Thursday, October 27, 2005

Iceland Women's Walk Out

This one's from this morning's perusal of and the latest fun there, Broadsheet, the blog devoted to women's issues. Women in Iceland walked off their jobs, in huge numbers, to protest continuing inequality, including the fact that mothers' salaries dwindle while fathers' grow. Icelandic women make 64 percent of men's salaries, not so far off from what's happening to many american mothers' salaries. The (female) mayor of Reykjavik reportedly supported the walk-out, and encouraged city workers to join in. Check it out.

If they can do it there, why not here? Why can't we even imagine this kind of support among women, and men, who apparently brought children to work in great numbers the day of the walkout? I'm privy to at least some discussions about activism on behalf of mothers rights and women's rights in our country, and no one even mentions this kind of public protest, ever. And why not?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My Visit to Mothers & More

I am tired, and that cold lingers and will drag me to bed soon. But: I am excited after my visit to Mothers & More last night. I wrote about it on my Hylands blog, and will write more in coming days. I also had a provocative and interesting visit to St. Joseph's University, where I visited a Social Problems class that ended with the professor asking me what advice I would give a 20-something woman heading down a career path, given what we know about the collission course between mothers and jobs (answer: tomorrow).

I then gave a talk in the library, and was impressed by the faculty and students and their questions, particularly by an older faculty member who, when I mentioned that St. Joe's now leads local universities in family friendly policies, replied, "Yes. We worked on that for twenty-five years."

More tomorrow. It is these times when I get to be a public activist that make so much of the solitude of writing, and its crazy unpredictable rhythms feel right.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Small Changes in the Air.

I saw this article in the Boston Globe and thought it was interesting. It plays off of Desperate Housewives, of course, and the character Lynnette's recent decision to go back to work after being at home for many years (her husband is now home with the kids). Many of us have been thinking about how Lynnette's return to work seemed too easy, at least easier and more successful than the experience of many of our friends. At the same time we were glad to see reentry on TV.

The Boston Globe piece is clear that there's no "opt-out revolution." Many mothers take a few years off, and then they want to get back in to the workplace, without the discrimination that many are now experiencing. To bridge the gap between mothers and the workplace, there have been a series of NY-area career conferences and job fairs. To counter the NYTimes bad angles on us moms lately, I've come to appreciate any media piece that admits that there's discrimination against mothers in the workforce. The Globe piece cites a recent Cornell study in which the researcher was so shocked at what her data showed (as in, mothers were offered an average of 11K less than similarly trained men, and hired half as frequently), that she reanalyzed her data to be sure there wasn't a mistake.

We don't yet have any numbers or many anecdotes that tell us that moms who take off who finding on ramps back in. Even the mom in this article hasn't yet found a good job, and she's thinking about lower-level jobs, like a department-store stocking position, that clearly doesn't use her college-educated talents. And on the negative side, it's only a few companies who seem to appear at venues like this. However, these companies are recognizing that many mothers move in and out of work, that this is for many the new normal, and that this doesn't mean they're not valuable. And the company always quoted in these articles is Deloitte, which represents only one small sector of our economy. Still, while I'm being optimistic, who says one highly placed company can't make change? At least someone's out in front on this. Kudo's to Globe reporter Maggie Jackson for telling the truth about one part of the work-family experience of being a mother.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Well on second thought....

Ah, a weekend in the country can do wonders. Feel free to check out the Hylands blog, where indeed I do post everyday. But I will also keep Playground Revolution going, partly because many of us, myself included, struggle with how to speak honestly and politically, personally and publicly, all together. I may as well work through this out loud, as we figure out the many voices it takes to speak out and make a difference. So, I'll be there, and here.

Late Saturday night I realized it's just about the one year anniversary of Playground So maybe it needs a makeover, a new color, some bells and whistles to keep us all amused. Maybe it needs a way into the future. And a slightly less tired writer, perhaps one who's not dealing with last week's 1-2 punch of being 8 months pregnant, and felled by an October cold! But friends, I'll keep with it. There's too much at stake, plus, did anyone catch the news item last week about the advertising CEO who resigned after the uproar that followed his comments about women could never raise to advertising's top ranks, because of our caretaking and mothering duties? Agh, someone's got to be here at PR to keep on top of such things. We need to keep the uproar going, as well as our day-to-day support of each other. I want to be part of all that.

Plus, this week I'm speaking to a local Mothers & More group, and the next day giving a talk at St. Joseph's University, here in Philadelphia, so I'll have lots to report.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Other Blog


For a few weeks now I've been posting to an alternate blog, one I've agreed to do for Hylands. It's a more personal blog/forums. The writing is different, it's slightly less political, and more concerned with the everyday of parenting. On this blog, for a while now, my writer's voice has felt caught, it's too political, too angry, too one-dimensional, and I don't know exactly how to shift that. I've also been concerned that there are too many "anonymous--check out my commercial blog" responses. I know the web stats, so I know people are visiting in nice numbers, but I need more sense of community around this blog, to feel energized by other readers and writers. I also need a change in voice. I'm going to shift gears for a while, and focus more on the other blog for a few weeks, so please come with me and check it out.

My hope is that a break from Playground Revolution will help me solve the political vs personal divisions that are daunting, and haunting, and that don't reflect the kind of writing I really want to do. I'll post here once a week or so, but please, feel welcome at the other blog. I post there every afternoon; you just need to go the site and do a quick registration. I'll be back here at Playground Revolution soon, perhaps with a new set up, and a tone that more honestly reflects where I am now.

Thanks for understanding,


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gender See-Saw

Okay, last week it was the NY Times declaring that elite college women everywhere wanted to be stay at home moms (I'm overstating, I know). This week, it's Newsweek's report on How Women Lead, far preferable in my book, though I can't help but think we are on a see-saw that no one's quite able to sort out. One week we're reminded that women are leaving hte workplace in droves, the next, of their success.

Now, neither report deals with the knitty-gritty issues of wage gap, say, and how much these women leaders are earning, compared to men in equivalent jobs. But the Newsweek report did let women talk about what they learned as parents, that it's okay to be emotional in the workplace, and it let them discuss discrimination and obstacles, even as several of the women leaders encouraged younger and other women to be more confident, to speak out, to not fall into the female trap of waiting for the perfect idea to speak.

What's so clear to me is that we're in the midst of it all, in the midst of sorting through what we women should and can be and do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Things I Like....

Sometimes the mom-thing is about making real change, sometimes it's just about not feeling so lost and invisible in our culture. Thoughts for the day, a catch-up of things I've learned in the past week.

1. Reel Moms--Movie showings where parents and caretakers can bring their kids. It's not exactly Seattle's famed Crying Rooms, where you can bring the babies to every show, but it's a step. I've been more and more interested in how the business world can provide services for parents that are win-win, and this seems like a nice one, in the space-creating mode. Now if only I actually got some maternity leave when my baby arrives in December, and didn't have to teach on tuesday mornings, I'd love to go to Reel Mom Cinema. Maybe I'll put in for a schedule change.... Check out Reel Mom Cinema

2. Mothers Can Do It job fairs in the NY area, focusing on helping mothers who have taken time out for parenting get back into the workplace. Check out their website

(Thanks to Jessica Safran at Vital Signage for both of these references.)

So while we're waiting for a big fancy mothers movement with all the bells and whistles that signify "movement," I'll also be keeping track of small changes that may open the doors for us caretakers to feel more empowered to act on our own behalf.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Getting Even

That's the name of Evelyn Murphy's new book: Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men--and What to Do About It, which is on my desk, and I'm loving for it's point--that there is a wage gap, for women, for mothers, and it's not going away. Murphy is heavily promoting the book and getting the ideas out. Here's an article from the Boston Globe for anyone who know's they're not going to read the whole book. The wage gap is something that concerns me--no, that's too tame, angers me, even as it's something that I and many other women try not to think about. Murphy is mad though, and filled with data and arguments--this is the kind of book we'd all like to write because she's just nailed the problem on the head, and she's mad, and she's been the Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, so she knows both how to get attention and how politics works.

One of her arguments, too, is that lately there's been a rumor going round that the women's wage gap has to do with all the moms who have stepped out of the workplace. Not so, she says. They don't earn income, and they're not even counted when it comes to wages. She also writes about the mommy penalty and the daddy bonus, that moms earn less and gain fewer promotions when they become parents, and dads earn more and are taken more seriously. Go read the article. Get mad, and figure out what we can do to change this.

Now if I could only get my dsl line working in my new office space....

And have a great day.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Check out the new Brian, Child

The new issue of Brain, Child, has an article by Stephanie Wilkerson on whether there can ever be a movement to get us out of the frustrations that mothers, and men who parent, currently face.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Go Annabeth!

Closer to Home: All I can say is that Annabeth's makeup looked fine by me, and she's a prosecutor, not a detective, and she's returning from maternity leave. Twelve weeks ("a full 12 weeks," says a woman who was promoted to be Annabeth's boss in her absence....") That said, read below for some very positive comments.

First, thank you TV for showing us a real live mother pumping breastmilk. Well, we didn't see the pumping, but we saw those funky plastic suction cups on her desk, and all the wires out and about. A minor plot line has Annabeth asking for a small frig for her office. She receives it, with a big red bow on top, after she wins her case, but really, after one of her bosses accidentally picks up a small bottle marked "breast milk, do not touch" from the lunchroom refrigerator. Points for making breast pumping look respectable, something done with dignity, not in disarray. And for showing us this scene. Have we ever before seen a mom pumping?

Second, thank you for the kindly daycare worker, who when Annabeth returns to work, afraid that she's damaging her child through daycare, reassures her that the separation is harder for Annabeth than it is for her adorable child.

Third, thank you for portraying a decent dad and father, also at his job, also balancing work and family. He's a minor character, and yes, he does call her with his own emergency-can-you-pick-our-child-up-at-the-last-minute-even-though-you're-busy-at-work. But it's clear that he takes usual responsibility for picking up their child at daycare, and doing the evening shift. He doesn't complain when Annabeth gets a late night work-related call. He cuddles her and their child. And he takes an active role in sleep-training their child. Points, points, points for showing an involved dad, for not repeating the new idiom that parenting is women's work.

Yes, we've seen working moms on TV, but never with scenes that show them grappling with this level of detail, and never letting them express true ambivalence. Annnabeth gets to say near the beginning that she's not really ready to return to work, yet at the same time, she wants to be both a mommy and a prosecutor. We understand that Annabeth finds all this hard. That's not swept under the rug. Even the woman who at show's beginning is her nemesis and now boss, is, by hour's end telling Annabeth that nothing's harder than being a working mother.

So, a big thank you to TV for this one, for showing us one mother's life, with empathy and care.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Is Change in the Air: TV

Okay, it's a theme, a passion, an obsession, but many of us share it. Where will change come from?

Today, in between my almost 8-months-pregnant hibernal fog, I read in the Philly Inquirer about the new TV show, airing tonight, called Closer to Home, whose central character is a back-to-work mom detective. The article complained that she wears too much make up, but generally likes the show. Put that together with Lynnette, week 2, and her return to work, and does this mean that those invisible hollywood writers have a theme going? A theme that finally lets at least this aspect of motherhood on the air?

Now, we want all of motherhood on the air, but this is a good start. So, in case any TV writers ever check this blog, let me tell you what moms across america, and savvy dads, too, want to know about these characters: we want to know their salaries. We want to know the exact relation between what they did before kids and what they're doing now. We want to know the wage differential: did they lose status during their years at home? are they subject to the mommy wage gap? are they being paid fairly now? Just a few lines of dialogue will satisfy, no need to make a big deal. But if you want realism, if you want us to relax and believe, dish the numbers. Hollywood, if you can hear me, that's what I have to say. We want numbers. And ps, there's the contact question: Did these women have pre-existing contacts? Did they answer newspaper ads, seek headhunters? Did they have to network the whole time they were home with the kids?

I really truly am sleeping as much as I can, which means tonight I dozed on the couch as soon as Rob walked in the door, and missed even kissing my daughter goodnight. In my haze (the TV was on, we watched Eloise for the millionth time this afternoon....) I heard a news report, yet another, on whether working moms should feel guilty (answer: they shouldn't). Apparently a new government report. Apparently they want us all back in the workplace. The report reassures moms (see below) that it's only the margins of kids in daycare who become more aggressive, and most kids in daycare do just fine on all standards of behavior and intelligence. All of you know that I have to opinion on the daycare/homecare debates. There are many ways to raise a child. I'm just intrigued when I see a new juncture of concern and debate.

Is this just the Desperate Housewives effect? (Rumor has it the NY Post has a DH-angled article on back-to-work motherhood in a recent edition.) Could it be the economy's heating up again and they need women's skills and talents? If so, women, ladies, girls, when you head back to work: be confident, demand, negotiate, and get what you want, that's my advice. My only problem with this report: the dads. Dads are part of parenting too, let's keep them in the picture, whether they're at home, working, cycling back in, supporting, or whatever. Not every family has a dad, some have two moms, some have one, some families only have dads, but dads can't stay invisible in this story of change.

And now, because it's media night, I'm off to clean out my office, which is going to become the nursery. I'm moving upstairs, to a slightly larger space, but out of the hustle-and-bustle of what will become the family floor (ours is one of those old, narrow, tall houses). For a half-hour, since no one I know wants to miss Commander-in-Chief at 9 o'clock. Who says that TV is the poison of civilization? Not me.