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Debate Club: A Different Take on the SAHM vs. WOHM “Battle”


Dear Stay-at-Home Mom,

by: Kelly Bay

You are crushing it.

Our eyes meet almost every morning as we drop the kids off at school. My day has already been chaotic, and I’m sure yours has, too. Making breakfast and packing lunches and convincing small children to wear clothing are not jobs for the faint of heart.

I notice a toddler hanging from your leg as I chase mine down the hall. We both smile, thinking that they may be in the same class someday. Somehow we manage to get our older children to their classrooms and our younger children back to our vehicles. It’s a monumental moment in the day, a shared struggle of parenthood.

I wanted to let you know that as a mom who works outside of the home, I am so impressed by you. I know that there’s this myth that we are somehow at odds with each other, but I think you are amazing, and I’m grateful for everything you do.

For what it’s worth, I never call myself a “working mom,” because I know you’re a working mom, as well. Somehow you feed your toddler lunch while spooning pureed peas into your infant’s demanding mouth. You sing lullabies and rehearse colors and walk the dog with a baby strapped to your chest.

You welcome your older children home from school and prepare yet another snack and field the demands for TV time and help locating sports equipment. By the time 5 p.m. hits, you’ve done multiple loads of laundry and repeatedly picked up the house and wiped your children’s faces approximately 100 times, none of which would be obvious to an onlooker at this point.

And then you start your second shift, rushing from appointments to soccer practice, picking up the neighbor’s kids along the way. You make dinner and help with homework and give baths and read bedtime stories. You fill your spouse in on the details of the day and upcoming events and manage multiple schedules like the boss that you are.

On a good night, you may get 30 minutes to crash in front of Netflix before someone needs a drink of water or a third trip to the bathroom, or for you to check for monsters under the bed just one more time.

Maybe you chose to stay home with your kids because of their special health issues or your spouse’s demanding career, or maybe it wasn’t a choice at all. The astronomical cost of childcare makes the decision for many parents and I know firsthand that the workforce can be a brutal environment for moms who try to do both. There is a good chance that the company you worked for didn’t offer the flexibility or support parents need to continue with their careers.

The time you have with your children at home is precious, but I know that it’s exhausting trying to juggle so many different roles and meet everyone else’s needs. Your own needs often fall to last on the priority list and you sometimes worry that you’re too distracted when you interact with your kids.

You have no reason to be concerned. My mom stayed home with us and I’m sure she was distracted most of the time but, honestly, all I remember is that she was there for us, always.

It’s a common misconception that you’re “off” all day. I know that your day actually never ends and you don’t get the breaks that I do. Lunch out with friends is a highly orchestrated and extremely rare occurrence. Dropping your kids off at daycare to attend a doctor’s appointment of your own simply doesn’t happen.

I also know that your daily work, with both its struggles and beauty, is overlooked in our culture. You notice that people talk more to your husband at parties. Since becoming a stay-at-home mom your input into conversations seems to be less important. You may even wonder what your former colleagues or classmates think of you now that you’re “just a mom”. The value of being a caretaker is minimized in our society because there isn’t a dollar sign attached to it. That sucks, and I’m angry for you.

I want to tell you that I see you. I want to tell you that your work is important. More than likely you’re committed not only to your family but to all of ours. I’m not always available to help in my son’s classroom, I’m grateful that you take time out of your day to be there. We often need assistance getting our kids to extracurricular activities, I’ve noticed you are one of the first to offer help. You take constant requests for PTA involvement and coaching positions and field trip chaperones and you rarely say no.

I love that I’m able to work outside of the home, but it’s vital for our sons and daughters to see the value of a loving, involved parent from others, too. I watch you demonstrate this every single day.

You are making the world a better place and I wanted to thank you for that.

In case you don’t hear it enough: job well done.

Sincerely,

A Work-Outside-the-Home Mom

Dear Working Mom,

by: Jackie Semmens

You are crushing it.

It’s 7:30 in the morning, and I’m staring out the window with blurry eyes watching you load your kids into the car to head to daycare, or walking them to the bus stop. I haven’t brushed my teeth yet, much less gotten my kids dressed, but you’ve been up for two hours already, answering work emails, packing lunches, waking sleepyheads up and making them breakfast. It’s not even 8 a.m., and you’ve accomplished plenty – yet you’re already worrying that you’re slipping behind.

I wanted to let you know that, as a stay-at-home mom, I am so impressed by you. I know there’s this myth that we are somehow at odds with each other, but I think you’re amazing, and I’m grateful for everything you do.

For what it’s worth, I never call myself a “full-time mom,” because I know you’re a full-time mom as well. You’re pumping milk on your lunch break, fielding calls from the school in the middle of the day – no matter how many times you’ve asked them to call your husband first because his schedule is more flexible than yours.

You’re clutching your cellphone under the table during a meeting, hoping daycare won’t call to tell you your baby’s fussiness turned into a fever. You’re folding laundry well past bedtime, or spending precious dollars on a housecleaner so you can spend a few more hours with your kids. You’re burning the candle at both ends and trying to figure out if you can light the middle, too.

Even when five o’clock rolls around, you’re off to your main job, walking into the insanity of tired and hungry kids. You’re up all night with a teething baby who only wants to nurse, and a toddler who had another bad dream. Even if you have some help watching your kids during the day, you’re never off the clock.

As a mom and an employee, you are giving 200% of yourself every day. I bet that you’re amazing at what you do, because research shows that mothers are actually more productive in their jobs than their childless counterparts. When you get to the office, there’s no wasting time on Facebook. You plow through your to-do list because you don’t want to stay late tonight. Having kids makes you acutely aware of how precious time is, and you know that it is not to be wasted.

I know those efforts aren’t always rewarded, however, and are too often overlooked. There is a good chance that you aren’t earning as much as a man doing your job would be, especially if you’re working after spending some time at home with your kids. You’re worried about telling your boss that you’re pregnant again, and trying to figure out how you will make it through an unpaid maternity leave.

That sucks, and I’m angry for you. As a stay-at-home mom, I know how little our society values caregiving, and how hard you work when you’re on maternity leave. Trust me, I know that you deserve to be paid.

Working is the right decision for you, the best way to support your family. But I know that you occasionally wonder if you’re spending enough time with your kids. In all likelihood, though, you are spending more time with them than your parents spent with you, whether they worked or not.

And even if your time is limited, take heart that research shows quality far outweighs quantity. Take it from someone who spends almost all of her time with her children – there is nothing inherently magical about it. My kids love their dad, whom they see on evenings and weekends, just as much as me.

Stay-at-home mom to working mom, thank you for everything you do. The nurse holding my son’s hand as he gets his blood drawn, knowing exactly how it feels to see your baby cry? His teacher, teaching him his ABCs and how to play nicely with his friends? Their pediatrician, diagnosing life-threatening allergies? All working moms. These women touch our lives every day, and I couldn’t do what I do without you.

Maybe you’re punching numbers into a spreadsheet that will never personally impact our lives, but I still wanted to say thank you. What you’re doing is so important. Our sons and daughters need to see women in all sorts of careers, and our world benefits from having mothers in the workforce for their abilities, perspective, experience, and skills. You’re at the forefront of social change, and I want to thank you for fighting the good fight.

Right now, staying at home with my kids is the balance that works best for our family. But when it’s time for me to re-enter the workforce, I’m glad to know that there are mothers out there now who have been proving that women can be great mothers and great employees. You’re making the world a better place, and I thank you for that.

Occasionally, my afternoon walks take me past a local daycare. I watch parents pick up their children, ready to head home for their second shift. Wave if you see me. I’m the one pushing a stroller, thinking that you are an amazing parent.

In case you don’t hear it enough: job well done.

Sincerely,

A Stay-at-Home Mom

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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For many families, getting out the door in the morning is one of the biggest hurdles in our day, whether you've got one kiddo or multiples. Mama needs to get ready, children need to find that missing sock, and everyone needs to find something to eat—all while making it to the car before the entire day is running behind.

So we asked Chairman Mom members for their best tips and tricks to getting out the door faster in the mornings. Here's what they shared:

1. Get your kids to help prep the night before

"The simplest thing you can do to streamline the morning is prep everything that can be prepped the night before. Often easier said than done. But once your kids are old enough, they can own a lot of this."—Amy

2. Set an alarm using your kid's favorite song 

"Something small that saves us a few minutes: I put on an alarm with my 3 three year old's favorite song at 7:42, he knows it signals it's time to get his shoes and coat on."—Nogo

3. Use smart technology 

"We use Google Home (I'm sure Alexa would do this too) to read kids a story. So much easier to stop after the story is over then telling her to shut off the tv from watching a show!"—Maven

4. Try wearing a mom uniform 

"I don't wear make up, and my hair is an inch long, so I do not spend any time styling anything. I have an Office Casual Uniform arrangement of clothing, shoes, and jewelry, so there is no real choice involved. I have a coffee maker that is programmable, so I set it up the night before to brew at 6:15am."—Melinite

5. Simplify your beauty routine

"I do mascara and tinted sunscreen. Lipstick that I can put on without a mirror."—Julie

6. ...and your kid's beauty routine

"I brush and braid my daughter's hair the night before so that we don't have to deal with tangles in the morning. This saves the morning from going off the rails..."—Crystal

7. Hire extra help just for the mornings 

"I have a nanny for 45 minutes every morning that comes to help us. That's the best hack my husband and I have found to have happy and stress free mornings and be working or at work by 8 or 8:30 am."—Maria

8. Make breakfast super easy 

"Keep breakfast food at my office (instant oatmeal, nuts + dry fruit) that I eat at my desk while doing the first round of email."—Petya

9. Find those lost socks

"Whenever I have a MOMENT I prep lunches, fix sandwiches, put them in Tupperware, chop fruit, etc. (Oh! I even let the kids earn extra spending money by chopping the week's fruit for me on Sunday with butter knives) And get uniforms and SOCKS ready. Finding socks can eat up a good 10 minutes of my morning routine."—Sarah

10.  Take the guesswork out of what your kid will wear

"I have a toddler who hates changing out of her PJs so we just dress her in her day clothes the night before—one less battle to fight in the morning."—Jess

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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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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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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