TIME White House

Obama Wants Federal Workers to Have More Family Time

President Barack Obama speaks at the first White House Summit on Working Families
President Barack Obama joins several working parents, (l-r) Roger Trombley, Lisa Rumain, and Shelby Ramirez for lunch at a nearby Chipotle restaurant prior to speakinging at the first White House Summit on Working Families at the Omni Hotel in Washington, June 23, 2014. Martin H. Simon—Corbis

Executive actions to work around Congress in an election year

President Barack Obama announced executive actions Monday that would give federal employees more flexibility to take time off to care for their families.

During a White House Summit on Working Families, Obama said it was time for business leaders and lawmakers to create work environments that respect employees’ lives outside the office. “Twenty-first century families deserve 21st-century workplaces,” Obama said Monday afternoon. “Our economy demands them because its going to help us compete.”

Obama accused Congress on stalling on policies that would benefit working families, and the executive actions he took Monday, while not far reaching, were his latest attempt to work around Capitol Hill in a midterm election year. Obama instructed government agencies to provide workers with the flexibility to take time off to care for sick family members, to take breaks to nurse, and to telecommute when necessary without running the risk of punishment.

“Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth,” Obama said . “That’s a pretty low bar.”

At the summit, business leaders and Democrats gathered to discuss policies that could benefit American workers, with CEOs from Johnson & Johnson and Goldman Sachs scheduled to appear alongside the President, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Democrats spent the day touting policies that have helped them maintain an advantage with women voters, but Obama said Monday that workplace issues—from workplace flexibility to raising the minimum wage—should not be thought of as issues that solely impact women.

“At a time when women are nearly half of our workforce,” Obama said. “Anything that makes life harder for women, makes life harder for families, and makes life harder for children. There’s no such thing as a women’s issue; this is a family issue. This is an American issue.”

More than 40% of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners, and yet still make on average 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, according to a U.S. Council of Economic Advisors report released ahead of the summit (conservatives have called the 77-cents figure misleading). Men, however, are spending more time as caregivers than ever before.

Republicans dismissed the summit as a political ploy for women voters ahead of the midterm elections.

“It’s unfortunate that President Obama and the Democrats see women only as an electoral opportunity,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement. “How do we know this? President Obama could have held a bill signing ceremony instead of a politically-minded summit if he and Harry Reid would act on legislation to help working families that is being held up in the Senate.”

TIME Family

Having a Second Baby Makes Moms Less Happy Than Dads

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Smiling family of four sitting in bed together Monashee Frantz—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Dads, however, are pretty happy after the birth of baby number two

The birth of a first child usually brings both parents great joy, but new analysis shows that a mother’s happiness begins to wane after the second.

According to the FiveThirtyEight blog, 60% of men and women say they feel an increase or decrease in happiness after the first child is born. For baby number two, however, the numbers shift. About 65% of women report being less happy after their second child enters the world, compared to 40% of men.

But a second baby doesn’t just significantly impact a couple’s happiness, the little bundle of joy can be a burden (or blessing) for couples’ relationships too.

According to the data, derived from the annual General Social Survey, a National Opinion Research Center survey that examines societal change, women are less likely to be dissatisfied in their relationships after the second child than men. About 85% of men reportedly feel less satisfied in their relationship as their family expands, compared to 51% of women.

So while mom is overwhelmed by the stress of raising kids, dad is growing less satisfied in the relationship. Great news to kick off Father’s Day weekend, huh?

[FiveThirtyEight]

TIME Family

Divorce: Shared Custody of Kids is on the Rise

Custody to moms only may soon be a thing of the past

Fewer mothers than ever are being given sole custody of their children as shared custody is on the rise.

A new study of Wisconsin Court Records published in Demography shows that from 1988 to 2008, the percentage of mothers who were awarded sole custody of their kids plummeted from 80% to 42%, but that was accompanied by a steep rise in joint custody arrangements. Over the same period of time, equal shared custody rose from 5% to 27% and unequal shared custody rose from 3% to 18%. Father-only custody stayed roughly the same the whole time, hovering around 10%.

The study doesn’t cover kids who are born into single-parent households, just households that have gone through a divorce, which is why it might seem a bit misleading– 45% of American babies are born to unmarried mothers, but those custody arrangements aren’t studied here.

TIME Family

Americans More Likely to Care for Ailing Mom Than Dad

But dads are more popular patients

You better work on your relationship with your mom, because Americans are more than twice as likely to care for an ailing mother as for a father or spouse, according to a new poll.

Over 40% of Americans say they’ve provided long-term care for a sick mother, but only 17% say they’ve cared for an ailing father, according to the Associated Press/NORC released Monday. That probably has more to do with life expectancy than favoritism. What’s more, 83% of caregivers say providing long-term care has been a rewarding experience, and almost 8 in 10 say it’s strengthened their relationships with the care recipient.

But it’s spouses who cause the real stress, meaning “in sickness and in health” may be one of the most difficult wedding vows to keep. Over 60% of those who have cared for an ailing spouse say it’s caused stress in their families, compared to about 55% for other relatives. And 50% of those who’ve cared for a spouse say it’s been a drain on personal finances, while that number hovers closer to 20-30% for parents or in-laws.

Fathers end up being pretty popular when it comes to long-term care. Over 80% of those who have cared for a sick father say it’s been a positive experience and strengthened their relationship with their dad.

TIME movies

The Good, the Bad and the Mommy: Five Great Movie Mothers, and the Five Worst

When she was good, she was very good; and when she was bad, she was horrible

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On their annual Day, Mothers get candy, flowers or a brand new hat from their kids. Most moms deserve the gifts; and Hollywood often chipped in too. American cinema is full of films that emphasized the heroism of the maternal impulse — flinty, passionate and self-sacrificing — as indicated in the five pictures we’ve chosen, from 1940 to the current decade.

But villainy, whether cunning or deranged, has motivated some of the most memorable movie moms. They deserve mention as well: five harridans from Hell. To all these women, and to the brilliant actresses who brought them to screen life, Happy Mother’s Day.

TOP FIVE GREAT MOTHERS

1. Jane Darwell as Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, 1940

Following the pioneer trail, the Joad family went West — from devastated Dust Bowl Oklahoma to California, “the Golden State” — to find work. They find tragedy instead, and only the flinty optimism of their matriarch, Ma Joad, sustains them. Directed by John Ford from John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath wrings every drop of rage and pathos out of the plight of desperate farmers, ten years into the Depression. Tom (Henry Fonda) is the firebrand of the family, Ma the hearth. Darwell, who earned a Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance, had the last inspiring words for the American underclass: “They can’t wipe us out; they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, ’cause we’re the people.” As men go to war and kill, so women give life. Their bodies are the arsenals of future generations.

2. Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce in Mildred Pierce, 1945

Her ex-husband (Bruce Bennett) was shiftless and her teenage daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) is needy. Mothers strive so their children can thrive, and Mildred Pierce goes to work as a waitress in a restaurant. Her drive and brains build that menial job into ownership of a restaurant chain and the fancy home, clothes and status that Veda thinks is her birthright. Yet she despises her mother for earning money the old-fashioned way: by earning it. Veda wants to be more than moneyed; she wants to be Old Money. So when Mildred marries the polo-playing Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott), she schemes to take him too. Crawford, an Oscar-winner as Mildred, was no saint to her own adopted children; Mommie Dearest proved that. But she is plenty persuasive here, capturing the nobility of a working mother ready to sacrifice almost anything for a rotten kid.

3. Claudia McNeil as Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, 1961

With her late husband’s $10,000 insurance policy, Lena hopes to move her family — her 35-year-old son Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier), his wife Ruth (Ruby Dee) and their boy Travis, plus daughter Beneatha (Diana Sands), a college student — out of their two-bedroom apartment in a Chicago ghetto to the integrated suburbs. In Lorraine Hansberry’s magnificent play, now revived on Broadway with Denzel Washington as Walter Lee, plays no favorites among the Youngers: they all have big ideas and strong wills — and, as Ruth tells Lena, “it takes a strong woman like you to keep ’em in hand.” Poitier, who like the rest of the cast had appeared in the play, was the star attraction, but McNeil (just six-and-a-half years older than Poitier) is the dominant force. She plants her ample frame at the center of the screen and rarely yields the spatial foreground or moral high ground.
4. Susan Sarandon as Michaela Odone in Lorenzo’s Oil, 1992

The earthiest Earth Mother in American movies, Sarandon has tangled with such screen children as Jake Gyllenhaal (Moonlight Mile), Natalie Portman (Anywhere But Here), Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown) and her own daughter Eva Amurri (Middle of Nowhere). This summer she’ll be Melissa McCarthy’s ornery grandma in the road comedy Tammy. The Sarandon mother faced her gravest challenge in Lorenzo’s Oil, in which she and Nick Nolte play a married couple sucker-punched by fate: their son has a dreadful disease, whose incurability the wife is loath to accept. The parents share an intimate closeup, nearly three minutes long, whose focus gradually shifts from Nolte describing the disease to Sarandon’s dawning dread as she realizes the consequences. Tears drop simultaneously from both eyes, as if the last of this mother’s illusions had been squeezed out of her. In a moment of spectacular subtlety, Sarandon shows how accepting bad news can be a mother’s most taxing form of heroism.

5. Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln, 2012

The former Gidget and Flying Nun won Oscars playing two feisty moms: the factory worker in Norma Rae and the Depression Texas farm owner in Places in the Heart. She raised Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias, and Tom Hanks to be Forrest Gump, and she’s a wonder of love and grieving as Peter Parker’s aunt in the Amazing Spider-Man movies. Her Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s film was less nurturing than nudging: advising her president husband (Daniel Day-Lewis) on political tactics and pleading with him to keep their son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from joining the Union Army. “She was complicated and brilliant,” Field told TIME, “and she would not be looked at fondly.” Really, though, what viewer doesn’t look fondly at Sally Field?

TOP FIVE MALEVOLENT MOMS

1. Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate, 1962

Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh were among two of the three top-billed stars, but the central, unforgettable tension is between Mrs. Iselin, the scheming wife of a Joe McCarthy-type Senator, and her son Raymond (Laurence Harvey), a Cold War cold-fish misfit who quite systematically kills eight people and, in the twisted logic of this acerbic thriller, is kind of the hero. He and his mother, both dripping sarcasm like formic acid, are two exceptional, odious creatures whom genetics and geopolitics have consigned to a death match. Amid the espionage, brainwashing and political assassinations (the movie came out a year before JFK’s death in Dallas), the most toxic moment is when Mrs. I explains her nefarious plan to subvert two warring nations. Then she gives her son a big slimy smooch on the lips; mother love never seemed so despotic or desperate.

2. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, 1981

In 1946, when Joan Crawford won her Mildred Pierce Oscar, she was making life miserable for her adopted daughter Christina. In the film version of Christina’s sad, vengeful memoir, Dunaway plays the star as monster mother in a horror movies. (Joan, in the rose garden: “Tina, bring me the axe!”) She treats the girl, played by Mara Hobel as a child and Diana Scarwid as an adult, like a scullery maid; she demeans her, beats her, nearly chokes her to death. No less hurtful is Joan’s trick of seeming the victim—“You love to make me hit you!”—to a daughter whose fear and devotion she demands in equal doses. When she insisted that Christina call her “mommie dearest,” Faye’s Joan says, “I wanted you to mean it.” Director’s Frank Perry movie lurches between operatic high camp and a catalog of child abuse, between operatic high camp. In the infamous scene of Joan whupping the young Christina with a wire coat hanger, Dunaway rises to sick, satanic majesty. Unlike many over-the top performances, this one is not a pleasure but an ordeal to watch—a scary-great turn.

3. Anjelica Huston as Lilly Dillon in The Grifters, 1990

Mothers in crime movies — White Heat, Bloody Mama, the Australian chiller Animal Kingdom — were every bit as devoted to their children as were Ma Joad or Mary Todd Lincoln. It just happened that their kids’ line of work was on the wrong side of the law, and crime moms were their ferocious enablers, sometimes encouraging their felonies and occasionally masterminding them. But even among this disreputable brood, Lilly Dillon, in Stephen Frears’ movie of the Donald E. Westlake novel, stands out like Lady Macbeth in a police lineup. A career con-woman, or grifter, Lilly has a son, Roy (John Cusack) into the family business, though they work separately. In friendlier moments, she treats him less as a boy than as a beau; that’s creepy. And when she feels conned by Roy, she can find a reason to kill him. Not protective but predatory, Lilly consumes her young for the same reason a mama scorpion does: she’s still hungry.

4. Mo’Nique as Mary Johnston in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, 2009

Claireece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is an illiterate, grossly obese 16-year-old whose wildly abusive mother Mary allows Claireece’s father to have sex with the girl; he has already impregnated her twice. Mary bends her own talents for abuse to verbal and physical torrents against her daughter. In one tirade (with the obscenities excised here), she roars, “I shoulda aborted your ass! . . . I knew it when the doctor put you in my goddam hand you wasn’t a goddam thing!” Mary has a pathetic rationalization for permitting Claireece’s father’s depredations: if she doesn’t, he won’t have sex with her, and he’s all she’s got. Mo’Nique won an Oscar for summoning all the rage, and a bit of poignancy, in this all-time most vile, deplorable, eye-magnetizing monster movie mother: Momzilla.

5. Laura Hope Crews as Mrs. Phelps in The Silver Cord, 1933

“You’ll love Mother, she’s marvelous,” David Phelps (Joel McCrea) tells his bride Christina (Irene Dunne) at the beginning of this little-known bad-mother masterpiece, based on Sydney Howard’s 1926 play. In fact, Mrs. Phelps is a marvel of scheming, suffocating possessiveness. Jovial, when it suits her, and doting, to a fault, she employs flutter and bluster to shackle her grown sons David and Robert (Eric Linden) and divert outsiders. At her country home, she convinces David and Christina to sleep in separate rooms, while she visits David, sits on his bed, holds his hand and dulcetly plots to rid him of his wife. Crews, reprising her Broadway role under John Cromwell’s direction (he staged both the play and the film), reveals Mrs. Phelps’s evil artfully, gradually, like the slow opening of a Venus flytrap. But the movie allows the heroine Dunne to render stern judgment on maternal love turned rancid: “You’re not fit to be anyone’s mother.”

Adapted from Richard Corliss’s Mom in the Movies: The Iconic Mothers You Love (And a Few You Love to Hate), presented by Turner Classic Movies and published by Simon & Schuster.

TIME movies

Mom in the Movies: How Disney Killed Off Mothers, and Pixar Liberated Them

MCDBRAV EC019
Pixar/Disney

In classic animated features like Dumbo and Bambi, mothers were often an endangered species (and in the case of Frozen, still are). It took a half-century before Pixar showed moms who could be strong (The Incredibles) and, well, hairy (Brave)

How many mothers have emerged from a family trip to a Disney movie and been obliged to explain the facts of death to their sobbing young? A conservative estimate: the tens of millions, since the studio’s first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937. Innocent parents might have thought that a musical cartoon version of a fairy tale would be a child’s ideal introduction to movie magic. Yet Walt Disney taught moral lessons in the most useful way: by scaring the poop out of the little ones.

As kids watched Snow White succumb to the poison apple proffered by the witch who was also her stepmother, they literally stained the seats of movie palaces with the first rush of primal anguish. Disney features, especially the early ones, were horror movies with cute critters, Greek tragedies with a hummable chorus. Forcing children to confront the loss of home, parent, friends and fondest pets, these films imposed shock therapy on four-year-olds. That psychic jolt could last a lifetime — or at least until the toddlers grew up and subjected their own children to the very same animated ordeals that they had undergone at the same age.

Those first Disney classics defined childhood as an unrelenting series of nightmares. In a backstory that suggests a palace murder spree as lurid as Hamlet Act Five, Princess Snow White (voiced by Adriana Casselotti) has been orphaned, with the dead King and Queen replaced by a stepmother (Lucille La Verne) who forces the dauphine into scullery-maid servitude. As vain as she is vindictive, the new Queen reacts to her talking mirror’s news that she is no longer “the fairest of them all” by ordering a huntsman to kill Snow White. The girl can survive only by fleeing her home and depending on the kindness of seven small strangers, for whom she cooks, cleans up and enforces cheerful discipline — becoming, in essence, the dwarfs’ doting mother.

To their young consumers, the Disney cartoon masterpieces sent mixed signals. Snow White must leave home to live; but when the puppet hero in Pinocchio (1940) goes AWOL from his creator and father-figure Gepetto, a Faginesque kidnapper named Stromboli tells the wooden boy, “When you grow too old, you will make good firewood.” In Snow White, a huntsman saves the heroine; but midway through Bambi (1942) —perhaps the most shocking moment in any Disney fable — another man with a rifle mistakes the deer’s mother for disposable game. One creature’s mother is another’s lunch.

(FIND: Bambi among the 25 all-TIME Best Horror Movies)

Indeed, among the most endangered of all Disney denizens were mothers — a fact that should have terrified the kids sitting next to their own moms in a darkened movie house. (Keep holding her hand, little one, to make sure she’s still alive.) A young boy or girl was naturally invested in the adventures of the movies’ young heroes or heroines, and would infer that their mothers were his or her mother. So what happens? Bambi’s mother dies in an act of random violence. In Dumbo (1941), the circus elephant Mrs. Jumbo is the loving single mom of her baby Jumbo Jr., who has been derisively nicknamed because of his outsize ears. When a boy at one performance cruelly pulls on Dumbo’s ears, Mrs. J. stomps forward to protect him and inadvertently causes a stampede. She is consigned to a madhouse, and her child to a life of pachyderm vagabondage in the company of a helpful mouse and some jive-talking crows.

The Disney animators’ rules on adult females: mothers are perfect but imperiled; stepmothers are wicked and occasionally homicidal; godmothers are sweet things with magical powers. Recall that the aristocratic widower father in Cinderella (1950) unwisely thought the girl needed maternal guidance and married the haughty Lady Tremaine. When the disposable dad dies, Tremaine and her gawky daughters Anastasia and Drizella treat Cinderella like a despised menial. The stepmother’s dictatorship finds its liberating equal in the Fairy Godmother’s magic. Say “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” and a pumpkin is transformed into a royal coach and the girl’s rags into a silver blue dress, with glass slippers to catch a Prince’s eye and heart.

(GALLERY: 13 Disney Princesses and the Actresses Who Voiced Them)

Fairy godmothers, like the Witches of Oz, can be benign or malign. In Sleeping Beauty (1959), the blessings of three kindly fairies can barely hold off the curse of the evil Maleficent (voiced by the same actress, Eleanor Audley, who had played Lady Tremaine) on the princess Briar Rose. That 1959 film was the last animated fairy tale produced by Disney before Walt’s death in 1966.

A generation later, in the animation “Renaissance” under Jeffrey Katzenberg, the studio would return to fable territory with The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991), both of whose heroines had fathers but no mothers. The female protagonists of two other Disney Renaissance features, the 1995 Pocahontas and the 1998 Mulan, also have to do without mothers, though Pocahontas does have a Grandmother Willow — a talking tree that croaks advice and warnings.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Beauty and the Beast)

More recent Disney animated features based on Grimm stories, The Princess and the Frog (2009) and the “Rapunzel” adaptation known as Tangled (2010), outfitted their leading ladies with a full complement of parents; Oprah Winfrey voiced the role of the frog-princess’s mom. Disney also modernized Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Snow Queen” into the worldwide 2013 hit Frozen, a story of princess liberation that, in the grand Disney tradition, killed off both parents early on.

(SEE AND HEAR: a mashup of Frozen’s Oscar-winning “Let It Go” sung in 25 languages)

Tangled weaves the tale of a classic Disney princess — whose destiny is to come of age, triumph over adversity and, in general, woman up — with a very contemporary obsession: looking young by any means necessary. Re-enter that old reliable Disney villainess, the wicked witch. When Gothel (Donna Murphy) discovers that the 70-foot tresses of young Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) somehow bring eternal youth, or at least chic middle age, to an old crone, she swans around the kingdom while keeping her victim locked in a tower from infancy to her 18th birthday. Gothel could be many modern American parents who think that confining their teens in enforced preadolescence may make them feel younger too. Of course Gothel is a stepmother figure; Rapunzel’s real mother and father are virtuous, fretful and mostly absent.

(READ: A review of Disney’s ripping Rapunzel)

The Princess and the Frog and Tangled restored a smidge of equilibrium to the animated films of the preceding decade, when the major producers of CGI cartoons paid little attention to female characters and their offspring. DreamWorks movies (the Shrek and Madagascar series) are usually vaudeville capers. The Ice Age pictures from Fox/Blue Sky relocate the Road movies of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby into a prehistoric winterland. Universal’s Despicable Me tandem touches on parenthood, but only from the viewpoint of a single dad who would like to believe he’s a supervillain.

Pixar, which stole Disney’s hand-drawn thunder by launching the first CGI animated feature, Toy Story, in 1995, usually ignored the themes of boy-girl and mother-child in favor of stories about bonding buddies: the Toy Story, Cars and Monsters, Inc. franchises, and A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille, WALL•E and Up. Only two Pixar features so far have boasted strong mothers. In The Incredibles (2004), the superheroine Helen, aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), is able to raise three precocious kids while teaming with husband Bob, alias Mr. Incredible, to save the world.

(READ: A credible mom in The Incredibles)

And in 2012 Pixar finally devoted an entire feature to the mother-daughter perplex. Brave (codirected by Brenda Chapman, the studio’s first female director) took the classic Disney formula — a rebellious princess battles an imperious queen and is beset by magic spells — and gave it a beguiling twist. This time, the woman who makes the heroine’s life miserable is not her stepmother but her own mom.

In ancient Scotland, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a lass as wild as her curly red mane. An expert in archery, like The Hunger Games’ Katniss, Merida feels closer to the bear-hunting machismo of her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), than to the civilizing demands of her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson). She’s both a tomboy and a sullen teen who responds to her mother’s every request by whining, in two harsh syllables, “Mah-ahm!” When urged to choose a suitable beau for a husband, Merida screams, “I hope you die!” at the woman who gave her life. The Queen doesn’t die, but she is transformed into a bear — part regal Elinor, part huge, clumsy creature.

Richard Corliss’ new book, Mom in the Movies Simon & Schuster

 

(READ: Corliss’s review of Brave)

Kids have often thought of their parents as monsters, and when Brave turns into My Mother the Bear, it taps both maternal helplessness and the love a child feels for any wounded creature. In this Beauty and the Beast, the sympathetic beast is a mom. Now isn’t that beautiful?

Richard Corliss’ book Mom in the Movies: The Iconic Screen Mothers You Love (And a Few You Love to Hate), published by Simon & Schuster, is out now.

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