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It's harder than ever before for families to get by on a single income

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Despite the rising rates of women in the workforce throughout the past century, many millennials grew up in a time where it still seemed like a mother's choice to work or stay at home. But as we start families of our own, the reality can be harsh: It feels nearly impossible to make ends meet on a single income.

So where does that leave women who want to be stay-at-home mothers? In a difficult position, says Erin Odom, a mother of four in North Carolina, who left her job shortly after her first child was born. "We pinched our pennies, I say, until they bled," Odom says of trying to get by on her husband's salary from teaching. The Odoms eventually sought help from a financial advisor, who looked through their income and expenses. "At the end of the day he said, 'Look, you guys don't have a spending problem. But you do have an income problem. You don't have enough money to live.'"

They aren't alone: The fact is the rising cost of living in the United States continues to outpace inflation—which makes it difficult for young adults to build their bank accounts, let alone nest eggs for the future.

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And more people are starting out in the hole: According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, the likelihood of college students taking out loans grew by 40% between 1993 and 2012. Among that majority of students who did borrow, the standard amount of debt more than doubled during that time period to an average $26,885 for the class of 2011-2012.

While much has also been said about millennials' low rates of homeownership, that's yet another goal that is simply harder to obtain today. As United States Census Bureau data shows, the median home price in America in 1940 was $2,930. Adjusted for inflation, that should have been just over $30,000 by 2000. Instead it was $119,000—which jumped close to $200,000 by 2017.

The costs of other essentials are escalating, too, from health care ( average annual costs of $10,345 in 2016) to groceries (average weekly cost of $170 in 2017 for families with children) to rent (average monthly cost of $910 in 2017). Add to that the common expenses we have today that didn't exist just two decades ago—like cell phones, internet and streaming services—and it's little wonder that we need more money to stay afloat.

How this is driving more parents into the workforce

As expenses have been rising, so have the rates of two-income households. According to a 2015 report from the Pew Research Center, 60% of families had dual earners in 2012 versus just 25% in 1960.

For many reasons, this statistic is something to be celebrated: Women today now have more options and more empowerment in the ways they continue their careers after having children. As that same report shows, the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to continue working after children—suggesting this is largely a decision of her own volition.

But what the statistics don't reflect is how many of those women would prefer to stay at home.

"Staying at home with your child can be an amazing and nurturing experience, but it can come at a financial cost," Jennifer E. Myers, certified financial planner and president of SageVest Wealth Management, tells Motherly.

That's no small consideration. According to a calculator developed by the Center for American Progress, a 30-year-old woman who makes $55,000 each year could expect to lose $539,795 by staying at home with a child for five years—due to the combination of lost wages, lost wage growth and lost retirement assets.

Between the immediate loss of income and that long-term dilution of family earnings for women who step back from the workplace while children are young, Myers says families really need to evaluate their financial priorities before making the decision.

Although she always imagined she would stay home, Kristin Rampton, a mother of one in Kansas, made the decision to continue working full-time as a teacher after her daughter's birth in order to have a job with family healthcare benefits, which weren't offered by her husband's job.

"I always really struggled when people just assumed that it was a choice that I made when really it wasn't like a choice," Rampton tells Motherly. "That doesn't mean that there's not joy in it, in that role. It just means that the reason women work is not necessarily because they want that career kind of lifestyle."

The rise of side gigs

For the first time in decades, the number of stay-at-home moms is back on the rise, but what this doesn't reflect are how many of those moms are actually earning incomes from home on a part-time basis.

Now among this group is Odom, who details her experience in her new book, You Can Stay Home With Your Kids: 100 Tips, Tricks and Ways to Make it Work on a Budget. But the beginning of her journey wasn't easy.

"Once we got into it we realized, 'Wow, it's going to take more money than we realized. What can we do?'" Odom tells Motherly, explaining the budget felt much thinner once their second, third and then fourth child came along.

The Odoms began by curbing spending as much as possible, such as with cutting cable, shopping at discount grocers and accepting they couldn't take as many vacations. But her husband's salary still didn't seem to go far enough and their meeting with the financial advisor served as a wake-up call.

"Did I go to work full-time outside the home? Did my husband change careers and still support us? Or could I learn how to create an income from home?" Odom says. "That's what I ended up doing to be able to afford to stay at home with my kids."

She now advises other families on ways to earn supplemental income from the home, whether with blogging, creating products for sale, offering lessons or more creative ideas that make use of individual strengths.

Coming to terms with today

For families who want to make it work with fewer work hours, Myers of SageVest Wealth Management says some "serious prioritization" should happen—as well as accounting for unexpected expenses in the budget.

"If saving for things like family vacations, retirement, college funding and more are strong objectives, then you need to set a budget that covers the day-to-day expenses, plus the bigger and longer-term items," Myers says. "This is where most budgets fail. Too often, people only focus on the monthly items, forgetting about new tires, braces, car repairs, home repairs, etc. These items become budget busters and infringe upon longer-term saving objectives."

Often, cutting out lattes or manicures—the "money saving tips" that are commonly suggested on places like Pinterest—only goes so far.

"If you need to cut back on expenses, the first thing to do is understand how much you need to cut required relative to your overall spending," Myers says. "If it's a larger amount, you need to be more aggressive beyond simply changing your cable service."

For parents who are reluctantly sent back into the workforce or are burning the midnight oil to make ends meet, licensed marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain says to think about what you are providing to the family rather than the ways reality is different from your expectations.

"Often people confuse quantity time with quality time. People can spend a lot of time in the same space as their kids, but be on their phone or emotionally tuned out," she tells Motherly. "However, if it's a shorter amount of time but the mom is totally focused on their kids, this makes the kids feel important and cared about, which is really the bigger goal here."

As a working mother with a growing daughter, Rampton also hopes her daughter will take note. "I also have spent a lot of time thinking about the example that I'm modeling for her just by being a teacher and loving on kids and working really hard to achieve goals and all of those things I think she'll see one day and she'll think, 'Oh, my mom works really hard.'"

And, in the short-term, Rampton says she finds peace in knowing this arrangement is best for her marriage as well as her child.

"I think about the situation we're in with our student loans, with healthcare. I had to weigh the costs and the benefits of me working on my marriage," she says. "It just really is the best thing for my child, to be able to provide these things for, and it's the best thing for our marriage."

The reality is that even with the number of two-income families on the rise, working motherhood might not be every mom's first choice—but that doesn't make it the wrong choice or even the forever choice. We're all just trying our best to discover what's right for our families and our futures, and that means finding the best work-life balance is always going to be a work in progress.

[Originally published on April 24th, 2018]

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

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

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[Editor's Note: We support parents in making the best infant feeding choices for their family, whether that be formula feeding, breastfeeding, pumping, donor milk or any combination of feeding methods.]

Feeding babies takes a lot of effort, no matter what a baby is eating. Parents need support whether their baby is drinking breastmilk, formula or both, but we know mothers often don't feel supported in either choice. Mothers who choose or have to use formula often feel stigmatized, while mothers who breastfeed often get shunned for public breastfeeding or find themselves needing to pump in a workplace that offers no lactation room.

Individual mothers pay when society doesn't support parents in breastfeeding their babies. Formula can be expensive, but when workplaces discriminate against nursing moms, it's an expense some women have no choice but to take on. But that's not the cost we're discussing here.

A new website created by breastfeeding researchers Phan Hong Linh, Roger Mathisen and Dylan Walters suggests that, on a global scale, failing to support breastfeeding is costing an estimated $341 billion a year.

The Cost of Not Breastfeeding tool was developed by Alive & Thrive, an initiative to save lives and prevent illness worldwide through "through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices." To be clear, the site isn't targeted at individual parents who are unable or choose not to breastfeed their babies. Rather, it's a tool that illustrates the global economic losses that might be attributed to the low percentage of breastfed babies.

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The researchers behind the tool hope policymakers will look at it and decide to commit more resources to support parents.

Using the tool, you can use a dropdown menu to see how these costs break down for 34 different countries. In the U.S., where only 24% of children are exclusively breastfed, the tool estimates that it costs more than $28,000,000 in healthcare just to treat diarrhea and respiratory infections in children that could be prevented if more mothers were supported in breastfeeding.

Though many of the developing countries in the tool have higher percentages of breastfeeding than the United States, the costs of not breastfeeding the remaining children are higher. This is presumably because the risk of the associated diseases is already higher in those countries (due to factors like poverty, water quality, etc.).

Alive & Thrive gathered data on mortality (of children and mothers); cases of diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity in children that could be attributed to not breastfeeding; cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type II diabetes in mothers; the cost of medical care for those conditions; the cost of formula; and then the future cost to the economy of the loss of children's lives and having unhealthy children and mothers.

Many of these numbers are estimates based on estimates, but it's hard to argue against the bigger-picture argument of the tool's developer, health economist Dylan Walters.

"We need to be sensitive to the constraints and hardships faced by mothers and families in a world that lacks basic support systems for their physical, psycho-social, and economic well-being," Walters said in a post on Alive & Thrive's website. "Even more, mothers and families are up against a constant barrage of corporate marketing of alternatives and misinformation spread that undermines what should be boringly second nature and not stigmatized by society."

The organization recommends a minimum of 18 weeks of paid family leave and more support of nursing mothers on work sites. It also states that governments should enforce laws limiting the advertisement of infant formula.

Such laws may make sense in countries where access to clean water makes formula feeding difficult, but in wealthy nations like the United States, where formula feeding is a safe and legitimate choice, some worry limiting information about formula stigmatizes and patronizes mothers who are capable of choosing what is best for their babies.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for their first six months, and then receive a combination of breast milk and other nutrition until they are 2 years old. UNICEF estimates that globally as of 2016, 43% of children are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of life, and 46% continue until age 2. A recent survey found 1 in 4 Americans do not believe moms should be allowed to breastfeed or pump in the clear view of the public, and while 90% of Americans say they believe women should be allowed to pump at work, about 1 in 3 do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room.

The discrepancy here between what is recommended and what is actually supported is shocking. Mothers are being told to breastfeed, but then are also being told to cover up, or that they can't pump at work. When there are so many obstacles to breastfeeding it shouldn't be shocking that breastfeeding rates in America are lower than the WHO would like.

This lack of support and mixed messages are making the work of motherhood—something that is already deeply emotionally and mentally draining—even harder. The conversation about infant feeding should not be about supporting one type of infant feeding over another, it needs to be about supporting women in motherhood and in their choices. The cost of not doing so is staggering.

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Need a way to make your kids really, really, really happy? Here's some news that just might do the trick: Every child's favorite song is hitting a stage near you for a 100-city live tour. Yes, we're talking about "Baby Shark."

Baby Shark Live! is coming to a ton of U.S. cities (and Canada, eventually) and the first tour dates were just announced.

The pre-sale tickets go on sale this week! The tour kicks off October 3 at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the last tour stop is the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 10.

We know what you're thinking. How can a single song (epic as it may be) sustain a whole show? Well, there will be other songs performed too. Your kids can also rock out to favorites like "Five Little Monkeys," "Wheels on the Bus," "Jungle Boogie" and "Monkey Banana Dance."



The show will be produced by Pinkfong (which is the South Korean firm that brought us the tune in the first place) in partnership with Round Room Live. It promises to provide an immersive experience for kids like the live Pinkfong performances that are already happening in other parts of the world.

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This represents the song's next step towards total world domination: In addition to becoming a total musical sensation among children everywhere, there's already a "Baby Shark" TV show in the works — chalk it all up the fact that there's a scientific reason why this song is always (always, always) stuck in your head.

Interested in taking your children to see this phenomenon come to life? You can buy tickets here.

We'd recommend acting fast. If through-the-roof YouTube views are any indication, this show is going to sell out faster than you can sing the iconic "doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo" line!

Here is the full list of tour dates:

Oct. 3 - Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium — Spartanburg, SC
Oct. 4 - Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Orlando, FL
Oct. 5 - Straz Center - Morsani Hall - Tampa, FL
Oct. 6 - Broward Center for the Performing Arts - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Oct. 7 - Florida Theatre - Jacksonville, FL
Oct. 8 - Saenger Theatre - Pensacola, FL
Oct. 10 - HEB Center – Cedar Park, TX
Oct. 11 - Smart Financial Centre - Sugar Land, TX
Oct. 12 - Comerica Center - Frisco, TX
Oct. 13 - Mahalia Jackson Theater - New Orleans, LA
Oct. 14 - Shreveport Municipal Auditorium – Shreveport, LA
Oct. 15 - BOK Center - Tulsa, OK
Oct. 16 - Majestic Theatre - San Antonio, TX
Oct. 18 - Ikeda Theater - Mesa, AZ
Oct. 19 - Terrace Theater - Long Beach, CA
Oct. 20 - Center for the Performing Arts - San Jose, CA
Oct. 23 – Eccles Theater - Salt Lake City, UT
Oct. 24 - Paramount Theatre - Denver, CO
Oct. 26 – Stifel Theatre – St. Louis, MO
Oct. 27 - Clowes Memorial Hall - Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 29 - Des Moines Civic Center - Des Moines, IA
Oct. 30 - State Theatre - Minneapolis, MN
Nov. 1 - Riverside Theatre - Milwaukee, WI
Nov. 2 - Rosemont Theater - Rosemont, IL
Nov. 3 - Fox Theatre - Detroit, MI
Nov. 4 - Byham Theater - Pittsburgh, PA
Nov. 5 - Santander Performing Arts Center - Reading, PA
Nov. 6 – The Bushnell Performing Arts Center- Hartford, CT
Nov. 7 - Tilles Center - Brookville, NY
Nov. 8 - Kings Theatre - Brooklyn, NY
Nov. 9 – Emerson Colonial Theatre - Boston, MA
Nov. 10 – Academy of Music - Philadelphia, PA

[A version of this post was first published June 18, 2019. It has been updated.]

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We're just over half way through 2019 but it is already a year for the history books. A record number of women were sworn into Congress this year, and a royal baby with American roots has arrived!

Of course for mamas who are welcoming their own babies, 2019 will have more than just historical significance. It will be the year that changes their lives.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2019, they've got plenty of company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2019 (so far):

Real Housewives of Potomac star Ashley Darby is a mama! 🎉

Another Bravo star has become a mom! Ashley Darby of RHOP just welcome's a baby boy with her husband Micheal. Micheal has two children, but this new little one is Ashley's first. She hasn't yet released the baby's name, but she did post an intimate photo taken during the early hours of her son's life. In the picture, she is seen sleeping in a hospital bed while Micheal enjoys some skin-to-skin time with the baby.

"I never thought this day would come," Ashley captioned the pic.

She continues: "When I learned I was pregnant, I started thinking about when I'd feel the first kicks. Then, when I was feeling the flutters, I wanted to know when I'd finally start to show. After watching the bump grow, my mind went to birthing day (WILL THIS REALLY HAPPEN?!) And when the day finally came that this sweet child came into our world, it felt like the sunniest day after a sky filled grey. The most sensational day of our shared life. Mickey and I are savoring every moment with our wonderful son ♥️"

[A version of this post was originally published February 1, 2019. It has been updated.]

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Every parent out there knows that caring for a sick child isn't just heartbreaking, it's absolutely exhausting. Jaiden Cowley knows this all too well: The single mama's daughter, Amira, was born with a heart defect and has been waiting more than a year for a heart transplant.

Last week, when Amira ended up in the emergency room late at night for her ongoing heart issues, Jaiden reached out for a helping hand. She desperately needed a coffee to get her through the night, but she also couldn't leave her sweet baby to get one for herself.

So the single mother who moved to Toronto to be closer to its Hospital for Sick Children reached out to her virtual Mom Squad, a Facebook group that allows moms to connect. But she didn't expect the outpouring of generosity she received.

As first reported by TODAY, Jaiden posted the following message to the group, writing: "Is anyone at sickkids right now? I have a huge favor to ask. I'm in the er and I can't leave my daughter alone, but I really need a coffee."

She hoped another mom would coincidentally be in the hospital—she didn't expect a perfect stranger to go out of her way, but that's exactly what happened. A woman named Elizabeth drove to the hospital and presented Jaiden with a coffee half an hour later.

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"To some it was just a simple cup of coffee, to me her bringing it to me meant I could stay awake and alert for my daughter. I was able to properly advocate for her," Jaiden tells Motherly.

Elizabeth wasn't the only amazing mama who came forward to help: Another reportedly sent Jaiden money so she could treat herself to coffee, and several others offered to help in any way possible.

"It meant so much to me," Jaiden tells TODAY. "Going through this as a single mom has been a lot. It's exhausting. But now I don't feel so alone."

She later told Motherly: "No act of kindness goes unnoticed. No matter how small you think it may be to that person it means the world."

We couldn't love this story more! It's such an important reminder that mamas can do amazing things when they help each other out in times of need. We all need a little support sometimes, and if this story is any indication, there are still incredibly kind people out there who are willing to offer it.

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