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Motherly's 2020 State of Motherhood survey results

Our third annual State of Motherhood survey is in.

Motherly's 2020 State of Motherhood survey results
@styledportland via Twenty20

Motherly is the voice of modern motherhood, with an audience of more than 30 million users who consume Motherly content each month. That is why our annual State of Motherhood survey is so important. It gives a voice to a generation of mothers and ensures the world knows what Millennial mothers are up against.

Year over year we find that mothers increasingly feel unsupported by society—in 2018 74% of mothers felt this way, by 2019 it was 85%, and now in 2020, 89% say "no" when asked if society is sufficiently supporting mothers. In 2020 a full 97% of Millennial mothers reported feeling burned out by motherhood at least some of the time, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making moms feel even worse.

The third annual State of Motherhood Survey results shows mothers are living in an acute state of burnout.


These findings and more insights into the attitudes, behaviors, identities and lifestyles of today's mothers are based on multiple surveys conducted between March 9 and April 23, 2019. The first survey, conducted online from March 9 to March 23, was answered by 3,195 U.S. Millennial respondents. We issued a follow-up addendum on the topic of burnout, but the coronavirus pandemic changed everything for American mothers. That's why from April 15 to 23, 2020 we conducted an additional survey with 3,169 respondents to ensure the impact of COVID-19 was reflected in our results.

Our survey shows:

  • The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on mamas' mental health with 74% of mothers reporting they feel mentally worse since it began.
  • The coronavirus pandemic is also changing the way domestic duties are split in American households: from March to April there has been a 12% increase in splitting household responsibilities equally.
  • Working mamas, who were already reporting a significant amount of burnout pre-COVID-19, are feeling the effects of not having adequate childcare, saying it's the biggest source of stress.
  • Most pregnant women (96%) still plan to give birth in a hospital despite COVID-19.
  • Post COVID-19, working mamas mostly want more flexibility for themselves or their partners (30%), as well as a desire for their families to spend more time together (27%). Stay-at-home mamas mostly want their families to spend more time together post COVID-19 (30%) as well as to pay off debts/become more financially stable (24%).
  • Mothers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis: 33% of Millennial mamas reported being designated as essential workers.

The first survey was designed and administered by Motherly and run by Edge Research, which weighed the data to align with US Census demographic data ensuring results are a statistically accurate representation of today's Millennial mother. Motherly designed and administered the COVID-19 addendum survey, which reached 3,169 respondents in the Millennial cohort, ages 24-39.

Among the key findings of the initial survey:

Burnout is real 

For the first time this year, Motherly asked about parenting burnout and we find that nearly all moms (86%) experience it at least occasionally, and a large portion of moms (41%) are feeling burnout frequently (35%) or worse, all the time (6%). Not surprisingly, feelings of burnout are more common among mothers of more than one child, but somewhat surprising is that working moms are less likely to feel parenting burnout than non-working moms. Only 35% of working moms feel burned out frequently or always, compared to 51% of non-working moms, possibly because work is an outlet and they are spending less time "on" with their kids.


1 Child

2+ Children

Employed

Not Employed

Never/Rarely

16%

11%

15%

10%

Occasionally

48%

43%

50%

38%

Frequently

32%

37%

29%

43%

Always

4%

9%

6%

8%

Data reference Q19: In the past month, how often have you felt "burned out" by motherhood?

Burnout or no back-Up?

The majority of moms surveyed say they are raising their family with members of their own family or their partner's close by (71%) and 59% say they also have a non-family "village" they can call upon for help and advice. Yet, on a closer look, many moms don't appear to be getting all the support they need. While full-time working moms tend to blame burnout on the stress of balancing work and family (54%), most moms say it is the pressure of being the primary caregiver (40% overall, 51% among part-time working moms, 73% among non-working moms).

Most of the moms (73%) in the sample are working either full-time (54%) or part-time (19%) and 96% are married (90%) or with a partner (6%) who is also working (97%).

When comparing time spent on child-rearing and domestic duties, the moms report many more hours clocked than their partners:

Daily Hours on Childcare, Housework, etc.

Mom Hours

Mom's Partner Hours

Working Mom Hours

Working Mom's Partner Hours

<1

0%

20%

1%

15%

1-2

8%

48%

12%

47%

3+

89%

30%

86%

37%

Most moms report handling child and household responsibilities mostly by themselves (63%) while only 30% say they are shared with a partner and only 4% say their partner takes care of most of the household responsibilities. Even working moms – 54% of full-time and 71% of part-time – report carrying most of the childcare/household load. Numbers are consistent despite the age of the children with 65% of moms whose kids are under 3 and 64% of moms whose kids are 3 or older reporting the same share of the burden.

When asked directly about how supported they feel at home, nearly half of moms (46%) feel very supported but 47% say only somewhat supported and 7% feel unsupported.

Where do moms need more support? Survey respondents most frequently point to their physical and mental health (34%, same as last year's 33%), followed by home (22%, similar to last year's 25%) and with their spouse (26%, similar to last year's 24%).

Data reference Q17: Are you raising children with family nearby (yours or your partner's)? Q18: Do you feel as though you have a non-family "village" (i.e. close friends/neighbors/ congregation/etc.) whom you can call on for help/advice as a mom?Q20: Of the following, which factor do you most attribute to a feeling of motherhood burnout? Q50: How supported do you feel by your spouse/partner? Q49: Where do you feel you need the most support in your life since becoming a mom? Q38: How many hours of your day are dedicated to unpaid work (childcare, housework)? Q39: How many hours of your partner's day are dedicated to unpaid work (childcare, housework)?

Moms have no time for self-care

While hardly any moms get eight or more hours of sleep at night (only 8%), a significant portion of moms surveyed report getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night (47%). Sleep is the most scarce among moms of multiple young children and gets better once children are older.

Hours of Sleep Last Night

Total

1 Child

2+ Children

1 Child <3

2+ Children <3

1+ <3 and 1+ over 3

All kids over 3

<6 hours

47%

42%

53%

44%

54%

54%

38%

6-8

46%

50%

43%

49%

41%

41%

55%

8+

6%

8%

4%

7%

45

5%

7%

  • More so than last year, nearly half (49%) of moms report not going out with friends in the past month (compared to 43% in 2019). Moms who are at home with their kids (54%) and moms with two or more kids (54%) are even more likely to say they have not been out with friends in a month. The news is not all
  • Similar to last year, half (51%) have not gone out on a date with their partner (47% in 2019).
  • This year nearly 7-in-10 (68%) also say that in the last day, they had less than one hour to themselves without work or family obligations, up from 62% in 2019. Alone time is especially scarce for moms with multiple children under 3 – fully 73% of moms of those moms have not had an hour to themselves in the last day.
  • The news is not all grim though—balancing out the half who are getting little-to-no time for themselves are 51% who have gone out with friends and 49% who have had date night with their partner – though an hour to yourself is a rarity, with only 32% getting that.

Data reference: Q52: How much sleep did you get last night? Q53: In the last month, how many times did you go out with friends? Q54: In the last month, how many times did you go on a date with your partner? Q56: Yesterday, how much time did you get to yourself without work or family obligations?

Millennial moms are turning the corner on having more children

In 2019, 59% of Millennial moms had only one child, 32% had two and only 9% had three or more and 51% reported planning to have more. One year later, we find this generation of moms with more kids – 38% two or more and 11% three or more with only 43% planning to add to the nest.

Data reference Q2: How many children are you parent or guardian for? And Q7. Are you planning on having more children?

Motherhood is me

The trend of self-definition through motherhood continues with 71% reporting that they are "most strongly defined by their motherhood," an uptick from the 67% who said this in 2019 and the 59% who said this in the 2018 survey. It is still the case that younger moms (78% of moms under 30), those with more than one child (78%) and those who are not in the workforce (87%) are more likely to feel this way.

Data reference Q21: Select which best describes how you view your identity

Relationship + sex life

Most moms in the sample are married (90%) or living with a partner (6%). Similar to the 2019 findings, majorities report that having children has brought them closer together with their partners (70%), while one-quarter (25%) admit that parenthood has pulled them apart.

Spending time together with their partners (32%) and sex life (25%) top the list of parent-related relationship tension, the same as measured in 2019. Money worries round out the top three relationship tensions at 17% while parenting differences remain lowest on the list at 11%.

Pressure points of time spent together and sex cut across all relationships in equal measure regardless of number of children and working outside the home. Additional children point to more opportunities to disagree in discipline. Interestingly, money as a pressure point registers the same regardless of whether mom is working.


Total

1 Child

2+ Children

Employed

Not Employed

Time

32%

31%

32%

31%

34%

Sex Life

25%

27%

24%

26%

25%

Money

17%

17%

17%

17%

16%

Discipline

11%

8%

15%

11%

13%

Data reference Q9: Which best describes the impact on your relationship since becoming a parent; and Q10: What is your greatest parent-related relationship tension?

Digging deeper into sex as a relationship pressure point, a majority of moms (52%) report becoming interested in sex between 6 weeks and 6 months after giving birth (and 10% say before 6 weeks), fully a third (34%) report it took 6-12 months before they were really interested in sexual intimacy again. Age and multiple pregnancies/children play a role in being ready to have sex again:


Total

1 Child

2+ Children

<30

30-34

35+

<6 weeks

10%

9%

11%

18%

10%

7%

6 weeks- 6 months

52%

48%

55%

54%

53%

50%

6 months+

34%

37%

31%

18%

32%

40%

Consistent with last year and perhaps evidence of the tension around sex after children, a third of Millennial moms (32%) report having sex with their partner before they felt ready to do so.

Data reference Q11: At what point did you feel interested/ready to re-engage in sexual intimacy after becoming a mother? Q12. Did you have sex before you felt ready to do so?

Moms want and need to work—the workplace and society can do more to support women in the workforce

Trending with previous years, 53% of Millennial moms in the sample are working full-time, 19% part-time and 24% are not currently in the workforce. Among those working and living with a partner, 30% report contributing half or more of the household income; while 30% contribute between a quarter and one-half and 39% contribute less than a quarter – a significant shift from the 2019 survey in which 41% of working moms reported contributing half or more of the household income.

Financial need to work is consistent with last year at 76%, however, the desire to work is evident as well. Both full-time (52%) and part-time working moms (59%) point to a "desire to participate in work outside the household." And more than a third (38%) of working moms are motivated by a commitment to their career, particularly among those working full-time (42%).

To make working "work" for them, moms are changing their work status since becoming a parent. Full-time working moms report shifting to a more flexible role (25%), working remotely (24%), working few hours (19%) and even changing fields (12%). By far for part-time working moms the biggest change is working fewer hours, (likely moving to part-time work from full-time as 55%); followed by working from home (10%). Interestingly, 18% of part-time working moms report becoming a stay-at-home parent, suggesting they are balancing primary caregiving throughout the day with work. Changes are largely motivated by the need to find a way to adjust and accommodate to parenting responsibilities (56% for FT working moms and 45% for PT working moms). While a third (33%) of PT working moms say work became less important to them, only 19% of FT working moms said work became less important to them. Unfortunately for a small but not insignificant number of women, they have changed their employment because conditions offered by their employers were not conducive to working and parenting (11% FT; 14% PT).

When asked whether society sufficiently supports mothers, the answer continues to be a resounding no (89%). This is a sentiment that has grown in strength every year – from 74% in 2018 to 85% in 2019 to this year's high. What do moms think will make a difference? Most agree (54%) that stronger government policies around paid family leave, childcare, etc.) would have the biggest impact on mothers, followed by more understanding employers. Overall, 10% of moms say better social support would make the most difference and this is even more important to non-working moms (17%).

Data reference Q26: Are you employed? Q27: If "Yes", which best matches your reason for working? Select all that apply. Q40: How much of your family's annual household income do you contribute? Q27: Have you changed your work status (i.e., full time to part-time, etc.) in some way since becoming a parent? Q29: If "Yes", please describe how your job situation has changed since becoming a parent; Q30: If "Yes Adjusted Work Status, which best describes the reason for adjusting your approach to work? Q13: In general, do you feel that society does a good job of understanding and supporting mothers? Q14: In your opinion, of the following, what would have the biggest impact on the support of mothers?

"Momming" at work

Moms are fairly optimistic about combining career and motherhood with the majority saying they either believe it is possible to combine them creatively (46%) or they feel empowered and that becoming a mother has helped them in their career (14%). Yet, 29% still feel burnt out – it seems impossible to combine the two. These sentiments are the same among full-time and part-time working moms.

That said, working moms say employers could better support mothers through longer, paid maternity leave (20%) and on-site childcare or childcare subsidies (23%). Remote work (14%) and more flexible schedules (13%) combine for a third option to support mothers in the workforce.

These desires are underscored by moms' maternity leave experiences. While the majority (85%) of moms report their employers offered maternity leave, only 29% had fully paid maternity leave, while another 29% had partially paid leave and 27% had leave without pay. Leave without pay is even more typical for part-time workers at 36% -- only 11% of these workers had fully paid leave.

For those with working partners, the scarcity of leave for the other parent is evident. Fully 40% of partners had no leave. For those who do, however, the tendency is to have paid leave with 34% fully paid and 14% partially.

For moms who take maternity leave, the norm is about 9-12 weeks or more and older working moms appear to have jobs with greater ability to obtain longer leaves.


Total

Full Time

Part Time

<30

30-34

35+

<8 weeks

21%

22%

20%

33%

19%

20%

9-12 weeks

41%

43%

36%

39%

42%

40%

12+weeks

29%

31%

25%

18%

30%

31%

No leave

9%

5%

19%

9%

9%

9%

When it comes to returning to work, 63% of moms say they went back to work before they felt ready and 34% (a third) say the length of their leave compromised their ability to recover from childbirth. Most working moms feel that they can also be a mother at work (58%) though 24% do say they feel expected to pretend they are not a parent when at work.

Most working moms feel their place of employment is supportive of breastfeeding. Among those for whom it applies, 56% reported their employer provides adequate breastfeeding support in the form of time, privacy, etc. Still there is work to do in this regard: 14% say their employer does not provide adequate support and another 16% say that even though their employer provides the space and breastfeeding is looked down upon in the culture of their workplace. For those who feel looked down upon, it is by both managers and co-workers. These numbers are similar to last year.

Data reference: Q31: If you are employed does your employer offer maternity leave? Q32: How long was your maternity leave? (If you did not take one, select not applicable) Q33: Did you return to work before you felt ready to do so? Q34: Do you feel the length of your maternity leave compromised your ability to recover from childbirth? Q37: Did your partner have parental leave? Q35: Which best describes your mentality around combining a career and motherhood? Q41: If you are employed, how could your employer best support you as a mother? Q42: If you are employed, does your employer provide adequate support for breastfeeding? (i.e. time, privacy) Q43: If yes, but culturally you feel it is looked down upon, at what level do you feel like it is not accepted? (If you selected another answer, please select "not applicable") Q44: Do you feel you are expected to pretend you are not a parent when at work?

Raising the next generation to be kind

Once again Motherly asked about parenting style and the qualities Millennial moms are trying to instill in the next generation. As we found last year, "kindness" is the single character trait the most moms want to cultivate in their children, with a slight bump up as the top choice at 51%.


In Child

Most Important Quality to Cultivate

2018

2019

2020

Kindness

45%

46%

51%

Respect

16%

14%

11%

Resilience

n/a

12%

10%

Open-mindedness

11%

8%

7%

Curiosity

9%

6%

6%

Intelligence

5%

4%

5%

Braveness

5%

2%

3%

Generosity

2%

1%

1%

Tolerance

2%

1%

1%

When it comes to themselves, moms are looking to nurture their own patience (48%), understanding (15%) and compassion (14%). Far down on the list is fierceness (2%) and efficiency (1%).

When it comes to parenting style, Millennial moms continue to say they are "Collaborative" the highest characterization by far at 60% and consistent with previous years. It is followed by "Hands-On," at 20% who describe their parenting style as "I'm very involved in directing my child." There are far fewer who say they are Disciplinarians, "I want my child to follow and obey family rules above all else" (4%) or Free Range, "I want my child to make their own decisions with limited parental interference" (4%).

Data reference: Q22: What is the most important quality you aim to cultivate in your child(ren)? Q23: What is the most important quality you aim to cultivate in yourself as a mom? Q24: Overall, what best describes your parenting style?

Many Moms Experience Being Dismissed by Health Care Providers

Moms are divided on whether they always felt listened to by their health care providers, with 48% saying "always" but another 48% who said they sometimes felt listened to and 4% who said they did not feel listened to at all. More troubling, fully 44% say they felt dismissed/minimized by health care professionals at least once when expressing concerns about either their prenatal or postpartum health.

Date Reference: Q15: Did you feel health care professionals listened to you during your prenatal and birth experience? Q16: Have you ever felt dismissed/minimized by health care professionals when expressing concerns about your prenatal/postpartum health?

Among the key findings of the COVID-19 addendum: The COVID-19 crisis is impacting mom's mental health

A majority of mothers (74%) say they feel mentally worse since the pandemic began while 15% feel the same.

Our original survey found the majority of millennial mothers report feeling burned out by motherhood at least some of the time, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making moms feel even worse.

For women who are working full time (both in and out of the home), their primary cause of stress is childcare (30%) with family mental health being the second most cause of stress (25%). A full 74% of mamas are feeling mentally worse since the COVID-19 crisis began, while 15% feel the same. 33% also feel that what they want most post-COVID-19 is for themselves or their partners to have greater flexibility at work (27% of moms stated this was something they wanted from their employers in the first survey) .

It is clear that mothers need support and they are hoping to see it in the post-pandemic world. Of mothers currently working full-time, nearly 60% are hoping to see greater work flexibility, either for themselves or their partner when the COVID-19 crisis ends.

Leading cause of stress

Full Time Working

Part-Time Working

Stay-at-Home

Childcare

31%

18%

4%

Family mental health

25%

29%

37%

Physical health of loved ones

13%

13%

14%


The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way domestic duties are split in American households

Most moms (63%) report handling childcare and household responsibilities mostly on their own. Only 30% say they are shared with a partner and just

4% say their partner takes care of most of the household responsibilities.

However, the pandemic has already changed this dynamic. From March to April there was a 4% increase in the number of moms who report their partner is not working, and there has been a 12% increase in splitting household responsibilities equally, with 42% of moms reporting they split equally with their partners, compared to 30% reporting the same a month earlier.

This group reports their family mental health is their biggest source of stress at 30%. (4.3% experiencing marriage/relationship issues). 32% are working full time at home while 32% are not working/stay at home moms, with 40% of partners working full time at home. Even though this subset is splitting household responsibilities equally, only 34% are splitting caregiving responsibilities equally, meaning even though partners are helping out around the house more (67% say their partner most recently bought groceries for their families) they are not equally splitting childcare as well. (compared to the opposite, below). This group is spending less time (46%) devoting to distanced learning.

Household Responsibilities

Full Time Working

Part-Time Working

Stay-at-Home

Mama

43%

48%

54%

Her partner

10%

4%

4%

Splitting equally

44%

42%

38%

For those who are splitting caregiving responsibilities equally, they are reporting that childcare is their main cause of stress right now, at 35.6%. This cohort consists mostly of both mamas and partners working from home full-time, at 47% and 45% respectively. They are also splitting household responsibilities at a much higher rate as well, at 64%. The difference in who is buying groceries is also less, with moms reporting 43% of the time while their partners are at 51% (8% difference). Post COVID-19, this group wants their family to spend more time together and for greater flexibility at work for either themselves or their partners equally (29% each). Only 3.6% experiencing marriage/relationship issues and 62% are devoting time to support distance learning (10% more than anyone who is not splitting caregiving equally).

Most pregnant women still plan to give birth in a hospital despite COVID-19

Despite a rash of headlines declaring calls to midwives regarding home births have increased during the pandemic, 96% of pregnant millennial mothers still plan to give birth in a hospital, not at home.

These pregnant mothers are also, understandably, very stressed. The majority (72%) feel mentally worse since the COVID-19 crisis began. This underscores the need for continued perinatal mental health support in America, something that was already lacking before the pandemic.

Not quite half (42%) of the pregnant cohort split household responsibilities with a partner and 47% of pregnant moms also have 1 child, while 30% have 2 or more.

 Millennial mothers are essential workers 

More than a third (33%) of respondents reported being designated an essential worker - 45% of them are working out of the home (FT or PT) but 35% are working FT at home, while 13% are not working for pay or identify as stay at home moms.

The lack of socialization + structure for kids amid COVID-19 is hard on mom

A third (33%) of moms feel the hardest thing their kids are dealing with is no longer socializing with their friends. They are also most concerned with their family's mental health (31%) with childcare being their next concern at 20%. Many more moms with this concern are not working/stay at home moms (38%) while 97% of their partners work (FT or PT). This is most prominent in California (11%) and NY (7%). Less than half (43%) of moms who feel this way have 2 kids, while 41% only have 1.

Nearly a quarter (23%) feel the hardest thing for their kids is a lack of structure/daily routine. Family mental health is still the top stress factor (32%) but childcare is close behind at 30%.

Understanding how COVID-19 has affected mamas of different ethnicities:

A higher percentage of African American respondents report being designated as essential workers (39%). This group has seen a lower proportion of layoffs for either themselves or their partners, at 14%. Interestingly, fewer African-American mothers report feeling mentally worse (64%) and much more are feeling the same (32%). They are more equally splitting household responsibilities, at 50%, but mothers are still the primary caregivers (61%). Post COVID-19, most mamas want to pay off debt/be more financially stable (32%), followed by wanting their families to spend more time together.

In the Hispanic community, 40% of respondents reported either themselves or their partners were laid off due to COVID-19. Their biggest stresses right now are family mental health (28%), money (16%) and education of children (15%). About 38% of mamas are working full time at home, 38% are not working/SAHM, and 15% are working full time outside of the home. This group also has a higher rate of feeling the same since the COVID-19 crisis began (19%), while 71% feel mentally worse. A full 39% of Hispanic mamas are designated as essential workers, and 32% want to pay off debt/be more financially stable post COVID-19, while 22% wish to have more flexibility at work for themselves or their partners.

For White/Caucasian mothers, 32% reported either them or their partners had been laid off due to COVID-19, while 33% are designated as essential workers. The leading cause of stress is family mental health (30%) followed by childcare (20%). In this cohort 35% are not working for pay, while 29% are working full-time for pay at home. More than half (59%) are the primary caregivers, with 22% splitting caregiving responsibilities equally. About 17% of this cohort report feeling mentally the same while 75% feel mentally worse. Post COVID-19, they most want their families to spend more time together (29%) and to have greater flexibility at work for themselves or their partners (27%).

What moms want post-COVID

Year after year more and more mothers tell us society is not supporting them. In 2018 74% said society is not doing a good job supporting moms. In 2019 it was up to 85% and this year it is 89%.

Working moms say employers could better support mothers through longer, paid maternity leave (20%) and on-site childcare or childcare subsidies (23%). Remote work (14%) and more flexible schedules (13%) combine for a third option to support mothers in the workforce.

Our COVID-19 addendum survey found the top desires of mothers for a post-pandemic world are more time with family (28%) and more flexibility at work for themselves or their partner (27%).

Most wanted change post COVID-19

I want my family to spend more time together

28.3%

I want myself or my partner to have more flexibility at work

27.2%

I want to pay off debt/be more financially stable

23.1%

I want my family to focus on our health

12.5%

I want my kids to be involved in fewer formal activities

2.4%

Other

6.5%

METHODOLOGY STATEMENT:

Motherly designed and administered the initial survey, which reached 3,806 mothers through Motherly's subscribers list, social media and partner channels. This report focuses on the Millennial cohort of 3,195 respondents aged 24-39. The data were weighted to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data. Edge Research weighted and analyzed the data, providing insights to trends and key findings reported here.

Motherly designed and administered the COVID-19 addendum survey, which reached 3,169 respondents in the Millennial cohort, ages 24-39.

Ara Katz/Seed

We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

Seed Daily Synbiotic

Seed

Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

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

Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Happiest Baby: Baby sleep solutions designed by the experts

Created by renowned pediatrician, baby sleep expert and (as some might say) lifesaver Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby has been helping new parents understand and nurture their infants for close to two decades. Building on the success of his celebrated books and video The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block he's developed groundbreaking, science-based product solutions that conquer a new parent's top stressor—exhaustion.

WSEL Bags: Dad-designed diaper bags that think of everything

WSEL stands for work smart, enjoy life—an ethos we couldn't agree with more. Founded by a stay at home dad who struggled to find a diaper bag that he not only wanted to use, but one that would last far beyond the baby years, these premium, adventure-ready backpacks are ideal for everything from errands to week-long getaways.

Codex Beauty: Exceptionally effective sustainable skin care

Codex Beauty's line of sustainable plant-based skin care blends the science of plant biology with biotech innovations, to create clinically proven, state-of-the-art products for all skin types. They're all vegan, EWG and Leaping Bunny verified and created in collaboration with Herbal Scientist Tracy Ryan who uses concepts dating back to the 8th century leveraging plants like sea buckthorn and calendula flower. Not only are we totally crushing on the innovative formulas that are in the packaging but we're in love with the sustainable sugarcane-derived tubes as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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Mama, all I see is you

A love letter from your baby.

Mama,

I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

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