Friday, August 29, 2008

Day Care Doesn't Cause or Cure Testosterone

I have three boys, ages 6, 6 and 1. And they are all boy, all testosterone, all the time. I am vastly outnumbered at home but over the last 6 or so years I've come to some level at peace with this.

For the longest time we didn't allow any kind of "Warfare game" or weapons toys, especially after my brother-in-law deployed to Iraq the first time. It was just too unsettling. But no matter how hard we tried, every single thing turned into a shooter. One of the twins was just barely three years old when one day at breakfast he bit his toast into the shape of a Beretta and began pow-pow-powing his brother. A toast gun, who can stop that?

I assumed that he was getting all of this aggressive behavior from his full-day preschool, a traditional center-based setting. One morning at drop-off I talked to his teachers, the naive first-time parent that I was. I implored them to tone down the war rhetoric on the playground, to encourage peaceful play, to lay low on good conquering evil by way of machine guns. They, the seasoned veterans that they were, assured me that not only do they discourage this play but yes, it was totally natural, all boys do this. You cannot stop it, you can only contain it.

I was truly bewildered. We had provided all sorts of gender-neutral toys (blocks, art tools, etc) and traditional girls toys (dolls, the plastic kitchen, etc) but they were still solely focused on anything that could shoot, hit or whack another human being. Where did we go wrong? Surely I was causing long-term damage by working outside the home and placing my boys in daycare, right? I was glad to see that the first long-term, federally-funded study of the long-term affects of daycare proves me wrong.

The National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) studied more than 1,300 children at 10 sites since the early 1990s and found that there were few significant differences between children cared for exclusively by their mothers and those in any form of daycare. Overwhelmingly, most important predictor of children's attachment, as well as their cognitive and social development, researchers found, was the sensitivity of their mothers and the characteristics of their families, such as parental income and educational levels. Says Barbara Willer, deputy executive director of the Washington-based National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which accredits day-care centers and preschools: "the concerns that you're doing a horrible thing that could harm your children are lessened."

That makes me feel a little bit better, I suppose. Just last week as I was late yet again to yoga, running through the gym parking lot with the twins in tow, baby in stroller, yoga mat rolled up on top, Josh says, "Mom, I really like your stroller bazooka."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lunch Packing Angst?

As I prepare to dash off to the Elementary School open house for my older sons this afternoon, it hits me like a ton of bricks: lunch packing begins next week! Now I've always been a fan of the brown bag concept, whether for me or my husband while working outside the home (goodbye $9 super-sized sammies!) or the children, there is a certain level of organization, preparation and, well, work involved in the whole thing. But as I opened up today's Washington Post, I read with curious interest about the concept of lunch-packing angst. Angst, really??

But then I thought back to my early school lunch packing days, especially when I was working full-time AND had travel, and how horribly I felt when the kids got a plain old sandwich or worse, pre-packaged lunch items. The horror! I mean, isn't there some sort of lunchtime parenting judge out there determining my parenting worth across multiple factors including healthiness of lunch, packaging "greenness" and pediatric gastric satisfaction? The answer is of course, no, but that doesn't mean that packing a lunch day-in day-out is a breeze, either.

Over the years, I've learned a few tricks, mainly:

  • Streamline the process: I make lunches on Sunday and Wednesday nights, putting the "parts" in a special bin in the fridge to be inserted the night before into our lunch bag.

  • ALWAYS the night before: There's no quicker way to kill a lunchbox routine than trying to slap together a bologna sandwich while simultaneously feeding a baby and screaming for the kids to hurry up or they'll miss the darned bus already!

  • Get creative: Any sandwich made onto a tortilla, rolled and cut like a spiral is instantly new and fun. Put in parts for a pita pizza. But don't stress yourself out making food art; if the kids are hungry, they'll eat it.

  • Solo Packing: The same person that makes the lunch should empty it out at the end of the day. That way the packer has a sense for what's popular, what comes home, and when the kids are just too busy goofing off at lunch to eat.

  • Use good products: After destroying the nylon lunch bag from Target before week 3 of school last year, we upgraded to the LL Bean Bags that are not only tough but come with a lifetime warranty. We use reusable water bottles (BPA free, but more on that later) and usually Gladware or other reusable containers.
Let me take a moment to address the Green lunch phenomenon and the companion level of stress this has added to lunch packers everywhere. We're making lots of earth-friendly strides here at the Folsom household but there is a limit to what you can do. Yes, try and find plastics and vinyl that don't contain BPA or other toxins, but don't throw out the old stuff into the landfill in the process. You don't need to use 6 ziploc baggies for each lunch, but if you put Triscuits in the same Gladware with your PB&J they will all be mushy, use that ziploc!!! There are schools of thought for using aluminum foil and wax paper, but neither can be recycled (though you can buy recycled products). I am intrigued by the Bento Box concept, though I haven't taken the plunge. Check out this great Bento Lunch Box blog for tips, recipes and fun lunch ideas. You can pack hot and cold foods, get lots of variety without everything getting all squished together, and it's a "green" way to go. I know I'm inspired!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hail to the Lawyers!

Kudos to the many law firms out there acknowledging that part-time partner track is a smart way to go. As reported in today's Washington Post, eight of the Top 50 Best Law Firms for Women are in Washington, DC and another in Richmond, Va; our two primary markets.

The survey, conducted by Flex-Time Lawyers and Working Mother Magazine, measures law firms across the country across a variety of factors, including workplace profile, family-friendly benefits, compensation, and development and advancement of women. But are law firms granting part-time partner track and other family-friendly benefits out of the goodness of their hearts? No, certainly not. It just makes good business sense.

The growing majority of law school graduates are women, who then go on to be lawyers. Somewhere along the way to partner many of these women would like to have children and/or a life (some would argue you can't have both at the same time, that's still up for debate at the Folsom household). And that life just doesn't fit into a 100-hour workweek!

The notion of a part-time lawyer brings to mind that Sex and the City episode where Miranda, a new single mother at her wit's end marches into her Managing Partner's office and demands, "That's IT! Something HAS to change. I am going part-time. No more than 50 hours per week. That's my limit."

But that's exactly what many of these firms are doing to attract and retain their top talent. Patton Boggs associates, for example, can choose a partner track based on 1,650 billable hours per year rather than the typical 1,900. Pay is prorated accordingly. According to partner Mary Bosco, "It tends to attract women here and keep women here."

Which is what we here at Momentum Resources are advocating daily, across mulitple industries and job functions: part-time works because it makes solid business sense. Offer a realistic reduced-hours schedule and you will attract the best and brightest talent to your organization. It'll also keep them there.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Late for Yoga

In my personal quest for balance, I'm aiming for one hour a week of yoga. It's a grueling class, led by a buff German ex-pat who is both inspirational, motivating and gentle; the best kind of teacher. And all I'm asking for is one hour per week, that's it, out of 168 eligible hours in a week. But the thing is, I have an incredibly hard time getting there.

After having missed the class for weeks, I finally carved out an hour this morning, but after my husband's return flight was delayed 5 hours, causing a babysitting gap for a morning meeting, my day took an ugly turn. From 8 am on, the entire day was running late, causing me to be late to yoga today. As I sprinted from the Gold's Gym parking lot to studio 2, I had to ask myself, was all of the so-called "relaxation" really worth it?

After 50 minutes (due to my 10 minute delay) of sun salutations and poses running the gamut of zoo creatures (turtle? fish? swan?) my blood pressure was down despite an elevated heart rate, I was loose, limber, and ready to take on the world. Of course it's worth it to get 50 minutes of relaxing self-improvement, even if you have to sprint to get there.

What this hour, or fraction thereof, says to both me and the rest of the world is that my health and well-being matters. That hour is at least as important as any number of meetings, errands or other minutiae that fill up our Outlook Calendars. By placing a priority on that - whatever that is for you- you begin to realize you deserve a balanced life. A life that allows for one single flippin' hour of yoga each week.