SHOP PREGNANCY PARTY STYLE
Jessica Pallay is the director of event programming & operations at Motherly and the co-founder of the pregnancy community Well Rounded, which was acquired by Motherly in 2019. She's an experienced writer, editor and content marketer, and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Vogue.com, Cheddar and more. She lives in Brooklyn with her two daughters, Libby & Elsie, and her husband Andrew. You can follow her here.
The anecdote went viral on LinkedIn and Facebook: An executive noticed one of his employees, a mother, crying at her desk. She explained that her child is sick, she had no sick days left and couldn't afford to miss work. He wrote her a check and sent her home to her child. It's a modern-day working mom fairytale.
The male executive is the hero in the story, but frustrated women who were raised on Spice Girls-era girl power don't want to wait around for someone else to set them free from punishing corporate policies. These women want to be their own heroes (and their own bosses). And when a friend slides into their DMs to tell them they can be, well, they desperately want to believe it.
But the hard truth is that girl power never completely grew up to become women's empowerment and a culture that paid lip service to gender equality without making progress primed a generation of mothers to be the perfect targets for multi-level marketing (or MLMs as they're commonly referred to).
A population already burdened with so much unpaid work in the service of their families ended up doing even more unpaid labor to serve companies bottom lines, and we need to ask ourselves why.
In 2019, we have entered an era of MLM reckoning. The alarm is sounding about the damage MLMs can do to women and their families but if you listen closely, there is another sound here: The sound of opportunity for companies that can actually live up to some of the promises MLM fails to keep.
The era of MLM backlash
For years multilevel marketing got a pretty decent edit in popular culture—the pink Cadillacs helped—but in recent years a new awareness has been building. Debunking the myth of MLMs is in vogue.
It's been more three years since John Oliver's critique of the industry went viral and the documentary Betting on Zero, which details the controversy surrounding one MLM company, was released. There are several popular podcasts detailing the downside of MLMs, and multiple subreddits, Facebook groups and online communities dedicated to advocating against a business model in which 75% of the salesforce doesn't turn a profit.
It seems consumers are becoming more MLM-savvy, but this new awareness came at the expense of so many mothers. Thankfully, the media has been taking notice, especially of LulaRoe, an MLM empire built on leggings and female empowerment but plagued by lawsuits and stories of women gone bankrupt.
By the industry's own admission 75% of people who sign up to sell for an MLM company are women. The Direct Selling Association, the MLM industry's national trade association states that the average direct seller makes $5,702 in profit, but the AARP Foundation suggests that more than half of those in MLMs who make money make less than $5,000 in a year and that the majority (73%) of sellers either break even or lose money.
If you've been on the internet much in the last couple of years you probably already know this. Vice did a documentary on it. Truth in Advertising released an investigative piece. From The Washington Post to the Huffington Post, media was busy in 2019 telling us that MLM are hurting women.
The question is, are we ready to stop the pain?
But in 2020 women are still joining MLMs because these companies are offering something that is missing from the lives of so many: Support and a flexible opportunity.
Motherly's second annual State of Motherhood survey found 85% of moms don't think society understands or supports mothers, and that while financial need is the top reason for moms participating in the workforce, "desire to participate in work outside the household" is a significant motivational factor as well. Today's moms need and want to work, but they want to work for companies that don't expect them to pretend they don't have children. The survey suggests that some moms are leaving their jobs because of the "inability to strike a work-life balance or the work culture not being supportive."
When asked what would help, moms said longer, paid maternity leave, childcare, flexible schedules and remote work opportunities. MLMs promise mothers the flexible, remote jobs they so desperately want.
Motherly's survey isn't the only one to highlight the need for better work-life balance. A recent survey by Flex Jobs found more than half of stay-at-home parents stay out of the workforce longer than they would like to.
"Without flexible work options, for example, 36% of stay-at-home parents we surveyed said that they actually wanted to return to work but their job was too inflexible to accommodate their needs as a working parent. Thirty-four percent turned to freelancing to bring in some income while staying at home with their kids, and 11% tried multi-level marketing businesses," explains Brie Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs.
It's clear that there is an eager talent pool that is going untapped, and Reynolds is hoping to see that 11% go down as more legitimate companies offer the kinds of opportunities parents are seeking. According to Reynolds, the number of people working remotely in the U.S. has increased 159% between 2005 and 2017.
"The most common work-from-home job titles include a huge range of professions, showing that companies are applying remote work to a wide variety of professions: teacher, writer, developer, analyst, sales representative, nurse, accountant, and project manager, for example. Hopefully, as more legitimate remote jobs become available, the need for parents to try risky MLM programs to find the flexibility they need will greatly diminish," she says.
Anti-MLM advocates say awareness of the problem isn't enough
Katie Young is the co-host of the podcast Sounds Like MLM but OK, which examines the impact of MLMs on sellers, and an administrator for a Facebook group by the same name. The group has more than 130,000 members, some of whom have been in, and left, the MLM industry.
"The former sellers are a really solid chunk of people that are joining this community because they are the people that have been personally impacted by the harm that the companies can do," Young explains.
According to Young, the promise of profit isn't the only thing prompting women to sign up to sell candles, shakes and clothing: It's also the promise of a supportive community. Additionally, Young believes MLM recruitment tactics prey on mom guilt.
"It's like, 'Don't you want to stay home with your kids? Don't you want to be the one to raise them?' There's a lot of pressure and a lot of shame," says Young, who adds that when messages like these come from a friend they carry more weight.
"They're making people feel bad about the way that they're living their lives and thinking that they're going to be better people and better parents by joining those these companies," she says.
Young hopes that the public backlash against MLM companies, combined with more flexible and legitimate work opportunities will help prevent more people from being hurt, but she is not holding her breath.
She believes MLMs will not lose their luster until lawmakers take action against them and non-MLM companies realize what parents are up against, because even in the era of MLM reckoning, when Googling a company serves up so many headlines about devastated sellers, people are still signing up.
The MLM horror stories shared in Young's Facebook group and the viral Facebook post about the hero executive have one thing in common: They shouldn't have happened. And if we create a culture that supports working parents we can stop them from happening again.
[We reached out to LulaRoe for this story but have not heard back from the company. We also reached out to Herbalife and the Direct Selling Association. In response to this article the organization provided several links to its website.]
[This post was originally published on Apparently on September 24, 2019. It has been updated.]
Are you on the quest to lessen your consumption but haven't found out how to do that when your kids are constantly outgrowing clothes and you're always buying new pieces every few months? According to a report from Quantis, you aren't alone. The apparel and footwear industries together account for more than 8 % of global climate impact, which is greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined. That's a scary thought.
But there are several ethical fashion brands attempting to address these problems. And now more than ever, kids clothing brands are going the sustainable route, understanding that waste is an endless resource, not trash.
I recently took a trip to the Pitti Bimbo trade show in Florence, Italy to unearth new and innovative brands that are making a splash in the industry. With more than 5,000 buyers from almost 80 countries and 10,000-plus visitors, I was in good company.
Among the hundreds of brands, I found a special bunch with a truly green heart that are attentive to materials, ethical production and sustainability.
Here are five sustainable clothing brands that believe in limiting the impact we have on the earth for our children, and they all ship internationally:
After years of frustration with the clothing options for her active older son, and a total lack of hand-me-downs (due to wear and tear of kids clothes) for his little brother, Marianna Sachse founded Jackalo to bring back old-fashioned quality to kids clothing.
Jackalo's mission is quite simple: Change the way kids clothing is produced and what happens when kids have outgrown them. Aside from practicing organic and sustainable farming practices, Jackalo offers discounts on future purchases when customers send back their used Jackalo products for repair or trading. Here's how it works: when your kid outgrows any Jackalo clothing item, send it back to them in exchange for a $15 discount on your next purchase. They will clean it, make any necessary repairs, then post it for resale at a discount. Anything that can't be repaired will be upcycled or recycled responsibly.Editor's pick: Mac coverall
If you love vintage pieces but value modern textiles and manufacturing, you've probably heard of Fairechild. Their pants, jackets and suits are completely waterproof, chemical-free and made of recycled materials. "I don't want to make clothing that has a negative impact on the environment," said founder and designer, Tabitha Osler. "It is simply not an option for the world anymore."
Faire child's products remain completely waterproof under pressure so, yes, it can withstand the toughest, outdoorsy child. Moisture stays out whether they're kneeling on damp ground, sitting in snow or wearing a backpack. Osler's motherhood also opened her eyes to the importance of time spent outdoors. This was the main driver behind her desire to design clothing that would let kids be outdoors all day, every day in comfort.
Next month, Faire child is launching rain gear made of fabric derived from waste, and that can be upcycled again and again.Editor's pick: Dungaree
Maison Tadaboum was born in 2019 in Paris from the idea of Julia Valverde Vicente to offer fun, gender-neutral clothes for kids on eco-friendly cotton fabrics. The Parisian brand pays special attention to the environmental footprint and quality of its products, which is why their fabrics are all Oeko-Teks certified, which is a worldwide certification system for environmentally friendly and socially responsible production facilities in the clothing industry. And with sizes ranging from 6 months-11 years old, there is something for every kid.
Editor's pick: Friends for life shirt
This Italian brand began with the idea to create 100% organic cotton garments for babies, in an effort to preserve the environment and little one's health. This basic idea, supported by a fair-trade model, has evolved into the brand using natural fibers such as hemp and merino and cashmere wools in all their garments. Taking it a step further, all of the accessories, such as buttons, appliqués, labels and embroidery, are completely toxin-free.
"We like taking care of this planet which our children will inherit, as much as we like taking care of their health today," says a brand rep at the show. "We ensure that everything happens through beauty."Editor's pick: Baby sleeveless dress in linen cotton denim
CORA happywear may create clothes for women, babies and kids with natural and organic materials like eucalyptus, bamboo and organic cotton, but the essence of the brand is in the story behind it. "Courage is the core value of our brand and is derived from the Italian word 'coraggio,'" says Elisabeth Tocca, the founder and CEO of CORA Happywear. "Isn't courage something you always need as a mother? We want to support women to courageously live their lives as family mothers in a cheerful, self-conscious way that inspires other women."
And with every product sold, CORA sends 2% of each sales to Plan Italia, a program committed to removing all the barriers that prevent girls from completing their studies, such as early marriages, female genital mutilation, early pregnancies and all forms of violence.Editor's pick: All organic cotton trouser
We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.
I read and heard it all before. Toddlers are terrible. They are little dictators who go out of their way to make things hard. The 'terrible twos' and 'threenager' years made me nervous even when they were only in our future.
And then our son grew into a toddler and I realized that I love being a toddler mom way more than when I was a newborn mom.
You see, I didn't quite love the newborn days as much as everyone told me I would. Yes, I loved that little squishy tiny baby who would nap for hours cozied up in my arms, but I also felt so isolated from the world, touched out and exhausted.
I really tried enjoying the stillness of snuggles in bed and the smell of the back of his head, but as much as I tried I just didn't. It was okay—but nothing out of this world like I thought it'd be.
As he started growing and becoming more interactive, I started to enjoy this new stage. Making him laugh would be the highlight of my day and I have endless videos to prove it. We would sit on the couch and make funny noises and he would look at me and giggle and I felt complete. Then he started sitting up and grabbing toys. We could play hide and seek and his face would glow every time I revealed the toy he thought had magically disappeared behind me.
It wasn't long before sounds that wanted to be words starting appearing in our lives. He knew the cow said "moo" from me reading the same book over and over again so he started saying it with me, and I'd be lying if I didn't say back then I thought my baby was an absolute genius for doing so.
He learned how to walk and I was so excited about not having to carry him everywhere. Sure, at first we took it very slowly and there was a lot of hand-holding and gentle exploring, but soon he was making his way up and down the playground choosing where we were going next without me making those decisions for him. He was showing his preferences—the slide always wins over the swing set and sitting in the playhouse is way more fun than the monkey bars.
His language skills exploded and he started telling us about his friends—little kids he plays with at the endless playdates our nanny organizes to keep him entertained and social— in choppy sentences. He slowly made up words, like bluebee for blueberries or flyfly or butterfly, that were used regularly in our conversations.
And as all these new things were happening and he was growing into a toddler, my enjoyment of being a mom grew more and more, too.
Don't get me wrong, not all days are easy. He's had his share of tantrums, rejecting food he used to love, not wanting to be around one of us (mostly me now that I'm super pregnant with his twin siblings) and keeps taunting our dogs by pulling their tails and taking over their beds. And yet I love it.
I love it because I get to see a glimpse of the person he will be.
I love it because all of those long and endless hours of playing with him—like stacking blocks, practicing saying "please" or even potty training—are finally paying off.
I love it because he can now tell me what song he wants to listen to, even if that song is The wheels on the bus for the millionth time that day.
I love it because I have so much fun playing pretend. We usually dig up sand (our carpet) and put it in a bucket (an imaginary one) and sometimes the stuffed animals come over and eat some of that sand.
I love it because his wild toddler imagination allows me to explore my own imagination, the one I've put on pause for so long because I was busy doing adult things, like having a job and paying bills.
His toddler world is so much fun and I enjoy being a part of it, every single day.
As any parent knows, newborns need to eat a lot to keep fuel in those tiny tummies. For breastfeeding mamas, that can translate to nursing sessions anywhere, any time of day—which can make it feel like a full-time job.
These mamas have been super honest about their breastfeeding journeys, proving that while breastfeeding is beautiful, it can also be challenging, boring or require a lot of multitasking.
Ashley Graham enjoying a “multitasking sunday”
Breastfeeding takes a lot of time and energy. We see a lot of stock photos of moms staring down serenely at their baby during nursing sessions but in real life, sometimes mama needs to look at her phone.
That's why we love this snap Ashley Graham posted of her "multitasking Sunday".
Sometimes in early motherhood, it feels like you're glued to the couch or the bed and we love that technology can keep us connected to the world during a time that can be isolating.
Caterina Scorsone breastfeeding on the set of Grey’s Anatomy
The set of Grey's Anatomy is a breastfeeding-friendly workplace, according to Grey's star (and Motherly podcast guest) Caterina Scorsone.
"Nursing my baby at work. This is what feminist infrastructure looks like; workplaces that support working women, families, children and their development," she captioned this post published on her Instagram feed in February 2020.
"While also beautiful, breasts are miraculous tools for nourishment and motherhood rather than solely sexualized objects of the male gaze. For any women who are hurting, I deeply and lovingly hope that you can release and heal any shame you have accepted or taken on as a result of your feeding choices. And for the women who want to breastfeed but feel self conscious about it, I hope you can feel free and excited to nourish your baby in a way that has fantastic health benefits for you both," she wrote it a previous Instagram post.
Christina Anstead's postpartum selfie is peak #momlife
Have you ever looked at a social media post from a new mom and wondered how she could look so put together and perfect despite having just had a baby? If so, you're not alone. The perfectly staged photos of new mothers posing with their impeccably dressed babies in their spotlessly neat homes are pretty common these days. And while they're lovely to look at, sometimes they can leave other new mamas wondering why their own realities don't look so idyllic. That's why we love when a new mother shows the messy side of new motherhood — and Christina Anstead just joined those ranks.
Christina, who welcomed baby Hudson London just two weeks ago, just gave us all a look at her new mom reality, and the unfiltered image shows something many of know all about: Leaky breasts.
In the photo, Christina lies in bed wearing a nursing tank with coloring foils in her hair. She's holding her baby, and you can clearly see a wet spot on her tank top. We all know this is way too real — leaky breasts are par for the course for new moms, even though no one seems to warn you about this!
Christina captions the photo "#MOMLIFE". Both her husband and her followers are loving the image. "☺️👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼🔥🔥 love this! Love you! Cutest leaky boob mumma ever x," husband Ant Anstead writes. A follower adds "Out of all the pictures I've seen of you this is actually my favorite and you look the most beautiful! You're so in your element.!💜".
We're right there with them: This photo of Christina is real and relatable, and we love that she's showing the incredible multitasking moms do every single day. And she's practicing self-care by coloring her hair, which is wonderful to see (be sure to take care of yourself, mama! Whether that means sitting down to eat a nice, hot meal or having your hair done).
New motherhood is beautiful, but it's certainly not perfect. Unwashed hair, days-old clothes, serious under-eye bags, a messy home and, yes, leaky breasts are all part of the phase — and we love that this famous mama is showing that.
Jessie James Decker is a backseat breastfeeder
By the time her third child was born, Jessie James Decker had a few tricks up her sleeve when it came to breastfeeding on the go—including how to get situated in the backseat of the car to nurse her son while he was strapped into the car seat.
Decker doesn't recommend mamas go without a seatbelt like she did, but sometimes, a bad day out with the baby calls for extreme measures. When little Forrest couldn't stop crying on the way home from his mama's photo shoot, his mama did what she had to do.
"I hopped in the back seat with Forrest and fed him with boob out leaned awkwardly over the car seat to calm him down," Decker says. "On the way home I cried, I got stressed and anxiety, and I was just a mom trying to do my best just like we all are no matter the situation."
Ali Wong says “breastfeeding is a blast”
Some #breastfeeding posts on Instagram remind us that breastfeeding is beautiful. But comedian Ali Wong's breastfeeding posts remind us that (just like motherhood in general) there are times that it doesn't feel so beautiful (and that's okay).
"Breastfeeding is a blast," she sarcastically captioned a photo of herself during a nursing session.
In her Netflix special Wong joked that "Breastfeeding is brutal. It is chronic physical torture. I thought it was supposed to be this beautiful bonding ceremony… Breastfeeding is this savage ritual that just reminds you that your body is a cafeteria now! It don't belong to you no more."
Wong's humor is refreshingly honest and reminds the rest of us that it's okay if breastfeeding doesn't feel beautiful all the time.
Amy Schumer is pumping with no shame
When Amy Schumer went back to work two weeks after giving birth to her son, some internet commenters were quick to dish out mom shame, suggesting that she needed to "at least let the stitches dissolve first."
In the comments section of her Instagram post, Schumer joked "I've always wanted to be mom shamed!!!!"
The next day she posted a photo of herself pumping breastmilk and captioned it "sending out love to the moms shaming me for doing standup last night!"
Schumer went back to work because she loves what she does, but many moms go back to work and pump because they have to—and nobody should be shamed for that.
Some mamas pump at work, some nurse at home and some fill bottles with formula to send to day care. We may do things differently but we're all doing our best.
Tia Mowry nurses with love
Tia Mowry's breastfeeding story proves that mamas can have totally different experiences with different children. She wasn't able to nurse her son Cree for long, but found it easier with her daughter Cairo.
Six weeks after Cairo's birth Mowry wrote on Instagram: "Wasn't able to breastfeed Cree for long because of low milk supply! However, this time around I have plenty. Lots of teas, water, #fenugreek, and a high protein diet has contributed! More importantly, say no to stress!! I'm able to pump 12 ounces alone in the morning for my little brown suga!"
Hilary Duff knows her limits
When Hilary Duff announced that she was done breastfeeding her daughter Banks, we supported her choice.
"I am a working mom of two. My goal was to get my little girl to six months and then decide if I (and her of course) wanted to keep going. Let me tell you. Pumping at work sucks," Duff wrote on Instagram.
"I needed a break. I was going to break," she writes. "With the stress of a dropping milk supply and a baby that was getting bored or not caring about nursing when I was available to. I was sad and frustrated and feeling like a failure all of the time. When really I'm a bad ass rock star."
Deciding to stop breastfeeding is a valid choice and we appreciate Duff's honesty.
Pink takes a hike
Sometimes mamas need to stop breastfeeding, and sometimes they need to find a way to just keep on going.
When son Jameson was a baby, Pink proved that breastfeeding didn't have to mean sitting at home in a glider. With some assistance from a baby carrier and a perfect position for Jameson, the multitasking mama was able to go about her hike like it was no big deal.
Chrissy Teigen teaches the next generation
When Chrissy Teigen's son Miles was still in that newborn stage and breastfeeding constantly, her oldest, daughter Luna, decided that mama should breastfeed her doll, too.
When she wasn't holding babies and dolls to her breasts she was holding pumps to them, because Chrissy isn't just the Queen of Twitter, she's the queen of multitasking.
Jessica Alba juggled work and breastfeeding
Jessica Alba is another multitasking mama who made the most of every minute of the day and every ounce of breast milk when her son Hayes was a newborn. She brought the little guy to board meetings at the Honest Company offices, breastfed him in Target fitting rooms and, like Duff, eventually decided to switch to formula.
"I felt like he wanted to nurse 24/7, which was obviously really challenging when you're trying to go back to work," Alba told Motherly in 2018.
She wasn't just busy with the Honest Company in the early weeks and months of Hayes' life, but also shooting her TV series with Gabrielle Union, 'LA's Finest.' The timing of the opportunity wasn't ideal, but the project was.
"I was actually bummed about it, I really did want to take four months but I got the pilot offer and it just happened to be shooting, so it cut into my maternity leave," she said.
"Also my milk supply was challenged with him. I felt like I had the most milk with Honor [her oldest daughter] and then it got less with Haven [her middle child] and even less with Hayes. And so that was just tough for me," she explained.
Thandie Newton proves mamas can breastfeed anywhere
Mothers in America are often challenged about their right to breastfeed in public, but actress Thandi Newton's throwback Insta post shows that moms is a great reminder that mothers in America are free to breastfeed anywhere, whenever they need to.
American mothers "have the right to breastfeed your baby wherever and whenever your baby is hungry," according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office on Women's Health.
"This is what my body is made for. And the rest is my choice. #Freedom," Newton captioned her nursing selfie.
Eva Longoria Baston breastfed while making TV
Eva Longoria has an amazing career as an actress, producer and director, and she's also a first-time mom who has spent the last year breastfeeding on set.
"Here are pics of me directing while breastfeeding Santi during filming of @GrandHotelABC," Eva captions her post. "Women multitask everyday & I was lucky to have an amazing crew & cast that supported my new motherhood + career goals!"
The fact that she shared this look at her life with her followers means a lot to moms everywhere who are struggling with endless feedings, taking care of a million things at once, and public breastfeeding in a society that doesn't always normalize the act.
She's totally right: Having supportive colleagues helps a ton. Research shows that support from colleagues is essential for moms when it comes to pumping and nursing at work.
Gisele Bündchen 'grammed her breastfeeding glam session
In 2013, the super model proved she's also a super mama by multitasking a full-on beauty session while breastfeeding. Recognizing what a team effort it was, Bündchen captioned the post, "What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours of flying and only three hours of sleep."
Tess Holliday was inspired by her fellow supermodel mama
Tess Holliday followed in Gisele's footsteps after her youngest was born, posting this photo to Instagram. It that proves that breastfeeding mamas can not only multitask, but also don't have to conform to certain body ideals to look amazing postpartum. Any size, any shape, any time, anywhere—breastfeeding mothers like Holliday are normalizing breastfeeding and our bodies
Padma Lakshmi proves you don't need a team
Without a beauty squad on call, Lakshmi took her multitasking to "level 💯" by using a nursing pillow to free up her two hands. It takes a brave woman to attempt mascara while breastfeeding, but the Top Chef host clearly pulls it off.
Whether a mama is trying to feed her baby on the go or while she's getting glam, it isn't always easy.Motherhood is about trying to do your best even when it feels like 100 things are going on at the same time—and yet we manage, like the super mamas we are.
Whether a mama is trying to feed her baby on the go or while she's getting glam, it isn't always easy. Motherhood is about trying to do your best even when it feels like 100 things are going on at the same time—and yet we manage, like the super mamas we are.
[This post was originally published June 12, 2018. It has been updated.]