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Despairing of your work-life balance? These simple steps start you on the path to a flexible schedule.

Working Moms Spotlight10

Washington Talks Equal Pay for Women

Thursday April 10, 2014

How did you observe Equal Pay Day yesterday? I was chained to a computer all day, then made the mad dash to the after-school homework and dinner routine. So, pretty much business as usual.

equal pay day

Photo credit: Getty Images

There's been a surprising amount of action in Washington D.C. on equal pay for women. The Paycheck Fairness Act fell just six votes short of passing the Senate yesterday, the same day that President Obama prohibited federal contractors from retaliating against employees for discussion compensation and ordered new pay regulations for contractors to collect and give the Labor Department pay data by sex and race.

There's hot debate over exactly how much more men are paid than women for performing the same job. But all the data show that there is a undeniable gender pay gap, which expands to a chasm when you compare working mothers and fathers. (What social scientists call the motherhood penalty.)

The White House has made equal pay for women a priority this year. Republicans contend that it's a political ploy to put Democrats in a more favorable position. Where do you fall in the debate over whether this situation is a problem -- and what the fix should be?

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Why an Office Job Isn't So Simple for Working Moms

Monday March 31, 2014

Actor and lifestyle maven Gwyneth Paltrow made headlines last week with the announcement of her upcoming divorce from Coldplay front man Chris Martin after more than a decade of marriage. But the biggest uproar came over her ill-advised comments that her experience working as a movie star is harder than other working moms' office jobs.

working mom Gwyneth Paltrow

Photo credit: Getty Images

Let's leave aside the misguided nature of a multi-millionaire celebrity saying she's disadvantaged compared to the less-well-shod women who shell out $11 a ticket to see her movies. Her comments have been keenly dissected and by others. I'd like to address the underlying fallacy, that having an office job is as simple as showing up at 9 a.m. and leaving at 5 p.m.

Any professional working mom knows this is a crock. It's not showing your face for eight hours that matters, it's accomplishing the tasks of your job, building relationships with your boss and co-workers, prioritizing short and long term priorities, and sidestepping the landmines hidden in any workplace's landscape. We all do this dance every day, and it typically leaves us exhausted, as documented by gender scholars such as Joan C. Williams.

What are the things about your simple office job that make it challenging?

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We Set Examples in Self Appraisals

Thursday March 13, 2014

It's the time of year for self evaluations at work. Instead of dreading it, think of the opportunity you have to set an example of self appraisal for your children! Just as we look back at our performance and identify areas of strength and need for improvement, so can they.

self appraisal examples

Photo credit: Getty Images

My second grader's teacher sends home a feedback journal every Friday for the children to receive input from the teacher or parent and set goals for the coming week. My fourth grader has a box for "goals" on the planner the school distributed, and has been independently using it for personal improvement. With these examples of self appraisal and forward momentum, how can I avoid doing the same?

Do you have a self evaluation at work in your future? Or have you already completed that annual exercise in introspection?

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A Working Mom's Book Review of "Overwhelmed" by Brigid Schulte

Friday March 7, 2014

For the first 45 minutes of reading Brigid Schulte's book Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, I was engrossed. I did nothing but read and take notes. I soon learned that I was using a strategy that she uncovers in her exhaustive reporting on the time pressure that working moms and dads across the country feel in juggling home and work responsibilities: pulsing. That's 30, 45, 60 or 90 minutes of intensely focusing on one activity, for maximal productivity.

Overwhelmed book review

Photo courtesy of Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

But soon enough, the phone rang and interrupted my reverie. Then I remembered I had forgotten to send an email to my daughter's Odyssey of the Mind team, which I coach. And the spell was broken. Such is the life of a working mom, or any modern worker, really, with time chopped up into confetti by the many demands placed on us.

Schulte, a Washington Post staff writer, takes a journey from time confetti to time serenity in Overwhelmed, a painstakingly researched investigation of the overload that many families face. In the vein of Katrina Alcorn's book Maxed Out, she combines memoir with facts, figures and stories about other people and organizations. It's a compelling read, and powerful indictment of our busy-for-the-sake-of-it society.

If you read the book, please let me know what you think!

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