Friday Five

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Friday Five

Still running on the fumes of Mother's Day baked goods and musical greeting cards? We sure are. Here are our fave links to help you ride into the weekend.

  1. Meghan Markle will walk herself down the aisle, and apparently that's a "bold feminist statement."
  2. Big kudos to #MINDRMAMA Katherine Goldstein who hit the New York Times Opinion section this week to speak out loud the open secret of anti-mom bias at work.
  3. Speaking of brilliant #MINDRMAMAs and the New York Times, Lauren Smith Brody and her back-to-work bible The Fifth Trimester are one of Times' top 3 picks on modern parenting.
  4. A law firm that's currently facing a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit dug its hole a little deeper when it refused a speaker at one of its seminars access to the mother's room because she wasn't an employee.
  5. We recently discovered you can get Quantum Physics books for babies. Which is lucky, cos they're starting university earlier than ever.

And that's a wrap! Have a great weekend.

Cover photo by Stylish & Hip Kids photography.

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What do you do all day?

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What do you do all day?

We've all been on the receiving end of the question. #MINDRMAMA Alexis Barad-Cutler reports.

When you’re not in the trenches of early motherhood, it can be hard to grasp the kind of mental and emotional work that it entails. From the outside, it seems like a cushy job that lets you work from home, nap during the day, and maybe even watch some daytime TV. But as any new mom eating over a sink and calling that lunch can tell you, early motherhood has little to do with rest and relaxation. It’s hard work, full of sour milk, boob sweat, and lots of tears. And yet, any new mom constantly gets asked the question, “So what is it that you actually do all day?”

The first time I remember being asked the “what do you do all day” question was during a trip to visit family in Florida with our first-born. We were walking through town, trying to get our then-infant son to nap, when my mother-in-law spotted some family friends in one of the outdoor cafes. We went over to say hi, and all I could think was, “Can we just keep walking?” (As every mom knows, babies not in motion don’t stay asleep.) Suddenly everyone was staring at me, and that’s when I realized the husband was asking me a question:

“So what is it you do all day now that you’re a mom?” he asked, an amused look on his face, like he expected me to melt in a pile of maternal bliss just thinking about how great my days were. “Do you guys, just, you know . . . hang out?”

I stood there, speechless, and my brain started to overload with the millions of things that my baby and I did during the day that did not by any stretch of the imagination feel like “hanging out.”

I wanted to scream about the four times a night I was still waking up to soothe my baby back to sleep, which made my attempts at napping during the day a necessity and not a luxury. But then I would also have to mention that the terror of waking to the sounds of a cat being skinned from chin to tail – i.e. my child’s shrieks anytime he was put down in his crib – didn’t really make the naps seem worth it. I wanted to tell him about the hours per week I spent hooked to a wheezing, huffing breast pump. And how pumping while taking care of a baby is like trying to chew gum and walk, except instead of chewing gum, you’re trying to hold a baby out in front of you so that you don’t knock your pump shields off your nipples and you’re walking to the changing table to deal with a poop situation.

And that wouldn’t even have touched the daily logistics of caring for a baby; like the fact that the minute you get them changed into a clean outfit, they’ve already managed to pee up the back of it and you need to start all over again. Or what about the Amazon orders, or signing up for baby music classes and movement classes, scheduling doctor’s appointments (there are so many in those first few months), doing laundry, washing bottles, cleaning breast pump parts, and making sure to never, ever run out of diapers. It is monotonous. Relentless at times.

It’s not easy to be with a child all day. The ones who are too young to move or talk have very big needs – the feeding, the diapering, the swaddling. By the time a baby is mobile, you can’t even think about sitting down or looking away. Every moment feels like you’re playing defense against “Team Death.” And when your child is older, it sometimes seems like they never stop talking – to the point that there’s no room for a single thought of your own. It can make spending a day with a kid feel like you’ve been trapped inside a free-association method acting exercise – except that’s just how elementary school aged kids talk.

So, hanging on by a thread? Yes. Hanging out? Absolutely not. The good thing is, as time goes by, and you earn more of your parenting stripes, the logistics get a little easier to manage, but of course, they get even bigger. I have two boys now, and I work part time, but a huge chunk of my day is spent managing my children’s schedules. It’s like I’m a personal assistant to two very important, high-up execs. For example, sometimes it takes ten texts to various nannies or several rounds of emails before I land a play date for one of my kids because Yes I Live In New York City and we are crazy here.

I’m not alone, or special. Women – moms – are mostly the ones who carry the mental load when it comes to the care of their children. Even when they are at work, the mother is the one doing all the stuff behind the scenes – advocating on behalf of their child with a learning disability, or seeking out support for a child with an emotional problem, or a medical issue – society has decided this is women’s work. Personally, I think women would take it on either way. 

There was something else that troubled me about this stranger’s question, more than the fact that he asked me and put me on the spot to explain my day (I could easily have asked how he spends his retirement, but I didn’t). His question felt like an accusation. “You must have it good. What could you possibly have to complain about, Miss I Get To Stay At Home With My Baby?” When I was finally able to respond, I was grasping at anything I could think of that others would deem “important work” and muttered something about random freelance projects I was doing in my spare time.

But why did I do that? It was because I knew – from his question, his tone, and from the look on his face – that he didn’t think my life as a mom was difficult, or important. Unfortunately, he’s not an outlier in his perception of motherhood. Women must continue to share their stories of motherhood, and to speak about their important work. I wish I didn’t give that family friend the satisfaction of any stumbled or insecure answer, all those years ago. Mothers shouldn’t have to defend or explain their days to anyone.

Alexis Barad-Cutler is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, content creator, published children’s book author, and mom of two. She regularly contributes her unique and sometimes off-kilter perspective on motherhood to Well Rounded, Fatherly, Hey Mama, and other sites in the digital parenting space. Read more about Alexis at alexisbaradcutler.com and give a follow on Instagram @alexisbaradcutler.

Photo credit: Stylish & Hip Kids.

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Paying it forward to mamas in need this Mother's Day

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Paying it forward to mamas in need this Mother's Day

Sarah Gibbs is a #MINDRMAMA of two and a public policy expert living with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina. Although she misses her former New York life, she’s loving exploring her new home in NC with her two littles.

This Mother’s Day, we are so thankful for those who continue to lift us up in our journey of motherhood and work to improve the lives of mamas in need. In honor of all moms, we are highlighting five of our favorite organizations that are focused on making things better for women, mothers, and families worldwide. So if you are still looking for a meaningful gift for the Supermom in your life, or just want to spread some Mother’s Day love to those who could use it the most, here are some amazing charities to check out.

  • Family Reach is providing a financial lifeline to families fighting cancer. For more than two decades, Family Reach has helped families with cancer manage the overwhelming financial and emotional barriers of the disease. One in three parents stop working when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Family Reach programs ensure that parents who are balancing this lost income with increased expenses never have to choose between keeping a roof over their family's heads or putting food on the table while their child is in cancer treatment. Working in close collaboration with a network of more than 300 hospitals and cancer centers nationwide, Family Reach provides immediate financial assistance, education and outreach to families in need. Donate here.
  • NYC Mammas Give Back is providing infant essentials and support to homeless pregnant women and new families in need: NYC Mammas Give Back is a way for all moms in the New York City area to support other moms and families in need. The organization is made up entirely of moms who volunteer their time to this cause, regularly collecting, sorting and delivering a variety of new and gently used baby items for families and children (ages 0-5) who are living at or below the poverty line. They also provide self-care services to the women they serve as well as baby showers and holiday events held in conjunction with partner agencies across NYC. Head here to give back.
  • The New York Women’s Foundation is working to create economic security and justice for women and families across New York City: For more than 30 years, The New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF) has served as a voice for women and a force for change. NYWF is a cross-cultural alliance of women that focuses on catalyzing partnerships and leveraging human and financial capital to invest in bold, community-led solutions across the city. Having distributed $7.6 million in 2016, NYWF’s grantmaking places it at the top women’s foundations in the US, and second in the world. They invest in organizations and leaders that strive for justice, economic security, safety, and health for women and families. They prioritize organizations that promote women’s leadership, gender equity, and asset-based community approaches. Support their work here.
  • Maternity Worldwide provides access to high quality maternal health care for women and girls in low income countries: Maternity Worldwide envisions a world where all women and their babies can access safe and appropriate childbirth regardless of where they live. Every year across the world 287,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth. That’s one mother dying every 2 minutes, or 800 each day. The saddest part is that most of these lives could be saved relatively easily with the right support. Maternity Worldwide works to address each of the delays women face when accessing safe and appropriate healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. Help to lift them up here.
  • Every Mother Counts is dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother, everywhere: Launched in 2010, Every Mother Counts (EMC) works to heighten awareness about the global maternal health crisis. They emphasize that up to 98% of maternal deaths are preventable. While advocacy remains a key focus, the organization has evolved into a 501(c)(3) investing in programs around the world to ensure all women have access to quality maternal healthcare. EMC educates the public about maternal health, engages individuals to advocate for the well-being of mothers, and invests in community-led programs to improve access to essential maternity care. Head here to support.

Know of other amazing organizations who are hustling hard to make things better for all mamas? Drop them in the comments so we can all show them the love they deserve.

 

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