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Liza Hinman is the chef and co-owner of The Spinster Sisters, a restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA. The award-winning eatery opened in 2012 when Liza’s first child, Oscar, was just one year old. When Liza and her husband Joe added twin daughters to their family last December, Joe (also a chef), scaled back his time at work to become the primary parent.


We were excited to speak with Chef Hinman about her experience as a working mom who’s kicking ass in a male-dominated, notoriously tough industry. We were also curious to hear her thoughts on the “kid food” phenomenon, and maybe how to avoid the tyranny of the chicken tender

Parents: Liza Hinman and Joe Stewart

Kids: Oscar, 4 1/2; Miranda and Bridget, ten months 


Parent Co: I recently heard author Anne-Marie Slaughter on NPR raising the question, “Why do we assume the mother will leave the workforce to care for her child? Why can’t the father be the primary caregiver?” It’s cool to hear that you’re a living, breathing example of that happening.

What was the conversation like between you and your husband when you decided on these roles?


LIZA HINMAN: It was a little bit of a surprise for me, I think. I was in denial of how I was going to juggle a job and three kids and still have kind of the same experience. I was really lucky with Oscar in that I was able to be the primary caregiver. I was doing private consulting and catering, but I was basically out of “having a job” for over a year after he was born.

This time around I was under very different circumstances. I now have a restaurant and a lot more complicated work life. Beyond those first couple of months, it was obvious that I was going to be needed at the restaurant a lot more than was possible if I was going to be home with the kids a lot.

My husband came home from work one day and was like, “I had a talk.” He works with his family – they own a bakery – so we’re in a lucky circumstance that way. He basically said, “I’ve talked to my mom and my sister and told them this is what I really want to do, so hopefully they can work it out. I can work part time and then be home with the kids so that you can do what you need to do at work. We don’t have to farm the kids out.”

I was nervous about it at first, both financially and just letting go of all of those details. But it’s been a real blessing, I’d say.

Were you putting pressure on yourself to do it all? Were you having that feeling like, “I should be able to do this?”

Yeah, a little bit. I should be able to do this, and I want to do this. I wanted to. But once I got back to work I realized how much I needed that side of my life to be still in existence. If I had just totally let it go, I would really have felt unbalanced in a way. And it’s hard – every single day I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished enough as a mother or accomplished enough as a business owner, but I just have to tell myself that tomorrow can be a different story.

You’ve experienced success in a traditionally male-dominated field. What are the attitudes towards your situation – that of a working mother – in your workplace and in the restaurant industry as a whole?

It’s been interesting returning to work. In our workplace, we have a tiny little office that I share with two other people. It’s the only private space other than the bathroom, so that’s where I have to pump. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve been walked in on by a male cook or someone who’s just beyond horrified that they knocked and just threw the door open and didn’t even think about what was going on on the other side.

At the same time, I’m just totally casual about it; I don’t hide. I put my breast milk in the walk-in refrigerator on the cheese shelf, and that’s where it sits until I go home. They’ve all, I think, accepted my casual attitude towards that kind of stuff.

And I bring the babies to work a lot, if I just have to go in for a couple of hours and do some office work. I bring them with me and park them in the stroller, and the servers flirt with them while I’m doing stuff. So my coworkers are very aware of my situation and accepting of it, which has been good. I’ve just forced that to be part of the atmosphere, I guess.

As the chef and partner in the restaurant, I would hope you would be in a position to set that tone. People, just get on board!

Yeah, exactly. This is just the way it is. I actually work with a lot of people who have kids, too, in my kitchen. Although they’re mostly men, they mostly have kids, so they’re sympathetic or can identify somewhat with the situation.

I think, as far as the broader industry sense, I more and more sympathize with why women don’t last very long in this field because if you aren’t in a position like I’m in, where I can dictate (the culture), it’s really not a friendly atmosphere for a mother. The hours are crazy, and the jobs are physical. There’s not a lot of flexibility; I work weekends. And we struggle with that at home, too. My husband gets frustrated because I can’t go to yet another birthday party or family event because I have to do this or that. Those frustrations definitely exist, but so far we’ve managed to make it work.

Have you worked out any kind of regular schedule for yourself?

Yes. I have, and then it will evaporate on a moment’s notice. I came out of maternity leave because my sous chef forwarded me an email on a Sunday night from the next person down saying, “I’ve tendered my resignation as of today. I won’t be returning, blah, blah, blah.” I, of course, read the email before I’d even gotten up in the morning and rolled over and looked at my husband and said, “I guess I’m going back to work tomorrow.”

Then we’ve worked out a schedule where, when my husband’s working I’m at home, and when I’m working he’s at home, more or less, with some help from his family, which is huge.

Have you done anything to set aside time for you and your husband to spend together?

Yeah. We get it less often right now, but we try to arrange for Oscar to go to his grandmother’s for an evening or spend the night. The girls, we can get someone to … We actually live on the same property as Joe’s dad, so he’ll come over after they’ve gone to bed. We can just run out and get a drink or have a quick dinner. It’s a lot further between than we’d like right now.

It’s wonderful that one of you is almost always with your kids, but, of course, it means that you two become the whole ‘ships passing in the night’ thing.

Yeah, definitely. I try to make Sundays the sacred day where it’s family day. We’re both at home. We’re with our kids, and we do something either at the house or do some sort of adventure. It doesn’t happen every single week, but most weeks it does. At least we have that.

In thinking about what you’re doing for work, I realized that you’re in a position where when you’re at work, you’re creating and providing nourishment and comfort for other people, and you have to be away from your family to do that. Do you ever think about that?

It’s one of those things you can’t think about too much, or it’d make you really depressed.

I definitely recognize the irony of it. I more feel the pressure of my family or my husband or whomever looking at me thinking, “You’re choosing to nourish other people over your family at times, but you’re choosing that role. This week you’re more focused on them than you are on us.” It definitely is there in the back of my head, certainly. I try to just not let it get to me as much as I can.

But then I come home, and I’ve missed, like, “Bridget sat up today!” or those sorts of moments. Then I think to myself about all these other, maybe more traditional parents, all these husbands who might travel all the time. I have female friends, certainly, too, who are moms who are on the road for work or do all these other things and miss their kids for stretches of time. For me, I just remind myself that I do get to spend a fair amount of time with them for a working parent.

I’m curious about how your relationship to food effects your kids’ relationship to food. Obviously the girls probably aren’t eating much of anything just yet, but what about Oscar?

He’s a challenging eater. We’ve bemoaned the fact that we find ourselves making “kid food,” which we thought we never would. At the same time, you get to that point in your internal debate of, “This kid just needs calories,” versus, “He should be eating interesting, organic, perfect, home cooked meals all the time.” Sometimes it’s just not going to be that way.

Right now I’m enjoying being able to determine the baby food that I’m making for my girls, whereas Oscar, it’s like, his school lunch is either PB&J or salami and cheese and pickles.

Do you offer a kids’ menu at The Spinster Sisters?

We don’t, but we have a lot of food that kids will eat. I feel like kids don’t have to eat breaded chicken fingers and mac and cheese only. We serve breakfast and lunch so a lot of the breakfast stuff – there’s a waffle and scrambled eggs and things that – kids will eat. In the evenings, we do get a fair amount of families. They’ll order the veggies but without the spice. They’ll order the pasta with something on the side and just adapt what we do to kids’ taste. It seems to work. We’ve had a few people over the years ask for it, but it’s not that often.

What do you think about the kids’ menu phenomenon?

I feel like it’s a product of the generation that I grew up in where that’s what we ate all the time. There are these basic, dumbed-down staples. Yes, somewhere along the way it became an expectation – that’s just what you do. But I think more and more there are restaurants that are happy to create dishes for kids based on a parent saying, “Can we get pasta with just butter and cheese with some steamed peas on the side?” If we have it on the menu, sure, no problem. We’re not going to buy pre-made, breaded, in-the-freezer chicken fingers and throw them in the fryer for kids.

And you have the sense among your peers that chefs don’t mind being asked to modify things for kids’ tastes?

I don’t think so. For me, I don’t mind because the adults are just as picky as the kids. There are so many specific demands of adult diets these days that kids are simple in comparison.

What has been your one or two biggest challenges in trying to strike a balance between work and family?

I think the challenge is just the time, just the limitations of the day. The day flies by so fast. I get to work, and I have a list of 20 things and I get four of them done. Then I have to leave because I have to be home to pick up my kids from preschool. Then when I’m at home, it’s the schedule of dinner and bath and bed and all those things and, boom, the day is gone. Either I pass out or do I sit on my couch with my laptop and try and get a few more things done before I go to bed, and never feeling totally satisfied with everything. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges.

Then also, in my food world, almost as much as I love to cook, I love to be able to do research and read cookbooks and newspaper articles and really explore, to just enrich my depth of knowledge. Those sorts of things, unfortunately, fall to the bottom of the plate when you’re just trying to run a business, to make sure everyone shows up on time, and the food’s produced and the day gets done at work. Similarly at home, I don’t get to curl up with a good novel and have that life enrichment time that used to be part of my life that I took for granted.

At the risk of sounding trite, do you think it’s worth it? Is the struggle to balance a demanding job and the needs of your family worthwhile?

Yeah. There are definitely days when I just … I think it’s a real challenge and a real strain to be a business owner. A lot of days I think, “God, I just want to work for someone else. Just walk into a job, do my 8 hours, take a paycheck home and be done with it and not carry it with me everywhere I go.” But that’s not who I am. The reason I got into this is because I work like it’s my own business even when it isn’t, so it may as well be mine. It’s a tough position to be in and there are definitely days that I question it all, like when I have to hand off my kids and leave, and I really don’t want to.

Then there are days when I come home, and I had a great day at work, or I got to spend the whole morning with the girls, and we just hung out and rolled around on the carpet and I’m like, “Okay. That’s pretty good.”

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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