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The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Public versus Private Ed: Who’s Really the Bad Guy Here?



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I wanted to ignore the obviously ill-conceived rant, which the author dubbed a “manifesto,” about parents who send their children to private school being “bad” people. Nancy French had already written on its folly, and members of the National Review staff had already piled on — big time — on Twitter:

Jonah Goldberg: “If we had no public schools, but required education, then everybody could go to private school! Boom. Everyone could be equally bad.”

The more polite of two tweets from Charles C.W. Cooke: “Schools are provided for all. This doesn’t mean you are obliged to use them. The norm isn’t using state services, it is not using them.”

Jim Geraghty: “If You Denounce a Large Segment of the Public as ‘Bad’, Based on One Decision That’s None of Your Business, in Slate, You Are a Bad Person.”

Kevin D. Williamson: “If you live in the suburbs rather than a dangerous ghetto, you are a bad person.”

But my husband, Jim, and I take this as a personal affront, as we have seven children who have attended both private and public schools. Currently, of those under 18, four are in public school and one is in private. But if we could afford to send all of them to private school, we would. That does not make us “bad.” From my husband’s own great post on the matter over on AEIdeas:

I certainly don’t want to spend much time refuting writer Allison Benedikt’s fact-free, data-free “argument”: If more upper-middle class and wealthy parents — a.k.a. Slate readers, I guess — sent their kids to their local public schools, the U.S. education system would suddenly improve.

…Aren’t the “bad people” — to use Benedikt’s language — here the ones who would trap lower-income and poor kids in their local education monopoly? Or as Alex Tabarrok puts it: “Barricading parents into the poor schools their government offers them is like barricading people into communist East Germany.”

Tabarrok also notes that merely having more activist parents inside a school monopoly might not change much without competition: “When you complain of delay, where is your voice more likely to be heard; at a restaurant or at the department of motor vehicles? It’s the threat of exit that makes people listen.”

Jim also points out that public schools are failing partly because they are residentially assigned, and mentions the study that shows that there is more bang for the public buck when kids are given vouchers to attend private schools.

I myself would like to add to the list of those who are truly the “bad” people in education: the union bosses that fool taxpayers, including their fellow members, into believing that they are fighting for the interests of the children; the teachers who throw a videotape into a machine, spend the rest of the class texting, and consider that “instructing”; the liberal politicians who scare good teachers into rallying against teaching standards (intended to weed out the truly awful teachers) by making them believe everyone is at risk of losing their jobs. The list goes on and on.

We cannot stand by as the Left throws labels at those who understand what will truly make a difference in public education. We all need to bone up on the facts, push back, and not allow them to control the conversation anymore.

 

 

If You Send Your Kid to Private School, Are You a Bad Person?



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Allison Benedikt over at Slate has a provocative manifesto about how parents who send their kids to private school are basically evil. Her reasoning is that we all have to be in it together or the whole system falls apart. After watching movies like Waiting for Superman and Won’t Back Down, I think we can all agree that the public schools are in sad shape. We should agonize over their condition and work to figure out appropriate solutions to the underlying problems.

 

However, I think the flaws in Ms. Benedikt’s article are pretty obvious:

You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good. (Yes, rich people might cluster. But rich people will always find a way to game the system: That shouldn’t be an argument against an all-in approach to public education any more than it is a case against single-payer health care.)

So, how would this work exactly? It’s simple! Everyone needs to be invested in our public schools in order for them to get better. Not just lip-service investment, or property tax investment, but real flesh-and-blood-offspring investment. Your local school stinks but you don’t send your child there? Then its badness is just something you deplore in the abstract. Your local school stinks and you do send your child there? I bet you are going to do everything within your power to make it better.

She goes on to admit her ignorance after having been taught in a public school, but assures us she’s overcome her lack of education:

I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either. You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine.

But here is my favorite line:

Also remember that there’s more to education than what’s taught. . . . Reading Walt Whitman in ninth grade changed the way you see the world? Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me. In fact it’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about public schools.

Funny, that’s one of the reasons why I feel so strongly about sending my kids to a private Christian school. 

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A Mom Responds Thoughtfully to Hateful Letter about Her Autistic Son



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I had hoped it was a hoax. Could someone really write such an uncharitable, downright hateful letter to a mom who clearly had a lot on her plate already? Here is just a taste from the anonymous coward who placed a letter under the door of a mom with an autistic son:

He is a hindrance to everyone and will always be that way!!!!! . . .  I HATE people like you who believe, just because you have a special needs kid, you are entitled to special treatment!!! . . . Do the right thing and move or euthanize him!!!

Pretty hard to turn the other cheek on that one. But the mom graciously responded through a blog for parents with special-needs children:

I will not stoop to an insulting level. What I have to say is about tolerance, acceptance and respect for kids with special needs. . . .

People with special needs are people first. They have every right others do. Instead of glares, I wish people would give smiles. Instead of anger toward parents, I wish people would be more understanding. Trust me, if there’s behavior ruining someone else’s day, it’s ruining mine and I want to deal with it! . . .

Of course, we wonder about Max’s future, whether he will ever live alone or get married. What will be will be. Everyone has a place in the world. Some people are meant to hold big jobs. Some people make you happy and smile. Max brings pure joy and love. He has taught me to slow down and appreciate life, as seen through his eyes. He’s taught us what’s important. . . .

Read the entire response here.

Karla Begley and her 13-year-old son, Max

 

 

On the Pregnancy and Fertility Fronts



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New types of DNA, amniotic, and maternal-blood testing leads to more prenatal diagnoses, but not necessarily more certainty. And the increase in prenatal testing is taking its toll on parents’ nerves.

A new at-home test gives an estimate of how many weeks you’ve been pregnant.

Over at Slate, some suggestions about which pregnancy studies are legitimate.

More and more young cancer patients are considering their fertility options prior to treatment.

The latest options for male infertility, which has several causes.

 

 

Companies Vie for Spots on Back-to-School Lists



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Whether it’s through a ready-made list, or by offering coupons and freebies, companies are all vying for the attention of teachers and parents looking to purchase school supplies this time of year. From the Wall Street Journal.

The school supplies list that fifth-grade teacher Judy Chase-Marshall put together for her students this year includes tissues, glue sticks, scissors and hand wipes. To be more specific, it includes Kleenex tissues, Elmer’s glue, Westcott scissors and Wet Ones hand wipes.

She made the classroom “wish list” using TeacherLists.com, a website that posts more than 300,000 back-to-school lists from around the country and is sponsored by the brands it suggests teachers add to their lists, like Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s Kleenex.

Teachers can then share the list with parents using the website. The key back-to-school shopping season is in full swing, and it’s offering a lesson in how deep into the trenches consumer-products companies will go to win market share and cement affinities for their brands.

Companies sponsor websites, offer freebies and hold sweepstakes that could win schools more of their products. They show up at education conferences and provide teachers with project ideas and lesson plans that incorporate their products. Some also donate supplies or money to schools…

With American families spending more than $26 billion, and many companies making 40 to 50 percent of their annual profits during the back-to-school season, it’s no wonder the competition is fierce. More here.

 

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A New Superhero for Girls’ Education



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A children’s animated series premiered in Pakistan last month, with a strong female character fighting for the rights of Islamic girls. “Burka Avenger” takes down the bad guys with books and pens:

She was not born into royalty. She does not obsess about her beauty. And she definitely does not want or need to be whisked off on some white horse or magic carpet.

No, Jiya, or the Burka Avenger, is too busy defending women’s rights and education for all. Her weapon of choice against corrupt politicians and Taliban fundamentalists who try to stop her? Books and pens.

Now that’s what I call a role model for girls.

While the reaction has been mostly positive, there were some concerns that the heroine is still wearing a garment considered oppressive. Faiza S. Khan had this to say about any backlash: 

A working woman is seen deciding to put on a burka to hide her face to go beat up bad people without getting caught, and we’re stuck on “Why a burka?” God help feminism, for that day has arrived when feminists are more concerned with what’s on a woman’s head than with what’s in it. It is, after all, possible that Burka Avenger may provide some inspiration, some hope to young girls made to cover themselves up against their will that women’s lives in similarly constrained situations have potentially more to offer. The debate about what the burka signifies has always been surprisingly low on concern for and resistant to knowledge about the women who actually wear them.

Though currently the four episodes are only available in Urdu, with English subtitles, there are plans to release the series in English, too. Here is a trailer for the series in English: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ugh. Do I *Have* to Comment on Miley?



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I mean, Kathryn Jean Lopez not only had her own take, but she linked to an even better one. And Victor Davis Hanson presented a learned comparison to the ancient Romans. And the Parents Television Council released a scathing rebuke

It seemed like a big joke. Miley in that goofy hairdo, that “u-g-l-y, you ain’t got no alibi” furry leotard, and the unflattering skimpy bathing suit “peforming” in a manner suggesting she was merely checking off a list of vulgar acts. Even the dancing teddy bears looked like they didn’t want to be there. This was clearly an act of sabotage by a rival pop artist, right?

But sadly, I can just imagine that Miley’s people are all around her, pointing out that it was she that everyone was talking about. Not Lady Gaga’s seas shells, not Katy Perry’s . . . ummm, I haven’t even heard what. “No, Miley, you are all the buzz.” Forget that the buzz is negative. She will not learn the lesson here. Unless she has an enormous epiphany, we can look forward to even more awkward crotch-grabbing.

I wanted simply to ignore her. Not paying attention to the desperate child begging to be looked at is the only way to make her stop. But instead, not only do we get headline after headline, story after story, we get what even Mika Brzezinski called out: Reports that seem to take the youngster to task, but keep showing the images over and over.

What is a parent to do? Well, I’m not even bothering to show my girls what has become of their former favorite TV star. No need for a cautionary tale that will never apply to them. Why shatter their dreams about pop idols? After gladly purchasing her last two hits, we will not be buying any more. Miley would rather be an “edgy artiste” with dismal record sales than a harmless hitmaker? Go ahead, let her stand in line behind Gaga, Perry, Spears, Madonna, Aguilera, Ke$ha, Shakira, ad nauseum (literally). My girls are too busy buying Taylor Swift’s latest album to notice.

UPDATE: As predicted, more crotch-grabbing. And so soon…

 

Though I’m not thrilled with the plunging neckline, Taylor Swift showed everyone that even when attending what is usually the most outrageous award show, fashion-wise, you can still look classy.

The Sad, Boring Fall of Miley Cyrus



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Confession: my family starred in The Hannah Montana Movie.  Okay, maybe “starred” isn’t technically the right word. We were in the climactic scene as “extras.” If you look closely and freeze the frame when Miley is singing to “save Crowley Corners” from evil developers, you might be able to pick us out of the hundreds of other people in the crowd of “Tennesseans who understand what really matters in life.”  I was holding David’s hand, wearing a hat, and my kids were wilting under the hot, summer sun. There may have been tears.

From my kids, too.

Of course, that was a simpler time, and much has transpired for the pop star Miley Cyrus since she sang the “Hoedown Throwdown.” 

Recently, the media has been abuzz about her bizarre performance at the VMA awards, which caused me to write about how we should react to such a display.

While some express outrage and others express disgust, I believe the most effective response is a gigantic yawn. There’s nothing original, clever, or entertaining about her slide away from virtue. In fact, she’s so ridiculous that one’s immediate reaction is, “Someone’s got to finally say, ‘The emperor has no clothes!’”  Except, of course, Miley is fully aware that she has no clothes.

Plus, she’s hardly an emperor. The little power she has over the minds and hearts of her adoring public is slipping away, so she’s forced to do more and more outrageous things to stay in the news. I’ve used her example to talk to the kids about the effects of fame, but that’s about it. There are no more life lessons to pull from watching Miley delve deeper into depravity.

In other words, it’s sad but boring.

- See more at: http://rare.us/story/french-the-sad-boring-fall-of-miley-cyrus/#sthash.y...

While some express outrage and others express disgust, I believe the most effective response is a gigantic yawn. There’s nothing original, clever, or entertaining about her slide away from virtue. In fact, she’s so ridiculous that one’s immediate reaction is, “Someone’s got to finally say, ‘The emperor has no clothes!’”  Except, of course, Miley is fully aware that she has no clothes.

Plus, she’s hardly an emperor. The little power she has over the minds and hearts of her adoring public is slipping away, so she’s forced to do more and more outrageous things to stay in the news. I’ve used her example to talk to the kids about the effects of fame, but that’s about it. There are no more life lessons to pull from watching Miley delve deeper into depravity.

In other words, it’s sad but boring.

- See more at: http://rare.us/story/french-the-sad-boring-fall-of-miley-cyrus/#sthash.y...

Trig Palin’s First Day of School



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What a great picture from Sarah Palin’s Facebook page:

“Millennials in the Workplace” Training Video



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If any of you have ever had to hire — and fire — millennials, you might need this handy “workplace training video” to help you navigate their world of iced coffee and ironic tee shirts:

 

This Football Player with Down Syndrome Could . . . Go . . . All . . . the . . . Way



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. . . and he does! Feel good video of the day. (And also check out the video at the bottom of that page showing a news feature from when he joined the team.)

On the Parental Angst Front



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Just listening to their own music can distract teens and cause accidents. (Let alone fiddling with the radio or iPod.)

Last year, 36 percent of millenials (age 18-31) were living with their parents

Sugary drinks — including fruit juice — cause weight gain in pre-schoolers

Two-year-old in daycare tests positive for marijuana

LinkedIn has dropped its minimum age to 14. (Sign your freshman up now before it’s too late!)

Attention, sports moms and dads: Brain changes can be detected a year after even a minor concussion.

Tornado Alley considers building school safe rooms.

Vanity Fair’s List of the Top Ten Best-Dressed Political Wives



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I’m sure it’s not easy being married to a politician, but some ladies manage to do it with style. Vanity Fair recently named the top ten best-dressed political wives, and these lovely honorees made the list: Ann Romney, Jill Biden, Cindy McCain, and Supriya Jindal.

See the entire bipartisan list here.

 

Hard Work, Ashton Kutcher, and Bristol Palin’s Quest for Jeans



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Colette, thanks for pointing out Ashton Kutcher’s amazing speech about the value of hard work. It’s great to see that that clip has generated a great deal of conversation. I sent the clip to Bristol Palin who loved his message of never being too good for a job. In response to Ashton’s message, in fact, she posted on her blog about how her mom made her work for that extra pair of jean she just “had to have.”

Since I was a kid, my parents taught me the value of work.  Mom, of course, was our town’s mayor, then  our state’s governor. She worked for a newspaper and tv station when I was very small. Dad has always been a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay, plus, for years he had a great job in the oil fields up on the North Slope. Through some of those years he also owned an outdoor recreation shop selling and fixing snowmachines, watercraft, boats, ATVs, etc. (He always had Willow on his hip there, because she wasn’t in school yet and she loved hanging out in the mechanic shop!)

Mom and Dad worked hard. We weren’t wealthy, but they took care of our needs.

Here was my problem – mom sometimes didn’t realize I “needed” more jeans.

“If you want designer jeans, that’s fine,” Mom told me,  “but you’re gonna work for them.”

That’s why I got my first “real” job (besides babysitting) that summer at an out-of-the-way café in Nordstrom’s in Anchorage – which gave me the company’s discount on clothes. Of course, by the time I’d pay for the gas to get to Anchorage, plus parking, and then take advantage of that discount, I was barely breaking even.

There were several coffee stands with little drive-throughs where customers pull up to order fancy hot coffees, and—hopefully—leave me a tip. I worked in many of them, serving lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, etc. I’d happily be grinding and brewing coffee at the Sunrise Coffee Shack, then after my shift I’d drive down the road to Café Croissant and pour more coffee in the afternoons during a second shift there. Then, about a year later, I got a job working at the Espresso Café about fifty feet down the road. (Alaska seems to have coffee shacks on every corner!) Since it was all basically just the same job – smile, take orders, make their caffeine-infused drinks – I don’t think my bosses were ever concerned about me sharing company secrets.

Beginning in 7th grade, I also worked at my grandparent’s L&M Ace Hardware store in Dillingham, about four hundred air miles southwest of Anchorage.  It’s owned by my dad’s mom, who’s like a mom to everyone in that fishing town. One day, I was cleaning the glass shelves that held the guns and knives. Willow was on one side of the glass and would not stop bugging me. I took the Windex and merely sprayed it in her general direction. I was a mile away from her, but she immediately started screaming, “My eyes! My eyes!” My Nana, sick of listening to us, grabbed us both by the arm and said, “That’s it! You’re going home!”

After I got fired by my own grandmother, Dad wasn’t going to let me get away with being a bad worker. The next night, he hauled us all out to work in his open-air commercial fishing skiff.  This was harder – and so much colder – than cleaning the gun cases, but I look back on these times of employment when I really learned how hard people have to work to make money.

Now, as an adult, I still carry those lessons with me.  No, I don’t fish every Bristol Bay season opener anymore (at least not putting in enough time on the water slaying salmon to make much money!). I’ve been working for four years now in a dermatology office – with the best coworkers ever, I’d add!

My parents have said they are so proud of their kids’ work ethic, and that adds to the pride we can take in working hard every single day. I hope you all have that confirmation from your family and friends that reminds you how important work is. And like Ashton suggested from the awards show stage, don’t feel like any job is beneath you. And don’t wait for that “perfect” job to come along before getting off the couch to make a paycheck. Better jobs will come along after you put in the grinding hours today, believe me, I know. I’m glad for my work lessons through these years.

And now, thankfully, I can buy my own jeans, Mom!

As a mom raising three kids who — hopefully — value hard work, this is a great reminder that it’s okay to take a page from Momma Grizzly’s playbook. Want those Legos? Grab a broom.

Why Dexter Is the Most Unintentionally Conservative Show on TV



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I had to turn away the first few times I watched the show — the whole “serial killer” thing creeped me out.  However, as Showtime’s Dexter is coming to a season close, I’m starting to realize that the show has some underlying conservative principles. I wrote about it recently for Rare magazine:

Nudity? Occasionally. Profanity? All the time. Dismemberment? Every episode.

The protagonist in Showtime’s controversial series “Dexter” is an unrepentant serial killer. The show, in its seventh and final season, is a darling of liberal viewers, while conservatives tend toward the less niche fare offered by the major networks. However, even with its morally complicated plot, “Dexter” is one of television’s most unintentionally conservative shows.

Why?  First you have to understand the backstory.

The young Dexter (Michael C. Hall) witnesses his mother’s murder in one of the bloodiest murders in Miami history. Harry, the police officer who works the crime, adopts the young boy and raises him as his own child. Soon, however, Harry (James Remar) is horrified to discover that Dexter has been killing neighborhood pets. Assuming the desire to kill must’ve originated upon witnessing his mom’s death — and believing he can’t control Dexter’s urge — he teaches his son to kill only those guilty of heinous crimes. In other words, Dexter becomes a vigilante — a Batman of sorts — for whom viewers unwittingly end up rooting.

The show is not “conservative” in the sense that you might want the church youth group to watch it for spiritual lessons. The show’s themes, however, are subversively conservative.

Read the three reasons why this Showtime series exhibits underlying conservative themes here.

Do any of you watch this show?  Do you agree with my assessment? 

Most important, how do you think the series will end?

 

Day-Care Workers Fired for Posting Pictures of Kids on Instagram



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A Facebook account I follow down here in Miami — WPLG Local 10 — posted this today:

FIRED FOR INSTAGRAM POSTS! Two daycare workers are out of their jobs after they were caught posting pictures of kids in their care… along with some comments parents say were inappropriate.

MORE INFO HERE: http://bit.ly/18HsTnN

What do you think? Did they deserve to be fired — or were their posts just harmless fun?

Um, yeah they deserved to be fired. Even if the comments weren’t inappropriate, there’s no reason why pictures of these kids should be posted on a public social-media site without the written permission of the parents. 

As for “harmless fun,” here’s an excerpt of what they posted:

Two Virginia day care workers have been fired after photos of children in their care showed up on Instagram — complete with comments making fun of them.

Melissa Jordan said she was angry when she saw what one staffer at the Heavenly Haven Learning Center 2 posted about her son Ethan.

In one photo, 2-year-old Ethan — who has delayed speech development — looks dejected sitting in a high chair.

The photo was posted by @mz_oneofakind — later identified as Jena Ferrel, who worked at the center, CNN affiliate WAVY reported.

“I’m sick of this s—!!!” she wrote in a caption.

“… He is thinking cuz sure can’t talk,” a day care manager chimed in, according to WAVY.

“Jerk” is too mild a description for these two.

 

Should American Grandparents Follow Chinese Example?



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In a piece titled Lean In, and Lean on Grandma” in the Washington Post, Kelly Yang points out that Chinese women do not suffer the angst of choosing between having a career and staying at home to raise their children largely thanks to grandparents providing childcare.

China can show [women] how it’s done. There, 51 percent of positions in senior management are held by women, and about 19 percent of its chief executives are women. In the United States, just 20 percent of senior managers and 4 percent of Fortune 500 chief executives are women. The explanation for China’s striking numbers is not the effect of some persuasive TED talk, best-selling book or even better access to affordable child care. Instead, it’s because, in China, the grandparents lean in.

According to the Shanghai Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission, 90 percent of young children in the city are being looked after by a grandparent. In China, it is not uncommon for maternal and paternal grandparents to split duties or travel long distances to help care for their grandchildren. The unofficial motto of these grandparents? Have passport, will babysit.

this author’s mother, to her credit, cares for three grandchildren to help further her daughter’s career. For most families in China, there are four grandparents who share a single grandchild, and they take turns providing care. But is this a model that would fly in America?

I know all kinds of grandparents, from the most hands-on to the most independent. And while American grandparents are helping out more and more — mostly financially, but also by providing living space and childcare — I don’t think there will be a big shift anytime soon. Too many grandparents would consider it a giant leap backwards to return to the days of childrearing. If they got through it without substantial assistance from their own parents, so can their children. Thanks in large part to the efforts of go-getting Baby Boomers, new geriatric frontiers are being explored that don’t involve caring for infants or toddlers.

And wouldn’t career women be reluctant to place such a huge burden on their parents or in-laws? After all the things our parents do for us, unless we are in true dire straits, do we really want our parents to spend their Golden Years helping us to crack through that corporate glass ceiling? Shouldn’t grandparenting be a blessing, not a full-time obligation? 

But who knows? Maybe toting a grandchild to the country-club golf course or on a hostel excursion will become the latest trend.

(On the other hand, this way of life may be why China has one of the lowest percentages of mothers who breastfeed. But that may be changing.)

Should Disney Princesses Depict ‘Reality’?



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A few months ago I joined those who objected to the overglamorized version of the heroine Merida from Brave on Disney’s website. While I don’t have a problem with a princess who is dressed to the nines, I preferred that the Scottish lass remain a rugged tomboy. But many moms struggle with whether or not it’s okay to expose our daughters to movies that tell tales of finding a prince and living happily ever after wearing a tiara and a ball gown.

But, of course, that is hardly what the Disney characters are all about, especially in more recent years. Sure it’s more of a stretch to make the feminist case for older movies like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, (although I believe they can be made), but ever since Ariel fought the villain side by side with her prince and Belle delighted in the world of literature while patiently calming a wild beast Disney has made a point with each subsequent leading lady to portray women of strength and independent means who sometimes happen to choose a princely mate. (And sometimes not.)

These are intended to be simple fairy tales, but that doesn’t stop haters from feeling they have to make a mockery of their divergence from reality. The latest is a photo series called “Fallen Princesses” that shows the Disney characters dealing with “real world” problems like obesity and cancer. But of course it also has to throw in not-so-ordinary problems like plastic surgery addiction and being a “cat lady.”

Snow White struggles to keep her head above water with several kids, and a prince who can’t find work.

 The photo I most take issue with is this one that shows Snow White with several small children and an “unemployed” husband. 

I don’t find it that hard to teach my daughters to distinguish between fantasy and reality. They don’t need in-your-face artists to tell them what the world is really like. And the example they will follow is the one that I, and the other strong women in their lives, have set for them. And, whether or not they face the future with a prince charming by their side as I did, they will know there is nothing wrong with escaping to a fantasy world now and again.

Teaching Our Teens to Find the Sweet Spot



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David French had a great post on The Corner yesterday in which he examined the way so many parents — and society at large — push kids to be “awesome.” He pointed out that the “cult of self-esteem” seems to be breeding a narcissistic generation that eschews hard work and true virtue. Even when meant well, as in the Evangelical crusade to “be awesome for others,” he believes we run the risk of having kids burn out. Better to teach the value of being faithful for its own sake.

While I don’t disagree entirely with this notion, I do think we can find a sweet spot between the two. And a very surprising spokesman for this idea came from what I would have thought was one of the least likely sources last Sunday.

Perhaps you heard about the acceptance speech that Ashton — aka Chris Kutcher — gave at the Teen Choice Awards. Maybe friends on Facebook posted a link and you thought “What could that Hollywood hunk possibly have to say that I would find relevant?” Well, he weighs in on three things: oppotunity, being sexy, and living life. Here’s hoping those squealing girls were paying attention. They just may have learned a few valuable lessons.

 

 

The Curious Case of High-Powered Moms Opting Back In



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You haven’t had the time to read Judith Warner’s lengthy New York Times article from last week about moms who “opted out” of high-powered, high-paying jobs to stay at home with their children — who are now looking to opt back in? I finally got around to it, and I pulled out what I think are the most interesting passages.

Ultimately, I always have a hard time with these stories. Though I was quite a go-getter as a young student, poor choices put me in the position of being quite happy to leave my drudge of a job and stay at home while my husband pursued his career path. So I can’t relate — as I imagine the majority of American women who work outside the home (at record levels) also can’t — to the experience of going from the corporate board room to the PTA board meeting.

I also can’t seem to relate to these marriages that suffer so much under the strain of everyday family life and end up in divorce. Though my marriage has had its struggles as we slogged through the quotidian duties of parenthood, there was never any doubt that we were in it together and would make it to the other side as strong as ever. Not judging those who have divorced (my first marriage didn’t last its first year), I just find it sad that so many couples lose their way.

That said, it is still interesting to find that most of these former power brokers don’t regret leaving the workforce (although they had some trouble adjusting to traditional gender roles) and — despite the frustrations they’ve experienced as they try to opt back in — few desire their old careers but instead are looking for a job with a sense of deeper fulfillment.

[The] desire to be emotionally present at home, Pamela Stone, the sociologist, told me, became more pressing over time for the women she interviewed, reshaping their ambitions when they decided to go back to work.

While two-thirds of the women she reinterviewed originally worked in male-dominated professions like banking or corporate law, now only a quarter are employed in traditionally masculine and hard-driving fields. The rest chose more female-dominated, and far less lucrative, “caring, nurturing occupations” like teaching or nonprofit work, Stone said. Only one of the women she interviewed had returned to her former employer (in a “vastly different capacity, much diminished,” she said); and all have scaled down their ambitions. . . .

Many of the women I spoke with were troubled by the gender-role traditionalism that crept into their marriages once they gave up work, transforming them from being their husbands’ intellectual equals into the one member of their partnership uniquely endowed with gifts for laundry or cooking and cleaning; a junior member of the household. . . .

The husbands hadn’t turned into ogres. Their intent was not to make their wives feel lesser. But when traditional gender arrangements were put into place, there was a subtle slide into inequality. “The dynamic changes,” said Hope Adler, a former manager at the professional-services firm KPMG who spent 10 years at home full time with her four children before starting work again and choosing to take a much-lower-paying job at a smaller consulting firm that allowed her to work some of the time from home. “When I worked at KPMG we did 50/50. . . Then once I started staying home, I was doing laundry, dinner. . . .” But once she started working again, the expectations remained the same. “There just doesn’t seem to be a way to go back,” she said.

…But most people don’t make life decisions based on statistics or the collective good. And not a single woman I spoke with said she wished that she could return to her old, pre-opting-out job – no matter what price she paid for her decision to stop working. What I heard instead were some regrets for what, in an ideal world, might have been – more time with their children combined with some sort of intellectually stimulating, respectably paying, advancement-permitting part-time work – but none for the high-powered professional lives that these women had led.

Warner also found that fathers are seeking to find the balance that their wives are striving for, but the current economy may be hindering their efforts. 

Men, too, are feeling the crunch of excessively demanding work. They now report more work-life stress than women do, according to the Families and Work Institute. They also may be penalized more than women if they try to accommodate their work schedules to the needs of their children, as research appearing in the June issue of The Journal of Social Issues shows. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that some husbands find themselves eyeing their wives’ lives at home with envy. “Men want to say we’re more than a paycheck,” Ted Mattox told me. “There has to be something more than going to work for 50 years and dying.”

To find time for that “something more,” husbands would need to join with their wives in rejecting nighttime networking sessions and 7 a.m. meetings. They would have to convey to employers that work-life accommodations like flexible hours or job sharing aren’t just for women and that part-time jobs need to provide proportional pay and benefits. At a time when fewer families than ever can afford to live on less than two full-time salaries, achieving work-life balance may well be less a gender issue than an economic one.

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