At Motherly we are declaring The Year of the Mother, calling on lawmakers and employers to hear our voice, the voice of today's mother, because we deserve better. Today's mothers are better educated than any generation before, working more than ever before, and our governmental policies, corporate governance, and culture have not adjusted to provide the support needed to ensure mamas and families thrive. So let us imagine the world as it could be.
This world is in our reach. Together we can advocate for six critical changes to ensure progress for American mothers:. The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world. Giving birth in America is shockingly dangerous, black mothers are three to four times more likely to die during or after pregnancy or birth and Native American and Native Alaskan mothers are also dying from complications in childbirth at a disproportionate rate. Systemic racism, socioeconomic disparities, heteronormative expectations and unequal access to healthcare are hurting mothers and babies.
This is unacceptable and Motherly supports the modernization of obstetric medicine standards and policies which address implicit bias among providers in clinical settings. Paid family leave is good for babies, families, and businesses and the United States is the only member country of the OECD that has not implemented paid leave on a national basis.
Support for paid leave is growing in both parties because this is truly a non-partisan issue. Paid leave is good for babies, parents, society, and even the long-term economic flourishing of American businesses.
With a groundswell of new mothers taking to the Congress, and unprecedented support for paid leave emerging on the right, action on the federal level is on the horizon. And it's about time. We need a no-judgment breastfeeding revolution. Breastfeeding in public is legal in America, and yet nearly every week there is a new news story about a mother being harassed for simply feeding her baby. Motherly supports the rights of mothers to breastfeed and pump where and how they want to, including in the workplace. No mother should have to choose between breastfeeding and keeping her job.
Motherly recognizes the World Health Organization's recommendation that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life, but like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Motherly recognizes that a baby's mother "is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant.
Right now, mothers do not feel supported when doing either. The simple act of feeding babies is way harder than it should be. America's mothers face intense pressure to exclusively breastfeed, but lack societal, corporate, and government support to enable breastfeeding success , including paid family leave and protection from breastfeeding discrimination.
At the same time, formula feeding is stigmatized , leaving mothers feeling judged for making a deeply personal choice filled with complexity. No mother should have to choose between breastfeeding and keeping her job and no mother should be shamed for exclusively breastfeeding, feeding with formula or doing both. There is no easy way to feed a baby in America. It is time to change that with more support and way less judgment. The desperate need for affordable childcare has become a rallying cry for a generation of Millennial parents saddled with student loan debt and an unprecedented high cost of living.
The cost of childcare is increasing faster than household incomes and parents can keep up. Parents are struggling to find care that meets their standards and are burdened not only by the financial costs but the time it takes to investigate childcare providers. Startups and tech companies like SnapChat and Facebook all offer subsidies or benefits to help parents offset the cost of childcare. Patagonia is another example of a company that goes even further—providing free, on-site childcare to all of its employees. These cities and companies make the case that investing in families is a long-term benefit drawing people to live and work in these places and companies.
The cry is getting louder—and there is a lot more that must be done. Research suggests America's mothers are the most stressed moms in the western world. We are parenting under intense and incompatible cultural pressures and doing way more than our fair share of unpaid work while increasingly serving as household breadwinners. Meanwhile, work culture tells us we need to pretend we aren't parents while the wider culture suggests mothers need to prioritize parenting over work by continuing to frame mothers as the default parent.
As a workplace, Motherly is supporting parents by providing something American parents are increasingly seeking: flexible schedules and remote opportunities. My experience as a working mom commuting two hours a day while pregnant and newly postpartum was central to our decision at Motherly to have a fully remote workforce. In today's dual-income families, the flexibility provided by remote work 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—we are evidence that remote work works and can scale successfully. American women are defining career and using technology to get what they want. Millennial women represent the first generation in history where women are more highly educated than men. Full stop. This is a very big deal.
But when they become mothers, they find that many corporate cultures are unable to keep pace with the very reasonable idea that a person should be able to thrive in her career—and have a family. That's why we're seeing Millennial moms embracing entrepreneurship at unprecedented levels, particularly among women of color. When the system isn't working for them, these women are inventing systems of their own that do. A host of female-founded startups like Werk, The Mom Project, Power to Fly, and Apres have also emerged, using technology to help women find flexible, remote, high-quality employment opportunities.
This new generation of entrepreneurs are helping their fellow Millennial moms to find opportunity where in the past, none existed. This IS the change we wish to see in the world.
We recognize that no single company or policy will shift the status quo, but by supporting mothers at work and supporting fathers to be the caregivers they want to be we aim to redistribute the uneven ratio of unpaid work, lessen the mental load of motherhood, and help equalize pay. Before I close, and join you in the amazing day we have ahead, I want to implore you to join me today in rebranding motherhood.
Yes, motherhood is all-consuming, but the transformation of motherhood is far from all bad. It's getting in touch with our deepest strengths. It's experiencing the greatest love of our lives. It's making us more efficient at work. Motherhood needs to be reclaimed for the woman-empowering experience that it is. Motherhood is tenderness and strength. Motherhood is purpose and powe r. From Sand Hill Road to the Halls of Congress, we are seeing American motherhood emerge as a source of massive power and strength. It's time for us to stop blaming ourselves when the burdens of modern American motherhood feel heavy.
It's time for our generation to rise up and demand that society give more than lip service to being family-friendly.
I believe it is finally time for mothers to thrive. Because, when mamas thrive, families thrive, and the world thrives. Whether you give birth or adopt a child , becoming a mama is an expensive phase of life and a lack of paid adoption leave forces employees to choose between a paycheck and time with their child. Adding a new addition to your family is a beautiful thing and families should be fully supported.
The sad reality is, most employers do not offer paid adoption leave. In fact, many employers don't offer paid maternity leave. Instead, they offer short-term disability benefits after someone gives birth. At the very least, employers should extend the same maternity leave benefits to adoptive parents as they do toward biological parents. Babies are born very dependent on their parents so it's important to allow bonding time between the adoptive parents and the child as the adopted child hasn't had nine months of hearing their parents' voices and laughs.
Bonding is especially important for older children as this transition time can be critical to the child's long-term mental health and feeling of stability. More so, many adoptive parents adopt outside of their state lines.
When that happens, at least one parent needs to stay in the state where their child is until they receive clearance to return home. That process can sometimes take a few weeks, which means that by the time the new parents and child arrive at home, the parents have often already been forced to use up all of their vacation time and they need to get back to work with no remaining time off to take for unexpected circumstances, illnesses, or more. Adoptive parents also need time to emotionally adjust to life with their child and all the associated changes, and kids need time to adjust, too.
One of the most important things parents can do is create a routine so children feel safe and protected in the new environment. Establishing a new routine and rhythm with a baby or child—waking up, eating, going to sleep at the same time—minimizes anxiety and stress the child might feel. Bringing a new child into a home is a big change for siblings.
My girl has been at daycare for 4 months since 6 months and screams her lungs out whenever the teachers try to put her into her cot or the sleep room or down anywhere for her sleep. It really, really works. The simple act of feeding babies is way harder than it should be. Opt for situations where your child will have the same carer most of the time. So let us imagine the world as it could be. I think language is a powerful tool, and shifting thinking even a little bit can help big ideas gain traction and eventually lead to policy shifts that support families like affordable high-quality early care and education, parental leave, and other family-first policies. American women are defining career and using technology to get what they want.