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Most parents feel like they're failing during first year of parenthood

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We need a generation that can take over after our own, and we need to make sure we're working to leave them with something. In order for our society to function we need parents and we need workers. But our culture sure doesn't make it easy to be both at the same time.

And if you feel like you are failing at the balancing act, know this: You're not. You're doing the best you can do, and that is enough. It's not you that's failing, mama. It's the system. And it's time to change it because way too many parents are internalizing blame they don't deserve.

According to a recent survey commissioned by WaterWipes, 6 out of 10 parents feel like they were failing during their baby's first year. More than 13,000 parents from around the world were polled and said their sleepless nights and hard days are just so different from the way parenthood is portrayed in popular media.

"The global research speaks for itself – at times parents are left feeling like they are failing, especially when they are surrounded by false images of perfect parenting, says Cathy Kidd, global VP of marketing at WaterWipes.

This follows another recent survey which found two-thirds of working parents in America feel like they are failing in parenthood because of pressures at work. That's 66% of working parents who are waking up each day feeling like they can't win, and that's not okay.

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Teresa Hopke is the CEO of Talking Talent, the firm behind the survey of 1,036 working American parents. "According to our study, a majority of parents feel like they are failing," she tells Motherly, noting that the impact of these feelings of failure often isn't apparent to employers because many working parents get really good at covering or masking their feelings of failure.

"But digging below the surface, we see the impact showing up in the form of increased stress, a rise in mental health claims, reduced productivity, decreased engagement, and overall impact on well-being," Hopke says.

She explains that in some cases, this results in employees deciding to opt out of their careers, or move from company to company "in hopes of finding someplace where it feels more possible to do it all." In other cases, she says, the desire for control can "translate into an undesirable leadership style."

These issues disproportionately impact mothers, (today's moms are not only devoting more hours to paid work than previous generations, but simultaneously devoting more hours to childcare, according to Pew), but dads are also suffering under the burden of their perceived failure to balance work and home.

This needs to stop. It's time to examine why so many parents are unhappy at work, and what we can do about it.

Why workers aren't using parental leave even when they have it

These days more and more companies are officially adopting parent-friendly policies like paid leave—a welcome first step—but the Talking Talent survey reveals that while these policies look great on paper, workplace culture often prevents parents from feeling like they can actually use them.

The parents surveyed reported taking less parental leave than was available to them: Women used only about 52% of the time they could have, and the men surveyed reported using just 32% of the time available to them.

According to Hopke, this points to a real problem with current parental leave policies—the policies are celebrated, but are not embraced as a practice in our culture. This means that parents are afraid to take the time they need, for fear of being penalized or seen as being uncommitted.

The survey found 64% of parents say they would have been more likely to take a longer leave if their colleagues had.

When it comes to fathers in particular, this phenomenon can be seen even in countries where parental leave isn't an HR policy, but a national one. The UK's shared parental leave scheme allows parents to split up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between partners (parents can take leave one at a time or be at home together with their child for up to six months) but according to the BBC, few fathers (like as low as 2%) take part.

In Canada too, fathers have been reluctant to take the leave available to them, something the government hopes to change with the introduction of a "use-it-or-lose-it" leave policy for fathers and other non-birthing parents. Starting in March 2019, couples will be eligible for five weeks of extra leave, meaning a family can get 40 weeks instead of 35, but only if the second parent uses at least five weeks of that time, CBC reports.

Parents need employers and lawmakers to implement parental leave policies, but we also need our peers to embrace and encourage their use. In 2017 the government in Finland (the country The Economist ranks among the best in which to be a working mother and the only country in the world where fathers spend more time with school-aged children than mothers do) encouraged fathers to make the most of the country's generous parental leave policy by literally launching a PR campaign to get dads to take their "Daddy Time."

American workers might want to take a page from the Finnish government when it comes to encouraging everyone to use their parental leave. According to Hopke, grassroots campaigns within offices could change workplace culture stateside. She says parents should talk about why they are taking their leave in an effort to normalize it.

"Be vocal and transparent about being a working parent. When working parents try to cover in an effort to appear committed to the organization, they not only make it challenging for themselves, they also perpetuate a culture that doesn't value the whole person. We can't ever solve for the problem if the problem isn't brought to the surface," she tells Motherly, adding that while it's great for workers to be vocal, companies need to do more than talk the talk.

"Paid leave policies are a great start, but in order to truly support employees and give them 'permission' to take the time they've been given, organizations need to create a culture of support," she explains. "Raising the visibility of parental leave by providing a robust package of support for both employees and leaders will help everyone feel more comfortable with new parents taking the time away—without guilt."

The childcare problem

Parental leave is a huge factor in the unhappiness of working parents, but childcare is another issue that contributes to moms and dads feeling like failures (when they are so not).

CNN reports American couples spend 25.6% of their income on childcare and single parents spend a whopping 52.7% on having their children watched while they work. As Motherly has previously reported, day care in America can cost as much as rent, or more than college in an era when many families find getting by on a single income impossible.

Childcare is expensive, but those who have it (even when it drains the bank account) consider themselves lucky, because many working American parents struggle just to find quality childcare.

Research shows high-quality day care programs are good for kids' emotional and prosocial development, but when parents can't find that kind of child care (due to long wait lists, a lack of choices in their area or prohibitive prices) and have to go with their second or third choice of childcare, they may spend the work day feeling guilty about leaving their child with a babysitter they don't trust.

In the search for solutions, we might again look to Finland, where The Guardian reports "the state provides universal daycare." The biggest bill parents could expect for day care in Finland is the equivalent of about $330 a month (the national average in the U.S. is about $800, according to Care.com, and can get closer to $2,000 in some cities). And in Finland, finding high-quality childcare doesn't mean doing endless preschool tours, internet searches, interviews and waitlists. According to one parent The Guardian spoke with

"I guess the big difference is it is not stressful at all," father Tuomas Aspiala told The Guardian. "Someone else organizes everything."

According to Aspiala, when his children were waitlisted for day care due to a lack of available spots,the city of Helsinki organized a nanny share to look after them until spots opened up at the childcare center.

"The situation at the day care centre is really fantastic. It's really close, the people who look after the children are wonderful," Aspiala told The Guardian. "We really don't feel guilty about leaving them there at all."

If American parents could go to work without feeling guilty about where they are leaving their children, would 66% be feeling like failures? Probably not.

Finland's childcare solution sounds like a dream come true, but let's be real, no one is holding their breath waiting for the adoption of a similar system stateside.

In the absence of a national childcare solution, what can be done to help working parents who are bearing the emotional burden of a system that works against them?

Parents shouldn't cover for the system's failures, and should speak up

According to Hopke, individuals can challenge the system by being more understanding of all who are working within it. "[One] thing employees can do is challenge themselves to be more inclusive of all people and needs. The more we create a culture that values diversity and inclusion, the more likely people within an organization are to ask about and support the needs of everyone, including working parents."

When this happens, change can move up in a company, and again, Hopke says parents need to be vocal about what we need and know that we are assets to our employers because of our dual role, not despite it.

"Organizing with others from a grassroots level to advocate for change is also something I advise. Many organizations we work with implement policies and programs as a result of efforts that came from a group of employees rather than an idea from HR or benefits," Hopke explains.

Maybe you have an idea for implementing or optimizing parental leave, on-site day care, childcare subsidies, or flexible work arrangements that could be the catalyst for removing the burden of perceived failure from your fellow employees' shoulders.

"Ask leaders tough questions about why they don't support parents in the way that you are looking for and let them know that you know why it is important to the organization to value parents more," Hopke suggests. "And in the end if you don't get the answers you want, then do your research to find an organization that provides a culture you are looking for. They are out there and the more we push the envelope within our current organizations, the more there will be over time."

Unfortunately, change does take time, but if you are feeling like a failure as a working parent, don't.

You are doing what you need to do right now for your family and there is nothing wrong with that. But remember that you can use your voice (and your vote come election time—ask your reps about childcare and paid leave!) to change the culture that is making individual parents shoulder the pressure for an entire work culture.

[A version of this post was published January 8, 2019. It has been updated.]

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


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

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Babies love it when their mamas sing to them, and Carrie Underwood's son is no exception. But does he love his dad's singing? Not so much.

If your mom has a voice like Carrie Underwood's, chances are your lullaby standards are a bit higher than most. And, if a recent video from the singer is any indication, even Dad's singing may not quite make the grade.

The country singer shared a cute video clip of her son, Jacob, reacting as her husband, Mike Fisher, sings him a song. Let's just say the little guy isn't having it: Jacob cries throughout his father's mini-performance...That is until Mama steps in to sing the same song.

The clip shows little Jacob calm immediately when he hears his mom's voice (relatable, right?). Mike takes that opportunity to step back in and resume his vocals...but Jacob begins to cry again. "Everyone's a critic," Carrie captions the adorable video.

But don't take this to mean you have to be a recording artist in order to sing to your children! Even the most tone-deaf among us can (and should!) sing to our babies—not just because it's fun, but also because singing to your babe comes with some pretty awesome benefits. The act may even improve your baby's attention span and increase positive their reactions towards you, as we've previously reported.

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While Carrie and Mike opt to belt out the song "I Still Believe" by singer Vince Gill, you don't have to get too fancy. Singing a good old-fashioned lullaby to your kids is a great idea (they work for a pretty good reason). We are fairly certain that most babies out there love the sound of their mama's voice more than just about any sound (with the possible exception of the "Baby Shark" video), so keep up the family singing sessions even if you don't have a hit song on the charts.

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If you buy Parent's Choice baby formula at Walmart you need to check to see if your product is being recalled.

The manufacturer of Walmart's Parent's Choice Advantage Infant Formula Milk-Based Powder with Iron, Perrigo Company, is recalling the product because it may be contained with metal. There are no reports of babies experiencing adverse effects, but the company says it is proceeding with the recall out of an "abundance of caution stemming from a consumer report."


If you buy this formula look on the bottom of the tub to check the lot code and use by date. If it is lot Code C26EVFV with a "use by" date of February 26, 2021, it is part of the recall. Don't use it and take it back to Walmart for a refund.


These tubs retail for just under $20.

The FDA suggests "consumers with any health-related questions should contact their healthcare provider", and you can also call Perrigo Consumer Affairs at 866-629-6181.

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We teach our children to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs, brush their teeth to prevent cavities, and we take care to make sure they get they get the sleep that is critical for healthy child development. But we also know that not every child in America can wash their hands, brush their teeth, or sleep without bright lights shining down on them. The children inside Border Patrol detention facilities don't have access to things like hygiene supplies or beds, and it is keeping many American mothers up at night.

As the Washington Post reports, lawyers for the U.S. government argue that it should not be required to provide detained migrant children with toothbrushes, soap, showers or conditions conducive to sleep. This is concerning many Americans, especially after a report from The Associated Press painted a bleak picture of unsanitary conditions for children detained at Border Patrol facilities, some with no parent to care for them.

For many, this isn't about politics, but about compassion. Last week Judge A. Wallace Tashima stated that it is "within everybody's common understanding that if you don't have a toothbrush, you don't have soap, you don't have a blanket, those are not safe and sanitary [conditions]," and many parents around the country agree.

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The children who are reportedly getting sick from unsanitary conditions need voices like Tashima's, but you don't have to be a judge to speak for them.

Here are 5 powerful ways to help these kids:

1. Call your representatives

You can follow Tashima's lead and let your reps know that your definition of "safe and sanitary" includes access to hygiene items and sleep.

If you don't know what number to call, you can either call the US Capitol switchboard or punch your info into callmycongress.com and get the direct phone numbers.

Just tell the congressional staffer who picks up the phone that you want to see soap, toothbrushes and beds for detained children right now.

Consider saving those direct numbers in your phone so that you can follow up with more calls in the future.

2. Use digital tools and data

You're probably reading this on your phone right now, so obviously calling your rep isn't the only way to get their attention. We all have powerful computers in our palms these days, and you can slide into your reps DMs or amplify this issue by tagging them in a tweet or Facebook post.

The internet hasn't just given us the ability to connect with our politicians, it has given us unprecedented access to information and science, and in this case, the science is pretty simple: Handwashing is "a win for everyone", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Study after study after study backs the CDC up. Handwashing can keep kids alive by preventing everything from diarrhea to the flu.

The scientists at the CDC say that "washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them.

So it is vital for these kids to have access to hygiene and sanitation as influenza is common in the detention centers.

The same challenges that make it hard to control communicable disease transmission and outbreaks in jails and prisons—high turnover rates of staff and the detained, a population vulnerable to illness—put these children at risk, and while the New York Times reports some guards at the detention facilities have taken to wearing paper masks to keep them from catching what the kids have, it is totally possible that someone who works around these detained kids will get sick, and that could put a population outside of the facility at risk.

Giving detained people access to sanitation should be a public health priority.

3. Keep talking about this + encourage others to make their own calls

This conversation comes nearly a year after ProPublica released audio reportedly recorded inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility and mothers across America cried listening to the sounds of those children crying.

Now, the conversation has shifted to sanitation, but it's important to remember that soap, toothbrushes and showers aren't all these kids are missing—they're missing their families, too. Children continue to be separated from their families, something that will impact them for the rest of their lives, whether those lives happen in America or elsewhere.

There are a lot of debates going on about how to solve this crisis, but one thing that many groups, from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree on is that these facilities were not designed to house kids.

Something's got to change, and the more people that are calling their reps, the better.

Tell your friends that you're talking to your representatives about this and ask them to call, too. A lot of people have never called a politician's office before, so let those in your circle know about how the ACLU will route their call and pass on the short script for those who get flustered on the phone.

4. Donate to organizations that will help migrant families


There are many organizations working to get and keep children out of detention centers so that they will not have to live in the kinds of conditions being reported. All of the following organizations are trying to help children caught up in this crisis.

American Immigration Council: This organization gets on the ground at detention centers helping families, documenting conditions of detention and bringing lawsuits to challenge them.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: Provides "emergency legal aid to refugee families".

Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services: Provides "free and low cost immigration services".

Families Belong Together: Is a group effort that "includes nearly 250 organizations representing Americans from all backgrounds who have joined together to fight family separation and promote dignity, unity, and compassion for all children and families.

Justice for Our Neighbors: Provides low-income families with "affordable, high quality immigration legal services".

Kids In Need of Defense: According to its website, KIND "partners with major law firms, corporations, law schools, and bar associations to create a nationwide pro bono network to represent unaccompanied children through their immigration proceedings."

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center: States it is "dedicated to serving the legal needs of low-income immigrants, including refugees, victims of crime, and families seeking reunification."

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: The faith-based organization "works with refugees, children, and migrants to ensure they are protected and welcomed into local communities throughout the United States."

South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR): A joint project of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, ProBAR "is a national effort to provide pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas by the United States government. "

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES): A non-profit that aims to reunite families and help kids feel safe, this Texas-based nonprofit aims to "directly fund the bond necessary to get parents out of detention and reunited with their children while awaiting court proceedings" and "ensure legal representation for EVERY child in Texas' immigration courts."

The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights: Provides independent Child Advocates to stand up for unaccompanied immigrant children and "champion the child's best interests".

5. Teach our children kindness and compassion 

We can't change what has already happened, but we can teach our children to change the future.

By instilling empathy, compassion and kindness in the next generation we are planting the seeds for a kinder world, and those seeds desperately need to be planted.

Caring for these children is not a partisan issue, it's an issue many parents all over the political spectrum are grappling with. Many have differing opinions about how to resolve the issues at the root of this problem, but many parents can agree that if their child was in this position they would want them to be shown some kindness.

As much as many parents would love to scoop these children up, draw them a bubble bath and find them a safe, warm place to sleep, we can't. But we can do those things for our own children, and in doing so we will teach them about love and kindness.

And hopefully, future generations will not be having the conversations.

[Last updated July 24,2019]

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[Editor's Note: This is the beginning of a new weekly series where we'll round up our favorite "Good News" stories that went viral. Enjoy!]

It's Friday, mama! We made it! There has been a ton of heavy news to digest this week, but there have also been some amazingly good news stories to come out of the last seven days.

If you need a little positivity to carry you into the weekend, check out the headlines that made us smile this week.

This mama got her rainbow baby after 13 pregnancy losses 🌈

British mama Laura Worsley is living her dream with her baby daughter Ivy after losing a heartbreaking 13 pregnancies, People reports. She had her first miscarriage in 2008, and sadly, many more followed. "Eleven of Laura Worsley's pregnancies ended in the first trimester but she also lost two boys at 17 and 20 weeks," BBC News reports.

Eventually, Laura learned she was suffering from Antiphospholipid syndrome, a condition that was making it impossible for her to carry a baby. She also had Chronic Histiocytic Intervillositis happening in her placenta, which makes was causing her placenta to die in places, according to Worsley.

Finally, doctors got her on a medication to improve the lining of her uterus, and Worsley and her husband conceived baby Ivy. "I thought if there's that one bit of hope, I had to try again," Laura told BBC News. "I spoke to Dave about it and he felt the same. I told myself, 'this is the last time I'm doing this.'"

On their 14th attempt (with the help of steroids and medications to suppress Worsley's immune system and allow the pregnancy to progress) Ivy came into the world.

"Even now, nine months on, I can't believe she's actually mine," Worsley told BBC News.

That adorable dad + baby from the viral video booked a Denny's commercial 

Remember that dad and the adorable babbling baby in the viral video we featured on our Facebook page earlier this month? Well, now they've book a Denny's commercial! (Talk about a quick turn around!)

That original viral video surpassed 2 million views within 48 hours of being posted, so it's no wonder the marketing team at Denny's thought, We've gotta get this guy!

The cuteness is too much and the new commercial shows the dad, comedian DJ Pryor, and his 19-month-old (ADORABLE) son Kingston having a chat in a booth at Denny's over breakfast food.

We love it and we love that it is part of a wider trend of companies showing dads in caring roles in advertising.

One woman's color-coded grandkids are going viral 

This is too cute! Mom Chrissy Roussel posted this photo of her kids and their cousins a couple of years ago (there's been a couple of additions since!) to show all the grandkids her parents have.

"The photo was my sister's idea," Chrissy, who has three brothers and two sisters, told POPSUGAR. "Having a big family means lots of noise, laughter, and, most importantly, love. Between the 17 cousins, there's always someone to play with and have fun with. They have a ball together. I loved having a big family growing up, and I'm so happy that my kids have the same experience."

In a recent Facebook update this week, Rossel reacted to the continued vitality of her colorful photo.

"I have to say we had NO IDEA this picture would be shared so much and resonate with so many people. We just thought it would be a fun pic to take of all the cousins while we were at the beach. My sister Maryellen suggested the shirts, and my amazingly talented SIL Katie (Annabelle Rose Photography) took the pics," Roussel wrote in on her Facebook page.

Parents are loving these potentially life-saving seat-belt straps! 

Australian mom Natalie Bell is going super viral for her seat belt steps for special needs kids. She runs Personalised By Nat, a company where she creates personalized stuff and came up with the idea to make seat belt straps that can inform first responders of a child's issues in the event of an accident.

"I always wonder what would happen if I was in a car accident with my daughter in the car and I was unable to let the doctors know that my daughter could not have a MRI due to having a cochlear implant, now I don't need to worry about that with these seat belt covers," she wrote.

"These can be made for any special needs that the medical team will need to know if you are unable to tell them."

As Yahoo News reports, overnight the post went viral and parents were talking about what a great idea it is.

"My husband is part of Fire and Rescue and said that this is a brilliant idea," one comment wrote.

"Such a valuable piece that provides a lot of information clearly so that [responders] involved can approach situations with knowledge and care," said another.

The Rock can't build a doll house 😂

We love The Rock's dad moments. He consistently cracks us up, and this week he had an epic dad problem. His little daughter, Jazzy, (seriously, look at this kiddo, she's too cute) got a dollhouse which is "assembly required" and The Rock does not have the toy assembling skills to meet that requirement.

"My 'On my way out the door to get my morning workout in before work and my 3yr old Jazzy says Daddy can you put together this Barbie house please' look," The Rock captioned the above photo.

We totally get you, Dwayne. All those little plastic parts can be a challenge, even for someone who swings from skyscrapers. 😂

Apparently, Jazzy's mom, Lauren Hashian, is the chief dollhouse builder in that household.

Young boys are wearing Women’s National Team jerseys, proving that hero athletes can be any gender 💪

Okay, so the Women's National Soccer team is killin' it, but as the Washington Post reports, the women's team is still not paid equal to the mens' team (even though they are winning more and attracting more fans).

But, as Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens writes, young male soccer fans clearly understand how awesome the women's team is because boys are starting to rock women's team jerseys in schools!

While young girls often walk around in jerseys with male athletes names on the back, it's new to see boys wearing the names of women athletes on such a large scale.

This is a big deal for girls and boys, and it's awesome.

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