Thursday, April 14, 2011

Weekend Reading: The Tired Working Mom Edition

You're getting your weekend reading post a day early this week because I have it ready, and because I have a strong suspicion that Petunia is getting sick again, so blogging will probably not be in the cards tomorrow night. 

This week, Liz at Mom-101had two excellent posts on working moms. Her first was about how lonely and hard it can be to be both a mom and the main breadwinner in your family. I'm not in that exact situation- I make more than Hubby, but his salary could have supported us if we'd made some different choices (particularly about housing). But still, her post resonated with me, because now that we have made the choices we made, my salary is not optional, and this meant that I had to make some decisions in my most recent job search that were not necessarily what I would have chosen if I had a little more flexibility. (Wow, that was a long-winded way to say not much. But my current thoughts on my career are complicated, and warrant a post of their own. Which is on the to do list.)

Anyway, the second post was on the things that she doesn't do- because no one really does it all. Read the comments, too, on that one, to see how much those of us who get asked all the time "how do you do it all?" really aren't doing. As I said in my comment there, and have said here before- parenthood is a big filter on your life that will show you what is really important to you, because those are the things you'll keep doing. Also, I loved the point one of the comments made, that there is a difference between having it all and doing it all.  I don't think you can do it all, but on good days, I feel like I do have it all- or at least all of "it" that I really want.

Ginger over at Ramble, Ramble had an interesting post on this topic, too. It is nice to see an honest, respectful conversation about the truths of being a working mom going on- so far, none of these posts has been overrun with "mommy war" type comments.

I also came across two sciencey sleep articles, which caught my attention because sleep has been in short supply around here lately.  First, badmomgoodmom sent me a link to a summary of a twin study on sleep. The general idea in a twin study is to look at a set of traits or behaviors and compare the differences seen in fraternal twins with the differences seen in identical twins. If the differences are bigger in fraternal twins, then the data support a hypothesis that the traits or behaviors have a genetic component. Through a bunch of statistics, the researchers can even estimate the portion of the trait or behavior that is under genetic control. According to the summary, this study found that genes play no role in whether or not the families are co-sleeping, and only a partial role in other sleep behaviors.  I have a problem with the conclusions as described in this short summary, because I think that a twin study is not actually going to be a good way to tease apart genetic and environmental influences on co-sleeping. I suspect that if one twin has some sort of genetic sleep issue that leads the parents to decide to co-sleep, they will probably co-sleep with both twins, and not just the twin with the issue. So the data would not show a genetic difference even if one existed. Unfortunately, I can't access the original article without paying for it, and I wasn't curious enough to pay to see if the authors attempted to address this issue- because I also don't think co-sleeping is a "problem" that needs solving.

The other sleep article is from Gwen Dewar, of Parenting Science. She has an interesting post up about the "sleeping through the night" milestone, arguing that it is a cultural construct and not a biological imperative.  I've posted at length about the sleep issues in our house and how I eventually learned to think of them as my sleep issues, not my kids' sleep issues- neither of my children has ever shown any indication of being sleep deprived. Just me and Hubby do! So I found her perspective interesting.

I have one other random article to recommend: the article about how Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal, thinks that we're in a higher education bubble. I don't agree with all of his conclusions (he would say that is because I'm in the elite who is threatened by those conclusions), but it is an interesting read.

And finally, this video was so funny that I laughed until I cried. (Fair warning, though- you probably don't want to watch it at work, and you certainly don't want to watch it with any kids around.)

(As usual, credit to Hubby for finding the funny stuff online.)


  1. I checked the summary of the twin study, being a mother of (badly sleeping) twins and all. Like you I'm pretty skeptical of a twin study on sleep. I mean, generally speaking if one is going to be sleeping in your room (is that really called co-sleeping?) the other one will. Although we did some real co-seeping with both or just one or the other, I get the impression from other twin parents its usually all or nothing. Also, their sleep is so not independent. What I mean is, one of my boys I think had the 'genetic' potential to be a great sleeper. But I'm convinced he developed poor sleep habits through his brother. Finally, if they find that some 30% of sleep variability is due to genes, I'd say that's a lot, whereas the summary is trying to say poor sleep is somehow all the parents fault. I imagine if you could tease out the 'twin environment' effect (like for my boys) you might find even more of a genetic component. Maybe the real study was better, and it was just poorly translated.

  2. I saw that post on Mom-101 and loved it. With the reminder of your link, just got around to reading all the comments on that post just now--and loved them all, too. I might have to post a response on my own blog... (And yes, I've gotten that "how do you do it all?" question, too, which throws me completely for a loop).

    And I agree with that last article: higher education is totally a bubble. My husband and I have been saying it for the past few years. If anyone can find a way to short it (and there probably is, although I have no idea how) that someone is going to be making a pretty penny.

  3. I haven't read the twin study, but based on my experience with identical twins, I am skeptical about the reported study. One of my twins sleeps more and needs more sleep than other. This has been true since they were preemies in their NICU isoletts. We didn't co-sleep when they were infants, but they shared a crib until they were almost one. At age 5, the less sleepy one is more likely to wake up in the night and come to get in bed. The results of my informal study - n=1 suggest sleep is not genetic or environmental. More thought experiments might be conducted try to explain what the difference is.

  4. Thank you so much for the mention. I've reread my comments a whole lot too. And I probably will for a long time.

  5. Great links... The excellent comments to the 2nd Mom-101 article you linked to were very sobering for me. So many mothers reporting they're neglecting their own health, having zero personal time, enduring major strains on marriages due to lack of time and intimacy - I don't know why I find that so shocking. I guess that it is so widespread but women don't talk about it IRL is what is so shocking.

    It made me realize that some things are really and truly controversial. There are still taboos. The "Second Shift" agony is alive and well.

    Now about the vaunted higher education bubble... it seems to me that the question of whether college is a good investment for a family really depends on a few factors. Like what the kid wants to be when she grows up. Like the peer group she is likely to attain at an elite school and what it can do for her long-term vs. the relative value-add of a lower-ranked program. I really believe there are a lot of crappy colleges out there that don't educate anyone, and don't prepare them for economic and social success - I read an article recently about how returning vets are being recruiting by shitty colleges.

    But like so many of the megarich, Theil worships at the bizarre altar of entrepreneurship. I really don't get that obsession. If you look at the data, most small businesses and start-ups fail within the first 3 years - very very few become PayPal (more people get into Harvard than single-handedly strike it rich in business.) On a gut level I really feel more people would be better served working for someone else than by being their own boss - few people have the organizational and personal skills running a successful business requires. I think the article supports this false dichotomy between entrepreneurship and higher ed.

  6. @zed, @JulieR- thanks for weighing in. It is good to hear that a couple of mothers of twins has the same gut reaction to this as I did!

    @mom-101- I loved those posts, so how could I NOT link to them?

    @hush, @bean-mom- my opinion of the education bubble article is pretty complicated, which is probably why I just linked to it. I do think that some of the "retail" colleges (similar to University of Phoenix, but less established/well known) are a very bad deal. As a hiring manager, I have seen graduates of some of these programs who are basically not employable. But I have also seen graduates of the better programs in this group (e.g., DeVry, UofP) for whom the training has been an excellent investment. I think it is a combination of school and the specific program- a technical training course to become a Windows system admin is frankly a better investment than a training course in a trendy field like bioinformatics- THAT bubble burst a long time ago, the market is flooded with people with master's and PhDs from really good traditional programs, and the people from the retail programs really can't compete. But would those people be better off starting their own businesses? I agree with you, @hush- probably not. They would have been better picking a different training course.

    I also think that there is more to a good college education than just earning potential. There is being educated enough to understand the issues of our day and vote intelligently. There is being able to understand the full ramifications of some of your decisions and being able to steer your life more thoughtfully. So I think education is a good thing, but I think there are some less than ideal options out there for people right now, and I'm sure some of those are being pushed in a manner as predatory as sub-prime mortgages were.

  7. Thank you for including my post! I love the conversation that happened in the comments of both of Mom 101 & my post (especially that second Mom 101 post. I loved loved that one).

  8. Personally, I've got a well-branded image in my mind that women entrepreneurs are, like in grade school, quicker to develop smarts and networking skills that pay off in building trust in business.

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