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Mama needs help, but she's not going to ask.

Because she thinks she should be able to do it all.

Even though she's one person, she thinks she alone should calm all the temper tantrums.

Answer all the work emails.

Clean all the rooms.

Make all the deadlines.

Schedule all the appointments.

Organize all the playdates.

But the truth is, it's exhausting to manage everything on her plate. On average, mothers work 98 hours a week. Throw in the mental load of motherhood (she's solving parenting dilemmas in her sleep, too) and you have a recipe for serious burnout.

Motherhood is meaningful and beautiful, but it's exhaustingly unrelenting.

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Mama needs help.

Here are 50 ways you can lighten a mother's load. She might not ask for help, but if she did, this is exactly what she would want—

Partner with me

1. Be a true and equal partner

Women work more during the week (most of it unpaid home/ child-care work), do more chores on the weekend and burden more of the mental load of parenthood than most men. To my partner—please realize how much I am doing and find new ways to make this more equal for both of us. Even if you're away at work during the day, there is appointment-scheduling/item-purchasing/family management work you can do. Let's find more ways to be equal partners in this important mission of raising a family.

2. Be my village

Historically, women raised their families in the same homes and communities as their sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents and extended relatives. We had extra people, warm hearts and lots of helping hands to do all the work of raising a family. Today, many moms are doing it alone, far away from where they grew up. Please reach out to ask how you can help—even across the miles. We need lots of support and I'd love your help, but only if you ask.

3. Make schools more family-friendly

Please understand that every complicated homework assignment you send home that my kid can't complete on his own becomes one more task on my list. Please don't assume that class parents are “class moms." Please make meeting times more friendly for working parents so that more moms and dads can attend. Consider start times and dismissal times that account for realities of modern family life. The more you can do to recognize everything mothers already have on their plates, and how to encourage more participation from fathers in the school environment—the better. It will help moms, dads and their families.

4. Make churches + places of worship welcoming

My kids are squirmy. They squawk. They need to breastfeed in the middle of services. Please don't side-eye me. Please don't tell me you wish I didn't come. (True story: that happened.) Please offer a friendly smile, a “good job, mom" and family-friendly amenities (changing tables, kids services, accessible walkways). I need this time to center myself. Make sure we feel welcome.

5. Send me all the delivery services

My actual partner in crime? THE UPS GUY. I haven't met a delivery service I didn't love. Grocery deliveries? Done. Stitch Fix? I'm wearing it. Diaper subscription? Bought it. If there can be a delivery service for it, I want it. I'm basically never leaving home again. (Looking at you, Starbucks...) ☕️

Encourage me

6. Speak words of affirmation

This whole motherhood thing is so much harder than I thought it was going to be. (Mom, how did you make it look so easy?) When you say, “You're a wonderful mother" and, “You're such a patient parent" I feel like I'm on the right path—and your positivity becomes the encouraging voice in my head on the very hard days.

7. Acknowledge my workload

Ask about my recent work trip. Recognize when I'm up late finishing tasks to help my family. Commend me on getting my kids to school with their pants on. (Not always the easiest task!) Motherhood is long and hard and my work can feel invisible. You encourage me when you acknowledge how much work I'm doing for myself, my kids and my whole family.

8. Show me some affection

I might be touched-out but there's nothing like a sincere bear hug from someone who knows you, loves you, and thinks you're doing awesome. Hug me. Squeeze me. Mean it.

9. Send me a note

You know that happy dance you do when you get a little ray of sunshine sent in the form of a “thinking of you" note to your mailbox? Those thoughtful gestures make me feel loved and remembered—and remind me that there is a world beyond my messy, tiring house run by tiny people. Thank you.

10. Assure me everything is okay and my kids are normal

Sometimes it feels like I'm a one-woman ringmaster and my kids are the circus. Assure me that this hard work and sacrifice and chaos isn't just worth it—it's normal.

Give me a break

11. Surprise me with an hour/night/weekend/week off

Show up. Take the kids. Whether it's for an hour, a day, a weekend or a week—you'll be my hero—forever. It's not that I don't love my kids, it's just that the work of motherhood is never-ending. This surprise break will help me rest and be the mom I want to be.

12. Say 'I've got bedtime tonight'

No seriously—there are no sexier words in the English language. Take over bedtime tonight (and every night?) and I'll feel ready to go to bed earlier, be done with evening chores sooner, and wake up refreshed thanks to the bonus snooze time.

13. Buy me a pedicure/massage/hair treatment

Splurging on myself used to be my thing—but lately I have to pay for pediatrician co-pays, organic chicken, preschool tuition, sky-high childcare, clothes my kids outgrow every six months, developmentally-appropriate toys, a replacement car seat cover after #theincident, gymnastic classes, kids seats on the airplane and toothbrushes that mysteriously disappear. While I need wellness treatments more than ever, my budget isn't in alignment. Help a sister out?

14. Ask me to plan my dream vacation

Studies show that the mere act of planning a vacation can relieve stress. If the budget allows, ask me what kind of getaway would leave me feeling rejuvenated. Time to bond as a family? Time alone to sleep late and think deep thoughts? Either can work. Plus, it doesn't have to be a fancy getaway to the tropics—even a few days stay-cation without kids would feel like the life of luxury. But let a girl dream.

15. Better yet—just plan the trip for me

I have a ton on my plate. If you haven't noticed, putting myself first isn't exactly my specialty. If you could step in and plan a relaxing getaway, confirm it on my calendar, and take care of the childcare logistics to make it happen, you'll be my forever hero.

Clean all the things

Just going to leave my never-ending list here below. Studies say that EVEN WHEN MOMS WORK FULL TIME, they do more housework than their male partners. If you really want to lighten a mother's mental load, can someone other than mom clean something? Everything?

16. Laundry

It never ends. HELP.

17. All surfaces + floors

Why are they so sticky? Wait, on second thought—I don't want to know.

18. Fridge

Things just get lost in there, man.

19. Car

It's basically a coffee cup and Cheerios storage center

20. Email inbox, if you dare

^Enough said.

Notice *me*

21. Don't just ask about my kids

After you ask “How are the kids doing?" ask me how I'm doing, too. (Please.) Since becoming a mom, I feel like I've become a little bit invisible—like, “Meet Liz, the human who brought you this child."

22. Ask me about how I spend my days, not if I'm “'just' a mom"

If you know I work a job, ask how it's going. Inquire about the new project I'm working on or that new passion project I'm throwing myself into. If I'm a stay-at-home mom, ask me about how I spend my days and what I love to do outside of being a mom. Show me you're interested in who I am as a person.

23. Keep me company

Listen without trying to solve anything. Be present in my life, even without specific hangout plans. Be a warm body when I'm feeling lonely. (And new motherhood can feel REALLY lonely.) Be present for me physically.

24. Ask for my opinion about something other than my kids

Don't get me wrong, I love my children more than anything and have very strong opinions about my favorite toddler products, but I'd love to be asked about my life outside of motherhood. I have done a lot of reading recently on [insert important political topic here] and I'd love to talk with you about it. But I feel almost-invisible when I'm only asked about my kids. Hello, real life adult human person here!

25. Specific compliments go a long way

You love my dress? Thank you! I haven't felt like a fashionista since 2008 but it's so appreciated. Adore my parenting style? Let me know! It will encourage me during the hard days. I need to hear that I'm doing something right in this challenging day-to-day life—so your compliments are oh-so appreciated.

Nourish me

26. Drop a fully made meal off

I am a one-woman cafeteria staff. These kids want to eat all. the. time. Not to mention how often I long for the days when 50 dishes weren't piled in my sink at all times. If you ever drop a meal off for me, I'd consider it the best ring + run of my life.

27. Run to the grocery store for me

Heading to Trader Joe's? Text me and ask if I need anything. Chances are I'm running of that ONE THING and skipping a grocery trip is a dream come true.

28. Take me out to eat

Better yet, just take me out to dinner. No planning, no clean up, no dishes to put away. THIS IS MY FAVORITE OPTION.

29. Nourish me in other ways, like a favorite podcast

I don't just need to be nourished by food—I need to feel like my brain is firing on all cylinders, too. Inspiring messages help fuel me. If you have any amazing podcast, send it my way. (I love Oprah's Super Soul Conversations—so enlightening!)

30. Inspire me with an awesome article

Not to brag, but Motherly has more than its share of pick-me-up pieces to inspire moms through the hardest days. Did you read one and think of me? I'd love to see it.

Change the system

31. Paid maternity leave

The fact that one-quarter of women head back to work out of economic necessity within two weeks of giving birth is a profound tragedy. Dozens of studies prove that providing paid leave to new mothers benefits mother, child, family and society in the long run. Let's finally do it, America.

32. And paid paternity leave

Paid leave for dads isn't just great for that father-child bond, it actually helps mothers. “Fathers taking parental leave helps not just children but moms, too, by changing who changes the diapers and the whole culture around work and family," a government report found. And studies show that women whose partners can take paid leave actually benefit professionally, since those dads are more likely to take on household duties in general and support a woman's career.

33. Accommodate family-friendly practices like flex work

Just because your company has always expected people to sit in a chair and work 9-5 doesn't mean that it must be that way. It's time to accommodate flex schedules and remote work for men and for women. It makes economic sense, too—and will help me fulfill my goals at home and at work.

34. End the “mommy penalty"

It's time to change the narrative around working motherhood and stop punishing talented women for becoming moms. Mothers are offered, on average, 16% less pay than non-mothers, because of an assumption that they would be less committed to their jobs. Yet other studies have found that moms of multiple kids are actually the MOST efficient workers.

35. Support stay-at-home moms

Many stay -at-home moms are highly educated. Some stay home out of economic necessity. Still others are taking time off from work with the intention of one day on-ramping back. It's time to support mothers regardless of what choice they make surrounding work—with no judgment, only understanding and an empathetic ear.

Improve parenting culture

36. Say goodbye to guilt

Whether you're a SAHM or a working mom or somewhere in between, our culture burdens women with feelings of guilt for whatever they choose. Let's make this millennial generation the generation that ditches guilt for good. We're all doing the very best we can, choosing the right thing for our families.

37. Stop the mom shaming

Let's be the generation that ends mom shaming for good.

38. Use social media for good

Ever see an innocent Facebook thread devolve into criticism,negativity and judgment of another mother? We're over it. Let's use the power of social media to encourage and lift other moms up. Be the Facebook 'like' you want to see in the world.

39. Get dads fully onboard

Parenthood is a team sport. Let's empower men to step into spaces previously only occupied by women. Let's stop gatekeeping and start inviting men, even if they change diapers differently or dress kids in “unique" outfits.

40. Pat ourselves on the back

PARENTING IS HARD. But you already know this. Let's celebrate the days you get to school on time or get your kids to eat vegetables. Because even on the most average of days, moms are clocking in 16 hours of childcare or work. Parenting is a relentless task, for decades on end. You're doing AMAZING, mama.

Be my friend—or my lover

41. Be my mom friend

So many days, I feel super lonely. Even though we're all in this together, sometimes it feels like motherhood incredibly isolating. I might need you to reach out, to invite me to join your playgroup, or to meet you for lunch at Chic-Fil-A. I might need you to suggest we go out for drinks, or even to drag me to Barre class.

42. Introduce me to your mom friends

The next best thing to being my friend is to introduce me to your tribe. If you've already found a group of girls who just GET IT, I want in. Perhaps I've moved to a new place and don't have a social network. Maybe all my friends don't yet have kids. Letting me into your friend group is clutch—thank you for the book club, group date night, or post-dropoff hangout.

43. Support me from afar

Even if we don't live nearby, I so value the support I get from friends. Your long-distance texts to check-in, make me laugh, and encourage me mean THE WORLD. Even if I write back a day (or a week later), it makes me feel so loved to know I've got support coming in from all around.

44. Encourage my hobbies

These days, it seems like I don't have time for fun. I used to cook! Paint! Write poetry! Go running! But too often, I don't make time for the things that truly recharge me.

45. Date night

I know it's a cliche, but I still need date night. I need time to connect with my partner. I need a reason to feel like my sexy self again. I need WINE AND CHEESE and no screaming children nearby. I know it's expensive to go out. I know we're super busy. I know we're exhausted. But we need this.

Last but not least: Fuel me

46. Water

Gotta stay hydrated but I often remember to hydrate everyone but me.

47. Wine

CHEERS.

48. Coffee

Always.

49. Coffeeeee

At all times.

50. ALL THE COFFEE

Starbucks delivery please!

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[Editor's note: While Motherly loves seeing and sharing photos of baby Archie and other adorable babies when the images are shared with their parents' consent, we do not publish pictures taken without a parent's consent. Since these pictures were taken without Markle's permission while she was walking her dogs, we're not reposting them.]

Meghan Markle is a trendsetter for sure. When she wears something the world notices, and this week she was photographed wearing her son Archie in a baby carrier. The important thing to know about the photos is that they show the Duchess out for a walk with her two dogs while wearing Archie in a blue Ergo. She's not hands-free baby wearing, but rather wearing an Ergo while also supporting Archie with her arm, as the carrier isn't completely tight.

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When British tabloids published the pictures many babywearing devotees and internet commenters offered opinions on how Markle is holding her son in the photo, but as baby gear guru Jamie Grayson notes, "it is none of our business."

In a post to his Facebook page, Grayson (noted NYC baby gear expert) explained that in the last day or so he has been inundated with hundreds of messages about how Markle is wearing the carrier, and that while he's sure many who messaged with concerns had good intentions he hopes to inject some empathy into the conversation.

As Grayson points out, these are paparazzi photos, so it was a private moment not meant for world-wide consumption. "This woman has the entire world watching her every move and action, especially now that she and Harry are leaving the umbrella of the royal family, and I honestly hope they are able to find some privacy and peace. So let's give her space," he explains, adding that "while those pictures show something that is less than ideal, it's going to be okay. I promise. It's not like she's wearing the baby upside down."

He's right, Archie was safe and not in danger and who knows why the straps on Markle's carrier were loose (maybe she realized people were about to take pictures and so she switched Archie from forward-facing, or maybe the strap just slipped.)

Grayson continues: "When you are bringing up how a parent is misusing a product (either in-person or online) please consider your words. Because tone of voice is missing in text, it is important to choose your words carefully because ANYTHING can be misconstrued. Your good intentions can easily be considered as shaming someone."

Grayson's suggestions injected some much-needed empathy into this discourse and reminded many that new parents are human beings who are just trying to do their best with responsibilities (and baby gear) that isn't familiar to them.

Babywearing has a ton of benefits for parents and the baby, but it can take some getting used to. New parents can research safety recommendations so they feel confident. In Canada, where the pictures in question were snapped, the government recommends parents follow these safety guidelines when wearing infants in carriers:

  • Choose a product that fits you and your baby properly.
  • Be very careful putting a baby into—or pulling them out of—a carrier or sling. Ask for help if you need it.
  • When wearing a carrier or sling, do not zip up your coat around the baby because it increases the risk of overheating and suffocation.
  • Be particularly careful when using a sling or carrier with babies under 4 months because their airways are still developing.
  • Do not use a carrier or sling during activities that could lead to injury such as cooking, running, cycling, or drinking hot beverages.

Health Canada also recommends parents "remember to keep your baby visible and kissable at all times" and offers the following tips to ensure kissability.

"Keep the baby's face in view. Keep the baby in an upright position. Make sure the baby's face is not pressed into the fabric of the carrier or sling, your body, or clothing. Make sure the baby's chin is not pressed into their chest. Make sure the baby's legs are not bunched up against their stomach, as this can also restrict breathing. Wear the baby snug enough to support their back and hold onto the baby when bending over so they don't fall out of the carrier or sling. Check your baby often."

Meghan Markle is a new mom who was caught off guard during a moment she didn't expect her baby to be photographed. Every parent (no matter how famous) has a right to privacy for their child and the right to compassion from other parents. If we want people to learn how to safely babywear we can't shame them for trying.

Mama, if you've been shamed for wearing your baby "wrong" don't feel like you need to stop. Follow the tips above or check in with local baby-wearing groups to get advice and help. You've got this.

News

At one of the most important nights of their career, celebrities made sure their hairstyles stayed put together at the 26th Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. As a collective, the hairstyles were beautiful—french twists, bobs, pin curls and killer cuts filled the red carpet on the night to remember.

And surprisingly, the secret wasn't just the stylist team, mama. For many of the celebs, much of the look can be attributed to a $5 hairspray—yes, you read that correctly.

Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray was one of the top stylist picks for celebs for a lightweight, flexible finishing spray, leaving tons of body and bounce. Unlike most hairsprays that can take several minutes (even a half hour) to set the look, this extra-hold one contains a fast-drying, water-free formula that helps protect your hair from frizz in minutes. As a result, celebrities were able to hold the shape of their styles, with mega volume.

"Dove hairspray works well by holding curls in place with maximum hold and ultra shine, while still maintaining soft, touchable texture that is easy to brush out," says Dennis Gots for Dove Hair, who styled Phoebe Waller-Bridge for the SAG Awards. Translation: It's great for on-the-go mamas who want a shiny hold that lasts, but doesn't feel sticky.

Here are a few awesome hairstyles that were finished with the drugstore Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray at the SAG awards:

Lili Reinhart's French twist

"I sprayed Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray all over Lili's hair to lock in the shape and boost the shine factor, making the whole look really sleek," says stylist Renato Campora who was inspired to create the look by Reinhart's romantic gown. "Lili's look is sleek and sharp with a romantic twist."

Cynthia Erivo's finger waves

"This look is classic Cynthia! I knew I wanted to keep it simple, but it's actually quite detailed and intricate up close," says stylist Coree Moreno. "While the hair was still wet (yes—I needed to work fast!) I generously spritzed on the hairspray for all night hold without flaking. The hair continued to air dry perfectly while she finished up makeup."

Nathalie Emmanuel's curly high pony

"Nathalie wanted a retro Hollywood glam for the SAG Awards, so I used her natural texture and created a high pony with loose tendrils framing her face and neckline," says stylist, Neeko. "I finessed the look with the hairspray to lock in the style while keeping her hair looking and feeling touchable."

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's slicked back bob

"I used duckbill clips on different areas of her hair to keep the shape and curl while the hair air dried. Air drying the hair allowed for maximum shine and then I sprayed lots of hairspray all over to truly lock in the sleek shape and enhance the shine," says stylist Dennis Gots, who was inspired by a 90s vibe for Waller-Bridge's look.

Dove Style+Care Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray

Dove Style+Care Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray

Who doesn't want a hairspray that makes your hair feel as good as it looks? Dove Style+Care Extra Hold Hairspray holds body, volume and enhances shine. It gives your hair touchable hold while fighting frizz, even in damp or humid conditions.

$4.89

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Beauty + Style Shopping Guides

We often think of the unequal gender division of unpaid labor as a personal issue, but a new report by Oxfam proves that it is a global issue—and that a handful of men are becoming incredibly wealthy while women and girls bear the burden of unpaid work and poverty.

According to Oxfam, the unpaid care work done by women and girls has an economic value of $10.8 trillion per year and benefits the global economy three times more than the entire technology industry.

"Women are supporting the market economy with cheap and free labor and they are also supporting the state by providing care that should be provided by the public sector," the report notes.

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The unpaid work of hundreds of millions of women is generating massive wealth for a couple of thousand (predominantly male) billionaires. "What is clear is that this unpaid work is fueling a sexist economic system that takes from the many and puts money in the pockets of the few," the report states.

Max Lawson is Oxfam International's Head of Inequality Policy. In an interview with Vatican News, he explained that "the foundation of unpaid work done by the poorest women generates enormous wealth for the economy," and that women do billions of hours of unpaid care work (caring for children, the sick, the elderly and cooking, cleaning) for which they see no financial reward but which creates financial rewards for billionaires.

Indeed, the report finds that globally 42% of women can't work for money because of their unpaid care responsibilities.

In the United States, women spend 37% more time doing unpaid care work than men, Oxfam America notes in a second report released in cooperation with the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

"It's an economy that is built on the backs of women and of poor women and their labour, whether it's poorly paid labour or even unpaid labour, it is a sexist economy and it's a broken economy, and you can only fix the gap between the rich and the poor if at the same time you fix the gap between women and men," Lawson explains.

According to Lawson, you can't fight economic inequality without fighting gender equality, and he says 2020 is the year to do both. Now is a great time to start, because as Motherly has previously reported, no country in the world is on track to eliminate gender inequality by 2030 (one of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 United Nations member countries back in 2015) and no country will until the unpaid labor of women and girls is addressed.

"Governments around the world can, and must, build a human economy that is feminist and benefits the 99%, not only the 1%," the Oxfam report concludes.

The research suggests that paid leave, investments in childcare and the care of older adults and people with disabilities as well as utilizing technology to make working more flexible would help America close the gap.

(For more information on how you can fight for paid leave, affordable childcare and more this year check out yearofthemother.org.)

News

It's been more than a decade since federal guidelines were implemented to ensure nursing mothers have the time and space to pump at work, but as Motherly has previously reported, many mothers still find it extremely challenging to maintain a pumping schedule in the workplace.

This week a new study out of the University of Georgia showed that while most women report having access to private spaces and break times for pumping there are still significant "gaps in access to workplace breastfeeding resources" and the researchers recommend employers take action to reduce breastfeeding disparities.

"We know that there are benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and the infant, and we know that returning to work is a significant challenge for breastfeeding continuation," says Rachel McCardel, a doctoral student at UGA's College of Public Health and lead study author. "There is a collective experience that we wanted to explore and learn how can we make this better."

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The challenges of breastfeeding in 2020

There is a lot of pressure on mothers to exclusively breastfeed, but nearly half of mothers feel like they must make a choice between breastfeeding and keeping their job. A baby's mother is the best person to decide whether the infant should be breastfed, formula-fed or both, but it should be her choice. When workplace supports for breastfeeding are not in place many mothers feel like they don't have a choice at all.

Public health campaigns and social norms reinforce breastfeeding as the best choice, but a recent survey from Areoflow found that 1 in 3 people (31%) "do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room" but at the same time, 90% of those surveyed stated that they believe women should be allowed to pump at work.

For too many women, those contradicting messages mean that pumping at work is an uncomfortable experience, something they need to do nearly in secret. It's an example of the many ways in which mothers are supposed to parent as though they don't work but pretend they aren't parents when at work.

Calling for change in 2020

Half the states in America explicitly protect the rights of nursing parents in the workplace, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and federal law also provides protections to nursing workers under the Affordable Care Act. Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act—but millions of working mothers are not covered by those protections, and the new research out of the University of Georgia's College of Public Health suggests that even mothers who are need more support from their employers.

Heather Padilla is an assistant professor at UGA's College of Public Health and the co-author of the study. She recommends employers "designate a person who is responsible for making sure that women who are preparing for the birth of their baby understand what resources they have available to them when they return to work," she said.

Supervisors or HR directors could fill this role, and would fill a gap between company policy and personal experience. Padilla and McCardel found that many women "said they hadn't expected to get much help from their employers, and there was a general lack of communication about the resources available to them."

The work Padilla and McCardel have done reinforces the work we at Motherly are doing: In 2020 we are calling for change, and demanding support for mothers feeding their babies.

Mamas need to work + babies need to eat

For many American mothers work is not a choice, it is a necessity. Mothers are increasingly the breadwinners for their families and it is very hard for mothers, even those with working partners, to be a stay-at-home parent in 2020.

We need paid family leave and protection from breastfeeding discrimination. We need employers to support working mothers who choose to pump, and we need to reduce the stigmatization of formula feeding.

Mama, we see you pumping in your office and mixing formula bottles to take to day care. We see how hard it is and we support you. Know that no matter what your baby is eating—bottled breast milk, formula, or some combination (because breastfeeding doesn't have to be all or nothing)—we know you are working so hard to provide it.

We have declared 2020 the #yearofthemother. Join us, and call for change because McCardel is right—this is a collective experience and it is one we can make better for the mothers who come after us.

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