A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

You know what’s best for you + your baby—including what type of childcare they need

Childcare.

It’s a pretty fraught subject. Just the word can send shivers down the spine of even the most courageous new mother. The thought of leaving your tiny, helpless baby with anyone but you sounds like a total impossibility. They need you—physically, emotionally, psychologically. Separating from your child, especially when they are still tiny, may be the hardest thing you ever do as a mother.


And yet…we are going to need someone to take care of them.

Because the reality is, we can’t always be with them every single minute of every single day. Technically, yes, we can and some mothers do, and to each her own. But eventually there is going to come a time when you have to make this decision if you ever want some time alone, or just a night out with friends or your significant other.

And for those of us who rely on childcare so that we can work, it is a decision that looms over us from the moment our children are born. The situation for mothers who need to work is less than ideal. Overall, 70% of U.S. women with children under 18 participate in the labor force. The U.S. ranks dead last among developed nations on the issue of paid maternity leave, which from the start, forces American women to make a very difficult choice. The cost for quality childcare continues to rise, leaving mothers between a rock and a hard place.

When I was expecting my first child, my fear surrounding my job situation was intense.

What was I going to do? What if I brought her home and just couldn’t bear to part with her for 40 hours a week? I knew I wanted to be with my daughter and that the cost of a full-time daycare center would void out any full-time position I could get since my background was in non-profit management.

Not only was I crossing this great precipice into motherhood, which was huge enough—I had to plan how I would keep earning an income at the same time, and quick. The non-profit where I was employed at the time did not have any part-time openings, and outside of providing six weeks of paid leave, could not provide a working arrangement that made sense for me as a new mom.

So at six weeks postpartum, after an unplanned c-section, I began to search for and interview for part-time work.

I remember the first time I went for an interview at a local NPR affiliate station for a development assistant temp position. I woke up, completely blinded by exhaustion. I immediately brewed a cup of coffee to jump start my brain, showered (something that was a rare treat), blow-dried my hair and put on makeup. After I found a suitable outfit that wasn’t yoga pants and a spit-up covered t-shirt, it was GO time.

I looked in the mirror and distinctly remember thinking, “This is such a farce. They are going to see right through me. My bloodshot eyes, blinking strangely at the light. My pale skin! It looks like I just crawled out of a cave. How can I pretend that I am in any position to report to work? How can I even begin to enter the outside world?”

Surprisingly, I fooled them. I got the job.

Which meant three days per week driving in 9-5 traffic north of downtown to the office. Leaving my daughter was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I nursed her exclusively for eight months and would get up in the middle of the night to try and pump enough for the next day. I pumped three times a day at work. It was no picnic, but I was making money and still getting to spend most of the week with her, which I counted as a total gift.

Eventually, I decided I needed to work for myself, and with God’s providence and some really lucky breaks, I was able to start my own freelancing business and replace my part-time income. I haven’t looked back since, and my childcare needs have stayed fairly steady since those days.

I am going to be upfront with you right now—I got lucky. Really, really lucky.

When my daughter was young, both my parents and my husband’s parents relocated to our town. They were both retiring and wanted to be close to family. And since my children were young, we have been able to leave them with Grandma and Grammy.

I know what you are thinking. Trust me—my friends say it to me all the time and without holding back. I have it SO easy. I have no idea what other moms are dealing with when it comes to childcare. I have FREE childcare, and I am guaranteed that these women love and care for my children as much as I do. I know. You want to throw tomatoes at me. Go right ahead, I deserve it.

But after you are done throwing, please hear me. I know that I am beyond lucky to have this. I realize that this is the unicorn situation. And I am grateful. But even if this were not my situation, I would still have needed to figure something out.

Since those early days, we have utilized several different childcare services, primarily the amazing Mother’s Day Out programs that are prevalent at churches here in the South, as well as babysitters. Lots of babysitters. We know the cost of good childcare, and we know the sacrifices that it takes to make ends meet when you still need to work as a mom. I have chosen to walk the tightrope of self-employment, which to some can seem like a walk in the park, but it certainly comes with its own set of challenges.

I know my story isn’t unique.

Every single mother I know is figuring it out as she goes, making it work. Whether she is home the majority of the time, working a side gig, freelancing, needs help just to run a few errands, or is working 40+ hours each week and needs to know that her children are being loved and cared for each day as she would care for them herself.

Let’s be honest—the system is not rigged in our favor.

But, like women throughout history always have, we make it work. We figure it out. We make a plan, we do the best we can, and we accept the pitfalls and potential guilt and questions along the way.


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One of the hardest areas to declutter can be your children's toy closet. Does that beeping, singing firetruck spark joy for you? Well no, in fact, it might be the most frustrating toy, but then again, having an occupied, entertained child sparks more joy than all of your household items combined.

So do more toys really mean a more engaged child? Studies say no. Having fewer toys leads to a more ordered home and encourages your child to develop creativity, concentration and a sense of responsibility for taking care of their belongings. But how do you go about reducing the number of toys your child has when there are so many "must haves" on the market? Perhaps more importantly, how do you ensure you don't bring any more toys that will be quickly forgotten into your home?

The secret: Look for toys that are open-ended, toys that will last for years, toys that encourage creativity, and toys that benefit development.

Here are some of our favorite Montessori-inspired toys.

Open-ended construction


Toys that are open-ended, rather than have just one use, empower your child to be an active participant in their own play. An example of an open-ended toy is a set of blocks, while a more limited use toy might be a talking toy robot. Blocks are only fun if your child applies their own creative thinking skills to make them fun, while the robot is a much more passive type of entertainment.

Open-ended toys also tend to keep children's interest for much longer, as they grow with your child—as their skills develop, they can build increasingly complex structures and scenarios.

There are so many beautiful sets of blocks available, but here are a few good choices.

1. Wooden Blocks

2. Duplo Lego

3. Magnatiles

Pretend play


Beginning in early toddlerhood, many children begin to incorporate pretend play into their repertoire. They do this all on their own, without the aid of toys, turning mud into pies and sticks into hammers.

Still, these toys will encourage their budding imaginations and also allow them to process things they experience in their own lives through role-playing and pretend play.

4. Doll

5. Farm

6. People figures

7. Train set

Music


Music provides a great deal of joy to most children, and can also aid in brain development.

Providing regular opportunities for your young child to both create and listen to music will encourage him to develop an appreciation for music, an understanding of rhythm, and an outlet for creative expression.

8. Musical instrument set

9. Simple music player with headphones

Movement


Giving young children opportunities for movement is so important, both for their gross motor development and for giving them a daily outlet for their boundless energy. Children who spend plenty of time running around generally sleep better and are often better able to concentrate on quieter activities like reading.

Encouraging plenty of unstructured time outside is the best way to ensure your child gets enough daily movement. These toys though can help your child develop muscle coordination and strength, while also providing plenty of fun.

10. Balance bike

11. Pedal bike

12. Climbing structure

13. Wagon

14. Balls

Puzzles


Puzzles are wonderful toys for helping children develop spatial understanding, problem-solving skills, resilience and new vocabulary. Bonus, they also provide a quiet activity that can engage even young children for an extended period of time!

15. Peg puzzles

16. Jigsawpuzzles

17. Layered puzzles

Games



Games encourage your child to develop social skills such as taking turns and winning and losing gracefully.

Many games for young children also have educational benefits such as building memory or practicing counting.

18. Memory game

19. Bingo

20. Simple board game

Taking the plunge and reducing your children's toy collection can be scary. If you're uncertain whether your child will miss a certain toy, try putting it away in a closet for a month to see if they notice. Take some time to observe your child with their reduced toy collection and notice how their play changes.

Once you commit to fewer toys, you'll find you can truly be intentional with what you provide your child and can also choose higher quality toys when you're only purchasing a few. There will also be far fewer little objects strewn around the house to trip over, which is a huge bonus!

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For so many parents, finding and funding childcare is a constant struggle. How would your life change if you didn't have to worry about finding and paying for quality childcare? Would you go back to work? Work more hours? Or just take the four figures you'd save each month and pay off your student loans faster?

These hypothetical scenarios have been playing in the minds of many American parents this week as presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled her plan for free or affordable "high-quality child care and early education for every child in America."

Universal childcare will be a cornerstone of Warren's campaign for 2020. It's a lofty goal, and one many parents can get behind, but is it doable?

Supporters note it's been done in other countries for decades. In Finland, for example, every child has had access to free universal day care since the early 1990s. Sweden, too, has been building its universal childcare system for decades.

Critics of Warren's plan worry about the price tag and potential for ballooning bureaucracy, and some are concerned that subsidizing childcare could actually make it more expensive for those who have a government-funded spot, as it could result in fewer private childcare providers.

But subsidized childcare had lowered prices in other places. In Sweden, parents pay less than $140 USD to send children to preschool. In Finland, the cost per child varies by municipality, household income and family size. A parent on the lower end of the income spectrum might pay as little as the equivalent of $30 USD, and the maximum fee is about $330 a month.

But Finland's population is on par with Minnesota's. Sweden is comparable to Michigan.

So could the Nordic model scale to serve the hundreds of millions of families in America?

As Eeva Penttila, speaking as the head of international relations for Helsinki, Finland's education department once told The Globe and Mail, "you can't take one element out and transfer it to your own country. Education is the result of culture, history and the society of a nation."

Right now America spends less on early childhood education than most other developed countries (only Turkey, Latvia, and Croatia spend less), but that wasn't always the case. This nation does have a history of investing in childcare, if we look back far enough.

Back in World War II, when women needed to step into the workforce as men fought overseas, America invested in a network of childcare to the tune of $1 billion (adjusted to today's money) and served hundreds of thousands of families in almost every state through center-based care. Parents paid between $0.50 and $0.75 per child per day (the equivalent of about $10 in today's money).

So America does have a historical and cultural precedent, not to mention a current model of universal preschool that is working, right now, in the nation's capital. In D.C. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress. Seventy percent of 3-year-old are going too, and the program has increased the city's maternal workforce participation rate by more than 10%.

It won't happen overnight

While some American parents might be daydreaming of a life without a four-figure day care bill in 2020, the road to true universal childcare for all children in America would be a long one. Peter Moss, a researcher at the University of London's Institute of Education, previously told The Globe and Mail it took Sweden "many years to get it right."

Indeed, the 1990s saw long wait lists at Swedish day cares, but the growing pains of the '90s paved the way for the enviable system Swedes enjoy today.

According to Moss, governments in other countries look at the Nordic model and "tend to say, 'We can't do that.' But what they really mean is 'We can't suddenly do that.' In other countries, they just don't get to grips with what needs doing and actually plot a course."

Maybe America's starting point is found in its history books, or in the modern day preschools of the nation's capital, or in the conversations happening between now and 2020. It doesn't have to be Warren's plan, but America does need a plan for safer, more affordable childcare.

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It's so unfortunate that in the working world there are still those who believe mothers are more distracted and less productive than people without children.

Research proves that just isn't true—working moms are actually more engaged than working dads and fathers and equally committed—and plenty of working mothers will say that parenthood has actually made them more productive.

Ayesha Curry counts herself among those moms who become more efficient at work after becoming parents. The entrepreneurial mom of three seems unstoppable when it comes to expanding her career, which she launched as a lifestyle blog back when the oldest of her three children was still a baby.

"You don't realize how much you can get done in a day until you become a parent and you're like, 'what was I doing with my time before'?" she recently old Cheddar's Nora Ali.

Now less than seven years later she's built her own empire as a mom, not in spite of being one.


Now a New York Times best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur, Curry has also got her own brand, Homemade, and you can find her products bearing her name in places like Target and JC Penny. She's been promoting a partnership with GoDaddy and she's an ambassador for the Honest Company, too.

Curry says motherhood taught her how to multitask and manage her time.

"I have three children, so I've had to grow four invisible arms," she explains. "I've definitely learned efficiency through being a parent. It's helped me in my business tenfold."

As a celebrity, Curry's life experience is kind of unique, but her experience of becoming better at work because of motherhood isn't, according to experts.

Career coach Eileen Chadnick previously told Motherly that motherhood is an asset in the workplace, in part because it trains women to be both empathetic and assertive at the same time, a combo that makes for great leaders. "There are incredibly nice, compassionate women who are very strong and know how to take a stand," Chadmick said. "And they're trusted and admired by others even if they need to say 'no' to their employees."

That's something Curry agrees with. Because it's her name on that frying pan, cookbook or bedspread, she doesn't shy away from saying 'no' when she doesn't like something. "I'm really good about being forceful and putting my foot down," she explains.

It's easier to put your foot down when you've already grown four invisible arms. That's the balancing act of motherhood, and it's what makes this mama so good at business.

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It may seem like there are more recalls than ever these days, but that's actually a good thing for parents. It means fewer potentially dangerous products are making it to our dinner tables and medicine cabinets.

According to food safety experts, the spike in recall notices for everything from broccoli to baby toys in recent years suggests companies are doing a better job of self-reporting, and we're actually safer than we were in the days when recalls were rare.

"It reflects a food industry that takes contamination and foodborne illnesses seriously. Increasingly companies are willing to recall their products rather than expose customers to potential harm," Dr. William Hallman, professor and chair of Rutgers Department of Human Ecology, said in an interview with Food Drive."So more companies are taking a cautionary approach."

Here are the recalls parents need to know about this month:

Dollar General Baby Gripe Water

The FDA issued a recall notice for "DC Baby Gripe Water herbal supplement with organic ginger and fennel extracts" after the company received one report of a one-week old baby who had difficulty swallowing the product, and there were three other complaints "attributed to the undissolved citrus flavonoid."

The FDA says "the product should not be considered hazardous but could result in difficulty when swallowing the product for sensitive individuals."

Basically, it's not harmful if swallowed but the undissolved flavonoid makes it a choking hazard.

The gripe water was sold at Dollar General stores in four ounce bottles with the UPC code 8 5495400246 3.

Nature's Path Envirokidz gluten free cereals

If you've got a kiddo with celiac disease you're probably familiar with the EnviroKidz kine of gluten free cereals sold at Trader Joe's and other grocery stores. Unfortunately, Nature's Path, the maker of the cereals, is recalling more than 400,000 boxes of Envirokidz cereals in the U.S. and Canada due to potential gluten contamination.

Choco Chimp, Gorilla Munch and Jungle Munch are all impacted. The best before dates are: 08/01/2019, 08/24/2019, 08/27/2019, and 09/21/2019. The UPC codes are: 0 58449 86002 0, 0 5844987023 4, 0 5844987027 2, 0 5844987024 1 and 0 5844987028 9.

If you can handle gluten they are safe, but Nature's Path says "people who have a wheat allergy, celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten and wheat should not consume the cereals."

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