The Washington Post: Four challenges work-from-home parents will recognize, and how to keep them in check

This essay was published by The Washington Post on Feb. 6, 2018. It was republished by The Philadelphia InquirerThe Chicago Daily HeraldOmaha World-Herald, The Toronto Star, The Seattle TimesThe Vancouver Columbian and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Telecommuters used to get a bad rap, seen as folks who lounge by the pool with a trashy magazine and a margarita on a Tuesday afternoon.

But technology is making working from home a viable option for many industries. A Gallup poll found almost half of employed Americans, or 43 percent, spend some time working remotely. “Flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job,” the report said. Today, more than 60 percent of organizations allow some type of teleworking, compared with a mere 20 percent just two decades ago.

Not everyone is on board with telecommuting or even knows how to define it.

A company where I once interviewed touted a “very flexible work schedule.” When I asked if this meant employees sometimes worked from home, the hiring manager said no. “We’re all in the office before 8 a.m. and try to leave by 6 p.m. But if you need to go to a doctor’s appointment in the morning or something, we’ll let you, and you can make that time up later. We’re very flexible.”

Article continued here

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When a woman in the shoe store called me a ‘monster’

This essay was published by Scary Mommy on August 14, 2018

Mother and baby in shopping mall

When my son was a baby, he and I ventured out into the adult world. Our mission lacked the cinematic complexity of saving the Earth from an alien invasion or defusing a bomb while wearing a leather dominatrix outfit. That winter afternoon, my mission was this: drive to a strip mall by my parents’ home while they watched my toddler so I could return some shoes I’d bought while still pregnant.

Read more here.

I’m a former college instructor and I don’t agree that arming teachers is the answer

students

(Image from The Huffington Post

I was once a pretty decent shot (practiced as a kid in Russia), but I have a hard time writing on a whiteboard in a straight line. You’d think that after six full years of teaching college as an English instructor, I’d learn. Nope. I called students by the wrong name on a couple of occasions, lost track of time during some lectures and got upset when someone plagiarized.

Yes, I felt offended when a lacrosse-playing freshman in my Composition class turned in an expository essay about “bitches and hoes.” It was also a little bit alarming when a withdrawn teenager in my remedial English class at a San Francisco community college wrote, “Die, bitch” on the cover of his notebook, then turned it in. In fact, I was scared to walk back to my car that night and feared for the safety of other students. My thinking was irrational and unclear.

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Ravishly: Becoming a better listener, too late

Heart shaped sympathy flowersThis essay was originally featured in Ravishly on Nov. 1, 2017.

(Content warning: mental health, implication of suicide)

I remember the exact step on the D.C. metro escalator I was standing on when I got the news. It was just four words long. And with it, everything had changed.

I had just seen her, Giada, two weeks before. Finally, I’d managed to visit her in New York from Washington, D.C. after months of delays due to work, classes, and other commitments. Together with longtime friends, we retraced our old haunts in the West Village, from a kitschy cafe for tea to her favorite bar — Cubbyhole. Then, Giada and I stayed up talking in her shared Harlem sublet until 2 a.m.

In the Italian spirit of hospitality, she whipped up a spread of all the food she’d owned in that cramped kitchen that smelled like old cat litter. She brought out a plate of crackers, nuts, and dried fruit from a drugstore can, oddly festive and filling.

Read more here.

 

 

Four lessons I learned in my thirties

Although I entered my thirties with trepidation, it turned out getting older has its perks, beyond just reevaluating dating and career decisions and no longer being carded at grocery stores.

1. Picking Battles

The human brain keeps developing through adolescence and into our twenties, changing the way we react overtime. It’s not uncommon in our teens and twenties to blow up at the slightest emotional provocation and then regret it (so-called amygdala hijack).

I’ve certainly mellowed out in my thirties. For example, the other day, my neighbor who likes to wear a Make America Great Again hat and a t-shirt emblazoned with “U.S. Border Patrol,” left a note on my car threatening to tow it, because it was parked near his house. I took a deep breath and knocked on his door, my two children in tow. “Hello, neighbor,” I said, smiling. “Is this your note?”

“Yeah, sorry,” he mumbled. “I thought you were one of them soccer moms who park here.” I wondered if he’d personally observed these women’s children playing ball or seen them pushing soccer balls through their birth canals to warrant the “soccer mom” title. I would have asked, in my twenties. Instead, though, I wished the neighbor a good day and left.

Now we are besties who go shopping and get mani/pedis together. Just kidding.  But at least we’re civil.

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Postscript to bilingual parenting article

I’m excited that my Quartz essay on bilingual parenting was picked up by social channels of The Atlantic, The New York Times (The Upshot), National Geographic, Vox, KQED, Flipboard and Pocket Top 10 and government and educational organizations, including Harvard and Stanford, in the past week.

Unfortunately, there seem to be some misconceptions, so I’d like to address them:

  1. Yes, many parents are lucky to raise bilingual/trilingual kids with less effort. That’s indeed wonderful. While this has been my experience, the process is as unique as each family member’s language ability and environment.
  2. Yes, bilingualism has lots of cognitive advantages, too many to list in a short article. It does not cause speech delays, confusion, retardation, measles or rubella.
  3. Yes, unfortunately, this is a particularly American situation, as much of the world outside the U.S. nurtures multilingualism.
In addition to the positive feedback from educators and folks who are in the same boat, it’s been interesting to read some personal comments and messages, calling me a lazy, bad parent and a dumb American (with jabs at my kid).
I encourage anyone interested to check out the work of the wonderful experts that were generous enough to speak to me during the preparation of this article, as well as the resources linked in the piece. I hope parents keep exposing their kids to many cultures and languages and don’t lose the link to their roots, despite the struggles. And that they don’t feel alone doing it.