TIME Advertising

This Ad Perfectly Captures the Horrors of New Motherhood

It's also great birth control

HelloFlo doesn’t just tackle first periods — it’s also breaking into the mom market.

The women’s health company, which scored a viral hit last year with an ad about a young girl’s “first moon party,” is back with a new campaign. In this ad, a new mom takes a break from breastfeeding and changing diapers to perform a musical about how much it sucks to have a tiny baby. “How could I let another woman walk through the terrifying abyss of motherhood without telling her the things I’d seen?” she says.

“For what it’s worth: There’s no laughter after after-birth,” she sings in a full-on Broadway style belt.

When asked if she’s worried about the success of her musical, she replies: “I have suction cups attached to my nipples, squeezing milk out of my rock-hard boobs. I fear nothing.” Once she sees HelloFlo’s new mom kit — which includes essentials like nipple cream, breast pads, lotion and Luna bars — she fears it’s so useful, it will make her musical obsolete. Until she uses it to bribe everyone to see her show.

If you’re a mom, you’ll love this. If you’re not a mom yet, it might scare you off for good.

Read next: This Video Shows Why Being a Mom Is the Hardest Job Out There

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TIME Pregnancy

Kate Winslet on Losing Baby Weight: ‘I’d Rather Be Well-Fed and Happy’

Actress Kate Winslet attends the "A Little Chaos" premiere during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 13, 2014.
Philip Cheung—Getty Images Actress Kate Winslet attends the "A Little Chaos" premiere during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 13, 2014.

"I so didn't want to be one of those 'Oh, wow, she's back in shape after 12 weeks' women"

Kate Winslet isn’t looking for perfection in life – in fact, far from it.

In an interview with the U.K.’s Harper’s Bazaar, the Oscar-winning actress talks about raising her three children during emotionally difficult times.

“I think it’s very important to teach your children to struggle on some level,” Winslet, 39, says in the publication’s March cover story. “I wouldn’t change a thing. Even all the bad bits. It doesn’t matter how [bad] times have been, they all matter, because those things shape who you are.”

A busy mom to three children – daughter Mia, 14, from her first marriage to Jim Threapleton; son Joe, 11, from her second marriage to director Sam Mendes; and 15-month-old son Bear with her current husband, Ned RocknRoll – Winslet has neither the time nor inclination to indulge in body-conscious thoughts or post-baby diets.

“I so didn’t want to be one of those ‘Oh, wow, she’s back in shape after 12 weeks’ women,” said actress, now based in rural Sussex in the U.K. “When I read things like that, I just think, ‘Oh, for f—‘s sake, that’s actually impossible.'”

Winslet – who can be seen onscreen next month in Insurgent – is more likely to be found choosing new floor tiles and organizing a fundraiser for Mia’s school than she is dieting.

“I want to keep my health and my sanity and be well fed and happy,” she says. “My body will never go back to what it was and I wouldn’t expect it to after three babies.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Family

How Workplaces Can Combat Pregnancy Discrimination

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Having a baby shouldn't put Americans' jobs at risk

As a mother of a young child today, I know much has changed for mothers in the workforce since my mother and her mother had children. But there’s one thread that ties our narratives together – a subject that’s too often fleeting in the broader discussion of working moms: the discrimination women experience during pregnancy, and after they return to work.

Every year, thousands of women file charges against employers for acts of pregnancy discrimination. In fact, charges of pregnancy discrimination filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) actually increased by 71 percent between 1992 and 2011.

What does pregnancy discrimination look like, exactly? It occurs when an employer treats a job applicant or an employee unfavorably due to her pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. It could involve refusing to hire or promote a qualified individual because she is pregnant, firing a woman because she missed a few days of work to give birth, or forcing a pregnant employee to take unpaid leave. Sure, this behavior hurts pregnant women and their families, but it also hurts employers: In addition to breaking the law, these companies may be failing to retain some of their most highly qualified employees – losing out on their skills and productivity.

The bottom line is that women comprise a significant proportion of the nation’s talent pool, and when their contributions are constrained by patronizing and outmoded notions of what motherhood should look like (even well-intentioned ones), our workforce, our economy and our families suffer. At present, women serve as the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of American households. In other words, women’s sustained participation in the labor force is critical to the economic security and stability of millions of individual families.

And yet, here we are in 2015, and some employers still view child-bearing and employment as mutually exclusive activities. Just last year, the EEOC announced a $30,000 settlement to a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit a woman brought against her former employer, Triple T Foods in Arkansas, which fired her the day she announced she was pregnant. This is only one example of the $3.5 million the EEOC recouped in damages for victims of pregnancy discrimination between 2011 and 2014.

We have a long way to go. But we’ve made progress in some ways. For example, just a generation ago, many women left the workplace when they became visibly pregnant. In the 1960s, almost half of women who worked during their first pregnancy left the workforce by the time they were about 6 months pregnant. Today, only about 12 percent do.

And we’re certainly better off than we were. In 1908, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Muller v. Oregon, upheld a state statute restricting the number of hours per day a female employee could work and thereby set a precedent for paternalistic laws intended to “protect” women from the hazards and indignities of the workplace. While the Court acknowledged that the statute treated workers differently on the basis of sex, it also found that that a woman’s “physical structure” and “maternal functions” justified such unequal treatment.

Although the precedent established in Muller had unraveled by the late twentieth century and its discriminatory assumptions are no longer formally codified in law, they still permeate the cultural expectations surrounding women—especially pregnant women—in the workplace. These expectations can affect women even before they enter the workplace. Pregnant women face discrimination at job interviews and face much greater discrimination than other workers with short-term disabilities who may need minimal accommodations. For example, in a survey funded by the W.K Kellogg Foundation, 69 percent of respondents who reported being denied a pregnancy-related accommodation felt that their employers had honored similar requests from coworkers with other limitations or disabilities.

Knowing that this culture exists can and often does discourage women from requesting accommodations from or disclosing her pregnancy to her supervisor. In the same survey, more than half of respondents reported needing scheduling accommodations for prenatal visits and the like, but more than a quarter reported failing to request such an accommodation. That’s a shame, because the truth is that employers should be able to accommodate these requests with minimal expense and inconvenience.

How do we ensure that women who work during pregnancy are treated equitably, and begin to break down this discriminatory culture? That requires a combination of more progressive employer policies coupled with a set of robust legal and regulatory protections. At the federal level, women are protected by laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but there is more we can do.

In June, at the White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama called for federal legislation that supports pregnant workers. Some states like Delaware and Illinois have taken the lead and passed their own versions of the proposed federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

The EEOC has stepped up, too, releasing new enforcement guidance last year to clarify the applications of the PDA and the ADA, as they apply to pregnant workers. This guidance “requires that employers treat women affected by pregnancy or related medical conditions the same way they treat non-pregnant applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.” This means that employers have to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers if they also make such accommodations for other employees who have a temporary disability. The EEOC’s notice also includes women who undergo fertility treatments, are nursing mothers, or are discriminated against based on stereotypes and assumptions about motherhood.

Outside of government, workplaces across the nation are already teeming with examples of managers and employees alike who are dismantling outdated assumptions about the needs and abilities of pregnant workers, as well as the responsibilities of the employers who hire them. Combining statutory and regulatory protections with voluntary actions by employers can amplify this groundswell of progress. From the classroom to the board room to the factory floor, we see daily evidence of the powerful alignment of workplace policy, statutory protections and individual determination in ensuring that women can, in fact, do and be just about anything.

Building a workplace culture that aligns with the demographic realities of today’s labor force allows employers not only to stay on the right side of the law, but, as a growing body of evidence suggests, shows that employers can still do well with their bottom line by treating all of their workers fairly. After all, support for pregnant workers doesn’t simply benefit this generation of workers; it’s an investment in generations to come.

Latifa Lyles is the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

‘I’m Afraid My Baby’s Head Will Fall Off’

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I'm afraid to write this, but I'm more afraid stigma will prevent other women from getting help

xojane

“I’m afraid my baby’s head will fall off,” I tell my psychiatrist.

She nods, normally, sympathetically, as if mothers everywhere suffer visions of their baby’s heads coming off their necks. “Can you explain that?” she asks.

And I tell her how, when I was 10, my father took me dove hunting. Most of the time, his shot didn’t kill the dove. So to end its suffering, my father would casually twist its head off. I watched in sick fascination, over and over, as his big hands almost gently wrenched the birds’ heads from their small gray bodies. I had no idea heads could be so precariously attached, no idea that one small twist could decapitate.

When I had my third son, I couldn’t stop thinking how delicately his head attached, how strong hands could twist and pull. It terrified me, this thin neck, this precarious joining of flesh and bone. I remembered the birds. I had seen their heads lie wide-eyed on the ground.

“That’s horrible,” my doctor said. She upped both my medications and added Xanax. “We need to get that under control,” she told me. “You can’t live like this.”

But I could. I did. And so do millions of other women.

I’ve been down the dark alleys of depression before. But it didn’t become utterly unlivable until I got pregnant. At eight weeks, we thought we were losing our baby. I sobbed for six straight hours, through the emergency room, the ultrasound, all the way home. I cried because I was still pregnant. I couldn’t possibly cope with this very wanted baby. How could I have made such a terrible mistake?

A case of borderline hyperemesis worsened my depression and anxiety. My husband left town for three days, which I spent consumed with thoughts of his imminent death. The panic attacks began: clutching bouts of heart-pounding terror that left me gasping for air, convinced every wheeze was hurting the baby.

When I admitted to my husband that I kept myself from suicide because I didn’t want to kill my baby, I finally got help: medication, and a real psychiatrist.

I was suffering from prenatal depression, which is experienced by 10 to 20 percent of pregnant women. Everyone talks about postpartum depression. No one mentions that the same hormones can trigger prenatal depression as well. Babies born to depressed women suffer higher rates of stress hormones, less coordination and motor control, and more sleep disturbances. Up to 14 percent of women take antidepressants during pregnancy, and their efficacy — and effects on the baby — is debatable. But for some women whose depression is severe enough that they can’t care for themselves or a child, their use is necessary. I was one of those women.

But my SSRIs weren’t enough after Sunny’s birth. Coming off a high-risk, debilitating pregnancy, I began to have obsessive thoughts. I would lay down with my son during nap time and think, This is how we will curl up after the apocalypse, when the nuclear bombs fall and we scrabble to live through nuclear winter. How would I feed us? Would people try to cannibalize each other? I was haunted by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Stephen King’s The Stand. The end felt nigh.

I had other symptoms. Constantly stressed, I snapped at my older sons. Depression doesn’t always look sad: It can look like mean instead. Normal kid behavior left me enraged; a simple lost shoe could ruin the day. I yelled. I stomped off to the bedroom. I couldn’t understand why my children had suddenly become so bad.

And I began, again, to worry my husband would die. I started crying in the bathroom. My baby, who I loved so much, felt like a terrible mistake. I was a mistake. I thought about killing myself, but knew he wouldn’t have anything to eat. I worried his head would fall off.

I needed more medication.

We had to tweak and tinker. But a year later, I’m on an even keel again. I needed a good deal of medication to get here, but the dangers of a depressed mother outweigh the medication passed through my breast milk (and for health reasons related to severe food intolerances, weaning was not an option). And other things helped, of course: I spend time outside; I eat well. I make sure to get enough sleep, and I cuddle my son as much as possible. I am happy and healthy. I am productive.

But I wasn’t always this way. I got help.

Millions of women do not.

And the first step toward helping women with depression is to take away its stigma. I’m afraid to write this. I worry about its implications for my relationships, for my life. We’ve been taught that depression means you’re weak or crazy. We worry it makes us less of a mother. We have been shamed for the vagaries of brain chemistry, for the feelings we can’t fix.

Millions of women suffer. They need us to come out of the dark and to say: I’ve been there. I am there. I hear you.

Depression doesn’t mean you hate your baby.

It doesn’t mean you hate yourself.

It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, a weak person, or a selfish person.

It doesn’t make you less than other mothers.

It shouldn’t make you ashamed.

It shouldn’t make you alone.

Elizabeth Broadbent is a writer and mother. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

Why Having Kids Won’t Fulfill You

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Jennifer Aniston, take note. You haven't failed as a woman if you don't have kids.

I was struck by the comments Jennifer Aniston made to Allure magazine this week about the badgering she gets on a topic that she finds painful: her lack of children. She tells the magazine: “I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women – that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated. I don’t think it’s fair. You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t mothering — dogs, friends, friends’ children.” For Aniston, 45, the topic is fraught with emotion. “Even saying it gets me a little tight in my throat,” she said.

I thought about Aniston’s comments—what many women in their early 40s without children are forced to feel—and then I thought about my own life. In some respects I’m Aniston’s exact opposite: I’m a 41-year-old mother of two who spent my entire adult life telling myself that children were my destiny. I did what society and my family expected, never questioning the choice. But sometimes I wonder how much of the blueprint of my life was drawn by me, and how much was sketched by experiences I had when I was way too young to be the architect of my own destiny.

For all intents and purposes, my mother was a single parent. My father left when I was twelve, but long before then my mother had taken over the head of the household role. She worked full-time as a waitress while my father flitted between different construction jobs. There always seemed to be an injury or a reason he wasn’t able to work. The image of him lying on our living room floor in front of our television is burned on my brain. He was there so much — diagonally and on his side with his head perched upon on his hand–I actually thought it was odd when I went to friends’ houses and their fathers weren’t in that prone position. I also found it odd that my friends’ parents shared a bedroom. My dad had taken up residence on the couch for so long, it seemed normal.

It was the obviously unhappy marriage that birthed the mantra my mother would repeat to me throughout my young life: “Do not depend on a man for anything.” That was followed closely by: “You and your sister are the best things I’ve ever done.” My mother made it clear that we were her reason for living. There was never a time I didn’t feel loved by my mother. But there was also a latent message that became clear after my father left: I am not alone because I have children. If it weren’t for you two I would be falling apart.

Before I hit adolescence, I decided that children were the only things that could fulfill me when I grew older.

“I’ve always wanted kids.” I don’t think I could possibly count the number of times in my life I have uttered those words. But, the same enthusiasm never escaped my lips when talking about marriage. I was never that girl who fantasized about her wedding day. So I skipped the marriage part, feeling like a renegade who was bucking the patriarchal confines of society.

It took five years for my partner and me to have a pregnancy that didn’t end in loss. After the third miscarriage, I began to panic: what if I really couldn’t have children? What would my life become? I was a bartender at the time that we were trying and my partner was a musician — we were in no way financially prepared for children. But the panic and fear that the narrative I had chosen for myself so many years earlier was not going to play out made me a woman consumed.

For five years we spent month after month trying for a child. The obsession I had with ovulation calendars and pregnancy tests only paused when a test came back positive, then the obsession switched to worrying about whether the pregnancy was going to last. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy in 2010, when I was thirty-eight. I was finally a mom.

My life changed — but only the daily tasks. I was still working full-time. Once we added a baby, the only difference was we now had no downtime. I was not a new person. I was the woman I had always been, I just added another label to my list of identifiers: friend, photographer, bartender, girlfriend, writer, mother. I reached the endgame, and nothing about myself had changed — save my ability to multitask.

My assumption that I was destined to be maternal made me never consider the idea that maybe I wasn’t. The possibility that I wasn’t actually hard-wired to mother never occurred to me until I looked into my child’s eyes for the first time and didn’t feel that thunderbolt everyone talks so much about. Those overwhelming feelings of love arrived eventually, but they certainly weren’t automatic.

Had we continued having infertility issues and not been able to conceive, I am certain that I would have felt that there was something “missing” from my life. But only because I believed the narrative my mother sold that children bring fulfillment. Since I’ve become a mother and seen that the essence of what makes me who I am has not changed, I’ve learned that nothing outside of you can fulfill you. Fulfillment is all about how you perceive the fullness or emptiness of your life. But how can a woman feel fulfilled if she’s constantly being told her life is empty without children? How can she ever feel certain she’s made the right decision if society is second-guessing her constantly?

There is nothing wrong or incomplete about building a life with a partner or alone, unburdened by the added stress of keeping another human being alive. This is something that men have always been allowed – women, not so much. A woman is constantly reminded of the ticking time bomb that is her biological clock. We don’t believe that a life without children is something a woman could possibly want. It’s why successful, wealthy women like Aniston are still asked the baby question every single time they sit down for an interview. Everyone is always looking for the latent sadness, the regret. What if it’s not there?

It’s been 40 years since the women’s liberation movement told us that just because we have a uterus, doesn’t mean we have to use it. We still don’t believe it. Whether we realize it or not, the necessity to tap into our maternal side is so wired into our being that we can’t escape it. If we could, there wouldn’t be debates about whether women could “have it all” or whether we were turning against our nature if we decide not to procreate.

I never questioned my desire to have children, because I didn’t have to; I took the well-traveled road. That desire is expected of me – it’s expected of all women. It took me decades to realize that the maternal drive I carried with me my entire adult life, the one that led me to try for five years to have children, may not have been a biological imperative at all. It may just have been a program that was placed into my psyche by the repeated mantras of a woman who was let down by a man and comforted by her children. That’s okay. I love my children and I’m happy about the experiences I’ve had and the paths that have led me to this place. But if this isn’t your place—whether you’re a famous movie star or not– you didn’t take a wrong turn.

 

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TIME
TIME motherhood

YouTube CEO: America Needs Paid Maternity Leave

Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit - Day 2
Kimberly White—Getty Images for Vanity Fair Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki speak onstage during "Who Owns Your Screen?" at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit on October 9, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Kimberly White--Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

It's not just good for women, it's good for business

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday reminding everyone that paid maternity leave isn’t just good for women, it’s good for business.

She cited a 2011 survey from California’s Center for Economic and Policy Research that found that, after California implemented paid leave, 91% of businesses said the policy had either a positive effect on profitability, or no effect at all. Wojcicki, who was the first Google employee to go on maternity leave and now runs YouTube, which is owned by Google, says she’s seen this firsthand:

That last point is one we’ve seen at Google. When we increased paid maternity leave to 18 from 12 weeks in 2007, the rate at which new moms left Google fell by 50%. (We also increased paternity leave to 12 weeks from seven, as we know that also has a positive effect on families and our business.) Mothers were able to take the time they needed to bond with their babies and return to their jobs feeling confident and ready. And it’s much better for Google’s bottom line—to avoid costly turnover, and to retain the valued expertise, skills and perspective of our employees who are mothers.

Best of all, mothers come back to the workforce with new insights. I know from experience that being a mother gave me a broader sense of purpose, more compassion and a better ability to prioritize and get things done efficiently. It also helped me understand the specific needs and concerns of mothers, who make most household spending decisions and control more than $2 trillion of purchasing power in the U.S.

As Wojcicki notes, paid maternity leave can reduce risk of post-partum depression, keep babies healthy, and encourage mothers to stay in the workplace, yet only 12% of private workers and 5% of low-income workers in the U.S. have access to these benefits. Every other developed nation in the world has government-mandated paid maternity leave, and when the UN‘s International Labor Organization surveyed the maternity leave policies of 185 nations, the U.S. was one of two countries that don’t guarantee paid maternity leave. Papua New Guinea is the other.

She wants America to get cracking on paid maternity leave, stat.

[WSJ]

TIME Parenting

Jennifer Aniston: People Call Me ‘Selfish’ For Not Being a Mom

"Life Of Crime" Premiere - Arrivals - 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
J. Countess—WireImage Actress Jennifer Aniston attends the premiere for "Life Of Crime" at Roy Thomson Hall on September 14, 2013 in Toronto, Canada. ( J. Countess--WireImage)

And correctly defines "feminism"

Even after years of the prying questions and condescending sympathy, it still bothers Jennifer Aniston when people ask her why she’s not a mom.

“I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women—that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated,” she told Allure for their January issue. “I don’t think it’s fair. You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t mothering—dogs, friends, friends’ children.”

The actress, who has gotten critical praise for her role in the upcoming film Cake, explained that she finds the incessant commentary about her maternal status hurtful. “This continually is said about me: that I was so career-driven and focused on myself; that I don’t want to be a mother, and how selfish that is…Even saying it gets me a little tight in my throat.”

Aniston also seemed well-prepared to answer the now-omnipresent questions about feminism–and why it’s such a complicated issue. “Because people overcomplicate it,” she said. “It’s simply believing in equality between men and women. Pretty basic.”

[Allure]

TIME women

I’m a Mommy Blogger and Proud of It

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Tetra Images—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Lauren Apfel is the debate editor for Brain, Child Magazine.

Writing about motherhood is a backlash against the myth that parenting is something to be done and not discussed or valued

Call a woman a “mommy blogger” and you might as well be slinging mud. The expression, as it is most commonly used, is patronizing at best, derogatory at worst. What’s more is that it manages to offend on dual levels: a seeming contempt for both motherhood and the way mothers write about themselves. And yet, suffice it to say: I am a mommy blogger and proud of it.

Before I became a mommy blogger, I wrote a monograph titled The Advent of Pluralism: Diversity and Conflict in the Age of Sophocles. The book was about the meta-ethical theory of pluralism as it manifested itself in pre-Platonic Greek thought. Now I have a website, where I write about parenting and children—the tragedy of sibling rivalry as much as the comedy of a six year old’s staged wedding. Is this a change in subject matter tantamount to a fall from grace? I imagine many among the literati would consider it so.

The idea that motherhood is a topic worthy of serious reflection is only in its infancy. “Women have mothered since life began,” writes Katherine J. Barrett, the editor of Understorey Magazine, an online publication dedicated to “unspoken” stories about mothering. But “the history of books about motherhood spans roughly 40 years.” Whatever the root cause of this fundamental imbalance—and I suspect it’s closely linked to the general undervaluing of what was once referred to as “women’s work”—times they are a changin’. Today the web is crawling with women trying to make sense of their topsy-turvy lives as parents by encapsulating that process of analysis in some kind of narrative form.

Blogging serves as an emotional and intellectual outlet for mothers, but it is becoming more than that too. Now mommy blogging is a new line of “women’s work.” As is true for many of my fellow bloggers, my original career path careened off its track once I had children. And because my previous existence as an academic—like the lawyers and publicists and educators I know who occupy the mommy blogosphere with me—had natural touching points with the written word, it wasn’t terribly surprising that I turned to the keyboard for something to do, for a way back to myself, when the babies came one after the other and I decided to stay home with them. Nor was it surprising that the creatures who filled my days would also be the ones who filled my pages.

Nobody, of course, objects to writing about motherhood or children in principle. Mommy blogging gets a bad rap in particular because of its origins in a certain sort of confessional writing that can be traced back to the “weblogs” of the early noughties. Lisa Belkin, herself the creator of the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, describes one of these prototypes, dooce.com, as “a daily reality show on a smaller screen.” That is to say: gritty, highly personal and animated by a sense of “the wartier, the better.”

This “bad mother,” “oversharenting” rendition of the mommy blog is one of the most popular, the locus classicus of the genre. It is a trope made famous by Ayelet Waldman in her 2009 book and the fodder for hugely popular websites like Scary Mommy. Here we have women chronicling their mundane parenting “fails,” but also, in a more sublime vein, probing the ambiguity they feel about becoming mothers in the first place. It’s easy to dismiss this type of writing as navel-gazing fluff, the epitome of the first-world problem. But the psychological effect of being able to articulate such feelings in a public space, in an age when parenting is an increasingly isolated and pressured endeavor, is not to be underestimated.

And yet, just because these essays have healing power doesn’t make them especially literary (though some, like Waldman’s, invariably are). That’s fair enough. What skeptics have to realize, however, is that the self-deprecating, bad-mommy blog is only one fish caught by a rather large net. For as it has evolved over the last decade, mommy blogging has moved beyond the merely confessional to blossom into a multi-faceted branch of the online publication industry. “Mommy lit,” as Barrett urges, has indeed grown up. One need only look at the highbrow creative nonfiction at sites such as Brain, Child Magazine or the important advocacy work being done on topics such as special needs and postpartum depression.

Furthermore, parenting writing is no longer its own contained niche. It is stretching its tentacles into other fields, with sophisticated results. Revered humor sites such as McSweeney’s Internet Tendency publish parenting pieces. Prestigious literary magazines such as the Rumpus and cultural magazines such as Aeon do as well. There is rigorous evidence-based analysis of salient childcare questions at Slate’s Double X. Major broadsheets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have their own parenting blogs. And they even publish parenting-themed articles in their regular opinion and style sections.

Do these articles still count as “mommy blogging”? I submit that they do. Because what they all have in common is the belief by the women who penned them that their lives as mothers—their struggles as much as their successes—are worthy of documentation and publication, that they are, in fact, worthy of the craft of writing itself. This is the true legacy of the mommy blog and it is one we should embrace because of the label’s groundbreaking beginnings, not in spite of it.

For what we are doing as mommy bloggers, with our diverse voices and approaches, is a collective exercise in cultural counterpoint. It is a backlash against the myth that parenting is something to be done and not discussed or valued and it is a backlash against the debilitating contemporary notion that there is only one right way to do it. And for those of us who write about motherhood when we could be writing instead about, say, the ancient Greeks, it is a way to use history or philosophy or whatever other tools we have at our disposal to better understand the essence of our shared humanity and, in turn, to better understand ourselves.

Lauren Apfel is a writer and mother of four (including twins). She blogs at omnimom.net and is the debate editor for Brain, Child Magazine. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME motherhood

Alyssa Milano Talks About the Joys of Breastfeeding

The actress quit her ABC show in order to avoid uprooting her young children

New mom Alyssa Milano shared a picture of herself nursing her 7-week old daughter Elizabella on Instagram Monday.

The picture was accompanied by a quote from Czech writer Milan Kundera that read: “Ah, the joys of suckling! She lovingly watched the fishlike motions of the toothless mouth and she imagined that with her milk there flowed into her little son her deepest thoughts, concepts, and dreams.”

The actress announced Sept. 30 that she would not be returning to her ABC show Mistresses, because the show was shooting season 3 in Vancouver and she did not want to uproot her two young children. Here’s the announcement she posted on her blog:

After two wonderful seasons in Los Angeles, the studio has decided to shoot season three of Mistresses in Vancouver, Canada for financial reasons. It’s with a heavy heart that I have decided that I can’t relocate. I have two babies under 4. Being a mother and wife comes first and I just can not uproot my children and separate the family by moving away.
I will miss this job desperately and wish everyone the absolute best.

In addition to baby Elizabella, Milano also has a son Milo, who is 3.

TIME Books

Here Are Some Sex Tips From Amy Poehler’s New Book (Plus Insight on Motherhood and Divorce)

2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards - Arrivals
Steve Granitz—WireImage Amy Poehler arrives at the 2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on Oct. 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills.

The Parks & Rec star's new book, Yes Please, is out on Oct. 28

Amy Poehler’s new book, Yes Please is out today, and the title pretty much sums up everyone’s attitude when we heard the notoriously nice funnywoman was finally writing a book. An Amy Poehler book? Yes please! That’s probably where she got her title.

The Parks & Rec star explains where she got her title, in a winning yet insightful passage in the book’s introduction:

It’s called Yes Please because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would I like to be left alone? Yes please…”Yes Please” sounds powerful and concise. It is a response and a request. It is not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman.”

But if you can’t pick up the book, or your bookstore is out of it, or you’re waiting in a line behind everyone else in the world and just want to know the highlights, here they are:

On hot sex tips:

In the “World Famous Sex Tips” chapter, Poehler has some choice advice for women and men about how to get it on:

For women:

Try not to fake it: I know you are tired/nervous/eager to please/unsure of how to get there. Just remember to allow yourself real pleasure and not worry about how long it takes…God punished us with the gift of being able to fake it. Show God who the real boss is by getting off and getting yours.

For men:

Be nice, tell your woman she is hot, never shame her, and never hurt her.

Also, she advises not to let your kids sleep in your bed, which is probably a good idea for both men and women.

On her mantra for women who make different choices:

Poehler describes the experience of giving birth to her first son, and making choices about delivery that were different from what her friends were doing (she opted for lots of drugs, not a “natural birth.”)

Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.

Poehler also notes that her OB-GYN had delivered Sophia Loren’s children, which was fitting because she (Poehler) has “the Angelina Jolie of vaginas.” This celebrity gyno doesn’t end up delivering Poehler’s son, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why…

On motherhood, and why “every mother needs a wife:”

Poehler has an excellent chapter on motherhood, titled “Every Mother Needs a Wife.” At first, she gets into the down-and-dirty of the mommy wars (perfectly lampooning the subtle digs of working and stay-at-home moms.)

“The ‘I don’t know how you do it’ statement used to get my blood boiling. When I heard those words, I didn’t hear ‘I don’t know HOW you do it.’ I just heard ‘I don’t know how you COULD do it.’ I would be feeling overworked and guilty and overwhelmed and suddenly I would be struck over the head by what felt like someone else’s bullsh*t. It was an emotional drive-by. A random act of woman-on-woman violence…

But then Poehler gets to what she actually means by “every mother needs a wife.” The chapter ends with a touching tribute to the nannies who care for her children, similar to the tear-jerking toast she gave at the TIME100 gala in 2011. These women, she says, are her wives.

“Do you know how I do it? I can do it because I have a wife. Every mother needs a wife… Some mothers’ wives are their mothers. Some mothers’ wives are their husbands. Some mothers’ wives are their friends and neighbors. Every working person needs a wife who takes care of her and helps her become a better mother… the biggest lie and biggest crime is that we all do this alone and look down on people who can’t.

On divorce:

True to form, Poehler doesn’t dish any juicy details at all about her 2013 divorce from comedian Will Arnett, but does write insightfully about how difficult the process was.

“Imagine spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air. The process of divorce is about loading up that blanket, throwing it up, watching it all spin, and worrying what stuff will break when it lands.

She notes that she isn’t going to get into any specifics, because it’s “too sad and too personal,” but she will say this:

“I am proud of how my ex husband, Will, and I have been taking care of our children; I am beyond grateful he is their father and I don’t think a ten-year marriage constitutes failure. That being said, getting a divorce really sucks. But as my dear friend and relationship sponsor Louis CK has noted, “divorce is always good news because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.

On awards shows:

Poehler has been nominated for many acting awards (mostly for Parks & Rec, although she was nominated for two Emmys for her time at SNL, and for some movies). Although she has not yet won an Emmy for Parks & Rec, she is known for staging “bits” with other nominees to take some of the pressure off who wins. Here’s why:

“The worst part of being nominated for any award is that despite your best efforts, you start to want the pudding. You spend weeks thinking about how it doesn’t matter and it’s all just an honor, and then seconds before the name of the winner is announced everything inside you screams… “GIMME THAT PUDDING!!” Then comes the adrenaline dump, followed by shame.

She describes all the various stunts she’s pulled at awards shows, from wearing fake mustaches to pretending to be in a beauty pageant to switching speeches with Julia Louis Dreyfus, to a fake flirtation with George Clooney.

“The lessons? Women are mighty. George Clooney loves bits. Doing something together is often more fun than doing it alone. And you don’t always have to win to get the pudding.”

On doing drugs:

She’s pretty open about her drug use, which is kind of awesome. The verdict: weed rocks, cocaine feels great but terrible the next day, and everything else ruins lives.

“In my twenties I tried cocaine, which I instantly loved but eventually hated. Cocaine is terrific if you want to hang out with people you don’t know very well and play Ping-Pong all night. It’s bad for almost everything else… The day after cocaine is rough…The next day is the thing I can’t pull off anymore. How do you explain to a four-and-six-year old that you can’t play Rescue Bots because you have to spend all day in bed eating Cape Cod potato chips and watching The Bicycle Thief?

But is she worried that her kids will read the book and think drugs are okay? Nah.

“What’s more boring than your own mother’s take on her own life? Yawn. Also, I am counting on everyone living on the moon by the time my children are teenagers, and that they’ll have really interesting space friends who are kind and good students and think drugs are lame and “totally, like, Earthish.”

More, please!

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