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The Spectrum Is Full Circle: My Journey as an Autism Mom

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One year ago, I existed in an pre-autism diagnosis ulterior universe. I had a two-year-old son who had only said “ball” and “hi” a handful of times, and a newborn baby. I knew that my eldest, Henry, was a “late-talker.” I just didn’t know why, yet. I knew that I was seriously struggling as a mother; I just didn’t know why, yet. I had so many unanswered questions. When too many unknowns land in my lap in the same moment, I always find myself looking up to the sky, and asking, “Is anyone there? Can anyone help me?” Despite 10 years of Catholic school, I do not consider myself to be religious at all, and neither would anyone else. But this upward gaze seems to be an instinctive act of desperation that I engage in when the weight of the unanswered questions becomes too heavy for me to carry.

Henry was also struggling, and with more than just his speech development. Both of us were adjusting to life with a new baby, and our transition processes were far from graceful. In an attempt to spend some quality one-on-one time with him, I took him to McDonald’s while my mom cared for the baby. Upon entering, I was immediately dismayed to see another mother and her twin toddler sons playing in the back play area. The mom was quietly eating her salad while watching her sons play. Why was I so antisocial with other moms? Would I have to chat with her? I didn’t want to try to explain why my son was not responding to her twin boys of the same age when they inevitably attempt to interact with him. I was tired of explaining. I didn’t have the answer. Constantly attempting to explain something that you don’t understand is exhausting.

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I was tense as Henry approached the entrance to a maze of plastic tubes that wrapped and wound across the entire room. I wanted him to play, engage, and have fun. But I did not want him to get stuck, get anxious, claustrophobic, or cornered by the other children. I just had a 10-pound baby; I could NOT fit up there. But I let him go, as all parents must do at points throughout their journeys. But I watched him like a hawk. I envied the other mother, sitting there, eating her salad. She was so relaxed, and she eats healthy too. My envy slowly grew into a resentful inner dialogue. This woman has no idea. Must be nice.

But then something happened. One of her sons became upset. My gaze shifted from the snooty mom and her salad to the twin boys. While one was playing nicely in the ball house, the other was suddenly upset as he investigated the rooms tables and benches. The mom went to her upset son, comforted him, and after a moment came back to sit down. She turned toward me, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “He is autistic.” That was it. No apology offered, yet she spoke with all the warmth in the world. With three words, my snooty competitor just became my new hero.

I was not yet in a position to even suggest in return that my son was potentially autistic. Had the possibility occurred to me? Yes. But I hadn’t been offered any medical advice pointing toward that conclusion. To the contrary, I had been told that Henry “looked fine” by medical professionals. And while I knew that an autism diagnosis was possible, I was not emotionally ready to verbalize my concern, especially to a stranger. But deep down, I knew.

With our mom guards down, we chatted nicely for a few short minutes until her husband called. He wouldn’t be on time to get the kids and she wasn’t prepared to have them there for more than a few minutes. She hung up, stressed and upset. I knew the feeling. It was perfect timing for a poopy diaper. And she was out of diapers. I gave her a few and a pack of wipes before gathering our things and heading home. She was so grateful. And so was I, I just didn’t know why yet.

I continued to think about our interaction throughout the next few days, weeks, months. What was it about her that stuck with me? Should my son be diagnosed as autistic, would I ever be as comfortable, confident, and unapologetic as she was about it? Would I be able to straddle that fine line between honesty and defensiveness? Would I exude grace and dignity as a mother to an autistic child? Will I ever start ordering salad? The questions were endless; they still are.

A year has passed, and this mother’s words have stuck with me. “He is autistic.” I have stumbled many times over the phrase since my son’s diagnosis. It’s been a rough year, and not just because of my son’s diagnosis. Adjusting to two kids, my husband’s work injury, quitting my job to be available for speech, occupational, and behavior therapies. That’s my new job. And I’m okay with it, but it doesn’t pay the bills.

So I got together with my girlfriend, who is also a special needs mama, to wallow in the trials and tribulations of our current circumstances and watch the kids find innovative and new ways to endanger themselves in a child-friendly environment. That’s right, McDonald’s folks. I might sound like a huge Big Mac fan, but the real motivations behind our dining preference are quite simple; saving money, and keeping it easy. I’m not going to pay $12 to go somewhere and leave 15 minutes later, especially when I’m broke.

We had recently missed my friend’s son’s birthday party because both of my boys were sick, so I brought along the birthday present to our playdate. As I parked the car I took a deep breath and looked back at the two eager boys behind me. I had a battle to choose; leave the gift in the car and deal with a meltdown now, or bring it with us inside and deal with a meltdown in 10 minutes. While neither option seemed ideal, I knew that leaving the gift in the car would hopefully result in a shorter meltdown than bringing it inside would. So, I threw my wallet into the diaper bag and began to unload both kids from the car. Mind you, neither of my children can be on foot without at least holding my hand for safety. Especially considering that we were in a busy parking lot in a strip mall outside of McDonald’s.

We didn’t get very far. Henry was pissed. I thought if I could just get him inside McDonald’s, get him some fries and to the play area, we would be alright. With a 35-pound one-year-old on my hip, and the diaper bag on my shoulder, I tried to get Henry to hold my hand and walk the 20 feet across traffic toward the entrance. It was not happening. These are the moments that I literally stare up at the sky and ask, “What’s the punchline God? What am I missing? What do you want me to do here?” My now underweight, stressed out, 110-pound self threw Henry up onto my other hip, and step by step, I carried the 75-pound load toward the swinging doors. It was so close; it was so, so far away.

I made it through the line of cars pulling into the parking lot and as I went to open the door with my not-so-free hand, Henry blew. He was not going in there without that present. He was not going in there at all. Mcdonald’s was packed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Summer was over and it was a weekday! I looked up from the mayhem in my arms, Henry resisting the sensory overload that waited inside, and James shifting the weight of his upper body towards the swinging doors, eager to go inside, and saw the same one hundred faces I had seen one hundred times before; blank, not judging, not sympathetic, just blank. I thought, “How can NONE of these people be running over to help me right now? ” I looked at them in desperation. Embarrassed, tired, physically about to keel over. But I couldn’t give up. I had two boys that would run into traffic if for even a moment I accepted defeat. So I fought harder.

As I stood in the doorway, with the eyes of a hundred blank stares burning into the back of my head, I put the boys down and held them both as I tried to comfort Henry. The staring didn’t help. Neither did the lights or the loud noises vibrating through the now closed doors. I would have to head back toward the car. I didn’t know if I physically had the strength for the journey. I begun to look upward with desperation yet again, when the double doors swung open, and I tried to inch all three of us out of the way. It was a older man, and he wasn’t just passing by. He came out to help me.

The second he paused to offer us assistance, I lost the grasp of my one year old’s hand and we were still in a busy parking lot. Henry squirmed and while pointing to James, I shouted to the man, “Do you have him?” In an instant he swooped him up and helped me herd them both inside. We made it. I turned to the man, and as I thanked him, I noticed his tattered clothing and stubbly beard. He was homeless. And he was the only person out of literally a hundred people who came to help me. I cry as I write this knowing that he very well could have saved my son’s life. I thanked him profusely, gathered myself, and headed to the back play area to meet my girlfriend and her son, who were unaware of the chaos that ensued just moments before.

My friend and I had our usual chaotic lunch, spent tracking the kids and barely getting a word in edgewise, and after we were beat and the kids were beginning to spiral we headed out. I didn’t see the man who had helped us, and with the journey to the car ahead, I had to remain focused. I said goodbye to our friends and loaded the kids in the car. I looked up to the sky with relief and whispered an internal thank you, when out of nowhere the man who had helped us approached me. He wasn’t there to ask for money, and I didn’t have any cash to give him. I only had my maxed-out credit cards. But I would thank him again, profusely; it was all that I could do in that moment.

So I said thank you, and afterward, I looked him straight in the eye, and with all the warmth in the world I said, “He is autistic.” I heard the words aloud. They were familiar. I looked over at the Mcdonald’s sign and I had a moment of déjà vu. I had been here before. Some say that déjà vu is the universe telling you that you’re in the right place at the right time. I felt like the universe was telling me far more than that, but I certainly agreed that I was in the right place at the right time. I couldn’t help but think that the homeless man who had helped me was an angel sent to protect me and my children from a potential tragedy that I refuse to even attempt to fathom.

As the deja vu dissipated, two profound realizations began to run through my soul like a severe case of goosebumps. I realized that perhaps the reason this man was the only person to come and offer us his kindness was because he knew exactly how I felt as I stood outside those doors looking in. He knew what it felt like to be judged, stared at, and passed by; he knew what it felt like to be truly desperate for just an ounce of humanity from his fellows. We had more in common than I would have ever believed a mere hour before. And we had even more in common than I had yet to comprehend.

Simultaneously, I realized that I had come full circle in the past year, and I was back at that Mcdonald’s with that desperate mom. I could see her in a new light. She was no longer eating her salad. She was searching for a diaper, stressed out by her husband; she was alone. But she was tough as nails. When it came down to it, she owned her life and her circumstances. When she told me, “He has autism,” it might have been the first time that she didn’t stumble over the words. But I could never tell. Just like the homeless man who helped us probably could not tell that it was the first time that I had fully owned the statement. In this moment, I knew why this fellow mother was stuck in my head and her words echoed in my thoughts at night for the past year. I was her. And at one point, she was me. And maybe I offered her the same kindness that day that this homeless man had just offered me. Maybe good karma is that simple.

And as I said the three simple words aloud, “He is autistic,” one million thoughts of gratitude and understanding darted through my tired brain before they were instantly silenced by the man’s reply. “I know,” he said. “I have a family like yours.” His words evoked within me one final realization. This man was not only my angel; he was my kindred. On a different day, would I have passed him by? I may not have had any money to offer him, but would I have said hello, and how are you? I don’t know. There are still many unanswered questions that are inherent to this journey. But I will not pass him, or anyone by again without so much as an acknowledgment; an ounce of humanity. And I will continue to look up, sometimes with a little attitude, and sometimes with faith and surrender. As I have said, I am not really religious, or maybe I am, and I just don’t know it yet.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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I honestly can't remember how I used to organize and share baby photos before I started using FamilyAlbum. (What am I saying? I could never keep all those pictures organized!) Like most mamas, I often found myself with a smartphone full of photos and videos I didn't know what to do with. My husband and I live states away from our respective families, and we worried about the safety of posting our children's photos on other platforms.

Then we found FamilyAlbum.

FamilyAlbum is the only family-first photo sharing app that safely files photos and videos by date taken in easy-to-navigate digital albums. From documenting a pregnancy to capturing the magical moments of childhood, the app makes sharing memories with your family simple and safe. And it provides free, unlimited storage—meaning you can snap and snap and snap to your heart's delight without ever being forced to choose which close-up of your newborn's tiny little nose you want to keep.

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And, truly, the app is a much-needed solution for mamas with out-of-state family. Parents can share all their favorite memories with friends and relatives safely within the app without worrying about spamming acquaintances with every adorable baby yawn the way you might on a social network or a long text thread. (Did I mention I have a thing for baby yawn videos? I regret nothing 😍) It's safe because your album is only visible to the people you share it with. The app will even notify album members when new photos have been posted so they can comment on their favorite moments and we can preserve their reactions forever. It's also easy for my husband and I to share our photos and videos. All of our memories are organized in one place, and we never have to miss out on seeing each other's best shots.

And because #mombrain is real, I especially appreciate how much work FamilyAlbum takes off my plate. From automatically organizing photos and videos by month and labeling them by age (so I can skip doing the math in my head to figure out if my daughter was five or six months when she started sitting up) to remembering what I upload and preventing me from uploading the same photo four times, the app makes it easy to keep all my memories tidy—even when life feels anything but.

FamilyAlbum will quickly become your family's solution for sharing moments, like when you're sending a video to the grandma across the country. Grandparents need only tap open the app to get a peek into what is going on with our girls every day. When my sister sends her nieces a present, the app has become where I can share photos and video of the girls opening their gifts so she never feels like she's missing a thing. The app will even automatically create paper photo books of your favorite shots that you can purchase every month so you can hold on to the memories forever (or to share with the great-grandma who has trouble with her smartphone 😉). Plus, you can update the books with favorite photos or create your own from scratch. No matter what, the app keeps your photos and videos safe, even if your phone is lost or damaged.

But what I love most about FamilyAlbum is that it's family-first. Unlike other photo sharing platforms, it was designed with mamas (and their relatives!) in mind, creating a safe, simple space to share our favorite moments with our favorite people. And that not only helps us keep in touch—it helps us all feel a little bit closer.

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No pregnancy and birth are exactly the same. Each of us has a unique story, and so do our babies. As Hilary Duff proves, a mother's second birth story isn't a just a rerun of her first.

Motherhood changes people, and for Duff welcoming her second child, daughter Banks, at age 31 was a very different experience than birthing her son, Luka, when she was 24.

Luka was born in a hospital, while Banks was born at home, and Duff recently shared a video of that amazing day on Instagram.

Sharing this video clip isn't the first time Duff has opened up about her home birth. In a two-part interview for the Informed Pregnancy podcast released last fall, Duff admitted that at some points in her home birth she was scared and asked herself why she wasn't in a hospital "with all the drugs," but she says she's so glad she did it this way and would totally do it again.

During her first pregnancy, Duff says she started out wanting an elective C-section (although she did not end up having surgery). She was 23 when she and ex-husband Mike Comrie found out they were expecting, and she didn't have a lot of peers who were having kids. She was really scared.

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More than five years later, during her pregnancy with Banks, Duff was way more confident as a woman and a mom. She watched Ricki Lake's 2008 documentary "The Business of Being Born" and started considering a different kind of birth plan the second time around.

"I'm older now. I love motherhood more than anything—I never thought I would be this way, I never thought I could be so happy and so fulfilled. It's not easy, because being a parent is not easy, but it's just a joy. And I thought to myself that I want to like fully get the full experience of what it is like to bring a baby into the world," Duff tells the host of Informed Pregnancy, prenatal chiropractor, childbirth educator and labor doula Dr. Elliot Berlin.

Having support from Matt, Haylie and her mom

When Duff brought the idea up with her partner, Matthew Koma, he "was amazing," she explains. He had some questions, but was down to support Duff in her birthing choices.

Duff says she thinks her mom Susan and sister Haylie were "nervous to think about not being in a hospital" at first, but once Duff explained things a bit and got to talk to them about her doula and midwives, Haylie got really pumped about the idea.

"She was so supportive and amazing. I think my mom was a little more worried but she got behind me," Duff recalls, adding that because her mom had C-sections herself, even seeing Duff deliver Luka vaginally in a hospital was a bit of a different experience for her, so being there for the home birth was taking things to an unfamiliar level.

"The first time she saw me having a contraction in the house she was cooking bacon for Luka," Duff explains, adding that she had to pause the conversation she was having and squat down during the contraction.

With the family around and the TV on, Duff's labor progressed a little slower than she'd imagined.

"When I pictured my birth I didn't picture watching Guardians of the Galaxy on TV. Luka was like explaining the characters to me," she explains.

The birth

Duff says when she was moved to the birthing tub, her brain really let her body take over. After the birth she estimated she was in the tub for about 30 minutes, but Koma told her it was really more like 90. "My brain disconnected," she says. "I remember telling myself that I don't need to be here for all of this."

At one point, she looked at one of her midwives and said, 'I'm really scared right now." Exhausted and unable to hold her body up as she channeled all her energy into pushing, Duff let her team hold her legs and arms while she pushed.

When Banks' head emerged, it didn't feel quite like the birth videos Duff has seen.

"Honestly, when I got her head out I was shocked by the feelings," she told Dr. Berlin. "I've seen women reach down and pull their baby out, and I couldn't do that…I was like, okay I'm there, I'm there, I've got to finish this job, but it was like really intense. It wasn't pleasant at that point. I think I wasn't fully in my headspace, my body was doing what it needed to do. It wasn't until her body came out that I could like want to grab onto her and bring her up out of the water."

Baby Banks needed some breaths from a midwife when she was first pulled from the water, but because her son Luka was also born looking a little blue, Duff says she wasn't freaked out. Once she figured out how to breathe, little Banks did "the most amazing thing," her mama recalls.

"They hand her to me, and I'm looking at her—and you know, babies are like floppy little worms, they just don't have any control—and she reaches up both of her arms right at my neck as to give me a hug. It was so clearly a hug."

Duff says the hug made her feel like baby Banks was saying something: "Like, good [teamwork] mom, we did it."

To hear the whole interview, check out the Informed Pregnancy podcast.

[This article was originally published November 14, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Several years ago, when I was a high school teacher and not a mom, my ninth grade students took a values assessment in class. The point was to determine what motivated them in life: money, family, success, a moral compass, education, relationships, religion, care for the environment, etc. I thought, what the heck, I'll take it, too.

When I got the results, I was shocked.

My number one value was beauty. Not family or morality, not relationships or religion. Beauty. I had never felt so shallow in my entire life. The description said something to the effect of: "You need to be in a place that is aesthetically pleasing to feel at peace," and went onto say that I would value the arts more than others and prioritize making a space beautiful.

And the truth is: It was absolutely 100% accurate.

Before I became a mom, I spent a lot of time beautifying our space. I would tidy up a pile of books, vacuum streaks into the carpet several days a week. I couldn't stand the sight of piles of dishes on the counter, nor a pile of clothes on the floor. I would change decor seasonally. I would cut fresh flowers and put them around the house, light candles, dim lights, put on quiet music when company came. It wasn't completely because I was trying to impress—it was because I liked it that way.

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And then came kids.

Every pile of books I've tidied has been pulled onto the floor. The vacuum chokes down crumbs and bits of paper maybe once a week. For three years straight, I've had a breakdown on Christmas-decorating day. We pick fresh flowers together, but I somehow always forget to notice when their vibrant petals turn to spindly black stalks. Now, when company comes, my children greet them with big grins in dirty clothes, and I yell from my kitchen, complete with stacks of unclean dishes, "Sorry, my house is a wreck!"

I had to choose, as we all have to: Do I prioritize housekeeping or parenting?

I remember trying to lay my son down as a newborn. I expected him to sleep peacefully in his woodland-themed room, the room I had put together with great care. But moments after I would fill the sink with sudsy water, I'd hear him cry. I'd run upstairs and pick him up, soothe him to sleep, and lay him back down, only to have it happen again. I felt anxious.What about the dishes? What about the 100 other things on my to-do list?

But when I looked down at that little face, and I saw the most beautiful thing I'd yet to encounter. My values system didn't entirely shift, but my perception did.

This morning, as I sit in the warm morning glow, my baby girl is asleep on my chest. I can see the sunlight dancing across the floor, illuminating the dust and crumbs. From my vantage point, I see little lopsided piles of laundry on my dining room table that is still doubling as a fort for my toddler. And beyond the dining room is the kitchen, and in that kitchen is a sink filled with unclean dishes. The dishes will always be there.

But my baby, with rose-petal lips and a perfect fan of lashes, with skin as flawless as a cloudless sky, she won't be this small ever again.

My house is a mess, but it's a beautiful mess andI wouldn't have it any other way.

Originally posted on With Quiet Hands.

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My dear daughters,
Tomorrow I go back to work, and it's going to be really hard. All I can do is hope that it's harder for me than it is for you. Twelve weeks have come and gone faster than I could've imagined. I thought that going back to work after my second child would be easier, but I actually think it might be harder.

Baby Girl #2, not only have I enjoyed your newborn snuggles every day but Baby Girl #1, I've had special time with you that I'd been missing so much. Because this is my second child, I realize even more how quickly this time goes by—and that I'll never get back these sweet moments.

Tomorrow I go back to work, and I keep thinking about all of the things that people say to me to try to make it better.

People say you'll look up to me and learn to value hard work.

People say it'll be nice to have time away and that it will make our time together more special.

People say that most moms need to work nowadays.

People say you won't remember this and that you'll be fine while I'm away.

Maybe those things are true, but it doesn't make it any easier. Of course, I want you to look up to me and to see the passion and love I have for my job, but I hope you never feel like I'm choosing my job over you.

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As a high school assistant principal, I have 600 other "kids" that I get to take care of, and I love that, but I worry about what I'll lose, what I'll miss out on while I'm away from you. Could your dad I and I make it work on one income? Maybe. But that would come at costs, too.

Tomorrow I go back to work, and I realize I'm luckier than most.

I'm lucky that because of his shift you'll get to spend a few days during the week with your dad and get to have special time with him. I'm lucky that he's such a wonderful father and partner who is supportive of my career.

I'm lucky to have a daycare provider that I trust. I'm lucky to have family members who help out whenever needed.

I'm lucky that I love my job and work at a school where you're not only allowed to come in but where my boss and co-workers love you, too and understand that family comes first.

You are both blessed to have so many people who care about you, so I know that when I can't be with you, you are well taken care of, but I still wish it could be me.

Tomorrow I go back to work, and there are a few things I want to promise you.

I want to promise you that for the time we do get to spend together, you will have my attention. I will do my best to turn work off, put my phone down and focus on you two. We will find fun things to do or we will just relax in our jammies and watch movies. But whatever we decide to do during our time together, I will do my best to be present. You both deserve that.

Tomorrow I go back to work, and I keep hoping that by the time you have children, if you choose, that our country realizes that 12 weeks just isn't enough.

I'm sorry that I can't have more time with you, but please know that in our time apart, I'm loving you still. Please know that I'm working hard to provide for you. Please know that when I come home, I will take off all of my other hats and just be Mama because no matter what, that will always be my number one job.

Love,
Mama

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We hear a lot about the wage gap between men and women in the workplace, but the wage gap between mothers and fathers is even wider. Women make just over 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, but if we look at the paychecks of parents only, the gulf widens.

According to the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) analysis of U.S, Census data, mothers only make about 71 cents to a dad's dollar, resulting in a loss of $16,000 in earnings annually.

This, despite the fact that millennial women are getting college degrees at higher rates than men, proving that we can't educate ourselves out of the motherhood penalty.

"Families depend on women's incomes, yet mothers, regardless of their education level, their age, where they live, or their occupation, are paid less than fathers. When mothers are shortchanged, children suffer and poverty rises. Families are counting on us to close the maternal wage gap," says Emily Martin, NWLC General Counsel and Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice.

Why the motherhood penalty (and fatherhood bonus) exist

The gap in the pay between mothers and fathers is due to how parents are perceived in our culture. A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Sociology found working mothers are penalized in the form of "lower perceived competence and commitment, higher professional expectations, lower likelihood of hiring and promotion, and lower recommended salaries."

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And as CNBC reports, a more recent study by childcare provider Bright Horizons found that 41% of American workers perceive working moms as being less devoted to their careers.

But becoming a dad doesn't put dads at a disadvantage, or make them appear less committed. It actually often results in a so-called "fatherhood bonus." A recent study published in the journal Work, Employment and Society, found having kids often results in men earning more, even when they aren't particularly hard workers.

According to the study's lead author, Sylvia Fuller, this suggests that our preconceived cultural ideas about fatherhood are impacting employers thinking and parents' paychecks. "They think dads are working hard, they have positive stereotypes about them, or maybe they just think, you know, dads deserve more because they're thinking of their family responsibilities," Fuller told Global News.

Moms are still the default parent

While parenthood dulls a woman's CV, it gives fathers' a shine because mothers are still seen as the default parent in our culture. Not only do men make more after becoming dads, but researchers have also found that men's leisure time increased after parenthood, while mothers see their workload at home increase. And because the wider society knows that women carry heavier loads at home and spend more work more hours doing unpaid labor, employers see us as distracted by our other responsibilities.

Basically, employers see fathers as people who have big-picture responsibilities to their families and a lot of support in raising their kids. They see moms as the managers of the small stuff and know that many of us don't have a lot of support in managing that load.

Closing the gap by changing the way we view fathers

We can't close this gap by only changing the way employers think about mothers. We also have to change the way our society thinks about dads. Today's dads want to be more involved in their children's lives and have pretty egalitarian beliefs about dividing household responsibilities between partners, but many find they can't live up to those beliefs. Most fathers in America can't take paternity leave and those that have the option of doing so only take about a third of what is available for fear of being seen as uncommitted.

"Fathers repeatedly tell researchers they want to be more involved parents, yet public policy and social institutions often prevent them from being the dads they want to be – hurting moms, dads and children alike," writes Kevin Shafer, an associate professor of sociology at Brigham Young University.

An investment needs to be made

That extra $16,000 that mothers are missing isn't going to come without investment from society. The United States is the only member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without paid parental leave and also spends less on early childhood education than most other developed countries.

Investing in paid family leave and affordable, quality childcare would level the playing field for mothers, but that's just the first part of change that needs to happen. We need employers and lawmakers to implement parental leave policies, but we also need our peers to embrace and encourage their use for all parents.

When fathers are expected and respected as caregivers, mothers are no longer seen as the default parent at home or at work. When the parenting responsibilities equalize, so will the paychecks.

Pay inequality happens all over the world, but the country that has come the closest to closing the gap, Iceland, the majority of fathers take parental leave. That isn't a coincidence, it's a recipe for change.

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