Edition Number 15
Hi Everyone,

My family has been thrown all kinds of strange lemons these past couple months so it’s been a minute since I’ve been able to write, collect my thoughts and curate a newsletter for you. I know I get to choose either to craft my own bittersweet lemonade or sit and stare at the lemons, paralyzed by self-doubt, self-pity and fear. I remind myself that The Universe neither rewards nor punishes, that “contrast” in life provides me with an opportunity to reflect, stretch and ultimately grow. So I decree: I am going to make lots of mother-fing lemonade.:)

In that spirit, TBD Mama recently held two fantastic events in NYC to contemplate and get real about the State of Motherhood and the Workplace; attended and supported by many of you! Most importantly: The new website is finally LIVE. Please check it out when you have a moment as this is where you’ll find content from the newsletter and more; updates on events in your area; access to online and IRL workshops and a new section celebrating the collective state of motherhood through your individual “TBD Mama” stories. 

It’s been a whirlwind of celebratory highs and painful lows and I’m ready to be horizontal at my happy place: The Beach. ANY BEACH, really. I’m sure you all are eager to dive into water somewhere too and find your summer. As you do, I hope you enjoy reading Edition #15.

With love,
We know the current state of family leave varies wildly and largely stinks. So it was promising to hear how a few determined women at the New York Times fought and transformed the paid leave policies at the storied institution, setting a real life example of being the change they wanted to see and getting s*** done.

In this season finale of The Double Shift a “what if” question became a “how to” dialogue which became an entirely new paid leave policy that wasn’t just good enough but that was actually good -- both for families and for business. Armed with research more than anecdotes, the ladies at the NYT presented management with study after study demonstrating that improving family leave wasn’t just good ethics practice but was fundamentally a good business practice too.

One would think more companies would follow suit given more than 50% of the workforce are women and many of those women will try to and or actually become mothers. Paid family leave isn’t a frivolous perk like “pizza Fridays” and companies that treat it as such do a disservice to their culture, employees and bottom lines. It’s hard to say if this kind of fight can be won at companies that don’t have such morally ambitious mission statements to uphold or are smaller, predominantly male, and with a majority of less privileged employees. It is, however, a successful step in the right direction toward normalizing a healthier work culture for working families today.
I had some chubby years as a kid and oh my goddess how I loathed going to the pediatrician to be weighed. It was an annual Day of Dread where I worried I'd not only “fail” my parents but also my relatively kind pediatrician who I desperately wanted to please. The desire to please adults tends to come naturally and be a positive instinct for most children but in my case derailed into a totally unhealthy need-to-please-pattern that resulted in a twisted course of destructive eating, and lack of eating, for many years.

It's encouraging to read that a concerted group of pediatric obesity specialists have created a system designed to, shocker!, not make kids feel bad about their weight and instead understand the underlying causes and conditions in order to help. IDEAL Clinic in Washington D.C. offers a holistic, interdisciplinary system of solutions designed to treat the whole patient through “people-first” dialogue, nutrition, and coaching. Instead of using potentially damning and scarring language they are training each other to use language that emphasizes empathy over judgment and, not surprisingly, this has proven to be more successful in real patient results. 

For example, a patient is not referred to as an “obese patient or a fat person” but instead is a “patient/person struggling with obesity.” The subtle yet intentional shift and more compassionate framing is already proving so effective they are lobbying The American Medical Association to adopt universal standards for this type of messaging. Now, if only the AMA would work on other much-needed sensitivity messaging too, starting with OBGYNs!
What are you doing this summer? Scheduling multiple activities and/or care for your kids? Scheduling the activity or caregiver’s schedule on top of that? This quick and breezy read from Psychology Today r eminds us that a little bit of free time goes a long way, not only for kids but also for adults! Unstructured free time ignites creativity which, in turn, promotes independence, problem-solving and good old-fashioned fun. Dr. Marty Menko, a psychologist and coach, also notes this, “Perhaps the most important benefit of child-designed activities is that they’re customized to the child's level of cognitive difficulty, physical activity, and social involvement. That's less likely in a camp or a parent-selected activity.”   

Here’s to not making plans; allowing kids just to be kids, and to savoring what for me are the best parts of summer: more sunshine; more freedom; more time to play.

Biology is not destiny for many, many women either by choice or by circumstance so why does the mainstream message —even from feminists— continue to make women feel so bad about themselves when they can’t conceive “naturally” or at all? This piece from Bustle previews “The Seed,” a hybrid-memoir written by feminist journalist Alexandra Kimball that pulls from her own diverse reproductive history; one which includes abortion, miscarriage, infertility and surrogacy — not to mention a complex surge of emotions that accompanied each experience. 

The article and book remind me how essential it is to have a larger conversation that openly discusses the frequency of infertility, miscarriage and alternative paths toward or away from motherhood in general. Without open discourse how else can we destigmatize, validate and accept our diverse reproductive journeys? True understanding will only come through education, empathy and advocacy and while reproductive policies across the board need to shift in favor of women, books that share honestly about the wide spectrum of reproductive paths — including one that does not end up with a baby! — are essential in order for us to support each other and own our stories without shame.
Hollywood Skin “Jedi” Sonya Dakar weighs in on her top five treatments to consider as well as five to ditch. The formidable facialist explains why she loves micro and nano-needling, preventative injectables, the Liquid Facelift (non-surgical and tailor-made), and hydrafacials (i.e. microderm but with water rather than harsh aluminum oxide or baking soda.) 

She then breaks down why she’s no fan of these trends: so-called vampire facials, anything with charcoal, sheet masks, crystal facial rollers (although I admit I love my Jade one!) and, yes, this is really a thing: placenta facials. A fun read via The Hollywood Reporter to discover and explore what might work for you.
Full disclosure: While violent TV shows, video games and pretend guns were definitely off limits in my childhood home, one of my favorite childhood memories was shooting gi-normous water guns at my uncle’s house whilst squirting or “shooting” my baby brother with abandon. I loved everything about it. But that was in the 80s and gun culture was different; not nearly the gross epidemic that it has become. 

According to the CDC, 51 young adults are struck by a bullet EVERY single day. With those haunting statistics it’s just hard for me to stomach and justify Karuna’s “pretending” to shoot anyone or anything, even if it’s “just with water.” While there is little science proving a direct correlation between playing with fake guns and actual aggression (so many other factors in parenting and life determine that) I just can’t help but wonder if it’s a necessary toy at all?

Love that this Romper piece presents great alternatives including an array of cool hydro balls, splash pads, reusable water balloons and more. K iddies don’t have to sacrifice any of the fun while parents don't have to accumulate unnecessary agitas over whether or not a water gun is subtly or overtly instilling the concept that shooting people is normal.
“Mommy Shaming” is not a new topic and while it is something we do actually talk about collectively, individually we often stew in silence when it happens to us. When Beth Bloster posted an innocent photo of her adorably naked 19-month-old the Mommy Police came for her hard.

Shaming is a phenomenon that begins well before we become mothers and it's something that makes me think twice before sharing something about my son or posting anything personal lest I be “judged.” I fully recognize that oftentimes I’m projecting or anticipating judgment rather than actually being judged but, nonetheless, the culture and fear of scrutiny and the ease to critique, particularly online, makes many of us police ourselves or not share at all.

The inimitable teacher Brene Brown, quoted in this Romper essay, says that "Shame hates when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it — it can't survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes." 

Oh, how I love this message. I do believe I'm as sick as my secrets and that we as a culture grow sicker in silence. While some forums might feel better to share different kinds of experiences or opinions, that's an individual choice and we all should be able to post meaningful memories like the one Beth did: something carefree, unadulterated and 100% innocent.

Essays like these reaffirm my commitment to thinking about, talking about and shifting the way we think about motherhood, ourselves and each other . Sharing our true stories lies at the heart of the mission for TBD Mama sharing information and experience with a community of individuals trying to navigate this motherhood journey with self-determination and support.