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How our work-first culture fails dads, families, and businesses—and how we can fix it together

THIS: “Being a committed father is the manliest thing you will ever do.”

How our work-first culture fails dads, families, and businesses—and how we can fix it together

Josh Levs is a CNN journalist, a father of three, and the author of “All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses--And How We Can Fix It Together." In the book, Levs, who lobbied his company for paid paternity leave, details his ongoing legal case against Time Warner. He is credited with helping to kickstart the company's 2015 decision to unveil a more generous leave policy for mothers and fathers. In recent years, Levs has become a prominent advocate for fathers and families.


Motherly: Who is the modern father, and what does he want?

Josh Levs: Working or not, staying at home or not, having flexible schedule or not, what you find is that dads throughout this country are very involved in their kids' lives. They arevery connected. We put emotional relationships with our family way ahead of money.

Fathers consider teaching values to our kids one of the most important things, more than money, and America expects us to teach values to our kids even more than it expects us to be bringing in money. We all know that we are all in this together, because whether men had these awesome dads growing up or no dads at all, whatever it is, you find that all of them, and I talked to dads across every possible spectrum, they all recognize that we are part of a new era in which we get to carve out a new meaning for what it is to be a father.

We get to be the ones to demonstrate that if you have children, being a committed father is the manliest thing you will ever do. We get to build relationships with our kids that previous generations didn't necessarily get to. We [fathers] are the recipients of decades of work by women, in the fight for equality.

So this is us. I think of it as being the “Free to Be You and Me" generation. The girls I knew growing up were every bit as smart, every bit as capable, every bit as driven, also went to great colleges. Because I was a kid, it never occurred to me that they would have a harder time making it in their careers. Then, we got into the workplace. We got jobs, we had kids, and we discovered that the American workplace never grow up. So while we were growing up on “Free to Be You and Me", the American workplace was stuck in the “Mad Men" era.

We are the generation now that's facing this task of having to conquer these backwards policies. That's ours to deal with, and I can say, to have a daughter and two sons, I look at them and I know that if we don't fix this, they will not have equal opportunity in their lives. It's up to us, our generation, men and women together. That's what 'all in' means. That's what it's about.

Motherly: In the book, you address the fact that as a society, we talk a lot about how gender norms and traditional roles impact women, but often ignore how they impact men. So, you look at the impact of sexism on men and the pressures that they face. Can you describe that a little bit for me?

Josh Levs: Our backwards structures, our laws, policies and stigmas act as 'gender police,' and they empower people who act as gender police.

For example, stigmas are incredibly powerful: Men are giving up effectively billions of dollars by not taking even the paid paternity leave they're offered, although only 14 percent of companies offer paid paternity leave. It's also proven in many cases, when a man takes time off, when he gets back to work, he sometimes gets demoted, or even fired, for daring to break with their macho culture.

What people need to understand is, yes, it's awful for men, but this prejudice is not discrimination against men. This is discrimination against men and women. As long as you have policies, laws and stigmas that push men to stay at work and push women to stay home, you're being unfair to both.

I was talking about the girls I grew up with. Why is it that now, I'm 43 years old, and only 4.6 percent of the CEOs in the S&P 500 are women? That's crazy. That makes no sense. That is completely anathema to everything I learned growing up. The reason is that we still have these expectations, this gender norm way of thinking in the American workplace, and that's pushing everything backwards, so that's what we have to rise up against. Yes, I think it helps everyone to recognize that men are struggling with this, and men are suffering from work-life conflict as much as or even more than women.

There's this vicious cycle, with the people who are in power in corporations. They are the minority of men in America who do not prioritize their families, and that's proven. They even say that they don't. And so they then reward other men who are like them, and so the very few men who do not prioritize their families, don't spend time with their families, they work their way up the ranks, [and ultimately] they preserve the culture and the policies. Even those who have no ill intent still are just out of touch with what life is like for most families. So it's a vicious cycle that we just need to break.

Motherly: The book concludes with talking about mental health and spiritual health in a way that I thought really showed how deeply and profoundly these issues affect men's thriving or struggle on a daily basis. Is it taboo to talk about men struggling in work and life?

Josh Levs: These struggles that we have, these backwards laws policies and stigmas, they are responsible for so much of the work-life conflict that we have because they prevent work-life integration.

It's just basic logic: If you think the man should work all day, the woman should stay home all day, then of course you won't have any structures to make work-life integration possible for anyone.

These backward structures are responsible for so much of our work-life conflict, and those contribute tremendously to problems. I wanted to see, how is all this affecting us? This is why I looked at our physical health, mental health, spiritual health, and our sex drive, and got all this new information that no one had seen before to say that we need to talk about this. I hope that a wake-up call. I hope that people see, wow, these structures are really doing a job on us, on businesses and the economy, they're doing a job on kids. They're often doing a job on us and our lives.

Parenting doesn't have to be this frenetic. It doesn't have to be this runaround crazy. We can fix these structures, and in doing so, do better by businesses, by us, and most importantly, for our children. So yes, it needs to not be taboo to talk about mental health. Men need to be able to talk about it. I talk about when I experienced anxiety. The more that we can talk about this, the more the taboo goes away, and the more we can focus on solutions. That's what I'm all about, how we solve this.

Motherly: What does 'all in 'mean, when you use that term?

Josh Levs: Being 'all in' means first being all in as a parent, and truly committed, truly prioritizing family, and it means being part of the vast majority of parents in this country, both men and women, who want to improve our structures, to build a better society. What I find is that as I travel around, you see this. People across the political spectrum, and across the socio-economic spectrum want this. The overwhelming majority of the country wants to do this, because our current model is not sustainable, not healthy and it's bad for our children as long as boys don't have the choice to become men who get to have time with their kids, and girls don't have the choice to pursue their careers.

All of us who truly want equality for our daughters and our sons, and for our wives and our husbands and for ourselves, we are all in this together. That's what I learned when my legal case became an issue. That's when I realized that all of us who truly want equality, we are up against this system together.

Motherly: What would our ideal future could look in terms of work-life integration, particularly when we talk about flexibility, and work-life integration? From the growth of remote work to the explosion of technology in our daily lives, what is possible for us?

Josh Levs: The problem has been, and still is, that in a great many cases, people are rewarded for literally sitting in a seat, and not getting work done. There's this 'hours' stigma, in which men have to just be there more and more and more hours, and then say, 'oh, I worked so many hours.' That's just really bad for business, and it's bad for our men and their families.

An ideal future, when you talk about that, is built around work-life integration, and here's how that plays out. Most businesses, not all, if you're a doctor or in a hospital, you have to be in a certain place for a certain time, but a great many businesses need their workers to get their work done. They don't need their workers to be sitting at a desk for that much of a day. They don't need their workers sitting in a commute for an hour each way of their lives. The more we build in technology, like just even simple Skype technology, in which you can see the person any time, because they're near their computer.

You can still see how much that's being done. Business that start to get built around achievement, instead of where you're sitting at any given moment, those businesses do better. The more businesses catch onto that, the better off we are,

Motherly: Why these issues are important for children?

Josh Levs: We're talking about a basic human need. In our society, we have public education, because we understand that educating our children is good for society. We have Medicaid available for children, because we understand that making sure that children are healthy is good for society. Making sure that when a baby leaves the womb, it has a parent at home with it for a bunch of weeks, and that that parent does not have to worry about how to put food on the table during those weeks, that is an absolute human basic need.

This is not left or right, Democrat or Republican. In fact, I have surveyed, and the majority of Republicans now support a paid family leave insurance program, when they find out how it works. These are human basics. It's best for a society, and you don't want a society that neglects children, that's where every one leads to all sorts of bad things. Kids who don't have time with their parents, who aren't able to be raised by their own parents, more often struggle with all sorts of things.

Then there's this whole question of: What are we teaching our children? What are we showing our children? Are we only talking about family values? We talk a good game about family values in this society, but when it comes to our laws, policies and stigmas, it's clear that we do not adequately value families.

Also, are we teaching our kids equality? Are we? We talk about equality, and we say you can achieve anything, you can achieve anything. But when we stop and look at how far behind we are as a country, I know that as the dad of a daughter, a tiny baby, and two young boys, I don't want them to have these struggles when they grow up.

There are men in the book who talk about how hard it is for them, because they want more time at home, and they can't get it. There are so many women who want to restart their careers, but they didn't have the choice, because their husbands or partners couldn't get the flexibility to make two parent breadwinners possible.

Motherly: Our readers are largely mothers, many of them wives and partners. What can those women do to help men be more empowered in family life?

Josh Levs: The first thing to do is to be very welcoming to men in situations that are supposed to be open to all parents, but are almost all women. I have parts in the book in which men talk about how they were on the playground, and there were all these moms with kids, and they were the one dad, and the moms wouldn't talk to them, because there's this suspicion, like, “oh no, a man. What's a man doing here?" That dissuades men from going to those places, and it makes it harder for men to be caregivers. It makes men less effective caregivers.

The mommy and me classes, when there aren't daddy and me classes, make sure that those are 'parent and kid' classes, and that you are actually welcoming to the dad. Sheryl Sandberg says that when she's at the playground, “I always talk to the dad. I always play with the dad, you have to." This unconscious fear of men is something that we all need to get over. If you're at a playground and there's a strange man there, everyone should be concerned. A strange person who's not with a kid, you should be concerned. But when a man is there with his kids, he's just as trustworthy as a woman who's there with her kids.

There's also a basic understanding that the more of us, men and women, who join in these efforts and who take the steps that I lay out, like here's how to get paid family leave programs, here's how to get it in your state, here's how to work nationally, here's how to get flex time. The more that men and women work together and understand that we are all in this together, the farther we will get.

Something women can do is make sure that those forces don't try to trick us into the gender war, you know? There are people invested in the old ways, who want things to remain like “Mad Men.".They'll say things like, whoa, who are those men to come along and say that anything should change? Or “they're privileged men, why listen to them?"

It's about being really open-minded and realizing that men are getting squeezed as well, men are getting hurt as well, and all people, men and women, who want equality for our daughters and sons, are in this together, so we all have to push against the forces that would suggest a gender war, and realize that we are stronger when we stand together against these forces, and that together, we can tackle them.

As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

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

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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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