Marissa Mayer: One Step Forward for Female CEOs, Two Steps Back for Working Moms

Marissa Mayer, the brand-spanking new CEO of struggling Yahoo, is about to be a first-time mom. Many are commending Yahoo’s Board of Directors for their willingness to embrace a pregnant female as their new top dog. Women everywhere should be celebrating her summit to the top of the U.S.’s business food chain. It’s not every day that a soon-to-be mother is also running a major company.

But amid the press junkets surrounding the sunny haze of feminist glory, Mayer mentioned her commitment to working through her maternity leave, which “apologetically,” would be a few weeks long. WHAT the WHAT!? There are so many things wrong with this picture, but I’ll tackle a few of my favorites.

  • The U.S is already hopelessly behind nearly 178 other nations that guarantee paid leave for new mothers. The only safety net for new parents is the outdated Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which guarantees 12 weeks UNPAID leave for workers at companies with 50 or more employees. Nearly 50% of the American workforce does not meet the requirements for FMLA, thus rendering them unable to take maternity leave unless they have a “generous” employer.
  • Marissa Mayer is in a position of power to facilitate a discussion over the need for better maternity coverage. Unfortunately, she is leading by example, however it is not an example that will benefit mothers in the workplace. Women must already work harder and longer at most companies, especially if they are mothers, to prove their worth and value next to their male counterparts. Her willingness to work through her leave, as well as only take a couple of weeks, sets up a detrimental pattern of expectations for other working mothers.
  • Most importantly, this situation effectively demonstrates the conundrum many women face today: we captured our place in the workplace, but we cannot get out. 1970’s feminism set the precedent for two-income-earner households, making the stay-at-home mom (SAHM) a near anomaly. Money, debts, the economy, all drive the typical U.S. family’s financial decisions, and maternity leave or a parent staying home are often the casualties. Although Mayer can probably afford ample, quality childcare and household help to maintain her image as a powerful exec, the majority of us cannot. She had the opportunity to champion family rights and declare the importance of maternity leave, family bonding, and childcare, but chose to (and perhaps, unknowingly) support an outdated, male-centered approach to the workplace.

Ultimately, this is one woman making a personal decision about her family and job. And as much as I object to her stance, it is her right to do as she pleases. Only time will tell how the limited maternity leave will affect her family and perhaps even her job.

If maternity leave rights for parents are important to you, and you’re as steamed as I am, check out these resources for more information:

  1. Read: A report by the National Partnership for Women and Families
  2. Act: Sign this petition for better maternity coverage, sponsored by NPWF.

Paleo Series Part I: Am I Really Eating Like This?

This is the first installment of a three part series on the popular Paleo way of eating and lifestyle from a mama’s perspective. Although Kate is not a medical professional or nutritionist, she’ll share her thoughts and experiences of implementing Paleo in her household. 

Paleo: a simple, whole foods way of eating that focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats. It is also a lifestyle that places importance upon restful sleep, functional movement exercise, and interacting with and enjoying the outdoors.

Four years ago, if you would have told me that my life would mostly follow the above definition, I would have laughed. And perhaps protectively grabbed my energy drink and skittles. I thought regular exercise was for fanatics, and I assured myself that climbing the stairs to my apartment and walking my dogs was enough. Four years ago, I was newly married, in my early twenties, and totally unhealthy.

In 2009, while undergoing a battery of tests to figure out why I had no period and was nauseous/dizzy all the time (and no, definitely not pregnant), my husband kindly suggested we change some eating habits. He had heard of this “new” way of eating that looked back to our paleolithic ancestors who were relatively free of the modern diseases and ailments (such as Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and PCOS) that commonly plague many people today. I just laughed.

Soon after, I realized I had a soy intolerance which totally ruined my grocery and eating habits because, well, it’s in EVERYTHING. At least everything in a package or box. I started reading labels. Reading labels led to reading nutrition books and research articles. As the soy disappeared from my diet, so did many of the refined foods I was accustomed to eating, as well as the chronic stomach problems that had plagued me my entire life. Around the same time, my doctor diagnosed me with a prolactinoma, a benign hormone secreting tumor on my pituitary gland.

In early 2009, my husband and I began experimenting with eating Paleo and exercising regularly. I started having real energy again, no energy drink needed. I started feeling fully satiated by my food rather than having raging hunger on a sugar binging roller coaster of glucose levels. The chronic sinus infections went away, and I quit catching every illness that passed my way. My hormones levels balanced out from the medication. For probably the first time in my life, I actually felt healthy.

By January 2010, we challenged ourselves to eating 100% paleo for 6 months and even tried out Crossfit, that “are you crazy!?” high-intensity, competitive group workout that I swore never to do. I did it and loved it. When we found out we were expecting, we were elated. After years of messed up periods, fluctuating hormones and moods, I thought I would never get pregnant. It still seems like yesterday that I was sobbing in my car outside of 7/11 because the doctor said I would probably never be able to get pregnant naturally. She was wrong.

Today, my daughter is 16 months old, eats mostly Paleo and is thriving. As a family, we still focus on simple meals with tons of greens, some meat, and fat. Our daughter eats everything we eat, and I don’t make her special meals. Although Paleo and gluten-free eating are becoming more mainstream, we still get plenty of weird looks and questions. Regardless of what people think, we have eaten this way for 3 years and will continue to do so indefinitely. After years of feeling sick all the time, I finally feeling in control of my health and my life. I’m happy to say that it’s been over two years since I’ve needed to take medication for the prolactinoma, and we rarely, if ever, need to see a doctor.

Disease, sickness, and ailments plague so many of our family and friends that it seems commonplace to need medication, doctor visits, to be exhausted, and to never see an end in sight. This telling of my journey to better health was not for bragging rights, but as encouragement. It’s easy to feel helpless and unable to change aspects about your health and diet. But I can say, from experience, that the hard work does pay off in the end.

I hope you’ll continue with me in this series about eating Paleo. In my next post, I’ll focus on how to implement a Paleo way of eating with children, and answer some common concerns and questions. My final post will contain a few Boomerang Mama family favorite recipes as well as resources for getting started yourself. And please let me know if you have any specific questions!

Kate is a total foodie and enjoys experimenting in the kitchen with her hubby Kirk and their little helper, Vivi. You can read more about their pre-baby adventures in Paleo-land on their first (and sadly, now defunct) blog Paleo Prerogative.

The U.S. and Children: Blessing or Burden?

Whether or not you are a parent, have you ever thought or said (or heard someone else say) any of the following?

  • “Children should be seen, not heard.”
  • “Why can’t they control their kids?” OR “I’m so glad my kids aren’t like that!”
  • “I wish my kids would just behave.”

Sometimes these phrases slip so easily off the tongue that it’s scary. Or maybe it’s not you. Perhaps you hear these things when out in public or from a well-meaning family member, friend, or co-worker. Either way, it sometimes seems that U.S. cultural norms, which often dictate the collective view of childhood, say that children are a big pain in the rear. And so I wanted to tackle some of these ideas, namely the phrases above, in the hopes of dismantling the viewpoint of children as a burden rather than a blessing.

“Children should be seen, not heard”

This particular phrase is old-fashioned at best, irrelevant and damaging at worst. We, as a country, have moved well beyond the Victorian age which spawned this phrase. So why do some people still toss this time-bomb around? Perhaps it’s a desire for the “old days when kids behaved and respected adults” or simply an idea that children are bothersome or annoying. Either way, the underlining message of this is disturbing. Childhood is a rambunctious, playful time of curiosity. A silent child is a child that is probably not exploring, learning, or growing. I hate to think of the ways someone might “train” a child to meet this ideal.

“Why can’t they control their kids?” OR “I’m so glad my kids aren’t like that!”

Our culture is obsessed with control. We work long hours to control our bank accounts. We obsess over food and exercise to control our weight and body image. We are in control of every aspect of our children’s plans, whether it be play dates, sports to excel at, or classes to master. And many of the things we “control” are a subconscious attempt to control the opinions of others so that they think more highly of our families and ourselves. So when we place a judgment call on another child or family, we’re essentially pointing out their lack of control. The reality is that everyone parents differently, and we all have bad days. But I like to think of kids as inherently good (and who make occasional mistakes), rather than labeling kids today as: “______” (fill in the blank: lazy, silly,manipulative, stupid, disobedient, willful, etc.). And let’s hope we’re never on the OTHER SIDE of the equation where someone is judging us as our toddler has a meltdown in Aisle 9.

I wish my kids would just behave”

What does it mean to “behave?” Obviously every parent has a different idea of what constitutes “good” and “bad” behavior. But what if we move beyond viewing children as alternating between two polar opposites, defined by us or (gulp, even more frighteningly) society? Sometimes I think the desire for absolute control of everything has a negative (and often unintended) outcome on our children. When I decide my child is doing something bad, is it because she is truly doing something dangerous to herself or others OR is it because what she’s doing doesn’t fit in with my plans? Am I asking my child to do something that she is developmentally unable to do? Children are not little adults, and we must not treat them so. Having some flexibility while parenting and being realistic with expectations will make it less likely the above phrase will slip out of your mouth or someone’s else’s.

 

One more thing. Parenting is an intuitive thing, and we all have ideas of how we would like to raise our children. But our society’s viewpoint of children as a burden can affect even the best intentions. View children as the challenging but lovable blessing that they are, and I truly believe that intuitive, go with the flow parenting will follow.

 

 

Kate is the mom to 16 month old Vivi, her firecracker of a daughter who inspires her everyday to be a better parent. When they’re not practicing how to nicely pet the dogs or playing with “Baby,” Kate tries to catch a few minutes for a cup of coffee and some reading. After all, a relaxed (and caffeinated) mama is a happy mama.

Are Midwives the New (Fill in the Blank) Trend?

Are midwives becoming trendy, like juice cleanses and Tom’s shoes? It seems that way, at least among certain well-dressed pockets of New York society, where midwifery is no longer seen as a weird, fringe practice favored by crunchy types, but as an enlightened, more natural choice for the famous and fashionable. ~DANIELLE PERGAMENT, New York Times

I recently read the above quote in an online New York Times article called “The Midwife Becomes a Fashion Symbol For the Hip.” In it, the author states that more and more celebrities, as well as the financially well-set, are seeking midwives for home and hospital births. Several of the more popular midwifery groups in NYC actually have to turn away clients because their popularity has increased so much recently. And this concerns me.

I don’t want to be trendy. 

I didn’t make the difficult choice to use a midwife because it would look cool. My decision to birth naturally certainly didn’t garner me much support from those who questioned my sanity. And for goodness sakes, there is an alarmingly big difference between picking out a pair of shoes (Toms, as mentioned in the quote) and choosing how to bring a child into the world.

Midwife-supported childbirth is a beautiful, time-honored tradition, but this article has reduced it to being just another fad.

If more people knew that 100 years ago nearly all women used a midwife, would it seem so trendy? Or would it be the norm? We, as a society, have become so confused as to what constitutes a normal birth that hospital, OB/GYN-led births are standard and midwifery care is the newest trend.

My concern is that if midwifery care becomes associated with celebrities and the wealthy that there will be a misconception in society that midwives aren’t for everyone. It is almost laughable to think of midwifery being a choice only for the wealthy and elite. In reality, many midwives offer their services for a fraction of the cost of a hospital and are willing to work out deals for those without health insurance.

My hope is that when choosing your healthcare provider, you look beyond what celebrities are doing or the choices of your friends.

Feel empowered.

You, just like Gisele Bundchen or Christy Turlington, have a right to choose, a choice far more powerful and long-lasting than a pair of canvas shoes. Unlike many other trends, the right to birth how you want,where you want, and with whom you choose, is a “fad” I sincerely hope never fades away.

Kate is decidedly untrendy, and she prefers it that way. When she’s not responding to misguided but well-intentioned New York Times articles, she enjoys exploring off-the-radar neighborhoods and enjoying new experiences with her sweet 15-month-old, Vivi, and husband, Kirk.

Toddler Nursing, Through Sickness and Health

Enjoying some time together at the park

Have you ever nursed a toddler? If you haven’t, just ask someone to poke your eyes, stick their fingers in your mouth, and repeatedly pinch you as their “soothing mechanism.” The only thing soothing about nursing a toddler is that when the wind is blowing just right and all the moons align, I can sometimes catch up on a half episode of “Property Virgins” on HGTV. Sometimes it still surprises me that we’re going strong with nursing at 15 months, an age when most little ones have ventured into cow’s milkland, never to return again. Alas, my little one is hooked on the boobjuice.

When my daughter was 7 months old, I experienced a nasty breast yeast infection (in medical terms, candida). Painful, raw skin was my burden and every nursing session was equal parts patience and mild torture. My husband said I should stop nursing. My mom, a lactation consultant, even gave me “permission” to supplement. I dreaded nursing, but hated the idea of giving up more. All I can say is that I pray my daughter doesn’t inherit too much of my stubborn streak.

After a couple of months (and a bout of mild eczema, thank you very much), it magically went away. OK, well it went away after I tried every natural and not-so-natural method under the sun. Let’s just say, if you experience thrush, let me know because I’ve got the lowdown. I sampled every method out there: elimination diets, coconut oil, grapefruit seed extract, antibiotics, garlic, APNO (all-purpose nipple ointment), prayer, etc. God help me if I ever get it again!

So we stuck with it, my little nipple biter and I. And it hasn’t been all “suffering.” Nursing a little one is a pretty sweet gig, and might I say a very useful tool when sickness invades your home as I found out all too recently. You see, my little peanut caught strep and a bacterial infection, one after another, and was sick for nearly two weeks. She was miserable, feverish, and crying for nearly that entire time. And there was one thing that was her nearly constant comfort. No, it wasn’t fruit popsicles (which did help, by the way) but nursing.

Good old mom and her battle wounded “nanees” (her word, not mine) saved the day. The combination of comfort, nutrition, and hydration helped heal my little girl (OK, along with some antibiotics). For a brief period, I felt like I was nursing an infant again with our round the clock sessions. I’ll admit, I felt slightly frustrated with the (nearly) nonstop nursing she needed over the past few weeks. But I am so grateful I didn’t give up on nursing months ago and could be there for her in such an intimate and loving way.

My little girl and I have come a long way in our nursing relationship, and I’m not sure when the ending point is. But really, does it matter? Every day with her gives me incentive to continue for now, pinching, giggles, and all.

 

 

Kate keeps a secret stash of APNO in her bathroom drawer “just in case” and will, without a doubt, attempt to nurse any future nipple pinchers that may or may not be in her future. When her little one isn’t nursing, they enjoy reading books together, making farm animal noises, and playing with the dogs.

Flame Retardants in the Home and What You Need to Know Now

TB 117 Label

Before my daughter was born, I thought about the type of measures my husband and I should take to ensure her safety. We considered the ways to keep her safe from physical harm and reduce her exposure to toxic everyday chemicals such as paints and finishes, cleaning products, pesticides, and fragrance (phthalate) laden products.

But one category that I think we missed or underestimated is flame retardants. The more I dig into this topic, the more unsettling it becomes. Flame retardants are in a vast majority of household goods from televisions to couches to mattresses. They can even be found in your child’s sleepwear and car seat. A study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that U.S. toddlers and preschoolers typically have three times the amount of flame retardant based chemicals in their bloodstream than the mothers of the same group. This is such a major concern because the chemical tainted dust from our household products “sticks” to the surfaces children touch and mouth on a daily basis. The chemicals affect neurological and reproductive development and the long-term effect is unknown.

So if these chemicals are so toxic, why are they in so many of our products? Obviously fires are a big concern, but what is riskier: the potential flammability of a product or the chemicals used to stop flammability of consumer products? One of the major reasons why flame retardants have found their way into so many products is because of the passing of California’s Technical Bulletin 117 which requires that upholstered furniture sold in California be able to withstand 12 seconds of open flame. Unfortunately, this mandate also applies to juvenile furniture and has encouraged the addition of retardants to a wide spectrum of products sold nationwide.

If all of this seems overwhelming to you or upsetting, you’re not alone. I have a hard time grasping why these dangerous chemicals have any right getting near my precious baby. I also don’t appreciate feeling like I need a PhD in chemistry to understand the risks as well as to find safer products. I do have a few suggestions, however:

What tips do you suggest for reducing your family’s chemical exposure?

Kate likes to drive her husband nuts by jumping down the rabbit hole of researching ways to make their home safer. Much to her husband’s dismay (and her delight), she recently chucked two old, fraying, salmon-colored (read: hideous) armchairs. The upside is that her living room now seems much lighter and larger. When she’s not calculating her next move in the battle against toxic chemicals, she enjoys exploring her new city with her little one and hubby.

Stop the Pregnancy Hazing Already!

Are you pregnant now? Have you ever been pregnant? Chances are, if you fall into one of the those two categories, some well-meaning person has decided it was their duty to tell you some childbirth horror stories. Or to tell you that you’ll catch up on your sleep in about twenty years. Or to remind you that your body will never, ever look the same as it did pre-pregnancy. Even celebrities, such as Jessica Simpson, cave to fear-based decision-making in the last moments of pregnancy. Negativity, more often than not, surrounds what should be a happy and joyous experience.

And really, who is to blame for our society’s often negative view of childbirth? We could certainly blame it on the media. Childbirth and motherhood are sensationalized, and TV shows portray pregnant women being rushed to the ER, babies in distress, and slovenly and exhausted moms with a bunch of bratty kids in tow. If we truly believed the negative press on childbirth and motherhood, who would ever have kids?

So let’s get a few things straight and talk about it honestly. Yes, childbirth can be painful. Yes, parenting is a tough 24/7 job that lasts a lifetime. But to focus solely on those two points to the exclusion of everything else is an exercise in emotional and mental hazing.

What would it take to change our societal view of childbirth and parenthood? What would it take to stop the ritualized “hazing” that takes places in the supermarket, at the park, and from your co-workers, friends, family, even strangers? A few months ago, a pregnant acquaintance of mine told me of how many people criticized her decision to homebirth. Yet no one stepped forward to tell this first time mama what a joy it is to give birth naturally and to feel the harmonious sensation of your little one skin to skin for the first time. No one told her to follow her instinct to birth at home. And certainly, no one trusted her instincts either.

My experience was no different. I had a “well-meaning” co-worker (whom I wasn’t even close with) debate my decision to birth naturally in front of other faculty at a holiday party. Multiple people told me that I would be begging for an epidural and questioned my decision to use a midwife rather than an OB/GYN. If not for the support of my classmates from a Bradley Method childbirth class, I might not have stayed true to my instincts.

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the media to change the way childbirth and motherhood are portrayed. But we, the mothers and fathers who have experienced it, can. No matter how you gave birth or where, support a pregnant friend in her decision-making. Encourage her to trust her instinct. Give her (and her partner) what the media cannot: a positive, supportive experience based in love, not fear.

Kate is a first-time mama who experienced her fair share of pregnancy hazing, including a stranger in the grocery line encouraging her husband to “force her to get an epidural.” When she’s not advocating for others’ childbirth and parenting decisions, she enjoys sewing, researching different parenting philosophies, and playing “animals” with her sweet little girl.