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People become “stay-at-home parents” for many reasons. Financial, emotional, logistical, or even instinctual factors may play a part. Plus kids are only young once, and the tug to be close to them is overwhelming for some women—and for an increasing number of men.


At the same time, there are many myths and judgments out there about moms and dads who stay at home. For example, a recent study found that 2/3 of women who call themselves “stay-at-home moms” actually contribute income to their families.

It’s important to illuminate some of the hidden realities about stay-at-home parents. Since I was (proudly) one of them—a “stay-at-home dad” or full-time caretaker (the label I tended to use)—I experienced, witnessed, and examined the realities of those labeled “stay-at-home parents” and the way these conflicted with certain cultural myths and stereotypes in our society.

There are so many things people don’t know about stay-at-home parents—what they do with their time, what motivates them, what their ambitions are, and so much more.

Here’s what I learned along the way—

Caretaking is really hard

I was the primary caretaker for my daughter from when she was born until she entered a Montessori school when she was 18 months old. During that time I was a PhD student, adjunct professor in a summer course, the editor of an online periodical, and a graduate fellow at a university think tank.

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Caretaking was the most demanding and physically exhausting of these jobs.

It required more efficiency than completing my PhD coursework. I was more physically exhausted after taking care of my daughter for a full day than I was after volleyball or basketball practice when I coached (prior to my retirement upon her birth).

Balancing care-taking with other jobs was difficult—sometimes just finding the time to send a single email was like trying to thread a needle...while riding on a unicycle—and I was lucky enough to have flexible jobs and a boss committed to pro-family policies.

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Many caretakers are in more difficult situations with intense pressure to make ends meet with outside jobs while working as primary caretaker.

As a stay-at-home mom or dad, when you’re sick, there is no time off. When you and your child are sick, the sheer willpower required to make it through the day can be incredible. This is not ideal since kids constantly seem to be picking up bugs and passing them on to exhausted adults who have more trouble kicking the sickness. This is particularly true for caretakers who have an older child at daycare or school—germ factories. Being tired and sick while trying to take care of that which you value most in the world is no easy task.

Being a stay-at-home parent can also be isolating. In a society where an increasing number of parents live away from their own parents and the local community where they were raised, caretakers are often on their own—physically and emotionally. There may be groups where one can meet other parents—in person and online—but the level of support and engagement is often limited. These groups meanwhile are often billed as moms’ groups—not exactly inviting to male caretakers.

Caretaking is deeply rewarding

Few things are as rewarding as watching your child develop and learn. Their curiosity and joy are a constant reminder of the wonder and splendor of life and the world. Helping to form them as a person, to foster good habits and help them to build their character, is serious work.

It is work that society should value deeply.

And for the religious believer, while the great monuments of the world will one day be rubble, this person is transcendent and immortal. It is true of all parents, including those who work full time outside the home, that parenting is their most important work. But for full-time caretakers, most of their day is occupied by this grave responsibility. It is difficult work, but it is deeply rewarding.

Caretaking is undergoing big changes

There are numerous cultural changes that are affecting caretaking. The number of stay-at-home dads is rising. Millennials hold more egalitarian views when it comes to gender roles. Millennials are also taking on established work-life balance norms and practices, demanding greater flexibility and sufficient time for their personal lives. Many find Anne-Marie Slaughter’s message that ‘care is as important as career’ compelling.

Thus many millennials with ambitious career goals are trying to find an alternative to the career first/regret missing your children’s childhoods on your deathbed approach. Some are trying to have it all as mompreneurs who bring in big bucks from home while taking care of the kids. Others are trying to juggle part-time jobs and part-time caretaking, with help from babysitters, nanny shares, or others. Some are leaning in, then out, then a little bit more in, then out again—trying to find the right mix or seize opportunities with the idea that you can have it all, but perhaps not at the same time.

All of this is complicated by the digital revolution, which offers new opportunities for work, flexibility, and this type of juggling—but also invades our personal lives and family time.

It is also critical to note that these changes are not just happening among the affluent and highly educated. For instance, many working class men are stepping in as caretakers because that it the best option for their families. Childcare costs are skyrocketing, even exceeding the costs of college tuition in some areas. In areas where wages are stagnant and unemployment is high, it is often practical for one parent to take on some of the caretaking responsibilities rather than spending money on an expensive alternative, regardless of whether it is the mom or dad.

Dads are up for the job

I like a traditional sitcom trope as much the next person, but a few too many people seem to take the bumbling dad who struggles to ‘babysit’ his own kids one a bit too seriously. I’m sure they still exist, but I don’t know dads who don’t know how to change a diaper or get their kids to school on time and dressed appropriately. The dads I see on a regular basis are dedicated and competent. Yet stereotypes about dads and male caretakers seem to linger.

On the one hand, I’ve seen this manifest itself in what I call “momsplaining”: I’ve been told by moms (and single women with no children) that I should not be holding, feeding, playing with, or carrying my child in a particular way on numerous occasions. By complete strangers. I’ve also received my fair share of eyerolls.

Some of the reactions may be the result of my parenting style. When I look away from my baby if he stumbles in a play area, that may seem like neglect to a nearby busybody if she doesn’t realize it’s a conscious strategy to get my kids to not cry when they are not actually hurt. But many of the reactions are certainly the result of underlying prejudice against men as caretakers. And this is not at all uncommon and occurs even when dads are using the most textbook techniques. Personally, I don’t particularly care that random women are giving me bad advice, but I do worry about the impact it has on men who may not feel as confident or secure in their caretaking abilities.

There is also the soft bigotry of low expectations. I’ve been labeled “superdad” for doing what many moms do to little or no acclaim every single day.

Just as I’m indifferent to silly criticism, hyperbolic praise has little effect on me—but it really highlights how underappreciated many stay-at-home moms are, even by other moms.

While it is helpful to affirm the work of men who are doing a great job as caretakers, we must not forget about the moms who are everyday superstars and deserve recognition for their critical, excellent work as caretakers.

Robert Christian is the editor of Millennial, a Ph.D. candidate in politics at The Catholic University of America, and a graduate fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


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

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I distinctly remember being pregnant with my first daughter and commuting two hours a day as a consultant in Washington, D.C. It was hard on my growing body, leading me to seek chiropractic care, and toward the end of my pregnancy, made me nervous to be so far from home and the hospital—but, that's the reality for many mamas.

This experience was central to our decision at Motherly to have a fully remote workforce as a way to support families and working parents. We also took lessons from my days as a consultant helping organizations increase agility and spent time talking to other office-free founders before taking the leap.

The bottom line? Inflexibility and commuting take up precious hours of a working mom's day.

Today, remote collaboration is easier than ever with video conferencing technologies and synchronous communication tools becoming ubiquitous, prompting a growing number of companies to opt for no office at all. It helps the bottom line for businesses in terms of savings on office space and improves employee retention and satisfaction.

And in today's dual-income families, the flexibility provided 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—and we've still thrived.

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With a growing team of more than 30, we've found that we are on the cutting edge of an important trend for workplaces. Research shows that companies with a substantial remote workforce have a higher percentage of women in leadership roles, which amounts to roughly four times as many women in CEO/founding roles than S&P 500 office-based companies.

Along the way, we've learned a lot of lessons on how to establish and maintain a cohesive remote team—here are the top 10.

1. Go all in.

Fully remote teams function more effectively than a hybrid where some work remote and some co-located. In my experience, having a co-founding and/or leadership team co-located when the rest of the team is remote can make it hard to set reasonable expectations and can result in an us versus them mentality. Leading a remote team requires working remotely so that the challenges the workforce feels can be genuinely understood and appreciated.

2. Nurture an empowered culture where everyone feels comfortable speaking up and across functions.

Proximity breeds comfort and without it, people tend to stay polite and surface-level longer. Stressing the importance of being empowered and speaking truth to power is critical to encouraging a team to share constructive criticism versus platitudes.

3. Establish shared core work hours to ensure synchronous communication can occur across time zones reducing bottlenecks.

Remote work has been proven to increase team efficiency but time zones can kill gains if not addressed head-on. Businesses can benefit from around the world coverage and support but collaboration can be hard if teammates can't connect realtime. Core co-working hours are a simple but effective fix.

4. Utilize video conferencing to support human connections.

In today's digital world most everyone is comfortable interacting online but the nuances of human interaction are easier to decipher face-to-face and help form bonds that are critical to overcoming the eventual miscommunication that will occasionally occur between teammates. Make a point of holding video calls whenever possible—screen-sharing via video can also help with collaboration and problem solving.

5. Leverage tools (like Slack) with small talk channels to serve as a virtual #watercooler.

Slack is a lifesaver for a remote team providing synchronous communication with organization and notification features to make it manageable, limiting information overload. And don't just think about it as a business communication tool but also a team building tool. Plugins exist to facilitate virtual coffee meetups between colleagues and a general #watercooler channel can also become a hub for non-work discussions that serve as a way for remote teammates to get to know each other at a personal level.

6. Schedule weekly "flare" sessions for free brainstorming to keep creativity flowing.

Ad hoc group problem solving can be limited for remote teams so creating the structure to mitigate lost opportunities can be helpful to keep creativity flowing. A weekly team or company wide "flare" or brainstorming session that teams or individuals can claim and lead can provide an opportunity to solve problems together and build camaraderie across teams and functions.

7. Host annual (or more!) IRL retreats to build team intimacy and bonds through shared experiences.

Notice the word retreat, not conference or all-hands—while it's important to have time to communicate company strategy and important initiatives, for remote teams the in-person time must prioritize team building through shared experiences. Casual meals, volunteer projects, a cheesy city tour, bowling outing, or museum visit can become company lore and tradition that over time become part of the foundation of a company's culture.

8. Hold virtual holiday parties + celebrations.

Get creative! Set up virtual secret Santa or cookie exchange, order lunch in for everyone remotely, leverage Amazon to synchronize deliveries for a baby shower and get everyone on video conference for a festive good time. Another one to try—cancel meetings on a Friday afternoon and send everyone on a spa treatment at their local spa!

9. Organize cross-functional "Think Tank Projects" to integrate teams and benefit from cognitive diversity in problem solving.

Cross functional team integration is as important, if not more important, for remote teams. Identify a company-wide initiative and assign it based on skill set and individual superpowers versus functional teams, creating an opportunity for inter-team collaboration.

10. Set aside time to review and address hardships as a remote team.

Being purposeful about removing obstacles and modifying structures, processes, and tools as teams evolve. Creating a culture of honesty means acknowledging challenges and facing them head-on. Encourage teams to share obstacles and hardships and take the time to appreciate them rather than jumping into problem-solving mode from the start. Everyone needs an occasional venting session and you'll find that through the discussion, the team will find its way to solutions and a recognition that the tradeoffs are totally worth it. It's so much more authentic if they draw that conclusion themselves vs leadership cheerleading the benefits of remote work.

A strong, cohesive team culture is possible for remote teams and like all relationships it takes time and continuous work. In the end, teamwork makes the remote dream work creating tangible and intangible benefits for the business and employees, as well as their families. Put in the time in to establish the structure, behavior and processes and you'll be rewarded with a committed, loyal, and united team. More than that, you'll have thriving mamas and families.

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One hour.

That's all this summer goal requires. It requires pretty much no planning or bucket list-making or thought, other than keeping your eyes open for opportunity. This hour will find you.

I figured out the impact of this hour when we spent last weekend at a water park while my son played lacrosse. Going back and forth from game to hotel water park all weekend left us feeling disjointed and exhausted. It was lots of fun, but I was just tired at the end of it. Every bone in my body couldn't wait to get home.

My kids, however, who can run all day and still not be tired, really wanted just one more hour in the water park. This meant I'd have to put on my bathing suit. We had to check out of our room, so if we stayed, we'd have to change in the damp, icky changing area. My hair would be wet. The water park was so loud. Not one thing about the idea of staying sounded appealing to me.

But still, they wanted to stay. They looked at us with hopeful eyes, begging for the fun to continue. Pretty much every other family was headed home. But we made a decision that changed how I am looking at my whole summer – and, really, how I'm looking at how my role as a parent.

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We stayed the extra hour. I am not exaggerating when I say it made all the difference.

I dug deep and decided I was going to be Fun Mom for an hour. I could have been Sit-in-a-chair-and-half-heartedly-watch-their-antics Mom for an hour, but I decided that would be a waste. If I wasn't going home, I was going to really be there for an hour. I was going to get my hair wet and not complain. For one hour, I was basically going to be a kid.

And it was So. Much. Fun.

I realized how important this hour was about 10 minutes in, when I found myself racing up the steps of the kiddie water slide area, chasing after Sam, plotting how I could adjust my way of sliding to finally beat him in our water slide race. I was ALL IN at that moment.

When I said I would slide with him, Sam's eyes lit right up and his little arms shot up in the air with a giant “YES!" He wanted to have fun with me. In that moment, I was not just Fun Mom. I was Fun Amy.

Having fun with your kids allows you to see them in a whole new light. I watched Sam use his God-given giant load of energy to run and run and run and embrace that hour, so much that I think he may be a fun genius.

I watched Kate fearlessly whip down water slides that made me scream like a baby. She held my hand. She was the one who was brave. She had no fear, and her fierce independence and determination made me feel lucky to be her friend for an hour.

I watched Thomas take Sam under his wing when it was his turn for slide races. I watched him teach Sam new water tricks and happily play in the kiddie area with reckless abandon, being kind and awesome to his brother at every turn.

I watched Ellie and Lily with their arms around each other, best friends for this sacred hour. I went down sides with each of them and floated through the lazy river as we all chatted, without a care in the world.

I held Todd's hand and rode down a slide with him in a double tube, just like in our dating days, our kids watching from behind, rolling their eyes with huge grins on their faces, hopefully seeing that marriage is more than making lunches and carting them around – that marriage is having actual fun with each other.

Spend the hour, my friends.

This hour reminded me how awesome it is to be the fun mom, to just be human with your kids. It reminded me how amazing it can be to say yes.

Sure, I could have used that hour to start on the massive pile of laundry we brought home. And full disclosure: We pushed ourselves to the point that there was plenty of super tired whining and complaining when we drove home. That hour could have saved us from having to stop for a little treat on the way home because now dinner was too far away. The house might have been cleaner and my people fed on time and in bed earlier had we not spent the hour.

But the laundry and the whining and the feeding of the people will always be there. That hour of fun was not only priceless. It was fleeting, like a feather in the wind we could catch if we tried. And we did.

Your hour may not be water park fun. This may sound like sheer torture to you. But your hour can be anything. And seriously, it's just an hour. We can do anything for an hour.

Thinking back, I remember my parents taking this same hour with us. My dad raced from roller coaster to roller coaster with my more adventurous siblings. My mom became more fun than any teenage shopping buddy we had. They spent the time. They took the hour. And we have amazing family memories because of it.

Life tries to drum that hour out of us. It tries to make us believe that getting stuff done is the ultimate prize. I am all for folded laundry and an empty sink and kids who are asleep at bedtime. But don't let life keep you from taking an hour here and there.

Find what you love, share it with your kids, say yes even when every bone in your old and weary body says no. Let your kids hear you scream like a kid going down a water slide. Get your hair wet. Eat ice cream for dinner. Play a family game of tag at the park as the sun goes down.

Show your kids you are more than a task master who cares too much about beds being made. Show them that you are not just the adult who wants them to entertain themselves at the water park while you sit in a hot tub (although I did that this weekend, too, and it was amazing).

Show them that family is fun, and that fun can actually come first. Show them the kid in you. It will bond you together in a whole new way.

Make it your goal this summer to take the hour. Those moments will make all the difference. And it's the moments that will change your family forever.

This post was originally published on Hiding in the Closet with Coffee.

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Life

Breastfeeding is not easy. But neither is weaning. That's why this powerful photo from Brazilian mama Maya Vorderstrasse is going viral. Her husband captured the first time she ever breastfed their second daughter and next to it, almost two years later, the last time she fed their daughter from her breast.

And it's not just the photo that is powerful. In her caption Maya shares her emotional struggles with weaning and the tricks they used to make this transition easier for their youngest daughter. The caption reads:

"The first and last time my precious daughter ever nursed.

I didn't know that one person could feel so proud and so broken at the same time, right now I am a hormonal, emotional, and mental mess.

Raising my arm in this picture was very difficult for me as I had to fight through uncontrollable tears: this picture meant that I would never breastfeed my daughter ever again. I have been nursing for so long, that I don't know what it's like to not nurse anymore.



As I looked behind the camera, my husband is crying like I had never seen him cry before, like seriously, a deep gut cry. I was her comfort, her safe place, and I hope she still finds me that way. A month shy of 2 years old, she finally has a bed in a shared bedroom with her sister. We bought her her first bed, used any distraction we could come up with, snacks and new toys to keep her mind off of it.

My husband has taken over bedtime completely, including all nighttime wakings. We are on our third day, and every day gets a little bit easier. The guilt I feel for not putting her to bed is so intense and I can't wait to go back to it once she doesn't ask to nurse anymore. Closing a chapter is painful, but I am hopeful that this new season of our lives will also be special in its own way.

Through this maturation step she will not only grow more independent, but I will get a much needed break. She unlatched for the last time and sobbingly I said to my husband: "I did my best". He hugged me and responded with: "No. You did THE best, because you gave her your all". I love my family and am so thankful for such special and unforgettable moments like these. 💛

*my lazy boob has no clue about what's going on, but thoughts and prayers are accepted for my good one, I really think it might explode🤱🏻

**thank you to my husband, for insisting on filming this, I will treasure this forever.🤳🏼👩"

You've got this mama!

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