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Feb 21 2014

Since Becoming Pregnant, I’ve Given Myself Permission to Recline

By at 12:44 pm

permission-to-relax

The surprising thing about living on an island is just how much there is to do. Once my husband and I bought a house and made a long-term commitment to life on North Haven, we became a hot commodity. In addition to our jobs (teaching for me, plumbing and now programming at our community center for my husband), we serve in town government, volunteer with the ambulance crew, teach music lessons, and attempt to maintain a social life. I direct three or four plays each year, for which my husband either acts or does the sound design or both. I teach Pilates at the Y, and in the summer, ostensibly my time off, I open a small bakery and breakfast café.

That’s the way we like it. Neither of us is at our best with a lot of leisure time, and it’s not like there are a lot of places to go here to have a meal out or see a show. Typically if we have downtime at the same time we’ll go for a long walk, snowshoe, or kayak. Maybe we’ll learn a new piece of music or write and record a song. My workday ends at noon on Friday, and when I don’t have to get on the ferry for a prenatal checkup, I make a point of cleaning the bathrooms. Since sitting gets such a bad rap these days, with articles popping up all over the Internet claiming it’s as bad for you as smoking, being busy seems to make a lot of sense. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 14 2013

Should I Feel Guilty About My Kids’ Financial Aid?

By at 12:07 pm

scholarship application

Whatever my kids do, be it school or extracurricular activities, they are either on financial aid, a merit scholarship, or work/study (i.e. they study while I work for the organizations in question).

We simply wouldn’t be able to afford Jewish Day School or after school classes any other way.

The rule of thumb, as I understand it, is that you’re not supposed to tell kids that they’re on financial aid. You don’t want them to feel different.

I want them to feel different. I want them to understand and appreciate that the privileges they have are thanks to some very generous people contributing more than their own fair share, so that my kids can enjoy the same advantages as theirs. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 15 2013

Why My Son Won’t Be Getting New Thomas the Train Underwear

By at 12:17 pm

thomas the train underwearPotty-training makes you do weird things. I tote oversized handbags around town, filled with spare changes of clothes and super-absorbent camping towels. I keep in the car a portable self-sealing potty which can contain waste should we need to make an emergency roadside stop. (We’ve never used it, but just in case…) I’ve attached a watch-like timer to our backpack so that the little guy is reminded by a song to visit a restroom every 90 minutes. My husband and I have rewarded our son with stickers, silly noises, and painting his toenails.

One of the most awkward choices of this parenting adventure involved a major compromise of my values–a visit to Walmart. For years, Walmart has been a place where we only purchase things we cannot find elsewhere. I avoid Walmart due to its poor treatment of female employees, active discouragement of unions and collective worker protections, and the deleterious effects its business model has on the economies of rural and small-town areas. As a Jew, fair and respectful treatment of workers is a weighty, holy obligation. The Torah mandates prompt payment for labor performed. Employers cannot expect employees to defer their own basic needs in order to acquire work. Our courts must mete out justice to the rich and poor even-handedly. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 9 2013

Learning to Dress Like a Grown Up

By at 10:46 am

closetAt a recent professional conference we broke the ice with a rousing game of “two truths and a lie.” My shocking truth that fooled them all? I can get ready for work in less than four minutes. I should have guessed by the gasps that this wasn’t something to be proud of.

I’m a working mom with one son in grade school and another in preschool. On a typical morning during the school year I wake up, do dishes, rouse the kids, feed them breakfast, get them dressed, make their lunches, pack their backpacks and only then, in the few last minutes before we make a mad dash for the bus, figure out what I’m wearing that day. If it’s clean, matches, and basically fits, it’s a win.

It’s not just about the kids, though it’s certainly exacerbated the situation. The truth is, I’ve always been low maintenance. It was a point of pride–shopping and fashion were vanity, style without substance, right? Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 26 2012

My Husband Works for a Porn Site (And I’m Okay With It)

By at 4:25 pm

My husband works for a porn site.

There was some question when he was first considering working there whether it was really a porn site, as it bills itself as “a celebrity nudity site.” If you’ve ever seen the movie “Knocked Up,” Mr. Skin is the real life version of what Seth Rogen’s character had planned. So it’s a little classier than an actual porn site. But the site hosts porn advertisements and no matter how you slice it, the site promotes images of naked women.

And I am completely supportive. When my husband gave notice to his old job, his old co-workers wanted to know why his wife was okay with this. It actually had never occurred to me not to be. I don’t have a moral issue with porn. In many ways I think we are too repressed about bodies. In Europe it is completely acceptable to sunbathe topless. Maybe it’s all these months of breastfeeding, but breasts no longer seem like a big deal to me. I also recognize that life isn’t always easy: people may be lonely, have sexual problems, or some other issue. If images of naked women make them happier, then so be it. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 14 2012

Why Are We Never Called “Working Dads”?

By at 2:52 pm

retro business menGentlewomen of the jury: I used to spend time with my kids. Honestly. Lots of time. Backyard-soccer-and-creating-family-newspapers-and-weird-board-games kind of time.

Don’t do that so much anymore.

Nowadays, when we do fun stuff, like this Gordon Family Pie Fight, it has to be scheduled after office hours or on the weekend.

Y’see, for the last decade or so, I had been a freelance writer and editor, working most of the time at home. Then, in January 2011, I got a full-time office job.

Back in the vocational day, I pretty much always had time to drop off and pick the pishers up at school. I would also hang out and have a cup of Keurig Coffee with our day school‘s cool admissions officer (Boker Tov!) in the mornings. My kids and I would play endless games of run-from-the-monster on the playground afterschool. If someone forgot a book or a lunch, I could easily tear back home and deliver it to the appropriate school locker. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 19 2011

“The Law Does Not Mandate Work-Life Balance”

By at 11:03 am

A group of women working for Bloomberg LP (the company founded by Mayor Bloomberg) sued their employer a number of years back claiming that the company routinely discriminated against mothers and mothers-to-be by reducing their pay, demoting them, or excluding them from important meetings.

That lawsuit was shot down yesterday by a female judge who also provided a nice slap in the face explaining that the law does not mandate work-life balance.

“A female employee is free to choose to dedicate herself to the company at any cost, and, so far as this record suggests, she will rise in this organization accordingly,” she wrote. “The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life.”

Ouch.

There’s something wrong in this country and we can’t figure out how to right it. Our maternity leave policies are atrocious and little to no accommodations are made for working parents. Basically, being a working parent in this country kind of sucks.

I recently attend the annual BlogHer conference in San Diego where nearly 4,000 ladies convened. Many of the women there were moms who had left their jobs and turned to blogging with the dream of making it big one day like the goddess of mommy bloggers  Heather Armstrong or the Pioneer Woman.

Many women at the conference were there with hands out, trying to figure out how to turn their pet project into a profitable business. And for most of them, they can’t. (Though we did all go home with nice nice face creams, toothpaste, and Tupperware.)

My point being, we need a new model where women can choose to leave the workforce (though many of us can’t) as opposed to feeling pushed out.

So, on this lead up to the day of rest, I’m dedicating today to work. (I mean, what y’all think about work, not to me actually doing any.)

Stay tuned.

Aug 18 2011

Taking My Kids To Work

By at 3:08 pm

baby in briefcaseI know that many of us are struggling with how to be very present moms, and to do meaningful work outside of our homes at the same time. This delicate balance is thrown totally off kilter (for me at least) in the summertime.

After sending my son to camp for a few weeks (who can afford that kind of cash outlay for the whole summer?) I decided that we would have camp at home in the mornings with activities and fun outings, and in the afternoons, I would sit down to do some work. But I’m finding that meetings can’t always happen in the discreet 5 hour block I have each afternoon.

So, when a meeting creeps up in the morning, and I have to tote my two kids along, it is not pretty.

This morning, I thought I had it all worked out. Snacks, check. Array of DVDs, check. Art supplies, check. After 20 minutes of sitting quietly, my 3-year-old got bored (while DVDs are a fun treat when he wants them, they can turn into a punishment when I want him to want them.) While my colleagues were very generous, I figured they could only endure my children’s “cuteness” for so long. The morning reached its disruptive peak when my son decided to go to the bathroom on his own (“I want my privacy imma”) and then proceeded to run out of the bathroom half naked, sit on the newly upholstered chairs, and then go out the front door to test if the grease on a bike chain would leave a mark on his hands (it did). He then came back in and scampered about the room with the threat of his greasy hands taunting white walls and tan summer clothes.

After a few sharp barks (not my finest moment as a mom), the meeting was over (at least my part in it) and we headed home, my 3-year-old in one arm and 9-month-old (who was happily entertained by all the commotion) in the other. When we got home, I realized that this wasn’t working. I need to set up things so that my children (and I) can succeed. Bringing them to my meetings is not the way. When noon rolled around and my babysitter arrived, I was eager to get to work. Funny enough, she brought her 8-year old son to work with her.

Aug 11 2011

Mayim Bialik Heads Back To Work

By at 11:05 am

Mayim Bialik on the set of Big Bang Theory. Image Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

The Big Bang Theory filming season starts this week and I am thrilled to be starting my second full season with this fantastically quirky and immensely beloved show. This is my first season as a “regular” and although I don’t work every week, this will be an interesting and somewhat challenging time for our family. My husband stays home with our homeschooled almost 6- and almost 3-year-old sons and Mama going back to work is big news in this house.

Here’s the range of thoughts I am currently experiencing:

1. Starting work again after a hiatus is always exciting. We have no clue what our writers have in store for us, two of our lead actors (Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki) are nominated for Best Actor Emmys , our show is nominated for the first time as Outstanding Comedy, and I love working with my castmates, especially my buddy on set, Melissa Rauch.

2. Leaving my boys after a full summer makes me wonder what rhythms will emerge without me by their side. As they get older, I thought leaving to go to work would be easier. After all, they are more cognitive, more reasonable, and more practical, I reasoned. They understand that Mama works to make money for the things we need and the things we want and they are happy and content with their father and our wonderful homeschool community. However, older also means more expressive: “Mama, don’t go to work.” Older means more explicit: “Mama, I miss you when you are gone.” And older means more passionate: “Mama, I am angry when you leave.”

3. Being at work means “alone” time sitting in a small dressing room with a phone, a laptop, and my thoughts. I will likely get a lot of writing done–my book is done, so maybe I should start a new one with all of my spare time!?–meaning a lot more blogs being written, I will have time to study with my chevrusa (study partner) at a time other than in the wee hours of night since I will have flexibility to talk to her from work, I will have the ability to take advantage of all of the amazing fresh fruit on set and thus can do a raw cleanse (yay!), and I will also have a lot of time on the internet to research homeschool stuff for our boys.

4. My time is not my own anymore. The time I get home is determined by people I respect and admire, who don’t know how well I can cut a potato into french fry-like strips. My schedule revolves around the show business machine of comedy, which knows not the machine of a household. And my life is one of a shift that working parents everywhere know well.

5. I know my job may not look anything like yours, but the tension I feel is the same as yours, I promise you: to be pulled in these different directions is a mighty pull, and to love not only your children, but also your choices is a love I am grateful and working hard to navigate.

May 17 2011

Have Children, Half Salary?

By at 12:04 pm

Is there an economic cost to becoming a mother?

A recent research project from Harvard, Columbia, and NYU professors tried to figure that out. Professors researched whether that cost of becoming a mother is affected by either the skill level or the age of the woman when she has kids. The conclusion is striking.

Apparently, the more skills you have, the more you pay for having had a kid – but the longer you wait to have a kid (if you’re high-skilled), the smaller your economic sacrifice will be.

If you’re a high-skilled woman, your wage trajectory will flatten out at roughly the same exact second that you have a child. Ten years after having had your kid, your wages will be 24% lower than your counterpart’s. Whether you’re a high- or low-skilled man, becoming a parent will have no effect whatsoever on your wages.

Yeah, all that sounds really fair. Think you’re exempt because you just took maternity leave and went right back to full-time work? No, you aren’t.

So why was this study so dramatic? Largely because it looks at wage growth, not just the actual money going into the paycheck –so you can see how quickly the salaries of these women were growing before they had kids, and then look at what happened after. Also, it notes that women who have children are generally on a different wage path than their childless counterparts.

To me, all this reflects certain unpleasant realities as to American child raising. There is no reason why an educated, smart parent shouldn’t be able opt to put their professional degrees on hold in order to be with their child. But there are plenty of reasons, in fact, as to why they can’t – debt, poor parental leave alternatives, and a situation in which the attitudes toward working men and working women are extremely different from what we’d hope they’d be.

What do you think – are you surprised by these results? What do they say to you? What kind of financial sacrifices did you have to make in order to become a parent?

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