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Let’s make a baby: My 10-step plan to get pregnant

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Becoming a mother is one of the most transformational experiences of your life. It can also feel like one of the most overwhelming, but making a baby doesn't have to be so complicated.

We've got your 10-step guide to take you from baby dreams to baby reality. 🍼Here's how to get there.

1. Start the baby talk

The decision to get pregnant often starts as a conversation between two partners who decide they're just wild in love enough to become parents.

How do you know you're ready to become parents? Here are the 10 questions to ask your partner before you make a baby.

You'll also want to...

Have a lot of sex

No, really. New research shows that getting in a lot of sex before conception can prime the immune system for a healthy pregnancy. (Yes, please!) Go ahead, get your practice!

Make sure he's healthy

Dad's fertility matters too, so he'll want to make sure he's as healthy as can be. Read more on how your partner can boost his fertility.

Be in it together

There's also a lot of evidence to show that partners who enter parenthood intentionally have better outcomes for their relationship and for their child.

2. Take a prenatal vitamin and eat a nutritionally-dense diet


Start taking a prenatal 3 months before you start trying to conceive

Take a prenatal vitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid "every day for at least three months before getting pregnant to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine," experts say. Care/Of customizes a vitamin pack plan if you're not sure where to start, but always consult your doctor first.

FEATURED VIDEO

Pro tip: Some health insurance companies even cover the cost of prenatal vitamins, so ask your doctor if she can write you a prescription.

Eat well even before you conceive

A growing body of research also indicates it's also important for hopeful mamas-to-be to eat a nutritionally dense diet in advance of conception.

Choose organic when possible

As you boost your intake of healthy foods and produce, make an extra effort to eat organic, especially avoiding produce on Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list.

Keep away from the Dirty Dozen

As mentioned above, you should try to avoid the "Dirty Dozen"—fruits and vegetables that have the highest rates of pesticides when grown conventionally. Make sure to choose organic for the following foods:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Kale
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Snap peas
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers

P.S. It's a good idea to always wash produce thoroughly before eating.

Limit coffee ☕ + alcohol 🍷

Heavy alcohol and caffeine consumption is shown to decrease female fertility. However, our trusted OB-GYNs promise that your one cup of coffee a day is just fine.

3. Stop popping that pill

Before you start actively trying to conceive, you'll need to stop using birth control. You may want to use a condom in the meantime if you're not ready to try for baby quite yet.

Here's when to stop, depending on what type of contraceptive you use:

The pill, patch or ring

Timeline: 3 months before you try to conceive

Dr. Michelle Collins, director of the Nurse-Midwifery Program at Vanderbilt University, explains that after stopping the birth control pill, patch or ring, "a woman may ovulate as soon as two weeks after stopping the contraception, or it may take longer, but generally most women will have a period return by six weeks after stopping the contraception."

Good to know: Studies have shown that "women who had switched from oral contraceptives to a barrier method within three months before attempting to conceive were more likely to become pregnant within 12 months (54 percent) than were those who attempted to conceive immediately after discontinuing oral contraceptives (32 percent)."

IUD

Timeline: 1-3 months before you try to conceive

Collins notes: "After having an IUD (intrauterine device) removed, fertility returns quickly, and conception can occur shortly after removal. The same is true for the progestin implant contraceptive Nexplanon."

Good to know: Studies have shown that women who have used an IUD for an extended period of time may face slightly decreased fertility in the first few months, but fertility rates generally return to normal within 18 months after removal.

Progestin injection

Timeline: 3 months or more before you try to conceive

"Some women who have ceased using the progestin injection Depo-Provera have noticed that it may take some months for the return of menses, during which time they are not ovulating. For women using that particular method of contraception, they may want to discontinue use a few months prior to when they actually want to target conception," Collins explains.

Good to know: It can take up to 12 weeks for injected progestogen to leave the body, so consider this timing in your fertility plans.

What to remember:

When you stop using hormonal contraception or the IUD, your body's natural fertility returns. The sooner fertility returns, the sooner you can track your cycle, pinpoint ovulation and get pregnant.

4. Book a prenatal checkup

It'll get you in the mood

We've never been so excited to go to the OB-GYN than when we headed in for our pre-conception checkup.And we asked a doctor for the 10 preconception questions you should ask your OB-GYN or midwife!

You can talk about your concerns

Your doctor can help you navigate how to adjust behaviors now to have the healthiest possible pregnancy.Our expert OB-GYN shared the 10 questions you should ask your doctor during your preconception checkup.

Questions include:

  • Diet and lifestyle: Are you a vegetarian? Do you run ultra-marathons? Are you underweight or overweight? Do you ever smoke?
  • Medical + family history: Is there a family history of miscarriage or genetic disease? Did any of your close relatives experience pregnancy complications?
  • Medications you take: Do any of the medications you currently take need to be stopped before you try to conceive? Are you taking a prenatal vitamin?
  • Environmental factors: Do you work or live near any dangerous chemicals that you need to limit your exposure to in advance of conception?
  • Any past pregnancies?: Have you had any previous pregnancies, miscarriages or abortions?

5. Start charting your cycle

We get it: You're a busy lady trying to get busy having a baby. The last thing you need is to waste your time on fertility aids that won't work. These five smart solutions use the most cutting-edge advancements in science and tech to get you pregnant faster.

Here are some we've used and loved:

Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor

Full disclosure: There are editors on our staff who call this the "secret miracle worker." Clearblue's monitor generates results personalized to your specific cycle, not based on general hormone data from other women. The monitor will also navigate changing hormones and cycles through urine tests completed each cycle, and it's the only noninvasive method that tracks both LH and estrogen hormones. After your cycle has begun, simple turn on the monitor every day at some point during your six-hour testing window to know your fertile status and whether you need to take another test.

Pro tip: Share the love! This fertility monitor can be reset and shared with a friend once you've gotten pregnant.

Kindara App

The Kindara App is designed to be useful when trying to get pregnant as well as when you're not trying. Based on the principles of the Fertility Awareness Method, it tracks basal body temperature and cervical fluid consistency to help determine your most fertile days. Whereas in the past, women tracking their cycles may have had to use homemade charts to log these fertility signs, the app makes it easy to collect your data and track your ovulation. There's even a smart oral thermometer called Wink that automatically syncs with the app, taking the guesswork out of recording your daily temperature.
Pro tip: To get the most out of this app, you do have to have some knowledge about the Fertility Awareness Method and how to properly log the information. Once you are comfortable with the method, the app will help you understand how your body works. The thermometer is a little on the expensive side, but it can also be used by multiple women—simply wipe the data and hand it on to another soon-to-be mama in need.

Ava

One of the newest innovations in wearable fertility tech is the Ava bracelet. The actual tracker is a round silver pod roughly the size of a silver dollar, which you wear on a soft rubber strap. The strap holds the pod snugly to your pulse overnight and tracks resting pulse rate, skin temperature, heart rate variability, quality and amount of sleep, breathing rate, movement, perfusion (of the process of supplying blood to the tissues of your body), bioimpedance (the resistance of body tissue to tiny amounts of electricity) and heat loss. Using these physiological parameters, Ava can track ovulation and indicate (in most cases) an average of five fertile days per month for you to try to conceive. All you have to do is strap on Ava right before bed, then plug it in to charge when you first wake up and sync with the Ava app on your phone using Bluetooth technology.
Pro tip: Start wearing it as soon as you think you might want to get pregnant. The more you wear Ava, the better it learns your cycles and can help identify fertile days. The information can also help your doctor identify common conception struggles early on.

Clue app

If you want a less-invasive way of tracking your periods and symptoms, the Clue app is a great way to keep track of your cycle. Record symptoms like menstruation, mood, sex drive, energy levels, skin clarity and more every day, and then check your analysis monthly to see how patterns develop. The app can even let you know when your most fertile time of the month, or "fertile window," is opening and closing so you know when it's time to get busy. The more information you log, the easier it will be to spot patterns in your monthly cycle.

Pro tip: Personalize the app by selecting which symptoms you want to track, which can be especially helpful for predicting your period if you're not super regular. Skin is blowing up and you're craving chocolate chip cookies? Might be time to hop in bed.

YONO Fertility Monitor

Accurately predicting your fertility with continuous temperature readings? When you use YONO, the world's first in-ear ovulation predictor, you can do it with your eyes closed. Simply wear the YONO earbud while you sleep at night and the tiny device records your temperature every five minutes. Then you sync the data with YONO's app on your phone to plot a monthly fertility map to help you better identify when it's best to try to conceive.

Pro tip: Wear the YONO bud in the opposite ear than the one you typically sleep on, and charge it every morning for best results.
We only include products we've tested and loved in MotherlyLoves. Through affiliate programs, we may receive a revenue percentage if you purchase through our website.

6. Align your weight

The average woman should aim to gain around 30 pounds during pregnancy, so it can seem counterintuitive to try to lose (or gain) weight before trying to conceive.
It's good for baby
Before conception, keeping your body mass index (BMI) in a healthy range (between 18.5 and 24.9) won't only help you get pregnant, but new research indicates that it may also help sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Check your BMI here
We know it's super hard to stepawayfromtheicecream after a stressful day at work, but the thought of your healthy little one staring back at you just might be all the motivation you need. You can check your BMI here.

7. Workworkworkworkwork

Before you even conceive, it's a good idea to think about what your work life will be like when your little one arrives.

Plan ahead
Now is a great time to ask for a raise or take on extra responsibilities that will set you up you for leadership roles in the years to come. Positioning yourself as a highly valued member of the team can make it easier for you to ask for more flexibility or pay after baby is born, or to find remote working alternatives if you'd rather spend more time at home.
Add value
We're big fans of what Lean In suggests for women trying to make their mark at the office: Shifting from a "What do I get?" to a "What can I offer?" mindset can help you get noticed.
Take on new challenges
This is the time to take on new challenges that can set you up for better options going forward.
Ask for a raise
We love this advice from the boss ladies at Lean In: "You won't get what you don't ask for, so make it a rule to negotiate." Get pumped for asking for more by watching Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Margaret Neale's strategies for making your case.Now rock that negotiation.

8. File that paperwork

Write a will

Sites like RocketLawyer make it easy for you to create a legal will (for free!) online.
Get life insurance
Life insurance is important for women too. With more mothers working (and millennial women actually out-earning their male counterparts in their 20s before kids) it's crucial that women protect their families should something happen to them.
Bundle insurance
To make things easy, check out rates from your car insurance provider, or ask about life insurance at work. It's likely that both offer policies and that might make it easier for you to sign up quickly.

9. Take a peek at the budget, but don't freak out

Budget for baby
Learn the basics of how much pregnancy will cost with our guide to budgeting for baby. Motherly's got you covered.
Think about childcare
You can also start to research the general cost of childcare in your area, but you have plenty of time to get your finances in order, so don't freak out. You're going to take this whole motherhood thing in small (baby) steps at a time. But start now so you won't be surprised by the costs.
What dad can do
Turns out, dads should be concerned about their health too. Our OB-GYN, Dr. Sarah Hartwick Bjorkman, suggests:—Work on fitness and nutrition goals together. Obesity in men is linked to impaired sperm production.—He can also up his vitamin intake. Vitamin C and vitamin E have been shown to slightly increase sperm motility.—Stop smoking ASAP. Smoking is associated with reduced sperm quality. So are anabolic steroids and marijuana, so be sure to curb those too.—Ditch the briefs. Some studies have found that wearing brief type underwear increases the temperature around the scrotum, leading to a decrease in sperm quality.

10. Go wild!

Rock that pre-baby bucket list
On behalf of all the pregnant women not noshing on blue cheese and the new mamas not sleeping in, find ways to cherish these last few months of freedom.
Go out with your girlfriends
Motherhood is going to transform you in ways you can't even imagine, and one day not so long from now you might even forget what it's like to go out with your girlfriends and not worry about heading home to your little one.
Sleep in
There are a lot of late nights and early mornings (What is time?) in new motherhood, so sleep all you can.
Live it up
While you're still free as a bird, we hope you live it up!Head off to Europe. Book a spur-of-the-moment getaway with no need to arrange childcare. Wear that bikini with absolute abandon. Go all in at work.
Amazing things are about to happen. And we're so excited for you. 🎉👭👶

Let's make a baby: My 10-step plan to get pregnant

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

In recent months we've heard a lot about the MMR vaccine and why the CDC really wants parents to Measles, Mumps and Rubella (aka the MMR vaccine) as outbreaks continue.

But parents might not know that they too, may need a booster if they were born before 1989.

The CDC is currently reporting 695 cases of measles from 22 states. That's a record number of reported cases since measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000. "I encourage all Americans to adhere to CDC vaccine guidelines in order to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from measles and other vaccine preventable diseases. We must work together as a Nation to eliminate this disease once and for all," CDC Director Robert Redfield said this week.

Back in the day, one shot was the standard protocol, but one shot of the MMR vaccine isn't as effective as two. One dose is about 93% effective against measles, 78% effective against mumps, and 97% effective against rubella, according to the CDC, which notes that two doses kicks the protection up to a 97% effectiveness rate against measles and 88% effective against mumps.

If you don't know your vaccination history or know that you only got one shot, you should ask your doctor if they recommend another one. Not everyone born before 1989 automatically needs one (some people in that age range may have an ideal vaccination history), but certain populations, including those vaccinated prior to 1968 could be at risk if they don't get a booster.

FEATURED VIDEO

The CDC notes that healthcare workers and women who may become pregnant should make sure their MMR vaccinations are up to date. "It is safe for breastfeeding women to receive MMR vaccination," the CDC notes. "Breastfeeding does not interfere with the response to MMR vaccine, and the baby will not be affected by the vaccine through breast milk."

How do you know if you need another dose?

If you don't have one of the following pieces of evidence of immunity, talk to your doctor:

  1. Written documentation of adequate (2 dose) vaccination.
  2. Laboratory evidence of immunity or lab confirmation of measles.
  3. A birthdate before 1957. According to the CDC, the "majority of people born before 1957 are likely to have been infected naturally and therefore are presumed to be protected against measles, mumps, and rubella," however, the CDC still recommends that healthcare workers born before 1957 who don't have laboratory evidence of immunity or disease should consider getting two doses of the MMR vaccine.

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News

We need a generation that can take over after our own, and we need to make sure we're working to leave them with something. In order for our society to function we need parents and we need workers. But our culture sure doesn't make it easy to be both at the same time.

And if you feel like you are failing at the balancing act, know this: You're not. You're doing the best you can do, and that is enough. It's not you that's failing, mama. It's the system. And it's time to change it because way too many parents are internalizing blame they don't deserve.

According to a recent survey commissioned by WaterWipes, 6 out of 10 parents feel like they were failing during their baby's first year. More than 13,000 parents from around the world were polled and said their sleepless nights and hard days are just so different from the way parenthood is portrayed in popular media.

"The global research speaks for itself – at times parents are left feeling like they are failing, especially when they are surrounded by false images of perfect parenting, says Cathy Kidd, global VP of marketing at WaterWipes.

This follows another recent survey which found two-thirds of working parents in America feel like they are failing in parenthood because of pressures at work. That's 66% of working parents who are waking up each day feeling like they can't win, and that's not okay.

FEATURED VIDEO

Teresa Hopke is the CEO of Talking Talent, the firm behind the survey of 1,036 working American parents. "According to our study, a majority of parents feel like they are failing," she tells Motherly, noting that the impact of these feelings of failure often isn't apparent to employers because many working parents get really good at covering or masking their feelings of failure.

"But digging below the surface, we see the impact showing up in the form of increased stress, a rise in mental health claims, reduced productivity, decreased engagement, and overall impact on well-being," Hopke says.

She explains that in some cases, this results in employees deciding to opt out of their careers, or move from company to company "in hopes of finding someplace where it feels more possible to do it all." In other cases, she says, the desire for control can "translate into an undesirable leadership style."

These issues disproportionately impact mothers, (today's moms are not only devoting more hours to paid work than previous generations, but simultaneously devoting more hours to childcare, according to Pew), but dads are also suffering under the burden of their perceived failure to balance work and home.

This needs to stop. It's time to examine why so many parents are unhappy at work, and what we can do about it.

Why workers aren't using parental leave even when they have it

These days more and more companies are officially adopting parent-friendly policies like paid leave—a welcome first step—but the Talking Talent survey reveals that while these policies look great on paper, workplace culture often prevents parents from feeling like they can actually use them.

The parents surveyed reported taking less parental leave than was available to them: Women used only about 52% of the time they could have, and the men surveyed reported using just 32% of the time available to them.

According to Hopke, this points to a real problem with current parental leave policies—the policies are celebrated, but are not embraced as a practice in our culture. This means that parents are afraid to take the time they need, for fear of being penalized or seen as being uncommitted.

The survey found 64% of parents say they would have been more likely to take a longer leave if their colleagues had.

When it comes to fathers in particular, this phenomenon can be seen even in countries where parental leave isn't an HR policy, but a national one. The UK's shared parental leave scheme allows parents to split up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between partners (parents can take leave one at a time or be at home together with their child for up to six months) but according to the BBC, few fathers (like as low as 2%) take part.

In Canada too, fathers have been reluctant to take the leave available to them, something the government hopes to change with the introduction of a "use-it-or-lose-it" leave policy for fathers and other non-birthing parents. Starting in March 2019, couples will be eligible for five weeks of extra leave, meaning a family can get 40 weeks instead of 35, but only if the second parent uses at least five weeks of that time, CBC reports.

Parents need employers and lawmakers to implement parental leave policies, but we also need our peers to embrace and encourage their use. In 2017 the government in Finland (the country The Economist ranks among the best in which to be a working mother and the only country in the world where fathers spend more time with school-aged children than mothers do) encouraged fathers to make the most of the country's generous parental leave policy by literally launching a PR campaign to get dads to take their "Daddy Time."

American workers might want to take a page from the Finnish government when it comes to encouraging everyone to use their parental leave. According to Hopke, grassroots campaigns within offices could change workplace culture stateside. She says parents should talk about why they are taking their leave in an effort to normalize it.

"Be vocal and transparent about being a working parent. When working parents try to cover in an effort to appear committed to the organization, they not only make it challenging for themselves, they also perpetuate a culture that doesn't value the whole person. We can't ever solve for the problem if the problem isn't brought to the surface," she tells Motherly, adding that while it's great for workers to be vocal, companies need to do more than talk the talk.

"Paid leave policies are a great start, but in order to truly support employees and give them 'permission' to take the time they've been given, organizations need to create a culture of support," she explains. "Raising the visibility of parental leave by providing a robust package of support for both employees and leaders will help everyone feel more comfortable with new parents taking the time away—without guilt."

The childcare problem

Parental leave is a huge factor in the unhappiness of working parents, but childcare is another issue that contributes to moms and dads feeling like failures (when they are so not).

CNN reports American couples spend 25.6% of their income on childcare and single parents spend a whopping 52.7% on having their children watched while they work. As Motherly has previously reported, day care in America can cost as much as rent, or more than college in an era when many families find getting by on a single income impossible.

Childcare is expensive, but those who have it (even when it drains the bank account) consider themselves lucky, because many working American parents struggle just to find quality childcare.

Research shows high-quality day care programs are good for kids' emotional and prosocial development, but when parents can't find that kind of child care (due to long wait lists, a lack of choices in their area or prohibitive prices) and have to go with their second or third choice of childcare, they may spend the work day feeling guilty about leaving their child with a babysitter they don't trust.

In the search for solutions, we might again look to Finland, where The Guardian reports "the state provides universal daycare." The biggest bill parents could expect for day care in Finland is the equivalent of about $330 a month (the national average in the U.S. is about $800, according to Care.com, and can get closer to $2,000 in some cities). And in Finland, finding high-quality childcare doesn't mean doing endless preschool tours, internet searches, interviews and waitlists. According to one parent The Guardian spoke with

"I guess the big difference is it is not stressful at all," father Tuomas Aspiala told The Guardian. "Someone else organizes everything."

According to Aspiala, when his children were waitlisted for day care due to a lack of available spots,the city of Helsinki organized a nanny share to look after them until spots opened up at the childcare center.

"The situation at the day care centre is really fantastic. It's really close, the people who look after the children are wonderful," Aspiala told The Guardian. "We really don't feel guilty about leaving them there at all."

If American parents could go to work without feeling guilty about where they are leaving their children, would 66% be feeling like failures? Probably not.

Finland's childcare solution sounds like a dream come true, but let's be real, no one is holding their breath waiting for the adoption of a similar system stateside.

In the absence of a national childcare solution, what can be done to help working parents who are bearing the emotional burden of a system that works against them?

Parents shouldn't cover for the system's failures, and should speak up

According to Hopke, individuals can challenge the system by being more understanding of all who are working within it. "[One] thing employees can do is challenge themselves to be more inclusive of all people and needs. The more we create a culture that values diversity and inclusion, the more likely people within an organization are to ask about and support the needs of everyone, including working parents."

When this happens, change can move up in a company, and again, Hopke says parents need to be vocal about what we need and know that we are assets to our employers because of our dual role, not despite it.

"Organizing with others from a grassroots level to advocate for change is also something I advise. Many organizations we work with implement policies and programs as a result of efforts that came from a group of employees rather than an idea from HR or benefits," Hopke explains.

Maybe you have an idea for implementing or optimizing parental leave, on-site day care, childcare subsidies, or flexible work arrangements that could be the catalyst for removing the burden of perceived failure from your fellow employees' shoulders.

"Ask leaders tough questions about why they don't support parents in the way that you are looking for and let them know that you know why it is important to the organization to value parents more," Hopke suggests. "And in the end if you don't get the answers you want, then do your research to find an organization that provides a culture you are looking for. They are out there and the more we push the envelope within our current organizations, the more there will be over time."

Unfortunately, change does take time, but if you are feeling like a failure as a working parent, don't.

You are doing what you need to do right now for your family and there is nothing wrong with that. But remember that you can use your voice (and your vote come election time—ask your reps about childcare and paid leave!) to change the culture that is making individual parents shoulder the pressure for an entire work culture.

[A version of this post was published January 8, 2019. It has been updated.]

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Over six million women in America struggle with infertility, and yet its a journey that can feel so isolating.

That's why we find Google's short video, "Becoming Mom," to be so powerful. Through anxiety-driven web searches, vlog clips, and calendars packed with appointments, this video gives a brief peek into the all-consuming reality of struggling with infertility.

Watch "Becoming Mom" here:


Candace Wohl, a fertility advocate featured in this video, writes of her experience:

"For seven years, Mother's Day was the worst day of the year for me. It was an observance that felt completely out of reach, yet commercially and socially it was a reminder that I couldn't escape. I wanted to be a mom, but I was having trouble becoming one."

As Candace and her husband felt their private life had been invaded by fertility specialists, they also felt that the outside world didn't understand what they were going through. So she found solidarity online.

"I found support groups, blogs and resources. I wasn't as alone as I thought—like many, I had been silent about my struggles with infertility. It's a less-than-tasty casserole of heartache, injections and surgeries, failed adoption placements and financial devastation."

Through her years of personal experience, Candace has since become an advocate for infertility awareness, and hopes that speaking up will help break down the barriers surrounding infertility. She was excited to see Google using their platform to further this message.

"I hope that this year, even one more person out there will realize they're not alone."

FEATURED VIDEO

We love how this video is helping to spread awareness of a struggle so many women experience, and importantly—how it highlights the virtual communities that help many women to find a path forward. It's a powerful reminder that there are others out there, typing the same fears or curiosities into a search bar.

We applaud Candace and the other brave women who shared their stories in this video. Their openness is helping to educate people and elevate the conversation surrounding infertility. 👏

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We grew up together, were in each other's weddings, and dreamed about the day we would raise our children in unison. Then, BOOM. Kids arrive, and it doesn't take long to realize that, whoa, my best friend and I have very different approaches to this parenting gig.

The odds of her letting her babies “cry it out" are about as high as me co-sleeping with mine, and by that I mean not a chance. That's not the only thing that makes us very different in terms of parenting.

I enforce strict bedtimes, while her kids are catching a 7 p.m. movie at the theater. My little ones eat most meals from a box or the freezer, and hers have palates more developed than most adults.

We're both teachers. She cries when August rolls around at the thought of leaving her kids to go back to work. Me? I'm itching for “me time" and aching for conversation with someone above the age of five.

Sure, we're both trying our best to raise happy, respectful, and kind children, but when I'm faced with a grumpy 4-year-old whose mood rivals a teenager, I choose to send her to her room for quiet time. My best friend tickles the grouchies away.

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She has endless patience while I'm nearing the end of my fraying rope by noon.

I'll never forget one day when my daughter was having an epic tantrum, and I said to my friend, exasperated, “Ugh, sometimes I just want to scream 'Shut up!'"

Her response was one of shock, her eyes wide with horror. “Jennifer!" she said, appalled.

“Of course I would never actually say that," I quickly clarified. “But c'mon, you mean to tell me you've never thought that before?"

“Never!" she replied.

Then we chuckled about how different our mindsets are.

That's the thing – it's not a secret that we're raising our kids using opposing methodologies. We know that about each other and we respect that about each other. Here's the key: there's no judging.

My friend's children are being raised with religion in the household—praying at meals and before bed, talking about God, and falling on faith to help explain many of the mysteries of the human experience. My husband and I rest pretty low on the spirituality ladder and while we have no problem explaining religious beliefs to our kids, we have no plan to incorporate religion into our family.

“Johnny included you in his bedtime prayer last night," she recently told me.

“Aww, tell him thanks," I said, “and I love him."

We don't hide things from each other or pretend to be similar in ways that we're clearly not. With such different approaches to most aspects of parenting, you'd think that it would be difficult to be friends, but the opposite is true. Honesty, empathy, and support go far in maintaining a lasting friendship.

In a culture that likes to pit moms against each other simply because of differing choices, our story proves that it doesn't have to be that way.

Many of our conversations start with: “I know you think I'm crazy, but…" Sometimes when one of us (usually me) needs to vent about an issue with our child, the other one just listens and does her best to offer advice even if it's not something that we would do personally.

In the end, it comes down to this: There's no right way to be a mom. No one hands out gold star stickers to the moms who are doing things “this" way, rather than “that" way.

So, is it possible to be best friends with a mom who has polar opposite parenting styles as me? The answer is yes. She may be the June Cleaver to my Rosanne Barr, but what can I say? It just works.

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Love + Village
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