Edition Number 17
Hi Everyone,

Lately, I’ve noticed an interesting shift in the media’s representation of moms and motherhood, and it’s groundbreaking. There’s a new willingness to imagine and portray complex women who reflect a wide range of “mom” voices and experiences that defy convention. Years ago, exploring motherhood with nuance, depth or contrast just wouldn’t be viable (i.e. funded.) You either were cast in a “good” mom box or a “bad” mom box and that was it. But now, from Big Little Lies (troubled moms) to Otherhood ( older moms) to Working Moms (professional moms, albeit in Canada) portraying Motherhood with a capital M is no longer impossible, niche or reduced to a sound byte. Representation of motherhood is expanding online too with dedicated sites ( New York Times Parenting ) and magazines ( Apparently ) resurrecting this essential topic with fresh POVs.

This renewed conversation is stirring all around us, even among 2020 underdogs. Kirsten Gillibrand openly shares about the imbalance she experiences as a working mom in office. Andrew Yang discusses his wife’s challenges transitioning from executive at L’Oreal to stay-at-home-mom, questioning the very definition of GDP when it doesn’t include the essential yet unpaid labor of motherhood. Even Marianne Williamson has proposed the creation of a U.S. Department of Youth and Children, an entire department committed to a child’s holistic wellbeing which I think is a fabulous if not far-reaching idea. 

When we talk about the institution of motherhood and identity in new ways, attitudes and belief systems start to change. That’s why it’s so exciting to see this rise in interest, coverage and representation. Have you noticed this too?

I’ve always been invested in women’s narratives, autonomy and self-determination. Becoming and growing as a mama has made me double down on these values. It’s inspiring women like you who remind me that other women are also invested in determining the future of motherhood rather than being determined by it.  

In that spirit of self-determination, I end with a quote about mothering from the incomparable author, teacher and mother, Toni Morrison, who passed last week at 88. Here is a frequently cited, and favorite quote of mine, excerpted from “Toni Morrison: A Politics of the Heart,” a seminal book by Andrea O’Reilly Ph.D that examines Morrison’s bold maternal theory. 

“There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother. For me, it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal ‘other.’ The children’s demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do. To be a good manager. To have a sense of humor. To deliver something that somebody could use. And they were not interested in all the things that other people were interested in, like what I was wearing or if I were sensual. Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away. I could not only be me—whatever that was—but somebody actually needed me to be that. If you listen to [your children], somehow you are able to free yourself from baggage and vanity and all sorts of things and deliver a better self, one that you like. The person that was in me that I liked best was the one my children seemed to want.”

Here’s to being that person, mamas!

With love,
Carrie
@tbd_mama
LISTEN: HOW TO BE BRAVE EVEN WHEN YOU'RE AFRAID
Remember when you just went for it? When you literally dove into the deepest end with abandon? When fear wasn’t an option? The first episode of “How to Raise a Parent” explores how fear gets hardwired into adults while also proposing how to reclaim your bravery

The proposed solution to reclaiming courage? Observe children. While not every child is fearless, many kids take what adults consider to be “risks” all the time — often because nothing bad has happened (yet) and they don’t know any better! They’re not expecting to fall or fail, and, as such, have much less to fear. Watching kids take risks is a great way to remember how we can take them too. 

Saying yes to anything new is certainly scary when you’re faced with the unknown, are already multitasking, and are probably fighting just to get enough sleep let alone reinvent yourself. But in the messy mix of raising tiny humans lies a gateway for rediscovery. Watching kids be exactly who they are is an incredible opportunity to remember who we are too, not just as parents but as individuals.  

But how do you exercise a muscle if it hasn’t been worked out in years? How do you exercise agency if you’re a woman, a mother, who has forgotten how to be someone other than "mom?" Apparently doing something, taking any action, is the key first step. So is telling yourself it’s OK to be scared while you’re doing it. Being brave doesn’t mean you eliminate all fear but it does mean you take the next step anyway. This podcast reminds us that by observing children, not even necessarily our own, we can learn to worry less, trust more and cross the proverbial monkey bars even if we are afraid to fall. 
LA FAMILIA: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR KID HATES SCHOOL
While I liked and even, at times, loved school, I always, always feared and loathed math. I liked money, lol, but math, not so much. Multiplication in particular stumped me until one day my late father Phil, RIP, suggested a spirited round of ping pong. It was summer break, we were in Monterey, CA, and as we rallied a tiny ball back and forth reciting numbers ad nauseam I finally, miraculously learned my times tables. How did you learn? Did you enjoy it? 

Dr. Bronywn for Maisonette offers three lens through which to assess a child’s relationship to school: temperament, social disconnect and boredom. Does your child have tons of energy and struggle to focus or sit? Try working with the teacher to determine her best learning style. Does your child feel left out at lunchtime? Talk to them and make family mealtimes a priority, even if they’re just 10 minutes, in order to reconnect and understand what’s going on. Is your child bored and asking, “but why do we have to learn about FILL IN THE BLANK when it has nothing to do with real life?” Try to break it down, make it meaningful and apply a dreaded school topic to a favorite everyday scenario.

Lastly, she cautions against rewarding kids for completing homework or staying positive about school. “Although chocolate might motivate your child in the short-term,” she claims, “rewarding outcomes in the long-run diminishes internal motivation to learn. That’s why it’s key to help your child realize the real-world benefits of the skills in his assignments.”

Hmmmm. While this may seem easier said than done—doesn’t everyone needs a reward once in a while?— the long term payoff may matter more than the immediate fix. Check out the Dr.'s complete list of real-world methods to inspire and keep your child motivated at school.
FEMME-INISM: PROGRESS FOR #METOO
When activist Tarana Burke first coined the phrase, “Me Too,” way back in 2006, it was a specific rallying cry for women of color who had suffered and been silenced by sexual assault. It took another 11 years before the phrase entered mainstream culture and became the hashtag of the year — one that erupted onto screens and forever changed the way we talk about sexual discrimination and abuse.  

Today, there's inspiring proof that the Me Too movement has fueled real world change too according to a new study by the National Women’s Law Center tracking the impact of the movement and covered in VICE . Since 2017,15 states have either passed new laws or strengthened existing ones that protect employees from sexual discrimination, harassment and gender discrimination. New York was highlighted in the report for taking the most legislative action out of them all, taking steps including but not limited to extending the statute of limitations to file a harassment or discrimination claim and mandating anti-harassment training and policy requirements for employers.

While much of the #metoo attention has focused on the high-profile victims and perpetrators in equally high-profile industries, the focus of the NWLC was to create tangible protections and change for everyday Americans, particularly the most vulnerable individuals suffering silently across less glamorous, everyday fields. Their next goal is “20 by 2020,” a call for 20 states to step up and make these legislative changes too. It’s definite progress, not perfection, one state at a time.
FOR THE LITTLES: BACK-TO-SCHOOL BACKPACKS
When I was growing up my backpack options were few to none. It was basic green or black JanSport or bust with a brief, slightly upgraded Eddie Bauer period before I decided at the ripe old age of 12 that backpacks were just another insufferable part of middle school life, literally weighing me down. 

Today, there are options galore suited to different aesthetics, lifestyles and SIZES of small humans. I love the 100% recycled backpacks from Parkland (12 plastic bottles transform into one!) as well as those from STATE where each purchase helps fund fully-packed backpacks for kids in need while also bringing attention to social injustice. The trusty MacKenzie is a great go-to from Pottery Barn offered in four sizes (mini, small, large and rolling) in plenty of on-trend, waterproof prints. There’s even an LED option (crowd-funded in one day!) that operates as a backpack-slash-toy-slash-GPS-locator. Since, duh, we obviously need one of those. Full list to peruse below via the folks at Red Tricycle .
FOR YOU: A WARDROBE SUBSCRIPTION
Retail apocalypse or retail renaissance? Making it easy for moms to try and buy is a big key to success as brands and stores compete for our valuable attention. My household gets everything online through one subscription or another so why should apparel be any different? I can’t believe this avid shopper and former stylist is writing this but for wardrobe variety, discovery and ease (especially during pregnancy or that agonizing in-between-sizes stage) the right subscription can work. Additionally, if purchasing new clothing is one of the least sustainable things we can do for the planet, then a sustainable subscription service starts to make sense and feel like the right, fashionable thing to do.  

There are several players popping up in the space from old trusties ala Rent the Runway that let you borrow a semi-designer dress to newer services like Vivrelle that give you the freedom to rent luxe accessories and buy them for an “insider’s” price.

Real Simple rounds up a great list of 12 services to consider below. Not listed but one to watch: My List from Bloomingdales, a new service launching this September that just might keep the classic retailer afloat. Now, if only Barneys had gotten it together and followed suit!  
WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT:
THE RISKS OF SHARENTING IN THE (ANTI) PRIVACY WILD, WILD WEST
Not a fun fact: Barclays estimates that by 2030 parents who "sharent" could account for up to 7 million cases of identity fraud costing over $800 million dollars! The great sharenting debate continues as children are coming of age in an era where the line between public and private is increasingly blurred and their appearance and behavior can be eerily predicted—and potentially preyed upon—as a result of a parent sharing their image and information online.

It’s so tempting to post a happy memory—Karuna just took his first selfie!— but as more information trickles in about our images and information being manipulated, stored and sold, is the short-term benefit of a mutual online “like” worth the long-term, unknown risk? I don’t know the answer, and will probably continue to post select pictures of my family because A. It feels good to share them and B. I'm stuck in a "can it really be that nefarious?" type of denial, but there's no question I need to pause before I post and consider what's at stake for the whole family. As part of a new New York Times series covering privacy, this quick video is one to watch.
WHAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT PART 2: HOW DO YOU TALK ABOUT A PREGNANCY LOSS?
Despite being a writer, I’m oddly at a loss for words when it comes to talking about a woman’s pregnancy loss, whether it be a miscarriage or an abortion. I want to be sensitive, I want to be specific, I don’t want to project, or transfer, or for a well-intended word or phrase to be misconstrued or, god forbid, inflict harm. I am even more at a loss when it comes to talking about my own pregnancy losses, strange for me because I don’t know exactly what to call these “losses.” Miscarriages? I missed what exactly? “Babies?” Do I have the right to call them that when no actual baby was ever born, or lost? Was each “one,” more simply, a ghost? Three little ghosts that never will manifest but somehow may always haunt me?

For some women, a pregnancy loss is straightforward; it was just something that happened by choice or necessity but not something that dismantled their lives. For others, it’s an earth-shattering devastation, not a choice at all, and a loss that jeopardizes one’s entire sense of self. Of course, this range of experience depends on a whole set of individual life circumstances, desires and intentions. For some women, naming the-horrible-thing-that-happened-to-them and speaking it aloud makes it too real, and by giving “it” a name “it” becomes too much pain to bear. For others, naming the thing is empowering, and helps release pain and make sense of “it.” For me, the loss of words, not having the right ones, has created far more distance than connection in some friendships where we have experienced similar loss, but not in the same way. 

I appreciate how in this New York Times op-ed Dr. Julia Bueno, a psychotherapist specializing in pregnancy loss, reminds us to make space for a myriad of pregnancy loss experiences and interpretations. She also offers women a gentle reminder to grant ourselves and each other permission to talk about loss on our own terms, with our own words, reminding us of the right to talk about the “pregnancy” or the “embryo” or the “baby" with language that feels right for us. That could range from talking about the “embryo” that was there and then wasn’t to talking about the “baby” as something that represents so much future that never had the chance to be.

One woman’s emotional attachment or lack thereof to a pregnancy loss isn't universal, and to categorize and generalize the loss hurts more than helps. Staying open to listening to what it meant for her, period, is a positive start. Don’t make assumptions. Ask how she feels. Perhaps she will tell you. Perhaps she won’t. But in order to be heard and understood women also have to be willing to share. A real conversation is a reciprocal process which takes two— or more —to make the thing go right.