Blog Posts by Lylah M. Alphonse

  • What price do women pay for flexibility at work?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesMy husband and I both work for the same company. We spent years working opposite shifts, one of us at night and the other during the day, and trading off with the kids in the middle. About a year and a half ago, he got an offer he couldn't resist, for a great multimedia job with daytime hours, and for the first time ever we had to deal with childcare.

    We found a preschool and a daycare that the little kids love. I got over the working-mom guilt. (Well, sort of. Most days.) My husband and I agreed that I'd take the kids to care in the mornings and then head to work, trying to be home, if not in time for dinner, then definitely by bedtime. He would get up insanely early in the morning and work until 3, leaving him plenty of time to beat traffic and pick the kids up by 4:30. At least, that was the plan.

    Guess what happens in real life?

    In real life, I get the kids up and dressed and fed and packed and to school and daycare, then head on over to the office, usually making it

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  • Compromising my way into work-life balance

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI've just finished twisting our 12-year-old's curls into about eleventy-billion tiny, two-strand twists, and my hands are still slick with conditioner. The little two are tucked in bed, stuffed animals clutched in their sweaty little hands. The other big kids are playing "Rock Band" on the XBox with my husband, just a couple of feet away from me in the family room. It's past bedtime, and bits of conversation (like "We should be concentrating our efforts on Killasaurus," and "Daddy! We should play San Francisco now!" and "That's such a sweet song and then they hit you with the 'f' word...") poke holes in my concentration as I try to write.

    I could -- should, really -- go to another room so I can get my work done. I mean, the work has to get done. But I'm loathe to leave. Even when my husband hands me the mic and asks me to sing "Maps" -- an obvious sign that I'm not going to get much done if I'm also expected to sing lead -- I don't go.

    Sometimes, the thing that really gets

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  • I'm not Martha Stewart... who has time to decorate?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI feel like I should make the effort to festoon the house with snowflakes and lights. Most of the houses in my sleepy little New England town slipped into full fall regalia the instant the leaves started changing; now they've moved on to inflatable Santas and brightly lit reindeer and trees that sparkle with tiny white lights. People around here hang out cute little flags with various icons celebrating various holidays at various times of year and, as in the department stores, the holiday-themed adornments appear the day after Thanksgiving, if not before.

    Not at my house. Oh sure, we've picked up and decorated our tree, but it's inside the house, not on the front lawn. There's a single electric candle in each window, but splendid decorations? Nope. Because, truth be told, I don't have the time. But, also, I don't have the inclination. Forgive me, Martha Stewart, for I have sinned: I don't decorate.

    That's not quite true: I happily hang stockings for each of our five

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  • Do you Facebook with your boss?

    I was on Facebook the other night, scanning through my friends' status updates. I've declared my love of Facebook before -- sometimes, it's the easiest way for me to reconnect with friends and extended family, and reading the Twitter-like mini-posts and shared news (or non-news) articles makes me feel a little more in-touch with the far-flung people in my life.

    I generally try to keep Facebook for my friends and family and use LinkedIn for professional networking but, just as in real life, those two worlds collide from time to time. More...

    Among my Facebook Friends' status updates was one from a colleague. Or, rather, from her husband, whom I've never actually met in real life and yet am friends with on Facebook. Their new baby had arrived over the weekend, hale and hearty, and the good wishes were pouring in.

    I surfed over to my colleague's profile and added a "Congratulations!" to the growing list of posts on her wall. And then I took a peek at her Friends List. There were

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  • Flu Shot? No thank you. I'll just keep working

    I knew I was in trouble the instant my 2-year-old rubbed his face and then laid his damp little hand on my cheek. No symptoms yet, but the sign was clear: Cold and flu season is in full swing.

    A few days later, he was streaming from the nose and I was wishing I'd bought stock in Purell. A few days after that, he was fine but I'd been felled by a fever so high even I had to call in to work (and, if you've been reading my blog, The 36-Hour Day, you know I rarely ever call in sick). More...

    Our company's medical department offers the flu shot, but I'm not going to get it. And when I took my youngest two kids in for their annual checkups last week, they didn't get it either. Call me a bad parent, if you like -- plenty of others already have -- but I believe that a good, soapy hand-washing does more to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses than the flu vaccine.

    Aside from the whole Thimerosal issue (the flu vaccine is one of the few that still uses the mercury-laced preservative),

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  • My family reminds me to work to live, not live to work

    I'm gearing up for another too-quick trip to my parents' and brother's houses, where we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas just before or just after the big dates. There will be plenty to eat and, of course, cake, though all of the kids will mostly feast on icing and then work the resulting sugar high off by going ballistic in my brother's basement, while the grownups cast their diets to the wind and indulge.

    We'll also be indulging in something else, something that only people with far-flung families can truly understand: A chance to reconnect with the people closest to us.

    Distance, I think, may be relative. The 300 or so miles between my home and my parents' isn't much to me, though I know plenty of people who can't imagine living less than a 15-minute drive from their mom and dad's places. My own parents left their homes as very young adults -- my dad came to the US from Haiti at the tender age of 17 to go to college, and my mom came here from India as a 22-year-old

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  • Is anything off-limits in this economy?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesOur toddler has been clingy lately, at school and at home, and though I chalked it up to his being barely 2-years-old, I did wonder whether there was something else going on. One of his caregivers left his daycare recently, an it ocurred to me that I haven't seen several of his classmates in a while.

    I was still thinking about it as I walked him into his classroom, where he promptly attached himself to my leg -- very unusual for my outgoing little man. When one of his little friends came up to greet him, my boy, still wrapped around my knees, held out one pudgy arm, keeping his friend at arm's length. When the friend tried again, my boy pushed him away. "No! No hug!" he said, loudly.

    Embarrassed, I stooped down to tell him that we don't push our friends, and then turned to the other little boy to say that my guy just wasn't ready for hugs yet; in true toddler style, the friend didn't seem to mind, thank goodness. A few minutes later, their teacher told me that particular

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  • Tipping the scales of work-life balance

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesLast night, I fell asleep while putting the little ones to bed. When I woke up (in my preschooler's room) nearly three hours later, I was totally useless. I stumbled downstairs, thinking that at the very least I needed to wash the dishes so they don't linger overnight, but my husband had already done them and that threw me for a loop. (I meant to do dishes? And they're done? And I didn't do them? What else did I do unconsciously while I was thinking I needed to do it? Anything? Wait, what?) After wandering around aimlessly and sitting in front of my computer for a full three minutes before noticing it was off, I called it quits and went to bed for real.

    Who knew that getting a little extra sleep could have the same effect on your body as sleep deprivation?

    What I did know, even as I tripped going back up the stairs, was that my to-do list was going to double the next day. Because my current search for work-life balance involves some very carefully choreographed scheduling,

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  • Working women wear the pants in their families, survey finds

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesWho is in charge in your household? The typical American home has seen a major change since the 1950s and 1960s, researchers say, with the majority of the important decisions now being made by women.

    According to a new poll released in September by the Pew Research Center, 43 percent of respondents said that the woman makes the decisions in more of four key areas -- household finances, weekend activities, big purchases for the home, and who controls the TV remote -- than men. The guys have the upper hand in about 26 percent of all couples, and 31 percent said that they split decision-making responsibilities -- even though that answer wasn't one of the options given in the poll.

    Pants for everyone!

    But here's the real news, buried in the poll results: In dual-income couples, it is the woman who has more say, regardless of whether she earns more or less than her partner.More...

    So, while money doesn't necessarily equal power in most American households, working does. According

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  • Sales pitch at a gas station? That's not networking

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI was filling my car up with gas a few weeks ago (and having a minor heart attack because, my God, $55 to fill up the beater Saab I was driving that day? It's like adding insult to injury) when the woman approached.

    She looked to be in her late 40s. Windblown hair, flower-print blouse, minimal makeup. Looked like a harried mom who maybe needed help finding an obscure street in my tiny New England town. Looked like she was sure I'd say "No" if she asked me anything. So I made up my mind to say "Yes."

    "Excuse me, but can I ask you a question?"

    "Yes!" I said brightly, one hand on the nozzle. My brothers like to joke that I can't find my way out of a wet, upside-down, brown-paper bag, but if she needed directions, I would do my best.

    "Have you ever thought about earning a little extra income from home?"

    My first thought: Who hasn't?

    My second thought: Crrraaaaaap. She's doing a sales pitch. And with the gas pump ticking away and my car keys in my pocket, I was a

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