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Do you enjoy holidays with your family? I don’t mean your mom and dad family, but your uncle and aunt and cousin family? Personally, I do. There are several reasons for this.  First, I am very interested and fascinated by how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other. Second, the fights are always the same. –  Stephen Chbosky The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Queue an alcohol-fueled racist rant shouted by a deaf grandfather, a disgruntled sister trying and failing to make a point, a sensitive Aunt who can’t take minor criticism on her culinary skills from above-mentioned curmudgeonly grandfather, while having to pee outside after too much alcohol and a shortage of bathrooms to accommodate the extended family. Meanwhile, dad’s rooted in the arm chair, up to his eyeballs, just about tolerating each and every torturous, slowly passing minute.

Perhaps this isn’t exactly your experience, but I’m guessing there’s a chance it resonates in some way.

With the holiday season upon us, family time becomes seemingly inevitable in some form and we might find ourselves wondering whether families have always been a little crazy.

As we peruse the annals of American heritage, what emerges from this history – from our founding to present day – is an American family that is constantly evolving in reaction to the previous decades of family ideology in addition to economic, social, and cultural realities, and thus has likely never been immune to dysfunction. 

Colonial Family Life

Early American family life was largely dictated by the economic needs of the time. To sustain an agrarian society, a woman might have had 10 to 12 children, especially as only an approximate 50% made it to adulthood in colonial Jamestown. Children were integral to the future labor supply and demand was high in a labor-intensive, agriculturally driven society.

Moreover, children were regarded as adults at a very early age – think elementary school-aged “adults” – and therefore, were incorporated into the workforce and society as such, attending events such as hangings on Friday nights with their folks.

Though predominantly patriarchal in nature, women held an essential position in family life.

The Noah Ogle cabin in the woods with a split-rail fence in front. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Gatlinburg, TN, USA.

Since the American family structure largely incorporated the traditional English primogeniture notion of inheritance, the woman of the house took on responsibility of the household in the absence of her husband until the eldest son was of age.

Plus, women provided an important source of economic value. Fathers were also the primary educators and disciplinarians of their children. Divorce had yet to be legalized and therefore, essentially only death of one’s spouse provided an out to a bad marriage.

Though the early conception of the American family might have indicated a strict understanding of the family consisting only of mother, father, and biological children, a more nuanced picture emerges. Families might take in strangers as boarders or servants or apprentices. Often pre-teens were sent to live with other families to learn a trade.

The early conception of the American family might indicate a strict understanding of the family consisting only of mother, father, and biological children, but in reality a more nuanced picture emerges.

Furthermore, the idea of “blended” families is not a modern one.

Short life expectancies and harsh living conditions categorized the early colonial period. Given that ¼ of babies born per year died before their 1st birthday and that 50% of marriages didn’t last longer than 7 years as the result of one partner’s death, many children were raised in extended family structures.

Parents often raised children in single-parent homes or remarried. By the time a child was just 9 years old, it was likely that one parent had passed.

On the other hand, New England colonial counterparts fared much better. In New England, life expectancy reached near-modern day years as more and more children made it to adulthood, which facilitated the establishment of patriarchal and stable family structures.

Overall, family life through the 1700s enjoyed an egalitarian balance between male and female gender roles and children proved an essential economic asset.   

Though aspects of this iconic history are certainly disputed, Pocahontas’s marriage to John Rolfe taps into the modern idea of a “crazy family.” Pocahontas was still married to a member of her tribe when she was taken prisoner and subsequently, fell in love with the Englishman. Oral history disputes whether her inter-racial child, Thomas, was born out of wedlock.

Industrial Revolution – Family Evolution

Stich, Abbildung, gravure, engraving from Jallandier & Laplante : 1873

The industrialization of society in the early 1800s extending into the 20th century had a profound effect on the family. As more and more American flocked to urban areas in search of new economic opportunities, familial relations shifted to accommodate opportunities for social and economic mobility unavailable in the colonial era.

A new wave of medical advancement increased the average lifespan and lowered infant morality rates. By the end of the 1800s, women were only giving birth to an average of 3 children. Plus, the US experienced a high influx of immigrants following the annexation of Mexico after the 1848 Mexican-American War and 1898 Spanish-American War – with over 38 million immigrating during this period.

In this era, family life gradually became a separate entity as a distinction between the public and private sphere emerged. Towards the end of the industrial period, children were considered as such until the age of 16, no longer viewed as economical necessary for their contributions to agrarian productivity.

Furthermore, as a consequence of longer lifespans and the entry of women into the work force, people began to choose partners based more so on mutual interests and romance rather than the pragmatic approach of the previous centuries.

The notion of family as the source of emotional life and happiness emerged in the 1900s.

According to social historian Stephanie Coontz, “marriage as an institution lost much of its power over our lives, but marriage as a relationship became more powerful than ever.” Interestingly, the divorce rate swelled.

20th Century Families and Beyond

Increasing industrialization, an unprecedented economic downturn, and two World Wars precipitated great change in the 20th century. American family life turned inward in response to the instability of the outside world and a pseudo-utopian, idealized version of family life materialized in the 1950s.   

The notion of family as the source of emotional life and happiness emerged in the 1900s, along with the idea that families should be stable units unlike 19th century families who may have incorporated relative strangers or extended family into their homes.

Yet, the Great Depression had a profound impact. The ideal of a private family unit disintegrated as economic realities forced families to combine housing with others, and put off marriage and having children. Though the divorce rate declined during the economic downtown, 1.5 million married couples had separated by 1940 as many could not afford a legal divorce. In addition, the Great Depression precipitated a decline in births.

While post-WWII notably heralded in a revived conception of the American family unit, the 1940s severely strained the American family as men went to war, women began working in war industries, and divorce became more prevalent.          

Family Of Four

The notion of a male breadwinner and stay-at-home mom dominated the 1950s. Family became the principal source of stability in an uncertain world. In reaction to the Great Depression, in which both partners had to work to sustain the family, the 1950s valued a male breadwinner to provide for the whole family as a validation of success and stability as American families re-adopted a patriarchal structure.    

The 1960s and 70s countered the utopian ideals of the 50s and family structure continued to be heavily influenced by economics.

The oil crisis of the 1970s precipitated a decline in the fertility rate to a low of 1.7. However, this figured recovered in the 1970s though the downward trend in births has continued. Pew Research Center indicates that the totally fertility rate in the United States has declined from an average 2.48 from 1965-1970 to 1.89 from 2010-2015.

The American Family Keeps Evolving

From founding to present day, family life has always been a little crazy. Today, the notion of a nuclear family appears almost obsolete in light of developing familial norms, including in the increasing prevalence of single-parents and gay couples becoming parents in addition to overall declining and delayed childbirth. These modern trends in declining birth and marriages rates tend to coincide with economic downturns since the 1980s.

The very definition of family is also in flux. No longer is family predominantly characterized by marriage. Rather, a Pew Research Center survey combined with demographic and economic data from the US Census Bureau, 86% indicate that a single-parent and child are a family, 80% unmarried couple with children, 63% gay or lesbian. Children remain central to the constitution of family though public opinion considers a married couple without children as a family.

Composition of the American family has rapidly changed as well. The Williams Institute reported that the percentage of same-sex couples raising children doubled between 2000 and 2009, from 10% to 19%. In addition, between 1944 and 2008, the adoption rate has skyrocketed 172%.

Americans are also challenging traditional family living arrangements. Between 1996 and 2012, the number of couples cohabitating has increased dramatically from 2.9 million to 7.8 million. Marriage rates are also dropping. 41% of babies are now born out of wedlock and unmarried women accounted for approximately 41% of births in 2008 in stark contrast to the 10% of unmarried women in 1960.

In addition, American’s perceptions of what constitutes an “ideal marriage” has considerably adapted to evolving norms. A survey conducted in 2010 reveals that the percentage of Americans who envision an ideal marriage – one in which both partners work and share responsibility for the household and childcare – has increased to 62%, up from just 48% in 1977. 40% of women are now the breadwinner of the family, up from a mere 10% in the 1960s. Gender roles have evolved – in 1960, women accounted for 33% of the labor force whereas in 2009, women comprised 47%.

By way of conclusion…

Amidst the changing norms of the modern era, ultimately the American family has proven itself an adaptive organism, encountering a plethora of social, economic, and cultural pressures throughout the centuries. Luckily, we can look back fondly on our predecessors and rest assured that yes, American family life has always been crazy, having many ups and downs and accommodating complicated family structures.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

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

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While you're gearing up for (or in the middle of) back to school season, Halloween may seem like it will never get here, but it's only a couple of months away. And if you can barely wait for the leaves to fall and temperatures to drop, Disney and Amazon are here to get you in the spooky spirit.

Enter: Disney's Halloween shop on Amazon. 🎃This curated collection features tons of items for the season and we love that many are nods to some of our favorite festive movies. Think: Hocus Pocus and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

From Halloween costumes for kids to ghostly mugs for mama, these are the best items for the entire family:

1. Disney Jack Skellington Mug

skellington mug

If you're a fan of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, this will be your favorite mug to sip your coffee or tea from.

Price: $12.99

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2. My First Halloween Board Book

disney amazon halloween shop

Halloween doesn't have to be scary, mama. This touch and feel board book introduces baby to the season.

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3. Anna + Elsa Costume

anna else costume

Get a head start on your costumes by adding this one to your cart. Bonus points for having accessories that can be used for playtime year-round.

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4. Minnie Mouse Sequin Ears

minnie mouse ears

If you don't want to fully dress up to trick or treat, add on these ears to feel festive for less.

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5. Hocus Pocus Women's Tee

hocus pocus tee

Hocus Pocus will always be a favorite. For a humorous take on being a mama, add this one to your wardrobe.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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For a lot of families, summer is a season where rules relax and bedtimes get pushed back a little later than usual. But with school starting, weekday mornings are about to start a lot earlier for many kids, and parents might be wondering how to reset the clock on bedtimes.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, a new school year is a good opportunity for families to get a fresh start on sleep routines.

"We have to start with really making sufficient sleep a family priority [and] having some discussions about the importance of sleep with our children," Cralle tells Motherly. "It shouldn't be at bedtime when everyone's cranky and tired. It should be during the day that families really discuss the importance of sleep for all family members."

If you need to have a conversation about getting enough sleep for school, try the following tips from Cralle.

1. Be positive about sleep

Make sure that younger children, especially, understand that sleep is a positive, not negative thing, and don't use the threat of bedtime as punishment.

"What we want to do is, ideally, change how children perceive sleep because children can see sleep as a great big timeout where they're missing out on things," Cralle explains, suggesting that parents instead try to present sleep and bedtime routines as "with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of our lives."

Cralle wants parents to make sure they're talking with their kids about how a lack of sleep can impact one's mood, health and academic ability. Just as we teach our kids about the importance of eating healthy, we should be teaching them about the importance of sleeping healthy, and from an early age.

2. Empower your children with choices

According to Cralle, it's really important to empower children with choices around bedtime, because the one thing they can't have a choice in is the fact that they do need to go to sleep.

"They're going be more accountable, more responsible, and hopefully, develop good sleep habits and practice good hygiene early in life," if we empower them through simple choices, Cralle suggests.

"So we can say, what pajamas do you want to wear to bed tonight? What book do you want to read? Let them participate. If they can pick out their color of their pillowcase, let them do it. Whatever's age appropriate."

3. Let them do their own bedtime math

Instead of just telling kids when they need to go to bed, involve them in figuring out an appropriate bedtime.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists how much sleep kids need depending on their age. Have them look up how much sleep a kid their age needs, and then show them the National Sleep Foundation's online bedtime calculator. Kids can choose how many hours of sleep they need and when they want to wake up, and it will show them when they need to go to bed.

It's not an arbitrary decision mom and dad made, it's science and math, and you can't argue with that.

4. Add one sleep item to the back-to-school shopping list

Cralle says adding one sleep-related item to the back to school shopping list can really help children understand the importance of sleep as they head back into the classroom. A conversation about how getting a good night's sleep is important for school success, combined with a shopping trip for a new pillowcase or comforter can really help children see sleep as an important priority, and give them something to look forward to using at bedtime.

5. Provide an environment conducive to sleep

When our kids are infants we're really good at setting up rooms that can help them sleep. But as our children age out of cribs and start to accumulate a lot of possessions and playthings, their rooms can become a less ideal sleeping environment.

According to Cralle, it's not uncommon for kids to get up after bedtime and start playing with toys in their room. She recommends removing stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home, and never putting televisions, tablets or smartphones in a child's room.

6. Enact a media curfew

At least an hour before bedtime, screen time should come to an end and other, more relaxing activities can begin. Cralle says families can designate a certain hour as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, or move from away from brightly lit screens and towards a board games or puzzles, "things to do to get that blue light out of their eyes."

A family-wide media curfew can be a good thing, says Cralle, as it helps parents "walk the walk" when it comes to sleep hygiene. "Don't be looking at your iPad and tell your child to put it away," she explains.

7. Remember: It's never too late for good sleep habits.

According to Cralle, age 3 is the ideal time to start reinforcing the importance of sleep for a child's health, but older kids and even mom and dad can reverse bad bedtime habits if the whole family buys in. That may mean curtailing your kids' (and your own) caffeine consumption, says Cralle.

"We're seeing younger and younger age groups of school children walking around with their Starbucks cups, with coffee, late in the afternoon," says Cralle, who thinks a lot of parents just don't have good information on how caffeine consumption can impact sleep—for our kids and ourselves.

She recommends limiting the number of caffeinated beverages available in the house if you've got tweens and teens at home, and watching your own consumption as well.

"We have to say 'Here's how we're all going to approach it.' It's sort of like seat belts with children, we never would buckle them in and get into the car, and not do it ourselves."

This may be the season to tweak your own sleep habits mama. Here's to a well-rested September.

[Correction: August 24, 2018: The sleep calculator was created by the National Sleep Foundation, not the Better Sleep Council.]

[A version of this post was originally published August 23, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Learn + Play

Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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