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Yes, it really is harder for families now to get by on a single income

Despite the rising rates of women in the workforce throughout the past century, many millennials grew up in a time where it still seemed like a mother's choice to work or stay at home. But as we start families of our own, the reality can be harsh: It feels nearly impossible to make ends meet on a single income.


So where does that leave women who want to be stay-at-home mothers? In a difficult position, says Erin Odom, a mother of four in North Carolina, who left her job shortly after her first child was born. "We pinched our pennies, I say, until they bled," Odom says of trying to get by on her husband's salary from teaching. The Odoms eventually sought help from a financial advisor, who looked through their income and expenses. "At the end of the day he said, 'Look, you guys don't have a spending problem. But you do have an income problem. You don't have enough money to live.'"

They aren't alone: The fact is the rising cost of living in the United States continues to outpace inflation—which makes it difficult for young adults to build their bank accounts, let alone nest eggs for the future.

And more people are starting out in the hole: According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, the likelihood of college students taking out loans grew by 40% between 1993 and 2012. Among that majority of students who did borrow, the standard amount of debt more than doubled during that time period to an average $26,885 for the class of 2011-2012.

While much has also been said about millennials' low rates of homeownership, that's yet another goal that is simply harder to obtain today. As United States Census Bureau data shows, the median home price in America in 1940 was $2,930. Adjusted for inflation, that should have been just over $30,000 by 2000. Instead it was $119,000—which jumped to close to $200,000 by 2017.

The costs of other essentials are escalating, too, from health care ( average annual costs of $10,345 in 2016) to groceries (average weekly cost of $170 in 2017/a> for families with children) to rent (average monthly cost of $910 in 2017). Add to that the common expenses we have today that didn't exist just two decades ago—like cell phones, internet and streaming services—and it's little wonder that we need more money to stay afloat.

How this is driving more parents into the workforce

As expenses have been rising, so have the rates of two-income households. According to a 2015 report from the Pew Research Center, 60% of families had dual earners in 2012 versus just 25% in 1960.

For many reasons, this statistic is something to be celebrated: Women today now have more options and more empowerment in the ways they continue their careers after having children. As that same report shows, the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to continue working after children—suggesting this is largely a decision of her own volition.

But what the statistics don't reflect is how many of those women would prefer to stay at home.

"Staying at home with your child can be an amazing and nurturing experience, but it can come at a financial cost," Jennifer E. Myers, certified financial planner and president of SageVest Wealth Management, tells Motherly.

That's no small consideration. According to a calculator developed by the Center for American Progress, a 30-year-old woman who makes $55,000 each year could expect to lose $539,795 by staying at home with a child for five years—due to the combination of lost wages, lost wage growth and lost retirement assets.

Between the immediate loss of income and that long-term dilution of family earnings for women who step back from the workplace while children are young, Myers says families really need to evaluate their financial priorities before making the decision.

Although she always imagined she would stay home, Kristin Rampton, a mother of one in Kansas, made the decision to continue working full-time as a teacher after her daughter's birth in order to have a job with family healthcare benefits, which weren't offered by her husband's job.

"I always really struggled when people just assumed that it was a choice that I made when really it wasn't like a choice," Rampton tells Motherly. "That doesn't mean that there's not joy in it, in that role. It just means that the reason women work is not necessarily because they want that career kind of lifestyle."

The rise of side-gigs

For the first time in decades, the number of stay-at-home moms is back on the rise, but what this doesn't reflect are how many of those moms are actually earning incomes from home on a part-time basis.

Now among this group is Odom, who details her experience in her new book, You Can Stay Home With Your Kids: 100 Tips, Tricks and Ways to Make it Work on a Budget. But the beginning of her journey wasn't easy.

"Once we got into it we realized, 'Wow, it's going to take more money than we realized. What can we do?'" Odom tells Motherly, explaining the budget felt much thinner once their second, third and then fourth child came along.

The Odoms began by curbing spending as much as possible, such as with cutting cable, shopping at discount grocers and accepting they couldn't take as many vacations. But her husband's salary still didn't seem to go far enough and their meeting with the financial advisor served as a wake-up call.

"Did I go to work full-time outside the home? Did my husband change careers and still support us? Or could I learn how to create an income from home?" Odom says. "That's what I ended up doing to be able to afford to stay at home with my kids."

She now advises other families on ways to earn supplemental income from the home, whether with blogging, creating products for sale, offering lessons or more creative ideas that make use of individual strengths.

Coming to terms with today

For families who want to make it work with fewer work hours, Myers of SageVest Wealth Management says some "serious prioritization" should happen—as well as accounting for unexpected expenses in the budget.

"If saving for things like family vacations, retirement, college funding and more are strong objectives, then you need to set a budget that covers the day-to-day expenses, plus the bigger and longer-term items," Myers says. "This is where most budgets fail. Too often, people only focus on the monthly items, forgetting about new tires, braces, car repairs, home repairs, etc. These items become budget busters and infringe upon longer-term saving objectives."

Often, cutting out lattes or manicures—the "money saving tips" that are commonly suggested on places like Pinterest—only goes so far.

"If you need to cut back on expenses, the first thing to do is understand how much you need to cut required relative to your overall spending," Myers says. "If it's a larger amount, you need to be more aggressive beyond simply changing your cable service."

For parents who are reluctantly sent back into the workforce or are burning the midnight oil to make ends meet, licensed marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain says to think about what you are providing to the family rather than the ways reality is different from your expectations.

"Often people confuse quantity time with quality time. People can spend a lot of time in the same space as their kids, but be on their phone or emotionally tuned out," she tells Motherly. "However, if it's a shorter amount of time but the mom is totally focused on their kids, this makes the kids feel important and cared about, which is really the bigger goal here."

As a working mother with a growing daughter, Rampton also hopes her daughter will take note. "I also have spent a lot of time thinking about the example that I'm modeling for her just by being a teacher and loving on kids and working really hard to achieve goals and all of those things I think she'll see one day and she'll think, 'Oh, my mom works really hard.'"

And, in the short-term, Rampton says she finds peace in knowing this arrangement is best for her marriage as well as her child.

"I think about the situation we're in with our student loans, with healthcare. I had to weigh the costs and the benefits of me working on my marriage," she says. "It just really is the best thing for my child, to be able to provide these things for, and it's the best thing for our marriage."

The reality is that even with the number of two-income families on the rise, working motherhood might not be every mom's first choice—but that doesn't make it the wrong choice or even the forever choice. We're all just trying our best to discover what's right for our families and our futures, and that means finding the best work-life balance is always going to be a work in progress.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

The bottle warmer has long been a point of contention for new mamas. Hotly debated as a must-have or superfluous baby registry choice, standard models generally leave new moms underwhelmed at best.

It was time for something better.

Meet the Algoflame Milk Warmer, a digital warming wand that heats beverages to the perfect temperature―at home and on the go. And like any modern mama's best friend, the Algoflame solves a number of problems you might not have even known you needed solved.

As with so many genius gadgets, this one is designed by two parents who saw a serious need. It's currently a Kickstarter raising money for production next year, but here are 10 unexpected ways this brilliant device lends a hand―and reasons why you should consider supporting its launch.

1. It's portable.

Every seasoned mama knows that mealtime can happen anywhere. And since you're unlikely to carry a clunky traditional milk warmer in your diaper bag, the Algoflame is your answer. The super-light design goes anywhere without weighing down your diaper bag.

2. It's battery operated.

No outlets necessary. Simply charge the built-in battery before heading out, and you're ready for whatever (and wherever) your schedule takes you. (Plus, when you contribute to the Kickstarter you can request an additional backup battery for those days when your errands take all.day.long.)

3. It's compact.

Even at home, traditional bottle warmers can be an eyesore on the countertop. Skip the bulky model for Algoflame's streamlined design. The warmer is about nine inches long and one inch wide, which means you can tuck it in a drawer out of sight when not in use.

4. It's waterproof.

No one likes taking apart bottle warmers to clean all the pieces. Algoflame's waterproof casing can be easily and quickly cleaned with dish soap and water―and then dried just as quickly so you're ready to use it again.

5. It has precise temperature control.

Your wrist is not a thermometer―why are you still using it to test your baby's milk temperature? Algoflame lets you control heating to the optimal temperature for breastmilk or formula to ensure your baby's food is safe.

6. It's fool-proof.

The LED display helps you know when the milk is ready, even in those bleary-eyed early morning hours. When the right temperature is reached, the wand's display glows green. Too hot, and it turns red (with a range of colors in between to help you determine how hot the liquid is). Now that's something even sleep-deprived parents can handle.

7. It's adaptable.

Sized to fit most bottles and cups on the market, you never have to worry about whether or not your bottles will fit into your warmer again.

8. It's multipurpose.

If you're a mom, chances are your cup of coffee is cold somewhere right now. The Algoflame has you covered, mama! Simply pop the wand into your mug to reheat your own beverage no matter where you are.

9. You can operate it with one hand.

From getting the milk warmer out to heating your baby's beverage, the entire wand is easy to activate with one hand―because you know you're holding a fussing baby in the other!

10. It's safe.

Besides being made from materials that comply with the FDA food contact safety standard, Algoflame boasts a double safety system thanks to its specially designed storage case. When put away in the case, the built-in magnetic safe lock turns the milk warmer to power-off protection mode so it won't activate accidentally. Additionally, the warmer's "idle-free design" prevents the heater from being accidentally activated out of the case.

To get involved and help bring the Algoflame Milk Warmer to new mamas everywhere, support the brand's Kickstarter campaign here.

This article is sponsored by Algoflame Milk Warmer. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Christmas Eve is a rare birthday, and it's a fitting birthday for a baby girl who was a gift to her own family, and those of other sick babies.

When Krysta Davis was four months pregnant with her daughter, Rylei Arcadia Lovett, Krysta and her husband Dereck got some heartbreaking news. Baby Rylei had Anencephaly. Her brain was underdeveloped to a fatal degree. Doctors gave Krysta the option of having Rylei then, in her second trimester, or carrying her to term so that her tiny organs could be donated to babies who needed them.

"If I wasn't able to bring my baby home, at least others could bring theirs home," Davis told ABC affiliate News Channel 9.

As heartbroken as she was, Krysta carried her baby girl for five more months, giving her body time to grow the organs that would be such an amazing gift to families who were in a kind of pain the Lovetts know all too well.

Doctors told the couple that Rylei would probably live for about 30 minutes after birth, but Rylei held on for an entire week. "There's no way to describe how amazing it felt. When you go to thinking you'll only have 30 minutes with your child and you get an entire week," Davis told News Channel 9.

For that week, Rylei got all the cuddles and skin-to-skin contact a baby could ask for. "I wouldn't trade this week for anything in the whole wide world," she wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to Rylei's memory, adding that she was so proud of her daughter and the fight she put up.



Rylei was then taken for surgery, and although some of her organs were no longer viable due to oxygen loss, some very important ones were.

"They said her heart valves will go toward saving two other babies and the lungs will be sent off for research to see what else can be learned about Anencephaly from them," Krysta wrote.

Krysta and Dereck only got to hold onto their baby for a week. It's not fair and that pain is unimaginable. But now, two other families will get to hold their babies for a lot longer. It can't take away Krysta's pain, but it does make her happy to know that somewhere, another mama is holding a little piece of Rylei.

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If you have Gymbucks, you should spend them soon, because children's clothing retailer Gymboree is closing stores nationwide, the Wall Street Journal reports. All 900 of the Gymboree stores, including the Janie and Jack and Crazy 8 stores, are reportedly set to close as the company faces bankruptcy.

In some American malls those three stores make up the bulk of kid-specific clothing retailers, so the closures could be a major hit to local malls and shoppers. According to CNBC, Gymboree is trying to sell off the higher-end Janie and Jack brand, which operates 139 stores nationwide.

This isn't the first time Gymboree has closed stores or faced bankruptcy. It filed for bankruptcy back in June of 2017. At the time it had 1,280 stores, and it closed some 375.

For a time, it looked like Gymboree was bouncing back from those closures, but this week's news proves otherwise.

Gymboree has yet to make a public announcement, but parents are already mourning the retailer's demise comments on its Facebook page.

"My daughter is a Gymboree girl! Don't know where we're going to get reasonably priced girly clothes and accessories now," one mom writes.

"So sad. My son and daughter wear almost all Gymboree clothes," says another.

For Gymboree fans, the consolation prize may come in the form of markdowns in the coming weeks, so keep your eye on your local Gymboree, mama.

It's important to note that Gymboree Play & Music classes are no longer part of the Gymboree Group, having been sold off in 2016.

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It sounds too good to be true: Free, universal preschool for 3 and 4-year-old kids. For working parents, and those who wish they could go back to work (or even just go to the grocery store alone) the idea seems like a beautiful, if unrealistic, dream.

Except that some places—including America's capital city—have figured out how to make universal preschool a reality. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds and 70% of 3-year-olds attended a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress.

Preschool for everyone. For free.

Those two years of no-cost, high-quality preschool have a huge impact on families.

First, the preschoolers are reaping the benefits of preschool. High-quality, center-based care has a ton of benefits, but surprisingly, they're not academic. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found children who attended high-quality center-based care for at least one year had lower rates of emotional, conduct, relationship and attention problems later in life than kids who were watched by a family member or babysitter. These benefits last longer than any temporary boost the kids get in academics.

The second benefit is economic. The incredibly expensive cost of childcare is a huge barrier to paid work for many parents who simply wouldn't be able to afford day care. When D.C. tore down this barrier, the city's maternal work force participation rate increased by more than 10%.

Universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds has been proven to be doable and beneficial for families and the wider community.

So why isn't America moving toward universal preschool?

Well, for one thing, money.

The ways in which states and school districts fund preschool programs vary across America.

Funding for preschool programs can come from the federal, state and local governments, and even the private sector, but the ratios depend on the state you're in.

Basically, universal preschool programs have to be championed at the state level, and different states have wildly different ideas about how important preschool is, who should have access and how to fund it.

Some states fund preschool programs with gambling revenue. Others have funneled money from tobacco settlements into educating 4-year-olds. Utah famously made a bet with Goldman Sachs to fund preschool for kids from low-income homes.

The U.S. Constitution puts the responsibility of education on the states, but state constitutions vary. Some explicitly protect the rights of preschoolers to public education, while others (looking at you, Idaho) are arguably more open to interpretation on this issue.

D.C and several other states include preschool or "voluntary prekindergarten" funding in their education funding formula, a model that research suggests is the best, most stable was to fund these programs. In the 2016-17 school year, D.C. spent $16,996 in state funding per child, as overseen by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. The national average? Just $5,008.

But where do those thousands of dollars come from? Federal funding typically makes up a very small piece of the pie for K-12 funding, usually under 10%. The next biggest chunk of funding is from the state but and local governments make up the bulk of funding for K-12 education in America. So if universal preschool is part of a K-12 funding model, taxpayers are paying for it.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, 18 states got federal Preschool Development Grants in 2017, while seven states didn't invest any state money in preschool at all.

As Steve Barnett of the National Institute for Early Education Research told NPR, "The growing inequality between states that have moved ahead and invested in quality preschool programs and states that have done nothing is really stark."

In the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and New Hampshire, state dollars don't go to preschool programs (Montana just recently got its pilot program up and running).

But in Florida, voluntary prekindergarten has been free for all 4 year old children for years, and Georgia also boasts a long-standing free-to-all prekindergarten program. It's the same story in Oklahoma, where 74% of four-year-olds attend school.

Vermont, California and Wisconsin also offer Pre-K programs, and West Virginia, Alabama, New York, Michigan and Rhode Island have all increased pre-K enrollment rates in recent years. So too have Mississippi and New Jersey.

But pre-K isn't always universal preschool

What sets such state programs apart from D.C.'s universal preschool programs is that in some states, not every child will qualify for enrollment, making the preschool not "universal." And, pre-K is often just for 4-year-olds. Eighty-six percent of kids in state-funded preschool programs are 4 years old, but there are plenty of 3 year olds who are ready for preschool.

There's another layer here too that makes D.C.'s system so enviable: In D.C., preschools must offer at least 6.5 hours of care per day, but in many states pre-K is just a half-day program. In some states pre-kindergarteners might be in school for only a few hours a week. There are few jobs parents can work within that small window of time.

Still, economists estimate the potential benefits of such pre-K programs are several times greater than the costs, not because parents are getting back to work, but because of lower societal costs (like lower spending on the criminal justice system and social support programs) and greater future earning potential for pre-K graduates.

If the economic returns of one year of half day pre-K is good, then imagine what a full day of care for two years could do if expanded nationwide.

Universal preschool in other nations

It's not surprising that many other countries have already figured out what D.C. did and implemented it on a wider scale.

Since 2000 all British 4-year-olds have access to part-time preschool, and the plan was extended to 3-year-old children in 2005. No surprise, maternal workforce participation rates went up there, too.

In Norway, almost all preschoolers go to free preschool and the practice is regarded as a citizen's right after 30 years of steadily increasing enrollment.

France has it. Finland has it. Spain has it. Mexico has it. China is aiming for it, with a goal of getting 85% of 3 to 6 year old kids into preschool by 2020.

Closer to home, the Canadian province of Québec has something that's not quite universal preschool (the demand is too high to get all the kids into the high-quality center-based care), but rather a steeply subsidized childcare program that saw women's workforce participation go from 74% to about 87% over a couple decades, CBC reports.

The rest of Canada is still waiting for relief from sky-high day care costs and so, of course, is America. But the blueprint for it is right there in the capital city of the United States.

Universal preschool has made D.C. a better place for families, and it's time to make it truly universal for all Americans.

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Three was not enough for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Mom and dad to North, Saint and Chicago are expecting again.

The story broke earlier this month, but this week Kim appeared on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" and confirmed everything People and E! have been attributing to inside Kardashian sources.

Host Andy Cohen, a father-to-be himself, asked Kim to confirm if the leaked sex of the baby was also accurate.

    "It's a boy," Kim told him, revealing that she's the accidental source of the leak. "It's out there. I got drunk at our Christmas Eve party, and I told some people, but I can't remember who I told."

    Like Chicago, this baby will be born via surrogate, and Kim says he's due quite soon.

    Kim has previously talked about how the decision to grow her family through gestational surrogacy was a hard one, but the only one that made sense for her after two difficult pregnancies.

    "Anyone that says or thinks it is just the easy way out is just completely wrong. I think it is so much harder to go through it this way, because you are not really in control," she told Entertainment Tonight when expecting Chicago.

    "Obviously you pick someone that you completely trust and that you have a good bond and relationship with, but it is still … knowing that I was able to carry my first two babies and not my baby now, it's hard for me," she explained at the time.

    One of six kids herself, it's not surprising that Kim wants a large family (considering how close she is with her siblings) and, according to Kim, Kanye's been campaigning for more children for a while.

    "Kanye wants to have more, though. He's been harassing me," Kardashian said on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "He wants like seven. He's like stuck on seven."

    Four is still pretty far from seven, but maybe Kanye and Kim will compromise a bit on family size. Kim has previously said four children would be her limit.

    [Update: This post was originally published on January 2, 2019. It was updated when Kardashian confirmed the news.]

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