What is Make Your Nanay Proud?
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A pregnancy loss is one of the most heartbreaking experiences for any woman. The devastating pain stays with you no matter how many years had passed, and the memory can catch you off-guard like what singer Kyla experienced recently during a performance.
During the launch of her latest album, “The Queen of R&B,” at Eastwood City, Kyla performed some of the songs on the record, including one that was titled Proper Heartbreak, which was about a relationship coming to an end.
In a video shared by ABS-CBN News, Kyla, who is a mother to Toby Elsiah, 4, and happily married to basketball player Rich Alvarez, explained to her fans at the launch that she was able to relate to the song differently.
“Itong kanta na ‘to, because of an experience na nangyari last month, it gave a different meaning to the song,” she said. “Noong pinapakinggan ko siya, sabi ko, ‘Bakit ako umiiyak kung hindi ko naman siya na-e-experience? But naka-relate ako in a different way.”
“I know an angel is watching over me right now,” Kyla added, her voice breaking.
She also got teary-eyed at one part of the song when she sang the line “I’ve got to let you go.” She apologized to the audience afterward, saying, “Minsan talaga nagiging vulnerable tayo. You can never be really ready for things like that to happen. I was never prepared, but I know there’s an angel watching over me right now.”
Though the singer did not explicitly say what she went through, her management, Cornerstone Entertainment, confirmed with ABS-CBN News that she suffered from a miscarriage last March.
In SmartParenting.com.ph’s Parent Chat and SP Village Facebook group, we’ve had moms share what helped them survive their miscarriage. But many also reach out to moms to ask how they can move on. Many moms cannot help but feel they must have done something wrong that led to them losing their unborn child.
For one Parent Chat user, losing her baby was “very depressing, emotionally draining, and faith-shaking.” She said that she almost lost her husband as well because she found fault in everything that he did, but at the same time she felt guilty and sorry for what happened.
Another user who unfortunately suffered two miscarriages shared that she blamed herself for the loss of her babies because she was very sickly at the time.
Women should know that most of the time a miscarriage is caused by genetic abnormalities — no one can prevent it from happening.
“In most cases, there’s nothing you can do to cause a miscarriage and nothing you can do to prevent it,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan in an interview with Parents. She is a medical advisor for the US-based non-profit organization March of Dimes and an attending physician in the University Hospital for Einstein in New York City.
But that doesn’t mean that the pain felt is any less. Like Kyla, the grief you feel when you lose your child can stick with you for a long time.
“It’s my second baby’s second death anniversary na next month, and it still hurts a lot,” writes another Parent Chat user. “Nung first few months, I cried every day. I don’t think I’ve moved on. Namanhid na lang ata ako. I still cry kapag holidays and birthday [niya].”
One Parent Chat user wondered out loud about moving on. “Nalulungkot, nasasabik ako magka-baby, but OB said bawal pa mabuntis within three months. Ano gagawin ko within three months, mag-pray lang?”
A fellow Parent Chat user replied with her message of support. “Mahirap sa simula, pero time heals all wounds. Hindi man natin makakalimutan pero makakasanayan na rin natin,” she writes.
She also says that while she experienced miscarriage twice, she was finally blessed with a healthy baby girl. “Super worth it lahat ng hirap at paghihintay.” (You can still have a healthy pregnancy after a miscarriage. Read success stories here and here).
In our SP Village Facebook group, one mom who was pregnant at eight weeks shared that when she had her first ultrasound, no heartbeat was detected. A day later, she posted on our Facebook group that upon her ob-gyn’s advice, she needed to let the baby go. She was met with an outpouring of love and support from fellow moms in the Village.
For those who have not experienced the devastation that other moms have gone through, finding the right words that will comfort may be hard. But for someone who’s just suffered a painful loss, letting them know you’re there to listen is what they need — and more often than not, that is already enough.
For most moms, whether you deliver your child naturally or via C-section is not an issue. Still, however, a few feel like they deprive their babies if they don’t give birth vaginally. That way of thinking should be a thing of the past, though, as C-section moms are now also taking control of their belly births by having a gentle C-section.
A gentle C-section allows the new mom immediate skin-to-skin contact with her newborn to stimulate bonding and breastfeeding, and in some cases, they use clear surgical drapes so the mom can see her baby being born. Pregnant ladies can even request to dim the lights, have their choice of songs be played in the background, and more, as long as their birth hospital allows them.
Using clear surgical drapes is not an entirely new idea, but not all hospitals have them, and it’s only recently that their use has been documented in birth photography. (One of these C-section birth photos with clear drapes even won an award.) Birth photographer and doula Tracey Abney shared a couple’s gentle C-section story and photos with Buzzfeed News.
Allison and Bennet, of Madison, Alabama, had their first child three years ago via natural vaginal delivery. They hoped for their next baby to be delivered in a similar way, but at 20 weeks, Allison was diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition wherein the placenta is too close to or blocks the cervix. Ergo, the baby couldn’t pass through. The couple had hoped their circumstances would change, but researched on family-friendly C-Section births just the same.
When it was certain Allison would undergo a C-section, they made a birth plan with the help of their doula Tracey, herself a mom, knows how moms could feel helpless and powerless not being “involved” in their own birth experience because she is the last person in the room to see her baby.
Included in Allison and Brent’s gentle C-section and family-friendly birth plan are immediate skin-to-skin contact and the use of clear surgical drapes which their birth hospital offers; they simply had to request it beforehand to make sure a clear surgical drape is available on the date of Allison’s scheduled C-section.
Before the C-section, hospital staff set up the standard blue with the clear drapes behind it. Abney clarified that the surgery part of the procedure is done with blue drapes up—you don’t actually watch doctors do the incision or stitch you up. When it’s time for the doctors to “deliver” the baby, that’s the only time they would pull the blue drapes down so the mom could see her baby being born. Doctors cut the baby’s umbilical cord, too, with the blue drapes down before putting it up again to finish the procedure, while letting the mom and baby have their skin-to-skin time.
That’s exactly what happened during Allison’s gentle C-section. She had Brent and her doula by her side, and all of them witnessed the birth of her son (Brent is a little squeamish so the doctors and nurses were careful to cover up the bloody parts and the medical instruments used before pulling down the blue drapes).
“Just like with our first child, seeing our baby for the first time will be cherished forever,” Allison wrote on Love What Matters. “Our goal was to not miss out on any part of the beautiful birth experience just because we were scheduled to have a C-Section. And thanks to our amazing doctors, nurses, and doula, we had an amazing and beautiful birth experience,” she added.
“The clear drape allowed Allison to be an active participant in their baby’s birth,” Abney wrote in Love What Matters. “She was able to see him the moment he was out of the womb. She was able to watch the moment her son was born, and the moment he took his first breath. She was able to see his features, his hair, his chubby little cheeks, and legs. [She was] able to not only hear him cry but [also] watch his lip quiver with the sound. She got to watch the umbilical cord being cut,” she added.
Allison told Buzzfeed News, “I believe every woman who wants a clear drape, wants that skin-to-skin immediately after, wants an extra person in the O.R. for that comfort for mom and dad, that they should receive that. As long as everyone is healthy and safe I believe that a cesarean birth can be just and beautiful and special as a vaginal birth.”
If you’re a Filipina, you probably know someone — or have been diagnosed yourself — with polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS.
According to Dr. Maynila Domingo, an obstetrician-gynecologist at ManilaMed in Ermita, Manila, “Overall, at least one in 15 women of reproductive age will be affected by PCOS, making it the most common endocrine (a.k.a. hormonal) disorder among this age group,”
PCOS’ exact cause is unknown, but it’s characterized by an imbalance in reproductive hormones. The imbalance has a symptom that have made many Filipinas head to their doctor: irregular menstruation.
Unfortunately, many women wait up to a year since their last menstruation before they consult a doctor, based on Dr. Domingo’s experience.
PCOS doesn’t just manifest as irregular menses. Those who have it may experience heavy menstrual bleeding. Dr. Doming adds, “Either wala talaga or sobrang duguin (either no bleeding or a heavy one).”
Irregular menstruation is only one of three symptoms that are common to those with PCOS. “To be able to diagnose the condition, you have to have at least two out of three,” said Dr Domingo.
- Irregular menstruation because the patient does not ovulate on a regular basis
- Excess body hair (like on the upper lip and chin) and acne due to high levels of androgen, a male sex hormone, in the body.
- Having follicular cysts, measuring at least 9mm in diameter, on one or both your ovaries. This is checked by a doctor via an ultrasound. “[The follicular cysts] hindi ito bukol,” Dr. Domingo clarified. “Ito yung characteristic ng ovary dahil may problema ang pasyente sa production ng hormones, pero hindi siya bukol per se.”
“Women of all races and ethnicities are at risk for PCOS. The risk is further increased in women who have a family history of the disease, are obese, and have diabetes,” she said.
Infertility and other health risks of PCOS
PCOS is a lifelong disease. The hormonal imbalance can extend up to the post-menopausal stage. “It will affect the woman’s life all throughout. Why is this a problem? The condition is also associated with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart problems. They can also have a higher risk of developing cancer, which is why early diagnosis is important.”
PCOS is also related to infertility. Dr. Domingo explains, “Sa sobrang taas ng level ng androgen, yung hormone na pang-lalaki, naaapektuhan niya yung pag-produce ng babae ng egg [cell]. ‘Di ka nago-ovulate so it causes infertility.” (It is called chronic anovulation.)
PCOS causes more than 75 percent of cases of anovulatory infertility, according to Dr. Domingo. And for women with PCOS who do get pregnant, there is increased risk of miscarriages, preterm birth, gestational hypertension, and gestational diabetes.
Treatment involves fertility pills and a healthy lifestyle. Some patients sometimes disregard the latter, says the ob-gyn, but it’s just as crucial to preventing PCOS from progressing to the health problems mentioned above. “The mainstay of treatment for PCOS is lifestyle modification. Proper diet and exercise to maintain normal BMI is very crucial to achieve regulation of hormone levels.”
Dr. Eileen Manalo, an ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinologist at St. Luke’s Center for Advanced Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, says the same. PCOS is tied to insulin resistance, she explains, so weight control and physical activity are necessary. “It’s what I always advocate. There are many patients who get pregnant easily or their periods become regular after weight loss.”
There are women who don’t find out about PCOS until they are struggling to get pregnant. Don’t hesitate to consult with a doctor for any irregularities in your menstrual cycle.
“There is no cure for PCOS, but you can manage the symptoms of PCOS. You and your doctor will work on a treatment plan based on your symptoms, your plans for children, and your risk for long-term health problems such as diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr. Domingo.
Of all the roles women play, being a mom is rewarding, but there is no doubt it is the most challenging. Whether you’re a mom who manages the home, runs a business, or has a career, you have a lot of things on your plate. And even then, there are times when we STILL think we’re not doing enough.
We think it’s time to prove to the doubters — and we’re talking about you, mom — that we are all doing the best we can. We believe moms are superwomen, but even superheroes can’t do everything that needs to be done. If you’re not convinced, a recent study gives an almost precise measure of how any hours moms allot for, well, motherhood.
Researchers observed about 2,000 moms of school-aged kids (aged 5 to 12) in the U.S. and followed them as they shuttled their kids to and from school, extracurricular activities, doctor appointments, and playdates, and more. The goal was to discover hacks, tools, resources, and techniques moms use to keep their family life going, but it also gave people a look into their everyday life.
While the study, commissioned by juice giant Welch’s, is based a particular demographic of American moms, the findings closely resemble the state of Pinoy mothers who have babies and toddlers as well. The results show that an average mom starts her day at 6:23 in the morning and ends at 8:31 p.m. Based on our experience, many Filipina moms start their day at 4 a.m., and it ends at 11 p.m.
In any case, that’s almost 14 hours a day or 98 hours a week, which is equivalent to working two and a half full-time jobs, according to the researchers. Those 14 hours is just for all things related to being a mom. Imagine if a woman has a business, a career, or a home to manage.
The moms in the study revealed they only get to spend an average of one hour for themselves out of the 24 hours in a day. Four out of the 10 moms in the survey described their life as accomplishing one task after another and trying to cross out every item in their never-ending to-do list. Because even when a mom isn’t physically with her kids, she’s still busy with tasks for them.
“The results of the survey highlight just how demanding the role of mom can be and the non-stop barrage of tasks it consists of,” Casey Lewis, M.S., R.D. and Health & Nutrition lead at Welch’s told Yahoo News. “Anything that can be done to make mom’s life a little bit easier can make all the difference.”
What are the things that aid moms in keeping their sanity and the family life as smooth as possible? The research sums it up with a list of things that the moms tagged as “lifesavers,” or things that help them so much they probably couldn’t live without it. Working Mother Research Institute reveals these are the moms’ lifesavers’ top five:
- Baby wipes or wet wipes
- Kids’ TV channels and shows
- Drive-thru meals
Also included in the list are grandparents, a reliable nanny, a constant supply of coffee, being able to put on an effective angry voice, healthy snacks, a stash of toys, and of course wine and the ability to nap. “Husband” didn’t make the top five, and it’s unclear if they made the list at all. It could be a hint though that while there are more hands-on dads today, moms still do many of the child-rearing duties.
Being a mom means multitasking a lot, and we need all the help they can get — and you need to be able to recognize that you need help and learn to ask for help. One can only go on for some time without enough rest. You don’t want to be sickbecause then you might end up doing twice as much work after recovering.
Moms, you need to make you a priority, too.
Co-sleeping, where a parent and her child sleep in the same bed, is common in the Philippines. But doctors are urging parents not to co-sleep with their infants at least until your baby knows how to roll over due to the risk of death due to suffocation, strangulation, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
In the United States, “the number of babies dying from accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed skyrocketed 184% from 1999 to 2015,” according to new statistics released this February by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), reports WebMD.
In the AAP’s updated safe sleep recommendations, the guidelines state that co-sleeping should be avoided “preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months.” Moreover, babies should “share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface,” says the AAP.
The separate sleeping surface can be a crib or bassinet placed in the same room where mom and dad sleep. This room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
Co-sleeping with an infant be more natural during night feedings, but the risks are not worth it. Even for breastfeeding mothers, the AAP still recommends avoiding co-sleeping. At night, you can feed on your bed but place your baby back in his sleeping surface after. “If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed,” says Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a co-author of the AAP safe sleep report.
Another reason why co-sleeping is dangerous for infants of a parent’s bed, which is rarely bare. A baby’s sleeping space should only have a firm mattress and a tight-fitting bed sheet — no pillows, blankets, stuffed toys or any other soft items as these also pose risks for accidental suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS.
When you place your baby down to sleep, remember that he should be lying down on his back as well. “Over the past several years, research has learned a vital lesson that can help reduce the risk of having SIDS — keep the babies on their back when they sleep,” explains Dr. Philip S. Chua, the chairman of cardiovascular surgery at Cebu Doctors’ Hospital. This should be followed until the baby is 1 year old.
“The old teaching was that the babies should sleep on their tummy. That advice was abandoned because of the observation that the prevalence of SIDS was very low among those babies who slept on their back, and higher among those who slept on their stomach,” adds Dr. Chua.
As WebMD points out, a baby placed on his side can roll over on his stomach. It’s a position that “puts your baby’s face in the mattress or sleeping area, which can smother him.”
“Once your baby can roll over both ways, which usually happens around 6 months, he may not stay on his back. That’s okay. It’s fine to let him choose his own sleep position once he knows how to roll over,” WebMD adds.
SIDS, or the unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby during sleep, is not entirely preventable, but following safe sleep rules helps reduce the risk.
No matter how many times you’ve discussed your birth plan with your doctor, it’s very likely that you’re going to encounter a few unexpected things on your actual delivery date. When the going gets tough, the best thing an expecting mom can do is to not panic and manage her expectations. Here’s a list of unexpected things you should brace yourself for:
You will feel labor pains that do not necessarily mean you’re about to give birth.
There are contractions that may come and go in short bursts, which are called false labor pains or Braxton Hicks. They are described as a tightening in the abdomen, minus the regular intervals.
True labor happens when your contractions come at regular intervals for 30 to 70 seconds. Gradually, the contractions come closer and stronger together. You will most likely feel the pain coming from the lower back, all the way to the front abdomen.
You may feel your child shift position a few hours before actual labor.
This is called “lightening”—it’s when your child positions himself down into your pelvic area. Your baby will descend from under your ribcage, which can put pressure on your rectum. However, not all moms experience lightening pre-labor, so unless you actually feel it during your delivery day, there’s no need to panic.
You may not feel your water break.
Not all pregnant women will feel the water gush down when their water breaks. In fact, it only happens to one out of four pregnant women. The risk of infection to your baby increases when the amniotic sac breaks, so get in touch with your doctor as soon as it happens.
Upon admission, the doctor will conduct a vaginal examination. The frequency of the examination depends on the rate of progress during labor. If the water bag already broke, fewer examinations will be performed to prevent infections that can affect the baby.
Since your little one will be squeezed, compressed, and pushed during labor, fetal monitoring is required in order to gauge the response of the baby’s heartbeat to the contractions of the uterus.
Lastly, if you’re in active labor and your cervix is around five to six centimeters, an epidural anesthesia will be given.
It’s not something to be embarrassed about! Do what comes naturally—push when you feel the urge unless your doctor tells you otherwise. And since all of your energy is on the perineal area, it’s not uncommon for your body to push out anything in your rectum.
Don’t feel bad about it—nurses with sterile pads will be there to clean up after you during the whole process.
Your baby will be given an “oil bath” once he’s out of the womb.
After doctors and nurses suction out excess mucus and any secretions from your baby’s mouth and nose, he will be cleaned using a gauze with baby oil. This will eventually be followed by a warm bath, using a gentle soap.
Once you bring your baby home from the hospital, you will need to give him a bath at least twice a week with warm water and a mild soap like Baby Dove.
It all sounds nerve-wracking, but it’s all part of the delivery. Once you’ve done your research and oriented yourself with the things that can happen, the worrying can stop and the actual preparations can start.
It would be wise to prepare for all of baby’s firsts at home way before your delivery date. Research on trusted brands like Baby Dove—not only are its products mild, but it also helps moisturize baby’s skin making it less prone to rashes and allergies. From a mild hair-to-toe wash to a soothing lotion, you are sure to keep your baby’s skin smooth and moisturized.
And when things don’t go the way you want them to, be flexible and have an open communication with your doctor. Don’t worry and remember that there are no perfect moms, just real ones. #RealMoms
In this day and age, parents can capture almost everything their kids do: Cute smile, adorable first words, grades in school, beautiful OOTDs, and a whole lot more. This treasure trove gets stored in our phones, computers and electronic gadgets, of course. But more often than not it finds its way first on our social media for our family and friends to see.
Whenever there’s a cute photo or a funny video of my baby that I want to share on social media, I ask myself to post or not to post? In my heart, I want to shout to the world how proud I am when she shows her charming smile, when she hits her milestones early, and when she does silly things. But sometimes my mind says, “Naku, baka nauumay na sila.”
Is it so wrong to overshare? I asked my fellow moms about their opinions, and here’s what they have to say.
Katrina Del Rosario, mom to Keiko, 3, shares photos twice or thrice a week, and she looks forward to her friends’ baby posts as well. “Sharing stuff about them is one way to put good vibes out there. Innocent and cute kids are what we all need to see at least 10 times a day or more.”
It used to cross her mind that people might get tired of too much posting. But Kat said parents would understand and won’t judge the tons of baby posts on their feed. “My wall is only for those who appreciate, and I have friends and relatives who like what I post. Why would I care about the rest? They can unfollow anytime. My Facebook account is my way to have a little space on the Internet. Deal with it.”
For Jacquelyn Francisco, mom to Hans, 4, and Pia, 11 months old, sharing her kids’ milestones on social media is a good avenue to update her family and friends. Her Facebook account is set to private, however, and she does not accept strangers’ requests to be friends.
“I don’t mind being flooded with baby posts. But I understand not all people are happy with that. We cannot please everybody, anyway. But if our Facebook friends are indeed our friends, I’m sure they are happy to know and share our happiness.”
Jacquelyn adds she finds a parent’s post often helpful. “I even get to know products which they use for their kids or places they go to with their kids, and I can immediately ask my friends for feedback.”
Mayet Pua, mom to Zeia, 5, and Zane, 1, posts about her kids on social media every time she feels like sharing it, which can happen one to five times a week. “We share the memorable experiences and moments that make us feel happy and proud of our kids.”
She also does not mind seeing a lot of posts about kids from other parents and friends. “People’s varying tolerance of each other’s’ post applies to any topic, be it political, social, religious, or too much baby posts. It’s normal to have different reactions, and it’s not something I bother myself with.”
Vanessa Joy Dadufalza, mom to Vikka, 4, says, “Everything in excess is bad, as long as it’s not posting/sharing excessively and not posted as public it’s fine with me. Nothing that would embarrass my daughter is okay.”
Tin Lalchandani, mom to Sarika, 3, sees nothing wrong with posting a lot of stuff about her kid on social media. That said, she says, parents should inform themselves of the risks involved (e.g., privacy) and guard those risks (e.g., limit which info to share, and to whom you share that info).
Clarins De Jesus, mom to Gabe, 3, is careful about who her audience is, and she prefers it if people will ask her permission before posting a photo or video of her daughter. “I filter what I post. If I know my kid will be embarrassed by the photo/video in the future, I prefer not to post it.”
Chesca Borromeo-Padilla, mom to Noelle, 2, and a baby boy on the way, only posts occasionally. “I am a bit modest when it comes to sharing photos and videos of my daughter on social media. I share them privately with loved ones via messenger apps instead.”
For Chesca, sharing the joys of parenthood is always a good thing especially parents nowadays are information driven. “It always pays to be well-informed. Now there’s an array of approaches on how to raise a child; it is just a matter of choosing what works for your family.”
Sheila Manzate-Rapatalo, mom to Sophia Ryanne, 4.5, looks at posting photos and videos as a way to connect and bring a smile to family and friends. “I think sharing in itself can’t be classified as good or bad (except on sensitive photos of course). But otherwise, for me, just take posts for its face value. Don’t put any meaning behind it.”
May Camacho used to get annoyed by too many baby posts. But it all changed when she became a mom to daughter Lucia, 1. She admits, “I thought those parents were so full of themselves, their perfect lives, perfect babies, just too much for me. You don’t fully fathom what it’s like until you become a mom. But now, I do not care if people get annoyed with my posts. They can always unfollow or hide my posts if they wish to.”
While she welcomes baby posts, she has also learned to veer away from some pages. May said “I slowly unfollowed some of them. It is but human to compare but seeing how ‘perfect’ they frame their lives doesn’t add value to mine. I want to cherish and celebrate my baby on her own, without comparison and competition.”
Sasha Belmonte, mom to Hope, 2, fears that her daughter’s photos would end up in the wrong hands especially now that nothing seems private on social media. But she still shares pictures of her daughter.
I asked if other parents’ post affect her parenting style. Sasha replied, “Sometimes, we think that other parents have it way easier than we have, that they are better parents, that their kid is smarter than ours or vice versa. We should not let these ‘post worthy’ statuses affect us. After all, we are parents who do what we think is best for our kids. And we must be mindful of our motives when we are posting our ‘proud parent’ moments.”
Akira Valencia Sullano, mom to Matteo, 1, is a staunch supporter of sharing positivity and encouraging others especially first-time moms like her. “It’s all about acceptance and respect. Whether you belong to those who would like to keep her kid’s life private or the latter, it’s your preference.
“There should be a healthy balance between what we share and the frequency when doing so. If you go through my social media, you will find photos of my son’s birthday celebration, milestones, any new thing I discover about him, which is pretty much every day. But not all of them will land on my social media. I tend to be very picky on what I post especially that people in the digital world can be very critical and unforgiving to the point of bullying.”
Asked if social media has helped or affected her parenting style, Akira said, “Social media is a powerful tool to encourage, inspire and even enforce. But it’s a double-edged sword and can pose a great danger to how we manage our lives, including parenting style. Admittedly, we, millennial parents, can be competitive. We should limit ourselves from comparing our kids with others to avoid unnecessary stress and unconsciously putting senseless pressure to our child.”
Social media is a platform for sharing. Some posts about their travel and food trips; others post their selfies and relationships. A lot are posting about their political and social views (or rants). So, we, parents are just happy to share our precious children, and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. Walang basagan ng trip, right?
It’s been over a year since the Senate passed Senate Bill No. 1305, or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act. Where is it now? It’s pending with the House of Representatives (HOR), which has not approved its version, House Bill No. 4113or the Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Bill.
“We call on our representatives in Congress — including the majority floor leader, [Rodolfo] Fariñas — to please support [the bill] and be the EML champion of the respective constituencies. We call them to action and give us a reason to celebrate Women’s Month,” Shirley Yorong of IndustriALL Women-Philippines said in a press conference in a GMA News report.
GMA News reports that Yorong mentioned during the press conference that the EML bill is “stuck in second reading.”
Currently, the law provides 60 maternity leave days for women who gave birth via natural vaginal delivery and 78 for women who delivered their baby via C-section. The Philippines has the lowest number of paid maternity leave days — the International Labor Organization (ILO) recommends 90 days.
The Senate’s version of the proposal extends a new mom’s maternity leave to 120 days, with an option to transfer a maximum of 30 days to their husband, partner, or family member who can help them care for the new baby. The bill also proposes to give mothers the option to extend for another 30 days without pay.
EML, the pending bill in Congress, is a bit different. Instead of 120 days, it extends a new mom’s maternity leave for 100 paid days with the option to extend for another 30 days without pay. But the provision to transfer a maximum of 30 days to the husband, partner or family member is also included in the HOR’s version. The proposal, when enacted into law, covers women from both the private and public sector, as long as they contribute to the Social Security System or Government Service Insurance System.
The EML bill is a consolidation of a total of 15 different versions submitted, but it all sought to extend the existing 60-day maternity leave of new mothers. More than 70 lawmakers, co-authors of the proposal, recognize that Filipino mothers need more time to recover from childbirth and more time to care for their newborn child.
We agree and firmly believe that families will benefit with more extended maternity leave. Regional studies have shown that letting a new mom focus on her health, her baby, and her family before returning to work benefits not only her but also her employer.
Yorong surmises that our lawmakers need a nudge or two to prioritize passage of the bill. For starters, Congress needs to pass their version before a bicameral committee can be convened. The bicameral committee will then draft a final proposal which would be submitted to the president for his signature. Herrera-Dy hopes that the bill gets approved before March 23.
“Iregalo niyo na po sa hanay ng mga kababaihan at sa buong sambayanang Pilipino ngayong Women’s Month: Expanded Maternity Leave Bill, ipasa niyo na po,” Yorong said.
Let your voices be heard. Send your congressmen and congresswomen a letter or an email declaring your support for the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, so that we may help push this proposal to become law.
In an ideal world, every mother-to-be would have the smoothest, happiest pregnancy. Except, it doesn’t always happen.
A lot of women worry about the risks of having a miscarriage, or the loss of a fetus, which typically occurs before the 20th week of pregnancy. According to a 2003 study published in the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, one in three Filipinas have had at least one pregnancy loss in their lifetime. In the United States, roughly 15 to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.
For women who have experienced this heartbreaking loss, the guilt is overwhelming. They think the miscarriage happened because of something they did. “Maybe it’s because I unknowingly ate that raw egg yolk yesterday. Maybe it’s because I didn’t stop drinking coffee.”
The truth is most early miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities, and the mother cannot prevent or stop it from happening.
“[Miscarriages] are commonly due to abnormal chromosomes,” explains Dr. Josephine Carungay, an ob-gyn who holds clinics in Marikina (St. Anthony Medical Center, St. Victoria Hospital, and Marikina Allied Doctors Clinic) and Antipolo (Metro Antipolo Medical Center). It is possble the egg or sperm had the wrong number of chromosomes, and as a result, the fertilized egg wasn’t able to develop normally.
“In most cases, there’s nothing you can do to cause a miscarriage and nothing you can do to prevent it,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan in an interview with Parents.com. She is a medical advisor for the US-based non-profit organization March of Dimes and an attending physician in the University Hospital for Einstein in New York City.
However, there are several risk factors that may contribute to miscarriages, according to Dr. Carungay. These include:
- Age. Older women over 35 are more likely to conceive a baby with a chromosomal abnormality, which may result in a miscarriage. Forty-year-olds are about twice as likely to miscarry than 20-year-olds.
- History of miscarriages. Those who have experienced two or more miscarriages in a row are more likely to miscarry again.
- Chronic diseases or disorders. Diabetes and certain inherited blood clotting disorders, autoimmune disorders (like lupus), and hormonal disorders (like polycystic ovary syndrome) increase the risk of miscarriage.
- Uterine or cervical problems. If you have a congenital uterine abnormality (for example, you have a one-sided uterus) or a weak or incompetent cervix, your chances of having a miscarriage are higher.
- History of birth defects or genetic problems. This can come from both you or your partner’s genetic background. If you’ve given birth to a child with a birth defect, there is also a higher risk.
- Infections. Some studies indicate that infections like mumps, rubella, measles, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus, gonorrhea, HIV, and other infections pose a higher risk for miscarriage.
Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Environmental toxins like exposure to lead, arsenic, chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, and ethylene oxide, and large doses of radiation or anesthetic gases may also contribute to the risk.
You may also have an increased risk of miscarriage if you get pregnant within three months after giving birth. The World Health Organization recommendsparents to wait at least six months “to reduce risks of adverse maternal and perinatal outcomes.”
The good news is once your baby’s heartbeat has been detected by an ultrasound (usually at six weeks) your odds of having a miscarriage drops significantly.
Dr. Carungay, however, cautions: “The normal rate is 100 to 160 beats per minute. If the rate is noted as below normal, there is a chance that the pregnancy will not be successful.” But if you have no symptoms like bleeding or cramping, your odds of having a miscarriage is lower. It will continue to decrease as your pregnancy progresses week by week, according to Baby Center.
One study found that after eight weeks, your risk drops to 1.5 percent. That gives you a 98.5 percent chance of not having a miscarriage.
To lessen the incidence of miscarriage, Dr. Carungay stresses that the mother should also be at the peak of health. She offers the following reminders:
1. Before planning to get pregnant, get a proper medical workup for both you and your partner. While little is known about paternal factors affecting a miscarriage, Dr. Carungay notes that it is also usually due to abnormal chromosomes. Some studies have found a greater risk of miscarriage when the father has been exposed to mercury, lead, and some industrial chemicals and pesticides, according to BabyCenter.
2. Aim for a healthy lifestyle. Avoid drinking alcohol, illicit drugs, and smoking. “Avoid caffeine, too,” she says. “If you must have coffee, limit it to less than 200 mg per day. That’s about one 12 oz cup of coffee.”
3. Take folic acid even before conception. This is an important vitamin that promotes fertility among males and females. And if you are already pregnant, it will also prevent your baby from neural defects.
4. Listen to your doctor. Hanna Diaz, one of the moms who gave birth to a preemie baby who was just 1 pound (read here) told SmartParenting.com.ph wished she knew about her pregnancy sooner so she could have sought better prenatal care.
It might also help to educate yourself on what to expect on this pregnancy journey and what to look forward to after giving birth. Why not join our upcoming Smart Parenting Baby Shower on March 24 at Makati Diamond Residences? We have talks on childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care! Keeping yourself informed will definitely help put you at ease.
Miscarriage is a scary prospect at the start of pregnancy, but don’t let your anxieties take over. It will only lead to unwanted stress, which can affect your health and your unborn baby. Instead, focus on enjoying your pregnancy — keep the positive vibes and get rid of anything that brings you down! You can do this, mommy!
“My voice has lost some power,” says mom and writer forParent Co Curry Winters. She has three young kids and when she calls their names, “I am met with silence,” Curry shared. “Their lack of response makes me unsure if my directions are going to be followed.”
This is a scene typical of households with young kids, specifically preschoolers, who are testing out their newfound independence with defiance and stubbornness. Curry sought for solutions and found one that actually works for her: clapping a rhythm and expecting them to clap the same rhythm back to her.
Her trick is based on insight from Robert Abramson, director of the Dalcroze Institute in Manhattan, who said that a combination of rhythm and movement help school kids learn to pay attention. “You make a game of it,” he told The New York Times. And kids love games, right?
“So, I began to use a simple technique heard in many schools — a rhythmic clap that my kids have to repeat,” she said. The parenting trick grabs her kids’ attention and, because they have to respond back, also gets to stop whatever it is they’re doing. This way, they’re ready to listen to whatever she has to say. “It is clear and direct. It doesn’t make me want to scream and yell in frustration!” explained the mom.
“Clapping has become a training step in showing respect, responding in a timely manner, obedience, and how to listen for cues. It has created a habitual response that keeps their brain engaged,” she added.
Tired of yelling and want to try it at home? You want your kids to start packing up their toys, for example. You enter the room and clap to the rhythm of the first line of the Happy Birthday song. Once you’ve established the rules on what they’re supposed to do, ideally, upon hearing this, your kids will stop what they’re doing to clap the rhythm back.
Why does the trick work? It’s because connecting is the first step in communicating with your child — even you’re just telling him to get dressed or clean up. To be able to do that, you have to first get your child’s attention to make sure he’s ready to listen.
The mom achieves this through rhythmic clapping. Try this advice as well from psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Laura Markham. She said to touch your child’s arm or make a comment on what she’s doing (“I like that tower you’ve built but it’s time to clean up”) to get her attention. She added, “Don’t try to give instructions or requests from across the room. Move in close.”
Yelling isn’t something you want to happen often in your home too. First, because it can ruin your mood — and it’s not good for your vocal chords. But also, overtime, it becomes a bad habit for you and the kids.
“Your kids are effectively learning that they can ignore you until you yell, or to put it another way, that you only really mean it when you yell. And you are learning from their response to yell in order to get their attention,” said Erica Reischer, Ph.D., a psychologist, parent coach and author, in an article for Pschology Today. “Over time, this dynamic creates a dysfunctional pattern of communication that keeps everyone stuck.”
Keeping your cool is definitely a challenge when the kids are seemingly refusing to listen on purpose, but remember that it’s difficult to connect with your child — and hard for him to listen to you — when you’re yelling. (If you’re looking for a parenting trick on how to keep yourself from yelling, this mom has one that’s easy to do.)
The Department of Health (DOH) declared a measles outbreak in Zamboanga City with a reported 166 cases in the last two months alone. Rising infection rates were already seen in August 2017.
The viral respiratory disease took the life of a 6-month-old boy. He “presented all signs and symptoms of measles such as fever, rash, cough, coryza (inflammation of the membranes in the nose), conjunctivitis (eye redness), malaise (discomfort or uneasiness), and dyspnea (difficulty breathing),” said the DOH.
The outbreak was attributed to low vaccination rates. The last measles supplemental immunization conducted in the area was in 2014, according to the health agency.
Just last month, January 22, a measles outbreak was declared in Davao City, which took the lives of four children age 4 years old and below. Low vaccination coverage was also noted in the whole Davao region.
To increase vaccine coverage in Zamboanga, the DOH conducted catch-up immunization programs in affected areas in the last quarter of 2017, and an outbreak immunization response was also conducted this month.
“Although some sectors may attribute the outbreak to the Dengvaxia issue, it is actually the result of low measles vaccine coverage in the past years, which led to the accumulation of susceptible individuals,” said DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III. “Let me reiterate that vaccination is still the best protection against this particular disease.”
The Dengvaxia controversy caused many parents to fear the vaccines of other diseases. It is this unfounded and misplaced apprehension that has affected Philippine vaccination rates.
“Vaccination rates are suffering,” Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo told The Philippine Daily Inquirer. The turnout for the first DOH deworming program of the year was “very low,” and immunization programs for diseases like polio, measles, tetanus, and diphtheria have also been affected. “The parents are really afraid, but this doesn’t mean that we should be paralyzed with fear,” he said.
Both public and private health professionals continue to ask parents to bring their kids for their scheduled immunization. A statement published on the website of the Philippine Pediatrics Society reads, “The only way to continue to prevent daily epidemics of these infectious diseases is to sustain a high rate of immunization/vaccination in our population. This will not be possible if parents refuse to consent to vaccination for their children because of fear.”
The statement was signed by at least 58 Filipino doctors and scientists including Dr. Agnes D. Mejia, the dean of the College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines Manila, former DOH secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral, and Dr. Salvacion R. Gatchalian, the vice president of the Philippine Pediatric Society.
Sec. Duque urged parents to “not lose sight of the benefits” of vaccines that have been proven to be effective. A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) show a significant decline in confirmed measles cases from 2011 and 2012 — a success attributed to the government measles vaccination program.
Just November last year, WHO also announced that the Philippines has successfully eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT), a bacterial disease that is fatal to fetuses and newborns. The incidence rate of MNT in the country is now less than one tetanus case per 1,000 live births in every district. It is, again, a success attributed to a successful immunization program, this time for pregnant Filipino women.
The DOH Expanded Program on Immunization was established in 1976 and initially included shots for six vaccine-preventable diseases. Today, the national immunization program protects against many more life-threatening diseases (see a list of them here). Most of the vaccines are available in health facilities, centers and clinics for all Filipino children free of cost.
Doctors behind the statement published in PPS also stress that, to those who have had dengue in the past, Dengvaxia gives “persistent, long-term protection.” Despite this, Dengvaxia may have already, possibly irreversibly, altered Filipino parents’ view of the dengue vaccine — many fear for their children’s lives and feel anger towards those deemed responsible.
The government, working together with experts from the Philippine General Hospital, continue to investigate cases with their latest findings showing that, so far, no deaths have been caused by the vaccine.
Whatever the Dengvaxia findings reveal in the future — pushing for its safety or against it — one collective voice from the health experts stands out: Don’t lose trust in other time-tested, proven safe and effective vaccines.
When it comes to today’s children, we often think about “privilege” in terms of the access to education, income, and good neighborhoods that some children benefit from and others do not. Certainly, these three forms of privilege matter for children’s welfare and for their shot at the American Dream, as Richard Reeves reminds us in Dream Hoarders.
But there is another form of “privilege” that is often overlooked in contemporary debates about children’s welfare and futures: that of growing up in a stable two-parent family—loving and being loved by one’s two parents, who are also committed to one another and to the integrity of their family. We know that children who grow up in such a stable, married family are more likely to flourish educationally, socially, and economically.
So how many of today’s young people experience this stable family structure throughout childhood?
The answer is about one-in-two, according to our new analysis of survey data files recently released by the U.S. Department of Education.1This figure is based on the proportion of 17- and 18-year-old high school students who were reported to be living with both their married birth mothers and biological fathers in 2016.2 The fact that they were still living in such families at the culmination of their schooling means that the vast majority of them grew up in them since birth. Some may have experienced parental conflicts or temporary separations, to be sure,3 but not the kind of conflict that resulted in permanent splits. Their parents were able to work things out and the marriages endured.
As shown in Figure 1, another 15% of today’s high school seniors lived in a variety of non-traditional two-parent families in 2016: with cohabiting birth parents (2%); with one birth parent and a stepparent (11%); with a heterosexual adoptive couple (1%); or with a same-sex couple (1%). Nearly 30% of high school seniors lived in single-parent families, with either their birth mothers (23%) or biological fathers (6%).
The remaining 6% of students had experienced multiple disruptions in their family lives and resided with neither birth parent. Three percent lived with a grandmother, grandfather, or both grandparents, without their mother or father being present. One percent lived with a single step or adoptive parent. Another 2% lived with foster parents or other relatives or unrelated guardians.
More Education, More Family Stability
The more education a woman or man has, the more likely she or he is to get married and stay married when raising children. As shown in Figure 2 below, among high school seniors whose parents or guardians had a college education or more, 64% lived with married parents throughout childhood in 2016. An additional one percent lived with cohabiting birth parents.4 By contrast, among students whose parents or guardians had less than a high school education, only 29% lived with married parents from birth to the end of high school. Two percent more of these students lived with cohabiting parents. Falling between these high and low education groups were students whose parents or guardians have completed high school or have some college but no degree: 41% of these students lived with both married parents throughout childhood, and an additional 3% lived with cohabiting birth parents.
Asian-American Children Enjoy the Most Family Stability
Growing up with both parents throughout one’s childhood is more common among some racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. than among others, as shown in Figure 3. Two-thirds of Asian-American students lived with married birth parents throughout childhood, as did 58% of white students. By contrast, less than one-quarter of African-American students had experienced a stable two-parent upbringing. Hispanic-American and multiracial students had intermediate experiences: 45% of Hispanic students grew up with married birth parents, as did 35% of multiracial and other students.
Growing up with birth parents who continued to live together despite being unmarried also varies across racial and ethnic groups. It is more common among multiracial students (5%), Hispanic students (3%), and black students (3%) than among white students (1%) and Asian students (less than 1%).
The Marital Privilege
Is growing up with married birth parents advantageous for a young person’s school success and later life chances? There is abundant evidence that it is. As shown in numerous analytic studies, students with stably-married parents are more likely to do well in school and less likely to cut classes, repeat grades, be suspended or expelled, or drop out.5 And significant advantages persist after controlling for related factors like parent education level, family income and poverty status, student race and ethnicity, parent involvement, and teacher or school quality. Rich or poor, this is a type of advantage which parents from all social classes can bestow upon their children: the privilege of a growing up in a stable, married two-parent family.
Today in America, only about one-in-two children enjoy this privilege. Because the type of family in which children are raised matters a great deal to their well-being and future success, we should seek ways to enable less-educated and less-affluent parents to raise their children together in a stable family.
Nicholas Zill is a research psychologist and a senior fellow of the Institute for Family Studies. He directed the National Survey of Children, a longitudinal study that produced widely cited findings on children’s life experiences and adjustment following parental divorce.
1. The study was the 2016 National Household Education Survey, Parent and Family Involvement Component, which was a nationwide survey of parents of 14,075 school-aged children and adolescents. See https://www.nces.ed.gov/nhes
2. There were 2,828 students born in 1998 or 1999 in the NHES sample. Not all of these students were high school seniors, as some had been held back one or more grades.
3. Some may also have been born to unmarried parents who subsequently got married during the student’s childhood.
4. The parent-education level used in this tabulation was that of the more educated parent or guardian in the young person’s household.
5. For example, see: Nicholas Zill & Christine Winquist Nord (1994), Running In Place: How American Families Are Faring In A Changing Economy and An Individualistic Society. Washington, DC: Child Trends. Nicholas Zill & W. Bradford Wilcox, (2016). Strong Families, Successful Students: Family Structure and Student Performance in Ohio. Charlottesville, VA: Institute for Family Studies. Paul Amato, “The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Well-Being of the Next Generation,” Future of Children, 15, no. 2 (2005): 75-96; Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1994); Nicholas Zill, “Family Change and Student Achievement: What We Have Learned, What It Means for Schools,” in Family-School Links: How Do They Affect Educational Outcomes?, ed. Alan Booth and Judith F. Dunn (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1996).
Late last year in this space, I offered an overview of a report from Senator Mike Lee’s Social Capital Project about the rise of unwed childbearing. Today, two-fifths of children are born to unmarried mothers, a phenomenon the report traced to declining birth rates among married women, rising birth rates among unmarried women, a fall in “shotgun marriages,” and a decline in marriage itself.
On Valentine’s Day, the project released some additional charts breaking the numbers out by race and educational attainment. The simple way to summarize them is this: In terms of race, old disparities have persisted as unmarried childbearing has risen among all groups. In terms of education, by contrast, we are seeing what Charles Murray called “coming apart”: Nothing much has changed for the highly educated, while the less educated are having children out of wedlock at increasing rates.
Below is the main chart on race. About 70% of black children and more than half of Hispanic children are born out of wedlock today. These figures are far higher than they were decades ago and considerably higher than the rates for whites and those of “other” races—but rates for everyone rose over time.
Source: Social Capital Project, 2018
Another striking chart documents the decline of “shotgun marriage” following an unwed pregnancy. Again, there is both a racial disparity and a dramatic trend over time, but all racial groups saw a big change in the same direction.
Source: Social Capital Project, 2018
The trend is even more dramatic for women under 30 giving birth for the first time. Shotgun marriage was once the norm for white women in this category; now it’s rare for all groups.
Source: Social Capital Project, 2018
Things look different in terms of education. This is a hard trend to sort out because educational attainment has grown over time—those without a high-school degree, for example, are a highly disadvantaged sliver of today’s population but were quite common half a century ago. To address this issue, the authors “defined three categories of educational attainment in each five-year group, attempting to the extent possible to keep each group the same relative size. That is, ‘low education’ in earlier years corresponds to fewer years of schooling than ‘low education’ in more recent years, but roughly the same share of women is in this group every year.”
Here are the overall numbers on the percentage of children born out of wedlock:
Source: Social Capital Project, 2018
As Murray argued, the highly educated are holding on to older family patterns while the less educated are drifting away from them. Perhaps surprisingly, this is evident even in shotgun marriage—the highly educated are more likely than others to marry after an unwed pregnancy, and have changed their behavior less over time:
Source: Social Capital Project, 2018
Unfortunately, though, it is not entirely clear what can be done about any of this. “Reviving shotgun marriage would surely do less for children than reversing the growth in nonmarital pregnancy,” the authors write. “At the very least, nonmarital childbearing—and the forces behind its rise—should be of great concern when considering the wellbeing of children.”
“American Women Are Having Fewer Children Than They’d Like,” I recently noted in an article for The New York Times. The article generated pushback, especially from progressives who charged me with ignoring the role that public policy may be playing in keeping American women from realizing their ideal number of children. Take this tweet about my article from Jill Filipovic:
Also telling to see an article hand-wringing about fertility decline, written by a man, that takes the time to blame birth control, lack of sex, and smartphones, but doesn’t mention paid parental leave, affordable childcare, or pregnancy discrimination.
Filipovic raises the possibility that better public policy could help eliminate the gap between women’s achieved and desired fertility. The truth is, that’s a reasonable thing to think: if fertility is low, wouldn’t government policies fix it? Indeed, on the right, this usually looks like expanding tax preferences aimed at childbearing and family. On the left, this usually means either more open immigration or else family-friendly workplace rules in line with the ideas mentioned by Filipovic. But while it seems intuitive, is it actually true that giving extensive paid family leave would boost fertility? Will women get closer to having as many kids as they say they want?
These questions are especially interesting because a number of scholars and politicians have proposed that “feminism is the new natalism.” By this, they mean that nations that pass policies designed to make it easier for women to juggle work and family, afford children, and share caregiving with fathers are likely to enjoy higher fertility levels.
So, is it true that countries with more progressive public policies (and gender norms) are avoiding the recent drop in fertility the United States has experienced?
The most straightforward way to test this is to look at places where such policies do exist. The most extensive family support programs in the world exist in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland). All five countries provide direct payments to families with children, generous paid parental leave, and heavily subsidized public childcare. But does it have any impact on fertility?
The answer seems to be no. Or at least, not very much.
As the above figure shows, the Nordic countries and the United States have seen similar fertility trends in the last 35 years: troughs in the early or mid 1980s, a peak around the early 1990s, decline into the new millennium, then another peak just around the onset of the Great Recession, and, for the most part, decline ever since. Kid-friendly Finland, Norway, and Iceland have all seen declines as steep or steeper than in the United States. Sweden’s decline is slightly less pronounced, and Denmark has managed an increase in recent years; more on that below.
The key thing to note here is that U.S. age-adjusted fertility has usually been higher than most of the Nordic countries, despite less public support for childbearing. And it’s not because we have so much higher desired fertility either. In a 2011 Eurobarometer survey, near-completion-age women in Denmark and Finland both had higher ideal fertility than American women, Sweden was just a bit lower, and Norway and Iceland were left out of the EU-focused survey. In other words, despite generous childbearing support, Nordic women wantedmore kids, but ultimately had fewer kids, than American women.
We can look at the specific policy history in at least one country as well to see what’s going on. For example, the chart below shows Swedish fertility, with highlighted areas showing instances of increases in the generosity of family benefits (there have been no unambiguous decreases of which I am aware).
There is no association between increases in family benefits and fertility. Assessing these as time-series interventions yields no significant results: Nordic-style policies just don’t budge fertility all that much. Similar results show up for other Nordic countries. While some policy interventions do have limited, especially short-term, effects, the average Nordic-style policy intervention doesn’t do very much for age-adjusted fertility. The academic literature on leave is mixed, but tends to show that there are substantial effects on short-term fertility as women pull births forward. But as I’ve discussed for financial incentives for childbearing, long-term effects are very modest, and many papers suggest there are no long-term effects at all.
The most compelling and widely cited paper on the topic suggests that adding an entire year of paid leave boosted the odds a woman had an extra birth within 3 years from about 32% to about 40%. Decomposing into annual odds, that comes to about 9.7% odds in a year before leave extension to about 11.7% after. Put in U.S. terms, that’s like saying a year of paid leave might boost the total fertility rate from 1.77 births per woman to about 1.81. That’s something. But it’s not a lot. A year of paid leave would also have significant impacts on employment, wages, or government costs, depending on how it is financed, so, as for financial incentives, we’re talking about a lot of cash for a little bit of fertility gain.
But it may be worthwhile to look at an example country in greater detail. While the U.S. has generally had higher fertility than Sweden, in recent years, that’s swapped, and Sweden is beating us!
Why? Is it that Nordic policies are finally turning the tide on fertility through generous social policies?
Nope! It’s immigration. This next figure shows fertility in the U.S. and Sweden, and also for Non-Hispanic Whites in the U.S., and Swedes born to two ethnic Swedish parents. The Swedish data is approximated based on the share of newborns who have two Swedish parents; actual TFR-by-ancestry data is not available from Sweden’s public statistical website, but while the exact level may be off, the general trend should be about right.
And that trend is down, indeed, down at about the same pace as the United States.
So why is Sweden’s fertility rising? It’s rising because of non-Swedes, particularly immigrants from non-Western countries, and, in recent years, asylum-seekers from conflicted countries in Africa and the Middle East. Sweden has experienced incredibly high immigration in recent years; much higher inflow rates than the United States, and of largely lower-skilled individuals from high-fertility countries. That’s a recipe for higher fertility! The chart below shows that parts of Sweden with faster growth in the foreign-born population are also the parts with the best performance for age-adjusted fertility.
Now, if unlimited inflows of low-skilled immigrants from high-fertility countries qualifies as a “Nordic” policy then, sure, Nordic policies can boost fertility. But nowadays, the countries sending many immigrants to the United States, like China, India, and Latin America, have pretty low fertility too. We would have to ramp up inflows of immigrants from the interior of Africa or parts of the Middle East to get the bonus Sweden is experiencing.
Ancestry data is also available for Denmark, and in this case direct ancestry data, so it’s not approximated. And there we see that, in fact, Danish-ancestry women have higher fertility than Denmark on the whole! However, non-Western immigrants in Denmark have even higher fertility than Danish women and are a growing group.
But Denmark’s case is curious. Denmark is experiencing a positive fertility swing while other countries are declining, and it isn’t driven by immigration. What’s going on?
According to the 2011 Eurobarometer survey, Danish women have comparatively high ideal fertility, one of the higher ideal fertility rates in the European Union. In fact, desired fertility throughout the Nordic countries seems to be a bit above the Europe-wide average, which may surprise American readers who associate secularism with lower value placed on children. In fact, the lowest desired fertility rates in Europe, outside of formerly communist countries, are the southern European, Catholic strongholds of Italy, Portugal, Malta, and Spain.
Using a variety of government surveys and surveys conducted for academic publication, I’ve assembled a time series of ideal fertility for Denmark (Eurobarometer data, and also various recent academic studies), Sweden (Eurobarometer), Finland, and the United States (General Social Survey). And what it shows is striking.
Desired fertility has plummeted in Finland, and the limited data for Sweden suggests a similar trend may be ongoing. By contrast, desired fertility has remained essentially stable in Denmark, and has actually risen in the United States. This helps explain what’s happening. In Finland and perhaps also Sweden, fertility is falling because, since the recession, something is changing with cultural values for Finns and Swedes: women simply want fewer kids. This isn’t a long-running Nordic trait, but something fairly new. In Denmark, fertility fell during the recession, but fertility desires were more stable, so they bounced back post-recession.
U.S. fertility, meanwhile, has not bounced back, despite slightly rising ideal fertility. It is possible that Nordic-style family support policies can help explain how Denmark’s people were able to afford a fertility rebound so quickly.
On the other hand, maybe it’s dumb luck. Denmark is a very tiny country, and idiosyncratic factors hard to capture in the data could have large effects. Even amid general U.S. fertility decline, states as varied as Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, Louisiana, and West Virginia have managed to achieve multi-year periods of increasing total fertility rates. Random noise in the data can create the appearance of important differences.
And there are good reasons to think Denmark’s boom may be due to fleeting, idiosyncratic effects. First of all, Denmark did not significantly change the generosity of its family and child subsidies in recent years: inflation-adjusted outlays per child on child allowances of various kinds are basically unchanged for a decade or more. Nor did Denmark experience some religious revival: the share of births baptized in the Church of Denmark continues to decline, according to official statistics, even as the share of marriages officiated by a minister of the Church of Denmark also declines. Leave-taking can’t explain the change either, as parents actually take less leave per child as of 2015 than they did in 2009 or earlier. As for public child care, that also doesn’t seem to be the source: Denmark is experiencing above-general-inflation-rate increases in daycare rates, much like the U.S.
Meanwhile, there is a modest correlation between a recent drop in school enrollment and an increase in fertility. It is possible that something has recently changed regarding how much Danish women value getting a master’s degree, inducing more to prioritize a child first. The scatterplot below shows that age-cohort change in school enrollment is a reasonable predictor of change in age-specific birth rates.
But it’s not clear what’s causal here: did higher births induce less schooling? Or was schooling eschewed to enable more births?
One major factor we can probably rule out for Denmark is the economy. Employment-to-population has not recovered at all since the recession for prime-fertility-age Danes.
Whatever the cause, this boom is likely fleeting. The first three-quarters of monthly birth data for Denmark suggest that 2017 total fertility is likely to come in slightly below 2016, which may be the beginning of a new decline as Denmark converges to its neighbors’ fertility trends.
In sum, we don’t know exactly why fertility is falling across so much of the developed world. The persistent decline in fertility currently being experienced is nearly unmatched in its global breadth and its severity since the end of the baby boom in the 1960s and 1970s. But there’s one thing we do know: government policy tools, Nordic-style or otherwise, appear to have very limited impacts on long-term fertility. They may be good for other reasons, of course (I for one think more family leave for parents would be a great thing!), but their impact on women’s ability to achieve their desires is ambiguous at best.
In recent years, women empowerment had preggos reclaim the power to decide how they want to welcome their little ones into the world, as long as it doesn’t out their life and their baby’s life in danger. Moms wanting to try and push for a natural non-medicated birth is no longer just a trend.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new recommendations for childbirth practices all over the world. That is, to reduce unnecessary medical interventions for healthy pregnant women. Women in the old days have welcome babies naturally did it successfully, and it’s still possible to do so today.
“We want women to give birth in a safe environment with skilled birth attendants in well-equipped facilities. However, the increasing medicalization of normal childbirth processes are undermining a woman’s own capability to give birth and negatively impacting her birth experience,” said Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents, via a press release.
The new WHO guidelines on intrapartum care recognize that every labor and childbirth is unique, as is every pregnancy is also unique. “If labor is progressing normally, and the woman and her baby are in good condition, they do not need to receive additional interventions to accelerate labor,” Dr. Simelela stressed.
As such, the previous benchmark for how fast a pregnant woman’s cervix should dilate or open up in the early stages of labor (one centimeter/hour) no longer applies. “The guideline emphasizes that a slower cervical dilation rate alone should not be a routine indication for intervention to accelerate labor or expedite birth,” the statement said.
Apart from this significant change, the WHO now pushes for a more woman-centered approach to labor and childbirth. It means prioritizing these recommendations:
- Ensuring respectful and dignified care, regardless of the women’s income or financial capability.
- Letting pregnant women choose a companion to be by their side.
- Encouraging women to move around freely during early labor.
- Providing women the necessary information on pain relief options.
- Having clear communications between pregnant women, health professionals, and health providers.
- Maintaining privacy and confidentiality of the women’s choices.
- Allowing women to make decisions about pain management, labor and birth positions, and the natural urge to push.
“Even when medical intervention is wanted or needed, the inclusion of women in making decisions about the care they receive is important to ensure that they meet their goal of a positive childbirth experience,” Ian Askew, WHO Director, Department of Reproductive Health and Research said in a statement.
Still, giving birth in itself is a risk, and it can be unpredictable even for women who have healthy pregnancies.While natural birth is the goal for healthy pregnancies, sometimes medical interventions may be necessary. Keep this in mind when you make your birth plan; it is still not set in stone, but trust that your requests are fulfilled as long as they don’t put you or your baby in danger.
The new WHO guidelines are based on 56 evidence-based recommendations on what type of care should be given to pregnant women in labor and care for her and her baby immediately after childbirth. It’s in line with the position of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) released last year.
Moms and dads will do anything to protect their kids and keep them safe from harm. It’s entirely understandable — when you love someone so much, you can get a little paranoid at everything that can hurt that person. Even the sight of your little one running just a bit too fast can make you yell from across the playground, “Be careful!”
Mom and photographer Josée, who has three children and runs the blog Backwoods Mama, thinks we should stop saying those two words though. As a nature lover, the Canada-based mom is a big advocate of letting kids play outdoors and exploring nature as a family. “You can often find us hiking, biking, camping, rock climbing and skiing,” she wrote on her blog.
Adventurous as their family is, seeing her kids in rather precarious situations still makes the mom nervous. Talking about her kids playing on the big fallen tree near their home, she shared, “They’ve crossed the log many times, but each time they do I hold my breath in anticipation…and stop myself from blurting out ‘be careful!’ a hundred times over.’”
Why does she think “be careful” is not something we should say to kids? It’s not specific enough, she explained in a post. Such a broad and vague instruction could mean anything or nothing to a child. Your child could ignore you because she doesn’t really understand what you want her to do. She could also give you a look of confusion, or after hearing the panic in your voice, she would run to you, scared that something bad is going to happen.
In an article on hyperactivity in children, developmental and behavioral pediatrician Dr. Ma. Theresa Arranz-Lim told SmartParenting.com.ph, advises, “Be specific. Say something like, ‘I want you to sit here and not touch anything while you wait for me to finish.’ Tell your child exactly how you expect them to behave.”
You can even curb future misbehavior this way if your instructions stick, like when you say, “Sit on your chair when you’re at the dinner table” instead of just saying “No!”
Josée’s final point against saying “be careful” is that it can instill fear in children. “It teaches kids that they should avoid taking risks, trying new things and making mistakes because bad things could happen,” she said. “Yes, bad things can happen, but kids need to engage in risky and challenging play for healthy growth and development.”
Children are naturally curious about the world around them and the need to explore can result in scrapes and bruises. “Our fear of children being harmed (mostly in minor ways) may result in more fearful children,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of early-childhood education at Queen Maud University College, according to The Atlantic.
Think of it as prep for adulthood. “In the real world, life is filled with risks — financial, physical, emotional, social – and reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development,” said Joe Frost, a safety consultant from John Carroll University.
So, what should you do instead? Of course, when your child is in danger, you should act immediately. But, if you’ve stopped and assessed the situation and realized that there’s no immediate harm, try helping them become aware of potential harm (like how you are) and let them figure things out for themselves, said Josée.
For example, if the sidewalk is wet from the rain on your way home, say something like, “See how the ground is wet and could be slippery?” Or, if your child is trying to pour himself a glass of water, but you’re afraid she might drop the pitcher and hurt herself, say, “There might be a better way to do this. Try gripping the bottom of the pitcher too.”
Are you convinced enough to try it out, mom?
Many moms say it’s only hard at the beginning, and as soon as you and your baby get your rhythm, breastfeeding will be effortless eventually. Still, sometimes, it doesn’t always go according to plan, as Valerie “Bangs” Garcia recently found out.
The new mom, who gave birth to daughter Amelia in the U.K. three months ago, revealed she developed an infection after her C-section operation. While on antibiotics, her breast milk supply diminished. “It explains why Amelia got so frustrated and stopped latching during our last day there,” she wrote on Instagram
“I thought I couldn’t [breastfeed], but I did. It really hurts in the beginning, but it’s tolerable,”she shared. “The struggle is REAL, indeed. Breastfeeding doesn’t come so naturally to all mothers, different strokes for different folks, but with perseverance, it’s possible.”
Bangs was grateful to the midwives who helped and taught her how to latch as soon as she delivered her daughter. But she also felt pressured to breastfeed, even when Amelia refused to latch. The pressure, the new mom said, “magnified all the pain and exhaustion” she went through from labor to surgery.
“I was seriously burnt-out. It had caused me a great deal of distress. I [wept] my heart out thinking that I’m a bad mum for not being able to produce much milk for her,” she added.
Then, it dawned on Bangs that she might actually need to supplement. “Seeing her sob from hunger was agonizing, so I had to give in,” she admitted, even though she dreaded giving formula milk to Amelia.
The actress wasn’t ready to give up, though. She tried to manually express milk while watching breastfeeding videos, but she ended up having pumped only so little even after two hours of continuous pumping. “It had caused me the most horrible spasm of my life!” Bangs exclaimed.
It got so bad that she needed to be rushed to the hospital. “[The] pain [was] much worse than labor pain because it was constant for a few hours. I was so horrified. I thought it had something to do with my surgery and my infection,” she shared.
The incident left Bangs traumatized about nursing, she wrote in another post on Instagram. While Amelia went on formula milk exclusively, Bangs didn’t give up on breastfeeding. She researched about her situation and with the help of mom friends, she discovered that a small amount of breast milk was “100 times more nutritious than formula milk.” That made her decide to pump again, and fortunately, her milk supply has improved.
Since Amelia was on formula for about a month, the little girl was getting used to the bottle. “I found her getting lazy to latch on my breasts at times [because] she much prefers her bottle teats for lesser effort in getting milk,” Bangs explained. “It’s all right for as long as I pump my milk out and she still drinks them from her bottle, then I’m very happy,” she added.
“Mix feeding isn’t gonna make you less of a mother,” the new mom stressed, adding she was too hung up on the being the “perfect mother.” She added, “There’s no such thing. I just had to learn to accept reality and adjust to my situation.”
Bangs still chooses to continue to breastfeed her daughter Amelia.”It’s good to always strive and try our best for our little one, and that facet alone makes any mum a very good mother already,” she said.
For Bianca Gonzalez-Intal, social media is a well of ideas for kid-friendly spots, good food havens, and even fun family activities, great books, and cool toys. But, in an Instagram post, another one of her “#mommydiaries,” her words resonated among millennial moms once again by saying that social media also makes her insecurities worse, especially during her first few months of being a mom.
“I would scroll down my feed and just….feel bad. Feel sorry for myself. Feel like I wasn’t good enough to be a mother,” the TV host revealed. She was seeing moms who didn’t look haggard at all from child care, “while I would be in my ratty clothes, walang ligo, at wala pang kain.” She wondered what she was doing wrong because her daughter could only talk in syllables, yet one mom’s child was already talking.
Bianca also made a brave admission about mommy fatigue: a smile from her daughter Lucia did NOT always wash away her feelings of exhaustion from being, well, a mom.
With Facebook or Instagram, it has become more challenging to avoid comparing parenting styles or child’s milestones. In fact, the internet can be crippling because it is hard to sift through the information overload. The fatigue Bianca expresses isn’t just physical — moms carry a heavy mental load.
“It was getting so overwhelming. I knew it was time for me to guard my heart,” Bianca said.
To cope and drown out the social media noise, Bianca needed to accept her parenting was good enough.
“It took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that every mother is different, just like every child is different,” Bianca shared. Her insecurities and feelings of inadequacy as a mother did not go away completely, but she had discovered a way to see her social network differently.
Bianca shared what one follower wrote in the comments on one of her emotional posts: “God knew exactly what kind of mother your daughter needed, even before she was born.” Bianca said she cried the first time she read it, and it is where she draws her strength from every time she feels down.
It has since become her mantra every time she feels like she’s not doing enough as a mother. “I am exactly what she needs. Me doing my best for my daughter is all she needs, and other mothers are just doing their best for their babies, too,” said the TV host. Her post resonated with many moms.
Whether you have a newborn, a baby or toddler, it doesn’t matter. Remember that doing your best to love and care for your child is enough. Your best efforts are enough. You are enough, mom.
Unang Yakap, or the First Embrace, is mom’s first skin-to-skin hug with her baby immediately after birth. It is an essential step that is highly recommended by doctors because it transfers a mother’s warmth and protective bacteria to her newborn. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls it “life-saving.”
This skin-to-skin contact, whether as an embrace, hug, or any expression of physical affection, continues to be vital to your child’s well-being as he grows up.
“Higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavior problems have been linked to warmth and affection between parent and child,” said a report from Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization in the U.S.
Figures from the Child Trends report show that 90% of parents with children 3 years old and below gave their child hugs every day. However, displays of warmth decreased as the child grew up with only 74% of mothers and just 50% of fathers saying they hug their 10- to 12-year-old child.
Science offers evidence how hugging as a habit — even past the preschool years — benefits children. “Scientific studies are always a helpful reaffirmation of how important it is to practice loving-kindness and ‘shower the people you love with love,’” said author and coach Christopher Bergland in an article for Psychology Today.
What impact does parental affection have on your child?
1. It helps your child feel less stressed.
Don’t you feel your stress and exhaustion melting away after a long day at work when you come home to your child’s warm embrace? Your little one feels the same way too.
“Parental warmth and affection protect one against the harmful effects of toxic childhood stress,” according to a 2013 study from the University of California, Los Angeles. On the other hand, researchers found that childhood abuse coupled with a lack of parental affection impacts a child’s physical and mental health for life, leading to negative consequences like poor health.
2. Affection during playtime makes your child feel loved.
A 2013 study from the University of Missouri-Columbia observed mom-and-child pairs during playtime. Researchers found that moms who showed more affection and used more positive reinforcement during play had a stronger bond with their kids. “Children whose parents spent too much time directing play showed ‘more negative feelings’ towards their mothers,” reported Deseret News.
“We know that children, regardless of culture, need to feel loved,” said lead author Jean Ispa in a press release on ScienceDaily. “Children take in the meaning of what their mothers are trying to do, so if a mom is being very directive and is generally a very warm person, I think the child feels, ‘My mom is doing this because she cares about me, and she’s trying to do the best for me.’
3. It helps you raise a happier and more mentally stable adult.
The warmth of your hug can last for years and years. In a study from the University of Notre Dame, more than 600 adults were surveyed about how they were raised, and the researchers found good news about affectionate parents.
“The adults who reported receiving more affection in childhood displayed less depression and anxiety and were more compassionate overall,” said writer Sandi Schwartz in an article for Parent Co. “Those who reported less affection struggled with mental health, tended to be more upset in social situations, and were less able to relate to other people’s perspectives.”
So, moms and dads, those hugs and kisses go a long way!
Kids always come first, right? So when contributing writer and dad Steve Calechman, who has a 6- and 3-year-old, was asked by his doctor what he did for fun, he answered with a laugh. His life was so overtaken by his children that he had trouble fitting in time for himself.
“I know that I should squeeze in something like listening to music, reading, or doing nothing. It just never tops the priority list. I feel guilty spending time or money on anything that isn’t family-related,” he wrote in an article for Harvard Health.
Most, if not all, parents are in the same boat as Calechman. And if they keep at it, “parental burnout” is not far behind.
Belgian researchers surveyed more than 2,000 parents to look for signs of parental burnout, which is characterized by exhaustion, emotional detachment, and inefficacy. Of the mom and dad participants, 12% had “high level” parental burnout — they experienced all three more than once a week. “The researchers noted that more mothers than fathers took part in the survey, but parents of both genders were equally susceptible,” reported New York Magazine’s The Cut.
Though it is an endless source of love and joy, parenting is a drain, Dr. Beth Frates, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, tells Calechman. A lot of the brain power needed for parenting — such as practicing self-control and making rational decisions — requires stamina as they take place in the prefrontal cortex (or the region of the brain that handles complex cognitive tasks), she explains.
When you’re exhausted, though, you’re more likely to act on impulse. “You’ll shift into the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain that fights or flights,” said Calechman. Whenever you feel a sudden sort of panic that makes you feel like there’s no other choice than to shout at the kids to get them to do as you say, that would be your amygdala telling you to “fight.”
Accept, then, that you need a break every now and then to be a better parent, said Dr. Frates. “You can’t pour from an empty cup; with nothing there, there’s nothing to give,” she said.
Dr. Frates said a parent’s break ideally lasts 30 minutes with the occasional day off every so often. But, five minutes can be the minimum whenever you need it. She, herself, did it with her kids. “She’d be in a chair with them in the room. They eventually understood not to bother her. She got her break and they got to witness the habit,” said Calechman.
It’s best if you don’t have your phone on hand during your break. What you’re looking for is an activity that will “transport” you elsewhere. “The main requirement is that you look forward to whatever it is to get the reward of being fully absorbed, of losing your sense of time, and forgetting that you actually have bills, deadlines, or even children,” said the dad.
If this means for a few minutes you would be flipping through a cookbook, taking your time getting a glass of water, watering the plants, or making a quick trip to the sari-sari store then so be it. It’s a time to just breathe and, yes, be alone.
I knew that I shouldn’t question God why I had to come from a broken family, but I’d be lying if I say that I never thought about it. Recently, after more than 20 years, I finally found out that everything has a greater purpose, and it comes even after a bad beginning.
As far as I could recall, my family still lived together when I was 3 years old. I remembered a night where I was crying because it was the first time that I was sleeping and sharing a bed with my sisters instead of being in my parents’ room. As my sisters tried to shut me up, Papa appeared and carried me back to their room.
The next thing that I remember was Mama picking me up at school and riding a jeepney that was headed in a different direction from our home. It was quick as a dream. I woke up in my grandparents’ house in the province and enrolled in a new school. Papa was nowhere to be seen.
I was never told about what was happening, why it was happening. All I knew was there was a stern reminder that my sisters and I were never to speak about our situation to anyone, especially to those at the school because it could get us expelled.
During that time, people were not very open to the idea of broken homes. Kids distanced themselves from you, classmates bullied you, and adults gossiped about your family. I told my friends and teachers that Papa was just working abroad, and that’s why he couldn’t make it to any school activities. I even showed off my new toys to my classmates, telling them that it was from Papa so that I could fit in.
I found myself rebelling. I was a good student but never a great one. I always found it hard to excel in anything because I quickly lost confidence when things got tough. I tried cheerleading, volleyball, Taekwondo, badminton, and singing, but I never really pursued any of them. Growing up, I was a confused girl who had no idea what she wanted.
I started cutting class, lying about school projects, going out with friends to play billiards, drinking, smoking, and at a very young age, I started dating. I got pregnant when I was 20 years old, and as they say, the rest is history.
I would be lying if I told you that I never blamed my parents for all my mishaps. I was very angry with them because their separation made me feel insecure, rejected, confused, broken, and incompetent.
I spent my entire life searching for the good only to realize: My parents were not bad people — they just made bad choices. And though those decisions might reflect on their children, it doesn’t mean their children would make the same mistakes.
In 2017, after our church urged every member to pursue an intentional relationship, my husband, Mike, and I decided to challenge ourselves. He worked on rebuilding his relationship with his side of the family, while I decided it was finally time to tell my parents that I had forgiven them.
I forgave Papa for not being present in all of my birthdays. I forgave him for not fighting for me when I was bullied in school. I forgave him for not disciplining me.
I forgave my mama for not always being by my side when I was growing up because she was busy making ends meet. I forgave her for being angry at Papa during their separation.
It took me 20 years to tell them that I forgive them and that all is in the past now. And the experience has made me want to tell anyone who reads this:
Please do not wait too long to forgive your folks. Don’t wait for them to ask for it. Just forgive.
It was always easy to imagine what could have been had my parents not broken up. The father worked, the mother stayed at home and baked all day. The kids went to a good school and came home to play with their pet Labrador. Then they would go on vacations and take family photos. Oh, those family pictures would be my Facebook cover to tell everyone my life is perfect!
If I didn’t come from a broken family, however, will I still be who I am today?
If my parents had not broken up, I don’t think my Papa will ever get to know Christ and wouldn’t be an instrument for people to come to know Him as well.
If my parents had not broken up, I don’t think my Mama will be able to pursue her dreams and be happily remarried.
If my parents had not broken up, my sisters would probably not have wonderful and talented kids, and I would not be an aunt.
If my parents had not broken up, I would not have a younger sister who loves my kids like her own (even when I wasn’t a very good Ate to her before).
If my parents had not broken up, I would not have another Papa and a brother who loves me.
If my parents had not broken up, I probably would not need a good man in my life like Mike.
When I was young, I used to cry and ask God what it would take for my family to be whole again. He did not answer. Instead, He gave me my own family to nurture.
I will never experience what it’s like to have a complete family, but I am at peace knowing that my kids have one. I may have been broken, but now I am complete.
Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse, says author Philip Yancey. It all makes sense now.
When a recent Business Insider article sought to explain “Why American Men are Getting Less Marriageable,” we cheered. The article relies on a recent study by three economists, MIT’s David Autor, along with David Dorn of Zurich and Gordon Hanson of San Diego, to observe that “economic forces are making [men] less appealing partners.”
That’s precisely what we claim in our book, Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family: we explain not just how a changing economy could produce less marriage, but also how economic changes could alter changing family norms. In writing the book, we were struck by how few examinations of the family established the causal interconnection. We see two factors as blocking more in-depth examinations and stalling the emergence of any consensus on the relationships between economic change and changing families.
The first is the insistence that economics cannot explain culture, as James Q. Wilson declared in his 2002 book, The Marriage Problem. The cultural explanations instead look at declining church attendance, greater acceptance of premarital sex, the dismantling of clearly defined gender roles, male idleness, and violence, and insist that these factors cannot be explained merely by changes in employment patterns. The result is a refusal, in some circles, to even consider looking at the ways that changing employment patterns might, in fact, encourage changing cultural norms about commitment, cohabitation, and marriage, and the dismissal or marginalization of sociologists who have attempted to do so.
The second reason is the role of neoclassical economics. The economists have ignored the sociologists, while paying undue attention to the work of Gary Becker, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his work, and made it respectable for economists to study family behavior, in large part because he showed how family behavior could be the subject of formal economic modeling. To set up his equations, he claimed that marriage produced the largest overall gains when each spouse specialized in the home or the market, and it made sense for women to “specialize” in the home because of their role in childbirth and nursing. The result is that while economists do study the family, they have not produced compelling work that demonstrates why economic change might not just correlate with family change, but also explains the connections.
Both of these factors are finally beginning to change. There is a growing acceptance in almost all circles that the loss of secure, high-paid manufacturing jobs has something to do with family change. And a new generation of economists, including David Autor, have paid increasing attention to the interaction between economics and culture and have begun to examine the impact of economic changes on the intermediate factors that might influence cultural change.
In their new study, Autor and his co-authors set out to test the hypothesis of sociologist William Julius Wilson that decreasing blue-collar employment decreases the number of marriageable men. They found that it did. The areas that had seen declines in manufacturing jobs saw male employment and wages fall, and the gendered wage gap between men and women narrowed. In addition, they found that not only did the number of marriageable men decline, but the absolute number of men in the community fell, with male mortality rates and the incidence of risky behavior and substance abuse increasing. In short, their data seemed to vindicate Wilson’s predictions.
However, when they turned to the explanation for their findings—the connections that translate fewer secure jobs into less marriage—we were left dumbfounded. They simply recycled Gary Becker, concluding that economic change that undermines male income and employment reduces marriage and fertility because it leads to less “gender-based specialization.” Yet, even Becker’s adherents admit that his economic models produced predictions that proved spectacularly inaccurate, and we, among many others, observe that Becker’s theory of specialization is wrong on multiple levels.
First, women do not “specialize” in “the home.” In our view, Becker mistook women’s “dependence” for specialization. As rewarding as it is to stay home and care for children, minding toddlers while cooking and cleaning and doing an endless number of thankless chores is the work of a generalist. While some homemakers do make gourmet dinners or grow prize-winning gardens, there is little evidence of returns to scale—baking 10 batches of cookies are better than one—or that the ability to produce prize-winning gardens enhances marriageability. Instead, women’s so-called specialization in the home has historically been a product of need (someone has to do it) and curtailment of the alternatives (women haven’t had a whole lot of choice in the matter). Today, homemaking no longer requires the energies of half of the adult population, and women have joined men in specializing not in a generic market, but in a variety of market occupations that require greater education, experience, and a different model of marriage.
Second, Becker-based rationales have no answer to the findings of other economists who observe that, in defiance of his predictions, two career upper-middle-class couples have some of the lowest divorce rates, and the highest marriage rates. Instead, Becker, who did see it as an advantage to have someone else take care of his laundry, argued that as women entered the market (and thus became less “specialized” at home), the women who invested most in market labor would become the least likely to marry (unless they found good little “househusbands”), while the men most invested in the market would marry more specialized women, content to be homemakers.
Today, homemaking no longer requires the energies of half of the adult population, and women have joined men in specializing not in a generic market, but in a variety of market occupations that require greater education, experience, and a different model of marriage.
Sociologist Valerie Oppenheimer (whose theories we discuss in Marriage Markets) offered a much better explanation for what is actually happening. She posited that as women enjoyed greater labor market opportunities, two-career couples postponed marriage until the investments in their careers were complete, and then selected partners who shared their values and commitments. Assortative mating, in which like marries like, rather than differentiated gender roles, is the order of the day.
In this new order, it is not just that the successful marry the similarly successful, although that happens. It is also that the successful seek mates who share similar commitments to childbearing. Sometimes, this means couples who both agree that they do not want children. Among those with the most demanding jobs, it often results in one spouse taking time off to spend with the children when the couple realizes that both parents cannot stay in 60-hour-a-week jobs and do justice by their children. The stay-at-home spouse is still typically, though not always, the wife. Beyond those with high salaries, however, the more common arrangement involves trade-offs that juggle staying home with sick children, attending sports games, picking up children after school, and overseeing homework. These arrangements require a high degree of relationship flexibility and trust, but they are not “specialization in childrearing.” Sometimes, they do involve specialization in overseeing math homework versus coaching the soccer team. But it is the flexibility and trust, not the division between math and soccer, that determines the success of the arrangement. Becker has nothing to say about this.
The missing answer that neither Becker nor Autor provide almost certainly involves gender dynamics that have nothing to do with “specialization.” Instead, women’s increased income does make them pickier. In the old days, women could not support a family or even themselves. Most women did all those chores because they didn’t have much of a choice. Today, women who earn enough to support themselves enter into permanent commitments more carefully. The question that needs answering is why more elite men and women succeed in finding partners worthy of commitment, while those further down the socioeconomic ladder do not.
The answer is that at the top, couples trade off child care while (typically) neither parent does the housework. Below the top, few spouses can afford not to work, and if one partner does not carry his or her full weight in the relationship, whether in the home or the market, marriage becomes an expensive proposition. Economic uncertainty makes things worse, and this is where the Autor study gets it right. In the past, male breadwinners “earned” the right to have a family, including a homemaking spouse. Today, women are wary of a partner who expects them to work outside the home and pick up after them. And a partner with mounting health care expenses, erratic employment patterns, or even unpaid parking tickets threatens the emotional and financial resources the other partner sees as necessary to care for children. Without a degree of stability, security, and agreement on who cleans the toilets, marriage is likely to continue to be a bad deal for a large part of the population.
Nurse Mica Kaddaring in an immunization outreach activity in Basilan province, the Philippines. Credit: Basilan Provincial Health Office/UNICEF
Through the support from countless health workers and partners, the Philippines eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus — a disease that can be prevented through hygienic birth practices and immunization — in November 2017. WHO defines elimination as achieving an incidence rate of less than 1 case of tetanus per 1000 live births in every district in the country.
A more than two decade elimination effort
The country began its elimination efforts in the early 1990s when vaccination coverage reached 70%. But a few years later coverage plummeted due to false allegations that the vaccine caused miscarriages and sterilization. In Manila, tetanus vaccination was banned entirely from 2003 to 2006.
By 2003, the country’s elimination programme was off-track. A review by WHO, UNICEF and the Philippines Department of Health found that an estimated 25% of pregnant women were still not vaccinated; antenatal care, skilled birth attendance and promotion of clean birth practices were limited; and surveillance need to be strengthened to understand where to target their efforts.
It was clearly time to act. The country, with UNICEF support, launched intensive immunization campaigns and worked on strengthening routine immunization in high-risk areas. WHO worked to train midwives, who provide the majority of vaccines, to discuss vaccine concerns with patients and educate them on clean cord practices.
In 2015, WHO and UNICEF were able to validate that 16 out of 17 regions had eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus. Only one region remained — the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and elimination required ensuring that 80% of its pregnant women had received at least three doses of tetanus-containing vaccine.
Nurse Mica Kaddaring administers the Tetanus-diphtheria vaccine to one of the women in ARMM region, the Philippines. Credit: Basilan Provincial Health Office/UNICEF
Targeting the very last region
Challenges included geographical isolation, armed conflict, tribal wars and other security concerns. Health education approaches required area-specific adjustments considering the wide population diversity in terms of ethnicity and dialect. Likewise, engagement of men as heads of the family and as ethnic and religious leaders was crucial for successful implementation.
Between 2016 and 2017, UNICEF funded three rounds of immunization campaigns targeting more than 300 000 women aged 15 to 49 years. The funding supported logistics, training of vaccination teams, transport to isolated communities and community mobilization activities.
The government also created the Midwives in Every Community in ARMM programme (MECA), so more midwives could go door-to-door providing health education and strengthen maternal and child care especially in the hard-to reach communities.
“Though ARMM is a very challenging area to work in, the health department and local government staff really went the extra mile to achieve maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination,” says Dr. Gundo Weiler, WHO Philippines Representative. “I want to congratulate all health workers and mothers who have made this feat possible”.
In November 2017, WHO and UNICEF conducted the final desk review and found every region in the Philippines had now eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus. The validation meant the Philippines became the 44th country to eliminate the disease.
“While the MNTE status has been achieved, now the goal is to sustain this remarkable achievement. This is possible through a concerted effort to enhance access to quality antenatal care, skilled attendance at birth and tetanus vaccination for all pregnant women, including those living in the remotest areas of the country, ” says Ms. Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Philippines Representative.
Countries still facing the threat
Worldwide, 15 countries still face the threat of maternal and neonatal tetanus. The Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination initiative, launched by WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA in 1999, aims to make the disease a public health problem of the past. Unlike polio and smallpox, tetanus cannot be eradicated, but through immunization and promotion of clean birth practices the disease can be eliminated.
Women in Sulu province in ARMM proudly show their vaccination cards, proof that they received protection against tetanus. Credit: Sulu Provincial Health Office
Two of the most challenging but rewarding accomplishments a person can undertake are to raise a family and to start her own business. Both are full commitments that demand a healthy dose of perseverance, patience and love. Doing one or the other can be complex enough, but plenty of entrepreneurial-minded moms willingly elect to do both — and they couldn’t be happier about it.
While parenting is not the only way to acquire management wisdom, it does accomplish that, too. A top-notch CEO’s leadership profile is remarkably similar to that of excellent parents: They both provide stretch challenges, set high expectations and help individuals learn to act and think independently, while still holding them accountable.
Such similarities are present because parenthood may be one of the most basic forms of leadership. On balance, you can’t fire your children, and they do not report to you. The minute they outrun you, it’s hard to compel them to compliance. Instead, they should willingly follow your lead. Parenting, like strong leadership, requires us to exert influence while practicing control sparingly.
Here’s how to harness the power of parenthood into business leadership:
Moms Are Intuitive
Being a mom taught me how to listen to my child’s needs and harness my intuition. This is one of the most crucial leadership skills in business. How often do CEOs need to make a pivotal decision that comes down to their gut instinct? Frequently. Many moms have that “momma bear” instinct that they cannot deny and which allows them to make decisions that could make the deal or break the deal.
The Relationship Is Important to Them
Women tend to understand the importance of establishing relationships, rather than just hitting the numbers. Business is about relationships. Too often, leaders focus on the spreadsheet or the money, but empires and legacies are created within relationships. If you treat your clients like you would your child, you will always have referrals and returning clients.
Manage Different Talent
As a parent, you do not get to choose your team. Certainly, one would prefer to raise a bunch of smart people, each having an Olympic-level athletic potential and runway model looks. The role of a parent is not to conform their children to some unachievable ideal, but to help them grow their own strengths and improve their weaknesses.
The workplace is the same. Some corporate managers have the luxury of creating a dream team. More commonly, managers are asked to raise wisdom from a group of inherited staff, an occasionally unruly cross-functional team. The duty is to make the most of their capability by growing and multiplying the intelligence of their current team.
While the scope of motherhood can at times feel difficult, it strengthens mental dexterity. We have to learn how to be flexible and have great communication skills based on the psychological needs of our children.
Furthermore, the continuous learning, relearning and learning of motherhood is the ideal preparation for managing and working in what is known as “VUCA environment,” which refers to one of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Such environments need situational readiness and heightened awareness, as conditions can change quickly, surprises lurk around each corner and mistakes are so easy to make — causing many professionals and managers to feel underprepared. In such environments, it is not what a person knows, but how fast they can learn that counts.
Weathering The Ups And Downs
A great many startup founders find entrepreneurial life to be a roller coaster. There’s one day in which you get an amazing review in the newspaper or a huge business opportunity presents itself, and the next day, a stakeholder backs out. You can go from flying so high to contemplating throwing it all away. However, successful CEOs don’t give up.
While a startup creator always has the option to give up, a mother never gives up that job title: one day your child makes a simple card at school that makes you weep with joy, and the next day they destroy the whole house just before the mother-in-law arrives to visit. Nevertheless, mothers don’t shut them out. Motherhood prepares the headstrong CEO to weather the storm with every new challenge that arises.
Separating True Crisis From Mere Chaos
To keep a family grounded, moms learn to identify a true crisis over ordinary chaos. They realize faster than most that if it is not bleeding, burning or broken, it’s not a crisis. For working moms, this focused understanding gets applied to work too. They learn to work in crisis and disregard much of the daily friction and concentrate exclusively on top priorities and burning issues. When this is applied to the workplace, leaders can easily see what is a true crisis or what is a simple problem that is being taken out of context. The strongest leaders — and moms — can make the right decisions on how to handle employees or try scenarios.
Putting The Ego Aside
The best CEOs are hardworking, resourceful and smart. These traits can sometimes translate into egos that can become annoying and arrogant. As the person managing the family, moms know that being smart isn’t about being right. It’s like when in team meetings, there will be times when it’s worth fighting to win a discussion and instances where backing down serves the long-term interests best.
If you are a mom, tap into your innate ability to run your business like you run your family. Treat your clients like they are your children: Give them attention and care, and be fair always. If you do the same for your employees, you will always have a thriving business. A happy mom is a healthy home — and a happy mom is a valuable business asset.
Breastfeeding is a choice, but one cannot deny the perks breast milk offers for both the mom and baby. One of those unique benefits is it contains antibodies that become your baby’s first line of defense against illnesses. Other kinds of milk cannot replicate the protection breast milk gives your baby.
To show how breast milk does wonders for her baby, Ashlee Chase, a mom for the Pennsylvania, posted on Facebook a photo of two bags of breast milk, expressed only three days apart, but they look entirely different in color. The bag with white breast milk was expressed when her 7-month-old daughter, Elliot Audrey, was healthy, while the bag with yellowish breast milk was expressed when she was sick with fever and nursing was the only way she could be comforted. It was also around the same time that her elder daughter Peyton was ill, too, with high fever and strep throat.
According to Ashlee, she decided to post the photo to answer once and for all why she still nurses her Elliot Audrey. She told Yahoo Lifestyle that she knew that the color of breast milk changes for several reasons, but she still consulted her daughter’s pediatrician if the yellow breast milk was safe to give to Elliot. Her doctor said the change in color meant there was “more fat and antibodies on the milk” to help her baby fight an infection. True enough, big sister Peyton’s illness lasted for a week, while baby Elliot only endured a slight fever and a runny nose.
It’s not the first time a mom noticed a change in her breast milk’s color when her baby is sick. Mallory Smothers, a mom from Arkansas, posted a similar photo on Facebook back in 2016. She shared that she read in a medical journal how a mother’s body tailors the breast milk it produces to address her child’s nutritional needs.
As the baby nurses, the mother’s mammary glands receptors get clues if the baby is sick or fighting an infection through your baby’s saliva. “[The] mom’s body will actually change the milk’s immunological composition, tailoring it to the baby’s particular pathogens by producing customized antibodies,” Molly wrote.
Mallory observed the difference in the color of her breast milk, which was expressed a day apart, since she directly nurses her baby during the night and only uses the pump in the mornings. “Look at how much more the milk I produced Friday resembles colostrum…and this comes after nursing the baby with a cold all night long,” she wrote. “The human body never ceases to amaze me,” Molly added.
Local pediatrician Dr. Jamie Isip-Cumpas backs up the moms’ observations above. “Your body will produce the milk that your baby needs,” the mom of three and International Certified Breastfeeding and Lactation Counselor (ICBLC) said, adding that over time, breast milk changes to adapt to your little one’s needs as he grows.
It’s also the reason why breastfeeding moms are encouraged to nurse even if they’re sick. U.S.-certified lactation counselor Joyce Martinez explains that a mom with a cough or cold can continue to breastfeed, but she should wear a face mask to prevent her baby from getting infected. “Mother’s milk provides antibodies to fight infection. It protects the baby from any organism he or she is exposed to, thus triggering your baby’s immune system,” she said.
Do you need any more proof why breast milk is called liquid gold?