Lentil stew


Lentils, chicken and kale. Time previously spent nursing is now spent cooking baby-friendly food. Here’s hoping she eats it.

lentil stew

lentil stew


Lentil Stew


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 8 oz dried lentils
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth plus 2 cups water (or however you’d like to apportion broth and water for 4 cups total)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (I buy frozen chicken breasts and keep them on hand for soups and stews such as this)
  • 1 lb fresh or frozen kale
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 oz chopped ham (optional)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 tsp tarragon (optional)


  1. In a 4-qt Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. Brown the onions (about 15 mins). If you have fresh chicken breasts, you can cube them into 1/2-inch pieces while the onions are cooking. Alternatively, you can leave them and proceed as below.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add the garlic and stir 1-2 mins. Add ham (optional) and continue stirring, letting the ham brown a bit. Add the lentils and continue stirring, allowing the lentils to toast a bit.
  3. Add the broth and/or water. I like to heat them up in the microwave before adding, so that I finish cooking sooner.
  4. Increase the heat to bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts and stir. Reduce heat to simmer and cover.
  5. While the stew is cooking, prepare the kale if it’s raw. I like the bags of washed kale at Trader Joe’s, because I hate washing vegetables. To cook it, I heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high in a large (12″) saucepan or skillet. Add the kale in batches, always stirring to distribute them evenly as they turn dark green. Once all the kale is dark green, add 1/2 cup of water, stir, reduce heat, and cover to let it steam for 5-10 mins.
  6. As the lentils cook, they’ll absorb the broth/water and the stew will thicken. When the lentils are to your liking, remove the chicken breasts and dice them into baby-friendly (about 1/2-inch) pieces. Return chicken to the stew and add in the kale as well.
  7. Season with lemon juice, tarragon, salt and pepper to your liking.

Argentine Coke ad

We’ll need to review this before the next one shows up. Thanks, Facebook community!

Having a kid is much more than bringing another human being into the world. It’s also about getting a small, demanding, disgusting new roommate who completely changes every aspect of your life and pushes you to the fraying edges of your own sanity.

This New Coke Ad Totally Captures The Reality Of Early Parenthood | Co.Create | creativity + culture + commerce

This New Coke Ad Totally Captures The Reality Of Early Parenthood | Co.Create | creativity + culture + commerce.

“She can stay up a little longer”

I put Madeline to bed at 8pm as per our routine. She had a late nap and wasn’t very sleepy, so she cried when I left and closed the door. Chris was surprised because she hasn’t cried at bedtime for a while now. I explained that she wasn’t sleepy, and he remarked, “Yea, she didn’t seem ready for bed just yet.” I said I was going to wait 15 minutes and then check on her, but he could go get her if he wanted to, and I continued going about making my dinner.

The baby monitor went quiet and I assumed she settled down. Then I turned around to see a big happy smile on a little baby face. There was daddy’s girl in her daddy’s arms. “She’s not sleepy,” he said. “She can stay up a little longer.”

Crockpot creamy chicken and noodles v2.0


I revised the previous incarnation of this dish and much prefer this version, as it is healthier, baby-compatible and still easy to make. It is also a good candidate for a weekend mass food production routine: I actually prepared about 10 chicken breasts in the slow cooker, saved a small part (about 1/10) to make baby food, and then divided the remainder for this dish and for another (chicken tetrazzini).

crockpot creamy chicken and noodles

crockpot creamy chicken and noodles

Crockpot Creamy Chicken and Noodles a la Butz


  • 4-5 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 lbs), cut in 1- to 2-inch cubes
  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream (Trader Joe’s has cream in a shelf-stable 1-cup package — this might be the most amazing culinary find all year!)TJcream
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch celery, sliced (or substitute 1 package (16 oz) frozen mixed vegetables)
  • adobo seasoning
  • tarragon


  1. Place the chicken in the crockpot and season with adobo seasoning and tarragon. Stir in chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low temperature setting.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles for about 2/3 the time recommended (approximately 4 minutes) and drain. They will continue cooking in the crockpot.
  3. When the chicken is finished, it should fall apart easily when mashed with a fork. Shred the chicken by stirring with a large fork until it is broken into small pieces.
  4. Stir in the cream and chicken broth until well-blended. Stir in the noodles. Cook on low heat for about 4 hours, or until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Stir in the celery (or frozen vegetables) and cook for another hour or until the vegetables are heated.

Remember the reset

Note to self: Sometimes, baby just needs a reset. It could be a stroll outside, a paci, a song. Daddy’s favorite method has always been changing the diaper. Even if it’s perfectly clean.

I type this on the phone as M is sound asleep, after having woken at 12:45am and desperately clawing at my chest, trying to nurse back to sleep. Not so, said I, and a battle ensued. Paci was refused — who are we trying to fool here, Ma? Lullaby mitigated the fury somewhat but its soothing magic eventually expired. Finally, groggily, Daddy suggested: “Diaper?” She seemed dry, but might as well check. In the dim nursery lamplight I found she was indeed dry, but then It hit me. Quiet, no more crying. And a coo. I looked at her. Innocent wondering eyes. As if she had completely forgotten the preceding twenty minutes of turmoil. And then, so did I.

Afterschool Activities and Prize Culture | TIME.com

Reminds me of those clubs where every member has a title because they all need to feel important and didn’t get into any other clubs.

How come it seems like every kid today is a champion for something, when we know every kid can’t be a star?…Trophies may keep kids coming back, and their parents paying, but psychological research finds that giving kids rewards for doing an activity (even something as simple as a paper certificate) means lower levels of intrinsic motivation. High levels of intrinsic motivation is precisely what we want to foster among kids to help them attain long-term success and take pride in a well-earned achievement. But the carving up of honor and the trophy culture that accompanies it has clearly gone too far: carving up honor probably doesn’t improve children’s performance or motivation — but it may mean a bigger payday for those who run childhood tournaments.

So parents need to be cautious when pursuing titles for their young kids, and make sure the honor created is for their kids, and not for reflected glory for anyone else in their children’s lives.

via Hilary Levey Friedman: Afterschool Activities and Prize Culture | TIME.com.

From a mama in academia: maintaining sanity and work-life balance

Although the experience of life in academia isn’t particularly generalizable, I think many of us can identify with and glean some comfort from this mama’s perspective on work-life balance:

I’ve enjoyed my seven years as junior faculty tremendously, quietly playing the game the only way I knew how to. But recently I’ve seen several of my very talented friends become miserable in this job, and many more talented friends opt out. I feel that one of the culprits is our reluctance to openly acknowledge how we find balance. Or openly confront how we create a system that admires and rewards extreme imbalance. I’ve decided that I do not want to participate in encouraging such a world. In fact, I have to openly oppose it.

So with some humor to balance my fear, here’s goes my confession:

Seven things I did during my first seven years at Harvard. Or, how I loved being a tenure-track faculty member, by deliberately trying not to be one.

  • I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
  • I stopped taking advice.
  • I created a “feelgood” email folder.
  • I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
  • I try to be the best “whole” person I can.
  • I found real friends.
  • I have fun “now”.

Read on to share in her experiences in The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network.

Home Economics: The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Income Equality – Stephen Marche

This essay rings home so well. Read it entirely. My favorite paragraphs:

The solution to the work-life conundrum is not “enlisting men” (as Slaughter puts it) in the domestic sphere. The solution is establishing social supports that allow families to function. The fact is, men can’t have it all, for the same reason women can’t: whether or not the load is being shared 50-50 doesn’t matter if the load is still unbearable. It will not become bearable once women lean in, or once the consciousness is raised, or once men are full partners, always, in domestic life. It will become bearable when decidedly more quotidian things become commonplace—like paid parental leave and affordable, quality day care (which Sandberg and Slaughter both advocate).

As long as family issues are miscast as women’s issues, they will be dismissed as the pleadings of one interest group among many. And truly, it’s hard to see, at least in terms of political theatrics, why the complaints of the richest and most successful women in the world should bother anybody too much. Fighting for the American family is another matter. When gay-rights activists shifted their focus from the struggle for their rights as an oppressed minority to the struggle to create and support families, their movement experienced nearly unprecedented political triumph. It is easy to have a career as an anti-feminist. Force the opponents of day-care support and family leave to come out instead against working families. Let them try to sell that.

Home Economics: The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Income Equality – Stephen Marche – The Atlantic.

In case of the implausible event that the essay is no longer available at that link, I reproduce it here:

Ross MacDonald

My wife leans in. A year ago, after nine hours of labor, she received an epidural and immediately asked me to pass the iPad so she could send a note to work. I suggested that this time should be for us and for the little girl who was making her way into the world, but it’s hard to argue with a woman who’s eight centimeters dilated. Besides, why not send the note? Soon enough the baby, our second, would be out. The pause for an epidural was the most calm we would see for months. We are all in the thick of it, in the mash-up of work and family, in the confounding blur of everything, instantly, at once, the way life happens now. Why waste a moment?

A year after The Atlantic published Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” the plutocratic wave of feminism continues to roll in. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In looks to dominate the best-seller lists for months to come. Both accounts are full of stories like the iPad in the delivery room, stories of women furiously multitasking, worrying about family over champagne at a United Nations event, or diagnosing children with head lice while aboard a corporate jet. Men are mostly offstage. Slaughter, to her great credit, talks repeatedly about her husband, noting that he has done everything possible to support both her career and their two sons, including taking on the lion’s share of parenting duties while she commuted for two years from Princeton to Washington, D.C. Sandberg, too, talks about her husband’s role at home (in her book’s dedication, she credits him with “making everything possible”). But in the ensuing discussion of gender politics, which has been conducted almost entirely by women, for women, men are far more anonymous—implacable opponents of progress in the upper echelons, helpless losers elsewhere. Meanwhile, the good husbands—the selection of whom is “the most important career choice” young women can make, according to Sandberg—are as silent as the good wives once were.

Men’s absence from the conversation about work and life is strange, because decisions about who works and who takes care of the children, and who makes the money and how the money is spent, are not decided by women alone or by some vague and impersonal force called society. Decisions in heterosexual relationships are made by women and men together. When men aren’t part of the discussion about balancing work and life, outdated assumptions about fatherhood are allowed to go unchallenged and, far more important, key realities about the relationship between work and family are elided. The central conflict of domestic life right now is not men versus women, mothers versus fathers. It is family versus money. Domestic life today is like one of those behind-the-scenes TV series about show business. The main narrative tension is: “How the hell are we going to make this happen?” There are tears and laughs and little intrigues, but in the end, it’s just a miracle that the show goes on, that everyone is fed and clothed and out the door each day.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?,” Sandberg asks women in the opening chapter of Lean In. She obviously does not work in journalism (as my wife does) or academia (as I used to), let alone manufacturing. The question for most American women, and for most families, is much simpler: “How do I survive?” Sandberg’s book has been compared with feminist classics like The Feminine Mystique, but it really belongs in the category of capitalist fantasy, a tradition that originated with Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help and was popularized by the novels of Horatio Alger. The success of Lean In can be attributed, at least in part, to its comforting espousal of an obviously false hope: that hard work and talent alone can now take you to the top. This is pure balderdash, for women and men. Class structures have seized to the point where Denmark has more social mobility than the United States. The last myth to die in America will be the myth of pluck; Lean In is the most recent testament to its power.

Slaughter’s essay, too, reflects the blind spots of the technocratic elite. It is a superachiever’s guide to having a family. Here is how she describes taking a break from her usually harried work existence to concentrate on her family life during a sabbatical: “I think of these plateaus as ‘investment intervals.’ ” Louise Richardson, the vice chancellor of the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, is so “ruthlessly” organized, in Slaughter’s telling, that when microwaving, she keys in 1:11, 2:22, or 3:33—instead of 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00—as a way of saving time. This is not so much a ruthless use of time as a fetishization of time—the cult of the billable hour run amok.

The plutocratic wave of feminism has positioned itself as the heir to a long-standing feminist revolution undertaken in the name of all women. And yet when I first read “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” I immediately thought of the men I know who might be said to “have it all.” The wife of one of my editors had a premature baby at 28 weeks; after they brought the baby home, he did not miss a day of work. Soldiers, I suppose, “have it all.” They have meaningful work and then come home (eventually) to their waiting families. Does anyone imagine that they consider themselves the victors of society’s current arrangement?

Although you might not know it from the discussion Sandberg and Slaughter have touched off, American fatherhood has evolved almost beyond recognition in recent decades. The Pew Research Center released a study called “Modern Parenthood” in March, well after either Sandberg or Slaughter could refer to it, which is unfortunate. When it comes to work-life conflict, the study found, about half of all working parents say it is difficult to balance career and family responsibilities, with “no significant gap in attitudes between mothers and fathers.” Perhaps this is not surprising, given that mothers’ and fathers’ roles have converged dramatically in the past half century. Since 1965, Pew reports, fathers have tripled the time they spend with their children. Fathers’ attitudes about mothers’ roles are changing quickly, too: In 2009, 54 percent of men with kids younger than 17 believed that young children should have a mother who didn’t work. Just four years later, that number has dropped to 37 percent. Finally, although stay-at-home dads are still very much in the minority, their numbers have doubled in just a decade’s time.

Meanwhile, women’s rise to economic dominance within the middle class continues. Since 1996, women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men, and last year they started earning a greater number of master’s and doctoral degrees. It is an outrage that the male-female wage gap persists, and yet, over the past 10 years, in almost every country in the developed world, it has shrunk. In developed countries, by most economic indicators, women’s lives have improved relative to men’s. Of the 15 fastest-growing job categories in the United States, 13 are dominated by women.

What isn’t changing is that top leadership positions remain overwhelmingly filled by men. “As the 99 percent has become steadily pinker, the 1 percent has remained an all-boys club,” Chrystia Freeland pointed out last year, in her book Plutocrats. According to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap” report, women around the world hold a mere 20 percent of powerful political positions. In the United States, the female board-membership rate is 12 percent—a disgrace.

We live in a hollow patriarchy: the edifice is patriarchal, while the majority of its occupants approach egalitarianism. This generates strange paradoxes. Even women with servants and powerful jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars feel that they have an institutional disadvantage. And they’re right. Women in the upper reaches of power are limited in ways that men simply are not. Various men’s movements have emerged, purportedly to provide a counterweight to feminism, but this proposition is inherently absurd. The greatest power still resides in the hands of a few men, even as the majority of men are being outpaced in the knowledge economy. Masculinity grows less and less powerful while remaining iconic of power. And therefore men are silent. After all, there is nothing less manly than talking about waning manliness.

The good husbands—the selection of whom Sheryl Sandberg calls “the most important career choice” young women can make—are as silent as the good wives once were.

In the 1950s, the patriarchy at work and at home were of a piece. The father was the head of the household because he provided for the family, and the boss was head of the company because he provided the work that provided for the family. At home, for the overwhelming majority of families, the old order has disappeared. The days of Dad working all week and then, having fulfilled his duties, going to play two or three rounds of golf on the weekend are long gone. So are the days of Dad as the head of the household, the decider in chief. A 2008 Pew study asked cohabiting male-female couples, “Who makes the decisions at home?” In 26 percent of households, the man did; while in 43 percent of households, the woman did. The family has changed and is further changing, while at work, patriarchy survives as a kind of anachronistic holdover, like daylight savings or summer vacation.

The hollow patriarchy keeps women from power and confounds male identity. (The average working-class guy has the strange experience of belonging to a gender that is railed against for having a lock on power, even as he has none of it.) The current arrangement serves almost nobody’s interests. And yet it may be harder to break than older modes of sexism. The struggles articulated by The Second Sex and The Feminine Mystique and The Female Eunuch were broadly oppositional—women against men, young against old, feminists against the existing structures of power. Today, men and women are not facing off on a battleground so much as stuck together in a maze of contradictions.

In 2007, my life was right where I wanted it to be. After the lean misery of graduate school at the University of Toronto, I had, at 31, landed a job on the tenure track at City College in Harlem, as a professor of Shakespeare. My second novel was in the windows of appealing independent bookstores in Brooklyn, it had a good review in The New York Times, and the lead singer of the Decemberists was recommending it in interviews. This was basically all I had ever hoped for. Then I gave it up. My wife was offered her dream job as the editor in chief of Toronto Life magazine (roughly speaking, the New York of Canada), and we returned home.

You could see our departure as the triumph of egalitarianism, and in a way it was. I don’t think my father would have given up a tenure-track job for my mother. But in my marriage, the decision came down to brute economics: My wife was going to make double what I made. Good schools and good hospitals are free in Toronto. These are the reasons we moved. And if I were offered a job where I would make double what she does, we would move again. Gender politics has nothing to do with it.

Not that politics didn’t intrude. We were moving back to downtown Toronto, where people self-identify as socialists, so I expected open-mindedness. Yet the reaction to my reduced professional status and stepped-up involvement in child-rearing was sharply divided along generational lines. Among Baby Boomers, classic gender stereotypes prevailed. To them, I had become “the woman” and my wife had become “the man.” Boomer men could not wrap their heads around what I had done, while the women would smile an amazed smile, their eyes glinting with a touch of self-satisfaction. A younger generation was completing what they had begun.

I don’t think my father would have given up a tenure-track job for my mother. But in my marriage, the decision came down to brute economics.

Among people my own age, the reaction was more complicated. Our story possessed a sort of circumscribed romance: to academic friends, the idea that I had given up a tenure-track appointment was like the Charge of the Light Brigade—glorious professional suicide. At any rate, most friends and acquaintances in roughly my age group at least understood the nature of the decision. They appreciated that chasing jobs was part of 21st-century life, and that marriage sometimes requires sacrifice. Well over half my male friends have wives who make more money than they do. Nonetheless, in social life, I found myself more and more of an addendum: “This is Stephen. He’s Sarah’s wife.”

But let us get down to the details—specifically the financial details. The key fact of our story, the overwhelmingly most important factor in our personal gender politics, is that in Canada, we have access to high-quality, modestly state-supported (though far from free) day care. Of all the privileges my wife and I gained, our boy being in a safe place we could afford between nine and five was by far the greatest. It’s why this story has a happy ending; it is the thing that enabled me to build a new career for myself. Day care is not theoretical liberation. It is the real deal, for women and men alike.

Our new domestic arrangement, like the move that precipitated it, was shaped more by circumstance than by ideology. I was a freelancer. My wife was running a magazine. So I picked up the boy from day care each afternoon and pushed him in his stroller though the unbearable Toronto February. When she was out at various events, the boy and I had “guys’ night,” the two of us watching hockey and eating take-out Portuguese chicken, often in our pajamas. Think of it as our answer to Slaughter’s “investment intervals.”

The days of Dad working all week and then, having fulfilled his duties, going to play two or three rounds of golf on the weekend are long gone.

For the Boomers and members of older generations, a married couple’s decisions about work were ultimately questions of power. For younger generations, marital decisions boil down mostly to money. And yet the debates about gender, particularly the debate that has emerged in a thousand blog posts surrounding “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and Lean In, retain the earlier framework. These discussions tend to recognize the residual patriarchy, but they do not see its hollowness, or the processes hollowing it out.

The plutocratic feminists almost always end up, out of habit, calling for an attitude adjustment, a switch in thinking—they hope to re-create, and perhaps cash in on, the transformational optimism of ’60s-era consciousness-raising. But the consciousness has been raised. Gender attitudes do not affect economic reality, but rather the other way around. The rise of women is not the result of any ideology or political movement; it is a result of the widespread realization, sometime after the Second World War, that families in which women work are families that prosper. And countries in which women work are countries that prosper. In 2006, a database created by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development demonstrated what common sense tells us: with few exceptions, countries in which women have more economic and political power are richer than countries where women are relatively powerless. Patriarchy is damn expensive. That’s why it’s doomed.

Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In Circles”—her national network of book clubs cum professional self-help groups for women—are not supposed to be mere marketing exercises; they are intended to be psych-up sessions for elite women who want to learn to be more demanding. Good for them, I suppose. But do we want women emulating the egomania of the corporate male? Do we really want that particular brand of insanity to spread? Wasn’t it exactly that arrogance that led to the 2008 financial collapse? I suppose a world in which female bankers spend as much on blow and hookers as their male counterparts would be a fairer world; is it a world worth fighting for?

Both Sandberg and Slaughter imagine benefits to women flowing from the top to the bottom. Slaughter wants

to close the leadership gap: to elect a woman president and 50 women senators; to ensure that women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders. Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.

She may well be right—but in the meantime, having a few women in positions of power has hardly proved to be a panacea. Britain had a female head of state and leader of government for nearly 12 years without becoming a feminist paradise. Sandberg makes a big deal out of how “one pregnant woman at the top” can make a difference for other women. But the specific example she cites—her campaign for designated pregnant-woman parking spots at Google—hardly seems revolutionary.

I remember, as a boy, waking up on a mattress in the back of a station wagon in a hospital parking lot in Edmonton, Alberta. My father was not in town—he commuted to another city by plane every day for two years. And so, on a few occasions, my mother, who is a physician, left my brother and me in the car while she delivered a baby in the middle of the night. At the time, I loved the adventure. Later, I came to realize that my parents had worked their way into the middle class through many such superhuman maneuvers. My mother-in-law, for her part, used to return home from her job as a broadcaster, feed two children, put them to bed, and then return to the office for a couple more hours of work. If it was like this for doctors and broadcasters, what must it have been like for factory workers?

The solution to the work-life conundrum is not “enlisting men” (as Slaughter puts it) in the domestic sphere. The solution is establishing social supports that allow families to function. The fact is, men can’t have it all, for the same reason women can’t: whether or not the load is being shared 50-50 doesn’t matter if the load is still unbearable. It will not become bearable once women lean in, or once the consciousness is raised, or once men are full partners, always, in domestic life. It will become bearable when decidedly more quotidian things become commonplace—like paid parental leave and affordable, quality day care (which Sandberg and Slaughter both advocate).

As was recently noted in a New Republic cover story titled “The Hell of American Day Care,” the National Institutes of Health has rated only 10 percent of child-care facilities nationwide as providing “high-quality care” (most are instead rated “fair” or “poor”). And in every state, the average annual cost of day care for two children exceeds the average annual rent. Not surprisingly, low-income mothers are far more likely to stay at home today than are upper-income mothers. Such women are forgoing paid work not because they refuse to lean in but because they can’t earn enough money at their jobs to cover child care.

If men’s voices are absent from the conversation about family, we have, I’m afraid, only ourselves to blame. Yes, there are the occasional pieces in newspapers and magazines by new fathers—a genre that at times seems more oriented toward establishing one’s literary machismo than toward engaging in substantive dialogue—but men have generally failed to make themselves heard. Those who speak loudest tend to be either members of the aforementioned men’s-rights groups, or explicit anti-feminists, who long for a traditional family that bears little resemblance to the current reality. Men are not victims in this story, nor helpless witnesses to their wives’ struggles. And yet: A chorus of women demands maternity leave. Where is the chorus of men asking for paternity leave?

A conversation about work-life balance conducted by and for a small sliver of the female population only perpetuates the perception that these are women’s problems, not family ones. If you doubt that such thinking is still pervasive, see the recent op-ed in The New York Times about tax policy’s effect on working families, which contained this sentence: “Most working mothers who pay for child care do so out of their after-tax income.” That’s right: child care is a not a father’s expense, or a family’s expense, but a mother’s. As Sandberg points out, when the U.S. Census Bureau studies child care, it “considers mothers the ‘designated parent,’ even when both parents are present in the home. When mothers care for their children, it’s ‘parenting,’ but when fathers care for their children, the government deems it a ‘child care arrangement.’ ”

As long as family issues are miscast as women’s issues, they will be dismissed as the pleadings of one interest group among many. And truly, it’s hard to see, at least in terms of political theatrics, why the complaints of the richest and most successful women in the world should bother anybody too much. Fighting for the American family is another matter. When gay-rights activists shifted their focus from the struggle for their rights as an oppressed minority to the struggle to create and support families, their movement experienced nearly unprecedented political triumph. It is easy to have a career as an anti-feminist. Force the opponents of day-care support and family leave to come out instead against working families. Let them try to sell that.

Gloria Steinem’s famous declaration that “women’s liberation will be men’s liberation, too” is true. The opposite is also true. Real liberation will not be one against the other, but both together.

How to Talk to Little Girls

Things to remember as Madeline grows:

…[F]ifteen to eighteen percent of girls under twelve now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America’s next top model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers. This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart.

Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.

via How to Talk to Little Girls.

BBC News – Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes

I like this so much, I’m reprinting the entire thing.

For 75 years, Finland's expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It's like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates.

For 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.

The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers.

It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.

With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box’s four cardboard walls.

Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it’s worth much more.

The tradition dates back to 1938. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families on low incomes, but that changed in 1949.

“Not only was it offered to all mothers-to-be but new legislation meant in order to get the grant, or maternity box, they had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy,” says Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela – the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

So the box provided mothers with what they needed to look after their baby, but it also helped steer pregnant women into the arms of the doctors and nurses of Finland’s nascent welfare state.

In the 1930s Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high – 65 out of 1,000 babies died. But the figures improved rapidly in the decades that followed.

Mika Gissler, a professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, gives several reasons for this – the maternity box and pre-natal care for all women in the 1940s, followed in the 60s by a national health insurance system and the central hospital network.

Contents of the box

Contents of the 2013 pack
  • Mattress, mattress cover, undersheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt
  • Box itself doubles as a crib
  • Snowsuit, hat, insulated mittens and booties
  • Light hooded suit and knitted overalls
  • Socks and mittens, knitted hat and balaclava
  • Bodysuits, romper suits and leggings in unisex colours and patterns
  • Hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, wash cloth
  • Cloth nappy set and muslin squares
  • Picture book and teething toy
  • Bra pads, condoms

At 75 years old, the box is now an established part of the Finnish rite of passage towards motherhood, uniting generations of women.

Reija Klemetti, a 49-year-old from Helsinki, remembers going to the post office to collect a box for one of her six children.

“It was lovely and exciting to get it and somehow the first promise to the baby,” she says. “My mum, friends and relatives were all eager to see what kind of things were inside and what colours they’d chosen for that year.”

Her mother-in-law, aged 78, relied heavily on the box when she had the first of her four children in the 60s. At that point she had little idea what she would need, but it was all provided.

More recently, Klemetti’s daughter Solja, aged 23, shared the sense of excitement that her mother had once experienced, when she took possession of the “first substantial thing” prior to the baby itself. She now has two young children.

“It’s easy to know what year babies were born in, because the clothing in the box changes a little every year. It’s nice to compare and think, ‘Ah that kid was born in the same year as mine’,” says Titta Vayrynen, a 35-year-old mother with two young boys.

For some families, the contents of the box would be unaffordable if they were not free of charge, though for Vayrynen, it was more a question of saving time than money.

She was working long hours when pregnant with her first child, and was glad to be spared the effort of comparing prices and going out shopping.

“There was a recent report saying that Finnish mums are the happiest in the world, and the box was one thing that came to my mind. We are very well taken care of, even now when some public services have been cut down a little,” she says.

When she had her second boy, Ilmari, Vayrynen opted for the cash grant instead of the box and just re-used the clothes worn by her first, Aarni.

A boy can pass on clothes to a girl too, and vice versa, because the colours are deliberately gender-neutral.

The contents of the box have changed a good deal over the years, reflecting changing times.

During the 30s and 40s, it contained fabric because mothers were accustomed to making the baby’s clothes.

But during World War II, flannel and plain-weave cotton were needed by the Defence Ministry, so some of the material was replaced by paper bed sheets and swaddling cloth.

The 50s saw an increase in the number of ready-made clothes, and in the 60s and 70s these began to be made from new stretchy fabrics.

In 1968 a sleeping bag appeared, and the following year disposable nappies featured for the first time.

Not for long. At the turn of the century, the cloth nappies were back in and the disposable variety were out, having fallen out of favour on environmental grounds.

Encouraging good parenting has been part of the maternity box policy all along.

“Babies used to sleep in the same bed as their parents and it was recommended that they stop,” says Panu Pulma, professor in Finnish and Nordic History at the University of Helsinki. “Including the box as a bed meant people started to let their babies sleep separately from them.”

At a certain point, baby bottles and dummies were removed to promote breastfeeding.

“One of the main goals of the whole system was to get women to breastfeed more,” Pulma says. And, he adds, “It’s happened.”

He also thinks including a picture book has had a positive effect, encouraging children to handle books, and, one day, to read.

And in addition to all this, Pulma says, the box is a symbol. A symbol of the idea of equality, and of the importance of children.

The story of the maternity pack

Pack from 1953
  • 1938: Finnish Maternity Grants Act introduced – two-thirds of women giving birth that year eligible for cash grant, maternity pack or mixture of the two
  • Pack could be used as a cot as poorest homes didn’t always have a clean place for baby to sleep
  • 1940s: Despite wartime shortages, scheme continued as many Finns lost homes in bombings and evacuations
  • 1942-6: Paper replaced fabric for items such as swaddling wraps and mother’s bedsheet
  • 1949: Income testing removed, pack offered to all mothers in Finland – if they had prenatal health checks (1953 pack pictured above)
  • 1957: Fabrics and sewing materials completely replaced with ready-made garments
  • 1969: Disposable nappies added to the pack
  • 1970s: With more women in work, easy-to-wash stretch cotton and colourful patterns replace white non-stretch garments
  • 2006: Cloth nappies reintroduced, bottle left out to encourage breastfeeding

BBC News – Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes.

Americans have problems with working motherhood, but not with working mothers?

All the recent banter about whether moms “should” work is nuts. Obviously, approval depends on whether kids are better off one way or the other, and if America wants to install the necessary supports for working moms, it can. But it needs to get politics out of the way.

A large proportion of Americans, then, appear to have problems with working motherhood, but not with … working mothers. What does this mean? What message are respondents trying to convey to pollsters?

People’s answers vary substantially according to a mother’s life circumstances, ranging from truly overwhelming support for her work when she has good child care, likes her job and needs to earn money, to extremely meager support if her child care is bad, she doesn’t need money and/or doesn’t like her job.

The fact that most Americans do not have access to high-quality child care, Jacobs told me this week, undoubtedly plays a very large role in driving survey results that find that people in our country, despite their positive feelings toward contemporary women’s changed lives, remain highly ambivalent about two-income families.

Rather than fighting about what mothers should (or should not) do, we’re now deeply divided about what society – and our government in particular — should (or should not) do to support them.

The fact that American attitudes have evolved in this way – that we’re thinking clearly now about the problematic conditions in which working families muddle through their lives, and not continuing to obsessively focus on the good or bad “choices” that mothers make – means that we’ve conceivably reached a true turning point in our country. It means that – despite the seeming hopelessness of our fatally divided Congress — this could potentially be a very promising time to at least start a meaningful conversation about solutions and change. Universal public education for children under age five is on the table, with White House backing, for the first time since the very early 1970s. Two states – California and New Jersey — have paid family leave programs in operation; in the state of Washington, such a program is awaiting implementation, and a handful of other states are now exploring how they might provide paid leave as well. And there are a number of high-profile female members of the U.S. House and Senate eager to push forward a legislative agenda centered around improving the lives of American families.

Working parenthood does not have to be a painful, anxiety-and-guilt-inducing, seemingly intractable problem in our country. It’s only politics that makes it so.

via What People Really Think About Working Moms | TIME.com.