Katy Read,  writer 


Regrets of a stay-at-home mom
Originally ran on Salon.com. Versions ran in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Journal in Ireland. It will be included in the anthology Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood
Consider this a warning to new mothers: Fourteen years ago, I opted out to focus on my family. Now I'm broke.

We had wonderful times together, my sons and I. ... The swing set moments when I would realize, watching the boys swoop back and forth, that someday these afternoons would seem to have rushed past in nanoseconds, and I would pause, mid-push, to savor the experience while it lasted. Now I lie awake at 3 a.m., terrified that as a result I am permanently financially screwed.

Taken for a Spin
Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers
Causation, correlation, and mom blame.

It’s a simple error, an elementary one really, but its presence in these reports not only casts some doubt on what the articles and manuals and experts are telling us but can render their message virtually meaningless and even potentially harmful.

May I have my attention, please?
AARP, The Magazine
Society is screaming for your undivided attention. You can just say no!

The other day I counted 49 browser tabs open on my computer. That’s right; I was attempting to look at 49 different Internet pages, more or less simultaneously.

Mothering from Afar
Brain, Child
The suspicion that people secretly doubt their fitness as parents haunts most noncustodial mothers—even loving, caring, law-abiding mothers who’ve always acted in their children’s best interests. As a society, we don’t quite know what to make of mothers who don’t live with their kids.

Trashing the Hallmark card mom
Weary of saccharine stereotypes, a diverse group of women is demanding that society do more than pay lip service to mothers.
From a feminist standpoint, they resent what they see as the insipid stereotypes and narrow standards surrounding American motherhood, the trivialization of caregiving work, and the lack of economic and social support.

Is "Barney" destroying my kids' brains?
A few weeks ago, a study connected TV watching to ADHD. But the findings have been blown way out of proportion.
My first thought was, "Oh my god, I bet I've wrecked my kids." My second thought was, "Oh my god, I bet they're confusing correlation with causation again."

Trying to control the controller
As a parent, I'm supposed to take a stand on video games. But how can I tell how they'll affect my kids if I don't even know how to turn on the PS2?
"I just killed somebody!" I scream. "Sweet," says my 9-year-old son, beside me on the sofa. "I haven't killed one person yet."

College vs. Retirement: Put the Kids Second

Trying to secure your future? Don’t save a penny for college — until your retirement fund is flush.
I discovered, as mothers do, that deferring to my children's needs felt not only natural but compulsive. Ice cream was the least of it; add sleep, privacy, vacation destinations and, oh, financial security.

Mama Wants a Brand-New Job
Mothers in the recession
Brain, Child
With spouses’ jobs threatened, investments and home values clobbered, and household budgets straining at the seams, mothers who have spent years comfortably at home have started brushing the dust off their résumés, or are looking for ways to make extra income on their own.

How to Talk to Your Partner about Money
Good communication -- no surprise -- is the key to financial compatibility.
Better Homes and Gardens
Maybe you never promised to love, honor, and pay off the credit card bill every month. But partners who ignore these matters may not only turn their financial life into a confusing shambles -- who was supposed to pay that electric bill? How did we manage to bounce this check? -- but risk letting their relationship teeter toward bankruptcy.

Now’s the time to start working on college aid

Your high school senior’s first day of college may be nine months away, but to secure help paying for it, you’ll have to start today. Be prepared to unveil all your financial secrets.
MSN moneycentral.com
Happy New Year. If you've got a kid who's a senior in high school and planning to start college this fall, you'd better get busy. OK, go ahead and finish your coffee first. But right after that -- or at least as soon as possible within the next few weeks -- it's time to apply for financial aid.

'Happy' memoir ending isn't, but it has power, beauty
While a student at Macalester College, poet Alex Lemon suffered two strokes. He discusses the book he's written about the ordeal.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Alex Lemon is warm and affable on the phone, and it's easy to see how he acquired the nickname "Happy" as a freshman at Macalester College. But as the title of his memoir, the name is weighted with irony.

Book explores priorities that prompt moms to opt out
Minneapolis Star Tribune
What prompts women to swap good jobs for days spent watching "Dora the Explorer," stirring mac 'n' cheese and mediating play-date squabbles?

Does self-help breed helplessness?
Jennifer Niesslein hired diet, financial and other gurus to help her perfect her life. She tells Salon what advice worked, and what drove her batty.
Jennifer Niesslein was living the kind of life people have in mind when they talk about the American dream. Still, she wasn't quite satisfied ... It wasn't that she was unhappy, exactly -- but was she really, truly happy?

Beyond Harvard and the SATs
In "Seeing Past Z," Beth Kephart argues that ambitious parents are smothering their kids' creativity with lessons, activities and schedules.
Although Kephart includes video games and television among the culprits, her particular foe is a child's busy schedule -- filled with lessons and activities and college preparation -- that she believes is imposed by ambitious parents across the country.

Mommy madness
The latest buzzy book about motherhood claims that in an effort to orchestrate an ideal upbringing for their children, women are messing up their marriages, spoiling their kids, and losing their minds.
Indulging preschoolers with back-straining, eye-glazing "floor time." Hauling school kids around to a dizzying whirl of extracurricular lessons and activities. Tossing everything else aside in order to shower children with nonstop attention and encouragement and enrichment and self-esteem enhancement and, and...

Identity crisis
In Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream (W.W. Norton & Company, 2003), Carl Elliott attempts to explain why Americans seek self-realization through conformity, why they carry around idealized images of themselves and then alter their bodies and personalities—through Prozac, breast augmentation, and more—to match those images.

Brevity (also published in Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue William Silverman)
The first one arrived early that morning: a small, unsmiling man riding an old bike with a wire basket. When he saw us carrying cartons out to the U-Haul trailer, he stopped. "Got anything you gonna throw away?"

Mommy mail
The schmaltzy paeans to motherhood that crowd my in-box are supposed to be "inspirational." But what they're really saying is, it sucks to be me.
They want to reassure me -- God knows, they think, no one else will -- that although I am but a lowly mother, I am valued. My suffering is noble. Not for nothing do I forfeit my comfort, my leisure and perhaps my financial security. Yes, I have jettisoned my dreams, but for a glorious cause.

Volvo Trash
River Teeth
Americans are used to thinking of cars as extensions of their drivers’ identities; our fine-tuned sense of vehicular semiotics lets us connect “minivan” with “soccer mom,” “shiny red convertible” with “combed-over middle manager.” I would not have drawn a line from “Volvo” to myself. But my car had come to reflect my life: presentable on the outside, a garbage can within.

Kiss and Tell
She mastered the art of the buss in New Orleans. But can this Minnesotan bring the casual kiss back home?
Minnesota Monthly
We Minnesotans have nothing against kissing – so long as it’s between consenting adults in the steamy-windowed privacy of their car’s back seat. But we don’t kiss promiscuously. Not because we’re prudes, necessarily, but because wanton kissing strikes us as phony, pretentious, the province of society dames wearing opera gloves and being careful not to smear their lipstick.

Scoldings from Strangers
These days, scoldings are reserved for the parents. The village speaks, and none too kindly.
Brain, Child (also published in Literal Latte)
By failing to notice that my son had slipped out of the seat belt, by allowing his safety to be threatened even slightly, even momentarily, even unknowingly, I have without question made a mistake. Drawing attention to my failure was undoubtedly intended by this woman as a noble public service. So why do I feel like I’ve just been ordered to the front of the classroom to have my knuckles rapped with a ruler?

Bring Home the Bacon, Forget about the Butter
Brain, Child
Linda R. Hirshman doesn't know me. But her new book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, makes it clear she would see my laundry folding and grocery shopping as evidence that I am wasting my life and betraying women everywhere.

Parents on the verge of a nervous breakdown
Three new books explain why you're always freaking out about your kids -- and tell you to ignore the experts.
In occasional lucid moments, I wondered why I should feel selfish for wanting time to myself, evil for every perceived misstep, and personally at fault for my children's failure to be perfect. When I finally began to figure it out, I felt like the horror-movie baby sitter who finds out the threatening phone calls are coming from inside the house.

The Economics of Opting Out
Chicago Sun-Times
In The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? Leslie Bennetts brings up an important issue that rarely gets mentioned. Women who quit their jobs to stay home with children, she warns, may later find themselves dealing with a financial crisis.

A well-pondered life
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Emily Fox Gordon's essays veer from the world of academia, to colonoscopies, to therapy.

Real life, she suggests, is messier than memoir -- more complex, more amorphous, more filled with internal contradictions.

Are we related? By common experience, at least

Granta's new collection of stories illuminates those things that connect us all.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Memo to Leo Tolstoy: Every unhappy family may be unhappy in its own way, but some aspects of their unique discontents will be universal and familiar to readers who have parents, spouses, siblings and children of their own.

Would you be interested in a salad?
Don't expect to enjoy a hamburger after reading Jonathan Safran Foer's lively but nauseating book about the morality of eating meat.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
I hope you're satisfied, Jonathan Safran Foer. I was halfway through Eating Animals when, on a trip to the grocery store, I noticed a good sale on pork chops. I grabbed a package, stood there a moment, then let the meat fall back into the cooler and walked away.

Who Wants to Be a Rock Star?
Laurie Lindeen became the front woman for Zuzu’s Petals, a Minneapolis female trio that put out two albums and toured cross-country and internationally in the late 1980s and early ’90s, when the city was a nationally recognized indie-rock hotbed.

Off the Shelf
In Sweet Land, Weaver’s new collection of 12 short stories, unsung lives become dramatic and suspenseful, touching and poignant.