Moms aren't naturally better at multitasking—they just have no choice

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Moms are multitaskers because we have to be. We learn how to feed the baby while cooking dinner because the children are hungry. We learn how to shower while simultaneously entertaining a toddler because even dry shampoo has its limits. We learn how to answer emails with one hand while serving breakfast with the other while simultaneously tracking down lost shoes because there is no other choice.

For many moms, multitasking can feel like a superpower and for years, news headlines about women's supposedly superior multitasking skills have reflected this, calling us supermoms while suggesting that women are better at multitasking than men are.

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But we are not, and new research proves it. A new study published in PLOS One debunks previous research that suggested women are super multitaskers. The brains of women and men are equally strained by multitasking.

Moms are not any better at multitasking than anyone else is. We are just doing more.

Indeed, our second annual State of Motherhood survey found that the majority of mothers are balancing paid work with a lot of responsibilities at home. More than 60% of mothers say they handle most of the household chores and responsibilities themselves and a similar share are so stretched for time they have less than an hour to themselves.

The myth of our multitasking abilities is a factor in this imbalance, this time crunch. By painting women as great multitaskers who are naturally wired to "do it all," society let itself off the hook when it comes to supporting moms.

Our survey found 85% of moms don't think society understands or supports them, and it's no wonder. We are supposedly multitasking supermoms, and super moms don't need support. By selling us the myth of our own superpowers, society ensured we wouldn't ask for help. We would just find a way to be the superheroes that the headlines suggest we are (and blame ourselves when we realize we're only human and can't actually multitask better than men).

As Leah Ruppanner, an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne points out for The Conversation, the new research into gender and multitasking is important because when we end the myth we can start supporting mothers. "Debunking these myths that expect women to be superheroes is a good thing, but we need to go further and create policy environments where gender equality can thrive."

This new research follows a 2011 study in the American Sociological Review which found that working mothers multitask about 10 hours more per week than working fathers do, and that the labor we're doing while multitasking is more intensive and stressful than the multitasking men take on.

"When they multitask at home, for example, mothers are more likely than fathers to engage in housework or childcare activities, which are usually labor intensive efforts," Shira Offer, the lead author of the study said when it was released.

She continued: "Fathers, by contrast, tend to engage in other types of activities when they multitask at home, such as talking to a third person or engaging in self-care. These are less burdensome experiences."

Interestingly, Offer and her colleagues found that for dads, this less demanding form of multitasking is a positive experience, but for moms, multitasking is a negative one: It makes them feel stressed and conflicted.

Maybe that's because, for fathers, multitasking momentarily does make them feel like a superhero, but for mothers—who are expected to be multitasking superheroes—it just makes us feel like failures.

Offer believes more flexible workplaces would benefit mothers by benefiting fathers: If more dads could start work later or leave early when they need to, Offer believes it would lead to more "egalitarian norms regarding mothers' and fathers' parenting roles."

The hard truth is, women and men perform equally poorly when multitasking, but women are doing more of it and are more stressed by it.

It's okay if you don't feel like a superhero, mama, because you're not. It's okay to drop some balls. It's okay if you don't feel like you were made for the extreme multitasking demanded of you because none of us were. We are only human and we can't do it all. The science shows it—and it's time for our policymakers to do something about it.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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As a business person, Aston Kutcher did better than anyone ever expected the kid from That 70's Show to do, and his wife and former co-star, Mila Kunis has also made a ton of money—she's among the highest-paid actresses of her generation. These two are wildly successful and they recognize how privileged their kids are because of it, but they have a plan to teach their children work ethic. Kutcher explained the plan last year on an episode of Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert.

"My kids are living a really privileged life, and they don't even know it," he told Shepard. "And they'll never know it, because this is the only one that they'll know."

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He goes on to explain how he and Kunis don't plan to create trust funds for the kids and want to put their wealth into philanthropic efforts instead. "I'm not setting up a trust for them. We'll end up giving our money away to charity and to various things," he said.

According to Kutcher, the only way his two kids are getting money from him is if they come to dad with a good business plan. If they do that, he'll be happy to invest in their vision. "I want them to be really resourceful. Hopefully they'll be motivated to have what they had, or some version of what they had," he explained.

We all want our kids to be successful, but sometimes too much help can stunt their growth. It's good to hear Kutcher and Kunis are so dedicated to making sure their children understand the value of money and can stand on their own two feet.


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An experiment at Microsoft's Japan headquarters over the summer has given new proof to advocates of the shorter work week. With the office closed on Fridays, productivity actually rose by 40%, NPR reports.

If Microsoft is finding success with a 4-day workweek, could it work for other companies? And would it work for working parents?

In 2018, a company that does will and trust management in New Zealand conducted a similar experiment, paying employees for 40 hours while requiring them to work only 32. They found that productivity stayed the same, but employees reported being more satisfied with their job, feeling less stressed and having a better work-life balance. Again and again, social scientists and economists are making the case that more isn't more when it comes to time spent at work. Reducing hours even has benefits to the environment, resulting in less commuting, and it can lower energy costs for businesses that don't have to maintain lights and climate control in an empty office.

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For working parents, cutting a day off the week could reduce the cost of childcare, not to mention increase the amount of time we could spend with our kids. Throw in the possibility of an alternating schedule with a spouse or partner and you might only have to pay for three days of care.

Some experts are hopeful the 4-day workweek will spread. "Hopefully, it gains traction," Eddy Ng, a professor of management at Bucknell University in Pennslyvania told Global News. "I think it's good for productivity, it's good for mental health and it forces us to rethink how we do work."

However, a 4-day week might not be the best solution for parents of school-age kids as employees would be working longer hours each day, which could interfere with after-school pick up and childcare.

It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but this has the potential to be a part of a change in work culture. Work-life balance reforms need to happen, and we need companies to be flexible and innovative to make life easier for working parents. A 4-day work week is one great idea, but parents also need increased flexibility, and more understanding from coworkers and bosses, no matter how many days per week we're spending in the office.

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For parents of babies and toddlers, diapers are a big expense that can represent a substantial portion of a family's monthly grocery budget, but when families fall on hard times and get support paying for groceries, diapers aren't covered. Programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are meant to fill families nutritional needs, not hygiene needs, so you can't buy diapers with a SNAP card (also known as food stamps).

This week San Fransisco county became the first county in America to offer free diapers to families who use SNAP, (known at the state level as CalFresh). Starting this month, parents in San Fransisco who use CalFresh qualify for a free monthly supply of diapers thanks to the San Francisco Diaper Bank, a partnership between the Human Services Agency (HSA) and Help a Mother Out (HAMO). This is made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the California Department of Social Services.

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It's good to see communities recognizing that diapers are as necessary as food. Studies indicate that when mothers don't have the diapers they need for their babies their mental health suffers, but that an "an adequate supply of diapers may prove a tangible way of reducing parenting stress, a critical factor influencing child health and development"

"It costs like $25 for one box of diapers. I remember the time when I had to decide between buying milk and buying diapers. No parent should have to go through that. You have no idea what this program has meant for me," San Francisco Diaper Bank participant Hanen Bouzidi explains.

Without the extra help, parents like Hanen end up at the mercy of convenience stores that separate the large boxes of diapers to sell them individually. It's one of those times when being poor means you have to spend more money: You can't afford a $25 box containing 96 diapers, so you have to spend $1 on one individual diaper at the corner store just to get your baby through the day.

And while many people are quick to suggest low-income parents take up cloth diapering, it is not practical for every family. If the only laundry machines you have access to are coin-operated and outside your home, you may not have the money or the time to launder them. Plus, most laundromats won't let you wash them and some childcare providers will only take kids who are wearing disposables. In short, cloth diapers are a wonderful solution for many families, but they are not a practical solution many families using SNAP cards. That's why San Fransisco's move to provide free diapers is so important.

Some lawmakers in other parts of the country are trying to introduce legislation to provide free diapers to families who need them, so we could see other areas following San Fransisco's lead in the coming years. This is important because no child should be at risk for the physical problems that can happen when parents feel they have no choice but to reuse or overuse diapers, and no mother should be forced to carry the weight of the guilt of diaper need.

Providing diapers to families who desperately need them improves the health of moms and babies, and removes a barrier that keeps moms from accessing childcare and early childhood education programs.

News

This week marked World Kindness Day, but in Pittsburgh, PA the hometown of the late Mr. Rogers, it was also Cardigan Day—a chance to celebrate an icon of kindness and his iconic knitwear.

That's what staff at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital were doing when they dressed all the babies like Mr. Rogers in hand-crocheted cardigans and sneaker-style booties made by nurse Caitlin Pechin.

Pechin says crocheting is something she does for fun and while making all the little outfits took several hours, she "really enjoy[s] making things for all the babies because they look so cute in them."

They absolutely do!

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The sweetest little neighbors

The babies looked so cozy and cute and they even got a visit from the woman who was closest to Mr. Rogers, his widow, Joanne Rogers. "She was so sweet and so sincere and just wished us the best of luck as new parents," Kristen Lewandowski, whose first child, Mary Rose, was among the cardigan-wearing newborns, told Good Morning America.

"She told us to support one another and we thought that was great advice," Lewandowski explained.

Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but his legacy lives on

The new movie about Mr. Rogers—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks—hits theaters on November 22. Mr. Rogers has been gone for 16 years, but the new film and the way we talk about kindness today proves that his legacy lives on in 2019.

"When I was little, I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with my grandmother, my grandma Mary, who we named our [daughter] Mary after," Lewandowski's partner, Michael, explains.

Mrs. Rogers reportedly loved getting to meet little Mary Rose and the other babies and told their parents she was sure her husband would have loved to meet them, too.

A Mr. Rogers sweater for Mrs. Rogers

The babies weren't the only ones donning cardigans at the event. Mrs. Rogers wore a cardigan that belonged to Mr. Rogers, and the nursing staff wore t-shirts designed to mimic the tie-and-cardigan look Mr. Rogers was known for.

The whole event was absolutely adorable and has us thinking a lot about the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us (and looking forward to seeing another beloved icon, Tom Hanks, play him.)

The movie hits theaters this Thanksgiving 

The reason why people are dressing babies up as Mr. Rogers 16 years after his passing is the same reason why Tom Hanks wanted to play him: He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He brought love and empathy to a medium that is usually used to sell breakfast cereals and plastic toys. But Mr. Rogers wasn't pushing artificial ingredients and consumerism: He just wanted us kids to love each other and ourselves.

"I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks said at the Toronto Film Festival, explaining why he wanted to take on this role.

"And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a 2 or 3-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy, that it's funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That's a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it's a reminder] that we are allowed...to start off feeling good," Hanks shared.

Mr. Rogers was a pioneer in using screen time to raise empathetic and kind kids and he made an impact on a generation.

Let's all take a look at these little neighbors and feel good today

There is something so pure about Mrs. Rogers visiting these babies, who are dressed like her husband because of the kindness of a maternity ward nurse. In a world where there is so much bad, let's look at all this good—and all these adorable babies who could become the next icon of kindness.

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