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The decision to work or stay home should belong to moms—not their employers

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For years, there has been talk about the opt-out revolution where women who are well-situated in their careers voluntarily stepped back to raise families. What much of the conversation overlooked, however, is that the decision for many is more about feeling forced out.


According to a survey of nearly 1,500 women for the book Work PAUSE Thrive, only 11% of women planned to step back from work when they became mothers. But 72% actually did. Author Lisen Sromberg concludes, “Something had forced these women out of the workforce.”

That was the reality for Amy Mason, a mother from Washington D.C., who worked on labor compliance and living wage issues for more than a decade.

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“I was the first person at my organization to take multiple maternity leaves, and the first person to ask for a flexible schedule,” Mason tells Motherly. “They gave it to me, but I felt like I was asking for ‘leniency.’ I remained on the senior leadership team, but was no longer in the inner circle.”

Feeling squeezed out, Mason recently stepped out of the workforce altogether. She says, “Finally I came to the conclusion that it had to be a full-time job, you had to be all in. And I couldn’t do that.”

The statistics show she’s far from alone—with many women leaving the jobs they love for less desirable jobs that offer more flexibility and others halting their careers entirely.

According to the Department of Labor, 43% of women with a child younger than one don’t work outside the home. As those children age, many women seek reentrance into the workforce—with 75% of mothers who have children older than 6 working outside the home again.

For many of these women, the ability to stay home when the children are young is a choice and privilege. But, for some like Mason, it may feel like the choice is out of their hands.

What we lose when women opt out

These are talented women. They worked hard to develop their skills into significant professional contributions. They have a lot to offer to the workplace, the economy and the world.

But because of the relentless demands of a typical work day, moms like Mason have to make the tough decision between their professional lives and their families. Leaving their careers entirely or taking a job unaligned with their skills is the only way they can balance work with their other priorities.

Other moms choose to stay in a job aligned with their professional skills, but feel the pull of their personal priorities when the workday stretches into the evenings and weekends and clashes with the needs of their children.

Who benefits in this situation? Not organizations that need exceptional talent to accomplish their missions. Not families who need engaged parents. Not moms who want to contribute their professional skills in ways that doesn’t continually pull them away from their families.

Here’s a better question: Are the relentless demands of a typical workday necessary? Are the demands even effective?

When we make this conversation about workplace flexibility or family-friendly policies, it’s detrimental to everyone when employers aren’t forthright about what they can offer. Of her search to combine her family and her career, Mason says, “The onus was on me to ask. There weren’t established policies.”

The irony is family-friendly policies benefit companies, too: According to a 2012 research report from the Center for Women and Work, women who are offered paid leave are 93% more likely to be in the workforce nine to 12 months after their child’s birth. And a 2016 study from EY found 70% of employers reported increased employee productivity when they offered parental leave.

How we can change the workday for the better

What if instead of pushing moms to “opt out” of the grueling 9-to-5 (and then some), we engaged these talented women with a workday structure that respects their time and effort, rewards the outcomes they produce instead of the number of hours they put in and gives moms another option beyond opting out?

It’s time for companies—and the talented moms they hire—to start thinking about the best way to achieve their mission with the right team, the right focus and the right outcomes.

Restructuring the workday to allow parents the freedom to both work hard and focus on their families, will not just result in happier employees; it can improve a company’s bottom line by having the right people working on the right tasks.

It’s time for what Arianna Huffington calls the third feminist revolution: the transformation of the workday. Just imagine an economy that respects the family and gives mothers and fathers the opportunity to work toward positive change, correctly aligned in jobs that use all of their skills without burning them out.

We shouldn’t see people leaving careers they love and have given years to because of the unnecessarily incessant demands of a work day. When we can instead achieve flexibility and family-friendly balances, everyone will benefit.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

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


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Over the last few weeks, many of the things we used to take for granted have been taken or transformed due to the coronavirus pandemic and grocery delivery is one of them.

The old days of having your food delivered or your click-and-collect order ready for pick up an hour or two after selecting your groceries through an app are gone (for now), but grocery delivery isn't. We just have to do things a little differently.

Parents have been frustrated—and sometimes even frightened—by the lack of grocery delivery options (especially when one of America's top doctors is saying now is not the time for parents to go grocery shopping) but thankfully, entire industries are pivoting to meet the new demand for home delivery.

If you haven't been able to get groceries delivered lately, new options are springing up to serve you, mama.

Here are some of the new ways to get food without going out:

Call a cab:

In many communities in North America, taxi companies are pivoting to food delivery as they've now got so few people to ferry about. Call your local cab companies and ask if they do food delivery. They may not be able to do the shopping for you, but if your grocery store offers curbside pick-up or click-and-collect they can save you the trip.

Use Door Dash or Postmates:

if you're just trying to get some paper towels or a few smaller items to get you through to your next large grocery shop you can use Door Dash, previously best known for delivering takeout restaurant food, to order staples like diapers, boxes of cereal, milk, sugar and eggs from convenience stores.

Postmates, too, is pivoting into the grocery game and can deliver things like diapers, dog food, fresh fruit and baking powder through its Postmates Fresh service (depending on your area). In some areas you can even use Postmates to place an order from Duane Reed or Walgreens.

Your local markets may be delivering:

It's worth calling your local independent grocery stores to see if they are delivering—many smaller businesses are now offering delivery services as a way to keep customers during the pandemic. It takes some work to call around and find out what the options are in your community but it's totally worth it to get your groceries delivered (with the bonus of supporting your local businesses).

Small specialty stores are also getting into the delivery game:

Don't ignore the specialty shops. Many little butchers, bakeries and natural food stores are willing to deliver to customers right now. This pandemic is forcing us apart but in some ways it's also forcing us to connect with our communities in ways we have not done before.

Make the most of weekly produce boxes:

If you've never signed up for a veggie co-op (sometimes known as community supported agriculture boxes) now is a great time to check them out. Around the country farmers, farmers markets and organic retailers offer weekly or bi-weekly delivered boxes of locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables delivered to your door.

If that sounds too fancy for your budget right now check out the Misfits Market box, which offers slightly ugly fruits and veg for 40% less than grocery store prices (just pop your zip code in to see if they deliver to your area.

Ask for help:

Delivery fees can add up, so if that's not in your budget right now you can contact your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. You can also try using Facebook's new Request Help feature to ask others in your community to add your grocery pick up to their run.

An update on standard grocery delivery options:

Instacart's just launched new features to try to get groceries to you faster 

Instacart

When the pandemic confined us to our homes the demand for grocery delivery overwhelmed stores and services that previously offered it, but several companies tell Motherly things are getting back to normal.

While many parents have found it nearly impossible to get groceries via Instacart. the company just launched a couple of new features to help speed things up. The new features are called "Fast & Flexible" and "Order Ahead."

Fast and Flexible "gives customers the option to have their order delivered by the first available shopper, rather than schedule it for a specific delivery window," Instacart states in a news release.

Order Ahead allows customers to now place orders up to two weeks in advance, something that could be really handy as we're all a bit more practical with our menu planning now that we can't run out to the store.

While labor concerns have been an issue for Instacart (and customers who are concerned about the well-being of the people delivering groceries), the company says it has "worked over the last several weeks with several third-party manufacturers, in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts, to source and develop new health and safety kits for shoppers that include face masks, hand sanitizer and thermometers."

Walmart + Amazon are also ramping up delivery capacity

In a statement to Motherly, a Walmart spokesperson explained the company is obviously seeing a huge increase in demand for pickup and delivery services and is trying to offer time slots as soon as possible, but within a shorter time frame than usual.
"It will allow us to better serve our customers during this busy time. We're continuing to work hard to add more availability for pickup and delivery," they explain.

Amazon, too, is making changes to increase capacity, including suspending it's third-party delivery service to focus more on fulfilling essential household deliveries.

News

Of course we're all struggling during the coronavirus quarantine but we might think celebrities aren't in the same boat. Surely they're not struggling too. It's probably a total walk in the park for them.

Well, recently, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her new normal on the at-home edition of The Ellen DeGeneres show and revealed that she's having some difficulty, too. On the show DeGeneres asked who in their household homeschools their four children and the singer shared that she was doing the majority of it—but it hasn't been easy.

"Honestly, I think we're all like, what is this? I'm not a teacher, and also, have you seen the math that they make the kids do now? It's a new math," she said. "Half the time I'm like, 'Okay, yeah, let's look up that word. It's been an experience, for sure."

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The lockdown isn't only adding a bit of anxiety around teaching her kids, but it's also affecting her wedding date—just like many others around the world. "Honestly, I really don't know what's going to happen as far as [wedding] dates or anything like that. We're just kind of in a holding pattern like the rest of the world. So again, it's something we will have to wait and see in a few months how this all pans out."

We stand with you, JLo. We'll get through it, mama.

News

When the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recommended Americans start using homemade cloth face masks to protect against the coronavirus parents had a lot of questions that were not addressed in the initial White House briefing announcing the change.

Here are the answers to some of the common questions about the CDC's face mask recommendations:

1. Do babies need masks?

No, babies under 2 years old should not wear masks, according to the CDC, as they can increase the risk of suffocation. The CDC's website states: "Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance."

That is why experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital are asking the new cottage industry of mask makers to avoid marketing masks to parents of babies, writing: "These products (infant masks, masks attached to pacifiers, etc.) may pose more harm than benefit in terms of safety for children under the age of 2 years old."

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2. Does my child need to wear a mask to go outside?

It depends. If you've got an older child and you're hanging out in your own backyard a mask isn't necessary, but if you're taking your child on the bus or into a grocery store they are recommended.

The CDC wants people to wear masks when they are in a community setting, not to avoid catching COVID-19 but to avoid getting other people sick. "A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others," the CDC's guidance notes.

Or, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it this week, "it protects others more than it protects you because it prevents you from breathing or speaking moistly on them."

Because children do not seem to get as sick as adults when they have COVID-19 they can unknowingly be carriers. The best way to protect our kids and our communities is to keep our children home, but if you absolutely must take your child out into your community a mask can protect the vulnerable.

3. Does my child have to wear a mask if we go out?

In some parts of the United States, local governments are requiring citizens to wear masks when they leave their homes, but the CDC's statement on face masks is only a recommendation.

Some kids, especially preschool-age children, will not keep a mask on their face. If that's the case for your child, wearing one will increase the likelihood that they will touch their face. As experts recommend keeping hands away from faces, anything that's going to make your kid touch their face even more isn't a good idea.

For more information on how to create a DIY mask as per the CDC recomendations, click here.






News

A new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study looking at coronavirus in American children supports the findings of an earlier study of pediatric COVID-19 cases in China.

The research is good news: The data suggests children are way less likely to become seriously ill if they contract the virus, compared to adults (with the important caveat that babies are more vulnerable than older kids).

The CDC says that nearly three-quarters of kids who get COVID-19 develop fevers, coughs and shortness of breath, but 93% of adults develop those symptoms. Most other symptoms (including sore throats, headaches and muscle pain) are more common in adults. The only symptom that's more common in kids than adults is a runny nose.

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According to the CDC's report, "relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized, and fewer children than adults experience fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Severe outcomes have been reported in children, including three deaths."

Kids who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to severe symptoms of COVID-19, but the CDC wants parents to know that because healthy children may get a very mild version of the illness (so mild you might not notice they are sick) it's important for families to stay home during this time as kids can be spreaders of the disease and give it to older adults who can become more severely ill.

"Pediatric COVID-19 patients might not have fever or cough. Social distancing and everyday preventive behaviors remain important for all age groups because patients with less serious illness and those without symptoms likely play an important role in disease transmission," the CDC notes.

The CDC says more data is needed to understand why COVID-19 impacts kids differently, and outside experts agree. "Compared to other respiratory diseases, this is incredibly unique in the proportion of severely ill children," Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia (who was not involved in the study) told the New York Times.

Murthy continues: "We would expect more hospitalization based on the number of kids that might get infected, and we're not seeing that at all. And we still don't know why."

Of almost 150,000 confirmed cases in the United States between February 12 and April 2, only 2,572 were people under 18 years old.

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