Thursday, March 18, 2010

How to hire good service professionals

Good Housekeeping Reports
Updated: 02/04/2010 10:53:30 AM MST

The No. 1 rule in hiring any service professional is to get references. Word of mouth from friends and neighbors is the best way to find a good worker who will deliver great results.

Ask anyone you hire about minimum charges, and what might cause the price to go up from the quote. Inquire about insurance (in case of injury, or damage to your or others' property), and about professional affiliations and accreditation. Read contracts carefully and consider these questions:

For plumbers » Do you specialize in repair work or remodeling? Some may do both, but you'll get better rates and results if their expertise matches the job you need handled. Do you charge for travel time? Their hourly rates may include driving to and from your house.

Are you likely to have the necessary parts handy? A plumber worth his or her salt should be fully stocked.

For electricians » Do you need a permit to do the work? They're usually needed only on larger jobs, and require that the wiring be inspected by your city (this can protect you against shoddy work). Discuss who will be filing for the permit, and what it will add to the cost.

Will you buy the fixtures or parts for me? It's generally preferable, because the electrician will then be responsible for the product warranty and any breakage or missing pieces.

For exterminators » Will we need to leave the house? Are there any risks to people or pets? All pesticides should be EPA-certified, but there may be safety steps you or the exterminating crew need to take. How soon before the critters will be gone? Total eradication may not occur after just one visit. Are return visits covered in the cost?

For housepainters » What is included in the service? From masking off of unpainted areas to moving of furniture (for interior jobs), priming and multiple coats of paint, all should be delineated in the contract, as well as what supplies and tools (brushes, rollers) are included.

Can you get a discount on paint? A good painter has a relationship with a supplier to get you the best price.

For roofers » Should I repair or replace? Leaks are often difficult to diagnose, and a repair in one spot may not fix the whole problem. Recommendations will vary, so get three estimates.

Will you be roofing over existing shingles? If the basic structure is sound and leaks will be easy to patch, a cover-up job is far more cost-effective; if you already have two layers, most building codes require removal and replacement. This should be factored into the quote.

Is there a warranty or guarantee? There should be both. The manufacturer backs the materials for defects, while the work may be covered for up to 10 years by the roofer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Would you volunteer to eat school lunch every day to prove a point? This teacher did.

Found this on the web.
* by Jessica Ashley, Shine staff, on Tue Mar 16, 2010 1:24pm PDT

I will be honest -- I do not love making my son's lunch. Every evening at about midnight, I do it. It's one more task to tick off my list before I fall into bed. I know that it would be easy and less expensive to have him eat the school lunches. For those reasons, I do not judge the parents who choose -- or have to, out of financial or other necessity -- to ensure that that their kids eat a midday meal by arranging for them to have the school lunch. As much as little cups of organic apple sauce cost and no matter how many soy butter and jam sandwiches I make, I just cannot bring myself to let my kid eat what the school is serving.

This is a privileged perspective, I know. Many families rely on school lunches and I am aware that these meals are sometimes the only ones or the healthiest ones some children eat. For that, I am grateful the system allows kids to eat one or several meals before and during school hours.

Still, the question of how to make this system work better, particularly during a time when obesity threatens so many children, stands. How can we feed our children healthfully and economically? And what in the world are we teaching our children when we put food in front of them that has little nutritional value or is high in fat and sodium or that we would not dare eat ourselves?

A teacher in Illinois is illustrating those concerns candidly on her own anonymous blog. I like to think of her as an undercover activist for the cause of feeding our children well -- or at least better. She is spending 2010 eating school lunch every day, documenting photos of the (let's be honest, sad-looking) food on her tray, providing some nutritional information, commenting on the taste, and detailing the not-so-pretty bellyaches she's had since beginning the project. It's all chronicled on her blog "Fed Up With Lunch" and through Tweets.

Mrs. Q, as she dubs herself on the site, writes that the timing of her project is critical because, "The Child Nutrition Act is being debated in Congress. It's important that people realize that funding for school lunches is vital to children's success in school and in life."

Why is she speaking out pretty loudly but still keeping her identity mum?

"I'm blogging anonymously because I like my job and getting a paycheck. But I'm still putting my livelihood on the line by speaking up. Why? Because I want to raise awareness about school lunch. It may not be what every child in this country eats, but I believe the meal that I am showing represents what most children eat at lunch in the US," she posted in February, just over a month after she launched the lunch project.

Mrs. Q also says that caring about what kids eat for lunch is an investment in their long-term health and the eventual well-being of our country.

"I am not a nutritionist. That being said, I became concerned about what the kids were eating because on the surface, the food doesn't appear to be very healthy. These are the kids who need the good nutrition. My students don't have good food models at home. These kids depend on the school for so much, including good nutrition. And if they don't get it, they will develop bad habits and increase our health-care costs in the future," she told AOL Health.

Mrs. Q's concerns are not centered solely on the food. She says that the time allotted to students for lunch encourages unhealthy eating habits. She reports that students often have only 13 minutes to eat, and that can easily be knocked down to five if the student has to wait in a long line, go to the bathroom, or hunt for a space at a table.

Only a few months into the year, she says she believes healthier meals -- namely stir fries, salads, soups, and casseroles -- could be made in bulk and served in better conscience to the kids. She says she'd also like tater tots to be replaced with roasted potatoes, yogurt and cottage cheese to be added as sides, and to banish hot dogs altogether.

Her blog is a fascinating -- and yes, disturbing -- read. It includes posts by guest bloggers, many of whom are teachers, all of whom have their own take on what is on the trays. Reading it and looking deeper into what she is doing in a very short lunch period every day this year, not only makes me more adamant about brown-bagging it for my own son, but it also makes me want to get more involved in changing the system for kids in schools across the country.

Still, Mrs. Q says she fears being found out, as she explained on her blog.

"I feel a lot of guilt and turmoil about what I'm doing here. I'm waiting for the moment I'm called to the principal's office and let go. I do believe it's a matter of 'when' not 'if' they find out and it's curtains for me and then of course the project.

"I want them to know that the project is not about individuals in one school but about a country full of children who need better food models."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rainy Day Activites

Rainy Day Activities for Kids

This website has more links at the bottom and is promoting a book, but I thought it had some fun ideas for families.

Build a Fort

To get set up, all you need are a few blankets (sleeping bags, sheets and comforters all work well) and some cardboard boxes, and you’re good to go! Ask appliance stores for large boxes that can be turned into playhouses. Cut holes for doors and windows and adorn the box with items from around the house: a tissue box can be made into a chimney, fabric scraps can be turned into curtains and artificial flowers can be “planted” in a window box. Give kids tempera paints and allow them to “paint” the house.

* Fill the fort with pillows, blankets, flashlights and lanterns.
* Serve kids lunch or snacks inside their fort.
* Teach kids how to make shadow puppets (search YouTube to refresh your memory).

Create a Time Capsule

Parents know all too well that kids grow up fast. By collecting items for a time capsule, you’ll end up with a fun keepsake that reflects who your kids are at the present moment. No need to buy a container: simply get creative with what you have at home already (decorate a cereal box with contact paper or use an empty margarine tub). Designate a date to open the capsule such as one, five or ten years in the future. Include newspaper clippings, labels from their favorite foods, photos, schoolwork, a mixed CD of their favorite songs, pictures they’ve drawn or anything else kids can think of. Parents can help out by “interviewing” children about their favorite foods, favorite TV show or movie, best friend or what they hope to be when they grow up. Make it extra special by recording it.
Indoor Science

Why not make rainy day activities educational as well as fun? With the help of a few common household ingredients and your supervision, kids can channel their inner scientist. Here are a few favorites:

Tornado in a Bottle: For this experiment, you’ll need two empty two-liter bottles (labels removed), duct tape and food coloring or colored dish soap (optional). Fill one of the bottles 2/3 of the way with water. Add a couple drops of food coloring or dish soap to make the vortex more visible. Tape the bottles together securely with the duct tape at the mouth. Turn the bottle containing the water upside down with the empty bottle on the bottom. The water will slowly drain to the bottom bottle as air bubbles go up to the top. Move the bottles in a circular motion a few times to help the water go down the spout more quickly. You’ll be able to see a funnel-shaped vortex in the top bottle as the air pressure in the lower bottle decreases.

Cornstarch Quicksand: When combined, cornstarch and water create a consistency that sometimes feels like a solid and sometimes feels like a liquid. Combine two parts cornstarch to one part water, adding a drop or two of food coloring for fun. Kids will have fun picking it up and squeezing it so that it feels like a solid as well as letting it run through their fingers like a liquid. Store it in a one-gallon sized zipper storage bag.

Celery Experiment: This is a great experiment to illustrate how plants absorb water. Drop 4-5 drops of food coloring in clear glasses of water (vases or jars also work well). Place a stalk of celery with the leaves still attached in each of the different colored glasses. Kids may begin to notice the leaves of each celery stalk begin to turn color in as little as four hours. See what happens overnight!

Monday, March 8, 2010

2...4...6...8...How Should We Compensate?

Districts that appreciate educators’ knowledge and experience should have a pay plan that shows it. By Mary Ellen Flannery

With all the chatter these days about merit pay for teachers, there’s not nearly enough listening to the educators who have already developed innovative, collaborative pay plans.

From Helena, Montana, to Portland, Maine, local unions and school districts have put together 21st Century alternative pay plans that reward teachers—not for student test scores or subjective evaluations—but for doing the kinds of things that actually improve the learning environment. None are intended to replace a strong, single salary schedule, but to enhance it.

In Helena, educators commit to career development plans. In Manitowoc, Wisconsin, they get raises for taking—or even teaching—professional development courses. “You can’t go through all this and not be a better teacher!” exclaims third-grade teacher Michelle Preusser, who has risen to the top step through three new professional degrees and certifications.

NEA supports these educators in their efforts to find creative solutions to local problems. Losing new teachers? A program like Portland’s, which pays veteran teachers more to mentor their new colleagues and new teachers more for Portland-specific professional development classes, might be the solution.

Can’t find staff for so-called failing schools? Consider the new contract in Evansville, Indiana, where teachers at some inner-city schools will receive additional training on closing the gaps—and get paid for it.

“Our nation has the capacity to make sure every child in every high-needs school has great teachers,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told a congression­al committee late last year. “President Obama has called for the nation to ‘treat teachers like the professionals they are while also holding them more accountable.’ Doing so means not only looking carefully at the research evidence, but also listening to our most accomplished teachers and acting on their advice.”

For its part, the White House and its Administration have made merit pay—that is, pay tied to student test scores—a key condition for states participating in the $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund. But educators know that test scores aren’t a direct measure of their ability, and just paying teachers more isn’t going to help students do any better. In one of the most recent studies on merit pay, Vanderbilt University researchers found that a statewide Texas bonus pay program had “weakly positive, negative, or negligible effect on student test-score gains.”

In other words, it didn’t work. Because it’s teacher learning that leads to student learning, educators believe.

“It’s about getting people involved in professional activities that relate directly to student learning in their classroom,” says Karen MacDonald, a Portland middle-school teacher for 30 years. That might mean National Board Certification, it might mean a research project that measures the effectiveness of different reading programs, or it might mean taking a class on how to use test scores to improve instruction—all of the kinds of things rewarded by locally bargained alternative pay plans. (Go here for more about Portland’s pay schedule.)

“Obviously we don’t want to tie our merit to test scores,” Preusser says. “If that happens, I want a dorm in the back of the school where the kids can live 24/7.”

Call it old-fashioned, like Mom and apple pie, but NEA still believes a short and strong salary schedule, with a minimum of $40,000 annual pay for teachers, is best. It rewards teachers for things we know make a difference in teacher quality—knowledge and experience—and, at the same time, avoids the capriciousness of typical merit pay plans.

It doesn’t pay you less when your students are distracted from learning by empty bellies and ear infections. Nor does it pay you more for a class full of native English speakers and supportive, college-educated parents—or for loudly agreeing with your principal at staff meetings! (“Yes, yes, you’re a genius! Now do I get a raise?”) A single salary schedule is fair and transparent, and it’s locally bargained or agreed to.

But alternative pay plans—the ones written by teachers and local Association leaders—can also be fair and easy to understand. They provide creative solutions to local problems, and most of all, they make for better teachers. Read on for a quick look at how some educators are faring under their locally bargained pay plans.

Third-grade teacher
20 years’ experience
Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Ten years ago, Manitowoc didn’t have a single National Board Certified teacher and less than a quarter had master’s degrees. Now, thanks to a contract approved almost unanimously by teachers in 1999, nearly half have master’s—and 21 have won that most rigorous certification.

Michelle Preusser has both—plus a professional development certificate focused on differentiating instruction—which means she has earned the salary rewards for working toward advanced degrees or certification. (National Board? Worth a 13 percent boost.) Now, from the top tier of the salary scale, Preusser surveys a body of professional development that has enriched her wallet as well as her classroom. “There’s something wrong if you come out the other side not a better teacher,” she exclaims. “You’re constantly reflecting on your own practice, the way you see the kids, and the way they learn.”

Assistant principal
12 years’ experience
Hamilton County, Tennessee

A few years ago, the Chattanooga urban schools advertised 64 vacant jobs. Just one person applied. So, with the idea of attracting and retaining more great teachers, the Hamilton County Education Association and its district partners negotiated a new contract that provides $5,000 bonuses for moving to “hard-to-staff” schools and up to $10,000 for improving test scores.

LaFrederick Thirkill, a music teacher turned administrator, doesn’t much care for the transfer bonus: “For some teachers it’s merely an opportunity to make more money, as opposed to making a change.” Nor does he approve of the test-score checks that he calls sometimes unfair and often divisive. But Hamilton County also now offers a $4,000 annual bonus for National Board Certification, which Thirkill was the first to earn, and he says the process of certification “had a profound affect on me. I now know how to reflect, as an educator and administrator.” At the same time, as a dozen of his colleagues have followed in his footsteps, “it has changed the perception of inner-city teachers,” he says.

High school history teacher
3 years’ experience
Helena, Montana

Maybe $36,000 doesn’t sound like much, but it’s pretty good for a guy three years out of college, living in Helena, Montana, says Ryan Cooney. It’s also a lot more than new teachers here were earning a few years ago (just $23,000). “Our union has done a heck of a job representing us,” he says.

In 2002, with more than half of Helena’s teachers nearing retirement and far too few applicants at their heels, the local Association and district got together to boost salaries with $1 million freed up from early retirement. They also agreed that educators should present “career development plans” to get raises. For his plan, Cooney concentrated on technology in his classroom, creating a Moodle Web page where students and parents have “24/7 access” to assignments, current events, and research (and their teacher). “If you take [the plan] seriously, you really can better yourself as a teacher,” he says.

Middle school language arts teacher
30 years’ experience
Portland, Maine

After 30 years in the classroom, Karen MacDonald is sitting on top of the salary scale in Portland, but she still hasn’t stopped collaborating with colleagues, helping them become better teachers.

Her latest effort? A series of classes for teachers with three to seven years’ experience, designed to help them learn more about where their students are academically, and how to move them forward. “This is what you need in your instruction,” MacDonald explains.

By taking the Portland-based course, early career teachers can move up along an innovative salary schedule that rewards them for professional learning. MacDonald, a National Board Certified teacher, made her final step up through an ELL endorsement—a key help when nearly 30 percent of Portland’s kids are from refugee countries like Somalia and Iraq. Other colleagues have earned raises through district committee work, curriculum design, and other “above and beyond” assignments.

“I feel like I’m paid as a professional. I also feel the responsibilities that go along with my pay—and that’s good,” MacDonald says.

I thought I also add some concerns and questions teachers have brought up in regards to Merit Pay.
An initiative to encourage teachers to constantly improve their knowledge and strategies is laudable. Even veteran teachers can benefit from ongoing professional development with collaboration and "peer coaching" opportunities in place to determine how well students are able to utilize classroom learning in real life - this is a much fairer measure than multiple choice tests.

So I am a special education teacher in an inclusion setting. I do not "teach", I facilitate. How would the president's program work for me? In Indiana, the "Race to the Top" grant money has been accepted. This should be interesting to see if special education educators, especially in inclusion type settings are overlooked for pay increase.

My concern rests with the teacher who is proficient at differentiating instruction, and therefore gets more children with learning difficulties placed in his/her classroom, or the teacher who works well with children with behavioral difficulties, and has more of those children in the classroom. Merit pay based on test scores would be great if there were any way to have equality of classrooms, but that is an impossibility.

Will there be merit pay for all of the extra duties performed on a daily basis? Duties like spending our own money on new clothes, mittens, hats, snacks and supplies? Duties like potty training 5 year olds because they have been in foster care, and nobody has taught them? Try to measure those things with test scores! People need to remember that we have to take these children from where they are and teach them! Sometimes that means that they will learn to read by the end of kindergarten, and sometimes that means that they will finally know their colors and shapes! Each child comes to us with different abilities, and our job is to teach them. They may not score well on a test, but that doesn't mean that they haven't made progress just the same!

I know that it's unfair when class size reduction teachers don't get a fair share of any grants in our districts. Older, more experienced teachers are being left out when it comes to rewarding hard work, student's success, just because districts want to retain the younger teachers.

Concerns Over Test Scores and Questions

I decided to post two concerns in this blog regarding tests. The first is a comment from two teachers regarding test taking skills and the other is example of the difference in test questions between the US and Australia. Both of these were found in the NEA Today magazine. I just want to get people to think carefully about "Race to the Top" and the direction we are leading our students in with continuous testing.

I found these quotes from teachers and thought it was an appropriate response that sums up what teachers are up against with "Race to the Top."

I have seen more students who can pass [the test] but cannot apply those skills to anything if it's not the test format. I have students who can do the test but cannot look up words in the dictionary and understand the different meanings.

"The Perils of Merit Pay" brings to light that I, a teacher with 27 years of experience, would be paid less [than other teachers] because mine are the students distracted from learning. Mine are the students who experience empty bellies, ear infections, homelessness, or gunshots echoing in the night. I would be the one paid less because I do not have a class full of native English speakers with college-educated parents. Neither my Master of Science degree nor 27 years of experience can, in one school year, make students learn English faster, catch up to the rest, or have experiences in the world like children from more affluent areas. Let the children of our President and his Administration “walk a mile on our side of the tracks.”

I also found some example questions between the US National Assessment of Education Progress and a biology exam in Australia. Which questions are preparing students for higher levels of thinking, college, and preparing them for real life experiences?

First, two questions from the eighth- and 12th-grade science test of the United States National Assessment of Educational Progress.

1. What two gases make up most of the Earth’s atmosphere?
1. Hydrogen and oxygen
2. Hydrogen and nitrogen
3. Oxygen and carbon dioxide
4. Oxygen and nitrogen

2. Is a hamburger an example of stored energy? Explain why or why not.

Next, from a biology exam in Victoria, Australia.

3. When scientists design drugs against infectious agents, the term “designed drug” is often used.
1. Explain what is meant by this term.

Scientists aim to develop a drug against a particular virus that infects humans. The virus has a protein coat and different parts of the coat play different roles in the infective cycle. Some sites assist in the attachment of the virus to a host cell; others are important in the release from a host cell.

The structure is represented below: (not included in the blog)

The virus reproduces by attaching itself to the surface of a host cell and injecting its DNA into the host cell. The viral DNA then uses the components of the host cell to re-produce its parts, and hundreds of new viruses bud off from the host cell. Ultimately the host cell dies.
2. Design a drug that will be effective against this virus. In your answer, outline the important aspects you would need to consider. Outline how your drug would prevent continuation of the cycle of reproduction of the virus particle. Use diagrams in your answer.

Will NCLB ever make sense?

Will NCLB ever make sense

Gloria Salazar, a fifth-grade teacher in Somerville, Massachusetts, welcomed an immigrant child to her classroom last year with a No. 2 pencil. No English? No excuses, say testing advocates—he still has to take the state test.

And stop that crying already!

“It happens all the time,” Salazar laments. “And there’s no way to explain to them, ‘It’s okay, we know that you don’t understand this material.’ They see the formalities and they know it’s important.”

Important, but also impractical—how on Earth could English Language Learners succeed on a standardized test that’s administered in a language they don’t understand?

When it comes to requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, those pertaining to ELL and special needs students are particularly bewildering.

This year, as Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal education law, NEA asks that it recognize the individual needs of students, including non-fluent English speakers and those with disabilities. More than test scores should be used to measure student learning and school progress.

“I believe in assessment, but I also believe they need to recognize that children are different. We need to recognize those differences and equip educators with tools to help students improve,” Salazar said.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Toddler (Baby & Preschool) Activites by Age

I thought it would be fun to look at the different games you can play as your toddler gets older. (Scroll down to find Baby-Preschool games). Just another reason to join BabyCenter.

It doesn't take much to thrill a kid. In fact, it's often the "small stuff" that makes for the most meaningful childhood memories: your mom pulling off the road to let you climb a tree, being allowed to jump on a hotel bed, splashing wildly in mud puddles in the rain… The best part? Many of these kid-charmers are low-cost or even free.

In that spirit, here's a collection of simple, cheap, memory-making activities that are sure to be a bright spot in your child's day – and yours!

Here are some examples of the games, but you'll have to click on BabyCenter to be find the game description.

13 months old
• Under Cover
• Books on Board
• Fun Land at Home
• Shake Your Shaker

14 months old
• Block Party
• Mirror Me
• Monkey Motions
• Bag of Tricks

Here is another link in BabyCenter with a list of games from Baby to Preschool.

Here are some example "cheap and fun" games from the above link:
5 cheap and fun baby activities

Let 'er rip

Maybe it's that pleasing shredding sound or maybe it's the satisfaction of making a permanent change in something, but babies love to tear up paper. So plunder your recycling box for magazines or junk mail – when you see that gappy smile on your baby's face as she gets to work, you won't even mind the mess.

5 cheap and fun toddler activities

Hop a freight

Toddlers love transportation, especially if it's a departure from the same-old-same-old car seat. Check out your local airport or hospital – many have a free shuttle or tram that you can ride as often as your little one's heart desires. If you don't usually travel by bus, check your local bus system and take a spin around town, enjoying things from a thrilling new vantage point.

5 cheap and fun preschooler activities

Bathing in the pink

Or the green, or the blue… A few drops of food coloring can go a long way toward making bath time something special. It's especially fun to mix a couple of primary colors together, such as blue and red to make purple. And no, your child won't emerge from his bath looking like a grape – a few drops of food coloring diluted in a tub of water won't dye your child's skin.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Websites for Families

Here are collections of websites that benefit families from free deals, quotes, vacations and the like. This will be a work in progress for a while. Click on a type of service and fill out a little form with what you need, Within a few minutes you'll receive several quotes from local businesses, but they won't have your personal info.

YouData. Sign up and get paid to view websites based on your profile. I have it set up to deposit into my PayPal account. Very easy to do with no hassle.

Fix It Club has tips on how to fix various things around your home. Here are some examples: Air Purifier Repair | Amplifier Repair | Appliance Controls Repair | Asphalt Repair | Battery Recharger Repair | Bicycle Repair | Blender Repair | Building Your Own Home | Button Battery Repair | CB Radio Repair | CD Player | Car Radio Repair | Carpet Repair | Cassette Deck Repair | Cellular Telephone Repair | Central Air Conditioner Repair | Clothes Dryer Repair | Clothes Washer Repair | Clothing Repair | Coffee Grinder Repair |

Do One Nice Thing is great for finding ways to help others without spending too much money or time. You can even become a fan on Facebook.

Role Reversals in the Family

I found an articles that address the changing roles in our families regarding parenting, work and money in the United States.

The first one is in "Working Mother" magazine from Feb/Mar 2010
By: Sara Eckel, Illustration: Aaron Goodman

Amid bruised egos, resentments and confusion, families are struggling to find their footing as they cope with the financial, emotional and who-does-the-dishes-now restructuring of their lives brought on by the recession.

On a cold, rainy November morning, Christine Fruehwirth’s 5-year-old son showed up at preschool without a coat—or even a sweater. “The sweater was dirty,” says Christine’s husband, John. He also had taken their 7-year-old daughter out to run errands in the ballerina pajamas she’d slept in. “I didn’t know. I thought it was an outfit,” John says of the wardrobe mishap, one of several that have occurred since he took over many of the household and child-care duties two years ago. That’s when he lost his job as the managing director of a Washington, DC, private equity firm. To support their family of five, Christine began working part-time as a career consultant for George Washington University in addition to the career-coaching business she was already running out of their home.

Like many families coping with the turmoil brought on by the recession, the Fruehwirths have been fumbling to find their footing now that the roles of family breadwinner and household caretaker have been shuffled around. Though Christine, 40, had planned to work while her three kids were young, she was thinking one job, not two. But now she says, “Maybe this was meant to be.” She’s appreciating the chance to further develop her professional life. And although John is adamant that he’s not a stay-at-home dad—he’s developing a private equity company he purchased with his severance pay—he’s enjoying extra time with the kids now that he’s the one taking them to and from school and helping them with homework.

With job loss comes heightened anxiety, as well as recast parental and household duties, causing a major upheaval in many families. Working moms are increasingly logging extra hours in the office—and spending more time away from their children—while more men are finding themselves without an office to go to. Getting the bills paid and cutting back on nonessential spending is a strain for sure. Yet for many, the greatest challenge hasn’t been financial; it’s been psychological. Amid all the changes, moms and dads are trying to adjust not only to new daily schedules but also to bruised egos and growing resentments.
We talked to couples about how their families are coping with this shift—and learned what they’re doing to keep the peace.

Shattered Self-Esteem

After Stefania Sorace Smith’s husband lost his security job last May, she landed a higher-paying position in her profession, as the residential programmer at a home for mentally disabled people. But she also doubled her commuting time, and her workweek soared to 60 hours from 40—a particular strain since she’s now pregnant with the couple’s second child. Even with her higher salary and the part-time work her husband, Darren, has secured, the Dingman’s Ferry, PA, couple has not made up the lost income. Now charged with the family’s financial security, Stefania, 26, is more stressed than ever. “Bills definitely get behind,” she says, adding that she sometimes plays “Russian roulette” with her checkbook by alternating which bills she pays—and which she skips—each month. At home, Darren is doing more of the basic cleaning, and he makes their 2-year-old daughter breakfast and prepares dinner for the family—but the major scrub work still falls to Stefania because he “just doesn’t do it the way I want it done,” she says.

For Stefania, one of the biggest disparities in this new structure is free time. She spends most of her day working and commuting. Darren—while doing handyman work and pitching in with the household chores—still spends a fair amount of time playing Flight Simulator on his computer. “This transition has been tough,” he says. “I started building houses when I was twelve. I’m used to working ninety hours a week. All I ever did was work.” Though he’s enjoying the time he spends with his daughter, he feels unproductive. “It’s difficult to go from self-sufficient to depending on someone, but we’re making it work,” he says. “It is what it is.”

The ego blow of job loss leaves many men unable to find fulfillment in their new role. In the months after Ron Mattocks was laid off two years ago, he admits, he had a tough time transitioning from his former life as a vice president of sales for a major homebuilder to Daddy Day Care. “I was an officer in the army and then an executive in the corporate world.

Suddenly, I’m packing lunches and making sure the kids have everything in their backpacks. My entire self-image pretty much got shattered,” says Ron, 37, from Houston. “I had to really rethink myself, and that’s been a long, discouraging process.” He misses the external validation he got through his work—the backslapping for a job well done—and is struggling to find that same sense of confidence internally. It has helped, however, to see his wife, Ashley, gain confidence in her career. “Though I don’t bring value to the family the way I used to, my role is important,” he says.

Why Men Don’t Do Windows

Wives should be mindful of the fact that a recently unemployed husband is in a fragile emotional state, says Ellen Ostrow, PhD, a psychologist who works with professional women reentering the workforce. “The psychological impact is enormous,” she says. This is one reason many men don’t automatically start picking up the scrub brush after a job loss. According to the 2008 American Time Use Survey released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployed women spend almost six hours a day on child care and household chores like cleaning and cooking, while unemployed men spend only three hours a day on such tasks—and also spend more than four hours a day watching television.

Often men with a very traditional view of gender roles will refuse to do housework, as a way to gain control, says Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. “They think that they have to compensate for their loss of masculinity by asserting masculine privilege in other ways.”

But the reasoning may be even more subtle than that. Jeremy Adam Smith, author of The Daddy Shift, suggests that most men simply don’t see housework and child care as a vocation that could give them a sense of identity and pride, as many women do. “For a lot of women who lose their job, a pathway presents itself,” he says. “They decide, ‘I’m a stay-at-home mom. My job now is to take care of the home and kids, and I’m going to be good at that.’ But for many fathers, that pathway doesn’t exist in any well-developed way.”

Teaching the Basics
However understandable this aversion to scouring bathtubs and laying out school clothes may be, the fact remains that the work needs to be done.

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