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The invisible labor of motherhood is real—and it’s burning us out

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When you're parenting with a partner household responsibilities can, in theory, be shared by both parents, but too often they are not. We know that while today's dads are doing more at home than previous generations mothers still shoulder more of the childcare and housekeeping duties. But there are other responsibilities—often invisible ones—that are also disproportionately burdening moms.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey found the majority of moms (61%) report handling most household chores and responsibilities themselves and 62% report having less than an hour to themselves in the last day in which they didn't have some kind of obligation to take care of.

Our survey isn't the only data highlighting this trend. It is common for American mothers in heterosexual relationships to say they shoulder more household responsibilities than the men in their lives, and much of this work is invisible. Making appointments, keeping track of activities and school schedules, booking the babysitter and replenishing the toilet paper is the kind of work that doesn't get noticed when it's been done, only when it hasn't.

A recent study published in the journal Sex Roles found almost 90% of the 393 married or partnered American mothers researchers surveyed say they are solely responsible for their family's schedule. Nearly 80% say they are the one who deals with the kids' teachers and school, and two-thirds feel they're the one responsible for attending to their children's emotional needs as well.

In short, the study proves that in so many ways, mama is still the default parent in most American households (even though 65% of the moms surveyed are working outside the home, too).

The study's first author, Lucia Ciciolla, calls mothers' invisible labor a prerequisite for all other labor in the family, the "behind-the-scenes directing that keeps the show running."

"Even though women may be physically doing fewer loads of laundry, they continue to hold the responsibility for making sure the detergent does not run out, all the dirty clothes make it into the wash and that there are always clean towels available," Ciciolla explains.

It's not a shock to hear that the women who indicated they were in charge of everything at home reported they felt overwhelmed with parenthood, exhausted and have little time to themselves.

"Sole responsibility for household management showed links with moms' distress levels, but with the almost 90% of women feeling solely responsible, there was not enough variability in the data to detect whether this association was statistically significant," says Suniya Luthar, Foundation Professor of psychology at Arizona State University and the study's senior author. "At the same time, there's no question that constant juggling and multitasking at home negatively affects mental health," she explains.

According to Luthar, research in developmental science indicates that mothers are first responders to kids' distress and being that responder is "a very weighty job; it can be terrifying that you're making decisions, flying solo, that might actually worsen rather than improve things for your children's happiness."

Some people parent with partners so that they have a partner, but in a very real way too many of us feel alone. We don't have a co-pilot, we've only got passengers. Ciciolla agrees, and says that measuring the mental labor of mothers is important because it can allow steps to be taken within marriages or partnerships to alleviate some of this stress on mothers.

"We really recommend families take stock of their household and recognize all that goes into making things run so that families can be more aware of the true distribution of labor and make some informed decisions about how to ease that burden and share that burden across parents," says Ciciolla.

So mama, if you're overwhelmed ask your partner to come up to the cockpit and co-pilot with you. Ask them to try making some of the kid's appointments, meet their teachers or prioritize detergent purchasing. According to Claire M. Kamp Dush, Ph.D., an associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, mothers should feel empowered to move some stuff off their plate, even if that means you might end up with Gain instead of Tide, or someone misses a soccer practice.

"Have a conversation with your partner parent about 'what are some things that you can take off my plate because I'm really overwhelmed,'" Kamp Dush previously told Motherly. "Let your partner actually takes these things on and then trust [them] to do it."

For single moms, reach out to your village for support. See if you can split duties with another mom friend or ask Grandma or Grandpa for help with scheduling. Luthar says that all mothers need dependable, authentic connections with others who are supportive, and that science shows that for working moms regular support groups with other mothers led to lower stress levels and fewer cases of burnout.

Ciciolla says these conversations at home are really important, but so is the wider cultural conversation as it will allow "society to consider the magnitude of the responsibilities that our mothers take on at home and often in the workplace."

She hopes that this research will help people realize that in order for mothers to thrive, we need to lighten the load.

So do we.

[This post was originally published January 23, 2019. It has been updated.]

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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We are almost into Pumpkin Spice season—this summer, this month and this week have flown by! But don't worry, we've been taking note of the good news stories you need to read when you have a moment to slow down.

Grab a coffee and get comfortable, mama, because these are the headlines that made us smile this week:

This kindergarten father is total #dadgoals

As Today reports, dad Jamie DeSpain is going viral for making his kindergarten daughter's day by taking her stuffed cat, Sophia, to work with him and putting her to work.

DeSpain's oldest daughter, Hadley, had been taking Sofia the cat with her to school as she made the big leap into kindergarten this month, but last week her dad realized she'd forgotten Sofia in the van when he'd dropped her off at school. DeSpain didn't want to cause an interruption at school, so he just brought Sofia into work with him and began texting his wife, Erica, photos of Sophia doing work around the office.

"I kind of have a goofy streak and Hadley really appreciates goofiness," Jamie DeSpain, who lives in Madison, Alabama, told Today Parents. "Combine that with her love for stuffed animals...[it] made for the perfect dad setup."

He took pics of Sophia taking phone calls, doing emails, having coffee and even having a pensive look out the window, which DeSpain captioned: "wondering what Hadley is doing."

When dad got home, his daughter was thrilled with her stuffed animal's big day out and was happy to be reunited with both her father and Sofia. Hadley was so thrilled with the experience that she asked her dad to repeat the mission the next day with her stuffed dog, Mocha. The cotton-filled canine was spotted doing various office tasks and, of course, drinking some coffee. 😂

Hadley's mama says her husband's antics were a welcome bit of fun and helped the family remember that while kindergarten is a big step, Hadley's still a little kid (and it seems her dad is too, at least at heart).

"Sending Hadley off to kindergarten has been a big transition for us as a family, but this activity reminded us that she's still little," Erica DeSpain said."We want to soak up that childlike wonder as much as we can, and this activity was a great way to do just that."

We think office buildings are about to see an infestation of stuffed animals!

This father's viral Instagram video is total #dadgoals

Father Jimmy Howell has gone viral for giving his 9-month-old daughter Kensley an adorable pedicure.

"She got a little crazy with me today due to the fact that I was filing her nails a little too rough, y'all see why I can't do anything for free, I'm charging her next week, just watch," he captioned the video he posted to Instagram.

"Kensey, this is free," He jokes in the video after Kensley seems to protest the spa service for moment. 😂

With the power of dad humor, Howell not only got the baby's toes clipped (which is hard to do!) but got her laughing, too. He says he has weekly "spa talks" with his daughter, so it's no wonder his baby nail skills are so on point.

Viral kindness: "Please ask me if I have sunscreen" 

We have all been there—sometimes you're the one who needs an extra diaper and sometimes you're the one who has one to give. The point is, every parent needs help sometimes and most are happy to pay it forward when it is their turn to give a diaper to a stranger in need.

Wisconsin mom Shelby Beck captured this perfectly in a Facebook post this week after she went to the park with her daughter and a fellow mama had to ask her for a favor.

When the stranger approached Beck, she could tell she was uncomfortable. "She shrugged her shoulders and quietly said 'I'm embarrassed to even ask, but do you happen to have sunscreen we can use?' As if she was somehow ashamed that she forgot to pack sunscreen today." Beck wrote.

She continued her Facebook post with an open letter to parents who find themselves in the same situation as the sheepish stranger.

"Dear fellow mamas,

Please ask me if I have sunscreen. Ask if I have baby wipes, diapers or even extra snacks.

Ask me if your toddler can sit down and play with us while you find a shady bench to nurse your newborn.

Hand me your phone and ask me to take a picture of you with your sweet babies - we all know mamas aren't in enough photos.

Ask for help. Ask for love. Ask for anything.

Even though we are strangers, please ask me.

It's not easy being responsible for little humans but it's easier if we help each other out.
We're all in this together.❤️"

We could not agree with Shelby more. Mamas helping mamas is a beautiful thing (and asking for sunscreen could even lead to making a mom friend!).

Oh, and one last thing...

Oh, and if you need a good cry this weekend, check out this viral Michael Bublé video that has parents everywhere crying about our kids growing up. Team Motherly could not get through it without sobbing! Just like summer, their childhoods will be over before we know it so take some time to connect with your babies this weekend. They're off to kindergarten today—off to college tomorrow! 😭


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News

We may still be in flip-flops, but at Starbucks, at least, fall is nearly upon us. Yes, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is almost back. You can get your PSL on as early as next week, mama.

Starbucks says baristas will be slinging the PSL again on August 27. The earliest return of the PSL ever.

The drink that has become a cultural phenomenon, launching an entire category of imitation products (not to mention a whole season) is marking its 16th anniversary this year.



The PSL has become, as one Starbucks exec put it, "a harbinger of the [fall] season." It almost wasn't called the PSL though. According to Starbucks, it was almost named the "Fall Harvest Latte"—which doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

If you just can't wait until next week for your PSL fix, the grocery store versions are already hitting store shelves. The new creamer, bottled PSLs, Pumpkin Spice Flavored Ground Coffee, Starbucks® K-Cup pods, Instant Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Pumpkin Spice Cookie Straws are helping fall-lovers get their fix.


It may still feel like summer, but we can't deny that change is in the air. At least we'll have the PSL to keep us warm when it's time to put away the flip-flops.

[A version of this post was originally published August 22, 2018. It has been updated.]

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News

When you're a mama on the move, safe car seats are a necessity but can be a budget buster, especially if you're looking to upgrade or have to furnish multiple cars. Luckily, Target is here to fix that.

Target is bringing back their popular car seat trade-in program from Tuesday, September 3 – Friday, September 13.

Just bring your old car seat to the recycling bin near Guest Services and a Target team member will give you a coupon for 20% off a new a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller. And the coupon can also be applied to select baby gear, such as high chairs, swings, rockers and bouncers. 👏

The coupon is eligible through Saturday, Sept.14, 2019, so if you don't see the seat of your dreams in store when you drop off your old one, you'll want to check out the online selection and act pretty fast.

With the exception of the small format stores, all Targets will be taking car seats between September 3 and 13. (You can find a participating store near you here.)

Target has held several of these car seat trade-in events since 2016 in an effort to help parents recycle the seats, which are not eligible for curbside recycling and take up a lot of space when sent to landfills. The retailer hands over all the old car seats to Waste Management, and the materials are recycled to make grocery carts, plastic buckets and construction materials like steel beams.

The event is really a win-win—we get to keep our kids safe while giving the car seats that protected them a second life. Just another reason to love Target.

[A version of this post was originally published April 18, 2018. It has been updated.]

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News

Michael Bublé knows how to make music that makes us feel all the feels, and his viral lyric video for his song "Forever Now" proves it.

If you've got kids heading back to school, watch this at your own risk and with some tissues handy, mama.

Michael Bublé - Forever Now [Official Lyric Video] youtu.be

The video is a simple animation of a child's room as it transforms over time from a nursery to the packed-up bedroom of a young adult leaving the nest. We held it together until it got to this part: "It wasn't so long ago, we walked together and you held my hand. and now you're getting too big to want to."

The video reminds us of the classic children's book Love You Forever, and that the babies in our arms today will one day be in someone else's arms.

Right now, when our days are filled with bottle washing and shoe getting and making sure that no one falls asleep in their car seat the days sometimes feel so long, but Bublé's telling us something that we sometimes forget: One day we will be looking back and wondering why these long days went by so fast.

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