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Everyone knows that there are glaring differences between girls’ clothes and boys’ clothes. It’s no secret. Stores keep them in different sections, after all! As a feminist and a queer person, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about gender inequalities for both adults and children.


When I finally became a parent myself, I was determined to give my own child more freedom and more options. I would not dictate what he was “allowed” to wear based on what was between his legs. I prepared myself to offer him boy clothing, girl clothing, as well as more neutral clothing, and let him decide what was best for him over time.

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I also prepared myself to deal with the inevitable push-back my family would receive in our gender stratified society.

Yet, just like with basically everything else about parenting, thinking about it beforehand couldn’t possibly prepare me for some of this stuff. As my son and I have entered the world of kid clothes together, I’m continually surprised by how heavily gendered it all is, and the weird ways that manifests.

The clothes fit differently, even in the same size

This was the first thing I noticed that really threw me for a loop. When my kid was a newborn wearing hand-me-downs from a variety of friends and family members, the clothing was heavily gendered, but it was the same stuff underneath. In other words, while each brand offered the usual pinks and blues, a six-month onesie was a six-month onesie.

Sure, one had an airplane on it and the other had a kitten wearing a leopard print dress (who comes up with this stuff?), and the girls’ option might also feature weird ruffles around the sleeves, but that was it. I could say “my kid is wearing twelve-month clothes right now,” and that would remain true, whether we were talking about girls’ clothes or boys’ clothes.

But at some point, that stopped being the case. Once you reach a certain size in many brands (I’ve noticed this particularly with Carter’s and Old Navy, but there are others), clothing intended for boys and the same clothing intended for girls are wildly different sizes.

These days, my child wears a 2T in Old Navy boys’, but if you want to get anything from the girls’ section (he loves sparkles, so sometimes we do), you’re better off choosing a 3T.

Now I know what you’re about to say: little boys are often a bit bigger than little girls. That would make total sense to me, if it weren’t for the fact that the size charts don’t reflect it. I’ve checked them. According the data feeding U.S. size charts, 2T should mean the same thing regardless of which gender we’re talking about, both in pounds and height. The clothing companies disagree.

This means, of course, that if you’re buying clothes according to the chart and according to your child’s gender, your little girls will constantly be in clothing that’s just a little bit too snug.

The garments are often cut differently

In addition to these sizing issues, the shape of clothing for male and female toddlers are completely different even though, at this age, boys and girls are shaped more or less the same. This one has an easy explanation: They’re cut that way to mimic the clothing of male and female adults.

For me, that doesn’t make it any less troubling. Men and women are independent individuals, they have the ability to search for the clothing they want, and their clothing options are at least to some degree based on sexual expectations. A four-year-old doesn’t need to be dressed in what society views as sexy for a 22-year-old.

Why is it that a long sleeve t-shirt from the boys’ section is square and boxy with loose sleeves that allow for plenty of movement, and the same item from the girls’ section has tight sleeves, a plunging neckline, and might even be cinched at the waist?

The necklines in and of themselves pose a huge problem, especially in the wintertime. No toddler needs a shirt cut so low that you can nearly see their nipples, and all that exposed skin gets cold.

The unexpected symbolism of gendered clothing

Princesses are for girls and superheroes are for boys. You knew that already, and if you’re a progressive parent, you’ve probably thought about how ridiculous it is more than once. But the reality is that those big, glaring, differences are just the tip of the iceberg.

Pink and blue might be the easiest things to rail against, but they’re far from the only things that serve as gender markers for our children. Smaller, more insidious, differences are everywhere. And I wonder if some of them might be, well, worse.

A few months back, we received a bunch of handed down clothing all at the same time. Most of it was from boys, so there was a lot of gray and dark blue, but there was also one box of cast offs from a three-year-old girl. One afternoon, while my wife was at work, the kid and I put all the new/old clothes in a heap and sorted through them. He reached into the giant pile of fabric and pulled out a pair of gray tights covered in multi-color hearts. He was instantly in love with them. In fact, he wanted to wear them every day.

This got me thinking about symbolism and gender in a brand new way. We know that our culture expects women and femmes to do the vast majority of emotional labor. What I realized on that day is that clothing intended for little girls is often covered with symbolism promoting that very labor.

Clothing for little boys? Not so much. A heart is an organ we all have, and all children have emotions and need to learn to deal with them. Yet, a heart is a gendered symbol. Little boys get trucks and superheroes and trains and dinosaurs, and all sorts of fun stuff on their clothes…but you’ll be hard pressed to find a boy’s shirt with a heart on it.

Little boys are being told, from a very young age, that feelings don’t matter, or at least shouldn’t matter to them. They’re learning that feelings are for girls alone.

Even the edging on garments are heavily gender coded

Remember earlier when we were talking about onesies? I said the boys’ onesies and girls’ onesies were the same, right? Well, that’s only partly right. I had expected to see onesies for girls with kittens and pink flowers, and onesies for boys with frogs riding motorcycles. I was more or less ready for that, but I wasn’t ready for decorative edges.

The edging for a piece of clothing intended for a boy was plain, but for a girl, it never ever was. Starting in newborn sizes, a multi pack of onesies labeled “girl” featured teeny-tiny bows made of teeny-tiny ribbons with scalloped edging around the neck and sleeves. Baby pants for boys were simple and utilitarian. Girls’ pants featured ruffles or lace around the ankles.

In larger sizes, the trend continues. Girls get ruffles and lace, tiny decorative details constantly differentiating them from their male peers. And while I have nothing against a cute pair of jeans with lacy trim (I’d wear it!), I do wonder about the prevalence of such details. To have nearly all of your clothing – or absolutely none of it – adorned with decorative edging for as long as you can remember is a very particular experience.

The quality of the fabric often differs

I’m going to be honest. Other parents warned me about this one, and I just did not believe them. I’ll repeat, friends of mine who were already parents told me about a marked quality difference between girls’ clothes and boys’ clothes. I thought they were full of crap.

Why? They were mostly the parents of male children, male children who loved “girly” things, and yet they kept putting those children in masculine attire. The pressure to force children to gender conform is enormous, and so when I heard “the boys’ stuff is just higher quality,” I unfairly assumed that some of those parents were grasping at straws.

But let me tell you something. The boys’ stuff is higher quality. The fabrics are thicker, sturdier, and longer wearing. The clothing is less flimsy. It’s also just plain warmer. Shopping for my son on the cusp of winter last year inspired my mother-in-law to say “don’t little girls get cold?”

I’m sure they must! And when they do, their parents have the option of handing them a thin, useless cardigan, or braving the boys’ section for an actual sweater.

Treating children in markedly different ways according to gender lines definitely affects them later down the line. The question is how much, and in which ways. What does it mean for our children if the clothes we put on their bodies – long before they’re able to articulate their own wishes in that department – are so drastically and utterly gendered?

I don’t have all the answers, but the questions continue to unsettle me.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

Our Partners

You may have watched your child struggle during play dates, talking over their friend, laughing when the joke is no longer funny or becoming too upset over the littlest thing, and wondered when or if you should step in.

As a mama, coaching your child to improve their social skills is the best way to help them learn. Some kids need help developing social skills that will allow them to feel comfortable interacting with others. But when a football coach is watching a football game they do not suit up and take over. They make notes to give the players at half time.

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The best thing you can do for your child is to coach them in private and then act as a silent observer when they are putting their skills into practice. Let your child take ownership over the skills and then you can discuss afterward how it felt.

Here are a few strategies to help you coach from the sidelines during play dates, mama:

1. The problem: The other child is being mean and not listening to your child's requests to play with certain toys.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: This is a great teachable moment. Being mean is never okay. Explain that everyone should be treated with respect.

What you can do: Ask the other child if there is something you can help with. Help the children problem solve and set expectations for things we can say or not say.

2. The problem You hear your child being rude and thoughtless.

Should you intervene: No

Reason: As long as your child is trying to practice his emerging skills, it is important for you not to interfere all the time. As long as your child or the playmate are not being mean or cruel, allowing your child and their playmate to work out sharing and meeting each other halfway is part of your child's growth. Additionally, feedback from other children help your child learn about social communication and its consequences—what's funny, what isn't, what keeps play going and what stops it. Any challenges are just showing you what you need to work on before your next play date.

What you can do: Employ a subtle cue or code word to remind your child of his mission like entering the room with snacks, suggesting a specific game or saying a code word like "popcorn."

3. The problem: The children are excited and implementing dangerous behavior.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: Whenever there is a safety issue you must jump in to make sure all children are safe. If children are playing with something dangerous, planning an adventure that will lead to safety issues, playing too rough or playing in a space that is not child friendly, jump in and make sure the children know what they are doing is unsafe and what your expectations are going forward.

What you can do: Reinforce safety rules. Create a space and situation where danger is removed and manage any behaviors that might cause harm.

4. The problem: A specific toy or activity is causing arguments between the playmates.

Should you interfere: Yes

Reason: This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to manage conflict.

What you can do: Limit your management of the situation by promoting problem-solving, suggesting that the children put the toy away and offer them a timer to promote turn-taking. After the play date, help your child formulate strategies to help your child learn to manage conflict with friends. The goal is to teach your child the skills to manage relationships without you.

5. The problem: Your child is being clingy and is coming to you to solve every problem.

Should you interfere: No

Reason: You want to help your child stop the clingy behavior rather than reinforcing the idea that they can constantly come back to you.

What can you do: When your child repeatedly approaches you, ask them to think about how they can handle the situation. Prompt them to problem solve, ask what is making them come back so often. Remind them of their mission. What can they do to have fun in the circumstances they're in? Explain that you expect them to try that before coming to get you.
Ultimately, your goal is to help your child generalize the new skills and behaviors—take them from the small stage of home practice to the larger one of a play date. To do so, your child needs to learn to recognize and address what's getting in the way.


Learn + Play

We know how it goes, mama: You finally start finding your footing in the new mama life, and them BAM! Baby is up again at all hours and you seriously don't know why—or when you'll ever get to sleep again. The good news: The 4-month sleep regression is normal, common and temporary. You've got this. But in the meantime, we tip our ☕️ to you!

We talked to the experts at the Baby Sleep Site. Here's what they had to say about how to weather this sleepless storm:

Sleep regressions are normal

The 4-month mark is a big milestone, because it marks the first (and usually the most disruptive and challenging) sleep regression of your baby's life. At 4 months of age, your baby undergoes some major brain developments that impact her sleeping patterns. They become more aware of the world around them. And simply put, your baby starts sleeping less like a baby and more like an adult.

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What changes can I expect?

During this time, you can expect a baby who may have been sleeping fairly well is suddenly waking up every 20 minutes during the day, and almost as frequently at night. It's also common for your little one to experience shorter naps, fussiness at nap and bedtimes and a general disdain for sleep.

Sleep regressions are different for every baby, but you can expect the regression to last from two to six weeks.

This is a challenging time, but try not to worry. Your baby will be looking to you to help navigate them through this—and there are many ways you can do that.

The solution

There is really no fix for the 4 month sleep regression; these changes to your baby's sleeping patterns are permanent and unavoidable. But don't despair. You CAN reclaim your nights by simply teaching your baby how to fall asleep without the use of any sleep associations, like rocking or feeding to sleep. That process is called sleep coaching but understand that it's not for everyone. But if sleep is a real problem in your home, then sleep coaching can be a nice option.

Sleep coaching methods include putting baby to bed drowsy but not asleep, picking up your baby for a bit when they cry and then putting them back down, sitting in a chair to provide a reassuring presence, or even allowing baby limited time to cry it out. There is no one size fits all method for babies and families, so you need to test what works best for you.

Also, understand that four months is generally the earliest you should work on sleep coaching, and it's best to use gentle, gradual methods at this young age.

Sleep times will vary

During this time, you can expect your baby to sleep 14 to 15 hours each day—11 to 12 hours at night and three to four hours during the day spread out over four or five short naps. Some babies are able to sleep eight straight hours or more at night by 4 months, but the large majority don't. In fact, one to three night feedings are still considered very normal at this age. Learn your baby and discover what works best for your little one.

Be flexible

Your baby may be ready for a more by-the-clock sleep schedule at this age, but many aren't, so be flexible. You are still learning what works for you and your baby, so give yourself grace. Know that things will get better and the discomfort of the 4-month sleep regression is temporary.

Do what works for your family and trust yourself to know your baby better than any external authority.

Learn + Play

When James and Kimberly Van Der Beek recently announced they were expecting their sixth child, we were thrilled for them. And now we're devastated to hear that the Van Der Beeks have lost this pregnancy.

The announcement came via Instagram, where James wrote that he and Kimberly are "Wrecked. Devastated. In shock."

"We've been through this before, but never this late in the pregnancy, and never accompanied by such a scary, horrific threat to @vanderkimberly and her well-being," Van Der Beek wrote. "Grateful that she's now recovering, but we've only just begun unpacking the layers of this one."

James Van Der Beek on Instagram: “Wrecked. Devastated. In shock. That’s how we’re feeling right now after the soul we thought were going to welcome into our family in…”

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This is the fourth pregnancy loss for the couple, who are already parents to 9-year-old Olivia, 7-year-old Joshua, 5-year-old Annabel Leah, 3-year-old Emilia and 16-month-old Gwendolyn.

The Van Der Beeks have previously spoken publicly about their journey through miscarriage, with James suggesting last September that the word "miscarriage" isn't the right one to describe what parents go through when a pregnancy is lost.

"'Mis-carriage,' in an insidious way, suggests fault for the mother—as if she dropped something, or failed to 'carry,'" he wrote on Instagram. "From what I've learned, in all but the most obvious, extreme cases, it has nothing to do with anything the mother did or didn't do."

The couple announced their most recent pregnancy 13 months after James made his passionate statement about miscarriage. We wish they didn't have to go through this again, but are grateful to them for speaking out about a pain so many parents can relate to, and one that too often goes undiscussed.

On her own Instagram account, Kimberly posted a video of her youngest daughter playing with a nanny and wrote: "It was a TOUGH weekend. Extra thankful right now to have help with my kids. Keeping these cuties happy as can be while I replenish at home."

Get all the rest you need, mama. We know this hurts. Our hearts are with you.

News

If you're not familiar with Birdies, Meghan Markle is a big fan (and we're a fan of anything she's obsessing over). The popular flats are incredibly comfy and can be worn as slippers at home or out and about for maximum comfort while still looking as chic as ever. The secret? The insole is comprised of seven layers, starting with memory foam cushioning and shock absorption foam and ending with a soft, quilted satin that has arch and heel support.

And now you can have a major twinning moment with your littlest love because Birdies has taken their best-selling silhouette and created four limited-edition mini-me styles.

Say hello to Little Birdies, the *cutest* shoes for your mini.

The Little Starling in black velvet

little birdies shoes

The Little Starling is available online now and comes in black, two glitter shades and a calf hair cheetah print. Easy to slide on and off, they're made just like mama's so kids can easily wear them without having to worry about buckles or laces. We're all for anything that gets us out the door quicker in the morning.

They're made for kids ages 5-12 (sizes 13-4) and range from $40-$60 depending on the print. The best part? They each have a matching adult pair.

$40

The Little Starling in cheetah calf hair

the little starling shoe

We've tried them and can confidently say the memory foam cushion sole feels like you're walking on a cloud. And, we're not alone. Meghan Markle has been spotted wearing them multiple times and the reviews are amazing. Just check out how cute they can be styled on their Instagram.

The Little Starling fits true to size, just keep in mind the initial fit is a bit snug until it molds to your foot over time. We'll take one in each color, please!

$60

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