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Author of The Pornographer's Daughter providing commentary on pornography, life and much more.

Filtering by Tag: parenting

Stuck Between Leaning In and Being Maxed Out

Kristin Battista-Frazee

rbk-working-mom-1-0311-mdn.jpg

You know the life of a working mom is tough. It’s the never-ending to-do list, the chuckle under your breath when someone asks how you spend your free time, and the struggle to keep your sanity. This past year while I juggled a demanding full-time job, a family and writing my memoir, The Pornographer’s Daughter, at times, I felt I wasn’t doing anything well and my path for a successful career and happy home life was unclear.  

I’m told to “lean in”, and I want to, even though I am exhausted, to honor the strides of women a generation before me who fought for their place in the boardroom.  The idea of letting go of one thing on my plate left me feeling guilty and ashamed that I was giving up. But I knew that teetering on the edge of burn-out didn’t serve anyone well either.  

So I’m stuck between leaning in and being maxed out.

Here’s the dilemma— if women lean in to do it all (family, work, etc.) then how do we not become maxed out? And when we do feel maxed-out, is taking a step back to take care for ourselves and family, failing women everywhere by not doing our part to fill the leadership gap? And if we opt out of the workforce altogether, can we survive the backlash of putting family first? Jumping back in the workplace after taking time at home is a daunting task.

Maxed-Out

There isn’t a rosy picture of the mental health of women these days. Moms are more fatigued than dads and women are drinking more than ever. Single moms have it especially hard and are maxed out trying to make ends meet with little support at home. 

The book Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, by Katrina Alcorn frames the dilemma of the working mom well.  I discovered this book when an article I read about Alcorn featured in the Washington Post just jumped off the page for me. Reading her book was a relief to be reminded that I wasn't alone in feeling exhausted in my work and life quests. 

Maxed Out is an honest and compelling memoir about Alcorn’s real-life struggles as a middle-class, working mom. Workplace facts are sprinkled throughout which makes a strong case for how far behind the U.S. is in creating effective workplaces policies for making it possible for women (and men) to excel at work and devote time for family.  

Alcorn also bravely talks about her nervous breakdown, which is not an easy feat, but she tells her story beautifully.  Having worked in the mental health advocacy world for years, depression is not something you can just “get over” or “suck up,” it’s a serious health issue.

The kumbayah of Maxed Out is great, but…

Leaning In

Can you reach the C-suite without sacrifice? Probably not, and I think it’s a sacrifice worth taking. If you want to do great things, part of that deal is deciding what you will give up in the process.  As Sandberg's Lean In highlights, men still hold 80% of leadership positions and this trend needs to be reversed.  To make leaning in possible though, we’ll have to fight for better workplace policies. Corporate and organization leaders need to take a hard look here, for if they don’t, they could be alienating great talent (men and women). For tips for advocating for better policies refer to Maxed Out.

There are also unresolved barriers for working women that makes succeeding at work difficult. Women earn less than men, do most of the housework, still lack good child care options, and are still discriminated against because of their gender. Low income women are in much more of a precarious situation. 

The debate continues as to how women accomplish work. We have no concrete answers except that women need to do what's best for themselves, so let’s not judge each other’s choices. And if you choose to be like Marissa Meyer, Yahoo’s CEO, and go back to work two weeks after giving birth or opt out of the workforce all together to raise a family, either choice should be okay.  

Like Mother, Like Daughter?

Kristin Battista-Frazee

My nine year old daughter asked me, “Do boys like that?” pointing to a picture in a magazine she was reading while waiting to get her hair cut. I glanced down and it was a photo of a young girl in a short skirt being ogled at by a guy. I immediately thought the picture was borderline too sexy and felt guilty for not being more careful about what she was reading. I said, “You shouldn’t try to look or act like this to get attention.” I further explained my expectations about how girls should dress and what the appropriate age was to date.  Watching her think about what I said, I hoped it would become a part of her conscience.  She has a crush on a boy her age who lives on our street, so naturally she is figuring out what boys like. I see my daughter and this boy whispering and laughing together when all the children in our neighborhood are out playing. The mutual infatuation they share is sweet and pure and the boy’s parents and I muse about the prospects of a future budding romance.  My husband hears about this crush and dreads my daughter’s dating future. It’s cruel revenge for a father to have daughters.

I’m encouraged that she got my message that day because she has many of my sensibilities. She’s cautious, observant, and not a thrill seeker. Given her personality and my husband’s and my involved parenting styles, I hope the values will protect her from the negative influences  that lead some kids to experiment with drugs or premature sex, and that she’ll have good judgment about resisting peer pressure.

But I also won’t assume just because I see much of my personality in my daughter that she will think or act in the same way that I would. We are different people. She’s very outgoing and I’m not. She’ll smile at anyone and says “the best way get someone to smile is to smile first.” She also has a flare for the dramatic, which is a part of her temperament I really don’t understand. I’m puzzled as to her reactions when I tell her no. She sometimes will scream, “You’re ruining my life!” (yes, she’s only nine) And with that I leave the room and shake my head. I’m just not like that.

She’ll also have many outside influences that will play a role in shaping her ideas. We hear all the time how girls are growing up too fast and how pop culture is the culprit in shaping unhealthy attitudes about sex and relationships in young people. It’s undeniable that porn has indirectly (or directly) influenced our culture making it customary to see provocative imagery everywhere. I sometimes think about how my dad had a hand in making these types of sexy images more readily acceptable given his pioneering work in the porn industry. And yes, this makes parenting more challenging, but with all these challenges there are opportunities. After all, would my daughter have asked the question about boys if the picture wasn’t there? 

My parents may have not had to worry about what I watched on TV or read when I was younger but I don’t think this made it easier to raise me. I didn’t have talks with my parents about sex or relationships even though my dad was in the porn industry. There was an unspoken expectation about behaviors but I didn’t have influences like Katy Perry, Rihanna or Ke$ha to inspire as many questions about sexuality.

So while many believe the existence of pornography is to blame for the problems of today’s youth, I don’t feel contempt or outrage for the way our culture has been influenced by porn. I feel grateful that today we talk more openly with our children about sensitive issues and that we are forced to be more vigilant and discuss what was once taboo topics.

Ultimately I don’t believe the images or advice dished out in fashion magazines or anywhere else will ultimately dictate my daughter’s ideas and perceptions. I will be the one to do that. That’s my job as a parent. My involvement in my daughter’s life will be more effective than censorship. I’ll never stop being involved in shaping her thoughts about boys, sex, dating or anything else.

Sex, Drugs And Alcohol: Parents Still Influence College Kids' Risky Behavior, Study Shows