Weekend Open Thread

Stuck late at the office or over the weekend, and have something on your mind? Discuss it here.
Pictured: Noritake “Elements Marine” Mug, 12 Oz., available at Macys.com for $11 (was $16)

Comments

  1. Ok, I have 2 totally different questions for anyone who cares to answer.

    1) Is there such a thing as work/life balance? In my limited experience I’ve kind of found Jack Welch’s comments to be true — it’s more accurately a series of work/life choices. Or, you can have it all — just not at the same time. Everyone says that today’s society makes it possible to be more flexible with your time at the office — the Blackberry, remote connections, laptops, etc. But don’t those things really just mean that you must be “on-call” all the time if you want to succeed?

    2) When buying gray accessories, are there rules one should adhere to — like, the leather shouldn’t look like a washed-out black? Just got a Botkier bag on sale from Piperlime (not even available on the site anymore) and trying to decide if it’s too light a gray for work.

  2. C,
    1) I think that the work/life balance is not impossible, depending on what you consider to be “success.” For example, I have four kids, from 15 years to 8 months, and all of my career choices are based on their needs. (I went to law school after my third was born). To that end, I will likely never be a biglaw partner. But that’s okay with me, because I don’t consider my “success” to hinge on how much money I make or how high I climb the corporate ladder. Indeed, I feel like I do “have it all”: a wonderful, supportive husband, great kids, and a (gov.) job that challenges me without pulling me away from my family.
    I also agree that company-issued technological devices serve the purpose of keeping the employee tied to work.
    2) I have almost no real fashion sense, so I won’t even attempt to answer this one.

  3. That’s interesting. They way I see it is that my blackberry keeps me on call 24/7 not as a requirment for success, but as a requirement for keeping my job.

  4. I read the Jack Welch coverage too – it all comes down to definitions of success. One would assume that he considers success to be even more than being partner at a law firm. Beyond the what is success question – well, then there’s always “you can have it all, not at the same time.”

    Agreed that there is no work/life balance and it’s all about work/life choices.

    As for the purse – is it too light in color or the way the suede/leather make the gray look lighter?

  5. Yeah, I’m not sure you can be a Supreme Court Justice without devoting your all to it, but I’m also not totally sure that’s a bad thing – maybe those highest echelon jobs should have brilliant, obsessed people in them. And maybe people having children should be willing to give up some career success to make sure they have active, engaged parents. I’ve wondered if the problem isn’t that women are expected to give up too much of their careers for children; it’s that men are expected to give up too little.

  6. “I’ve wondered if the problem isn’t that women are expected to give up too much of their careers for children; it’s that men are expected to give up too little.”

    I think v hit the nail on the head with this one…

  7. (1) When it comes to BigLaw, I do not believe that work/life balance exists. Perhaps their are, indeed, work/life choices. Unfortunately, you can only “choose” life to the extent that it does not impact your yearly billable hours. Choosing life in a way that DOES impact your billable hours, at least as a young associate, and particularly in this economy, will make you vulnerable to layoffs.

    I know this: I could not work the hours that I work right now (1950/year… which I recognize is considered a low target for many), and raise a family. To bill 1950, I workout, work, eat, and sleep, and genuinely don’t have time for much else. I have been trying to master the art of surviving without sleep, because I assume that is the only way the parents manage to do it, but I can’t seem to do it.

    (2) I’m having a hard time visualizing what something that was “too light gray for work” would look like. It never occured to me that any shade of gray would be inappropriate. I tend to take a very liberal view when it comes to statement accessories, though. I wear a lot of large statement necklaces, brighly colored shoes, etc, so I may not be the gold standard on this issue.

  8. In order to make hours, I feel like I am constantly forced put at least one part of my life on the backburner, right now it’s docotor’s appointments and cleaning the kitchen.

  9. This might sound cynical, but ‘work’ is ‘life’–at least, a big part of it. I couldn’t imagine my life, as a whole, without some kind of work; and I think of my work as just one part of my life–kind of like how exercise is part of life. It doesn’t always feel great in the moment of doing it, but it is part of life that is necessary, valuable, and provides purpose and a sense of accomplishment. I get what people mean they talk about ‘work/life balance’, but I think the phrasing of that discussion leads us to forget the work is part of life…and for many of us, it is work (and thus a life) that we freely chose.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I hate the fact that I’m still here at the office when many of my friends left a good hour ago. But it’s my choice–my life–and my work.

  10. Im desperate to find a place that sells high quality, reasonably priced suits as separates. I am a pear and generally need jackets 1-2 sizes smaller than my bottoms–which is difficult as bottoms are much easier to take in. I’ve found some gems at places like Lohmann’s but no separates and I’m loathe to buy two suits just to get one that fits. Any suggestions?

  11. Dear Jenny
    Please do not put off the doctor’s appointment for too long!! The only way to hold the whole coping as superwoman act that you are performing daily together is to stay healthy and look after yourself! If you fall apart I can guarantee your work, family and home will too. We all know anecdotes about the friend who waited too long to have the mammogram or blood test. My friend died because she failed to go home and look after herself when she had pneumonia Some might even say you are negligent in failing to care for your major asset if your health/teeth are ignored. I know it’s hard to make the time to get there, but please try for the sake of the people who rely on you, if nothing else.
    As for the kitchen, believe me, it will still be there for many years! Keep ignoring it. Maybe it can start correspondence with the old baby clothes and my photoes that have never made it into albums!!!!

  12. Banana Republic has great suit separates. Their Jackson fit is meant to fit pears – it has a smaller waist to eliminate the gap and a little more room in the thighs so it doesn’t pull in the front. Maybe try there?

  13. i thought v’s comment was dead on point, as well. my husband and i went to law school together, and 21 years later, we’ve got four sometimes-darling children. we both ratcheted down our careers when they were small, but now, as they are older, we have both been able to be quite successful in our relative areas. i’ve always made it clear that my kids came first but i’ve always been flexible (you haven’t lived until you’ve been in court with a baby in your arms).

  14. Question to all: I’m job searching and just found out I’m also pregnant. If/when (I’m an optimist) I get a job offer, do I need to tell them before accepting that I’m pregnant? My school career center said yes, but I really have to get out of where I am. It’s intolerable as well as layoffs are in the near future and a boss favorite is gunning for my job. Is it dishonest to accept and tell them when I start showing? A friend told me it’s a horrible thing to do but I need a new job very very badly. Thoughts?

  15. Re: the gray — it’s almost like a washed-out denim color of gray. I think it’s going to go back — particularly because when I was looking for a link to show you ladies what the bag looks like, I found it on nearly as deep a discount at Amazon in a black leather. Last one left — so I ordered that one and am packing up the gray one today.

    Lisa W – definitely Banana Republic, Ann Taylor; J.Crew and Theory all come in separates. I believe a lot of Nordstrom’s suits do, as well. Ann Taylor and BR have some great sales — you can get a suit for under $200 if you time it right.

    Jenny – agreed, cleaning the kitchen can wait, but the doctor’s appointments are the occasional must. If you get the first appointment of the day then it’s unlikely that they’ll be running late — you may only have to wait a bit.

  16. It’s funny re: work/life balance — I’ve had a bunch of different jobs during my life. In my 20s, in those first few jobs it was really hard to make the difference between work and life. When I started working at a law firm, though, it suddenly seemed desperately important to NOT let the law firm become my life. I had rules: leave at 10 p.m. unless it was an absolute emergency. Get everything for ME done in the morning, when my brain was sharpest — work out, read, even get writing done. I set my Blackberry to turn off and on automatically on workdays (off at midnight, on at 6 AM), and even longer on weekends (off at 8 PM, on at 12 noon) (figuring I could always manually turn it on if I knew something was expected and coming down the pike.) And those rules allowed me to get some stuff done on my own that wasn’t work-related (dating, etc.) But they also created a really antagonistic relationship between me and my job. My job was the enemy, the thing to “keep out” of the rest of my life. Like a sprawling parasitic sludge or something from a sci fi movie.

    I’ve just switched jobs, to a not for profit. People leave at 5:02. We have no Blackberries. Odds of me working at 7 PM or on the weekend are slim. And my work is interesting — really, fantastically interesting (to me at least). So I’m rethinking things, now — is it breaking my old “rules” if I read a book on the weekend that will help my understanding of the new subjects I’m learning about for my job? It’s the oddest position to be in.

  17. @Bridget – while the new employer might be surprised/annoyed at learning of your pending maternity leave, I think it is illegal for them to even ask about your family plans, much less you being required to volunteer it…

  18. Delta Sierra :

    Bridget – in my own opinion, you need to tell them. It might cost you the job, or you might get points for honesty and land it anyhow. However horrible your current job, it can’t be worse than the humiliation of being found out. Especially if you plan on accepting maternity benefits from the new company. Also, depending on how close-knit a field/area you work in, it could follow you around for years.

  19. Delta Sierra :

    Work-life balance, the life part. If you are married, or in a live-in relationship of whatever description, please please please don’t assume the other person will do their fair share of housework. Maybe you are the one who shirks. Harsh word, but that’s how it looks from the point of view of the one who is doing the lion’s share of the grocery shopping, cleaning, child-running-after, etc etc etc. Either way, the one thing I’ve seen cause the most tension between honestly loving partners is housework. So, do your fair share, or suffer the consequences. Shirkers: smarten up. Shirkees: as soon as is financially possible, hire someone to clean the house, and at least get that bone of contention out of the way. Younger people might not have encountered this yet, but it could very likely be in your future, especially if there are children, so think about it, please. The hired-help option is the only one I’ve ever seen work. Although the resentment still corrodes. Yes, lots of personal experience here, but also lots and lots and lots of observation of others.

  20. Lisa- you might want to try Nordstrom’s Semantiks line or Dillard’s Antonio Melani line. They are both in the BR/AT price range but seem to be slightly better in terms of quality and the Melani line is very easy to take in/out if you need to.

  21. Bridget — Congratulations! For my $.02, I would say that if you’re in your first three months then you shouldn’t tell anyone but the father of the baby. Not to be a downer, but so, so many things can go wrong — statistically it’s astounding.

    If you’re into your second trimester already, tell the employer once you get to the offer stage (NOT on a first or second interview). (Again, not to be a downer, but from the stories we’ve heard out there, NO one is hiring, and those who are are taking their sweet time in making their decisions. Above The Law just had a crazy post about how the former head of an agency — gold Rolodex! — was out of work for months before a firm took him in as a partner.

    Our answer changes a bit if you KNOW you’re being hired to help on some important, time-pressing matter that your pregnancy will prevent you from being able to fully commit to. E.g., a law firm dealing with one of the latest bankruptcies where there’s a call for all hands on deck, a company launching a hotly anticipated new product, etc. In that case, you need to be absolutely honest with your employer and yourself about whether you’re the right person for the job.

    If you end up NOT telling the potential employer, a few things to keep in mind: a) leave your old job as soon as possible once you get the job — if four weeks is standard leave with two weeks instead. b) understand that you cannot take a nice leisurely “break” between your old job and your new job. By which we mean, end on a Friday, start on a Monday. b) You and your partner should consider how much maternity time you’re actually going to take off — it should also be on the lower end of the spectrum.

  22. Networking women ……”Won’t Help Me!”

    “Won’t Help Me!….won’t be holdin’ my hand!”…

    I am a 50 year old working mother of 3 children and started my own business in NYC 22 years ago from my kitchen table with my first child, Justin ( now 22 and recently graduated from Columbia University) still in a playpen by my side. From that year of 1987, I have worked exhaustingly to juggle the tough task of building a business while raising now 3 kids, two of which are still in High School with the hard costs of their two college tuitions looming in the very near future. Since that time I have built Kamen Entertainment Group, Inc. & Recording Studios which spent the past 20 years housed in NYC Times Square complete with a 22 person staff to organize and keep afloat. In addition to this, I did it with my husband of 25 years. Staying married and holding this all together is a topic all by itself. I recently relocated my recording studios and business to Chelsea here in NYC…lots of work to organize and move 11,000 sq ft of recording equipment and office supplies…furniture…etc….after such a long time in one place. Doing this all while still servicing clients, trying to get and keep business in these tough economic times and still keeping track of my children’s schedules at school… homework assignments…. getting them to after school activities.
    After all this, I still have to go and write and record music, vocals & voice overs for countless clients. Oh yes, and workout everyday to keep my 100 pounds weight loss from creeping up on me again. “…eeek! Calgon, take me away”.
    I feel that having networking opportunities open for women is extremely important to us all. Too often, women in business have a tendency to block other women from succeeding rather than to offer a helping hand. What is it about our nature as women that make us do that? Good Morning America recently covered this topic.”won’t help me…won’t be holding my hand ….”
    this is a lyric to a song I wrote after reading the inspiring book “Kabul Beauty School”. If you have read it, check it out. Women helping women! Powerful!
    Well, that’s ok! As I now step foot into my 50 years of life I am thrilled to see more and more young women who have grown up with computers getting involved with social networking. What a fabulous source for women in the business arena that I did not have when starting my business back in the 80s.
    I give this to you all! A bit of inspiration through song…for as a song writing artist, this is how I communicate best. I layered my violin lines with vocals and textures to convey a feeling of labor and yet hope.
    Take a break from your computer and stretch while you play this song below…

    click link below to listen…….

    http://www.marinaonline.com/BlogMP3/096-BPM-WontHelpMe.mp3

    Enjoy…. think about it….. and as always…..

    Never Stop Movin’

    M

  23. You can have it all, just not at the same time.

    That’s been my mantra as of late.

  24. re the poster with the pregnancy:

    I am going to be the mean one here. I think for the sake of all women, you have to be honest about. Women get discriminated against b/c employers HATE putting all that time and effort into hiring just to have the lady leave to make babies. If you know you have to leave, even temporarily, in less than a year then I really think you should tell, at least at the offer stage. I personally have no interest in having children and hate that employers might be worried about me needing maternity leave in the middle of a big trial.

    That said, my husband and I have agreed that if we change our minds and do have kids, he will be the stay at home dad as I have a much higher income potential.

    Women need to stop trying to have it all and try to have our husband’s make some of those sterotypical female sacrifices. I mean really, if you were an employer and had to choose between two employees, one who would call out sick cause her kids were sick, was late because the kid had a parent conference, was out another 4 months to have another kid, or another employee who only took leave when he/she was sick, which would you choose?

    No wonder women ended up being discriminated against. We have to either share the burden or choose the career.

  25. Hi everyone, I am the type of person who looks like they’re from NYC (black on black), but I’d like to branch out.. I think the main 2 things I would like to add right now are a pair of white pants (but soooo tricky to find ones that don’t show through) and a very neutral cardigan (no wool or cashmere). I would love your suggestions!

    For sizing, I can wear a J Crew XL Jackie Cardigan but their fitted shirts and blazers don’t work. At Target, I can wear a large or XL knit. At Torrid I can wear a 0x (1x for button down shirts) and a size 12 pant. My two main fitting challenges are: a) very busty, button down shirts nearly impossible, and b) carry all my extra weight in the tummy. It more than pooches out.

  26. Faith,
    I have to disagree. We live in a country that has decided, as a society, to allow women to work AND procreate. We live in a society that encourages girls to go to school, get advanced degrees, become engineers, accountants, lawyers, etc. As a result, maternity leave is a cost of doing business. (A cost, in this country, which is substantially less than in most western countries). They don’t like it, too bad. That’s the law. Otherwise start telling girls in h.s that if they want to be mothers, they shouldnt bother getting an education.
    Re your husband being a stay at home dad, that’s great for you, but for those of us with a stronger maternal instinct or a desire to breastfeed, that is not a real option. Believe me, a newborn wants Mommy, even if Daddy is there.

  27. Kit,

    I agree that how you described it is how it *should* be. But it isn’t. And realistically, I don’t think it will ever be that way. Corporations are always trying to slash the “cost of doing business” and this definitely eats up a huge amount of those costs.

    I also think there is something dishonest about starting a job you know you are going to have to leave. A friend took a brand new job for the state where they put her through 3 months of intensive training (costing the state upwards of $20,000) and all the while she knew she was trying to get pregnant and would stay at home for at least a year if she did.

    I don’t care what the law says, that just pisses people off and wastes money. If she knew she wanted to get pregnant and stay home she should have stayed at her old job until after her year sabbatical and then tried to work for the state. Rather, our tax money paid her training, then her replacements training. And guess what, her replacement was a man.

  28. Faith, I have to disagree with your views. The issue with trying to get pregnant is just that- you’re trying. Many women can get pregnant immediately, while others may take years to have a successful pregnancy or not be able to get pregnant at all. It just seems ridiculous to ask a women to put her life on hold just because she wants to get pregnant.

    As it is, the U.S. is near the bottom of the charts for maternity benefits. A lot of women end up staying home not out of desire, but because they either can’t get their child into an infant daycare program or because it’s too expensive.

  29. Interesting discussion. I’m with Mel on this. Men have medical issues as well. A man I work with has cancer and I am sure that over the course of his treatment, he will take more time off for medical appointments and surgeries than the average maternity patient’s medical appointments. Pregnancy is just a fact of life. Deal with it like any other medical issue. And in some cases it can be “planned” for even better than cancer or heart issues. In other cases, not.

    In addition, hiring a man doesn’t mean that he’s not going to jump ship when he gets a better job offer (even after training) or has a medical emergency. I’ve had to comit to serve for a length of time as “payback” for education received. A corporation or government can require a comitment in exchange for expensive training. If the company doesn’t care enough about the cost of training to require a “payback,” then we shouldn’t judge.

  30. Bridget, Congratulations! I second the advice not to tell your potential employer until you are out of the first trimester. I also think you should wait until you have an offer and then seriously and fairly consider the situation to determine how much of an impact your maternity leave will have on your new job. At this point you’ll probably want to disclose the situation to your potential employer. Then you can gauge their reaction, find out how much support you’re going to get in this situation, and decide if you think it’s fair or even desirable to accept the job.

    I don’t think you owe it to anyone to give up on this job by “outing” yourself and essentially offering to bow out before you even have an offer on the table.

    Good luck and best wishes for a healthy pregnancy!

  31. Delta Sierra :

    Faith – May I share the hard-ass crown with you? I agree with what you’ve said here. I’m at the hiring level now, and would not take kindly to someone coming to me for a job, and then greeting an offer with a pregnancy announcement, if she knew it had obtained when she first applied. If I’d head-hunted her, it might be different, she’d be a know quantity. But someone who came to me looking? No.

  32. I certainly appreciate the importance of honesty, but at too early a point, I agree with those who said it seemed like a weak offer to bow out. And if you do want to bow out, then why bother interviewing? In my view, that seems like more of what would follow a person around in a close-knit profession, as opposed to taking the maternity leave to which you’re legally entitled.
    While I also appreciate the views of those (particularly in hiring roles who are left to search for temporary replacements) who support early, full disclosure, I also wonder what makes us willing to reject the advances made for working women by all those who struggled to get legislation passed for rights we now enjoy. To speak VERY generally, successful men in corporate professions seem more than willing to enjoy the rights and benefits available to them (sick leave, vacation, work travel, compensated training and education, etc.) which leaves me, again, to wonder why we are willing to short ourselves.

  33. As the very pregnant and proud staff partner of a biglaw I once asked an applicant (who was openly (8 months) and vocally pregnant ) what her childcare arrangements were, out of interest more than anything because I had that day also interviewed my own prospective nanny and innocently and excitedly wanted to share that discussion with a professional woman in the same position.
    The ( legal) applicant’s job was to start in 3 weeks and I also felt understandably I thought concerned about someone starting work one week before her due date. However in the end she reassured us that she was so well qualified that I employed her, to start in her discretion, when she felt ready after the birth. We offered the job on the spot and she accepted.We made temporary arrangements re the position in the meantime.
    Next day I had a call from the Law Society, to whom she had complained
    overnight that we had overemphasised the issue of her pregnancy and stopped her from commencing a job one week before birth! I had my knuckles rapped by the Society for discrimination .
    I still don’t know what to think, she started work for us 6 months later at her nomination and is a great employee, but boy, did it take us a while to bond!!!!

  34. Re: Pregnancy – you do not have to reveal you are pregnant when you interview (unless you are obviously showing -at which point there is an elephant in the room!). I think the sensible thing to have the conversation when you indicate that you’d like to accept the job. That way, you are telling them “before” they hire you so you are being up-front with them, but if they end up rescinding the offer, it is certainly beause of your pregnancy and you have legal recourse. I would also tihnk through your plan for your maternity leave so you can
    immediately address any concerns there may be about your impending absence. As has been said before, it is illegal for them to inquire about your pregnancy. The flip side is that you should expect that they won’t penalize you for not revealing it after you come on board. (This may not actually be the case, but mothers and expectant mothers have to assert these rights if we want them.)

    As I see it, the issue is not so much about “fairness” but, at the risk of sounding – (insert insult here) – the policy is for the good of society. The biggest compliment I received when I was pregnant with my third child was how happy the person was because the world needs more people like me and my husband to have and raise children. We shouldn’t discourage intelligent, responsible, educated women from having children – or make it even harder for them to raise them, even if others have different priorities or make different choices.

    Incidentally, I would challenge anyone to compare my work to that of my childless coworkers – developing the skills I need as a mother has certainly only positively affected my professional abilities.

    Parents: we get more done before 9 am than most people do all day ! ;-)

  35. Thank you so much to everybody who responded to my question. While I’m still not entirely sure what I will do, responders have brought up a lot of important angles and I have a lot to consider.

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