Print Friendly and PDF

Top Chef's Gail Simmons has had an incredibly busy year. Her latest cookbook, "Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating" entered the world not long before her second child, little Kole Jack Abrams, was born in May.

At 42, Simmons is now a mother of two, and spent the last year balancing life with a 4-year-old (daughter Dahlia Rae) and a book tour, TV projects, and a pregnancy she wanted to keep to herself for a while. It's been a busy season for Simmons, who recently scheduled some well-deserved down-time.

She was enjoying a beach vacation with her family when she took the time to speak with Motherly about planning pregnancies, planning book tours, and outsourcing support in the absence of a traditional "village."

On having a second baby

According to Simmons, the decision to have another baby with her husband, Jeremy Abrams, was "sort of planned," because IVF was a factor in both her pregnancies.

"I don't easily get pregnant. That was never my forte. I also decided to get pregnant later in life, in terms of fertility years," she tells Motherly. "So, our second pregnancy was definitely something that I had to think a lot about, and take very specific steps towards, if we wanted to have a second child."

Having a second child wasn't "a given, by any means" for Simmons. She says she definitely knew she wanted one, but wanted to see "how that goes, and how much I can handle." While a lot of families do value having kids close in age, Simmons says she never saw herself taking care of two babies at once.

"To me, in my own head, for my own life, that was never gonna be possible," she explains.

When her daughter was approaching school age, Simmons felt the time was right, and that a four year age gap would give her the bandwidth to revisit the baby days with a second child.

"She's out of diapers. She has her own friends, and life, and she's starting kindergarten in the fall. So, she's in a place where she's a little more independent," she explains. "That was the only way that I could wrap my head around having a second child, was if there was a little space so that I could sort of get myself together, and be a bit more of a whole person before I went through it all again."

On her second first trimester experience

Simmons isn't just a whole person, though, she's also a whole brand. When she and Abrams first started talking about having another child she was right in the middle of writing "Bringing It Home" and by the time she was pregnant she was embarking on a book tour. During her first pregnancy she'd spent her first trimester shooting Top Chef in New Orleans in the middle of summer, an experience she describes as both decent and difficult, in that she wasn't vomiting, but was exhausted and had "mild but consistent queasiness" basically the whole time.

With a book tour itinerary that included 17 flights, and visits to a dozen cities in two months, Simmons worried what it would be like to be pregnant on the road this time around, but the fatigue that plagued her while she was pregnant with Dahlia thankfully did not return.

"The second time around, I was fine. I felt great the whole way through. I did my whole book tour with this little secret, and felt great about it. Then when I got home from the biggest part of the book tour, around Thanksgiving, was right at the end of the first trimester, and I could start telling people," she explains.

So many mothers can relate to the relief one feels in that moment where you finally feel comfortable telling your friends and family that you're expecting, and can finally put on some maternity pants. "I had to buy a lot of new clothes that I hadn't anticipated, just so that I had things to wear on book tour that fit. But, I wasn't full on into maternity clothes, and I didn't want to look pregnant, because no one knew I was pregnant, so I had to be very smart about concealing it. That became a bit of a struggle. But, in the end, I felt great, and it worked out perfectly," Simmons recalls.

On building her own village

These days, Simmons' closet isn't as much of a concern as the bed is. She tells Motherly Kole is a pretty good sleeper, and she and Abrams are more relaxed about his sleeping patterns than they were about Dahlia's, but of course with a new baby in the house, "no one's getting enough sleep, ever, as a new parent."

That's one of the reasons Simmons has been strategic about building a support system for her family in New York City, because her family isn't there and she can't just drive over to Grandma's house for a break when Kole has kept her up at night.

"I realized as soon as I had my daughter how valuable that is. It would've been incredible if I had chosen to live in the same city as my parents or my in-laws, and we would've had built-in support and family, and cousins, and aunts, and all those people. But, we don't," she says, noting that today, a lot of people don't.

"You need hands. You need help. It is so exhausting, and there's so many pieces to it. You can't be alone, and it's very isolating, the experience of early motherhood, those early weeks. So, the second time around, what has been great is we already have a system. We know what to expect, and we have help."

The family already had childcare in place for Dahlia, something that Simmons has been sure to budget for in her quest to "create and outsource" a local support system in NYC. She says it's a big part of her financial planning.

"Sometimes it feels counterintuitive to be making a certain amount of money, and spending it all on childcare. Like, what's the point in working? I could just stay home and save all that money," she explains, adding that there's a lot of trade-offs and reasons why it is so worth it to her. "It's very fraught with layers of back and forth. Mom guilt versus work life, and the career that I spent 20 years creating."

On why moms need support

Simmons says she loves her work, she's proud of it and that it's made her a better mom. "I can show my daughter that I can go and do it for my own mental health, and then can come back and be a mother to my children, too, and be more present when I am."

A Canadian whose career brought her to America, Simmons points out the United States could do better in supporting working mothers, through affordable childcare and parental leave.

"I come from Canada where all of my friends got 365 days off with each of their children, no questions asked. Now, there's also paternity, or co-spouse leave, that would tack on another six months if they wanted. So, those examples are hard to look at when I find that I'm going back to work after just a handful of weeks, which seems insane," she tells Motherly.

"The physical and mental weight of returning to work so quickly after having a child, no matter who you are, and how fraught that is with complicated feeling, not only emotions, but physically...Even in the best case scenarios, childbirth is still really intense, and physically taxing."

Simmons obviously isn't going to take a year of parental leave (she's already back at work in a some capacities), but she is taking time now to prepare herself and her family for the TV projects she has on the horizon.

"Right now, I'm hoping to have a really quiet and lovely summer with my kids, and get to know this little guy who has just come into our lives, and just kind of take care of myself, because that's I think the biggest factor in motherhood," she says.

Rest up Gail. You deserve it.

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

When we buy baby gear we expect it to be safe, and while no parent wants to hear that their gear is being recalled we appreciate when those recalls happen as a preventative measure—before a baby gets hurt.

That's the case with the recent recall of Baby Trend's Tango Mini Stroller. No injuries have been reported but the recall was issued because a problem with the hinge joints mean the stroller can collapse with a child in it, which poses a fall risk.

"As part of our rigorous process, we recently identified a potential safety issue. Since we strongly stand by our safety priority, we have decided to voluntarily recall certain models of the Tango Mini Strollers. The recalled models, under excessive pressure, both hinge joints could release, allowing the stroller to collapse and pose a fall hazard to children. Most importantly, Baby Trend has received NO reports of injuries," the company states on its website.

FEATURED VIDEO

The strollers were sold through Amazon and Target in October and November 2019 and cost between $100 and $120. If you've got one you should stop using it and contact Baby Trend for a refund or replacement.

Four models are impacted by this recall:

  • Quartz Pink (Model Number ST31D09A)
  • Sedona Gray (Model Number ST31D10A)
  • Jet Black (Model Number ST31D11A)
  • Purest Blue (Model Number ST31D03A

"If you determine that you own one of these specific model numbers please stop using the product and contact Baby Trend's customer service at 1-800-328-7363 or via email at info@babytrend.com," Baby Trend states.

News

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

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

FEATURED VIDEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News

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

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

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

FEATURED VIDEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News

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

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

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

FEATURED VIDEO

The challenges of breastfeeding in 2020

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

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

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

Calling for change in 2020

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

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

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

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

Mamas need to work + babies need to eat

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

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

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

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

News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.