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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.

“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.”

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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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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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When our babies are little, keeping them hydrated and dry is important and something many parents stress over. Trying to remember how many wet ones your little one has had in a 24-hour period is tough when you're insanely sleep-deprived, you know?

That's why this new "smart diaper" concept Pampers is launching is so interesting. The brand just announced its new high tech diaper system, Lumi, which sees sensors attached to diapers to sense wetness (it doesn't track bowel movements, just urine). The sensors work in concert with a Wi-Fi baby monitor and an app that lets parents keep track of baby's diaper situation and lets them know when the baby needs to be changed.

According to a tweet from Pampers, this is "the world's first all-in-one connected care system that is revolutionizing baby monitoring" and is in partnership with tech giants Logitech and Verily.

While wearable tech is nothing new (in the baby space alone, we've seen products like the Owlet monitor), this is the first time we've seen this sort of technology utilized for a diaper.


So how does this technology work, exactly? As Pampers explains, the sensor attaches to the front of the diaper and sends a signal to the app when a diaper change is in order—it can even tell a parent whether the diaper is merely "wet" or "very wet." The app tracks all changes, which can eliminate that whole "how long ago was the baby's last wet diaper?" dilemma new parents know all too well. The connected app also allows parents to track sleep and feedings, too, and the monitor is, well, a video monitor.

If you're squeamish about putting a piece of technology directly on your baby, we get it. This is, after all, uncharted territory—and for some parents, it may raise questions about how large a role technology should play in a child's life.

As the Washington Post reports, some privacy experts worry about putting this kind of personal data online (Pampers says the data will be secure). And as CNN reports, some experts say there can be such a thing as too much data, and are concerned that detailed tracking of data could make some parents more anxious instead of reliving stress.

If you're interested in smart diapering, you can get yourself on a waitlist right now (the product won't be available until the fall), but pricing has yet to be finalized.

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In America, mothers have the right to breastfeed their child in public, but what about when you're on an airplane? That's the issue one California mom, Shelby Angel, brought to light after she had a bad experience on Dutch airline KLM.

In a Facebook post that has gone viral Shelby explained:

"Before we even took off, I was approached by a flight attendant carrying a blanket. She told me (and I quote) "if you want to continue doing the breastfeeding, you need to cover yourself." I told her no, my daughter doesn't like to be covered up. That would upset her almost as much as not breastfeeding her at all. She then warned me that if anyone complained, it would be my issue to deal with (no one complained. On any of the flights I took with my daughter. Actually, no one has ever complained to me about breastfeeding in public. Except this flight attendant)."

Shelby's post gained traction but soon the conversation spread to Twitter, where another woman, Heather Yemm, asked KLM to explain its breastfeeding policy.

The airline responded, "To ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this." Twitter users didn't like this response and even started asking other airlines about their breastfeeding policies.




British Airways confirmed it welcomes breastfeeding onboard and a Delta rep tweeted that the airline's policy is to "allow a breastfeeding mother to feed her child on board in a manner she feels comfortable with."

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That sounds like a good plan to us. Southwest was also questioned by Twitter users and confirmed that "Southwest does indeed welcome nursing mothers who wish to breastfeed on the aircraft and/or within our facilities".

This important online conversation underscores how vital it is for airlines to have supportive policies in place and train staff on those policies. Back in March, a Canadian mom made international headlines after an Air Canada call center representative told her to nurse in an airplane bathroom (a suggestion that is contrary to Air Canada's own policies).

It's time for every airline to recognize that breastfeeding needs to be welcomed and that all staff members need to understand this. Whether a mother uses a cover or not needs to be up to her, not a flight attendant or other passengers.

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There are a lot of points during labor when mothers do not have any control over what's going on with their body. The one thing they usually have, if giving birth vaginally, is their ability to push. But a recent report by Vice highlights the fact that in some hospital delivery rooms, women are being told to stop pushing, even when the urge is nearly irresistible. And in some cases, this may be happening for some very troubling reasons.

"If a woman's cervix is fully dilated and she has the urge, she should be allowed to push, barring some unusual complication with mother or baby," Dana Gossett, chief of gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center, told Vice.

Writer Kimberly Lawson gathered anecdotal evidence suggesting that in many situations, hospital nurses are telling women to stop pushing because the doctor or midwife isn't available to deliver the baby. In some cases, women even report nurses forcing a baby's crowning head back into the birth canal.

"I've never felt a more painful experience in my life [than] being strapped down and forced to hold a baby in," says Elaina Loveland, a mother who was told to stop pushing because there were no beds available at the hospital when she arrived. "It was almost worse than the pushing. It was horrible."

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In addition to pain, women made to resist the urge to push may experience other complications. Delayed pushing sometimes causes labor to last longer, puts women at higher risk of postpartum bleeding and infection, and puts babies at a higher risk of developing sepsis, according to a study released last year. One midwife explained in the article that holding the baby in can damage a mother's pelvic floor, which might later cause urinary incontinence.

In one extreme case, Caroline Malatesta, a mother of four in Alabama said that when a nurse forced her baby's head back in, she caused permanent damage. After four years of chronic pain from a condition called pudendal neuralgia, she won a $16 million lawsuit against the hospital.

Nurses aren't necessarily being cruel when they instruct mothers to stop pushing, by the way. They may be hoping to prevent other complications, such as problems with the umbilical cord or shoulder dystocia. A doctor or midwife is better trained to correct such situations, and can also help prevent perineal tearing.

If hospital staff are instead making these decisions because of a shortage of obstetricians or hospital beds for expectant mothers, there's a systemic problem that needs to be addressed. As people have grown increasingly aware of the high rate of maternal deaths after childbirth, issues like these could point out where there's room for improvement.

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If you feel like you're paying too much of your household's income for childcare, you are not alone. The average cost per family in the U.S. has gone up far faster than median household incomes over the last six years. No wonder many families are feeling the crunch.

According to a new survey from Care.com, families paid 26% more for nannies to care for one child in 2018 than they did in 2013, going from an average of $472 per week to $596. The difference in childcare centers isn't quite as drastic, from $186 to $213, about a 14% increase. After-school babysitting went up from $181 to $244 per week, a stunning 35% rise. All of this is a faster rate than the median household income, which rose about 11% from 2013-2017.

When you drill down, the numbers spell out why this is hurting families. The 2019 Cost of Care Survey from Care.com showed that over 70% of families devote more than 10% of their income to childcare costs, and more than 40% spend more than 15% of their income. That's more than twice as much as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' definition of affordable childcare, which is 7%.

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Of course, most families find a way to make it work, because what choice to they have? Survey respondents told Care.com that they do this by cutting down on spending and saving less for the future. They also wind up working fewer hours and having fewer children. These sacrifices by parents can also wind up costing the economy in terms of growth.

There were some other interesting findings of the survey. If you're looking for a place to relocate your family, New Jersey turns out to be the most affordable place to hire a nanny, while North Dakota has the most affordable childcare centers. New Mexico has the least affordable nannies, and Washington, D.C., has the least affordable childcare centers. Maybe if more of the nation's lawmakers had to put their kids in daycare near the capitol, they'd step up their actions to change things.

Most of the candidates in the 2020 presidential election have laid out plans for either universal childcare, larger tax credits, or subsidized care. President Trump has proposed a one-time $1 billion investment in childcare, structured so that states would have to apply to receive some of the funding. At this point, so many parents out there will take any help they can get.

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