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Allyson Downey is the founder of weeSpring, a Techstars-backed startup she launched in 2013 that makes the process of finding the best baby and kids products easy for parents—like Yelp, but think reviews of Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit and Burt’s Bees lotion instead of the new sushi joint downtown. (We couldn’t live without it.)


Allyson is also an author of Here’s the Plan and the host of Motherly’s class for working mamas.

This book is a game changer, ladies. It answers the who, what, where, when, and hows of everything parental leave, balancing your nights and weekends, finding childcare—and beyond.

We sat down with Allyson to talk about how to deal with the guilt of unplugging on the weekend and how to work to make things equal at home.

It seems like in a lot of situations today, both women and men are ill-informed about what they are entitled to or what they should fight for when it comes to parental leave and work flexibility. Do you think there should be a class offered in high school or college detailing all the intricacies of work and parenting?

Allyson Downey: At the risk of sounding like a zealot: Yes. But it’s a more complicated yes, because I don’t think it’s just about “teaching” work-life balance.

There are so many simple tactical skills that we totally fail to educate kids about in high school and college.

And while I’d love to see conversations starting early on about family balance and the economic case for parental leave (see Jessica Shortall’s outstanding TED Talk for more on that), I’d be pretty satisfied to see girls taught simple fundamentals like negotiating. If girls came out of high school knowing about anchoring high and finding the efficient frontier, they’d have a fantastic foundation to build from when it’s time to negotiating their compensation while on parental leave.

I think a lot of women may have crucial maternity leave, extended leave questions, etc. for their potential employers while on interviews, but are scared to ask them because they’re afraid they may not get hired. Advice for women in these situations?

Don’t ask them when you’re interviewing. Devote 100% of your energy to putting yourself out there as the rock star you are. Don’t muddy the waters by inviting people to think about you as a mother or a prospective mother.

I know it’s discouraging to hear that, but you don’t want to distract someone for one second from hearing about how phenomenally you’ve performed in your previous roles, and what a tremendous asset you’ll be once they hire you.

Save your logistical questions (and even cultural questions, when you’re digging for insight on work-life balance) for after you get an offer.

The details of maternity leave, parental leave, disability policies, etc. often seem secretive at companies. We need to dig for the information ourselves. Why do you think companies aren’t more up-front about these details?

I wish I knew! Despite that corporate opacity, there are some great new resources—like Maybrooks [now Après] and Fairygodboss—that crowdsource data to try and shed light on company policies (as they relate to women) and culture.

But one of my calls to action in the book is for companies to wear their policies on their sleeves.

We’re seeing more and more of that as companies like Etsy and Netflix trumpet their generous leave packages, and my hope is that there will eventually be enough companies being transparent that all companies feel compelled to do so.

In terms of your home life—there’s a quote in Here’s the Plan that says, I’m so glad you always ask what you can do, but I don’t want to have to be the one who always thinks of what needs to get done! I think this hits the nail on the head for a lot of women. We strive for an equal household—the mother and the father do equal amounts of childcare, planning, prepping, household chores, and both work—but a lot of these things ultimately fall on the woman. How do we continuously work to make things equal at home?

This is one of my very favorite lines in the book. It’s funny: I didn’t initially dig very deep into what I call ‘household division of labor,’ but a few of my early readers seized onto the little bit that was there and begged for more. So I sent an email around to what I called my book ‘brain trust’—a couple dozen women who I’d ping when I wanted to get outside perspective and insight. And it wound up being the most active email thread throughout all my research for the book. The topic just hit home for people, and I think it comes down to what one woman described as ‘executive planning.’

Even if Dad is the one doing all the baby laundry, Mom is the one thinking about getting hand-me-downs in the next size up, and that ‘thinking’ work is rarely acknowledged—despite being cumulatively exhausting.

My best advice is to think in terms of responsibilities (not tasks!), and divide things along those lines, so the ‘thinking’ work becomes part of the overall job. I also am a big advocate for putting things in writing and clearly assigning responsibility. I posted a worksheet on herestheplanbook.com that couples can use as a starting point in thinking about how they want to divide things up.

I think relinquishing control of parts of our home life and our children’s care is hard for women. How do we become comfortable with and good at delegating tasks to others in our home life?

You have to get comfortable with imperfection. That’s not to say that women are perfectionists and men aren’t, but women often have a clear vision for how they want things to be—and they’ll jump in when it looks like something is going awry. And sometimes it just seems easier to do something yourself than explain it to someone else. You have to accept a little short-term discomfort (like some well-intentioned but pantsless baby outfits) for long-term equality.

How do we deal with the guilt of unplugging for the weekend or leaving the office at 6 every night? Basically, how do we prioritize things based on what is best for us and our families, but leave the guilt behind?

I think it’s important to remember that guilt is something we’re projecting on ourselves; it’s not about other people. It would be overly reductive to say, ‘You’re in control! Just turn it off!’ But to an extent, if you don’t want to feel guilty, you don’t have to feel guilty.

Another thing that’s important to remember: If you want something to get done, ask a busy person. And there’s no one busier than a working parent. It’s almost like there’s a magical switch flipped when you have kids—a superpower that enables you to get way more work done between 9 am and 5 pm (or whatever hours you have childcare).

Acknowledge that you’re getting more done in less time.

I recommend that women devote 15 minutes at the end of each week to writing down what they’ve done that week. We spend so much time worrying about what we haven’t done that we forget to celebrate what we have accomplished.

As mentioned in Here’s the Plan, working from home can cut commute time, which means more available work hours and more productive employees. So why do you think more companies don’t offer this option?

I think we’re starting to see a shift away from ‘forced face time,’ but it’ll be a slow evolution. There are so many technological tools at our disposal that make it easier, but there are some definite downsides to having a fully remote workforce. It’s much harder to establish culture and rapport—so it can take longer to build a well-oiled team. And there are some tasks that are just easier to accomplish when you’re sitting next to someone. But I see almost no downside to empowering people to work remotely a couple days a week, particularly if you’re able to cluster that face-to-face teamwork onto ‘office’ days and have home days be the ones when you’re working on more solitary projects.

You talk a bit about the Pomodoro Technique in Here’s the Plan: 25 minutes of distraction-free work sessions followed by a short break. Do you think this process is the answer to working distraction free throughout the day?

Lots of studies have shown that taking a short break helps refresh your thinking. And the reality is that most people are taking short breaks right now when they take a few minutes to scroll through Facebook, but they don’t necessarily conceptualize it as a break because it’s rarely planned and it often can interrupt the flow of what you’re doing.

I also talk in the book about how multitasking can be your worst enemy because you wind up doing everything half as effectively (there’s a great sample task in there that I think will convert even the most emphatic multitasker).

Pomodoro forces you to be disciplined about remaining focused on one task. It’s about doing more in less time.

Me time is important. Often we feel guilty about taking time for ourselves—trying to fit it in with work, playing with our children, cooking dinner, bedtime routines, time with our spouse, etc. How can we prioritize time for ourselves?

Here we are talking about guilt again! I jest, but it’s such a pervasive part of working motherhood.

When you’re with your kids, you feel guilty about not working. When you’re working, you feel guilty about not spending time with your kids. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t struggle with this.

I think of my ‘me time’ as my opportunity to refresh myself, so I can be a better person when I’m with my kids or running my company. This past year, I spent 12 days in Cape Town solo visiting my best friend from business school. (Side note: My husband should be sainted for encouraging me to do this while he stayed home with the kids.) Oh, the guilt. The guilt! I wasn’t with my kids. I wasn’t working. It felt horrible. But after a couple days, I relaxed into it, and when I got home, I just had more energy. I had more energy for my kids, I had more energy for weeSpring—and I was a better mom and CEO because I ‘indulged’ myself (I couldn’t stop using that word the whole time I was gone). What I really did wasn’t indulgent. I was replenishing myself.

So carve out that you time. While 12 days may sound crazy and impossible (it sure felt that way to me), you can derive benefits even from 12 minutes. One woman I talked to told me that she uses her morning shower to reflect and be alone in her own head. Do that, or go play tennis, or have dinner with just your girlfriends—and remember, you’re not just doing these things for you.

You’re doing them because taking care of yourself will make you a better mother.

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We're a busy people, this family of mine. And we like it that way. But we're still always looking for simple ways to reconnect.

And most of the time, those moments happen around the dinner table.

I'm not embarrassed to admit we've become homebodies—we vastly prefer nights in watching movies and meals at home to the stress and cost of evenings out. While my husband and I still try to schedule a few legit date nights out now and then, by the end of our busy days, we like relaxing at the table as a family, then putting our daughter to bed to spend time together catching up on our shows or watching a movie. Most of our dates happen on the couch, and we're okay with that.

Dinner itself is a tradition I grew up valuing. As one of five kids, it seemed to be the only time our family was really all together, catching up on our days, making plans, or even just being physically present together. (This reminds me so much of the table we would gather around every night!)

Now that I'm my family's connector, I make sure to prioritize that time (even if most nights it's all I can do to get my wiggly toddler to sit still long enough to get a few bites of her dinner).

Whether we're relishing a home-cooked meal or simply noshing some pizza (because mama is tired, folks), nothing can replace the feeling of reconnecting—or leaving the table with satisfied bellies.

Because something strange happens when you have kids. Suddenly, time seems to enter a warp. One day (usually the days when nap time is short and the tantrums are long), time will drag on endlessly, making each minute feel like an hour until my husband gets home and can help with the kids. But most of the time, when I stop and really think about where we are in this busy season of life, I feel like time is flying by.

I look at my daughter, and I feel like someone has snuck in during the night and replaced her with this big-little girl because I swear she was just born a few months ago. I hug my son, unsure where the time has possibly gone because didn't I just take that positive pregnancy test yesterday? And I marvel at this rapidly growing family my husband and I have built because, really, wasn't he just asking me to be his girlfriend a year or two ago? (Try 10, self. That was 10 years ago.)

As fast as time races by, I don't have any answers for how to slow it down. If anything, the pendulum seems to swing quicker and quicker as our days fill with new activities. With jobs and responsibilities, with more and more activities and play dates for the kids.

But at the dinner table, I feel like time slows down enough for me to pause and look at this little family. I imagine us two, five, 10 years down the road (gathering around a table just like one of these). More little (and then not so little) faces peering at me over the table, asking for another piece of bread or more milk as my husband makes them giggle with a silly face or story.

I imagine them as teenagers, telling me about an upcoming test or asking if they can borrow the car after dinner. I even see them as adults, coming back to visit with their own kids for the occasional family dinner. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)


No matter where life takes us—or how quickly—I'm grateful for this time and this place where we can always come back together.

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It happens to the best of us. Even to the GOAT. When you have a baby it's so easy for your home to just fill up with brightly colored plastic. Just ask Serena Williams.

Her 1-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.'s things seem to be taking over the house, as Williams shared with her Instagram followers.


"Sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air. #thismama used to have a living room. Now I just have a play room. When did that happen?" she captioned the relatable pic.

We've all been there, Serena. As Motherly's minimalism expert, Juli Williams, previously wrote, when so many kind family and friends gift your child with playthings, it's easy to forget where the toys taking over the living room even came from.

"By the time my daughter was 8 months old she had so many toys that we had filled two huge chests with them," she explains. "Plus the activity gym, bouncy seat, swing and walker that were sitting in our living room. Oh, and don't forget the bag of bath toys hanging to dry in our bathroom tub."

The clutter began to get to Williams, who was tired of picking up toys her daughter wasn't even playing with. When she got rid of almost all of her toys, she found herself "more at peace, with less to clean" and she noticed her daughter was playing more with the toys she did have.

Williams isn't the only one to notice this: Scientists have, too.

As Motherly reported last year, researchers at the University of Toledo found that toddlers play longer and more happily when there are fewer toys around. Their study involved setting toddlers up in a room with either four or 16 toys. It turned out, the kids with just four toys engaged "in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively."

Bottom line: You don't have to sacrifice your living room (and your sanity) to bright bits of plastic when you become a mama. If you're overwhelmed by the number of toys in your space, your baby probably is, too.

If you are feeling the same way Serena is, consider Team Motherly's tips for keeping toys from taking over:

1. If you're moving soon, don't take all those toys 

When Motherly's co-founder, Elizabeth Tenety, packed up her playroom for an interstate move, she didn't bring 75% of the toys to her new house. She had the same problem as Serena, and didn't want to bring it with her.

"Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)," Tenety previously wrote.

Before the big move, she donated a ton of toys and found it has been "absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids."

2. Consider packing even if you're not moving 

Take a look at your living room or play room (wherever the toys replicate in your home) and consider what you would bring with you if you were moving (even if you're absolutely not).

Pack up anything you wouldn't take, and move it to Goodwill or another charity.

3. Prioritize experiences over material goods 

As our children grow, they're going to remember the memories we make together—not the toys cluttering up the house. If you can let grandparents and aunties in on this secret, you can keep your living room from looking like Serena's.

When Tenety decluttered her kids' toy stash, she asked her family not to gift the kids with any more toys, suggesting a weekend at grandpa's house, some art supplies or swimming lessons would be more meaningful.

Minimalism expert Juli Williams did the same. "For my daughter's second Christmas, we asked our family to gift us a registration to a toddler class instead of toys—and my daughter loved it," she previously wrote. "I took photos at the class and sent them to our family every week to show them the exciting new things she was learning—and so they truly understood that it was a gift that kept on giving."

4. Consider a no-toy Christmas this year

For a lot of families, a pile of toys under the Christmas tree is a holiday tradition, but more and more parents (including Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher) are opting for no-toy Christmas celebrations.

Motherly's own Rachel Gorton has also opted for this minimalist tradition. "Christmas in our household represents so much more than toys under the tree. I don't want our children to be distracted from the real reason we celebrate this holiday by a shiny new toy they don't need," she previously wrote.

"I want them to learn about giving without the concept being tied only to possessions in their mind. I want them to understand that giving doesn't always come in the form of an object."

Like Kunis and Kutcher, (and Tenety and Williams) Gorton emphasizes meaningful gifts and gifts of experience in her family's holiday rituals. Serena might want to hop on this trend, too.

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As the royal tour of Australia continues, it seems the Duchess of Sussex is feeling some jet lag—but it's not necessarily from traveling.

During a visit to Bondi Beach to participate in an "anti-bad vibe circle" with members of the OneWave surf community mental health support group, Markle talked with circle participant Charlotte Connell who is also pregnant, about 23 weeks according to news reports.

Cornell says Markle told her that her own pregnancy has been making her tired, and keeping her up at odd hours. Mamas around the world are nodding in agreement.

"Meghan told me that pregnancy was like having jet lag," Sky News quotes Cornell. "She said she was up at 4:30 a.m. this morning doing yoga in her room as she couldn't sleep."

It's not surprising that (on a two-week tour with a mind-boggling 76 planned engagements) Markle is feeling a bit tired. Fatigue is so common in pregnancy, we hope someone on the tour is making sure Markle can sneak in a nap now and then (seriously, research suggests pregnant women who regularly nap are less likely to have a baby with a low birth weight).

As for being up at 4:30 in the morning doing yoga? Well, if you can't sleep (and so often pregnant mamas-to-be struggle with this) self-care though yoga may be the next best thing.

It's a great way to relax, and a recently published study found working out during pregnancy can cut your labor time down significantly.

Meghan may have pregnancy-induced jet lag, but it sounds like she knows how to take care of herself, something all pregnant mamas should remember to do.

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Although my youngest is approaching a year, I'm still inspired by cozy, but minimal nurseries—especially those that can grow into toddlerhood and beyond. One that has always caught my eye was my sweet friend Lauren's little sweet space for her darling little boy, Graham. Graham's nursery is clean, modern and has just the right amount of warmth added to it.

I asked Lauren what inspired her with this little space, what some of her favorite items were and what feeling she was trying to evoke with the space. Here's what she had to say...

1. What inspired your nursery?

Lauren: I wanted to create a modern, neutral and warm space. His room honestly doesn't stray too far from the rest of our house, which is where I pulled the colors from when I set out searching for a rug with burnt orange, gray and green in it.

I also knew I wanted to include some house plants—again like the rest of our home!—and a few cacti. But I was careful not to get too theme-y, as I knew I would regret it. Rather, I stuck to a color scheme to go with the white walls, natural wood and modern furniture I had in mind.

2. What was the first item you bought for the nursery?

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The first item I purchased was a bassinet basket from Design Dua, which actually lives in our room now, but is probably my favorite piece for baby. I also already had a large sheepskin rug given to me as a birthday gift and knew I wanted to save it for the baby's room to do layered rugs since it is a small cozy space.

3. What is the most meaningful piece included in the room?

The most meaningful items in his nursery are the crocheted play blanket made by my mom. It was technically for my oldest, June, but perfect for all those early baby days spent playing on the floor around the house. And the heirloom Willaby blanket, as they are such a beautiful keepsake. I guess I really like blankets!

4. How does the space make you feel when you spend time there?

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Relaxed and cozy.

5. What "must have" items did you decide to go without?

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With him being our second, we already had all the necessary baby gear, so my nesting was mostly all about creating his modern little nursery. I prefer not to have a crowded home with baby stuff everywhere, so we chose not to invest in a pack 'n' play, baby swing, baby activity center, double stroller or even a true changing table—or any other baby furniture really, besides the affordable IKEA crib! Rather, I got pieces I can arrange around the house in the future.

6. What are the most-used elements of the nursery?

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The rocking chair and the sheepskin rug. I discovered with my daughter you spend a lot of time playing on the floor, so a fluffy rug was a must—as is a comfortable and stylish rocking chair for rocking those babes to sleep daily for the next couple years. And, currently, his handmade baby gym is a hit daily!

Although I was inspired to create a baby gym that matched, I was mostly motivated by wanting one that was foldable to set out the way in his small room when not in use. We made one by combining a couple Pinterest DIYs, using leftover wood from our garage and a few leftover pieces from his DIY mobile.

7. What advice would you give any pregnant mamas planning a nursery?

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It's easy to impulse buy or get overwhelmed with giant lists of must-have baby items, so it helps to plan it out. Or, at least, that is what I enjoy doing as I tend to be an online shopper. That way you can take advantage of sales or coupon codes after you've thought about what will work well in your space. Also, pick items that can grow with your baby or have multiple uses.

Thank you so much to Lauren for giving us a peek inside her adorable nursery! Graham sure is one lucky guy.

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