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This speech was delivered by Jill Koziol on Friday, October 11th at Mother: The Summit in Detroit, Michigan. It has been edited for clarity and length.

Thank you, Blessing and Mother Honestly for this great honor to be among so many inspiring women today. The feeling is electric—do you feel it? What's happening here today is an example of women lifting women and is exactly how we change the world.

I'm excited for all we are going to experience together today—whether you are an entrepreneur, a SAHM, or a working mom, there is something here for you, from inspiring fireside chats to headshots and a great marketplace, and many other resources to inspire and support you.

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To kick off this Summit, I want to start by saying:

THIS is our time. Motherhood matters.

We are living in an important (and exciting!) moment in history as society comes to terms with the importance and value of caregiving. It's time we take motherhood seriously—it's time we take ourselves as mothers seriously and demand change, moving what has been treated as niche issues into the mainstream.

Because the reality is, motherhood is one of the most universal experiences that we as human beings share.

At Motherly, we believe that mothers deserve way more support—and way less judgment. Each month, 30 million women read or watch Motherly content—and we hear their voices loud and clear. Speaking on behalf of this generation, we are leading the conversation demanding change.

Because the truth is, American mothers are carrying heavy burdens. The burden is so heavy, and so many other women are carrying it too, that we can start to assume it's normal. That this is what it's supposed to be like. And that everyone else is carrying it well—that it's just you that is struggling.

Mama, it's not just you. Motherhood shouldn't be this hard. It is society that is failing, not you.

We live in a culture that gives lip service to the importance of family, but sees investment in women and children as an 'entitlement' too far. We operate in a business climate that prizes consumption and profitability above all, and leaves families, and especially women, behind in its wake. We're citizens in a country where 'women's issues' are seen as side-issues, rather than foundational functions of our society.

Motherhood is way harder than it should be because for too long, our stories have been pushed to the sidelines.

Despite all of this, I am incredibly optimistic. We are living in an era of major consciousness-raising, where women no longer fight one another in some kind of 'mommy war,' and instead are looking around us at the root causes of this profound unfairness.

And from where I sit, these are major signs of progress for women, mothers, and society at large.

But in order to get where we need to go, we have to first understand the problem:

To start, motherhood seems overwhelming.

It's not a secret that American motherhood is incredibly burdensome. Even before they have children, women sense a lack of support that makes motherhood overwhelming—it's this anxiety that sells books like "Lean In" and fuels a never-ending debate over whether women can ever "have it all." In fact, Motherly's 2nd Annual State of Motherhood survey, the largest, most statistically-accurate and comprehensive study of US Millennial mothers, reveals that 51% of moms feel discouraged when it comes to managing the stress of work and motherhood. About one-third of moms said that their mental and physical health is suffering. And 85% of moms said that our society does not do a good job of supporting mothers.

Eighty-five percent.

Society is asking you to nurture in an environment that does not nurture you back. So, let me pause here so you can truly hear me: You are not imagining your burnout. And your burnout is not your fault.

In addition, motherhood can be dangerous.

Discrimination against women, and women of color in particular, has led to an appalling maternal health crisis—where women's voices are not heard and women's needs are not met. American mothers die in childbirth at a higher rate than in any other country in the developed world—and the mortality rates actually getting worse, not better. According to research in the New York Times, "Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts," with racism playing a direct role. In the United States, in 2019, sexism and racism interplay in a dangerous mix that puts all new mothers at risk.

And, there is no relief for working mothers.

One in four new mothers return to work out of economic necessity within two weeks of giving birth. Recent statistics from the U.S. Labor Bureau indicate that only 12% of American workers have access to paid leave—the rest are left to fend for themselves without paid compensation during one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. The United States remains the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee paid family leave upon the birth of a baby. For all our talk about being family-focused, we refuse to act on it.

Case in point, women experience tons of pressure to breastfeed, but little support.

Before and after birth, breastfeeding education and support is hit or miss—there is no routine education for new mothers to learn how to nurse. Breastfeeding might be 'natural,' but it is a learned skill. Women routinely are forced to figure it out on their own—a reality that leads to anguish for mom, and struggle for baby. Private lactation consultants often cost hundreds of dollars, an expense that is frequently out of reach during this financially stressful time in life. And if a woman formula feeds her baby, for whatever reason, she is made to feel that she has made a lesser choice for her child. Our society expects mothers to be endlessly self-sacrificing, but is unwilling to give her the support she needs along the way.

It begins postpartum where women have been left to fend for themselves.

While newborns are typically seen at least four times in their first two months of life, their mothers routinely have no postpartum care from 48 hours after birth until 6 weeks. During these critical weeks of physical recovery and a psychological transition to parenthood, women are left to figure it out alone. A lack of consistent postpartum screening and support leads to record levels of physical and mental health problems.

A major contributing factor is that childcare is as expensive as a mortgage payment/college.

The incredibly high cost of childcare puts enormous stress on families. The high cost is a leading reason that so many American women drop out of the workforce when they become moms. It's a barrier to entry for them to start a business. It's a massive strain on family finances. Families today pay a huge price to work—one that the federal government nor the majority of employers do much to support.

Sadly, we have an American work culture that penalizes women.

It's no secret that working women face the motherhood penalty at work—which amounts to a decrease in 4%of her earnings for every child that she has. But it's an extra sting to learn that men benefit from a fatherhood bonus—on average earning 6%more after their first child is both. Motherly's State of Motherhood survey revealed that the majority of women scaled down their careers after the birth of a baby, while their partners often scaled up—a split that sometimes happens by choice, but other times happens by default, thanks to a lack of paid family leave, the high cost of childcare, and inflexible work environments for parents.

And, this is the worst part: The victims blame themselves.

Research shows that American mothers largely blame themselves, experiencing waves of guilt and self-criticism for not being able to accomplish the herculean task of working, raising children and managing a household, entirely on their own.

But it is NOT our fault.

As Beth Berry wrote in a Motherly essay that has become our anthem, "it takes a village, but there are no villages. . . you and I are not the problem at all. WE ARE DOING PLENTY. We may feel inadequate, but that's because we're on the front lines of the problem, which means we're the ones being hardest hit. We absorb the impact of a broken, still-oppressive social structure so that our children won't have to. That makes us heroes, not failures."

It makes us heroes, mama.

So, the system is stacked against us. Recognizing the problem is the first step. The next is identifying the structural changes that can and must be made to make American society a family-friendly one.

At Motherly we are declaring 2020 The Year of the Mother, calling on lawmakers and employers to hear our voice, the voice of today's mother, because we deserve better. Today's mothers are better educated than any generation before, working more than ever before, and our governmental policies, corporate governance, and culture have not adjusted to provide the support needed to ensure mamas and families thrive.

So let us imagine the world as it could be. This world is in our reach. Together we can advocate for six critical changes to ensure progress for American mothers:

First, it's time to address our maternal health crisis, making pregnant women safer.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world. Giving birth in America is shockingly dangerous, black mothers are three to four times more likely to die during or after pregnancy or birth and Native American and Native Alaskan mothers are also dying from complications in childbirth at a disproportionate rate. Systemic racism, socioeconomic disparities, heteronormative expectations and unequal access to healthcare are hurting mothers and babies. This is unacceptable and Motherly supports the modernization of obstetric medicine standards and policies which address implicit bias among providers in clinical settings.

Second, it's time for paid family leave.

Paid family leave is good for babies, families, and businesses and the United States is the only member country of the OECD that has not implemented paid leave on a national basis. Support for paid leave is growing in both parties because this is truly a non-partisan issue. Paid leave is good for babies, parents, society, and even the long-term economic flourishing of American businesses. With a groundswell of new mothers taking to the 2019 Congress, and unprecedented support for paid leave emerging on the right, action on the federal level is on the horizon. And it's about time.

Third, it's time for a mother's right to feed her baby where and how she wants to be recognized.

We need a no-judgment breastfeeding revolution. Breastfeeding in public is legal in America, and yet nearly every week there is a new news story about a mother being harassed for simply feeding her baby. Motherly supports the rights of mothers to breastfeed and pump where and how they want to, including in the workplace. No mother should have to choose between breastfeeding and keeping her job.

Motherly recognizes the World Health Organization's recommendation that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life, but like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Motherly recognizes that a baby's mother "is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant." Mothers should be free to choose formula if that is what they want, but also supported in nursing. Right now, mothers do not feel supported when doing either.

Fourth, it's time to raise the standard for postpartum care and address maternal mental health.

The simple act of feeding babies is way harder than it should be. America's mothers face intense pressure to exclusively breastfeed, but lack societal, corporate, and government support to enable breastfeeding success, including paid family leave and protection from breastfeeding discrimination.

At the same time, formula feeding is stigmatized, leaving mothers feeling judged for making a deeply personal choice filled with complexity.

No mother should have to choose between breastfeeding and keeping her job and no mother should be shamed for exclusively breastfeeding, feeding with formula or doing both.

There is no easy way to feed a baby in America. It is time to change that with more support and way less judgment.

Fifth, it's time for affordable childcare solutions.

The desperate need for affordable childcare has become a rallying cry for a generation of Millennial parents saddled with student loan debt and an unprecedented high cost of living. The cost of childcare is increasing faster than household incomes and parents can keep up. Parents are struggling to find care that meets their standards and are burdened not only by the financial costs but the time it takes to investigate childcare providers.

Motherly believes all children in America deserve access to quality, affordable preschool, and we know it is possible as universal childcare has been successful in Washington, DC where 90% of 4-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free and where the city's maternal workforce participation rate rose by more than 10%.

Startups and tech companies like SnapChat and Facebook all offer subsidies or benefits to help parents offset the cost of childcare. Patagonia is another example of a company that goes even further—providing free, on-site childcare to all of its employees.

These cities and companies make the case that investing in families is a long-term benefit drawing people to live and work in these places and companies. The cry is getting louder—and there is a lot more that must be done.

Sixth, it's time for changes to the cultural expectations that contribute to maternal stress.

Research suggests America's mothers are the most stressed moms in the western world. We are parenting under intense and incompatible cultural pressures and doing way more than our fair share of unpaid work while increasingly serving as household breadwinners.

Meanwhile, work culture tells us we need to pretend we aren't parents while the wider culture suggests mothers need to prioritize parenting over work by continuing to frame mothers as the default parent.

As a workplace, Motherly is supporting parents by providing something American parents are increasingly seeking: flexible schedules and remote opportunities. My experience as a working mom commuting two hours a day while pregnant and newly postpartum was central to our decision at Motherly to have a fully remote workforce. In today's dual-income families, the flexibility provided by remote work can be a key ingredient in helping families thrive. In the four years since launching Motherly my co-founder, Liz Tenety, and I have only been co-located for a total of four months. In fact, we didn't see each other at all the entire second year of Motherly—we are evidence that remote work works and can scale successfully.

American women are defining career and using technology to get what they want. Millennial women represent the first generation in history where women are more highly educated than men. Full stop. This is a very big deal. But when they become mothers, they find that many corporate cultures are unable to keep pace with the very reasonable idea that a person should be able to thrive in her career—and have a family. That's why we're seeing Millennial moms embracing entrepreneurship at unprecedented levels, particularly among women of color. When the system isn't working for them, these women are inventing systems of their own that do.

A host of female-founded startups like Werk, The Mom Project, Power to Fly, and Apres have also emerged, using technology to help women find flexible, remote, high-quality employment opportunities. This new generation of entrepreneurs are helping their fellow Millennial moms to find opportunity where in the past, none existed. And I'm proud to share that at Motherly, we employ over 30 working mothers, all of our employees work flexible schedules, and we are 100% remote. This IS the change we wish to see in the world.

We recognize that no single company or policy will shift the status quo, but by supporting mothers at work and supporting fathers to be the caregivers they want to be we aim to redistribute the uneven ratio of unpaid work, lessen the mental load of motherhood, and help equalize pay.

Before I close, and join you in the amazing day we have ahead, I want to implore you to join me today in rebranding motherhood.

Yes, motherhood is all-consuming, but the transformation of motherhood is far from all bad. It's getting in touch with our deepest strengths. It's experiencing the greatest love of our lives. It's making us more efficient at work. Motherhood needs to be reclaimed for the woman-empowering experience that it is. Motherhood is tenderness and strength. Motherhood is purpose and power.

From Sand Hill Road to the Halls of Congress, we are seeing American motherhood emerge as a source of massive power and strength.

It's time for us to stop blaming ourselves when the burdens of modern American motherhood feel heavy.

It's time for us to seize this moment to take motherhood seriously. Because, motherhood matters.

It's time for our generation to rise up and demand that society give more than lip service to being family-friendly.

It's time for our incredibly outdated structures to reflect our modern reality.

It's time for women to do more than just survive motherhood.

I believe it is finally time for mothers to thrive. Because, when mamas thrive, families thrive, and the world thrives.

And mama, we've got this. Together.

Thank you.

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Jessica Simpson's life seems perfect. She has three beautiful kids, a wildly successful career, a seemingly solid marriage...she has it all, at least as far as we can see. But recent revelations prove that no one really knows what anyone else is secretly dealing with—and Jessica, by her own admission, has been struggling with alcohol issues.

The singer-turned-business-woman recently sat down with TODAY's Hoda Kotb, and it will air on NBC's TODAY Wednesday morning.

"I had started a spiral and I couldn't catch up with myself…and that was with alcohol," Jessica explained. "I would say it openly to everyone. 'I know. I know, I'll stop soon. I'll cut back'," Jessica continued when asked if she realized things were getting out of control. "For me to cut back, like I'm an all or nothing girl, and so I didn't know it was a problem until it was...I completely didn't recognize myself…I always had a glitter cup. It was always filled to the rim with alcohol."

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She's hardly alone. The rise of #winemom phenomenon is well documented and many parents struggle with substance abuse problems. But Simpson's story proves there is a way to get your life back.

Simpson quit drinking in 2017 after she found herself unable to get her kids ready for a Halloween party. She says she'd started drinking before 7:30 in the morning, before accompanying her husband, Eric Johnson, to a school assembly for their oldest daughter. Later that night she was unable to get her kids dressed in their Halloween costumes. The next morning she was so ashamed. Feeling like she had failed her kids she slept until they left the house, then got up and drank some more.

That episode was her tipping point. She quit drinking (as did her husband, Eric Johnson, who supports her in her sobriety.)



As parents, we know how overwhelming the demands can be...and how easy it is to sink into habits that don't ultimately serve us well. For Jessica, the way to heal was to sever her relationship with alcohol.

"I had to give [drinking] up," Jessica said. "I'm not going to miss another day. I'm not going to miss another Halloween. I'm not going to miss another Christmas. I'm going to be present."

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Mamas expecting babies this month are a special bunch—and not just because it's statistically unique to have a birthday during the shortest month of the year.

Science shows babies born in February already have advantages with everything from physical growth to creativity to even presidential elections. (It's no coincidence that President's Day is this month!)

Here are six reasons why February birthdays are so special:

1. They may be bound for the NBA

According to a 2006 study from Harvard researchers that examined data from 21,000 children around the world (including the southern hemisphere), those born in February were taller and weighed more at the age of 7 than their friends who were born during other times of the year. (Further proof: Michael Jordan celebrates his birthday on February 17.)

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2. Or on their way to a doctorate

The same study also showed winter-born babies performed best in a series of intelligence tests. As the researchers concluded, “The overall pattern of findings is that winter/spring babies are both 'bigger' on the anthropometric variables and 'smarter' on the selected neurocognitive variables."

3. They also have artsy sides

February babies are either born under the Aquarius or Pisces star signs—which are linked to the traits of originality and creativity. But even if you aren't one for astrology, a study complied from the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics found that people born in February are more likely to be artists.

4. Which may set them up for stardom

Speaking of the zodiac, one study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found a disproportionate number of celebrities claim the Aquarius star sign. That includes everyone from Bob Marley to Jennifer Aniston to Shakira. It's also one of the most popular star signs for American presidents—including Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Ronald Reagan (February 6).

5. Or, at least, satisfying careers

But don't feel bad for babies born in the latter half of the month: A survey from CareerBuilder.com found Pisces adults were among the “most satisfied" with their jobs. (They also have legs up on the competition if they ever find their way into a presidential election.)

6. They may have the rarest birthday of all

Babies on their way this year are out of luck. But, come 2020, a special group of newborns will have the distinction of being born on Leap Day, February 29. Sure, they won't get to mark their birthday for another four years, but they do get a prime pick of perks when that day does roll back around!

Snuggle up with that newborn while you can, mama. Once your February baby gets going, they'll be hard to stop.

[Originally published February 2, 2018]

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As the world continues to mourn father of four Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, many are remembering Bryant for his role not only as a basketball great but also as a #girldad.

That is how SportsCenter anchor Elle Duncan remembers him. On ESPN this week she recalled meeting Bryant back in 2018 when she was 8 months pregnant.

She says Bryant asked her "How are you? How close are you? What are you having?" and when she told him she was expecting a girl he gave her a high five and said, "Girls are the best."

Instagram post by SportsCenter • Jan 28, 2020 at 4:59am UTC

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The two talked about raising girls, with Duncan asking Bryant for parenting advice. She also asked him if he and his wife Vanessa were going to have any more kids.

"He said that his wife Vanessa really wanted to try again for a boy, but was sort of jokingly concerned that it would be another girl. I was like, 'Four girls, are you joking? What would you think, how would you feel?'" Duncan recalls

She continues: "Without hesitation, he said, 'I would have five more girls if I could. I'm a girl dad."

As Duncan noted on Instagram, she couldn't have known that Bryant, then a father of three, would welcome another baby girl, little Capri Kobe, in 2019. All she knew was that she was impressed by this man who loved his girls so much.

"I'm glad to have had that brief time with him. I'm so sorry that 4th girl won't know her dad," Duncan writes.

During his 2018 conversation with Duncan, Bryant remarked on the athletic abilities of his middle daughter, Gianna, telling Duncan she was better than he'd been at her age.

Tragically, Bryant and Gianna died en route to a basketball game where she would have played and he would have coached.

"When I reflect on this tragedy," Duncan said on ESPN, "I suppose that the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most: being a dad. Being a girl dad."

Our hearts are with the Bryant family this week, and all the families of the victims of the helicopter crash.

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People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

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A study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

[This post was first published December 18, 2018.]


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