I think it’s because my first daughter has gone off to college. As I was preparing myself and her departure and trying to fit in all the last-minute words of wisdom , I found that the issue of sexual assault on college campuses was a bit of an obsession. We have all become highly aware following the media attention around the discredited Rolling Stone article. But my anxiety was originally triggered by an even older story I read about Erin Cavalier being raped by an acquaintance after she had too much to drink. Her story raised all sorts of issues about responsibility and judgement that get very clouded when alcohol is involved. I shared this story with my daughter as a great example of how easy it is easy to get yourself in a situation where you are vulnerable if you have too much to drink. Erin was asking for help from a friend to get home after a night of partying and she thought she could trust him. My warning to my daughter was to have fun but to stay in control. She should remember she has the right to say “no” at any point but saying “no” only works if the other person is respectful and capable of understanding.
I’m also the mother of a college-age son who spent three years as an RA in freshman dorms. I shared Erin’s story with him as the basis for discussion about the issue of consent. He had been told during RA training workshops on this topic that a person is incapable of consenting after three drinks. Since women don’t wear a tally sign on their forehead, we talked about the responsibility if both parties and how it really comes down to common sense and good judgement. He has told me stories of finding partially dressed, passed-out women in bathroom stalls during his rounds as an RA. I worry about the vulnerable position this puts him in because it again requires that the other person is respectful and capable of understanding what’s going on.
Now, amid all the Bill Cosby accusations, another article caught my attention titled: It should never be too late to tell your story of rape. Abigail Hauslohner’s story was disturbing because she was rendered out of control by something her “good family friend” put in her drink. I was struck because she admitted thinking that this kind of thing didn’t happen to smart, progressive, informed people like her. She was so young when her attack happened and because this was someone she trusted, her first reaction was to question herself. Just like Bill Cosby’s victims did. I empathized because I could absolutely see myself in a similar situation as this young woman when you are finding the
So now what am I telling my son and daughter?
- There are no hard-and-fast ground rules
- Girls are inventing products like date rape nail polish because drugs are being used on college campuses to incapacitate women and you should never put your drink down
- You may find yourself in situations that are not black-and-white and you should trust your gut. We are all born with a sixth sense and you need to trust it. I couldn’t always articulate why something didn’t feel right but when I doubted myself, I regretted it later.
- Watch out for those with a sense of entitlement. This is not just an unappealing quality, but a dangerous one too.
- Life is messy. Mistakes will be made. Let’s make sure they are mole hills and not mountains.
Blanche and Stella
My husband and I just sent our second child off to college. We were familiar with the unsettling feelings of whether you gave them all the tools to be successful as they head out the door. With both kids, we tried to have the conversations about sexuality drinking and drugs, relationships, taking good care of your health, eating right, the importance of exercise for relieving stress, managing your money, taking appropriate precautions. These conversations never happened exactly as planned but I’m not sure perfection is necessary in these circumstances.
With our son, we had to coax him out of his room to have these conversations. We awkwardly requested time to talk which he now says felt like he was being summoned to the board room for an inquisition. Now he has a sense of humor about it all and has joked that these conversations prepared him for oral arguments in college classes because they provided early attempts to manage stressful situations. My husband and I found ourselves having to remind him that we were on the same team so clearly our messages had to be polished. We hoped to do better with our second child.
Our daughter kept herself SUPER busy during the months before heading off to school. I think this was her coping mechanism and we tried to create occasions where opportunities to talk would more naturally present themselves. On one occasion, I had planned for a long car trip to be the perfect setting but she clearly had other ideas. A disagreement over the type and volume of music during the drive zapped my ability to have a productive conversation. On another car trip, I decided not to let the opportunity slip by so I forced out what I wanted to say but it was not the exchange I had hoped for.
She is now off at college and we made it through the difficult separation process. We now have one final child at home with opportunities to have important conversations because we aren’t juggling so may schedules. The fact that this daughter has watched us send off the other two kids has made her wise beyond her years. We seem more able to find time to connect on important issues more easily. Granted, she still hasn’t reached the dreaded age where sass is a daily occurrence. We find that our dogs Blanche and Stella provide a calming influence and a new focal point. We added Stella into the family more recently and as a way of easing the blow for all.
I read Petula Dvorak who writes regularly for the Washington Post. #1, she cracks me up. #2, she writes about very real and local things. #3, she is another one of those women who juggles working full-time and raising her kids.
This week, she wrote a fabulous piece called Free time for working moms? That’s a good one! In this article, Petula talks about how she tried to get a group of working mothers together to go see the new movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It” so she could capture their opinions. Her article starts with the humor and irony involved in getting a group of working moms together for such and event. Then it gets serious about how society needs to solve the problem of managing a family in this modern time where the realities of childcare and adult care put great pressure on women.
A year ago I was invited to the White House as a delegate for the White House Forum on Workforce Flexibility. This forum was designed to gather business owners together to discuss their experience at hiring top talent while providing flexibility and ensuring productivity. Since my business lends itself to being virtual, it was easy to talk about ways of providing clear direction and deadlines in exchange for flexibility. However, some of the companies that were represented were retail-oriented businesses who face greater challenges in coming up with workable solutions.
Workforce flexibility is a big area of interest for Michelle Obama. The Workforce Flexibility meeting I attended in 2010 announced the formation of the White House Council on Women and Girls. I admit I’ve been too busy to stay very involved in this group following the kick-off. Fundraising and activism there the primary roles the Council was looking for us to play following our information exchange session. Of course both of these things take time that many of us didn’t have. I worry that the reality of budget cuts might make it difficult to see big gains in this area.
Petula’s humorous take on this issue revived my interest in the topic. I was particularly stunned to see her quote a policy advocate in saying that it takes seven or eight different people in the foster care system to replace all the things that a child’s mother typically handles. Sheesh!
Ladies, I suggest we reach behind and give ourselves a pat on the back. Then let’s keep a spotlight on this issue by making sure that as business women, employers and care givers, we are also our own best supporters.
Any other ideas we should put on the table?
Yesterday was filled with mixed emotions. The news of Osama bin Laden’s assassination was shocking to everyone. In my family’s case we found ourselves having to explain America’s reaction to our sixteen year old German exchange student who has been visiting for the last month. This was his second dose of world events seen through the American news media given that Gaddafi’s son and his family had also just been killed by NATO forces .
Our student came home from school yesterday asking why people were chanting and celebrating. He was taken aback by the tone of President Obama’s speech which they watched in history class. He was shocked to see the news footage of the rowdy crowds at Ground Zero and the White House.
I did my best to help him reconcile how Americans got to where we are now but I didn’t feel I convinced him that we aren’t a vengeful country. Then this morning, while reading the Washington Post, I came across Petula Dvorak’s article in which she did an eloquent job of capturing the emotions of those we didn’t see on the news yesterday.
Thanks Petula! Your article is going home with him tomorrow:-).
As a Digital Media person, it’s high time that I started a blog of my own. I’ve done a lot of writing but always on behalf of someone else. Now it’s my turn to share some of my own thoughts with ‘yall. I intend to use this space as a place to share opinions, make observations and keep track of what I’m finding interesting.
But first some context . . .
I’m a mother of three children in the Fairfax County public school system. It’s a great school system and I’m a HUGE fan of the language immersion program. Having grown up in a town-based school system, the model in Fairfax County took some getting used to. I’ve learned to appreciate the breadth of opportunities available to my kids because of the County’s size and diversity. (I like to be involved in my kids’ education so you’ll hear me talking about this).
I’ve been working in digital media since the mid 90’s getting my start with a marketing communications firm that was bought by AOL in 1995. My ten years at AOL was an amazing professional experience that I don’t believe could ever be replicated. I was able to be a part of AOL’s Green House project that brought companies like Motley Fool online. I was also able to be a part of a fledgling start-up organization within AOL called Digital City. I now know how unusual it is to be part of a well-funded start-up in an industry that was in its infancy. We were establishing a business model, getting our arms around user behavior and experimenting with how online content was different from other media. We Digital City folks like to think we taught AOL a thing or two about the importance of user-generated content;-). Consequently, several DCI folks were interested in migrating to AOL’s Community group. As we mined AOL’s forums to capture public sentiment, we found new ways to package this content up for AOL’s “Channels”. (We did some groundbreaking stuff and I’ll be taking note of companies who continue to do this particularly well).
My consulting business and start-up experience lead me to become more intimately involved with the non-profit mindset and resources. I’m told I’m a bleeding heart always looking for my next cause and I guess that’s true. (You’ll hear me expressing opinions about social issues that bug me).
Finally, my extracurricular interests usually revolve around my kids. My son is into Scouting and music. This has led me to an appreciation for the amount of work that goes into becoming proficient in either. One daughter rides horses competitively as a hunter jumper. I have come to adore horses but the horse world is full of interesting but CRAZY people. They are loads of fun to hang around though;-). My youngest daughter is just finding her thing but right now it’s gymnastics. (You’ll see me talking about the life lessons I’m learning from my kids.)
Welcome to the realm of a working online Mom!