A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

“Good morning, Mama,” my three-year-old says as he climbs up next to me on the couch. I woke up early to write, but he has other plans. “The end!” he cheers, closing my laptop. “Let’s make banana muffins!”


This will be the first of many interruptions today.

For many parents, a work-from-home job seems ideal. No commute. No dress code. Low-to-no childcare costs, at least for part-timers with flexible schedules. But here at the start of summer vacation, work-at-home parents are facing down three months of interruptions.

Fortunately, productivity experts have been working on this problem for decades. Their strategies, built for the workplace, can also help parents make space for work at home.

 

 

More work hours, less productivity

Leslie Perlow, professor at Harvard Business School, has been studying how technology, especially the 24-hour availability it has created, has made workplaces less efficient. Her 2012 book “Sleeping With Your Smartphone” helped people carve out uninterrupted, tech-free time, which appears to make people both happier and more productive.

One of Perlow’s earliest studies, “The Time Famine,” focused on software engineers at high-tech firms. Her findings will likely sound familiar to parents struggling to work from home. Perlow describes three problems that lead to longer hours but less overall productivity in the workplace.

First is the “crisis mentality.” For the software engineers Perlow studied, a new crisis was always brewing, like a serious bug in a product about to ship. Workers often had to abandon their planned work in order to deal with that crisis. That planned work was ignored until it eventually became a crisis, and once things reached crisis level, work was rarely efficient or thorough.

A second problem is “individual heroics.” Engineers at the company Perlow studied were rewarded for responding to crises by “doing high visibility work, accommodating the demands of the work, and being present.” Engineers rarely felt that they could say “no” to a work request. That was the case even when an engineer knew from experience that a new project or approach would not succeed or could not be completed in the expected time frame. When the engineers accepted such requests, they ended up putting in extremely long hours at work, even when they could have worked remotely, because they perceived being seen at work to be important to their success. Because being seen at times seemed more important than actual work output, the engineers also devoted more time to projects that were more visible, but not necessary more vital.

Both the crisis mentality and the concept of individual heroics lead to a third problem: a constant cycle of interruptions. Workers trying to solve the current crisis or appear as individual heroes tended to interrupt their colleagues more frequently, leading to decreased productivity for all.

As other researchers have found, all those interruptions add up. Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California Irvine who researches how people interact with computers, found that each workplace interruption cost an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds. That’s how long it takes people to get back on track when their work is interrupted.

A “vicious time-work cycle”

A crisis mentality. Individual heroics. Frequent interruption. These three elements make up what Perlow calls the “vicious time-work cycle.” Each new crisis creates more individual heroics, which causes more interruptions, which makes work take longer. Work piles up, setting the stage for a new crisis next week.

Work-at-home parents might see themselves in this time-work cycle.

Parents certainly adopt a crisis mentality. In addition to all of the actual crises parents have to manage, parents often drop everything for imagined crises. It’s all hands on deck when a child has to potty train before preschool starts in two weeks, or when another child outgrows a wardrobe and her shirts are hovering near dress code violation, or when the band concert is tonight but the kid just split his last reed.

Parenting is also built on the concept of individual heroics. Parents often jump in to resolve all of a household’s imagined crises, whether it’s intervening in a sibling fight, dropping off homework, or making bake-sale cupcakes. But in attacking these problems parents are putting in more time for less output. They are not focusing on the most important tasks to complete, just the most visible.

Like the workers in Perlow’s study, parents deal with near constant interruption. Even the simplest cleaning tasks are open to interruption. A stray banana peel on the counter distracts a parent from vacuuming. How did this get here? It’s cut. Did my three-year old reach a knife? Now she’s neglected both the floor and the counter to re-kid-proof the kitchen. That’s to say nothing of work time interruptions, like doorbells, or questions hollered down the stairs, or a guilty-faced kid hovering at the office door.

The solution: “Quiet Time”

Perlow found that workers stuck in the time-work cycle were working incredibly long hours, but had relatively little productivity to show for it.

Perlow’s solution for the engineers borrowed a strategy parents have long-relied upon to get things done. She implemented two blocks of “quiet time” into the workday, during which engineers were expected to work without interruption from colleagues or managers.

Perlow found that employees who had guaranteed quiet time reported more job satisfaction. They also completed their work in a much shorter period of time. Perlow has extended this work to many other businesses, many of which find that employees can actually reduce overall work hours by implementing quiet time in their offices.

Making time for “Quiet Time”

Work-at-home parents probably cannot declare five to six hours of uninterrupted quiet time per day, as Perlow did for the engineers in her study. But we can adopt Perlow’s strategies to accomplish more work in less time, as long as we establish some quiet time best practices.

1 | Set a specified quiet time.

The first thing work-at-home parents need to do is designate specific “quiet time” blocks. Although many parents rely on naptime for their most pressing tasks, the findings of interruption science researchers like Gloria Mark demonstrate the problems with depending upon that daily of free work time. Assume that your nap-taking children spend about an hour napping on average, and, for the sake of argument, we’ll assume (delusionally) that if you have multiple children, they all nap at precisely the same time. It will take 10 minutes to settle into a task, so in the best case scenario, you’ll have 50 minutes of solid work time.

But it will rarely be the best case scenario. If you’re interrupted even one time, according to Mark’s research, you’ll need another 23 minutes or so to settle back into work. So for that hour of naptime, you might get 27 minutes of work done.

Instead of relying upon infrequent naptimes, or squeezing in hours at the start or end of your long parenting days, set a specified quiet time and rigorously defend it. Perlow discovered that when quiet time was held wasn’t as important as the fact that quiet time was honored. So start by carving out whatever window of time works best for your family. If everyone in the family has work to do, quiet time can be a specified time on weekday evenings. If you’re a parent to young kids who don’t yet have homework, quiet time might require more creative manipulation of the schedule. You might, for example, pay for three hours of child care two days a week to get six uninterrupted work hours.

If this seems impossible to you, consider that data about naptime again. Let’s say that your part-time job requires 10 hours a week, which you try to squeeze in during the early mornings and naptimes. But let’s say that half of those mornings and naptimes are interrupted, a generous assumption. All of those interruptions are killing your productivity, and if you’re getting up early or staying up late for some of that time, you’ll lose productivity to sleep. So skip all of that and get yourself just three hours of uninterrupted time, twice per week.

2 | Head-off crises

The engineers in Perlow’s study did not succeed at quiet time right from the start. Many found that they were unprepared for long stretches of uninterrupted work time because they were so unused to having it. Once they made strong to-do lists, however, they found quiet time to make a significant impact on their productivity.

If you are working in the same space as your children, you’ll need more than just a to-do list to get things done. One small step with potentially large rewards is reorganizing your common spaces. If your quiet time is in the mornings, consider reorganizing your dishes so that young kids can get their own cereal. Keep non-toxic cleaning supplies within reach so they can take care of their own spills. It also helps to be invisible. If your workspace is within view of your kid’s play space, enlist them to help you make privacy blinds. If they see the blinds, they’ll know you’re not ready to play yet.

3 | Halt the heroics

As a parent, you’ll have to weather the real crises. But you don’t have to be the hero of imaginary crises. Parents with children of all ages are guilty of feeding the flames by responding to the crisis du jour. For parents with toddlers, it might be responding to every tantrum. For parents of older kids, it might be driving in forgotten homework. For high schoolers, it might be last-minute essay editing. In all of these cases, your quiet time should not suffer the consequences of their choices.

4 | Hold the chores

Quiet time and chores don’t mix. This doesn’t mean that the dishes can wait. It just means that during your scheduled quiet time, there’s no room for housework. This includes parents’ favorite multi-task, the laundry. Yes, parents have mountains of laundry to do. And tossing in a load between other activities can feel like effective multi-tasking. But if you’re switching over laundry every 45 minutes, you’re costing yourself 23 minutes and 15 seconds of work time. Switching your laundry to a different time of day may make it easier to avoid laundry-based interruptions. Better yet, delegate the laundry so that older kids are responsible for taking care of their own. Doing a 12-year-old’s laundry is an excellent example of unnecessary individual heroics.

This list is just a starting place to make quiet time work for you. As all parents know, a shush can be short (SHHH) or long (SHHHHHH). Add as many Hs as you need (hold this, halt that) until you’ve made the space you need to work productively.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

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.

Our Partners

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.

Coverage:

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.

You might also like:

News

[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.

You might also like:

News

[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.

You might also like:

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