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When I became a mom I was tutoring for one of those companies where rich people send their kids.


Well, actually, when I became a mom I was on unpaid maternity leave from my tutoring job because tutoring jobs almost never hire full-time tutors, and that means you don’t get benefits like maternity leave when you work for them.

I was a dedicated employee. I showed up on time. My students liked me. I kept working until the week before my due date. I did things like play indoor Frisbee and basketball as motivators for my students, even late in my pregnancy.

When I was on maternity leave I received several messages from students who were desperate for me to return.

Things were going well.

 

But when I came back, I was not welcomed as kindly as I’d hoped.

My availability had shifted a bit, as it does when one has a baby, and I was hoping to ease back into the job by only working three or four days a week. I didn’t think this was a big deal because even people who had been there for years were only available three or four days a week.

But I still offered the necessary time slots and even took on unnecessary hours.

I was instructed to pump my breasts in the bathroom, which really bummed me out at first until I looked it up and realized IT’S THE LAW TO NOT MAKE MOMS DO THAT.

So I brought up some different location options with my supervisors. One told me that the toilet scene had worked for another girl who had worked there before.

I guess I was supposed to buck up and be like her. But instead I said that it just wouldn’t work for me. Not because I have a lot of clout at this place, but because I knew I had the literal law to back me up.

They couldn’t say no. But they could and did make me feel weird about bringing it up. I was made to feel like I was being needy and annoying.

Thankfully, the next day when I came to work they had set aside a tiny room for me to use for pumping. I felt like they were suddenly a little bit scared of me for standing up for myself and knowing my rights, because they kept asking how I liked it.

They wanted to know what I thought of the fancy “new curtain” they put in the room so that no one could see me pumping through the window. I was like, “HEY FIVE MINUTES AGO YOU WANTED ME TO DO THIS ON THE TOILET, so forgive me for being apathetic.”

As the weeks went by, my hours started to get cut, supposedly because there weren’t that many students.

Meanwhile, the company was hiring more tutors. I also noticed on the schedule that tutors who had been hired after me were being given hours that were in my availability range.

Just because I had become a mother didn’t mean I had become an idiot.

I realized then that I was being “phased out.” But I wasn’t going to go without a fight, so I worked my ass off.

As I said before, I was no slouch when it came to teaching (I have many years of teaching experience under my belt), but I started to work even harder, saying all the right things and schmoozing with all the right people. The company gave evaluations to its tutors every week or so, and I was hitting those bad boys out of the park.

If I was going to get “phased out,” I was sure as hell going to know it wasn’t because I was bad at my job.

A few weeks later, I wrote an email to my boss saying that I could use more hours and asking if there was anything I could do to increase my hours.

My boss responded by saying that it was really just the current need (including two full paragraphs on the number of students and the hours they came in for tutoring, etc.).  At the end of the email, he mentioned that I should look to my recent evaluations to see any changes that needed to be made.

He then copy-and-pasted the text from my most recent evaluation with a few things upon which I could improve.

Of course, having worked there for a year at this point, I knew that all evaluation sheets included sections for things we should continue doing and sections for areas where we needed improvement.

I had been told on numerous occasions that there were always areas where everyone could improve, so the improvement section always needed to be filled in, no matter how well the employee was doing.

I knew that this was just his way of saying “there is always more to work on!” and that if he actually had a concern about my performance, he would have

1. Emailed me about it first, and

2. Brought it up in person with me at some point.

But he didn’t. My performance wasn’t the issue. I actually thought, “Okay, maybe they aren’t trying to phase me out.” I supposed I could have been imagining it.

I had done what I needed to and requested more hours, so I was confident that my boss would at least do what he could to help.

Going to work was just a strange ritual that had almost no return on investment.

Not so. On the next schedule, my hours were even less than they had been before. Not more; not the same amount; but less.

And the time slots were, yet again, being filled with recent hires.

I knew that my availability wasn’t exactly what they would have hoped, but this was unacceptable. I was already making pocket change at this point, so going to work was just a strange ritual that had almost no return on investment.

Thankfully my husband came home from his job before I had to go to work.

If childcare had been necessary,  I would have been making something like $158 a week.

I was furious. The people I had so enjoyed working for pre-pregnancy now seemed to wish I didn’t exist. I felt like now that I had a consistent life and wasn’t young and new and shiny and willing to put up with the lack of consistency in the schedule, I was being thrown aside.

My employee friends kept asking me why I was taking so much time off and I had to tell them that it wasn’t on purpose. I was being treated like someone who was dispensable because I spoke my mind about my needs.

But I was not going to let that happen. If I was going to be dispensed, at least I was going to speak up about it.

So I responded to my boss’ email with a much longer one. To this day it is one of the writings of which I am most proud, though only two people (my husband included) ever saw it up until this point. I have pasted a bit of it here below:

“I believe we hold the highest standards in terms of our students and their needs.

I do think that this circumstance (and perhaps a few others) prove that _______ could use improvement as far as holding those same standards of for its employees.  What I mean to say is that I think if you considered this a little more, you would see that it is just as important to give the employees the empathy they deserve (in my case that would mean understanding that I am using the tools I am given to get the childcare I need, which happens to come at the cost of some availability).

I also believe it is important for ______ to produce consistency in the entire office, which means trying to retain its team members and incentivize their stay.  In my case that means seeing that I am one of the tutors that has been at _______ for the longest time.  I am sure that the company would prefer to avoid a high turnover rate, and thus would rather retain those team members who have already put in the time to deserve their place.  I consider myself one of those people.  Therefore, I think it would behoove the center to put those values in place for me in this circumstance.  I also think that, though my schedule is inconsistent, there are ways that the center could still fill in the gaps each week – whether it be doing office tasks, preparing for events, or other necessary jobs.

Regarding my performance, I am aware of the necessary refinements that were written on my year review documents, and I have made improvement since then (c.c. my most recent evaluations).  Please let me know if you have questions!

Best Regards (I didn’t really mean this at this point),

Brigitta”

I sent this email out on a Tuesday, and returned to work the rest of the following week. During that time my boss was conveniently out of the office or on calls during all of the hours that I worked.

The following Wednesday I was told to go to my boss’ office. I was relieved, because I thought it meant he wanted to have a conversation about my email.

But he didn’t say anything about the email. Instead, he told me I was fired and handed me an envelope with information about how I was allowed to talk about the company.

I had been fired for a week now, and he had only just gotten around to telling me.

I was being treated like someone who was dispensable because I spoke my mind about my needs.

I looked in the envelope and found a form that had been filled out the previous Wednesday (the day after he had received my email) that noted that I was to be let go. I had been fired for a week now, and he had only just gotten around to telling me.

Furthermore, the reason for my termination was “poor work performance.” I laughed aloud to see this sit on my desk on top of my recent evaluations (filled to the edges with things that I had been doing well and with only one or two notes about improvements that could be made).

One week prior I was an employee who was only getting cut from the schedule because of the company’s current need and now I was being fired for “poor work performance.”

All of this because I knew I wasn’t being treated fairly and spoke up about it.

My husband urged me to file a complaint against the company with the EEOC. So I did. All of my fellow-employee-friends agreed that I had been unjustly fired and offered to be references for the application.

After months of back-and-forths, the case what shut down because, as I suspected, the company’s requirement to record areas for improvement’ in every evaluation basically meant that the company always had evidence on file to support “poor work performance.” They had the paperwork ready at any given time to fire someone for no good reason.

It was difficult to accept that all of the work I had put into my job had culminated into being fired for speaking my mind about my needs as a new mom.

When I look back I see the struggle of being a working mom in a place where moms are not the preferred employees.

I tell myself to look back on my time there as a learning experience that gave me a way to make money during my transformation into being a mother. But most of the time when I look back I just see the struggle of being a working mom in a place where moms are not the preferred employees.

I see the cowardice of company leaders who are tired of dealing with people who speak up for themselves. I see the pain of this happening a hundred more times for a hundred more moms like me in the future.

My story is not a traumatic one. I know other parents have had it far worse than I. My story is a simple one that can easily be played off by them as “poor performance” and by me as my having a job that “just didn’t work out with my schedule.”

But I choose to tell it like it really was for me because I know there are other stories like it that deserve that same reality check.

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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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