Jenn Satterwhite has been ranting in my comments section, which has made me very happy. She is bringing up difficult issues and she is making me nervous about posting responses. This seems good.

One thing Jenn brought up is that she wishes women would stop arguing among each other about the stay-at-home vs. career issues. I think Jenn imagines a very supportive environment where everyone makes a decision that is best for them.

I imagine an environment where it’s okay to rip each other to shreds.

Here’s why: Back in 1994 when I was writing about myself online before everyone else started, American Book Review asked me to review online writing. In my review I stated that most of the writing sucked. The editor told me that you can’t trash people who are on the forefront. “They are trying something new,” he said. “Be kind.” So I found nice things to say about generally tiresome writing.

Today, everyone is an online writer and criticism runs rampant. Similarly, in the 1970s it would have been completely uncalled for to throw stones at a female CEO. and today, throwing stones at Carly Fiorina is progress.

We will have more progress when we can throw stones at moms who make decisions we don’t agree with. For example, there is some point at which a high-powered, dual-career, nanny-run family is treading on neglect. Let’s mark that point and start throwing stones. Who is protecting the kids? Who is protecting society? Stone throwers. So take a stand.

I will be happy when the war is not between stay-at-home moms and working moms but between parents who refuse to put up with neglect and those who convince themselves it’s okay. In a world where men and women are sharing care and creating careers that accommodate family, this will be a genderless discussion with bombs exploding. That’s what I want to see.

Here are three tidbits I’ve collected that haven’t fit in other places over the week.

Condoleeza has a workplace crush
Maureen Dowd brings to light the evidence that Condoleeza Rice has a crush on the Canadian Foreign Minister Peter McKay. Scroll down in Dowd’s column to see a great photo of the two of them looking at each other, which reminds me of all the times I’ve fallen in love — how exciting it is. The photo also reminds me of all the crushes I’ve had with people I worked with. In each instance, unfulfilled sexual tension at the office made my work life more productive. Really. Probably due to some sort of synergy and that I was so in tune with how the other person was working. Side note: Peter McKay is so cute.
(Hat tip: Ben from AMVER)

Homework in grade school encourages bad habits in the work world
Doing more than 90 minutes of homework a night in middle school means lower test scores, according to Claudia Wallis writing for TIME magazine. She shows why excessive homework is ruining kids’ childhoods and family lives for no purpose. One expert suggests extending the school day so kids get all their homework done before they get home, because home is for family. My friend Mauri points out that when we encourage kids to bring school work home and do it at the expense of family, we set those kids on a path to bring office work home at night and do it at the expense of family.

How to make useless career lists useful
CareerJounal has published what seems like their five thousandth list this year on which are the best careers.What can we learn from this list? First, lists with juicy titles get linked to a lot, and I should have made this post “Three essential things for September”, or something like that. Second, the criteria someone uses to come up with the best career list is more useful than the list itself. Some editor decided that the question to ask is, do you have these things in your job:

I was at the World Trade Center when it fell. At each anniversary that passes I write my story, and each year it changes a little. This year, I have been thinking about that moment when I accepted death.

I was at the corner of Liberty and Broadway when the first tower fell. I was too close to the building to be able to see what was happening. It sounded like a huge bomb, and it felt like a snowstorm of dirt. Everyone ran. But in just a few seconds, the world became dead silent and no one could see. I crawled over piles of people. My mouth was full of dust and I could barely breathe. I had no idea where I was or how to preserve myself. I thought I might be the only person alive. As breathing got more difficult, I settled into the idea of dying.

Time got very slow and I seem to have had an hour’s worth of thoughts in seconds. At first I worried that my family would be sad. But then I was disappointed. I would not see my brothers as adults. Would not know what I was like as a mom, or what it was like to grow old with my husband. My to-do list was overflowing with things I wanted to achieve, things I had been looking forward to. But the minute I thought I was going to die, that list didn’t matter. I was sad that I would not get to hang out and watch family life unfold.

It’s surprising because like almost all New Yorkers, I was not the hang out type. And in case it’s not clear from the obituaries and essays that have come from 9/11, the World Trade Center did not attract the slow-lane types.

Like many New Yorkers, I went to a World Trade Center recovery group. The groups were divided into the kind of trauma you experienced. People who watched the scene on TV were not in the same group as people whose spouse died. I was in a group with people who were there the ten minutes or so before the Tower fell. Some of the people in my group felt the impact of the plane while sitting at their desk. Some of the people ran from their building and were splattered by body parts from jumpers. All of us felt lucky to be alive.

All of us vowed to make life more meaningful after 9/11. Almost all of us changed jobs to do something that gave us more personal time. The few of us who could, had a baby.

Now I know that if I die tomorrow, what I’ll regret is not getting to watch my life unfold. So I have been changing my life, a little at a time, to give myself more time to watch life go by. I made a career change from Wall St.-based business development to home-based writer, I had two kids, and I encouraged my husband to reject jobs with long hours. We vowed to cut back our spending 70% to create a more simple life.

But cutting spending is not so easy, especially in New York City. It required making a lot of difficult choices. Finally we decided we could not reach our goals without moving. So this year, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I am making a new home in Madison.

Sure, I’m still competitive and ambitious when it comes to my career, but what 9/11 gave me the strength to make the scary decision to slow things down. Slowing down means missing opportunities, missing a chance to shine or a serendipitous meeting. It’s hard to simplify life because a complicated life is so stimulating. But nearly suffocating in the rubble showed me that what I want most is to be present: Consciously watching while my life unfolds.

In response to my musings about what it means to be a blogger who is just a blogger, Alexandra Levit sent me an article about bloggers who support themselves blogging. I read it twice. Then I started checking out all the blogs, trying to uncover the secret of the million-dollar blog.

Here is what I uncovered: Heather B (who is truly a wonderful writer) is cited in the article as “bringing in enough money to allow her family to live comfortably.” But it turns out that she and her husband recently participated in a study where they get injected with whooping cough so that they can get $50 and a free tetnaus shot.

I know that everyone has a different idea of living comfortably. But I happen to know the guy who wrote the article for Business 2.0 — he’s my old editor. And I’m certain that he would not be comfortable in the whooping cough study.

This reminds me of something I hate: Articles about women that focus on the dual acheivment of doing well at work and with kids. We never hear from the kids. We never see the inner workings of the household. What does it mean to do a great job with kids? It’s all relative. All self-reported. It’s all BS.

In fact, I did a followup on one of these stories. I looked up an article from Working Mother from a few years back — one of those articles about “How I successfully balance home and work.” I called the woman to find out how things are going with her business and her three school-age sons. I interviewed her and her teenage son.

I was appalled at how little time she spent with the son. And then he said he’d never want to be like his dad because his dad (Fortune 500 COO) was always at work. I couldn’t even bring myself to write about the family using their names because it was so bad. And the woman continues to believe that she’s doing a great job balancing work and family.

I put these topics in the same category: Reports about bloggers who live comfortably and women who do a good job at both work and home. It’s all subjective and relative and hearsay. Useless information.

As more men call themselves stay-at-home dads, they redefine for both men and women what it means to stay home with kids. Men have learned a lot from watching women struggle with home life. The super-woman syndrome of the 1980s has squashed the desire to juggle committed parenting with a sixty-hour workweek, and Rolling Stones lyrics about Valium as “mother’s little helper” do not fall on deaf ears; 24/7 with kids for eighteen years is too hard.

So today’s stay-at-home dad probably has some kind of work outside of the kids. He might not be earning much money, but he has the wisdom of generations before him to know that the money isn’t what matters. Ted Castro is a stay-at-home dad with his daughters, Giselle, six, and Claudia, eighteen months, while his wife, Nicole Faulkner works full-time managing a genetics lab. But if you ask Ted, “What else do you do?” he’ll say, “I’m an artist.”

Since the onset of feminism, stay-at-home moms have been incensed by the question, “What else do you do?” as if being home with kids were not a full-time job. But today, few people question how difficult and full-time taking care of kids is. So stay-at-home dads welcome the question. “I think the question really means, What did you do before you had kids?” says Castro. “Everyone went through a certain amount of schooling. So the question really means, What was your other choice?”

Castro’s other choice was making stained glass. After a degree in fine arts and an apprenticeship, he built up a business making stained glass commissioned by architects. Now he “makes only two or three pieces a year,” but he still calls himself a working artist.

After at least a decade of feuding between stay-at-home moms and working moms, the argument about which is better is dissipating. And in part, this is because men add a fresh perspective to the decision-making process. For dads, staying at home is not so much political as practical. “It just grew that way,” says Castro of his family setup.

In fact, most men do not set out to be stay-at-home dads. They just want to make sure they get to spend time with their kids. A survey by American Demographics revealed that eighty percent of men ages 18 to 39 said that a flexible job to accommodate kids takes a higher priority than doing challenging work or earning a high salary. The new stay-at-home version of dad is how they reach this goal.

On web sites such as, which cater to dads who put family first, stay-at-home dad and work-at-home dad are used almost interchangeably. And it’s a gray area as to how many hours per week a dad needs to work outside the home to disqualify himself as an at-home dad. (Stay-at-home dad Jeff, for example, designs stay-at-home dad apparel and operates the store that sells it.) Most significantly, though, the dads don’t seem to care about that number.

Some people will say, “Big surprise. Men staying at home with kids is just like men vacuuming — they do the living room and bedroom and never get to the kitchen and den before they get distracted.” But others will see a synergy of the sexes: Just as women in the workplace show men how life can be better there, men at home show women a few means of improvement as well.

So both men and women can benefit from learning how to create a life that is conducive to the new stay-at-home and accommodates a new sort of work.

1. Think part-time. Lisa Levey, Director of Advisory Services at Catalyst says, “Usually you have to earn the opportunity to work part time. Work at the same company for a while, and develop a certain niche. Over time, you can craft something that will work for you.” She would know: For years her husband has worked an abridged work schedule so he can be home with the kids.

2. Aim for high-level. “We have in our mind that lower status or lower paying would be easier to balance, but this is not the case,” says Phyllis Moen, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. “If you think you are taking a job that would give you more time, talk to people in that job.”

3. Save, save, save. Castro buys clothes at thrift shops and even frequents garbage dumps. “I got a Concept-II Rowing machine off the street,” he says. “I’ll never pay for a piece of exercise equipment again.”

4. Have faith. “People say my husband is so lucky,” says Levey, “But he negotiated and made compromises. Fear dominates the work world now. People need to push back and try to get what they want.”

Men should not marry women who have careers, according to an opinion piece at The statistics are clear:

“Marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).”

There is a response from a woman, who, big surprise, has a big career. But to me, she just sounds like she’s whining. And she’s definitely missing the point.

The point is that marriage and family work best when one person is taking care of them full time. Duh. Everything in the world is best off when it is cared for very carefully. I wish everyone would stop trying to deny this. It’s barking up the wrong tree.

There is little evidence that the role of housewife is any more frustrating than the role of housewife and careerist rolled into one. (I have done both roles and both are very difficult and not totally satisfying.)

The conclusion, that marriages and families work better with a full-time housewife, is hard to swallow but hard to deny. It’s just that not every woman wants to take care of a family and marriage full time, and even fewer men do. And increasingly few people want to give up almost all child-rearing responsibilities in order to be a single breadwinner. So this is a piece of advice that’s useful to only the small percentage of households in the world. But still, the advice is good.

Many people will say they’d rather face the challenges of a dual-career marriage than the challenge of a stay-at-home-spousedom. Fine. Just know the statistics are not in your favor.

Before I get accused of throwing stones from a glass house, let me come clean with the fact that my husband and I are constantly restructuring our work life in response to these statistics. Also, I believe that the woman being the primary caretaker of both family and marriage is BS, but I don’t see many marriages working any other way, even with two, powerhouse careers.

Please, do not send me emails about your perfect marriage because I don’t believe it. In my marriage we have tried everything, and everything is hard in its own way.

Meanwhile, it’s good advice to men to pick a woman who will be a full-time housewife, but I have some advice for women who are shopping for husbands: To find a partner who will support your choices both financially and emotionally and who will be around enough to participate as an equal parent, marry someone with a very large trust fund.

It used to be that people moved to where their job was. But where you live has a lot of impact on how happy you are. So it makes sense that today people pick a city first and then find a job, and cities maven Wendy Waters thinks this trend will increase. I will be part of this trend on Monday, when I move.

I have spent the last six months studying statistics about cities and matching them with statistics about happiness. This is serious scientific research that is changing how universties teach and how city planners think.

Here are the two guiding principles of my research:

1. People are very bad at predicting what will make them happy.
We overestimate how bad the bad will be, for example. We think we will be really sad if we lose a leg, but in fact, people who lose a limb are not any sadder, as a population, than people who have not lost a limb. I learned this from an interview with Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard, and I quote him so often he is practically my guest blogger.

2. The studies about happiness will most likely apply to me (and you).
This I also learned from Gilbert. He says that even though most people think they are exceptional, most people are normal. Of course. That’s what normal is. But most football players think they are above average (they are not) and most people think they are below average jugglers (they are not). We are all basically average. (You can read more about this in his book, which I also constantly hype.)

Here are the two things that I thought were most important when we talk about the intersection of geography and happiness:

1. People are happy if they earn what their friends earn.
Relative income, rather than any certain level of income, affects well-being, according to Daniel Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize for applying the principles of psychology to economics.

I remember a piece I read in the New York Times (which would be a link you’d have to pay for so I’m not even going to bother looking for it.) It was a story about how real estate agents know way too much about their clients. One agent talked about when a husband and wife were looking for summer rentals in the Hamptons. They walked into a five million dollar home and the wife said, “We wouldn’t have to live like this if you’d get a decent job.”

It’s not about how much you have, it’s about how much your friends have. So you should live in a place where you will have as much money as the people you meet. My husband and I are constantly examining our jobs and our childcare setup, so I know we need a city with a low cost of living in order to guarantee that we never fall below the median during our trials and errors.

2. You will like what other people like.
I want good schools because I have two young kids. I checked out lots of school rankings. The more I pored over these different rankings, the more I distrusted them. Every list had different results, and the whole process seemed to be pretty subjective.

Gilbert is doing a study right now that shows that if you want to know if you should date a given person on, ask the last person he dated. If the last date liked him then you will like him. So I decided that choosing a school district is like dating, and the most important thing in picking a school is that other families love the school district.

Finally, as a tie-breaker, I looked at how economic development experts rated cities. I love the economic development people because their job is to think about how to leverage the community to make life vibrant.

I focused on the rock star of economic development, Richard Florida. He ranks cities according to how creative they are. You can search by topics like how technology-oriented the city is(technology=innovative business), or how gay it is (gay=diversity=open minds for new ideas). Each city gets a score that reflects the level of creative thinking among its population.

So, where did I choose? Madison, Wisc.

Madison is inexpensive, the people who live there love the schools, and the city comes up on best places lists all the time.

For all the research I’ve done, though, I have no idea where to live within the city. So it’d be great if there’s a Madison native out there who could post some suggestions.

It's very hard to tell how you’re doing in the blogosphere. I am, by nature, competitive, so I am always looking for ways to measure success. To this end, I’ve been using Technorati, the grand ranker of all blogs.

So let me just take a moment to say that I made it into the top 100,000 in just four months of blogging. When I told this to my husband, who wonders why I spend so much time on this blog when I am not getting paid, he said, “You’re in the top hundred thousand? Is that good or bad?” I had to remind him that it’s 100,000 out of more than 50 million.

Meanwhile, I was interviewing Robert Wright today, and he mentioned a new way to think about blogging success. He said the letters he receives from his audience are just as intelligent as the letters he received when he was editor of the (magazine-to-the-intelligentsia) New Republic.

I like that way to measure success because I get such good comments on my blog.

This also seems like a good time to mention that the reason going to work is easier than staying home with kids is that at work, we get structured praise for meeting defined goals. At home, no matter how great a parent you might be, you get screaming kids who break rules. There is no standard way to measure success as a parent, which can be very frustrating.

But everyone needs official recognition for their work and you don’t get it as a parent. In this respect, blogging for no revenue has unfortunate parallels to the worst parts of parenting.

So thank goodness for Technorati. Now I’m aiming for the top 50,000.

Time magazine’s cover story is How Your Siblings Make You Who You Are. There are a few good tidbits about how your sibling experience affects how you are at work.

Adult life is made up of relationships – at work, in marriage, among friends — and we learn the skills for these relationships through siblings because we spend so much time with siblings during our most formative years, according to Susan McHale, psychologist at Penn State University.

One example is if there is a favorite child (which researchers see in the majority of families) all the kids will use it to their advantage. As in, “Why don’t you ask Mom if we can go to the mall because she never says no to you.” And we end up using the same tactics at work: “You go tell the vice president that we missed our sales goals. He has a soft spot for you.”

Negotiation styles between siblings affect skills beyond the home. If kids have good conflict-resolution skills among themselves, then they will have more success in school. Regardless of race, income and family structure, it’s the style of play that will make the difference in future success.

Favorite statistic from the article: “Kids in the 2-4 age group have more than one clash every ten minutes,” which I read as my older son hit my younger son with Buzz Lightyear.

The Wall Street Journal gives terrible advice this week on “going from maternity leave to permanent resignation.”

Columnist Sue Shellenbarger writes, “Once a mother is absolutely sure she isn’t going to return to work after maternity leave, I believe she’s obligated to reveal her intentions to her employer.”

WHY? There is no description in the column about the genesis of this obligation. Is it a moral obligation to protect corporate America from having to support families?

Listen to me: Take that leave, and don’t feel guilty. The United States is the only country in the developed world that does not provide national, paid maternity leave. So the few women in the US who can actually take maternity leave have EARNED it. The law gives these women the RIGHT to take that maternity leave regardless of what happens afterwards.

Shellenbarger also warns that you will “burn your bridges” by taking maternity leave and then quitting. She writes this as if it’s a national trend to rehire women after they take extended leave for children. In fact, it’s just the opposite: Most companies do not take you back after leave. And companies that do are notable exceptions. (Anyway, I would not even want to go back to a boss if he were the bitter-about-maternity-leave type, so why bother appeasing him?)

Here’s the advice the Wall Street Journal should have given: Don’t tell anyone at work that you’re not coming back after the baby. Collect all your maternity leave money and do not feel guilty. Call at the end of leave and say you’re not coming back. Tell your boss you’re sorry to put him in a difficult position, but everything feels different once the baby is there. That is true. It is not lying.

Please, do not feel guilty. That women take maternity leave and then quit is a result of the system being totally flawed. It is absurd to presume that women know if they want to continue working before they know what it’s like to be home all day with a baby. And it is unreasonable that the workplace cannot provide a decent number of baby-friendly jobs so that women who want to continue working can without compromising their own health (exhaustion) or their baby’s (too much separation).

In fact, quitting right after maternity leave is not so uncommon, says Laura Shelton, who has done extensive research about Gen X women at the office. She suggests that advice like the Wall Street Journal’s is a result of a generation gap — boomers like Shellenbarger just don’t get it: Boomers fought to get women into he workplace but boomers ignored maternity benefits.

Maybe your boss will take some advice from Shellenbarger’s source, Don Sutaria, who gives companies some good advice: Hire a temporary worker who could stay on as permanent if the maternity leave turns into full leave.

And while you’re pregnant, train the temp well. This will make you feel better if you decide not to return to work, and it’ll even make you feel better if you do return because someone will have kept your work in order.