1. Stephen Marche's recent essay in the Atlantic Monthly is probably the best article I've ever read on the work/life debate. Almost every sentence is worth quoting, I highly suggest reading the whole thing. Plus, I'm so glad that men are starting to speak out on this topic, family issues ARE NOT simply women issues. They're people issues.
"The central conflict of domestic life right now is not men versus women, mothers versus fathers. It is family versus money. Domestic life today is like one of those behind-the-scenes TV series about show business. The main narrative tension is: “How the hell are we going to make this happen?” There are tears and laughs and little intrigues, but in the end, it’s just a miracle that the show goes on, that everyone is fed and clothed and out the door each day."
. . . .
"We live in a hollow patriarchy: the edifice is patriarchal, while the majority of its occupants approach egalitarianism. This generates strange paradoxes. Even women with servants and powerful jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars feel that they have an institutional disadvantage. And they’re right. Women in the upper reaches of power are limited in ways that men simply are not. Various men’s movements have emerged, purportedly to provide a counterweight to feminism, but this proposition is inherently absurd. The greatest power still resides in the hands of a few men, even as the majority of men are being outpaced in the knowledge economy. Masculinity grows less and less powerful while remaining iconic of power. And therefore men are silent. After all, there is nothing less manly than talking about waning manliness."
2. In a similar vein to the above article, Noah Berlatsky wrote a short, nicely-stated piece on how both sexes often choose family over work.
"It's true that men are much less likely to talk about the family sacrifices required to be a high-powered CEO. But is the problem here solely that women are too open about what they give up? Or to put it another way, why is it seen as normal for a man to spend his life at work, travel away from his family all the time, leave the care of his children primarily to someone else—and never express a regret?
Some men—and some women—really do love the "joys" of power and success . . . And then some of us look at 80-hour weeks and never seeing our families and say, you know what? I would rather quit. I had an opportunity to move into a management position at my job, for example; instead, I went part time to care for my son. I got lucky and eventually moved into freelancing work—but even if I hadn't, I don't think I'd regret my decision. Changing diapers wasn't necessarily all that much fun, but given the choice between expanded administrative powers and wheeling my baby around the neighborhood while stuffing Cheerios into him, I know which one I'd pick.
Hewlett argues that we need to change the narrative for women, so that work for them is not seen as a sacrifice, and so that quitting work is not seen as the normal or default. I don't necessarily disagree. Certainly, we need better day care in this country, so that both women and men can have more options for balancing work and family. But, at the same time, I wonder whether women's experiences of quitting—or, for that matter, my experiences of quitting—should be so thoroughly discounted as a retrograde return to "the expectations of the 1950s," as Hewlett puts it. Lots of women have shown, pretty clearly, that if forced to choose between work and family, they'll quit work. Rather than seeing that quitting as false consciousness or failure, maybe we could learn from it that work is not always more important than family, and that quitting, for women or for men, is not a sin."
3. On a complete different topic, I LOVED Oliver Sacks' NY Times Article on the joy (no kidding) of old age.
"My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together."
4. In the New Yorker, Michael Specter wrote a somewhat frightening piece on the battle over how to treat lymne disease, which is steadily on the rise.
"Many of these patients say that medical officials pay little attention to their persisting symptoms, and that Lyme disease is anything but easy to treat or to cure. They believe that the bacteria can hide in the body for years, potentially causing harm long after treatment ends. This condition, they say, is pernicious, difficult to diagnose, rarely cured, and widely ignored. Moreover, at least four pathogens, in addition to the Lyme bacterium, can be transmitted by the black-legged tick: Anaplasma phagocytophilium, which causes anaplasmosis; Babesia microti, which causes babesiosis; Borrelia miyamotoi, a recently discovered genetic relative of the Lyme spirochete; and Powassan virus. Some of these infections are more dangerous than Lyme, and more than one can infect a person at the same time. Simultaneous infection, scientists suggest, may well enhance the strength of the assault on the immune system, while making the disease itself harder to treat or recognize.
“I am not sure why we act as if we know the answers,” Brian Fallon told me. Fallon, a psychiatrist who has studied the neurological impact of Lyme for years, is the director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center, at Columbia University. “The evidence that something more complex is going on is tantalizing and substantial.”
5. And to end with something completely random (yet interesting) New York Times Magazine published a great interview with Jason Everman, "the rock n'roll casualty who became a war hero" (during the late 1980s, Everman played bass in both Nirvana and Soundgarden before either band became "big").
"In the war, Everman seemed to have found his place. The cloud didn’t go anywhere; it just didn’t matter anymore. As one of his Special Forces colleagues (who is still on active duty and requested that his name not be published) told me: “He would get moody sometimes, but it didn’t interfere with the task at hand. I would rather work with somebody who is quiet than ran their suck constantly.” In Everman’s cabin, I saw medal after medal, including the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge. “Sounds kind of Boy Scouty,” he said. “But it’s actually something cool.” I saw photos of Everman in fatigues on a warship (“an antipiracy operation in Asia”). A shot of Everman with Donald Rumsfeld. Another with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. And that’s when it hit me. Jason Everman had finally become a rock star."