division at all.

I plan to sign up for more classes in the fall!

By the way, I would love to read a real undercover piece from a journalist who pretends to be a SAH-mom (and vice versa).  Would socio-economic levels make a difference? Would they find out the “Mommy Wars” is merely hype. Or would they discover a big divide?

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When Is It Enough?

Thoughts on the Connecticut elementary school shooting: 

Mr. Obama said today that “we have been through this too many times” and “that “we are going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

When will that day come? It did not come after the 1999 Columbine shooting, or the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, or the murders in Aurora.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/opinion/death-in-connecticut.html?hp&_r=0

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In China, on the same day as the connecticut tragedy, a man wounded 22 schoolchildren and 1 adult.  Another country, another example of insanity, but the difference is that he had a knife and wounded the kids.  Say what you will about China but it’s not easy to get your hands on assault rifles.  Would you rather have a wounded child or a dead one?

Europe has tougher laws on guns as well. And while similar crimes can happen, it’s a true rarity. 

I hate that the gun advocates have such influence on our society…can’t we just toughen the laws and see if it helps to reduce these atrocities? What we have now doesn’t work.

When is it finally going to be enough?

 

 

Useless Financial Advice

The June 2012 issue of Smartmoney magazine featured two popular types of finance articles – a how-to piece about saving money on health care and an interview with a policy expert about rethinking retirement.  Both of these are big topics in the world of finance; after all rising health care costs and inadequate retirement savings are two things that affect each and every one of us at some point.

I admit that the health care article was thoroughly researched.  In addition to standard advice about negotiating with your doctor and finding cheaper meds via mail-order or getting generics, it has some tips for questioning tests ordered by your doctor, going to physical therapy and timing your dental work in one calendar year to save on your federal tax bill (provided your medical bills exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income).

The interview with psychologist Laura Carstensen, an expert on aging, focuses on making the most of retirement.  She offers several “solutions” for overburdened social security system, from increasing the retirement age to creating a “phased retirement” based upon a moderately paced career path with more flexible schedules (assuming this will cause less burn-out and allow us to enjoy work longer).

In my opinion, these types of advice articles, and there are many similar ones that periodically crop up in print and online, are practically worthless because they ignore real solutions that would actually help the majority of people. 

I understand that there are times you can negotiate with your doctors and hospitals.  However, when you’re really, really sick or your loved one is truly sick and facing astronomical costs, are you in a frame of mind to negotiate care and bills?  Most people are not and should not have to. When my European friends have to undergo major surgery or treatments, all they have to focus on is getting better or caring for their loved ones.  When you’re scared and facing new and complex medical terminology, the last thing you want to think about is how you’re going to pay for care.   These types of articles ignore the human side of things, as if it’s negotiating for medical care is the same as a cable bill!  You can throw all the great advice about getting a detailed bill and scanning for medical overcharges but who the hell wants to deal with that during a time of crisis? (And while I’m ranting, who the hell has the time to figure out if their anesthesiologist is also “in network” like their doctor or hospital?)

A friend had a child in intensive care, racking up hundreds of thousands in bills.  Although she had insurance, she still had to pay quite a lot out of pocket.  The worse part is that she did not bring home a completely healthy child.  As she received mysterious bill after bill, she also had to focus on caring for her sick child.  I’ve read similar stories of parents desperately fundraising for their child’s care.  I can’t believe that anyone should have to worry about finances at a time like that.  It’s fine that some people pay more for cable or airplane tickets because they’re bad at negotiating or comparison shopping.  However, this should not be a consideration when it comes to essentials like health care.

In the retirement article, one key point is that we must work longer to make our finances last longer.  The interview states that 88% of people 65 to 74 are healthy enough to work.  Great advice, in theory.  The reality is that the majority of older people who want to work longer simply can’t.  While some climb high enough up the ladder to enjoy respect or can jump into consulting, many more people face age discrimination and are the first to be laid off.  It’s great that 88% of older people could work; however, how many companies are eager to hire these people? The expert also states that longer careers would be possible if we all didn’t work so hard in the “middle” years.   While  I do know people who have opted out to go back to school, which is not really a break, or to travel, most people who ramp down or opt out of work do so to care for kids or parents.   The majority of these people don’t find great jobs after their “break”.  I’m not saying that we can keep the current retirement age or benefits as is, but the typical solutions given in money magazines are not very realistic either.

The lack of reality is what bothers me most about discussions addressing health care in the U.S. and retirement.  They seem to be made by the upper echelons who have little or much less to worry about in terms of finances, with little regard for how the majority of people will be affected.

I’m even more bothered that many regular middle-income people I know seem to feel the same way, especially if they haven’t been personally affected by serious health issues or reached retirement age.  I want to know if they will feel the same if/when they face a serious illness or if they have a sick child.  And when they reach age 70, I wonder if they will re-think how great or easy it will be to work longer….maybe they’ll get lucky and Walmart needs a greeter.

Fear Of A Good Rant

It’s funny. Some of my favorite bloggers write very good, no-holds barred rants on topics ranging from over-the-top party planners to hated celebrities.  And it goes without saying that some of my favorites posts on a multitude of blogs are rants.   Yet everytime I start writing “rant” type posts, I either don’t finish or post a rather watered-down version. 

Here’s how it typically goes:

Step One: Pick A Topic:  My go-to target is Gwneyth Paltrow and GOOP.  I start my rant.  She’s an easy topic for me or for anyone for that matter. Who doesn’t laugh at a privileged white rich girl married to a rock star who decides to dispense advice to the masses?  Anyway, I decided to subscribe to the GOOP newsletter so I can get a first-hand peek at her life.  There is plenty of fodder for rants.  A recent newsletter highlighted a friend dropping by for dinner, only that friend isn’t an unemployed buddy from college like it might be for us regular folks.  That friend is a world famous Spanish chef who makes authentic paella and a few recipes with pate and truffles! 

Step Two: Write Fast: Usually when I feel like ranting, I go on a roll.  I can’t type fast enough to capture my own thoughts.

Step Three: Self-Censorship or Decimate Original Article: After letting my draft sit in the queue for a few days, I start deleting more hurtful words or sentences.  I may even clarify sentences that seem to harsh.  Example: If I write a particularly mean-spirited sentence about Gwyneth Paltrow,  I will add something like, “She probably doesn’t even realize this due to her pampered upbringing”.   I might even add a praise or two, as: “While I think she’s a talented actress and enjoyed her work in Sliding Doors and Shakespeare in Love…”  See, where I’m going?

It’s as if I expect Gwyneth Paltrow or the head of her fan club to stumble upon my blog!  And even so, it’s not like I really care or should really care if I offend someone. That’s the beauty of a good rant, right?

Another problem is that I tend to see the gray in everything.  I do think some of the tips in the GOOP newsletter are helpful.  I do think Gwyneth Paltrow has good fashion sense. 

Step Four: Publish a watered-down rant, which I probably would only describe as random thoughts, or don’t post at all.  (Example 1: I wanted to title a post “I Hate My Dogs” and then changed it to “Sometimes I Hate Having Dogs.”; Example 2: I wanted to say “I Hate Foodies” but changed the title and shortened the post to the less offensive “Don’t Call Me A Foodie.”)

Anyway, as I work on making this blog more honest, I will attempt to write a few good rants now and then.  If you knew me in real life, you’d know that’s more my style than the polite version you get here!

Do you love to read or write rants?

Another Reason To Hate My Dogs

A while back, I wrote about how much I hate having dogs.  Now I have yet another reason. We’re looking for a place closer to my job and parents. This would make the quality of our lives, especially mine, so much better.  No more long commute.  More parental help! A better neighborhood. Better schools for our kids.  I would be less stressed.  I would see my kids more!  We could walk around our neighborhood.  I would have time to cook and we can both do more fun things together.  My husband wouldn’t have to put up with my complaints as often.  Did I mention reducing my 1 hour each way commute from hell??  I’m even willing to pay higher rent for all these advantages.

The problem is that our options are severely limited due to ownership of 2 large dogs.  The average rent goes up by about $300, give or take.   This is not a small matter — I’m talking about an extra “dog penalty” of $300 or more in addition to a $500+ rent increase for moving to a better neighborhood.  I’m willing to pay $400 – 500 more for a better area / schools, but another $300 – 400 just for dogs!?  Not sure sure if we can swing it or if we can, I will curse them in my dying days when I’m old and eating dog food due to inability to save a penny because of these dogs.  A bigger problem is that many landlords are willing to accept one small dog, but not two big ones, even with extra security deposits. 

At this moment, I wish we did not own dogs.  (No lectures please….We’re too responsible to abandon them and on most days, I truly think they’re a part of our family.)

Do you ever think about the cost of your dogs?

Have You Eaten Pink Slime?

“Pink Slime” are trimmings that come from the parts of a cow most susceptible to contamination due to exposure to fecal matter, and was not considered fit for human consumption years ago.  Unfortunately the U.S. food industry found a solution that involved “treating” these trimmings with ammonia gas to kill germs.   Despite consumer concerns, the United States Department of Agriculture refused to stop this practice or at least make companies identify this process on food labels until a recent uproar due to ABC news coverage and this online petition.

The uproar concerned the use of pink slime in school lunches, which is a major problem, but it’s an issue that affects everybody.  One of my favorite recipes is ragu sauce with ground beef.  Luckily I’ve been choosing the organic ground beef and this confirms organic is the safer way to go.  Still, according to the ABC news video I saw, while organic is probably safe, the safest option is watching the butcher grind the beef for you.   The good thing is that major retailers are finally beginning to act in response to consumer demands.   

So far, the following have agreed to stop carrying products with pink slime:

  • Safeway
  • SUPERVALU, which operates Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher’s, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw’s/Star Market, Shop ‘n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy
  • Food Lion
  • Walmart
  • Sam’s Club

Pink slime is NOT in ground turkey or chicken, so I may start using that for my meat sauces and hamburgers.   Those are healthier options anyway!   Pink slime  is also in some processed meats.

Parental Leave

It’s hard for me to write a coherent post about the lack of paid maternity (or parental leave) in the U.S.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re very short-sighted about the whole thing compared to Europe and most industrialized countries.  While we pay lip service to the importance of family, our policies (or lack of) work against families, especially those with working parents.  Until this changes, individuals have to make the best of it and more often than not, women quit the workforce out of frustration and lack of support.  (Of course I think a part of this has to do with the fact that many people simply feel that women should stay home).

I believe that  the U.S. had at least 6 months of paid maternity leave (1 year would be ideal and also with paid paternity leave).  I think at least 6 months is needed in order to coincide with 6-months of breastfeeding, which is the minimum recommended by pediatricians.  I can honestly say that a huge part of the reason I quit breastfeeding is that I could not muster the energy to pump at work while juggling meetings and deadlines.  And even if you don’t pity me and fellow white collar professionals, I know that it’s impossible for those in the service industries to pump and work.  Pumping takes time and flexibility, which is often lacking in job situations.  Just six months would allow working moms to provide infants with the best nutrition (I’m not “against” formula but do believe that it’s best to give breast milk). 

Working Mother magazine is trying to address this with an effort to get Congress to enact a law on parental leave by 2015 that will benefit women and their families.  You can read details here. (Truthfully I would do more but anything is better than nothing.)

What’s your story?  Would a longer and/or paid maternity leave had made it easier to return to work?  I’m certain a longer leave would have made it easier for me.  After 6 months, I was finally getting sleep and rest again.  After 6 months to a year, it’s a bit easier to leave an infant with caretakers.

Spread the word, and let’s act collectively to help ALL women and families…