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I will never forget the first time my six-year-old daughter and I sat at the kitchen table, crying over her math homework. Yes, both of us were crying, and I was drinking wine. I never imagined how frustrating it would be doing basic addition with a first grader, but of course, the methods had changed so drastically since my own 1980s education that I was not well-versed in the correct lingo.


Though I had (perhaps embarrassingly) actually enjoyed the regular “timed tests” we used to take in elementary school – being uber-competent at memorizing math facts – this is no longer common practice. Thirty years later, I was clearly lacking in my ability to “make a ten” or build a “math mountain,” thus rendering me useless in my capacity to assist with math homework. And so we both wept with hopelessness.

Second grade was a bit better, thanks to a kind teacher who was very patient with my regularly scrawled post-it notes attached to homework sheets, stating that “we tried our best and had to quit,” or that we had a “busy night and didn’t finish.” But I felt guilty every time I, I mean, my daughter, failed to turn in a completed worksheet. She was seven.

Third grade was particularly rough. In addition to the nightly (except for Fridays; TGIF indeed!) math worksheets, they now had a weekly four-page language packet. I had officially hit new levels of resentment; as a working mother of two, the four-hour window between school dismissal and bedtime was already quite full. When exactly were we supposed to fit this in? I didn’t ask; we just did it.

Fourth grade brought the dreaded, “weekly writing journal,” a tedious process that originally I had thought would be great fun to complete together, (how adorable of me!). And while our first few attempts at planning, drafting, revising, editing, and polishing were quite exhilarating, the assignment soon joined the list of, “one more thing” we had to do.

We had piano lessons, weekly dance classes, Girl Scout meetings, and like all other families, errands to run, meals to eat, and children to bathe. Let’s not forget nightly reading time, whether fueled by an actual love of reading and value of literacy, or in an effort to fill out the requisite reading log in the “exceeding standards” category.

I railed against the imposition of homework on our lives. I ranted about it to whoever would listen. I attended a special PTA meeting to address the “new math” curriculum and met other frustrated, inept parents.

One teacher along the way even confessed that she, too, thought homework in elementary school was stupid. But I heard other parents advocating for the heavy homework load, saying it would prepare the kids for middle school, and I kept my mouth shut. We plugged along. After all, we were rule followers, not boat rockers!

And then in fifth grade, the year my youngest entered kindergarten, I thought I would inquire about who exactly was setting these homework standards. I sent a letter to the school district’s Achievement Department, sharing our feelings that homework was often stressful and a bit too much, and politely asking how these standards were determined.

I quickly received a phone call back, not from the district, but from our school principal, to whom my email had been forwarded. She told me that the individual school determined the homework, not the district or some outside person above. She informed me that for most parents, homework was a value and an expectation.

Parents appreciated it; they wanted it. I was a bit flabbergasted. I had no doubt that this was true for many people in our overachieving school zone, but I’d had enough conversations with other frustrated parents who were pushed to their breaking points to know that this perception of parent support for homework was only partially accurate.

The principal went on to tell me that homework is always up to the parent. At any time, we have the right to say no, to only do part of it, to say that it is too much.

I was floored.

Yes, I was grateful to know that going forward, I simply needed to tell my children’s teacher that we didn’t agree with the rigorous homework policy and would fit it in as it worked for us. But what I should have said was, “At no point in our five years at this school has anyone ever made that policy clear. We have never been told –at curriculum night, at parent-teacher conferences –that all we had to do was say something and we could modify the homework policy. Nobody has ever said it was up to us.”

I felt a bit sheepish, if not slightly humiliated, that as a thirty-eight-year-old woman, I was being given permission by an authority figure to do what was right for my family. Why hadn’t I advocated more strongly before?

My need to follow the current overcame my instincts to do what was best for my family, and of that, I was deeply ashamed. I also wondered what right we had to do things our own way if everybody else was doing the assignments as given. “If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you do it?” my father’s voice echoed in my head. I also worried that we would be showing disrespect to the teacher by refusing to complete the given assignments.

I thanked the principal for the information and had a productive conversation with our classroom teacher. As it turns out, 5th grade has been a less rigorous homework year than the two previous grades, and only occasionally have we been too busy or frustrated to complete an assignment.

In general, I want my daughter to attempt the worksheets that are assigned. But I also believe that much of the time, these worksheets are busywork and do not necessarily enhance the children’s learning experience. When we need the extra practice, we will definitely try our best. I believe, however, that our children spend close to seven hours at work, and it is not acceptable for them to come home and do more work. After all, my husband and I don’t do that, so why would we send a different message to our kids?

I will have my children complete their worksheets when it fits into our lives and doesn’t drive us to tears. I want to know what they are working on, and I agree that it is valuable to develop discipline and routine. But when we are burned out, or have had a hard day, or are running from lesson to errand to home for dinner and bath, I will say no. Because, as was communicated to me, that is my right as a parent.

To others who feel overwhelmed and resentful of elementary school homework, I say: Speak up! If you don’t like your school’s homework policy, say something. Your silence – and mine – is being interpreted as a validation of a value. If we say nothing and struggle at home, we are complicit in the policies that are being set forth for our children. Your voice is important – use it.

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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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