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In our culture, women are expected to be mothers first and all else second – at least that’s the excuse many make for the gender wage gap. If you’re married, or financially stable enough for one parent to stay home, the system may work. But what about when it doesn’t?


But for many, particularly the Black woman, this system and its expectations create major challenges.

While Black women are significantly more likely to attend college than any other race of females compared to their male counterparts, they’re still paid less. A strong matriarchal structure causes Black to be seen as the only female group that is more privileged than their male counterpart. But does this structure buffer us from other systemic disparities?

That same matriarchal structure can result in a very different upbringing for males compared to females. Black women are encouraged to be self-sufficient and educated, while Black males are often permitted to take the scenic route to maturity.

The result? Black women are often forced to take the reins and lead the household themselves. In today’s progressive times, egalitarianism is not a bad thing. But when you’re the primary breadwinner – as in many single-parent homes – and are expected to be a full-time mother, conflict can occur.

Are Black women under increased pressure to parent and provide? The research may indicate so. And the following factors together represent a unique set of circumstances that may affect Black women’s ability to do just that.

Wage disparities

Parenthood is challenging, but it can be increasingly difficult to be an effective parent when your earning potential is limited. Few areas illustrate this challenge like the gender wage gap.

Recently, an analysis of weekly earnings found that Black women make an average of $611 while Black males earned $680 weekly. That means Black women make 89.9 percent of what black men make.

This sounds wonderful, until we compare the numbers across racial lines. White women make 81.8 percent of what White men make, but their average weekly earnings are $734 and $897 for White men. Both White and Asian women have a higher weekly take-home average than Black and Hispanic males.

In 2015, women in the United States made an estimated 80 percent of what men were paid. Factor race into the equation and the results are even more troubling. Thanks to the gender/ race combo, African American females make an estimated 64 cents per every dollar a white male makes.

Family structure

For those in multi-income households, the struggles of the gender wage gap can be buffered. But current cultural trends reflect an increase in single parent homes and a delay of marriage across all races. As a result, single mothers are significantly more likely to live in poverty. With 67 percent of black children born into non-married homes (non-married meaning two single parents, NOT fatherless – black fathers are as, if not more active than fathers of other races) it does not take long to see room for challenges.

Forty percent of single parents are employed in low-wage jobs. The median income for single mothers is $26,000 as compared to $84,000 median income for married couples.

The working poor have an independent set of struggles to overcome. Female-headed working families account for 39 percent of low-income working households nationally, but 65 percent of African American low-income working households are led by women. 

Four out of 10 (40%) Black families with children under 18 that were headed by single working mothers live in poverty. Families headed by White females reflected a figure of 14.5 percent living below the poverty line.

Career choices and lack of benefits

For Black women, overrepresentation in conditions of poverty and work ethic have no relation. Black women have historically been more likely to be employed or actively looking for employment than any other group by race and gender. The most recent assessment of the labor force includes 62 percent of black women as compared to 57.5 percent of white women.

One reason for wage disparities in the black community can be accounted for by college major and choice of profession. Women are more than overrepresented in low wage jobs. As a matter of fact, more than half of low wage working women are employed in 16 occupations; the highest concentration of these professions being health aides – a career with an average wage of $10 per hour or $21,000 per year.  

This is significantly less than the $46,000 national average wage across all occupations. Nearly 40 percent of health aid positions are filled by Black women. It’s also important to mention these jobs often do not offer the benefits – paid leave, health insurance, retirement plans – that many higher-skilled jobs offer. Health aides and similar positions are very valuable within society, but compensation packages for these workers fail to represent that value. 

Childcare costs

The average cost of daycare in the United States is $11,666 annually, or a staggering $972 per month. It is not difficult to see why any parent would think twice before placing their child in daycare.

Now imagine the obstacle this creates for single, low-income mothers, particularly one with a $21,000 annual take-home pay.

To avoid the cost of childcare, many mothers elect to stay at home to raise their children themselves. This is a wonderful option for those who can afford it. But for the estimated 12 million single parents in the United States (80% percent of which are single mothers) this luxury is too expensive to afford.

Childcare takes well over 25 percent of monthly income for many and there are still other expense such as food, housing, and transportation that need to be accounted for.

Culturally and societally, Black women are expected to choose financial contribution over parenting. It’s still somewhat shocking for a Black woman to state that she is a stay-at-home mom. Many, like myself, are pushing back and choosing to delay employment to raise their children despite having a higher education.

But this privilege is not often available in a single family structure. Black families trail slightly behind all other racial groups with 23 percent of Black children growing up in a home with a stay-at-home mother.

Black women are often said not to have historically had the luxury of choosing to stay home with their children. This is quite understandable considering the ability to stay home is often determined by family wealth. With Black women making only a percentage of what White women make, and Black men making 73 percent of what White men make, it’s easy to see that regardless of marital status, all income is necessary to maintain the household.

Debt

Another factor, often overlooked, is outstanding debts. A typical White household has 16 times the wealth of a Black one. In addition to more money coming into the household for White families, there may also be less money leaving the household. This is important to consider because a decrease in expenses decreases the need for additional income.

Debts may include student loans, medical bills, and utility debt. Black young adults are believed to have 68.2 percent more student loan debt than their White counterparts. And Black individuals are significantly more likely to be sued over small debts like utility bills.

Even seeking debt forgiveness is more challenging for Black individuals. Bankruptcy, a strategy that’s still a largely middle class phenomenon, is a way out for many. But when attempting to file for bankruptcy, Black individuals are more likely to be directed towards Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is more costly, less successful, and more time-consuming than Chapter 7. Bankruptcy has also been found to yield less assistance for Black and Hispanic individuals. This is important to acknowledge as it is impossible to build wealth with multiplying debts.

All factors considered

Black women have the unique responsibility of uplifting themselves while providing strength to their men despite a broken system. Families are interdependent. The conditions that affect Black males also directly affect Black females and their families.

One should not ignore the role historic attempts at deconstructing the family and systematic oppression has had on Black individuals.  

By the year 2000 more than “1 million Black children had a father in jail or prison – and roughly half of those fathers were living in the same household as their kids when they were locked up.Disproportionate mass incarceration of Black males must be accounted for.

With the cumulative effects of income disparities, difficulty in family structure, and the cost of living, it’s easy to see that Black women face unique challenges. There is no magic wand to wave away these issues.

By studying the unique challenges faced by Black women, we can work to find a solution to many of these problems. Fortunately, the Black community is one of resilience and strength. Black children are growing and thriving despite the many odds stacked against them.

In the words of the great Maya Angelou, we will continue to rise. Read below for her powerful poem that illustrates the strength and persistence of the Black woman.

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

 

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

 

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

 

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

 

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

 

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

 

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

 

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

From “And Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

 

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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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