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10 powerful ways we can help immigrant children separated from their parents

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[Update: If you're reading this in June 2019, there is a current article here.]

Their parents couldn't hear their cries, but now, America has. On Monday Propublica released heart-wrenching audio reportedly recorded inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility, which captured the cries of young children separated from their parents after coming to the United States from Central America. The children are believed to be between 4 and 10 years old, and their desperate sobs are harrowing.

The haunting audio documents a practice a majority of Americans are against. A recent poll by CBS News found 67% of Americans say it's unacceptable to separate children from their parents after they cross the border.

Across the country mothers and fathers hear the voices of their own children in those of the immigrant children on the recording, and so many are asking each other 'what can we do?'

It may seem like an overwhelming situation, but there are powerful actions any parent can take to create change for the children who are crying for their parents in a scary new place. We can't hug them and hold them close, or reunite them with their moms and dads right now, but we can do the following:

1. Donate to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)

A non-profit that aims to reunite families and help kids feel safe, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) needs funds to fulfil its mission. The Texas-based nonprofit aims to "directly fund the bond necessary to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings" and "ensure legal representation for EVERY child in Texas' immigration courts."

2. Call your representatives

As much as many parents wish we could tear down those chain link walls and put babies back with their mothers, we, as individuals, don't have the power to do that or to stop it from happening in the future. The U.S. government does have that power though, and the American people have the power to elect them. You can call your senator and let them know that you will not stand for this.

If you don't know what number to call, you can punch your zip code into the ACLU's website and it will route your call to the appropriate representative. If you don't know what to say, the ACLU has prepared a script. Just say hello to the congressional staffer who picks up the phone and tell then you want to see

3. Encourage others to call their representatives

Tell your friends that you've made that call and ask them to call, too. A lot of people have never called a politician's office before, so let those in your circle know about how the ACLU will route their call and pass on the short script for those who get flustered on the phone.

4. Find a local protest

When we stand together our voices are amplified. If you're looking to join in a protest of immigrant family separation policies, check out Families Belong Together. The organization has created a growing list of rallies and vigils in support of the families.

5. Organize your own protest

If there is no protest or rally organized in your area, you may want to organize your own. Father-of-two Ron Piovesan organized a protest in the Bay Area. "There's a lot of people who are very angry with what's going on; they're feeling helpless," he told NBC of his Father's Day protest.

According to NBC, "Piovesan passed out slips of paper encouraging people to take action, to call their representatives and donate to legal aid groups trying to help immigrant detainees."

The Community Toolbox at the University of Kansas offers an in-depth guide to planning a public demonstration. The guide's authors note the most important part of organizing a planned rally, vigil, march or sit-in is planning. Call your City Hall to find out if you need permits for the space you plan to use and let the local police know where and for how long you will be protesting.

Communicating with your fellow protesters is also important. Start by inviting anyone you think may share your passion for reuniting children with their parents and stopping future separations. Then figure out an effective communication system, like a group text or Facebook group, to keep participants in the loop and allow you to delegate responsibilities and coordinate times.

If you're trying to reach legislators, consider protesting outside the State House, but a protest in your own neighbourhood can also be of service by educating the public. Be prepared to give people practical information, like the ACLU phone script, and the number for your local representative. Picket signs let people know that this isn't just a gathering, it's a protest, so bust out the Sharpies and cardboard and get creative.

6. Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

You may have seen mom-of-two Chrissy Teigen tweeting about this recently. She and husband John Legend called for concerned fellow parents to donate to the organization which is raising money to defend asylum-seeking immigrant parents who've been separated from their children.

7. Volunteer

If you've got experience in immigration law of translation, organizations like the Texas Civil Rights Project can put you to work in the fight to reunite parents and children. They are reportedly in need of translators who speak "Spanish, Mam, Q'eqchi' or K'iche'" and people with have paralegal or legal assistant experience in McAllen, TX.

8. Donate to Together Rising

Motherly previously reported on the efforts of "Love Warrior" author Glennon Doyle and her charity, Together Rising, in raising funds to help these children get the legal support they need. The organization has already "funded the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project for an angel team of four lawyers and 3 legal assistants to represent children detained in Arizona detention centers and their families; and the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights in order to cover the costs of a lawyer and social worker who will be operating around the country and on the border to provide advocacy and healing to unaccompanied, detained children."

Now, Together Rising is helping other organizations dedicated to helping these kids, including Kids In Need of Defence and RAICES.

9. Keep talking about it

According to CBS News, 90% of Democrats polled find the practice of separating kids and families to be unacceptable. Republicans are "more divided" with 39% saying it's unacceptable and 1 in 5 saying they have not heard enough about it to say either way. If someone in your circle hasn't heard about this, tell them, and tell them that you're not standing for it.

10. Teach your children empathy

With this story pouring out of every smartphone, television and radio in our country, our children may be worried about the idea that kids are being taken from their parents. Parents may need to reassure their kids that they are safe, but there are other topics of conversation that can help our kids keep future children safe. By talking about empathy and kindness with our kids we can raise kind, empathic people who won't let this happen to the next generation's children.


[Update: June 20, 2018, adding additional links to charitable organizations]

Additional organizations currently accepting donations:

American Immigration Council: Tells Motherly it has "staff on the ground at the Dilley, Texas family detention center helping families, and we are documenting the terrible conditions of detention and bringing lawsuits to challenge them." Provides pro-bono lawyers to people in detention through the Immigration Justice Campaign.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: Provides "emergency legal aid to refugee families".

Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services: Provides "free and low cost immigration services".

Justice for Our Neighbors: Provides low income families with "affordable, high quality immigration legal services".

Kids In Need of Defense: According to its website, KIND "partners with major law firms, corporations, law schools, and bar associations to create a nationwide pro bono network to represent unaccompanied children through their immigration proceedings."

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center: States it is "dedicated to serving the legal needs of low income immigrants, including refugees, victims of crime, and families seeking reunification."

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: The faith-based organization "works with refugees, children, and migrants to ensure they are protected and welcomed into local communities throughout the United States."

South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR): A joint project of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, ProBAR "is a national effort to provide pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas by the United States government. "

The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights: Provides independent Child Advocates to stand up for unaccompanied immigrant children and "champion the child's best interests".

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It's that time of year again—and, no, we don't mean back to school. If you're in the market for any baby products, mama, it turns out that September is the time to pick them up, as it's Best of Baby Month at Walmart.com. If you're just hearing about what this is now, don't worry, you've got plenty of time to get in on the savings. It's essentially just like a month-long Black Friday for baby essentials (read: massive savings on baby items happening online now through September 30th.) Yes, we know, we think that it's amazing, too.

Even better, when it comes to high chairs, baby monitors, strollers, and nursery necessities, Walmart.com has your budget in mind, and your baby's safety at heart. Whether you're rounding out your registry or updating your gear to prepare for a new sibling, here's how to save big on a few of our personal favorites online.

Evenflo ExerSaucer Bounce and Learn

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With toys they can touch, see and hear, your little one will stay busy—and safe!—in this adorable tea party-themed activity center. Baby can rock, spin, and bounce, which strengthens their muscles, and you can easily remove and machine wash the padded seat cover when it's time for a cleaning.

Price: $44 (regularly $59)

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Tommee Tippee Pump + Go Complete Breast Milk Set

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Mamas who pump know that they don't call breast milk liquid gold for nothing; it's devastating to lose even a single drop. This innovative set includes an adapter that fits most pumps and breast milk pouches that can be filled, stored, warmed, and placed in bottles for feeding. There's even a storage case to keep your fridge or freezer from overflowing with filled pouches.

Price: $48.99 (regularly $99.99)

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MobiCam HDX Smart HD WiFi Baby Monitoring Camera

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Whether you're just downstairs in the living room or living it up on a much-needed date night, you can keep an eye on baby from the convenience of your phone. The high-definition camera, which pans and tilts to let you see every corner of the room, offers exceptional night vision as well as two-way audio so you can listen and respond. Motion alerts and notifications mean you won't miss a thing, even when you're not glued to your phone.

Price: $43.99 (regularly $59.99)

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Safe Dream Wearable Blanket

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Babies spend a lot of time sleeping, which means you'll want to stock up so there's always a wearable blanket at the ready. The safe alternative to loose blankets, this HALO design helps baby warm and cozy to help him sleep soundly through the night… and much of the day, too!

Price: $11.99 (regularly $15.99)

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Evenflo Pivot Xpand Modular Travel System

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There's so much to love about this car seat and stroller travel system, from its self-standing fold to its oversized storage basket to its flip-flop friendly brake. The modular design can accommodate one or two seats in up to 22 different configurations, so you can push baby and big brother or sister in one stroller, and its lightweight frame is easy to transport (because, we get it, you have your hands full).

Price: $322.22 (regularly $352.22)

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South Shore Angel 4 Drawer Chest

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Round drawer pulls and a curvy bottom edge lend chic French country style to this simple chest of drawers. Made from eco-friendly materials, it's easy to assemble and the perfect size for a nursery (and then a big kid's room!). To complement a room of any color scheme, the small dresser is also available in chocolate brown, cherry wood and gray.

Price: $119 (regularly $149)

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This article is sponsored by Walmart . Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The internet moves so fast it can seem like you're missing out on all the good news and only seeing the bad, but here at Motherly we know that there is so much good in the world and even on the internet.

In an age when outrage and anger dominate online spaces, we fill this space with uplifting news each week. We recognize that life is hard right now. Mamas have a lot to worry about. This week's viral headlines included the fact that giving birth costs a ton (which of course isn't news to anyone who has given birth recently) and a pregnant star's boyfriend publicly taking a stand against epidurals (good thing he's not the one giving birth). Stories like those are important but can be, frankly, exhausting.

So here are the stories that made us smile this week to perk you up, mama:

This viral video of toddler besties hugging will melt your heart

Social media users are going crazy over this adorable video of two toddler boys hugging in the street...and we can't say we blame them. As parents, we're constantly trying to capture the cutest moments from our kids' day-to-day lives—and one New York dad recently struck gold when he managed to snag a video of his son and his "bestie" running into each other's arms.

The dad, Michael Cisneros, took a video of his son, Maxwell, spotting his best friend on a New York street. The scene is absolutely precious: Maxwell and his friend, Finnegan, are so obviously overjoyed to see one another. They run straight towards each other and hug, and our hearts completely melt every single time we watch it unfold.

We aren't the only ones who can't get enough of this adorable video—Cisneros posted the clip on his Facebook and it is (unsurprisingly) going viral.

"This is just so beautiful. Finnegan + Maxwell= BESTIES!!! If we could all be like this," Cisneros writes alongside the photo.

According to Cisneros, the boys have been friends for about a year. "When they are away from each other, they are always asking about one another," he tells ABC News. "They go to music class together...and they love to dance—both are excellent dancers."

Social media users can't get enough of these sweet toddlers and their friendship. "This just made my year," one social media user comments. "Bless your beautiful little guy and his equally beautifully bestie! I watched this several times in a row. Thanks for sharing all that joy! ❤️" another adds.

We couldn't love this more! In addition to just being really, really cute, this clip teaches us how important these special friendships are, and how you're never too young to make these bonds. Kudos to this dad for recognizing these special moments, and props to these sweet toddlers for spreading so much love.

Viral birth story: This teacher gave birth at school + her colleagues helped 

Mom and teacher Lindsay Agbalokwu was due to give birth to her second child on September 17, so when she walked into work weeks before that date she thought it would be like any other day. She could not have imagined she would end up giving birth on school grounds, with her colleagues (including one of her close friends) by her side.

But early in the morning, she found herself in pain and the school's vice principal went to enlist her friend and fellow teacher, Marissa Kast, to come and help her. When Kast found her friend, she knew it was clear things were progressing. She didn't yet know that her friend's baby would be born very shortly, on school grounds.

"I told our vice principal 'I'm taking her to the hospital'...So I got my car, I had to pull it around to the other side of the building where Lindsay was," Kast tells Motherly.

By the time Kast moved her car she could see the school's principal, Natalie Lewis, and dean of students, Chris Earls were helping Agbalokwu out of the school. The pregnant teacher "was barely standing on her own and then she was in labor," Kast explains. As the principal dialed 911, Agbalokwu's water broke.

Kast happened to have a sleeping bag in her car, so she placed it on the sidewalk and had the expectant mother lay down while an emergency dispatcher gave the educators instructions to assist with the delivery.

"[I thought] please let them get here in time. Like, I do not want to deliver a baby," Kast says. "This was not on my agenda for today. And so we lay her down, we kind of got her settled and then I heard sirens and I was like, 'I hear sirens, just hold on like you can do this'...She had Chris on one side, Natalie on the other and she clutching their hands, pretty much breaking them."

Soon a fire truck was there and firefighters were delivering little baby Zara into the world. Kast says she's forever grateful to those firefighters who showed up and helped her friend in the nick of time.

"We got her ready, we were there helping her, like coaching her, but they are the two that delivered this baby," she says.

Kast knew Agbalokwu's husband would be sad to have missed the birth of the couple's second child, so she channeled her inner birth photographer and snapped a couple of photos of mama and baby before calling Agbalokwu's husband and instructing him to meet them at the hospital.

Once her friend was safely at the hospital, Kast returned to the school to teach seventh grade before heading back to the hospital in the evening to have pizza with Zara's parents.

We imagine Agbalokwu never expected for her school's fellow teacher, principal and dean to step in and help her while she was in labor, but hey—they did what needed to be done. And we couldn't be more impressed by how it all unfolded.

The Agbalokwus are now resting up at home with Zara's big brother Zeke, and Kast still cannot believe that her friend had a baby so quickly, at school, on the sleeping bag she just happened to have in her car.

This father's advice to partners of breastfeeding mamas is #dadgoals

Muhammed Nitoto is the dad behind the popular Instagram account @ChroniclesofDaddy and this week he is going viral for the sweetest list of ways partners can help breastfeeding moms.

Nitoto wanted to "drop some knowledge on his fellow dads and soon-to-be dads" so he made a list of what fathers should be aware of when it comes to breastfeeding and he agreed to let Motherly share his list .

Here are his top 5 tips for new dads:

"1. For night feedings. When mom wakes up in the middle of the night. You get up and ask if she needs any help or water. The truth is most of the time she will say no but just the fact that you offered will go far.

"2. Ask mom if she can pump and then pick 1 feeding that you will always do. Mom will take on almost everything and will burn herself out if you let her. At times you may have to force her to rest without worrying about the baby. This is an easy way to do that without a fight.

"3. Don't put a time limit on how long mom breastfeed the baby. It's not just about feeding your child it's about them bonding as well. I know everyone has a diffrent length of time they will breastfeed and as a Dad it's hard to fully understand. Do not I repeat DO NOT try and rush this process it's not our place and it's not safe. You will open yourself up to a fight you can't win.

"4. Be patient. I know as a Dad the first few weeks we are equally excited and yet not as important yet. Your time will come faster than you know. Babies grow fast and the stronger bigger they get the more Daddy Time will be coming your way.

"5. Paternity leave! If you have it TAKE IT. The early stages of a childs life are not just for moms to enjoy. I know as men making the money especially after having a baby but trust me. You can always make money but there are no instant replays in life. It doesn't make you more of a man to not take the leave. It's equally as important that you as a Dad get to be a part of the early development of your child. "

Thanks for the advice, Nitoto! Share this with a dad who you know wants to help!

This mom's viral tweet proves why working #momguilt is so unnecessary

Now she's a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who teaches journalism at Kent State University, but back in 1989, Connie Schultz was a working mom who, like many of us, was wracked with mom guilt.

That year, Schultz snapped a photo of her toddler daughter, Cait, imitating her while she was on the phone doing an interview. This week, she tweeted that photo alongside another, more recent picture of Cait, taken in 2016 as testified before a state committee about the need for paid parental leave while wearing her own baby.

"In '89, I'm doing phone interview & see toddler Cait imitating me. 1st thought: Oh, no. 2nd thought: Oh, wow. In '16, Cait wears 3-mo-old Milo as she testifies before RI leg committee on need for paid sick leave for all families. My working-mom guilt was a such a waste of time," Schultz captioned the two side-by-side images.

It's true. Schultz should not feel guilty, and neither should any working mother.

Research shows us that daughters of working mothers earn 23% more than daughters of mothers who never worked for pay outside the home and that sons of working mothers grow up to do twice as much unpaid work around the house.

Of course, not all moms want to work, and it is absolutely possible to have awesome outcomes like these even if you don't, but a lot of moms do want to do paid work. Motherly's second annual State of Motherhood survey found a "desire to participate in work outside the household" is a common feeling for millennial moms.

When our kids pretend to send emails or take work calls we should not be wracked with guilt, we should be filled with pride because they are watching be the people we want to be and know that they can do it too.

[A version of this post was published September 10, 2019. It has been updated.]

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Neil Patrick Harris is an excellent communicator. He's an amazing actor and just released his third young adult novel, The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third. But now that Neil's twins, 8-year-olds Harper and Gideon, are in third grade Neil and his husband, chef David Burtka, are having to get more intentional about the way they communicate with their kids.

Specifically, they're going beyond asking, "How was your day?" because Neil (like many parents) knows that asking the question this way typically leads to one-word answers.

"It takes a minute to remember that yes or no questions, at least to 8 and 9-year-olds, doesn't really encourage them to embellish very much," Neil told Motherly while promoting his partnership with Quaker Chewy to help drive donations to Adopt a Classroom, a non-profit that helps get school supplies into classrooms.

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Harris is passionate about getting teachers and kids the school supplies they need, and he's also passionate about finding out what his kids get up to in their classrooms. According to Harris, the key to getting kids to open up is taking this question further and giving kids a direction to take the conversation in.

"I try to ask them questions as if it is some kind of game. 'Tell me three things that happened today at school—one that was funny, one that was exciting and one that was a little bit scary,'" he explains.

The father of two says this helps the kids take on the challenge of opening up and having a conversation, rather than just serving up rote replies. That's why Harris tries not to ask things like, "What did you learn today?" or, "How was school?" (but like all of us, he sometimes slips up).

"Because unless they really want to share a specific thing, there's so many options on how to answer those kinds of questions. I ask them myself, but I catch myself. You're gonna have to be a little more bespoke in your questioning to get the answers you want."

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For so many parents, finding and funding childcare is a constant struggle. How would your life change if you didn't have to worry about finding and paying for quality childcare? Would you go back to work? Work more hours? Or just take the four figures you'd save each month and pay off your student loans faster?

These hypothetical scenarios played in the minds of some American parents last night when—during the opening moments of the third Democratic debate—the Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, called for a bold new vision for America that includes universal pre-K.

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Some of his fellow presidential hopefuls agree that the time has come for better access to childcare and early childhood education in America.

Joe Biden also wants to see "high-quality, universal pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds". Sen. Bernie Sanders says "states should receive funding for universal pre-kindergarten programs and full-day kindergarten." Sen. Cory Booker says "the federal government should guarantee that all children have access to high-quality pre-K." Andrew Yang, too says he will "create a plan for universal pre-kindergarten education."

Meanwhile, Sen, Kamala Harris and Beto O'Rourke support the Child Care for Working Families Act (which would cap how much families are spending on childcare at 7% of household income), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar supports free universal pre-K for low-income families.

And of course, Senator Elizabeth Warren has her much-discussed plan for free or affordable "high-quality child care and early education for every child in America" which includes kids outside of the 3 and 4-year-old pre-K cohort. She's looking to get free or affordable childcare for every kid in America, from birth to school age.

Universal pre-K and childcare will be a cornerstone of Warren's campaign for 2020. It's a lofty goal, but is it doable?

Supporters note it's been done in other countries for decades. In Finland, for example, every child has had access to free universal day care since the early 1990s. Sweden, too, has been building its universal childcare system for decades.

Critics of Warren's plan worry about the price tag and potential for ballooning bureaucracy, and some are concerned that subsidizing childcare could actually make it more expensive for those who have a government-funded spot, as it could result in fewer private childcare providers.

But subsidized childcare had lowered prices in other places. In Sweden, parents pay less than $140 USD to send children to preschool. In Finland, the cost per child varies by municipality, household income and family size. A parent on the lower end of the income spectrum might pay as little as the equivalent of $30 USD, and the maximum fee is about $330 a month.

But Finland's population is on par with Minnesota's. Sweden is comparable to Michigan.

So could the Nordic model scale to serve the hundreds of millions of families in America?

As Eeva Penttila, speaking as the head of international relations for Helsinki, Finland's education department once told The Globe and Mail, "you can't take one element out and transfer it to your own country. Education is the result of culture, history and the society of a nation."

Right now America spends less on early childhood education than most other developed countries (only Turkey, Latvia, and Croatia spend less), but that wasn't always the case. This nation does have a history of investing in childcare, if we look back far enough.

Back in World War II, when women needed to step into the workforce as men fought overseas, America invested in a network of childcare to the tune of $1 billion (adjusted to today's money) and served hundreds of thousands of families in almost every state through center-based care. Parents paid between $0.50 and $0.75 per child per day (the equivalent of about $10 in today's money).

So America does have a historical and cultural precedent, not to mention a current model of universal preschool that is working, right now, in the nation's capital. In D.C. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress. Seventy percent of 3-year-old are going too, and the program has increased the city's maternal workforce participation rate by more than 10%.

It won't happen overnight

While some American parents might be daydreaming of a life without a four-figure day care bill in 2020, the road to true universal childcare for all children in America would be a long one. Peter Moss, a researcher at the University of London's Institute of Education, previously told The Globe and Mail it took Sweden "many years to get it right."

Indeed, the 1990s saw long wait lists at Swedish day cares, but the growing pains of the '90s paved the way for the enviable system Swedes enjoy today.

According to Moss, governments in other countries look at the Nordic model and "tend to say, 'We can't do that.' But what they really mean is 'We can't suddenly do that.' In other countries, they just don't get to grips with what needs doing and actually plot a course."

Maybe America's starting point is found in its history books, or in the modern day preschools of the nation's capital, or in the conversations happening between now and 2020. It doesn't have to be Warren's plan, but America does need a plan for safer, more affordable childcare.

[A version of this post was originally published February 21, 209. It has been updated.]

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What happens when men get paternity leave (and actually take it)? In America, most fathers take less than two weeks off after the birth of a child so there's not enough information to draw any data, but in Spain when fathers got parental leave they started wanting fewer children.

As first reported by Quartz, most dads in Spain have been getting two weeks of parental leave since 2007, and the amount was doubled to four weeks in 2017. In 2018, the dads got another extra week and more increases are expected. It makes sense that the program will be expanded because it's been super successful: Dads who take parental leave still go back to work, but are more engaged with their children, and the moms are more likely to get back to work because they have an engaged partner to help carry the load.

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That's what researchers found when they looked back on the data, but that also found something surprising: After taking parental leave, the dads in Spain now want fewer kids.

In a study published in the Journal of Public Economics researchers suggest the reason Spanish dads might want fewer kids now is because they're more aware of how hard it is to bring up kids. At the same time, mothers started showing an interest in having slightly more children, suggesting that when the workload is more evenly shared, motherhood is more enjoyable.

There are a number of factors at play here, and it's really impossible to say if the paternity leave policies are the only reason why Spanish moms and dads are rethinking the right number of children for their families, but we know this: Right now a lot of dads want to be doing more childcare, but feel like they can't. At the same time, fathers are happier than mothers because when they do spend time with their kids, it's more often on fun things.

A recent study out of the University of California Riverside found that dads are more likely to be playing with the kids while moms are more likely to be doing the "work" of raising kids. But as the Spanish data suggests, when dads are able to take the time to do some of the day-to-day stuff, both parents benefit.

It follows that parental leave for dads is good for fathers and mothers and babies. Dads don't go back to work so early that they feel like they're not really a parent, moms have support and a partner who truly understands the demands of parenting, and babies are healthier. We also know that when dads take leave they feel more engaged in fatherhood and infant mortality rates go down.

Other countries can't copy and paste Spain's paternity leave policy, but we can certainly learn from it when making our own.

[This post was originally published May 16, 2019.]

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