Not a Race, Not a Failure

http://pregnantchicken.com/haggard-mother-sleep-training-method/

This article really spoke to me, as I clutched my second cup of coffee for the morning and enjoyed the silence of my infant zonked out on her penguin play mat. At 15 weeks, the little sprog had barely just begun sleeping five-ish hour stretches at night before sleep regression hit. For the last ten days, nighttime has been punctuated nearly every hour with wailing, brief nursing sessions, tearing free from her swaddle, rejecting a pacifier, then sleeping fitfully in between. I grow continually more disoriented, have come down with a cold, and upped my morning caffeine intake to get me to normal. The women in my online breastfeeding support group made helpful suggestions and commiserated fully. But the truest advice I took to heart came from this article. There is truly no advice that anyone can give us. Every infant is different, and there is no reason to place for judgment. Every new parent has struggles. The one thing we can do for ourselves is refrain from self-criticism. No parent is a failure for trying. 

August 26th, 2016!

Happy Women's Equality Day! There is so, so much to celebrate, and so much yet to achieve. Parental Leave Project is a visionary grassroots nonprofit dedicated to bridging the gap that most families face between a paycheck and postpartum leave. On a celebratory note, we can appreciate the fact that donors, foundations and philanthropists are willing to get behind our project, and that recognizing the need for mothers and fathers, single parents, same-sex couples and adoptive parents to dedicate the first handful of weeks with a new child is an understood necessity.

But the very existence of our organization speaks volumes to a national systemic failure. While a handful of states and a growing handful of businesses are beginning to offer paid leave to men and women for new or adopted babies and family caretaking, our country continues to lack a cohesive policy for paid family leave. In our last blog post, we argued that paid family leave for men and women is a way to advance equality of the sexes, and normalize parenting as a non-gendered identity. We truly believe that equality for women means respecting men as fathers, the family unit as an equal relationship, and respecting "alternative" families as simply "families". 

This year, 2016, our founder launched Parental Leave Project because she truly believes that healthy family foundations help foster healthy individuals and communities. Until our country offers the kind of leave we are working to fund, we will continue our work, recognizing that what we do is a benefit not only for babies and families, but for women's equality.

#WomensEqualityDay #FMLA #paidfamilyleave

 

Hooray For One Lousy Day

August 26th, Women’s Equality Day. Hooray for one day! Forgive me for my cynicism. I’ve long been convinced that true equality requires evolution, and the existing generations are a lost cause. Sexism is far too inherently ingrained in our current crop of the population. We need to begin breeding sexism out of our populations, in the hopes that in several generations we will have progressed out of inequality. I know that is ultimately defeatist, but as a mother it gives me a fraction of hope for my daughter.

 

But I won’t give up on some fights. There are some easy fixes our government and workplaces can do for a modicum of equality, for a certain portion of women, those who are mothers. I am quick and happy to defend women who aren’t mothers as a vital population of women, albeit overlooked and often ignored. So forgive me for focusing on women who are mothers in this particular argument, I recognize how biologically reductive that is. But I am a mother now, and far too involved in my biology to overlook the disservice our federal legislative serves it.

 

Our country lacks any kind of paid family leave for mothers and fathers of biological or adopted children, or sick family members. This is not news. Also not remarkable is the staggering amount of global legislation that covers families financially and logistically with maternal and paternal leave. Currently, the federal government and the state of Pennsylvania are funding studies on the fiscal effect of paid family leave on workplaces. Studies that quantify the success of a business that offers paid family leave have been done, and the results signify better business and happier employees. This should be a surprise to no one.

 

Countries that offer paid family leave for men and women do the job of leveling the gendered professional playing field when a baby comes on the scene. Fathers are expected to be as involved in the bonding process at home, especially and most obviously in the case of single fathers, or two father families. For hetero couples, the obvious need for a biological mother to have maternal leave is obvious–she delivered a child from her body for crying out loud, and there is a good chance she is nursing said child every two hours. But biological and adopted children can wreak havoc on a father’s body through the magic of stress, sleeplessness or paternal depression. Now demand that said mother or father have to choose between a paycheck or time to bond with a child. That is what our country does. And millions of families cannot afford that choice.

 

So what does this have to do with women’s equality? Is our sub-par family leave legislation supposed to be equally dismal for men and women? Is this the measure of equality? Here’s my argument. If our country embraced family leave, and paid family leave at that, the question of who stays home with a newborn or newly adopted baby is no longer gendered. And the question of who can afford to lose pay is out of the question. Since women earn 77 cents to every man’s dollar, more women choose to lose pay than men in hetero couples. But even if a woman is the primary breadwinner, workplaces are less inclined to be supportive of a man’s absence for a newborn than a woman’s, because workplaces expect less from women when it comes to family/work balance. This is unacceptable. If family leave were normalized and ungendered, women would be judged less for taking leave, and perhaps their professional trajectory would be taken more seriously. Knowing that having a baby would not cause a gendered reaction at the office, women just might “lean in” more.

 

Of course, this is not the answer to women’s equality. The larger question of the “work/life” balance, what many stories tackle as the “having it all myth,” is the next hurdle for working mothers. And there is no legislation that can address that conundrum. But making it easier for women to become mothers and not lose out professionally is a start.

So Far To Go

http://www.phillyvoice.com/would-you-judge-father-taking-equal-work-leave-after-childs-birth/

Forgive me for a lack of eloquence in advance. But I was trying to find the right words to describe my response to this short bit of info from Philly Mag, and the only word I can find is "why." What is it about our country's work ethic that differs so vastly from countries like Iceland, Sweden, or Norway, and their seamless acceptance of maternal and paternal leave? Is it a reflection on our economy? Is sacrifice an accepted job description? Do we value our jobs more than our families? I recognize that that last question is naive--Of course not, but so many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and the pressure to maintain a tenuous grasp on staying fiscally afloat leads to arguably upsetting choices, like not being home with your newborn or newly adopted child. And what choice would a single mother or father have? Would the workplace judgment exist just as strongly? The study this article sites seems to imply that a shift in workplace attitude about taking leave needs to originate from the top. HR, management and bosses need to embrace a fair leave policy and refrain from judgment or question of merit for those who take it. 

Bipartisan Support For a Modern America

The issue of a national paid parental leave act is finally, officially a bipartisan issue. Two plans have been introduced this year: New York's State Senator Kristen Gillibrand proposed the Family Act, and this coming Monday, a Republican research group will introduce the American Action Forum, billed as a less costly plan than the Family Act. The key differences lie in what portion of the U.S. population will pay for these plans via an across-the-board tax increase, or an increase exclusively on the upper class. Stay tuned for more posts about these bills.

 

Money Well Spent

https://rewire.news/article/2016/08/10/paid-leave-push-gains-power-state-local-levels/

They are looking into it.

Often those words ring hollow, but it's happening: The U.S. Department of Labor has funded studies on paid family leave in six regions across the country, to determine the fiscal impact of a federal paid leave act. The studies are economic, rather than qualitative, which might sway legislators who aren't swayed so much by social factors as economic results. This could be a good thing. There is very little evidence, arguably none, that argues against the benefits of family leave on individuals, but these studies have done little to pass a national paid FMLA. If these studies alleviate the fears that the public and private sector cannot afford to fund any family leave, some common sense will prevail. 

Global Fantasies

http://www.thebump.com/a/awesome-parental-perks-and-benefits-around-the-world

I hadn't consider Mauritius before.

But now that I'm a parent, fantasies and options change dramatically. I may not be able to pinpoint Mauritius on a globe with confidence (and initially thought it a Mediterranean island), but the prospect of free education through college for my little sprog is enticing enough.

Or perhaps if you are gestating, consider moving the whole operation to Iceland, where paternity leave is encouraged by the government. Once you have the baby, the lack of differentiation between day and night during the winter won't matter if you are cluster feeding and lack a schedule anyway. 

Concerned about getting everything, everything, back into shape after giving birth? France offers free pelvic floor clinics post-partum. And we thought free childcare at the local YMCA was a miracle!

In other words, the United States has a lot to learn from the rest of the world. Supporting, encouraging and honoring the family dynamic, education and a healthy work-life balance are aspects of life we struggle to achieve and fight to implement stateside, and look longingly to other countries, wishing their birth and child-rearing policies were ours. 

Universal education, childcare, and paid family leave are not as revolutionary as our lawmakers and policies seem to imply. How can we make our country look more like those that value families, children and education? Until we no longer need to privately fund family leave, childcare and education, our country remains far less progressive than we'd like. 

A Testament to the Obvious

https://www.fatherly.com/mens-health/parents-lack-enough-sleep-according-to-cdc/

No surprises here.

While this piece was culled from fatherly.com, it is as relevant to #momlife as it is to #dadlife, for obvious reasons. And while the study was done on single fathers vs. fathers with partners, it is not far-fetched to argue the same results would be found for single mothers and partnered mothers.

What IS worth noting, however, is the CDC's response. This is pretty crucial to our mission. If national organizations recognize the danger of sleeplessness and warn against it, the argument for paid family leave for all parents is a logical extension. In a newborn's precious first weeks, it is a universal fact that parents miss out on uninterrupted sleep. From our non-medical experience, no newborn sleeps through the night, in fact, parents are required to feed their newborn on demand, every two-to-three hours. How, we ask, can a parent or parents be expected to show up for work refreshed and focused with truncated sleep? If the CDC finds sleeplessness as much of a hazard as this study implies, a guaranteed, extended period of sleeplessness should be reserved for paid time off. Wouldn't our country be a happier and safer place?

An Honest Dad's Struggle

‪#‎momlife‬ and ‪#‎dadlife‬ are equally affected by having a newborn. Family leave is crucial not only for bonding with your child, but for the health and well-being of all parents, whether it's a mother and father, single parent, adoptive parent or parents, or same-sex parents.

This is a post from a friend who recently had baby number two. We are posting his words anonymously, but felt compelled to share his raw honesty.

"Yesterday stress and exhaustion seems to have turned into actual postpartum depression for me. I started struggling to keep up with work three weeks ago, and last week crashed into an almost dizzy exhaustion a few times. Over the weekend I caught up with sleep, but yesterday the weight of a newborn & 4-year old, work, the news in the world, and the chemistry of psychology kicked me into a place I've never been before, and where I am right now.

Moving is tough. Making decisions is almost impossible. I've been easily irritated, especially by my four-year old. If I hadn't proactively quit drinking five months ago I'd probably have developed a problem. My appetite is weird. My ego is shot, and y'all know that when I struggle with ego, something is wrong.

I've known objectively that depression is different from sadness or burnout or whatever, but (assuming that's what this is) it really is a completely new combo of what works in your brain and what doesn't. It's pretty scary.

From what I've found, resources for depression in new dads are almost nonexistent. There's one dedicated website with a broken online forum, and it basically says there's nothing. "Did you know that as many as 1 in 4 fathers go through postpartum depression? It's true! You're not alone, but we got nothing else for you and most doctors know nothing about it. Good luck!"

So I'm writing this to help myself and hopefully others, especially my fellow dads out there. I owe a huge debt to the friends who have spoken openly about their mental health challenges--you're helping me be honest with myself and coworkers and friends. You know who you are, and I couldn't write this without you.

So, any advice?"

Will Massachusetts Succeed?

It is proven that workplaces offering healthy family leave report more success in employee happiness, productivity and longevity. It makes sense--a workplace that invests in the wellbeing of its employees is a good and sound business model. Our country's lack of a unified family leave act continues to be a deep flaw, when the solution is so easy. States are left to interpret labor laws on their own, and many workers are left with no paid leave or job security for prolonged absences. 

Massachusetts may join the ranks of New York, D.C., and California, with a statewide act that covers women and men for family medical leave. The distinction is critical: Family leave includes fathers, adoptive parents and same-sex parents, and includes medical needs outside of parenthood. 

Which all sounds like a logical and welcome idea. So why do so few states adopt these laws? Because small and mid-size businesses are wary of the economic impact providing family leave will have on the bottom line. If businesses and governments grudgingly accept the requirement to provide benefits, why do they balk at, or stigmatize, paid family leave? Until we normalize the practice of the basic human necessity of time off, and take an arguably global look at parenthood and family leave policies, the state-by-state patchwork won't work for most families. 

Babies in Boxes!

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/world/what-in-the-world/finland-baby-box.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

Have you heard of babies in boxes? This common practice hails from Finland, and is receiving a lot of press of late as a simple solution to the problem of infant mortality. Finland provides new parents with a "Baby Box" packed with newborn essentials, and the box itself serves as a safe and utilitarian bassinet for the baby to sleep in. This low-cost practice keeps infant mortality rates throughout the country low, and is catching on globally, although other countries do not yet subsidize the baby boxes. Families can purchase a baby box through a company out of the U.K., but we would prefer to see the U.S. provide the boxes for free. The cost of subsidizing a simple box of essentials far outweighs the accumulated costs of infant health crises.