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When a “Boy Mom” Has A Girl on the Way

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Name: Anna Maria @anja_mari

Neighborhood: Southshore Boston

Occupation: Digital Marketing Communications

Children: 2 + 1 on the way

Gender: girl

How would you describe your pregnancy style?

Free, effortless and comfortable. I have never spent much time doing my hair or choosing corresponding wardrobe elements -- that is just not me. I have always picked items that go with “my flow,” and I am trying to do the same during pregnancy. I don’t like putting labels on things, and I don’t like stereotypes but it seems like a pregnancy style has a little bit of an inflexible stereotype attached. Everyone has an idea of what a pregnant woman should look like or wear, as if there was some rigid structure to it, and that is something I am trying to escape from, play around and just not fully conform to.

What is one pregnancy ritual you’ve built into your routine?

Taking the time to really pamper my skin. This third pregnancy takes a toll on my skin, especially around my belly and hips, things tend to stretch a lot, and I feel like skin elasticity is sparse this time around. So I am using oils and special belly creams to really do what I can to save whatever is left (hahaha) -- something I wasn’t the best at during my two other pregnancies.

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What’s your favorite pregnancy product that you cannot live without?

A good belly band, a good pregnancy undershirt (with these two, you can rework almost every pre-pregnancy outfit into a pregnancy outfit!). Also some decent compression stockings (tired legs at night will thank you!).

What will you miss most about being pregnant once the baby arrives?

I think the connection to another life, the feeling of being two in one, and the little moves in earlier weeks -- from little “hellos” to well-defined and sometimes painful kicks (“oh hey you, stop stretching in there”). It is an unbelievable wonder of a female body, to be able to contain all this and create life within itself, it blows my mind every time, and I think the mystery of it all, will be always the magic and wonder I will miss the most.

What’s one piece of pregnancy advice every mama to be needs to know?

Don’t be scared of your body changing; it knows what it is doing. Trust your gut carrying the baby and then having the baby. Nobody has all the answers to motherhood -- we all make them up as we go and do what is right for us. It has been designed this way for thousands of years, so you will be fine -- just give into the process instead of trying to control it too much or worry yourself unnecessarily.

What are you looking forward to the most about having a baby girl?

Finally be able to peek into the other side of the baby section clothing! Girl section is always so much bigger (LOL!). But seriously, I am looking forward to learning more about myself through raising a little girl. I think it is a self-discovery of sorts… what I want her to know and remember, what kind of a woman I want to help her be, what kind of mistakes I think I have done and could help her avoid. I think that is the difference between having boys and girls: with a girl you get a little closer to understanding how your sex is wired, and figure it out better or at least more naturally.

What’s your top registry essentials?

1. Infinite number of baby onesies -- simple and necessary, 100%cotton, machine washable, you will use them as many as diapers a day.

2. A good car seat, like the Cybex Cloud Q, which is designed to last up to 18 months!

3. Hospital bag essentials from Francis and Henry.

Anja is wearing:

First photo:

Camel coat (similar).

Second photo:

Grey coat (similar).

Third photo:

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

The NICU is not the place you go to meet people. It's an intensive care unit, not a party. Chances are, if you're here, it's a high-pressure situation. The background noise is beeps and buzzes and the whooshing of air in and out of ventilators. There's a clicking, too, a “tck, tck, tck" of the feeding, pumping, counting down the milliliters of milk and vitamins dripping down tubes and into bellies.

This is not the soundtrack for small talk.

And yet, when my son, born prematurely at 30 weeks, was one month into his NICU resort stay and clearly thinking he was on sabbatical and would return shortly to the womb, I met the woman who would become my best friend. I met her on the worst day of my life.

Brain scans are funny. Dots on black and white and gray delineate good from bad, solid from liquid, tissue from bone. On the day in question, my son had a 30-day brain scan, unbeknownst to us. Apparently, this is standard procedure. (Over the next few months—how long it took us to graduate—we would come to learn all the procedures much better than we would have liked.)

It was a sunny and warm day in April, the kind that makes all the kids in all the classrooms stare out the window and wish for summer. Of course, inside the NICU the weather is irrelevant behind tinted windows and fluorescent lighting. But I carried the mood in with me, a spring breeze along with my pumped milk in its little cooler.

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The nurse in my son's room was new. They always were. I never could learn them all. She informed me that the head of the NICU would like to see me. She'd page him, she said. And then she looked at me three seconds longer than was normal. That's how I knew something was up.

When he entered, the big man himself, he spoke a great many words I did not hear while pointing to gray spots on a picture of my son's brain. I looked at the scan, and then I looked at my son in my arms, awake and eyeing my like, “You, hey you, I see that milk there. What's the hold up, lady?"

And then I heard the doctor say, “periventricular leukomalacia." Eleven syllables to tell me that my child had damage in all four quadrants of his brain. Very gently, I kissed him on his head, which smelled of hand sanitizer, and handed him to the nurse so I wouldn't drop him. Then I walked out and lost it – lost all control of my body and words and thoughts. I cried and shook and tore at my clothes a little.

Hours later, I went back in and sat in the hospital-issued rocker and held my son again. We looked at each other. He sized me up with an owlish stare and then stretched and pooped, very casually, like he was The Big Lebowski and I, his bowling buddy. No biggie, man. The nurse laughed from her corner where she'd been charting stats. We got to talking.

Five years later, this nurse is in my contacts under “family." She has a husband and a house and a dog and a mother, and I've seen it all. It sounds weird to refer to your “best friend" when in your 30s, like you're one mall trip away from buying matching necklaces at Claire's. But she is.

After we came home from the NICU, finally, she called to check in. Nobody actually uses the numbers they swap on the way out the door, but she did. She came over a week later. And she's been coming over ever since, swapping quips and bringing iced coffee and all the good magazines for the pool.

We've celebrated birthdays and Thanksgivings and drunk wine at vineyards and made our husbands watch Katherine Hepburn flicks. She's the one I call when I'm losing my mind over insurance battles with my son's wheelchair or swim therapy. She's also the one I call when I watch the newest episode of “Game of Thrones."

She's my person. She's my best friend. She would roll her eyes at this. This is why we work.

You don't expect to make new friends at my age. You've got your standard go-tos locked in, the ones that don't require effort. You've already dated and wooed them. But I wooed a new one. I met the best friend I'll ever have on the worst day of my life, which I guess moves it up a notch.

Katie Couric is a trailblazer who has made media history while raising two daughters, and this week she's reminded the world that while a lot has changed since she was pregnant on the set of the Today Show back in 1991, some things, unfortunately, haven't.

In a recent edition of her newsletter, Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric, the former Today anchor shared an old clip from when she was pregnant with her oldest daughter and was about to go on maternity leave. Her former Today co-host, Bryant Gumbel, "didn't quite get it," Couric wrote, noting that "It's pretty shocking to watch it now, 28 years later!"

In the clip, Gumbel asks Couric why she's taking "so long" off work. She was planning to take nine weeks but ended up taking less than half of that.

Gumble gives Couric a hard time about her leave and Couric explains to Gumble that having a baby is a major shock to a woman's body and that humans need time to recover from birth. (Seriously, this woman was back to work at four weeks postpartum. Many moms are still bleeding at that point.)

The cringe-worthy clip has gone viral, and Couric has made it clear that she doesn't have hard feelings toward Gumble at all, but that she brought the old footage up to make a point.

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"I think that times have changed so much, but I do think there's a lot of implicit bias against moms," Couric recently told USA TODAY. "I think it's important to make sure your employer is up on the times and that women aren't penalized, consciously or unconsciously when they have children."

The pressure to get back to work

Couric only ended up taking half of her maternity leave, and it's so easy to understand why. Her predecessor at the Today show, Deborah Norville, went on maternity leave and never came back. Couric, her substitute, was promoted to the role of permanent co-anchor. At the time, Norville said it was her decision, but in recent years she has said she felt her bosses didn't want her to come back.

All this happened in 1991, a few months before I would start first grade. Fast forward to 2014 and I was also the co-anchor of a (much, much smaller) local morning show. I wanted to start trying for a baby and frequently daydreamed about how I would look pregnant at the anchor desk, but even in my daydreams, I would cut my maternity leave short. To be clear, no one ever expressly told me that I would be replaced if I took a long maternity leave, but I knew it was a possibility. In the end I chose to leave my dream job because I didn't feel like it was compatible with my dream of motherhood.

This is not just a problem in television news. Last year Indeed surveyed 1,005 women working in tech and found a whopping 83% of those who had children said they felt pressure to return to work faster when they were out on parental leave. Just over a third said they were directly pressured by colleagues or managers, while 32% feared losing their jobs and 38% feared losing credibility or value in their workplace.

"Frankly, women are afraid they'll lose their jobs. We're worried we'll be forgotten while we're gone. Out of sight, out of mind," Kim Williams, director of experience design at Indeed said in a statement to Recode.

Another survey, the iCIMS Women in the Workforce report found 45% of office professionals believe taking parental leave would decrease their opportunities for promotion. And yet another recent survey, this one by Talking Talent, found that when employees have access to parental leave (which many American workers don't), women use only about 52% of the time they could.

Between a rock and a hard place

The results of another study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that when it comes to taking maternity leave, women are "damned if she does and damned if she doesn't," as the study's co-author Madeline Heilman, professor of psychology at New York University, told TIME.

Take a longer maternity leave like Norville did and you're seen as uncommitted and less competent. Short change your mat leave like Couric did and your parenting is judged. "The sad truth is, women are really between a rock and a hard place when making this decision," Heilman told TIME.

Time for a change

It's been 28 years since Couric sat on that set and argued with Gumble about maternity leave and he asked her, "How many men get nine weeks off?"

Couric started to bring up the possibility of paternity leave, but unfortunately in the nearly 30 years since that awkward conversation happened not much has happened on that issue.

This is a huge problem because until men feel they are able to be both caregivers and valued employees, women won't be able to be both, either.

According to Teresa Hopke, the CEO of Talking Talent, while more and more workplaces are adopting parental leave policies, they're just not being used to their potential because parents fear being penalized for taking them. That's why women are only taking 52% of the leave they're entitled to at work, and why men take even less, about 32%.

Changing parental leave policies are a great start, but we need to change our culture, too, and Couric's throwback clip proves that.

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Americans are having fewer children than in decades past, and the cost of childcare is absolutely a factor. Millennial parents are struggling to afford childcare and some are hoping for relief in the form of a federally-funded universal childcare policy. Some politicians are campaigning on it, but most baby boomers are far from sold on the idea.

While surveys suggest that the rising cost of childcare is keeping many younger Americans from having as many children as they would like, they also suggest that older Americans are strongly opposed to universal childcare.

According to a Hill-HarrisX survey released earlier this month, 72% of registered voters 50 and older believe day care costs should be paid by parents, not a federally funded universal childcare program or a subsidy that would halve costs.

And while much of the current political conversation is focused on who and what is trending among millennials, baby boomers outvote millennials and Gen-Xers, so even if the policy is popular among today's young mothers and fathers, there will likely be more grandmothers and grandfathers at the polls.

So why are older Americans not into the idea of subsidizing childcare?

For one thing, as Bryce Covert wrote for The New Republic last year, "Most Americans have long considered child care to be a personal problem rather than a collective one."

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Colvert's opening line is so obvious to anyone who has brought up the cost of childcare (or housing or student loans) at a family dinner only to have a relative reply, "if you can't afford a child, don't have one."

But maybe we should reply, "if a generation can't afford to have children, you won't have them when you need them."

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that within a couple of decades there will be more Americans over the age of 65 than under the age of 18. We need younger generations to care for the older ones, but if parents aren't supported, there will be fewer young people.

For Americans of all ages, we need to address this childcare crisis. Maybe universal childcare isn't the solution, but we need to accept that this is a problem that impacts the future of the entire country, not just parents.

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Like many modern couples, before getting married and having kids my husband and I spoke frequently about our plans to be true partners in life—to share in the household responsibilities equally and to co-parent our children in a way that defied the stereotypical norms of our society.

Then we actually had kids and we quickly learned that it was a lot more complicated than that.

Even as members of the millennial generation, we were born into a society in which gendered expectations have been rooted in our way of thinking, living and doing. Although growing up in progressive households molded our expectations and ideas, that background didn't prove enough to fully counter the pervasive inequalities that restrict partners from co-parenting as hoped.

The gender divide begins from day one of parenting

During my first pregnancy, the myth of equally co-parenting became apparent all too quickly. My husband had to choose between taking time off to come to my prenatal visits or using that time to lengthen his paternity leave, which was five days long. I asked him to do the latter and he willingly (albeit regretfully) obliged. Still, that did not prevent one of my midwives from commenting on his "lack of presence" during my prenatal care. It felt like a lose-lose situation.

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Research shows that fathers crave more guidance and support through their transition into fatherhood. Yet, this isn't readily available, which sends a loud and clear message to new parents right from the start: Fathers don't need to learn how to parent, because they won't be the primary parents.

Our current prenatal care system leaves much to be desired, as anyone who has been rushed through a health care appointment can attest. But women at least have routine touch points with their providers where there is the possibility of deeper communications. Partners don't have that. Yes, some attend the prenatal visits—but this is a privilege not available to most couples.

Societal gender-based assumptions become barriers

From the moment we become parents, we begin to experience the gender stereotypes and social norms we have come to accept as, well, norms: The lack of changing tables in men's restrooms. The marketing of baby dolls to little girls. And the comments. Oh, the comments.

"Did daddy dress you today?"

"Oh, is it is daddy-daycare today?"

My husband was never asked if he planned to continue working or stay home with the baby. He is never asked how he manages to balance a career and a family. We simply do not think to ask these questions of men. He also, admittedly, never goes to sleep at night with an overwhelming sensation of was I good enough today. That's my societal baggage to enjoy.

Somewhere along the way, and over and over again, I absorbed the notion that a "good mom" looks and acts a certain way — and I believed it, to my core. It's the same ideology that keeps me up at night consumed with "mom guilt" for all the day's imperfections, while my husband sleeps peacefully next to me.

We have never once had a conversation in which we discussed who would take on the role of "master birthday party planner," "creator of holiday magic" and one thousand other responsibilities that tend to land on moms. Nor did we ever discuss who would rake the leaves or call the car mechanic—because those were obviously my husband's jobs.

For all our progressive and feminist proclamations, we certainly landed firmly in our expected — and oh-so-stereotypical — roles. Interestingly, a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center highlighted the discrepancy between the percentage of moms who believe they were socialized into their roles (66%) versus the number of fathers (31%). Rather, fathers were more likely than mothers to say their parenting style was primarily attributable to their biology.

Signs of progress also highlight where we need to do more work

By and large, our society has made women the assumed primary parents and men the assumed primary breadwinners.

But that's not to say we're without progress: According to the Pew Research Center, when compared to fathers in the 1960s, today's fathers spend more than twice as much time on household chores, and three times as many hours taking care of their children. In 40% of households, women are the sole or primary breadwinner, compared to 11% in 1960. For the first time in history, women in the United States are more educated than men—36% of millennial women have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 28% of men.

And yet.

Our lived realities do little to reflect these changes. Consider the pay gap in the United States: Overall women's salaries are 20% less than men's. Add in racial inequalities and the numbers are far worse—a Hispanic woman, for example, garners only 53% of a man's salaries.

The Motherhood Penalty is a documented phenomenon for mothers in the paid workforce. For example, mothers are considered to be 12% less committed to their jobs than women who are not mothers and are six times less likely to be recommended for hire.

In other words, mothers are not regarded as good employees and are therefore less likely to get the job—despite studies that show the exact opposite. Motherly co-found Liz Tenety writes that, "over the course of a career, mothers are the most efficient workers around."

Between the gender pay-gap and the rising cost of childcare, it is no wonder that more women change career paths when they become parents than men. Many women realize that they will spend more on childcare than they bring home in salary, and decide that it makes the most economic sense to leave their paid work. Motherly's State of Motherhood Survey found that 50% of women made changes to their careers after having a baby, most of them becoming stay-at-home moms. Meanwhile, 58% of partners' careers stayed the same and 29% scaled up.

Nearly two-thirds of partners expressed the wish to spend more time with their kids, but couldn't because their work demands were too high, or their bosses expected them to be at work for long hours.

This disparity merely scratches the surface of the issue, though. To have the option to scale back on one's career means that someone else in the household can earn what the family needs to get by, which is not a possibility in single-parent households.

Making the changes we can

We are the products of a society that is heteronormative, patriarchal and built on systemic racism—all problems that are intertwined. Living in it means that we have to fight for true parenting equality at every turn. And the truth is that we don't always fight — sometimes we do just give in and fall into our expected roles.

Now let me be clear, my ability to spend a day not fighting is a privilege granted to me as a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle-class, English speaking, documented citizen. Being too tired to fight is not a right that many of our fellow mothers have.

Are we the generation to fix it? No, we are not. This problem is more than a generation deep, and it is going to take many seasons of parents to change the culture. Our indoctrination began long before we were conceived. And, by the time we become aware of it, we are fully immersed in its mess.

Does that mean we leave it alone? Also, no. Not even close.

We do the work. Every day.

We talk about injustices, with each other and our children. We own the biases we have inherited and we explore our shadows so that we can understand them, even when it is uncomfortable.

For me, it starts with baby steps—which usually means voicing the needs I normally keep quiet.

As I write this, my daughter sits beside me, home sick from school. When she woke up coughing this morning we did not have a conversation about "who was going to stay home with her?" I just automatically started shuffling my calendar around, and my husband automatically started getting dressed for work. I felt the resentment start to creep in, but realized that this shift is on me, just as much as it is on him. I called him and asked him to leave work early to take over, so we could at least share in the upheaval of a sick kid.

This pushed the limits of my comfort zone, something that is never easy to do. But, my belief is that by doing so, my children's comfort zones will naturally be even wider—so they can then push for more when their time comes. It may take generations, but progress is better than complacence. The future doesn't have to be the past.

Originally posted on Medium.

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