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“Parent Hacks” Author Asha Dornfest: “Sometimes you just have to do what works in the moment.”

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Asha Dornfest started her blog, ParentHacks.com, back in 2005. She is now the author of “Parent Hacks,” – the book, and co-hosts the “Edit Your Life” podcast.


Parent.co spoke with Dornfest about what makes a parent hack work, why parents need hacks, and how it’s helpful to understand that there’s freedom to be gained from structure – “very flexible structure.”

Asha Dornfest speaking at WDS 2015. Photo credit: Armosa Studios

Parent.co: What do you say to people like me who might think they aren’t quite organized enough to even put themselves in a position to utilize these hacks, no matter how badly we may want to.

For instance, the idea of creating outfits for your kids and rolling them up with a hair scrunchie. I was like, “That’s brilliant.” Then I was like, “Wow, when would I do that?”

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Asha Dornfest: The first thing I would say is, believe me, I’ve felt that so many times when I’ve read things. My Achilles heel happens to be around crafts, and the fact that it would require me to go to an art supply store and buy those things. Oh my gosh, the overhead required makes me tired even thinking about it.

I would say that everybody comes to these hacks from where they are. There’s no expectation that every single one is going to work for every single person. I think for some people they would look at a hack like the outfits with the scrunchie, and they would think, “Oh, that’s great. While I’m folding laundry I’ll just do that. That would be so easy.”

We stumble upon what makes our individual lives and situations easier, and those lives and situations change day to day, and are totally different based on what’s going on with us.

For other people it’s like, “It’s enough for me to just get the clothes in the drawers. I’m feeling good about that!”

I think there is allowance for that in, if not the book, then the notion of parent hacks. The idea here is we stumble upon what makes our individual lives and situations easier, and those lives and situations change day to day, and are totally different based on what’s going on with us.

The key is to notice in your life what it is that’s holding you back, and then fix that stuff. If you were to open my drawers, and look at my clothes, you’d be like, “Wow, you don’t even fold your clothes. You shove your clothes in your drawers.” I’m like, “Yeah, and it pretty much works for me. This is not a problem for me.”

I think that’s the thing. There isn’t an expectation that every hack will, or even should, work for everybody. You pick and choose the stuff that seems to make your life easier, then either ignore the rest, or think that maybe some day it might pop into your mind when it actually becomes handy to you.

As I was looking around on your site, I could feel myself creating a mental file. I’m not going to implement this immediately, but this is really brilliant, and I may not have thought of it on my own, so I’m really glad that I’ve just read this.

That’s really good. I think the thing, too, is that I find that guilt is such an undercurrent in so many parenting books. There’s this feeling that maybe I’m just not doing things right, or enough, or I could never do that. There is this insidious guilt and inadequacy that can creep in when you’re reading parenting books. I really tried to address that in this book. I’m hoping it came across. To me, it came across, but I’m hoping to readers it comes across that this is about encouraging people to embrace their own moments of genius, and to share them, and even get a little recognition for them.

I noticed on your website there is an emphasis on community. A lot of the hacks are reader submissions. It seems like it’s a supportive environment, not a competitive environment.

Not in the slightest. I never could have done it had it been competitive. This was really inspired by my own need as a relatively new parent myself. I felt very left behind by the parenting books that I read, and this was many years ago before Facebook, and you couldn’t really reality check beyond your own physical geographical community.

Starting the blog in 2005 was a way for me to reach out to other parents and say, “What’s working for you because I got to say it’s pretty hard over here? Here’s what’s working for me. How about we talk about it?” That’s really how it started. It was so simple.

It seems like you were ahead of your time, in a way. Was that just a natural inclination of yours, to reach out through the internet?

Yes. It really was. It’s both a natural inclination of my personality to reach out in the community way, but also the web part of it, the blog part of it, came because my previous writing career, before kids, was writing about computers and web publishing. My husband and I, we’re super early internet people. We were designing websites in the mid-90s, which was unheard of.

My first big book in that realm was “Microsoft Front Page for Dummies.” I don’t know if you remember Microsoft Front Page, but it was a web publishing program. Sort of like Microsoft Word, for webpages. I was very conversant with the web. I understood how the web worked. I understood how to create a website. I was using the web long before many of my peers were. Long before Amazon, before Google, before all that stuff. It wasn’t that I had this vision that the web would be this grand platform for parenting community, but it just seemed like a natural fit for me.

I found it so interesting that you mention on ParentHacks.com that your children have internet pseudonyms. I think that’s brilliant. I wish I could go back and undo some of the tagging that I’ve done of my children. It makes perfect sense to me now, that you were already more immersed in that world than a lot of other people.

It was a completely different world in 2005 on the web. Then, parent blogging was a relatively small community. Parent Hacks as a blog was – to my mind – one of the first parenting blogs that was more of a community-oriented site than a personal journal.

At the time parenting blogs were very much, first of all, they were written by women, so there weren’t men talking about parenting on the internet. Second of all, they were personal storytelling blogs. ParentHacks.com was definitely not. It’s never been about me. It’s always been about the community.

That attracted an audience, and so did the fact that it was a gender neutral site. Dads could talk about parenting, and that was a big deal because at that time the only people hanging out on the internet and using it a lot were programmers who, for better or for worse at that time, were mostly men. It turns out, lots of men at that stage really wanted to talk about being dads. They wanted to share some of the funny hacks that they’d come up with, and useful tips. That was the first wave of audience.

How you define the term “hack?”

I would define a hack, in terms of parent hack, as a clever or unexpected solution for a kid-related problem. Basically, one of those flash bulb moments you have as you’re, generally, dealing with either a moment of crisis, or just a daily annoyance, that you come up with a way to fix it. It’s just sort of a brainstorm that comes to you. Often times it’s unconventional, or it reuses something creatively in your house, or it’s just an unusual way to address, or fix a problem. That’s what a hack is.

There’s an obvious demand for these solutions. Why do parents need hacks?


I think parents need hacks because parenting is such a moment to moment, seat of the pants job. Literally, you have to think on your feet. You are on your feet, and you’ve got to deal with situations as they come up. A kid starts screaming in the backseat of the car, or diaper blowout, or whatever…

You have this illusion before you have children, I think some of us do, that we’re in control of our lives, our schedules, and our destinies. Then our children arrive and we have to respond to what happens, and what’s thrown at us. We can make plans, but those plans need to be flexible.

“Parent Hacks” addresses that. It addresses the fact that sometimes you just have to do what works in the moment.

Then again, the other part of the reason parents need Parent Hacks is because nobody’s standing around giving us medals for dealing with a diaper blowout in the middle of the neighborhood park. It’s really nice to get a little recognition for that. To not only get recognition, but to become part of something that makes us realize we’re not alone. We’re not losers because we’re all a mess by the time we get to the end of the day. We’re all doing this. We’re all figuring it out. We can help each other out when we share these little tips.

I was wondering if you have any thoughts about the idea that there’s a whole lot of freedom to be found in structure, particularly as it relates to working parenting hacks into your day, or as it relates to your podcast, “Edit Your Life?”

My natural way of being is – my mind likes to wander, and I physically like to wander. I love to be spontaneous. I love to not have plans. I’m not a risk-taker type person. When I say spontaneous it’s not like, “Let’s go skydiving!” It’s more like, “Let’s see what happens. Let’s see what reveals itself, then let’s make decisions based on that.” This is a wonderful thing.

However, when you’re dealing with parenting and the lack of predictability that comes with that, (it’s better to) have certain things structured so that you can get them done without really having to expend a lot of mental energy on them. Things like, a bit of a bedtime routine, a wake-up routine. Or there’s a bit of a laundry routine so you know you’re not going to be scrambling for underwear for your children.

Here’s a good example: If your kids play sports, after every sports practice you immediately put the uniform, or whatever, into the wash so it’s ready the next time. Those little bits of structure that take forethought, when you can just push yourself a little bit to take that extra step, it’s amazing. It frees 110% more mental energy. It’s really more than the sum of its parts, in terms of what it gives back to you.

I am so glad that you mentioned the podcast because my co-host, Christine, is very structured in the way she works, and she does it exactly so she can build in those open pockets of time. If you were to compare Christine and me, in terms of our productivity, she is much more productive because that’s the way her mind works. It’s really fine. That’s how she prefers to work.

I think that the key comes in accepting who you are, and how you like to work, then just adding little improvements, just like I was saying at the beginning. Adding little tweaks and improvements that will fix the problems you’re running into, not make you into some sort of ideal from everybody else’s perspective.

So many of us need to hear about how to live more simply, how to declutter, both mentally and practically; the idea of creating space in your life. What I’m hearing you say, and the message that I would love to hear more people saying, is that a lot of that space can be found by letting go of the things that you’re doing out of obligation, or out of a “Keeping up with the Pinterest moms” mentality.

We spend way too much time and energy and space worrying about stuff that we aren’t actually interested in doing.

You just hit on the head. That’s exactly it. That’s where it starts. Understanding that clearing space isn’t some sort of moral thing, that the best people are the ones with the least clutter. It’s not like that. It’s more like you deserve space for the things that are important to you, so what’s important to you? I think that’s where it starts.

It’s hard to be self-confident in this day and age, as parents, because there’s so much information coming at us. We care so much about doing what’s right for our kids and being good parents. It’s sort of a recipe for feeling inadequate, or feeling like we’re messing up somehow. It just seems like everywhere we turn there are all these different examples of people who are winning, but it’s like, “Are they winning in the way that I want to be winning?” It’s very hard to answer that question, but I do think that’s where it starts for sure.

…For me, speaking personally, it’s the most important message I could ever finally figure out. It took a long time.

I think that it’s easy to be susceptible to the idea that you are doing something wrong to begin with. But it’s really good to hear you say that that’s an incorrect assumption to start off with. It’s more about figuring out for yourself how you want to be doing something. That’s what all the hacks are about, right? Something that you organically come into on your own.

Yeah, you organically come into on your own. You recognize that it worked for you in that moment. It may not work for anyone else. It may not work for you the following week, but it worked for you in that moment, and you had the urge share it. That is that whole notion of trusting yourself as a parent in the most elemental form.

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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 21, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

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When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

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Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

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This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

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Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

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Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

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Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

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Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

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With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

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Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

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With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

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

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If I ever want to look alive before dropping my son off to school, there are two things I must put on before leaving the house: eyeliner and mascara. When using eyeliner, I typically use black liner on my top lid, a slightly lighter brown for my bottom lid, and then a nude liner for my water line. It works every time.

My mascara routine is a bit different. Because my natural lashes are thin and not the longest, I always opt for the darkest black I can find, and one that's lengthening and volumizing. For this reason, I was immediately drawn to It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara. The new mascara is developed in partnership with Drybar (the blow dry bar that specializes in just blowouts) and promises to deliver bold and voluminous lashes all day long. I was sold.

Could this really be the blowout my lashes have been waiting for? It turns out, it was much better than most volumizing formulas I've tried.

For starters, the wand is a great size—it's not too big or small, and it's easy to grip—just like my favorite Drybar round brush. As for the formula, it's super light and infused with biotin which helps lashes look stronger and healthier. I also love that it's buildable, and I didn't notice any clumps or flakes between coats.

The real test is that my lashes still looked great at dinnertime. I didn't have smudges or the dreaded raccoon eyes I always get after a long day at work. Surprisingly, the mascara actually stayed in place. To be fair, I haven't compared them with lash-extensions (which are my new go-to since having baby number two), but I'm sure it will hold up nicely.

Overall, I was very impressed with the level of length and fullness this mascara delivered. Indeed, this is the eyelash blowout my lashes have been waiting for. While it won't give you a few extra hours in bed, you'll at least look a little more awake, mama.

It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara

It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara
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Here's how I apply IT Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara:

  1. Starting as close to lash line as possible (and looking down), align the brush against your top lashes. Gradually turn upwards, then wiggle the wand back and forth up and down your eyelashes.
  2. Repeat, if needed. Tip: Be sure to allow the mascara to dry between each coat.
  3. Using the same technique, apply mascara to your bottom lashes, brushing the wand down your eyelashes.
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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Having children isn't always as easy as it looks on Instagram. There's so much more to motherhood than serene baby snuggles and matching outfits. But there's a reason we've fallen so deeply in love with motherhood: It's the most beautiful, chaotic ride.

Every single day, we sit back and wonder how something so hard can feel so rewarding. And Eva Mendes just managed to nail the reality of that with one quote.

Eva, who is a mama to daughters Esmerelda and Amada with Ryan Gosling, got real about the messy magic of motherhood in a recent interview.

"It's so fun and beautiful and maddening," the actress tells Access Daily. "It's so hard, of course. But it's like that feeling of…you end your day, you put them to bed and Ryan and I kind of look at each other like, 'We did it, we did it. We came out relatively unscathed.'"

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And just like that, moms all over the world feel seen. We've all been there: Struggling to get through the day (which, for the record is often every bit as fun as it is challenging), only to put those babies to sleep and collapse on the couch in sheer exhaustion. But, after you've caught your breath, you realize just how strong and capable you really are.

One thing Eva learned the hard way? That sleep regressions are very, very real...and they don't just come to an end after your baby's first few months. "I guess they go through a sleep regression, which nobody told me about until I looked it up," she says "I was like, 'Why isn't my 3-year-old sleeping?'"

But, at the end of the day, Eva loves her life as a mom—and the fact that she took a break from her Hollywood career to devote her days to raising her girls. "I'm so thankful I have the opportunity to be home with them," she says.

Thank you for keeping it real, Eva! Momming isn't easy, but it sure is worth it.

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My labor and delivery was short and sweet. I started feeling contractions on Monday morning and by Tuesday night at 8:56 pm my handsome baby boy was born. Only 30 minutes of pushing. Afterward, I was still out of it, to be honest. I held him and did some skin to skin and handed him off to my husband, my mother held him next.

When he was in my mother's arms, I knew he was safe. I started to drift off, the epidural had me feeling drowsy and I had used up all my strength to push this 7 lb baby out. My son's eyes were open and then I guess he went to sleep too. My mother swayed him back and forth. The nurses were in and out, cleaning me up and checking in on us.

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When yet another nurse came in, my mom said to her, "He wasn't latching because he wanted to sleep."

The nurse yelled, "He's not sleeping!"

The next 25 minutes happened in slow motion for me.

After the nurse said these words, she flung my son onto the little baby bed. I looked over and he looked a little blue. Then I heard the loud words of CODE PINK. In matters of seconds about 30 nursing staff descended into my room and crowded around my baby.

I couldn't even see what was happening. I tried to get out the bed but they wouldn't let me and after a couple of failed attempts one of the nurses look at me and said, "He's fine, he's breathing now."

Breathing now? He wasn't breathing before? Again, I tried to push my way to my baby, but once again I was told to not move. They had just performed CPR on my 30-minute old newborn and I couldn't understand what was happening even after a pediatrician tried to explain it to me.

I just started crying. He was fine in my stomach for 39 weeks and 6 days and now I bring him into this world and his heart nearly stops?

I was told he needed to go to the neonatal intensive care unit. I was confused, as I thought the NICU was only for preemies and my son was full term.

After what felt like an eternity we were finally allowed to see our son. My husband wheeled me there and we saw him in the corner alone. I saw the incubator and the wires, he's all bundled up.

The nurse explained all the beeping and showed me the heart rate monitor. He's doing fine. We go over the feeding schedule. I'm exhausted still. I stay with him until about 1 or 2 am. They all suggest I get some sleep. There's no bed in the NICU, so I head back to my room.

The next day was better, he doesn't have to be in the incubator anymore, but the wires remain. By that night or early the next morning, the wires in his nose come out and I try feeding him. I try pumping. It was painful.

He gets his first bath and he loves it. The nurse shampoos his hair (he had a lot!) and he seems so soothed. The nurse explains that because he's full term he doesn't need the same type of support in the NICU. She tells me my baby's strong and he'll be fine.

I look around. I see the other babies, the other moms. They could be there for weeks. And unlike me, the moms have to go home—without their baby.

Friday comes and by now he's done all his tests, blood work came back normal, all tubes have been removed and I get it. I get my going-home package. Finally. I get my instructions on doctor follow-ups and we finally get to go home.

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There have been a lot of iconic entertainment magazine covers featuring pregnant women over the years. Who can forget Demi Moore's bare baby bump on Vanity Fair or Britney Spears' similar nude pose on Harper's Bazaar?

Pregnant women on a magazine covers is nothing new, but a visibly pregnant CEO on the cover of a business magazine, that's a first and it happened this week.

Inc. just put The Wing's CEO Audrey Gelman on the cover and this is a historic moment in publishing and business.

As Gelman told Today this week, "You can't be what you can't see, so I think it's so important for women to see that it's possible to run a fast-growing business and also to start a family."

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She continued: "It's so important to sort of burst that bubble and to have new images of women who are thriving and working professionally while balancing motherhood … My hope is that women see this and again feel the confidence to take greater professional risks while also not shelving their dreams of becoming a mother and starting a family."

The Wing started in 2016 as a co-working space for women and has grown rapidly. As Inc. reports, The Wing has eight locations in the U.S. with plans for more American and international locations by 2020.

Putting Gelman on the cover was an important move by Inc. and Gelman's honesty about her early pregnancy panic ("I can't be pregnant. I have so much to do." she recalls thinking after her pregnancy test) should be applauded.

Gelman says pregnancy made her slow down physically, and that it was actually good for her company: "I had this realization: The way to make my team and my employees feel proud to work for me and for the company was actually not to pretend to be superhuman or totally unaffected by pregnancy."

We need this. We need CEOs to admit that they are human so that corporate leadership can see employees as humans, too. Humans need things like family leave and flexibility, especially when they start raising little humans.

There are a lot of iconic covers featuring pregnant women, but this one is different. She's wearing clothes and she's changing work culture.

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