A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

“You’re coming with us, aren’t you, Mama?”

I’d been avoiding this question for weeks, but now my daughter had me cornered at the dinner table. She’s a master of the non-sequitur, so I was unprepared for the swerve from the hijinks in her second-grade music class to the direct question of whether I was joining her, her younger brother, and my husband for the Memorial Day trip.

I looked to my husband for support. His face broadcasted both empathy and pity, but he said nothing. This was my question to answer because it was my decision to make.



At the end of last summer, I was invited to Portland for a writer’s retreat over Memorial Day.  My children were with me when I opened the invitation. We all jigged around the kitchen in celebration, singing, “Mommy’s going to Portland.” I signed on and paid in full more than half a year in advance.

This plan had been uncomplicated for months. I was free to dream about the long weekend in the Pacific Northwest, where I would be secluded in an old house with writers I respect and learning from my favorite living author.

I imagined that back home in Chicago, my husband and kids would have local adventures – bike rides along the lake, bowling or bar-b-que with friends, home improvement projects. They would miss me, and I would miss them, but we’d all meet up again after three days and resume our normal lives.

In early January, however, the plan met a wrench when my husband’s college friends invited our family to Sedona over Memorial Day weekend. “We’re all bringing our kids – please come,” the email read. The Sedona crew would be comprised of my husband’s six closest college friends and their children, a raucous multi-age group spanning ages eight months to seven-years-old.

Of course, I encouraged my husband to go. He shouldn’t miss the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, nor should my kids miss the chance to make new ones, while leaping through scraggly sagebrush in the shadow of red rocks.

We aren’t jet-setters. Taking a long weekend to fly across the country is not something we regularly do. The novelty of these trip options adds to the feeling that it’s a big deal in the way that anything new a family undertakes feels like a milestone to them.

So where am I going over Memorial Day weekend?

Back in January, it was too soon for me to decide. I lay next to my husband in bed as he talked to the Southwest Airlines ticketing agent, sorting out which kid was going on miles, which as the companion fare. I heard the agent say, “You’re all set, sir. Three flights from Phoenix to Chicago. Is there anything else?” I held my breath, trying not to cry at the thought of them going without me.

My husband said he supported whatever I wanted to do, though he suspected that Portland was the right choice. With the decision squarely on me, an endless debate ran through my head. The strongest pro-Portland argument was that the opportunity to do this workshop with this teacher amounted to a privilege I would regret forgoing. Plus, I wanted to go. Writing is my passion. My heart had packed my bags the minute I got the invitation last summer.

The con argument was actually a shaming internal monologue about what I do and do not deserve. Mainly, I told myself I didn’t deserve to go to Portland for the writing weekend because writing isn’t my day job, so it’s not like this is a bona fide business trip. And because it’s not a business trip tied to my salary and benefits, what right did I have to abandon my family while I did my little arty thing in Portland.

The rest of the arguments against Portland showed up as rhetorical questions: Who do you think you are? What kind of mother picks her pie-in-the-sky hobby over her children? How are you going to feel at the airport that May morning when you head to your gate and they head to theirs?

Shame is pretty persuasive and has worked on me most of my life, but this time, passion held its own. The battle raged on.

At the dinner table, my daughter waited for a response. She deserved a clear, direct answer. As a kid, I hated those muddled maybes and we’ll sees and it depends. I want clarity for her; I want it for myself.

But I wasn’t ready. I twirled strands of spaghetti on my fork and told her that I hadn’t decided. “My favorite writer is going to be in Portland, but I hate the thought of missing a trip with you.”

My daughter shook her head. “No, Mama, I’m your favorite writer. You loved my story about the little girl in the talent show. You should come with us.”

It’s so simple for her, and here, I’ve made it so hard.

I assured her that as soon as I decided, she would be one of the first to know.

So I have to tell her that I’m going to Portland, even though I will miss her, even though I want to be there when she hikes a trail in the Southwest for the first time, even though I’m just a lawyer who dreams of being a writer, even though my family has never flown anywhere without all four of us in tow.

I’m going to Portland and pushing against that shaming con list that tries to tell me a hundred different ways that I don’t deserve it. I’m fighting against the current that says only real writers get to break away from their families for a weekend workshop. I’m turning my back on the notion that passion and art are at odds with motherhood and embracing the notion that it might actually be good for all of us if I follow this heart string to Portland and entrust my family to the great American southwest.

Maybe good mothers do exactly what I’m doing – struggle with decisions and then do the best they can. Sometimes good mothers pick Portland over Sedona.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Regaining your footing in a world where working mothers are so often penalized is tough, and (just like most things during the postpartum period) it takes time.

The challenges we face as working women returning from a maternity leave can be so different from those we faced before, it can feel like we're starting over from scratch. But mothers will not be deterred, even if our return to the working world doesn't go exactly as planned.

We are resilient, as Serena Williams proved at Wimbledon this weekend.

She lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, just 10 months after welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia and recovering from a physically and emotionally traumatic birth experience.

Williams didn't get her eighth Wimbledon title this weekend, but when we consider all the challenges she (and all new moms) faced in resuming her career, her presence was still a huge achievement.

"It was such an amazing tournament for me, I was really happy to get this far!" Williams explained in an emotional post-match interview.

"For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried. I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

The loss at Wimbledon isn't what she wanted, of course, but Williams says it does not mean there won't be wins in her near future.

"These two weeks have showed me I can really compete and be a contender to win grand slams. This is literally just the beginning. I took a giant step at Wimbledon but my journey has just began."

When asked what she hopes other new moms take away from her journey, Williams noted her postpartum recovery was really difficult, and hopes that other moms who face challenges early in motherhood know that they don't have to give up on whatever dreams they have for themselves, whether it involves working or not.

"Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I'm just that person, that vessel that's saying, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' If you want to go back to workand to me, after becoming a mom, I feel like there's no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job," she said.

"But to those that do want to go back, you can do it, you can really do it."

Thank you, Serena. You may not have won, but this was still a victory.

You might also like:

Since baby Crew became the newest member of Chip and Joanna Gaines' family three weeks ago, his proud parents have been keeping the world updated, sharing sweet snaps of their youngest and even giving us a glimpse into his nursery.

Now, Chip Gaines is showing off a pic that proves there is nothing cuter than a floppy, sleepy baby.

"My heart is full..." the proud father of five captioned the photo he posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Earlier this week Crew's mama shared how she gets him so sleepy in the first place, posting an Instagram Story showing how she walks around the family's gardens on their Waco, Texas farm to lull her newborn boy to sleep.

The couple are clearly enjoying every single moment of Crew's babyhood. As recently as 7 days ago Chip was still sporting his hospital bracelet. Joanna says with each child he's worn his maternity ward ID until it finally wears off. We can't blame Chip for wanting to make the newborn phase last as long as possible.

You might also like:

It was a changing table must-have a generation ago, but these days, many parents are forgoing baby powder, and now, the leading manufacturer of the sweet smelling powder was dealt a big financial blow.

Johnson & Johnson was just ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A St. Louis jury says the women are right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks.

Way back in 1981 the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates.

In 1998 Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the kind alleged to have caused ovarian cancer in the lawsuit (which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal), but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks as alleged in the case.

Bottom line: If you are going to use baby powder on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

You might also like:

In the days since a The New York Times report revealed a resolution meant to encourage breastfeeding was blocked by U.S. delegates at the World Health Assembly, breastfeeding advocates, political pundits, parents, doctors—and just about everyone else—have been talking about breastfeeding, and whether or not America and other countries are doing enough to support it.

The presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians say the controversy at the World Health Assembly reveals that mothers need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, while others, including The Council on Foreign Relations, suggest the national conversation needs more nuance, and less focus on the "breast is best" rhetoric.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that parents need more support when it comes to infant feeding, and in that respect, the controversy over the World Health Assembly resolution may be a good thing.

In their joint letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week, the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians, Dr. Colleen Kraft and Dr. Lisa Hollier urge "the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families."

The doctors go on to describe how breastfeeding "provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome," and note the health benefits to mothers, including reduced risks for "breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Helping mothers to breastfeed takes a multifaceted approach, including advancing public policies like paid family leave, access to quality child care, break time and a location other than a bathroom for expressing milk," say Kraft and Hollier.

Certainly such policies would support breastfeeding mothers (and all mothers) in America, but some critics say framing the discussion around domestic policy is a mistake, because the World Health Assembly resolution is a global matter and women and babies in other parts of the world face very different feeding challenges than we do here at home.

In an op-ed published by CNN, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests the laudable goal of breastfeeding promotion can backfire when mothers in conflict-riddled areas can't access formula due to well-meaning policy. Lemmon points to a 2017 statement by Doctors Without Borders calling for fewer barriers to formula distribution in war-torn areas.

"International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding ... and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition," Manuel Lannaud, the head of Doctors Without Borders Iraq mission wrote.

The various viewpoints presented this week prove that infant feeding is not a black and white issue, and policy debates should not be framed as formula versus breast milk—there is more nuance than that.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found opting to supplement with formula after first breastfeeding improves outcomes for infants and results in higher rates of breastfeeding afterward, and while the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, they are sometimes overstated. Another recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they are 16. Basically, parents should not be shamed for supplementing or choosing to use formula.

This, according to Department of Health and Human Services says national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley is why the HHS opposed the original draft of the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly (although critics and the initial NYT report suggest the United States delegation were acting in the interests of infant formula manufacturers).

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies," Oakley said in a statement.

That's true, but so is everything the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians presented in their op-ed, and that's why the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy.

Here's another truth: This is an issue with many perspectives and many voices. And we need to hear them all, because all parents need support in feeding their babies, whether it's with a breast, a bottle or both—and we're not getting it yet.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.