Hey White House Honchos: Your Country Needs You More than Your Kids!

Note to White House budget chief Peter Orszag: You are completely, dangerously deluded.

Not about the economy! (Or maybe you are — I can’t say.) But you definitely are deluded about your job as a parent. And so are a bunch of your buddies.

A recent article in The New York Times, “‘Family Friendly’ White House Is Less So for Aides,” featured honcho after hand-wringing honcho bemoaning how hard it is to balance the demands of running the country with being a good mom or dad.

Orszag — a guy who is, one hopes, trying to figure out how to stop the country from sloughing off millions more jobs this month — says, “There are moments when the concept that I can sort of keep everything functioning well and the kids happy and the job working well — it all comes crashing down.”

He has, he confides, missed some of his two children’s doctor’s appointments and school trips.

I sure hope so!! I’d feel pretty bad if he chose the petting zoo over talks with GM.

Yes, Pete, I know: Your kids only have one childhood, they’re only young for the blink of a blah, blah, blah. But since when did we decide that parents have to be there for EVERY school outing? Every soccer game? Every soccer practice ? This is the new, wacky trend of parent as personal assistant — the idea that kids should do nothing by themselves, that we parents must be present to organize, cheer, cherish and, if at all possible, videotape every kiddie event as if it were a coronation. This is twinned with the idea that when we are not present, it is unbearably disappointing for the kid and takes a crowbar to the parent-child bond.

As if kids have no resilience at all.

As if they shouldn’t ever learn any! As if it’s good for them to believe the world revolves around them. “My father went to work at 6 o’clock in the morning and came home for the dinner and then went back to work till 11 o’clock at night,” says my friend Sue Geramian. He wasn’t trying to pull the country out of the greatest economic collapse since 1929. “He owned a soda fountain in the Bronx.” Why did she think he left her every night?

“I felt that he was working hard because he was taking care of his family.” Which he was. Was this a huge mistake that would come back to haunt them both?

Hardly! Sue loved her daddy and knew she was loved in return. No 24/7 presence was required.

Another high-placed aide in the Times piece, Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director, Jay Carney, chose to go on his 4-year-old daughter’s school trip even though his boss was about to appear on “Meet the Press.”

Clearly, he couldn’t decide who needed him more.

Clearly, he hasn’t watched his employer on TV much lately.

In a world where half the Disney movies feature a (bad) dad realizing he hasn’t spent enough quality time with his kids — or a workaholic mom qua Cruella De Vil — it’s hard to remember that you can be a loving, beloved parent and still miss a few Kodak moments.

What’s more, your kids can turn out all right, too. If you don’t believe me, ye White House aides, take a look at that guy with the absentee dad and the mom who sent him off to live with his grandparents for a chunk of time.

You know — that arguably well-adjusted, self-actualizing, family-oriented fellow.

Your boss.      

                                          — Lenore

60 Responses

  1. My dad was a cop. If he was on the afternoon shift, and I was in school, I would literally go weeks at a time without seeing him. I didn’t feel neglected or unloved – he was working hard to feed us and send us to Catholic school. Sure he missed some things. But none of us died from it.

  2. Beautiful. Thank you.

  3. Right on, Lenore! The Joe Biden comment was hilarious :p

  4. Oh, thank you for this. It’s your best yet. It seems that some parents need to be reminded of the quantity vs. quality argument.

  5. Amen. My hubby (who has 2 adult kids) did believe that we needed to go to every. one. of. their. sporting. events (not practices, thank heavens). Perhaps he’ll be senile enough by the time our little one is old enough to play sports that this can become a non-issue😉, but then again I doubt (and certainly don’t really hope for!) that.

    Some of my favorite memories of my own teenage years are the sporting activities (out of town! overnight!) I was allowed to go to without my mother (my dad never came anyway!). Not unchaperoned, mind you, but unparented. I felt fabulously grown-up and independent; it was great. I hope and intend to allow my son the same experience.

  6. I haven’t read the other article (link?) but I’m guessing either you’re mischaracterizing it or the article mischaracterized reality. There’s a HUGE difference between feeling guilty about missing a few activities and feeling guilty about missing all activities. I’m going to guess the father’s in question don’t go to every single event, try to go to every event, or even want to go to every event. But maybe they haven’t been to the last 15, maybe this one thing was really important to their kid, who knows.

    My parents didn’t go to every band performance or play I was in, nor did I expect them to. However, my mother didn’t once see me march, despite 60 opportunities over 4 years, and it did hurt me a good deal. Does that mean I’m upset she wasn’t at all 60 performances? No. But one would have been nice. Heck, let’s try for 4, one for each year.

    Of course, I survived. My mother completely missed and ignored something important to me, and we don’t have a relationship anymore (this was indicative of our relationship, I don’t not speak to my mother because she didn’t see me march).

    And my father, well, he’d punish me by cutting contact for weeks at a time. If, say, I had to do a play on ‘his’ weekend, he’d simply not call or see me for a month. Again, I survived my father’s lack of involvement. But we don’t exactly have a relationship now either.

    I think you’re suggesting an extreme here, that it’s perfectly ok if a parent doesn’t show interest in things important to their kid for years at a time. And frankly, that’s not cool. I don’t care how important your job is, ignoring your kids for years is damaging and wrong.

    Will they survive? Sure. Is it good for them. Absolutely not.

  7. Give me a BREAK!! My husband is a school janitor who makes $40,000 a year. He has been able to take time off for parent/teacher conferences and other occasional important things. But why do both parents have to go to every doctor’s appointment unless the kids are in the emergency room? And he has NEVER gone on a school trip! I would be mad if he would take time off for everything the kids ever did – we would never be able to pay the bills!

  8. OK. I’ve gone back and read the original article. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/04/us/politics/04parents.html And it appears to have been quoted rather out of context here.
    The point was that White House staffers are regularly working 60-70 hours and 7 days a week, and that this doesn’t make for a family friendly workplace.
    I certainly agree with Lenore that a good parent doesn’t need to attend *every* school trip, visit to the dentist or ballet rehearsal!
    But equally a good parent should attend the ballet recital, make time to attend the occasional trip and be on hand to provide ice cream after the dentist visit. These things are important part of our kids lives and they need us to acknowledge that by being there.
    Remember these kids (in the article) aren’t teenagers — they only range in age from 2 to 8. Yep, you want to encourage independence, but you also want a warm and close relationship with your kids — and being there is part of that.
    And don’t assume that it’s always dad that misses these things — often it’s mum that’s working in a high powered job these days. Interestingly the 2 aides with young children who have left the White House, both appear to be female. It looks as though it’s OK in our society (though not as OK as it was) for dad to work very long hours, but not for mum)

  9. It’s not a question of going or not going to events. To say parents shouldn’t go to events is the other extreme. Parents and children should feel free to make those decisions. Parents have work obligations that they must keep.but not always and child want their parents and some events and not others. Children need to learn that they can do things on their own and parent need to learn that about their children. Children also need to learn that adulthood comes with responsibilities and their parents are not always free to take off work to be with them. The world neither revolves around the children nor the parents.

    We raise our children to leave. The process begins early and continues through until the time they leave home on their own. Part of the process for the child and the adult involves not making every event no matter what the cost the child in involved in.

    Guilt does not lead to a happy home. People need to step back and enjoy life. I go to some events with my grandchildren because I love to be with them and participate in their lives, but sometimes I can’t or have know desire to go to an event either because of other obligations or because I don’t want to. Sometimes their is disappointment on the part of them or me but isn’t that part of life and maturity.

  10. Some children I have taught never have a parent at sports day or class assembly. Sometimes its because they don’t care about such things, sometimes its because they work and can’t get the time off work or won’t get paid for the time off. Some childen are deeply disappointed and others would rather they didn’t come and watch.
    My experience of drs appointments etc one parent tends to take a child unless its life threatening but maybe that’s a UK thing.

  11. Well I’d rather government officials spent more time with their kids. Then they would have less time to damage the country.

  12. I would like ot think that if one parent has a very demanding (hours-wise) job, then the other parent has more flexibility. My husband and I both used to be consultants, which means being far away from home 4 days a week, EVERY WEEK. You still work (in your home town) on Friday and there is sometimes work to be done on the weekends. I am now at SAHM to our infant twins but I don’t think my husband is a bad father for keeping that job. He is away from home a lot more than 70 hours per week. But he provides for his family and when he IS home, he is spending quality time with us.

    I will make sure that my children understand the demands of his job, and why it’s important to our family. He will make sure that during his time at home, they get the love and affection they need from their dad. And he does not feel guilty for missing doctors appointments. I’m there and I’m their mother. he knows they are in good hands!!

    When I think about it, those Whiet House staffers don’t have it so bad. They get to go to their own home at night and wake up to their kids every morning.

  13. Good point, Sameer!

  14. My husband worked the 3rd shift for 5 years, meaning that the kids maybe got to see him for an hour a day. He very rarely ate dinner with us. But they know that he loves them, and I’m pretty sure it didn’t leave any lasting scars. Things like that don’t usually last forever he just receintly got laid off and now they get all the daddy time they want.
    while I don’t think you have to be at every practice or field trip, I think that going to concerts or games is important. My parents were always at every concert or play that I was in and that made me really happy, my husbands parents even though they had nothing else to do never went to anything he did, and he always says he wishes that they had at least shown a little interest.
    I mean if you miss one every now and then its not the end of the world but you should at least try, or maybe if even just one parent can go.

  15. Hear! Hear!
    My dad went to work at five in the morning, working a filthy unschooled job at the abbatoir so we could be fed, clothed and housed for more than thirty years. He came home on time for dinner and we always ate dinner as a family. The only time we say him during the day was at weekends and during the two week holiday he had, but did we suffer because Daddy couldn’t come to watch us fingerpaint or come to a schoolevent to watch us kick a ball? No, of course not. First of all, the school didn’t allow parents to sporting events (or ‘allow’… no parent ever came, because they had something better to do with their time: work to earn their childrens daily bread!) but more important, this whole idea that children need to be held, cuddled and told how special they are ALL THE FREAKING TIME is ludicrous.

    PS I especially love your dig at ‘parents as their kid’s personal assistant. I loath those flapping parents and their bored, spoilt offspring.

  16. I think there’s a balance here. I think that all those folks whose dads worked from dawn til past the kids’ bedtimes seven days a week to care for them had great dads who made sacrifices for them — but it might have been EVEN BETTER if they had been able to provide for them without doing that, and would have had more time to spend with their kids. Having a dad around with time and energy to spare for the kids is actually a Good Thing, not some made up modern frill. But life is not always ideal, so some dads have always done what dads have to do. And it’s good they did.

    Still, if a dad’s work situation legitimately permits him to arrange things so that he CAN actually see his kids and be involved in their genuinely IMPORTANT activities, that’s a good thing, too.

    But compromising your work so that you don’t have to miss your four year old’s field trip? That’s beyond ridiculous.

  17. The only argument I’ve been missing in the above comments is the idea that maybe the people who go to these things don’t go because they fear they will ‘damage’ their kids, but because they fear that they themselves will feel like they”ve missed out on stuff.

    Yes, my father worked (and still does) a lot of hours – and I don’t think I’m damaged because of his being away a lot when I was younger.

    But I think he may be the one who feels that from time HE would have had more fun watching me fingerpaint than negotiate some stuffy deal that fell through anyway.

    I know that this is one of the reasons I like to go to all the stuff my kids do: it beats going to my day job.
    If I don’t go I’ll probably stay at home, browse the internet, read blog posts, comment on them and…oh wait…never mind.

  18. Wendy, I think it’s the same here in the US (at least in my area). I’ve almost never seen 2 parents at a doctor’s appointment when I’ve taken my son. Actually, I’ve rarely even seen dads at my son’s pediatrician or dentist’s office – 9 times out of 10 it’s the mom who takes the kids to the doctor’s appointments.

  19. You know, if you have an important job involving the welfare of this nation, maybe, just maybe, homelife as you knew it is going to be different.

    As it should be. The kids should be proud their dad is doing such an important job, and they’ll have to share him with the country for awhile.

    I am the one to take the small fry to dr. appointments. I hope to be able to have the time to see some of the school performances when the time comes. Am I going to make every one? Most likely not. Is small fry going to be disappointed? Perhaps, but he will also know that even if I miss an event, there is a good reason and that he is loved and wanted more than he will ever know. And later I’ll make pancakes.

    I also work my share of 60 hour weeks. Its incredibly difficult, but thankfully, I do get comp time and the weekends are, for the most part, set aside. I do this because we need an income, and I do actually like my job. No one is forcing you into a job that requires 60-70 hour weeks, and I’m sure Mr. Orszag is well-compensated for his time. So he should be grateful he can provide a good living for his family, and not sweat the day to day stuff. And Lenore has a point– maybe his boss DOES need him more than the kids at this point. 😉

  20. Just because lots of other Americans have crappy work/life balance doesn’t mean the White House staff should be happy that they do too. All those staffers working ridiculous hours every week for years have lives and responsibilities outside of work, not least to their own health. Frankly, the US is in an appalling economic mess, a much bigger mess than lots of other countries where working resonable hours and taking leave isn’t such a big deal. Maybe we’d all be better off if the people running your country were more involved in the day to day existance of people outside their offices. If a person can’t take a day off every now and then there is something seriously wrong. If a person can’t take a day off every now and then to parent or be a carer to their parents, you’re assuming they’ve got someone, probably a wife, who will take care of all that stuff for them instead of pursuing her own career and interests. That’s not a workplace policy I’d want to encourage.

    My grandfather worked in the Australian Defence Department right through the second world war and the cold war, he worked 9-5, as did pretty much everyone else. Why? Because when you’re working on really important stuff it’s important to look after yourself and get plenty of sleep, otherwise you screw up.

  21. Amen to everything Kate said.

    I’m usually on board with Lenore, a little or a lot, but this just seemed out of left field to me. For one thing, I grew up with a dad who traveled on business a lot (a lot) and it DID upset me. I’m not going to agree with the “oh, it made me stronger” stuff I’m hearing above. No. It put a ton of stress on my mom, made my family unhappy, made me miss my dad a lot… and HE missed a lot. It took a long time for us to re-connect as adults.

    For another thing, I have a small child myself, and the status quo of the American work/life balance infuriates me. No one needs to work as hard as we work. But it’s a rat race. I don’t think parents, especially both parents, need to be at every school trip or sporting event. But you’re lumping in things like doctor’s appointments — I don’t care how free-range your kid is, a parent still needs to accompany him or her to the doctor. And the fact that this is really, really hard for a lot of American families given our workplace culture, lack of paid family leave, etc., is a damn shame.

    So you lost me on this one, big time. If I worked 70 hours a week in the White House (or anywhere), I’d miss my kid like crazy too. And if you think having White House staffers working even more hours per week is what’s going to turn this country around, well, geez, I WISH you were right. Wouldn’t that be nice and easy?

  22. Eh. I firmly believe that this idea that quantity can be replaced by “quality” as far as time with family is concerned is a huge load of bunk. If you;re going to have kids, you need to make time to make sure they’re “held, cuddled and told how special they are.” That’s pretty much the job description. If you aren’t up for it. Don’t reproduce. Geez. Some people are so damn bitter!

  23. Linda, learn to read. I said “held, cuddled and told how special the are ALL THE FREAKING TIME”.
    I only saw my father after he came home from work, and since bedtime as a youngster was half past seven, meant I only saw him, what? Two hours a day. During those two hours, my father had to take a shower (abbatoirs stink), greet my mom (we grew up knowing that however much our parents loved us an no matter how our parents would’ve given their lives for us, their first and formost relationship was with EACHOTHER

  24. Shoot, pushed the wrong button. Ah well. Again.

    Linda, learn to read. I said “held, cuddled and told how special the are ALL THE FREAKING TIME”.
    I only saw my father after he came home from work, and since bedtime as a youngster was half past seven, meant I only saw him, what? Two hours a day. During those two hours, my father had to take a shower (abbatoirs stink), greet my mom (we grew up knowing that however much our parents loved us an no matter how our parents would’ve given their lives for us, their first and formost relationship was with EACHOTHER, and this is a GOOD thing. Marriage SHOULD be about the partners). Besides that, I had two older sisters who also hadn’t seen their dad for the whole day.

    So, I saw my dad during my first eight or nine years of life for a couple of hours a day, during which I was not his top priority, and during two weeks holiday, ditto.

    Did my dad ‘cuddle me and hug me and told me I was special’? Sure. Well, apart from the ‘telling me I’m special’ bit. I’m from a generation that thinks things like that ought to be shown, not told. But I got plenty of ‘quality’ time with my dad. My dad has been dead for years, and my childhood has been gone for more decades than I want to be reminded of, but I remember things like my dad making a kite out of paper and stings and flying it together of the weekend, my dad taking us to the swimming pool during holidays, my dad making a mash of the loathed vegetables and sculpting it into a funny shape so it would be at least fun to eat, sitting on my dad’s lap, snuggled safe.. I’ve got loads of wonderful memories. And guess what? My dad NEVER saw me in any school sporting event. My dad’s boss would’ve scoffed if he would’ve asked the day off for something that banal. My dad would’ve fallen off his chair laughing if asked why he didn’t go to the newspapers to complain that his work prevented him from playing with his kids 24/7. Neither did we feel deprived because he (or my mom) wasn’t there ALL OF THE TIME. Why? First of all because we were too busy to live our own lives. We needed our parents to be there, as the safe ‘wallpaper’ of our lives. They played their part in our lives, and an important part, but the majority of our time was spent playing, and going to school, and reading and doing stuff. Secondly because it was fully understood (so fully that we didn’t even think about it, it was so obvious) that adults had a life of their own, beyond our childish concerns.

    What a novel idea! Adult life is not about the kiddies!

    Just as we kids lived our own lives, we knew our parents lived their own lives. We were a very warm and closeknit family, but this ‘attachement parenting’ I hear and see today is neurotic and gross and debilitating.

    Give your children air to breathe! Get a frikking life!

  25. Here’s a quote from child psychiatrist John Rosemond (a favourite of mine, even when I don’t always agree with him on the political side)

    quote

    “In relationships, boundaries are essential to respect. One of the stumbling blocks in contemporary parenting culture is the general lack of a clear boundary between parent and child. The symptoms include the so-called “family bed,” married couples who are more involved with their children than they are with one another (in terms of attention paid to, time spent with, interest shown in, and so on), and families that are organized around children’s activities. The underlying problem is that today’s parents are more concerned about being liked than respected by their kids.

    This modern social fashion is by no means confined to the parent-child relationship. The need to be liked by children has infected the teaching profession (in some school systems, for example, students actually rate teachers on “likeability”), and manifests itself more generally in such imprudent things as adults wanting children—even very young children—to call them by their first names.”

    unquote

    I worry for the country where members of the government administration are more worried about wether their children like them then wether their countries economy goes down the drain, leading millions into poverty.

  26. Every peaceful and honest person would be better off if these people focused on themselves and their families instead of trying to “run the country”.

  27. I read this article a month ago when it came out and I think this blogging response to it is unfair.

    These are the parts that I remember from the article:

    “As for Mr. Emanuel, he recently squeezed in a swim with his two daughters, 9 and 11, at 5 a.m”

    “Ms. Romer has taken to sightseeing with her family around 10 p.m. on Fridays when she can count on free time. “It has been longer and harder than I ever dreamed,” she said.”

    “The schedule of Christina D. Romer, the president’s chief economist, is so packed, for example, that her first visit to her son’s school this year came at 10 p.m. on a Friday. “It felt wretched, just wretched,” Ms. Romer said of the evening that her 12-year-old boy pointed out his classroom in the dark.”

    I agree that a free-range parent is a great idea. But that is totally different than being an absent parent who can only see your child at 5 am or 10pm at night! These parents aren’t hovering and trying to attend every game or school event – these parents are struggling to attend ANY event at all.

    I think this is a big stretch to tie it to free-range parenting.

  28. Jenny, I agree.

    These people aren’t whining and moaning that they want to never leave their kids’ sides. They aren’t asking to go to every petty event at the kids’ schools.

    They want to have some time with their children (and, for that matter, their spouses!) when their children are awake. And that really shouldn’t be too much to ask!

  29. My husband and I were guilty of being ‘helicopter parents’. We wanted to do better than our parents did who were busy. We made it to every event, every conference, every appointment, knew every friend, we made all 4 of them the center of the universe. Now that they are all over 18 we regret it. They still think that they should be center of the universe. It has been a long hard couple years trying to teach them to cope with hardships on their own, not to mention improving their problem solving skills. I have tried explaining to them that we as their parents did them a disservice. They would rather be bailed out of their problems. I have learned to say, ‘wow, that sucks, what are you going to do?’ I say free range ’em. Do what you can without apologizing for what you can’t. You will have better problem solving, productive, non-socialistic adults for it!

  30. Love the comment by kelsomom – thanks for the warning! Here’s a good one: we had a neighborhood party last year which included a scavenger hunt for the kids and teens. Each team was headed by a teenager from our block. Every team got lost on the hunt – within a few blocks of home!! My little kids had to show their teams how to get back to the party. The kids are driven everywhere and can’t find their way around the neighborhood.

  31. This post has touched off what is clearly an emotional debate.

    I suspect that people are being reactive here and that is entrenching extreme positions.

    The simple truth is that how many concerts, recitals, drs appointments, etc. a parent does or does not go to it is not the only indicator of the relationship that exists. Some parents insist on going to everything, some don’t. Some kids feed bad about their parents being there and some feel bad if their parents aren’t there. It varies depending on the child and depending on the age.

    When debating the merits of quality time versus quantity of time, we’re not really talking about extremes. The parents who have children and then hire a 24/7 nanny and wash their hands of the kids are not the norm for busy working parents. And despite our vilification of them, the helicopter parents do actually leave their children alone once in a while.

    Time spent with our children or away from them, at their events or not are personal choices that are made based on a million factors that are unique to each situation: what day of the week is it, what is my schedule that day, how important is the event, how important is it to the child to have a parent at this event, how important is it to the parent that s/he be at this event, which parent has more vacation/sick time to spend etc. We can’t make sweeping statements about quantity vs. quality it varies too much and it’s a delicate balance. No one gets it perfectly right every time.

    Parent child relationships are based on more than the single factor of helicopter or free-range parenting styles.

  32. Elizabeth, I have to agree with you. On more than one occasion, I simply didn’t WANT to be at yet another baseball game, although I love watching my son play. I felt as long as one of the adults in his life was there (grandma loves to watch and so does Daddy) then it was OK for me not to be. But if it were a playoff game or the like, of course I would be there! It really does come down to importance.

  33. Elizabeth:

    See, that’s what I mean. It’s all about the kids again.
    Lenore’s rant was against White House honchos whining about not being able to spent as much time with their kids and ‘be a good mom or dad’ as they wanted to. I think that’s outrageous. These people got a job. A job which, if they do it right, will keep people employed and millions of kids fed and if they do it wrong, will ensure millions of people without a job and the country totally bankrupt. Now my dad, who as I said had a filthy menial job at the abbatoir, if you had asked him, “would you rather stay home and play with your kids than go and mop up pigs blood”, would’ve answered, “sure, but I’m not Peter Pan, I’m an adult, I’ve got responsibilities, I’ve got to work to keep my kids fed and clothed”. Or something to that nature (because I don’t think my dad knew who Peter Pan was…his – and mine – first language wasn’t English and he never saw the Disney movie)

    The USA is in the greatest economic crisis since 1926, and these well-paid government whatevers, whose job it is to keep the country afloat whine about not being able to play catch with Junior or visit their offspring’s school fete?
    If the job demands that you put in 80 hours a week, then you put in 80 hours a week and put up with it. If you don’t want to, because you think that playing catch with Junior is more important, get the hell away from that job because you just disqualified yourself from ever doing responsible work.

    Remember Winston Churchill? Strange, I can’t imagine him telling the people of bombed London that he is really depressed because all those bombs prevented him from playing with his children. First of all, you don’t tell people who just have lost their home and their loved ones that you are to be pitied for not being able to play daddy as much as you’d want to. Secondly, if you want to impress the voters with the job you are doing saving the country, don’t whinge about your kiddies. I know that the modern parenting culture means that it is suddenly important to love kids, kiss babies when campaigning and tell the voters you’re all for Family, God and Applepie, but puh-leeze!
    That piece I posted above, the one with the quote from John Rosemond? It applies to politicians and voters as well. These days, politicians are more concerned wether the voters like them then wether they respect them. “Look at me, I’m an All American Dad, and I have a family, and they are The Most Important Thing In My Life! I’m likeable. I’m not like that awful woman Meryl Streep played in The Devil Wears Prada! I’m not ambitious and ruthless like that, even though I backstabbed several of my fellow politicians to get where I am today. Not me. I’m nice. Vote for me!”

    Yeah sure, Mr. I’m-so-nice-I-just-care-about-being-a-good-dad (or Mrs I’m-so-nice-I-just-care-about-being-a-good-mom), we get it. You’re nice. But does the public respect you?

    I don’t.

    I respected Winston Churchill, though.

  34. Sorry, that had to be ‘the biggest economic crisis since 1929’. It’s two o’clock in the morning over here. I’m going to log off and to bed. In fact, I’m already asleep. Zzzz….

  35. This is a really bad example to try to show helicopter parenting. I am totally and utterly appalled that you are bagging this guy out because the piece mentioned an example of what he’d like to do for his kids but couldn’t because he didn;t have any time. You are cheering on a really poor example of work-life balance – if 60-70 hours a week are needed to do the job then just increase the staffing numbers. Pretty simple. The US is a rich country isn;t it? Can’t it afford to pay for more staff? Does this guy need the money or is he some sort of sweat-shop worker in a factory in China? Don;t tell me that people who want lives should’nt work in these jobs – such people are the worst examples of humanity and shouldn’t be allowed to manage anyone.

    By cheering on the institutionalisation of work you are, by inference cheering on the institutionalisation of children. How are kids supposed to learn how to just hang out if their parents aren’t there to show them how it is done? Not all of us can afford nannies to do this. (Why should we anyway?) Or do you somehow expect kids to just walk out the front door age 2 without being at least shown how to behave? Showing by demonstrating (not telling) how to do stuff llike walk down the street or catch a bus is not the same as being a helicopter parent. Would you have had the time to show your 9yo how to catch a bus on a 60-70 hour week workload or would you , like this aide, just expect the kid to just “know” how to catch the bus by himself.

    If it was a female who was in this position, as has been mentioned in one of the earlier posts, would that be ok? or is it just the guys that are pressured into work insane hours? Let’s hear some guys ask for more flexible working hours. And it you want to good reporting then you could have also written about us the female aides who left because of the 60-70 hours a week workload.

    If both parents work these hours then who will show these kids how to get along ? The childcare worker earning minimum wage rates who leaves a couple of weeks later?

    Lastly most of the kids I see at school whose parents work ridiculous hours (like let us repeat that 60-70 hour a week to drive it home) and have a totally hands off approach are totally feral (U/L). The parents are to knackered , both physically and emotionally , to do much else but eat and sleep and watch tv. Their spouses, if they do not work, are likewise knackered from having to drag up 2-3 kids by themselves. These parents drive their kids to school if they do see them because they need to get to work on time. These kids have no respect of teachers, fight in the classroom for attention and are bullies because that is the only way they know how to illicit attention. Their disruptive behaviour in the classroom impacts on MY kids’ education. Or perhaps are you advocating feralism = free range-ism ?

    I’ve worked these insane hours and I do not think that a rich country like the US needs to pressure people to work sweat shop hours at the expense of their kids.

  36. The soccer comment hit home. Usually, taking the boys to soccer is my husband’s job. Lord help me, but I would far rather stay home by myself for an hour or two or go to a taewkondo class than go to soccer. So sue me.

    Anyway, one night a couple of weeks ago, the weather was gorgeous so I decided to ditch TKD and tag along to soccer. Halfway there, my little 4-year-old pipes up “what’s mommy doing going to soccer?” He actually tried to convince my husband to turn around and take me home!

  37. Marion:

    I think you missed my point.

    I wasn’t suggesting that it should be “all about the kids”. In fact, what I’m saying is that regardless of what kind of job a parent has (high-paying and glamorous to low-paying and non-glamorous) it is occasionally appropriate and important to be physically available to your kids and occasionally it is appropriate not to put your kids’ needs ahead of everything else.

    My father worked nights and weekends and days went by in my childhood when I didn’t see him. He missed holidays, important events and mundane ones. But I understood what he was doing and I knew that he loved me. But part of knowing that was one time when I was going thorough a really rough patch and he took an afternoon off from work to be there for me. He did that so rarely that it stands out but that day he communicated love to me by him being there.

    My husband works 12 hour days and sees our kids for about 45 minutes to 1 hour each weekday and it’s in the morning. He’s never home for dinner or to put them to bed during the week. But, he’s gone to back-to-school night and bring your parent to school day because we believe it’s important to strike a balance.

    It’s not healthy for anyone to use their children as a means to have friends or from which to gather all of their self-worth. But, it is appropriate for parents to want to spend some time with their children. It’s appropriate for parents who have very little time to spend with their children to want to spend more time with them. Does it mean they can? No. Adults have adult responsibilities but I’m not going to condemn someone for wanting (and even admitting it publicly) to spend more time with their kids when they can’t. That’s not the same thing as smothering and catering.

    In the end every family has to struggle to strike that balance, which isn’t easy. And part of my point is that finding that balance is not actually about helicopter or free-range parenting. Helicopter parents don’t have to be physically present to helicopter and free-range parents don’t have to be absent to be free-range. Free-range is about giving kids the opportunity to grow independently and be self-sufficient, it’s not about being absent.

  38. My objection actually has nothing to do with children or parenting. It’s to the idea that these employees are complaining about an aspect of the job that they knew about ahead of time.

    I live in DC. I have a partner who is very politically involved and would about kill to be a White House staffer. We both know that when that day comes he will not be home very often (if at all). That’s simply one of the sacrifices you make in order to work for the President.

  39. I think a lot of you are being hard on Lenore. These are people who knew going in the hours that would be required and the sacrifices that would have to be made. Do they sometimes wish it could be different…I’m sure they do. Lenore is simply pointing out that some jobs require this level of commitment and if you’re not willing to give it then don’t. No one made them run for office. (Hopefully that’s what you meant. Otherwise, sorry Lenore.)

  40. While I do understand the basic statement of “This is what you signed up for”, it doesn’t mitigate what it feels like in actual practice. These people still are only human, no matter what job they take.

  41. Marion, I couldn’t even be botherd to read your posts after after I saw the nasty things that you said about attachment parenting (which I’ve practiced with my kids and which you clearly are completely and utterly ignorant about) and that you’re a John Rosemond fan (Yeah, he ‘s all about “boundaries” until he’s recommending that you hit your children! ::eye roll::) And to clarify, yes I believe children should be “held, cuddled and told how special the are” frequently. I won’t use your wording because it”s not my style, much like your version of “parenting” is not my style.

  42. MaeMae, just to be clear, these people haven’t been elected to office. They’re staffers, not officials.

  43. WOW, I can’t believe how upset some of you are! The point of this piece is, SIMPLY, that we cannot kill ourselves to participate in every single thing our children are involved in!

    I took a class this summer to try to better my job situation…it meant my husband took our son to football practice/games those evenings. I didn’t feel guilty about missing them, but what I felt weird about was knowing that “some parents” would wonder where my son’s mother was, and judge me for not being there! And on the rare occasion that I have not been the one to take my kids to the doctor and my HUSBAND (their father) has done it, believe me–I am CERTAIN the office staff and/or doctor has that momentary flash of, “I wonder where Mom is?” As if I’m failing, and their father is some weirdo or is incapable of seeing to his children’s needs without his wife.

    When I was a freshman in high school, I played both volleyball and basketball. My mom came to maybe 2-3 of my basketball games, and about as many volleyball games. It never bothered me, though, because most parents were very sporadic in their attendance–I remember ONLY ONE dad making it to every home game. None of us was ever distressed or felt we were unloved. Maybe we were preparing for the future–“going to our job,” so to speak.

    My kids are 9 & 11. I am employed by the school district in which they attend school. I could “pull rank” and have my kids placed with a teacher whom I know will see to their needs…but I tell my kids, “Throughout your life you are going to meet people you don’t like, and who don’t like you. Nobody is gonna love you the way your momma does, and you might as well learn how to work with those people now.” They need to learn coping mechanisms & decision-making skills NOW in order to prepare them for adulthood. I don’t want my 50-year-old son calling me while I am jet-setting around the world in my retirement years (HA) to ask whether he should buy this car or that one, or for advice on handling HIS adult children.

    I am concerned about what the future holds for my kids–I would LOVE to smooth the path for them, every step of the way. But as my sister pointed out not long ago, we didn’t confer with our parents before deciding to change majors or minors in college, nor did we discuss whether to join one club vs. another, whether in the public school setting or college. We did our thing, because that’s what it’s about. I held jobs in HS and college that my parents detested, but held firm because I thought the experience I was gaining outweighed the crummy paycheck…or because the work schedule meshed nicely enough with my school schedule that I had some time for my friends. For better or worse, I was allowed to make those decisions for myself.

    Do I love my children? Absolutely. Do I still hug my 11-year-old son? Definitely, although I make sure there are no friends watching…Do I think my kids are special? Without a doubt, and I think they’re quite smart besides. I let them know that I think they’re smart, funny, compassionate, etc. But they do not need to have me hovering over them 24/7, being with them for every one of their life’s events, telling them every step of the way how special they are, for them to know it.

  44. Uly, I frequently discuss with my children the bad habit of correcting others especially when it doesn’t affect what the person was trying to say. Whether they ran for office or applied for the job they were still seeking to gain that position.

  45. Ann, thanks for posting the link to the story…I read it, and I agree that this blog might be off-target with regard to the original story…but it sure sparked a lively debate! 😉

    My question is, “why are these people whining and complaining about jobs that they MUST HAVE KNOWN would keep them from being at home as much as the average 9-5er?” Did they not make the choice to become a very public part of history? Did they think they could dictate the terms of their employment for the next 4 (or 8) years? Let me know where you can find a job where you can change the parameters to suit your personal whims, and I’ll come apply for a job there as well!

    Of COURSE we all want employers who are understanding of needing time to take our kids to the doctor, or stay home with them when they’re sick, or to leave by 5 so we can go to their ballet recital (or whatever). The fact is, most of us do have varying levels of flexibility to accommodate those personal needs. But please–these people chose to take a job trying to run one of the leading nations in the free world…they really thought they’d have 9-5, M-F jobs?

  46. that was supposed to say 4 or 8 years…darn emoticons!

  47. Just add my name to those who think that complaining that you never get to see your kids because of long working hours is nothing to do with being a helicopter parent. I don’t go to my kids school very often, but I’m glad that I have a flexible enough job that I can go to the annual concert or end-of-year class event. I would miss out if I didn’t. Free-range parent doesn’t mean absent parent.

  48. People bellyache that they have to work their horrible job with the long hours to make ends meet and then don’t get time at home with their families. Then you see that they live in a McMansion, have cellphones for the entire family (even the little ones), large screen TVs in every room, expensive cars, etc.

    You can get a job where you will work less hours. But you’re going to get paid less so you will have to bring your lifestyle down a notch or two. Most people would rather complain than do that. And the rest of you would like to ignore the common sense in that.

    If this guy in the article wants more time at home, then he shouldn’t have taken such a high-profile job.

  49. Uly, I frequently discuss with my children the bad habit of correcting others especially when it doesn’t affect what the person was trying to say. Whether they ran for office or applied for the job they were still seeking to gain that position.

    Yes, but do you discuss the bad habit of hypocrisy?

    At any rate, there’s a major difference between an elected position and one that you applied for. For one thing, I can’t declare self-righteously that I never voted for Mr. So-and-so, or that since I *did* vote for him he should shape up and do his job!

    I understand why we can only have one President, and why that job may not have set hours. Got it. I get why the number of judges on the Supreme Court is limited, why there’s a cap on the number of congresscritters.

    But a staffing position is different. Why *not* hire more staffers so that they can work slightly saner hours?

    The difference is actually quite relevant, or so it seems to me.

    WOW, I can’t believe how upset some of you are! The point of this piece is, SIMPLY, that we cannot kill ourselves to participate in every single thing our children are involved in!

    Which is a great point! Unfortunately, it’s diluted by the poor choice of example – these people aren’t killing themselves to participate in every single thing their kids are involved in, they’re trying hard to see their kids at *all*.

  50. I don’t see a major difference. I don’t care if I voted for him or not if you apply for a job and get it then you do what the job entails. I made a decision to not use my college degree and work in an entry level job so I could have more flexibility for my family. I sacrificed a big house, savings and a lot of extras for that flexibility. If I had pursued becoming a lawyer I would have accepted that I would not have that and I would be required to work many more hours and bring work home. I CHOSE not to do that. Just as the staffers CHOSE to the job they are doing.
    I have never said they shouldn’t want to see their family or try to find time for them but come on, you can’t tell me that they didn’t know going in what they had in store.

  51. Yes, but I don’t think that makes them not human anymore. They are still going to have these feelings and they are as entitled to own them as you are yours. They may know it in THEORY but in PRACTICE it can be a lot harder than anticipated. I’ve been in a similar situation (not politics) and it is DAMNED hard.

  52. I agree.

  53. On this i disagree with you. first to be clear i don’t think our children should feel like to world revolves around them, that’s just bad parenting. However, the idea that being there for your kids and at there events equals hovering, controlling etc is just wrong and it doesn’t teach your kids that the world revolves around them. In my experience(probably skewed ’cause i’m a foster parent as well) showing support for your kids’ activities and making time to be with them, choosing them over work(won’t and can’t always happen, nothing wrong with being tore up about it) has positive benefits. Just because people have “turned out okay” with a lack of such support doesn’t make it the way to go. Just because kids are resilient shouldn’t be excuse to test that quality. Speaking of quality, quality time advocates act as though quality time can be manufactured on demand, it can’t. But i guess it depends how you define quality.

  54. I’m a free-range parent in many regards, but I don’t agree with this post at all. It’s true that kids shouldn’t think the world revolves around them, and I don’t live my life making my daughter the center of every decision. We’re BOTH equally important, and just as that doesn’t mean that every one of her school events is more important than my committments, it also doesn’t mean that everything at work is more important than her events. It’s a balance.

    There’s no need for parents to go to EVERY school or extracurricular event. I missed my daughter’s first grade field day, every field trip, the holiday party… but I took time off work for the school concert, because it was *really* important to her (I said I would either do that, go to field day, or chaperone the spring field trip. She chose.) I came into work late the day of parent-teacher conferences (got the first appointment of the day). I make a point of taking her to her annual doctor’s appointments, but when she’s had to go for some other reason I’ve asked someone else (usually a grandparent) to give her a ride sometimes.

    Life-work balance is not easy… but I think (or maybe I just HOPE) that people at all levels should remember that we work to live, NOT live to work. And that’s not just about a child’s activities – it goes for our own interests as well. My daughter has sat through more community meetings because I was interested, than I have school concerts.

    Oh, and as for Biden’s communications director: is it possible that perhaps he had already volunteered to chaperone the preschool field trip AND promised his child that he’d go (maybe even after missing many other events, rather than feeling that he needed to be at EVERY event)… and then after that, the press event was scheduled? Let me tell you: if I have an important meeting at work and a field trip is scheduled, I tell them I can’t chaperone. If the trip is scheduled, I check my calendar and I’m available, and I agree to do it and promise my kid, and a work meeting is scheduled after that? Well, sorry, I am not available on that day – just as in the first scenario, I would not have been available for my child because of the previously scheduled work committment. ANYONE should be able to take a day off here and there – ANYONE – no matter how important their boss is.

  55. Remember Winston Churchill? Strange, I can’t imagine him telling the people of bombed London that he is really depressed because all those bombs prevented him from playing with his children.

    Perhaps that’s because Winston Churchill’s children ranged in age from roughly 18-31 by the time he became Prime Minister.

    Besides which — this economic crisis is bad, very bad, but it’s nothing like the Blitz, for heaven’s sake. There’s no reason to think things would be made substantially better by having executive branch staffers work a few more hours a week. I don’t like the attitude that “these jerks work for us and they should shut up and buckle down.” They’re humans, working long and hard and often at lower pay than they would receive in the private sector, because they love their country and their ideals they feel a sense of duty. Why kick them around? For shame.

  56. I’m with Sameer on this one. I’d rather have White House staffers spend time with their kids then figure out ways to spend my money. Free market (free range, eh?) economy will bounce back — it always does.

  57. Indeed. Lenore, perhaps for your next book, maybe you could just make a comprehensive list of everyone whose parenting you disapprove of, and then publicly make fun of and humiliate them.

    I’m sure that will go a long way toward lowering the cultural pressure to parent perfectly AT ALL TIMES lest someone catch you in a mistake. I mean, it’s not like websites like this are part of the problem. Nope, not at all.

  58. I’m guessing this all comes down to politics. It seemed pretty clear from the original blog that Lenore doesn’t like Obama’s, so nothing his staff does will be enough. And let’s make sure its all on their shoulders – be it 40 hours per week or 80, them being in the office is the most important thing. But those who are supporters of Obama (or not detractors, at least) are willing to say, “Its just not reasonable to have to work like that endlessly with no break.”

    Perhaps some of you are exceptions to this rule (I’m not counting the “send them home so they won’t spend my money” folks — we know where they stand), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it just broke down mostly that way.

  59. @A Sarah — well said. I was thinking that, but didn’t know how to say it. The little I know about Free Range parenting sounded like a less critical, less judgmental approach. But that’s not really showing up here… Maybe I misunderstood, or maybe its just the anonymity and geographical separation of the internet that allows people to treat each other so badly.

  60. You know, this peeves me. I think it’s nice to hear *men* discussing how their jobs make it hard to spend time with their kids. No, you don’t have to spend all your time with your kids– but when people are working excessive hours, someone else has to pick up the slack. (Can you tell I’m the one in our family that picks up the slack because my workplace is family-friendly?)

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