Tag Archives: Washington Post

stay-at-home moms need annual leave, too

I just bought a plane ticket for one.

I have four children, ages 3 to 9, which makes this purchase noteworthy. In a few weeks’ time I will pack a sensibly sized bag and fill it with things that belong only to me. Things that speak of a life beyond motherhood: clothes that don’t double as yoga-gear, books that can be read at will, toothpaste that isn’t fruit-flavored.

I am a stay-at-home mom and for five days I will officially be on vacation. Consider this me punching in my time card.

The average American worker is entitled to sixteen days of paid leave per year. If being a stay-at-home mom is tantamount to a full-time job, isn’t this a benefit we deserve as well? The obvious answer is yes. The reality is far murkier, both because of the nature of the “work” of parenthood and the extent to which it is valued by society.

A child-free holiday, regardless of the parent’s employment status, is not without controversy. Especially when the parents take it together. Eight out of 10 people, according to one survey, say this is not something they could do with a clear conscience. In a poll in Parents Magazine, 30 percent of respondents were prepared to go further and suggest there is an element of moral reprehensibility to vacationing with your partner but not your baby. In today’s era of intensive, all-in parenting, where there seems to be an expectation that a child’s perceived needs trump its parents’ at any cost, a trip sans enfants can take on an undeniable sheen of selfishness.

There is a paradox here, though. We talk ad nauseum about the exhaustion and manifold difficulties inherent in raising young children. Jennifer Senior has analyzed it painstakingly in her bestseller All Joy and No Fun, concluding that early parenthood is the phase during which people are, in fact, “least happy.” And yet, we are more hard-pressed than ever to give ourselves a proper break: the current climate of parenting tells us that enjoying extended time away from our offspring is indulgence at best, neglect at worst.

You can read the rest of the piece here, in The Washington Post.

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the news my kids won’t be breaking to your kids this christmas

December can be a worrisome month for some parents. For those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas, that is. For those of us who are immune to magical thinking. As the rest of the world strings lights and bakes cookies and sprinkles the lawn with reindeer dust in an effort to gussy up the house for the arrival of that rotund white-bearded fellow, I will be sitting my children down and, with as stern a face as I can muster, delivering “the talk.” The one where I tell them to keep their mouths shut about Santa Claus.

I learned the importance of “the talk” the hard way. When he was 4, my son had a rather unfortunate exchange with the daughter of our family friends. It went something like this:

Girl, excited: Santa Claus is getting me an X for Christmas!

Son, deadpan: Santa Claus is just pretend.

Girl, shocked: No. He isn’t.

Son, holding his ground: Yes, he is.

Girl, becoming plaintive: But he brings me my presents!

Son, ever the realist: That’s actually your mom and dad…

We heard the sobbing from the next room, hers not his, and came running. The conversation was relayed back to us, in glossy pre-school detail. The girl’s parents were not pleased, though they were able to talk her round quickly enough with hard-line reassurances that Santa Claus is, indeed, real. All the while my own son looked on in quiet confusion.

This was not the first time he had found himself at odds with a playmate over a point of information. He was a pensive little boy, who took factual disputes—and their accurate resolutions—seriously. But it was the first time his mother wasn’t chiming in with the “truth.”

You can read the rest of the piece here, in the Washington Post.


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