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No, motherhood doesn’t have to mean the end of your career. In fact, it can also mean the beginning of an awesome new chapter. Maybrooks features four women who learned to thrive at work after baby arrived—

1. Jenny Donnelly

Jenny Donnelly didn’t have a computer science degree but she quickly parlayed her math background from college into web development, system networking and coding when she headed to California in the 1990s. She eventually landed a role at Yahoo, where she has been for 10 years and is now an engineering director managing 26 people. After her first baby she found herself stretched pretty thin so she devised a way to re-prioritize and focus on important pieces — and with each of her two kids came a promotion. Here’s how she does it.



Jenny Donnelly, Engineering Director, Yahoo Gemini


Hillsborough, Calif.


A career I love, wonderful husband, two happy & healthy kids!


Monday through Friday I keep it 9 to 5 in the office, plus phone calls during my commute, plenty of nights after the kids are in bed, weekends as required


Son (6), Daughter (4)


Fancy restaurants


I’m halfway through Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To by Sian Beilock


I love cooking for my family! Fish tacos, flank steak, and roasted chicken are all very easy for weeknights.


The Atlantic


The Good Wife, Downton Abbey, plus anything on Bravo


Yelp to help me pick my next date night destination.


I buy almost everything except groceries online: my clothes & shoes, kids’ clothes & shoes, beauty products, gifts, even toilet paper. I’d buy groceries online too, but I love my weekly jaunts through the produce aisle.


Go on vacation!


I have a laser focus on priorities and make every work minute matter.

You’re a woman in tech at the Director level. You’re also a mother of two! Tell us about your working mom journey and how you got here.

I landed in San Francisco after college during the Internet boom of the 90’s. I didn’t have a CS degree, but my first job was as a sort of jack-of-all-trades at a startup, and I soon realized I loved all the technical aspects of my job: building the website, setting up the network, and teaching myself how to build useful things with code. That was my real entry to tech and I’m pretty much a self-taught geek.

Since landing at Yahoo 10 years ago, I’ve been able to really deepen my technical and leadership skills and even start a family. For me, those things actually went hand in hand. When I had my first baby, I was stretched so thin and really burning the candles at both ends. My response was to cut out anything and everything unnecessary both at work and home and to focus on only the most important things.

At work, that meant throwing myself into the most impactful projects around me and cutting out the rest. I’ve honed a relentless focus on results and a healthy distaste for inefficiency. Taken at a higher level, it means having clear team priorities that align with business goals and avoiding premature optimization. I really think that shift is what has unlocked my potential as an effective leader, which in turn led to a series of promotions.

With each baby came a promotion, but also a period of time where you worried you couldn’t handle it all. What changed your thinking and what advice do you have now for others that they can have a big career and a family too, and not to worry so much?

Not handling it all wasn’t just a worry — it was a reality! Things were slipping through the cracks left and right. But in the process of letting the smaller stuff go, I consciously up-leveled my goals to be things I truly wanted to fight and sacrifice for.

I decided I didn’t need to answer every email that landed in my inbox, but I did put in the time on the ones that needed to be handled well.

I didn’t accept every meeting invite that landed in my calendar, but I did make special childcare arrangements to attend some very important ones.

You mentioned that you’ll step out of important meetings to take phone calls from the school. As the manager of 26 people, how do you manage in a way that messages your priorities and allows people to feel comfortable with their own?

I do have family obligations that pop up unexpectedly now and again — I think most of us do. I don’t try to hide it, and I openly respect everyone’s needs to take care of their family or other personal matters. Our company culture is very transparent in that way, and that is true all the way up to our CEO Marissa Mayer. I think it’s because we all trust each other to be hard working, to cover for each other from time to time, and to make up for lost time in other ways.

My job is very demanding, but I am able to give it my all because I never feel like I’m being asked to compromise on the things that are most important to me.

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You’ve been at the company 10 years and said you recently looked around the room and saw women in various leadership roles and thought the company must be doing something right? What do you think Yahoo is doing right?

I’m not sure I can point to any particular policy or program, but I do think we are philosophically a deeply meritocratic company that tries to eliminate bias in all aspects, from hiring to promotions.

Being a working mom will require you to work crazy hard and make a lot of sacrifices — that’s a given. I think it’s really valuable to figure out what your most ambitious, fearless self can dream up and what sacrifices you are willing to make to get her there — and then to go for it! On the flip side, know what sacrifices you won’t make and stick to your guns. For instance, I love to cook and it is really important to me that I am home for dinner every night. Check in with yourself now and then to make sure the goals and the sacrifices are in balance.

2. Layla Kajer

Layla had just accepted a new job across the country where she was planning to double down on her career for the next three to five years. So when she found out she was pregnant—unexpectedly and unplanned—it was a bit of a shock. She continued to double down during her pregnancy. And then on maternity leave discovered a new self, which led to changes she may never have imagined, and the search for a company that would support those changes.

Here’s how Layla describes it—

Somewhere along the way, growing up as a girl in modern society, for me it feels you have to choose your path — you are either a career woman or a mom type. Like cattle being branded, it seems binary and permanent.

The decision was easy for me. I’m a career woman. Born and bred.

As a child, I played business-owner and banker over house or dolls. Combine that with watching key women in my life search for purpose outside of kids, and I was firm on my position—I’m all work all the time.

That was, until my life turned upside down and I found out I was pregnant—completely unplanned, unexpected and (dare I say) a tiny bit unwanted. I was 31 years old, financially secure and in a loving relationship so this wasn’t a disaster. But I had recently accepted a position to move across the country, a symbol that I am doubling down on my career and leaving the kid debate for three to five years down the road.

Nope. It happens now.

White knuckling my identity

As reality of my pregnancy set in, I was determined to stay relevant at work and maintain my people-pleasing, over-achieving, hard-working reputation. I initially told my firm that I was going to take a short leave—less than what they offered at full salary. I signed up for a project that required I fly to the Middle East twice a month. While pregnant. That seemed like a good idea at the time (yes, feel free to roll your eyes—I do too now).

On my last day in the office, I looked my boss in the eyes and said, “when I get back, I’ll be ready to hit the ground running. I want that promotion and I plan to travel.” And I meant it.

To my surprise

I loved being home with my baby girl. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done, and it changed me. I finally felt sweet release from pressure I’d placed on myself, historically grounding my purpose solely on work achievements. While I was out, I saw there was joy in something other than external validation. There was no stress of whether clients liked me and would buy more work from me. There was no self-doubt after a tense meeting. To be fair, I had plenty of other new stress-inducing situations, but this was the first time I saw a different way of existing and it felt good.


My entire life had been built on the notion that I’m only valuable if I’m crushing it at work so what happens to EVERYTHING if my willingness to give so much of my time and energy has changed?

Death of a two-tone existence

The rumble of a changing identity is a tricky thing.

I used to call it an identity shift, but I now see it was an identity expansion.

It’s like an addition you make to a house. It is bigger, utterly more, with fresh new features but the rest of the house — with all the memories in it — is still there. My ambition didn’t go away or even lessen, it’s just that I now have more in my life that matters.

My challenge wasn’t trying to shoehorn mommyhood into my old identity and life. My challenge was to find an environment where my ambition can thrive without detriment to my family life.

This idea that we must have a clear one-or-the-other identity does not serve greater womankind and, instead, holds us in the narrow confines of an antiquated gender-biased existence. We can, should be, and are changing, energetic beings who exist in multiple dimensions and have the freedom to flourish in many priority permutations.

My reconciliation came when I realized my job had to shift in order for me to have the home life I want. So it did. I found a company comprised of other moms and dads and a position that allowed me minimal travel but high-impact work with a mission-driven company at headquarters five minutes from my house.

I’m only two months in to this working mom adventure, but I already see that I can be and am both a loving, involved mom who treasures bedtime cuddles and a badass creator able to lead change, make decisions and own a room.

3. Jackie Hanselmann Sergi

Jackie is a recruiter and executive coach based in Portland, experienced the five stages of grieving her old work self after returning to work from maternity leave. She was depleted and feeling like she was letting everyone down — work, spouse and baby — until her boss and mentor shared some words that gave her the space to grieve and move forward to embrace her new role — one she finds is just as effective and boasts a few more tricks.

It feels a bit poetic that I write this blog entry from the friendly skies high above the world below, on my first overnight trip away from my little girl.

Once the 20-something career road warrior, deftly navigating numerous airports in a week, to now, the 30-something new mom who is discovering the freedom of air travel without baby and a monumental entourage of stuff.

It is one of the first few moments of quiet and non-touching that I have experienced in a long time, and in these quiet moments I once again feel a bit of freedom mixed with a side of guilt that I am actually enjoying this moment being me — not mom — but me.

It took me a while for me to get here – to this place where I allow myself to admit that I have changed, and to allow myself to miss the me before the mom.

Two years ago, I started my new role at my dream organization. I was excited for my new adventure to join the all female executive recruiting firm focused on working with nonprofits doing great in the world. I took two weeks off between roles and detoxed from my previous employer and enjoyed much needed time off. I started my new role, wide-eyed and ready to tackle this new chapter in my life.

Little did I know that I was not starting my new role alone; I was growing a new little life and a new identity for myself as well. Two weeks in, while positive that I had the illness of the current client search I was working on, I was shocked to see the little pink line appear on the pregnancy test.

Some of my thoughts after the initial, “Oh wow, this is happening,” were, “What about my career? My job? My airline status (funny but kind of true!)?”

Ten months later, I welcomed into the world a new reality that came in the form of a rosy-cheeked beautiful baby girl. What I didn’t realize was that with the new arrival marked the departure of another life and identity that I needed to acknowledge and grieve.

As the days of maternity leave ticked away, I grew anxious to return to my job. Internally there was a battle brewing over wanting to continue to be the full time mother versus the woman who missed working with nonprofits to find their leaders and enjoyed having an organized calendar of events that were far more predictable than a three-month old’s daily needs.

When I returned to work, I threw myself into the work trying to prove to my company, and more to myself, that I was not only the same kick-butt worker as before but even better now because I had birthed a baby. After a month of this grind, I was exhausted, depleted, and feeling as if I was failing on all fronts — wife, mother, and employee.

And then I was gifted with a conversation with the founder of my company that shifted everything for me. Katie called me into her office and asked me how things were going and I gave my well-practiced answer that everything was over all good and that I was working really hard and trying to find the balance.

Katie, a seasoned mother of two, saw straight through my answer. She leaned in close and shared the following words that I will remember forever:

“One of the hardest things that I have ever been through is when my mother died, but the second hardest loss that I experienced was the loss of the woman that I was before I had children. It is okay to say it is hard, and it is okay to grieve the woman that you were. You are not selfish, you are not less than, you do not have to prove yourself to us, you just need to be.”

And with those words, the floodgate of emotions erupted, and I felt allowed to grieve. I went through all five stages of grieving:

DENIAL — unable to accept that I was any different or couldn’t attack my work as before my daughter was born,

ANGER — angry that I felt expected to be everything to everyone, angry that there were not enough private pumping rooms, angry that I was touched out and guilty for not always finding the beauty of new motherhood

BARGAINING — stretching myself to the point of exhaustion to keep all the plates spinning at the detriment to self

DEPRESSION – feeling like I was failing everyone

ACCEPTANCE – (finally!) which came with embracing the good, bad, and the ugly of the new stage of my life and to love myself with the sweet admiration and grace that I feel with every snuggle of my daughter.

The freedom to grieve the woman that I was and embrace the woman that I am is a daily exercise in patience and love. As I packed for my first overnight trip away, I cried and thought of all the what if’s to going away but as I quickly passed through security with only one bag and then leisurely sauntered through the airport with hot coffee in hand, I remembered that I’m still the road warrior but now I just have new tricks up my sleeve.

Jackie Hanselmann Sergi is an executive recruiter with KOYA Leadership Partners in Portland, Oregon, loving wife, and a proud mom of one sweet little girl.

4. Stephanie Kumar

Stephanie Kumar of Pinterest felt pressure to be a strong role model for the little girl she held in her arms everyday, so she decided to “lean in” and search for a job that would better propel her career, all while on maternity leave. Here’s her story.


Stephanie Kumar, Insights Lead at Pinterest


New York City


Going from maternity leave right into a new role and company leading CPG Insights @ Pinterest


Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.


Chloé, 8 mos.


‘No Chewing Allowed’ Chocolate Truffles


Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman


I love to cook flavorful vegetarian food. Some recent favorites: Cauliflower Fried Rice & Zucchini Pesto Pasta


Women’s Health, MIT Technology Review, Harvard Business Review


The Voice and The Mindy Project


We love to travel, and the TripCase app keeps all of our itineraries in one spot. Pinterest is my go-to for pretty much everything else in life from tonight’s dinner to organizing my closet!


Babywear! When the only thing that soothes your crying tot is holding them, babywearing will let you send emails, take conference calls, or cook a meal.


We love to sing and dance with Chloé. There’s nothing more fun than letting your inner-child out!


Being a mom has inspired me to be a better person now that I have this little girl to impress.

Tell us about your working mom journey. What are you doing now, and how did you get here?

When I found out I was expecting, I was leading an internal consumer analytics team at a large tech company where I had been since 2011. After the baby arrived, I excitedly made a transition to Pinterest. Now, I lead insights for our CPG partners, where I surface trends that can drive business for marketers across food, drink, beauty, and cleaning brands. Here’s an example of my latest work: Pinterest Blog: Pin Trends: This Thanksgiving, don’t forget the pie.

You’ve only been at Pinterest for a few months, which means you did a job search with a newborn! You told me that your baby was a big driver for the change — can you explain?

Having a baby changed my life in a big and unexpected way. Suddenly, I felt the need to become a role model to this little girl that I held in my arms every day during maternity leave. I made the decision to “lean in” and try something that would propel my career, even if it was a bit of an intimidating decision at times.

We’re really impressed with how intentional you are about the way you schedule your week and really try to avoid “mother’s guilt” — how did you know to do this?

I learned very quickly that it was impossible for me to give 100% of myself every day to every part of my life (daughter, husband, friends, ‘me’). Rather than feel guilty about it, I took control and chose moments where I could give 100% of myself to that person.

For my daughter, evenings are hers until she goes to bed around 7:30 p.m. I schedule date nights at least once a week with my husband, and reserve at least one day a week with my girlfriends (both happen after my daughter is in bed). On the weekends, my husband will take Chloé for long walks where I get time to myself to read a book or get a pedicure. With dedicated time reserved for everyone, including me, I end up being the best version of myself for everyone in my life.

You mentioned that both you and your husband are big planners — how does this manifest itself when you’re managing two big jobs with a baby?

Our friends tease us for being such Type A planners, but it really has been a godsend for managing our new normal.

Here are a few of my favorite planning things:

—A whiteboard in the kitchen to capture a running grocery and “to do” list (has also been used to show our babysitter the last time Chloe has eaten or napped)

—A hanging calendar where we note upcoming holidays, birthdays, professional events, date nights and vacations so nothing gets missed

—Shared Google spreadsheets when planning big vacations (who is doing what, how much it will cost, potential destinations, etc.)

What is your best advice to other professional women?

Having a baby is a beautiful addition to life, but remember to maintain what drives you and makes you happy as a woman.

I, for instance, love to travel the world, and decided very early on that my daughter would be a welcomed part of that. Many in my life still think that I am brave (and/or crazy) to travel with an infant, but after about 10 flights in eight months, I can happily say that she ends up charming all of her fellow fliers every time.

Maybrooks is a career resource for moms. Search jobs, research family friendly companies, and find tools to navigate your career.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was as prepared as I could be for my body to run the marathon that is childbirth, yet it turned out to be more like a sprint.

You see, I gave birth in a car—and I felt invincible.

During pregnancy, I chose to create a positive experience. I sought all the research I could. I watched birth videos and documentaries, read birth stories, learned about the stages of labor, recorded coping techniques, drank red raspberry leaf tea, and ate all the dates. I sought care, prepared my cookies and teas, gathered breastfeeding cream, a pump, and belly bind. I folded baby's diapers and clothes, praying for those important first weeks.


Perhaps the most important thing I did was to join a due date group with like-minded mamas to learn and grow with, and to share all the information, research and tips we could.

Much of my preparation was mental and spiritual prep-work. I read tons of books about birth, including faith-based books about labor, a practical guide to an "emergency" birth, and a natural pregnancy and childbirth guidebook. (And yes, I did end up using knowledge of each of these resources!)

Each of my two births were very different. With my first child's birth, I did not know much about birth or my options. My water broke at the onset of labor and I labored grudgingly in the one hour car ride to the hospital. Once there, I begged for an epidural.

This time around, though, I approached labor differently.

I chose to experience unmedicated labor, even though it isn't an easily understood decision. There were so many unsolicited opinions from people about what I should do with my body, and it was hard to not feel bombarded with all of the negative talk surrounding birth. But by having the support of the due date group and learning the wisdom that has been passed down in generations about childbirth, I wasn't deterred in my decision.

I knew that I needed to focus on not being overtaken by the potential overwhelm of birth. I remembered that I had a right to informed consent and that I could find kind of positive help I needed to give birth the way I knew I needed to. I chose to memorize biblical and positive affirmations to recite during birth to help calm myself through the contractions, and focus on what's at hand, rather than panic.

Labor began

The day my son came, I woke up before the sun at 4am and headed for the bathroom. I felt nauseous and achy like I was going to throw up and have diarrhea all at once. It was a very distinct, disgusting feeling throughout my body. Yet even with that feeling, I was in denial that labor was really starting.

My water was intact, and I was expecting my water to break at the onset of labor, as it did with my first. I was having some contractions, although extremely erratic. They were not consistent with clockwork, but they didn't stop, either. I would have a contraction that lasted five seconds, then a break for 20 minutes. Another contraction, this time for 20 seconds, and a break for seven minutes. I tried using an app to track and time the contractions for a bit, but ultimately that proved to cause more anxiety than peace.

So I turned the app off, and focused on being present. I was so calm. I let the contractions come and go. My family didn't even know I was in labor until they woke up with the sunrise! (I didn't want to wake everyone up—silly me, being in active labor!)

I was grateful to labor on my own in a quiet house in the early pre-dawn hours before the house and outside world woke up. I kept my composure, breathed through contractions, read and prayed, and let the birth process happen on its own.

When the contractions did not stop, I realized this was the real thing.

Once everyone was awake, I realized that I should probably be doing more to prepare, like get to help! We haphazardly packed a bag and rushed out the door to drive an hour to the place chosen to have our baby. I was not excited for that long car ride. I remember laboring in the car before, and it was miserable for me. I also knew how quick my past labor had been, and had this deep feeling, perhaps a mother's intuition, that we wouldn't make it to our destination in time.

I knew that this labor was progressing very quickly, and the baby was going to be born soon. Yet we went.

Giving birth in the car

My family got into the car and we drove, planning to meet more family at the hospital to take over the care of our toddler for a few days.

I labored in the car for 40 minutes until the ring of fire came. I knew what this meant: He was crowning, and we had to park. I tried to get into the best squat position I could, facing the seat, relieved that the car had stopped at this point. I repeated my affirmations over and over, and tried to focus on staying as calm as possible.

And he was born in the car, in the back of a small town grocery parking lot.

My baby was 6 pounds and 6 ounces, born at 9:15 in the morning, as I was facing the seat backward and squatting in the passenger seat of the car.

I didn't really push. A combination of by body's contractions and gravity seemed to do all the work. I was squatting upright, and the baby to just sort of plopped out. Head first into the car seat, with my hand to guide his head down, and a bit of the cord and fluids followed.

I attempted to squat fairly awkwardly in the seat to hold my fresh son and rub the vernix into his sweet skin. We were in love, and I felt invincible. I immediately felt relief of all the pain and tension. The rush of oxytocin and hormones from birth made me feel on top of the world. (In that moment, I almost forgot that my toddler was in the backseat watching, eyes wide open—he was so quiet!)

The ambulance was called, we were checked out, and all was well. I waddled to the ambulance while the EMTs held towels around me and baby. They needed to take me to the hospital to make sure we were okay. I sat in the back of the ambulance stroking my baby, relieved to have more space to stretch out.

At the hospital, we sat in a room for a while until they figured out what to do with us, since the baby was already here. We stayed overnight and I reflected on the birth as I could.

Reflecting on my car birth

In some ways, I was sad. This is not what I wanted first moments with my son to be like. Although I was prepared for birth and felt incredible afterward, I felt sort of exposed to the world during the process. My body was depleted—and ultimately, my baby was born in the car (not exactly something that was on my bucket list).

I felt grief for the way (or rather, place) that my labor happened. But I was also thankful for a powerful, unmedicated birth. I grieved the loss of expectations, while being thankful for the reality. And that's okay.

I did it. We did it. This birth was a sprint, not the marathon so many women talk about.

Nothing about my labor and contractions were predictable. I did not have much knowledge about birth before I was pregnant, but the preparation during my pregnancy helped me feel more at ease. Despite the situation, I didn't feel that it was challenging. I felt able, or at least as able or prepared as any mother can be, for labor.

The feeling of being in labor is indescribable—the juxtaposition between pregnancy and postpartum, the time in labor where you are in the hyphen of here and there, a time that forever changes your life and family.

It was truly vulnerable and powerful—an unusual presence of two feelings that left me over-the-moon. As soon as my son was born, the feeling of pain was gone, just like that. And in its place was exhilaration; a rush of adrenaline and awe. I did it completely on my own, in the front passenger seat of the car!

Our bodies are absolute miracles. I grew into a mother of two that day, and with that, my new mission was born: to help other mothers learn and experience the feeling of being empowered by your birth and labor, not in fear of it. I decided to become a birth and postpartum doula, to empower, coach and be alongside other mothers in their own journey in birth and motherhood.

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For starters, this article is not to be confused with 10 ways to win a power struggle. I know, I'm disappointed too, but there is no way to win a power struggle with a 3-year-old. They can refuse to put on their shoes all day—they have nowhere better to be!

More importantly, you don't necessarily want to win a power struggle. Sure, you may occasionally triumph in a battle of the wills with your child, but I doubt either of you will emerge from the experience feeling good about yourselves or your relationship.

Plus, as nice as it would be to have our children just do what we ask without argument, our goal isn't to raise little people who blindly follow orders. Rather, we want to raise children who are able to compromise, accept advice and guidance and follow a trusted authority.


What we can think about is how to make the most of the inevitable power struggles we find ourselves in with young children, and how to come out of them with our relationship intact.

Here are 10 ways to turn power struggles with your toddler into a win:

1. Demonstrate how to compromise

One of the best ways to teach children how to be kind and reasonable in their interactions with others is through modeling. I know, no pressure, right?

Instead of standing over them and yelling at them to pick up their toys while they sit there with their arms crossed giving you the evil eye, try offering to put away the blocks while they put away the dolls. Or, try offering them five more minutes before clean up time. Extend the olive branch and see if you can gain their cooperation rather than their obedience.

In time, you can involve your child more in coming up with the solution. Say something like, "I want you to clean up your toys and you don't want to. What's a compromise we could use here?"

2. Model empathy

It can be really hard to show empathy for something that seems completely ridiculous to us. Can you really have empathy for someone refusing to eat their breakfast because you gave them the blue spoon? Maybe not.

But you can show empathy for how hard it is to not get what you want, or to not have the control you wish you had over your own life. You can say something like, "I know the red spoon is your favorite. It's hard for you when it isn't clean."

This shows our children that we see and care about how they're feeling, and it is often enough to help them move on.

3. Show the strength of your relationship

Perhaps the most important win that can come out of a power struggle is a stronger relationship. Power struggles are incredibly draining for us and for our children, and it can be hard not to emerge from it angry and tired.

Once you've recovered, spend some time repairing your relationship and let your child know that, no matter what, you still love them for exactly who they are.

4. Model how to apologize

At some point you will inevitably lose your temper over a power struggle you have with your child. It's almost impossible not to. When this happens, it is a great opportunity to show your child how to apologize.

While making children say "I'm sorry," doesn't teach them remorse, when we apologize it teaches the importance of admitting when we do something wrong.

You might say something like, "I'm sorry I yelled at you earlier. I was so frustrated when you wouldn't put on your shoes and we needed to leave, but yelling wasn't a good choice. May I give you a hug?"

5. Teach them to read their bodies

Children frequently become argumentative when they're tired, hungry or thirsty. They are not good at reading their own body's signals, yet the way they feel physically dramatically affects their behavior.

When you find your child buckling down and refusing everything you ask them to do, teach them how to pause and scan their body. Explain to them that when they are feeling this way, it is sometimes because they haven't eaten or rested in a while.

Teaching your child to be in tune with their body is a lesson that will last well beyond the stage of power struggles.

6. Let them learn from natural consequences

Many power struggles center around things we ask our children to do for their own good. We ask them to bring a coat so they won't be cold. We ask them to use the potty so they'll be comfortable. We ask them to do their homework so they don't get in trouble at school.

Next time you feel a power struggle coming on, ask yourself what would happen if your child didn't do what you asked. Is there a natural consequence that would be meaningful, but not harmful? If so, let the situation unfold.

You might say something like, "I think you should wear a coat so that you're not cold, but it's your body, you can decide."

Later, when they're too cold and have to leave the park, you can talk about what happened. Sure, your child will be mildly uncomfortable for a while, but you will avoid a daily power struggle about coats.

7. Show them it's okay to change your mind

Some rules are really important and we simply cannot back down. Other times, you may make a minor request in passing, only to set off a monumental power struggle. Do you have to stick to what you said simply to avoid backing down to your unreasonable child?

No, of course not, what message would that send?

If something isn't important to you, simply tell your child that you've changed your mind, not out of exasperation, but simply because it's not important to you.

Say something like, "Wow, I can see this is really important to you. You know what, now that I think about it, I'm okay with it if you wear your princess dress to the park, if you're okay with it getting dirty."

This demonstrates that it's okay to give in to what someone else wants sometimes, we don't have to be in a power struggle just to avoid backing down at all costs.

8. Teach respectful disagreement

Power struggles can be an excellent opportunity to teach our children how to disagree, respectfully. After all, there is nothing wrong with our children having a different opinion, we just don't want them to express it by flat out refusal or laying on the floor screaming. You can explain this to your child, offering them an alternative way of expressing their opinion.

Say something like, "Wow, I asked you to get dressed and you really don't want to. You could say 'I'm not ready Mom, may I wait five minutes?'" If your child is already emotional, try having this discussion later when they've calmed down.

9. Practice problem solving skills

Involve your child in coming up with a solution for ongoing power struggles. Do they argue every day about what's for breakfast? Invite them to look through a healthy cookbook with you and choose a new recipe to try.

Do they say no and run away every time it's time to leave the park? Sit down with a pen and paper and involve them in coming up with a good solution for when it's time to go.

This is a great exercise in creative problem solving and children are far more likely to go along with a solution they helped create.

10. Show them they can trust you

In the midst of a battle of wills, it is generally useless to use logic, to explain your reasoning to a child who has already decided that they are, under no circumstances, backing down.

Later though, when all is calm and you have both recovered, sit down with your child and explain why you were asking them to do something.

Explain that you asked them to get in their car seat because it's so important for safety and you care about them. Explain that you asked them to put their toys away because it's important for your family to have a nice and tidy home to live in.

Explain to them that you always, always, have their best interests at heart, that they can trust you.

The best way to handle power struggles is to avoid them. Still, you are human, and you are likely to get dragged into some power struggles from time to time. When that happens, just try to make the best of it.Your child will likely try to initiate many power struggles, but you don't have to actually join the fight every time. Remember that protecting and repairing your relationship is more important than winning any battle.

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Learn + Play

Meghan Markle is opening up about some of the challenges of pregnancy and life as a new mom. While most of us can't relate to her status as a royal we can totally relate to some of her feelings about motherhood.

Markle was recently interviewed by ITV News at Ten anchor Tom Bradby—and when Bradby asked her how she was doing she kept it real.

"Thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I'm OK, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes," Markle said.

ITV News on Instagram: “'Not many people have asked if I’m ok... it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.' Meghan reveals to ITV’s @tom.bradby…”


Many moms can relate to this, and it's something we at Motherly have often commented on. People always ask how the baby is doing, but don't always think to ask mama how she is. Of course, we want the people around us to care how our babies are doing, but mom needs to be cared for, too.

Bradby pressed on, asking Markle if it would be fair to say she is " not really OK?"

"Yes," she replied.

The most famous new mom in the world is saying that she is not okay. We applaud her for that because by telling her truth she is no doubt inspiring other mothers to do the same. We don't have to pretend that motherhood is free from stress and struggle. It is hard, even for someone with the resources Markle has.

The Duchess of Sussex has a lot of financial resources, but she has also been highly scrutinized during her pregnancy and early motherhood, which has added to her stress.

"Any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging," Markle says. "And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it's a lot. So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed. It's um… yeah. I guess, also thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I'm okay, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."

Media coverage of Markle's pregnancy and personal life were a factor in Prince Harry releasing a statement on the matter earlier this month.

"My wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences—a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son," it reads, in part. "There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face—as so many of you can relate to—I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been."

As Prince Harry suggests, there are certain things about Markle's struggle that many of us can relate to. Pregnancy and life with a newborn are hard, and trying to pretend you're okay when you're not (or as Harry calls it, putting on a brave face) can make it even more stressful.

Here's to it being okay for a new mom to say she's not okay.

The rest of Bradby's interview with Markle (and conversations with Harry) will air during the upcoming ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, this Sunday in the UK. Stateside, the doc will air Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that it's initiating a voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of Johnson's Baby Powder due to low levels of asbestos contamination. In a statement posted to its website the company explained this is a "voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of its Johnson's Baby Powder in response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer."

The recall is only for one lot of 33,000 bottles of baby powder. If you have a bottle of Johnson's Baby Powder from Lot #22318RB stop using it and contact the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Care Center at www.johnsonsbaby.com or by calling +1 (866) 565-2229.

Johnson & Johnson stresses that this recall is a precaution and that it can't yet confirm if the product tested was genuine or whether cross-contamination occurred. The voluntary recall comes after years of allegations about asbestos contamination in Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder-based baby powder.

As Bloomberg reported in July, the Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Johnson & Johnson due to concerns about alleged asbestos contamination in its baby powder. This came after numerous lawsuits, including a case that saw Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer. In July 2018, St. Louis jury ruled the women were right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks. Way back in 1981, the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates. In 1998, Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the variety of baby powder involved in the The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission's investigations and the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks.

In a statement on its website, Johnson & Johnson states that "talc is accepted as safe for use in cosmetic and personal care products throughout the world."

When Motherly requested comment on the recall and the safety of talc a spokesperson for the company issued the following statement:

"[Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc] has a rigorous testing standard in place to ensure its cosmetic talc is safe and years of testing, including the FDA's own testing on prior occasions--and as recently as last month--found no asbestos. Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos."

Bottom line: If you have one of the 33,000 bottles of Johnson's Baby Powder from Lot #22318RB, stop using it.

If you are going to use baby powder other than the recalled lot on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

[A version of this post was originally published July 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Recent updates

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