Thursday, January 9th, 2014
Diego Rivera, Motherhood – 1928
If you read much these days you know we are deep in year FOREVER (plus or minus a few decades) of the Mommy Wars. As the war continues on, new innocents join the battle fields (the whole pregnancy glow is a great recruitment technique, IMO) and bold new voices emerge to draw and defend the latest line between good and bad, savvy and simple, evolved and remedial. And, if you spend much time with me, you likely know that I have a theory. It goes something like this:
The Mommy Wars begin as early as that first glance at a positive pregnancy test. That first glimpse into the reality of one’s own maternity causes an immediate whiplash that forces the mom-to-be to quickly examine her workplace. And when one’s mind wanders to the big, bad question of “what now” — the answer and the trap lies firmly in the lap of the workplace.
The once passionate, loyal and coveted employee is suddenly forced make rapid-fire decisions about who she will be, and as such- which side of the Mommy Wars she will play for. All this because here in the proserpus United States of America we neiter have an active legistlative mandate nor private sector support for keeping our best and brightest women in the workplace.
And so women chose. But only because here in the United States we have chosen to ignore the truth about women and work. Women have babies. Women need to noursih and care for these babies. Here in the United States, our national culture in which we urge (read as pressure) one thing and legistale another, there is no winning.We have chosen to be the only industrialized nation not to mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns.
Here is an infographic from Huffington Post sure to turn your stomach.
So when Jessica Grose writes and publishes in New York Magazine she is ulitmatey attacked (we are at war people!) for her views of how women are turning to other cultures for cues as to how to take-on the daily challenges of motherhood, even childbirth and pregnancy, I have to blow my ref’s whistle (wars have referees and whistles, no?). Not because the techniques are shocking and extreme. That is another issue for another day. I demand we stop and pay attention. These cultures are ones in which women are mothers, that is what they do. These are not cultures where the juggle, balance and ultimate failure to do two incredibly difficult things well at once is the accepted standard. These mothers are proudly working in the home, supported by their villages and revered in their community as mothers. And if they are working outside of the home, it is with the proper support of their community and an understanding of the value of both roles. These are places where there is space made for being a mother. These are cultures where this is the job at hand – and it is honored as such. There is so much positive to take away, appreciate and consider. But let’s be honest with each other — we are not set up to succeed here at home. And until we are — trying on another culture’s techniques while living in DC or Brooklyn is much like playing dress-up in a closet full of beautiful Saris. It sure looks good…
Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
What must you know about pregnancy in DC? This week, I took the adorable Meghan Mills out to discover what should be on every pregnant woman’s short list here in the Nation’s Capital. I donned my Fairy Godmother tiara and grabbed my wand – and off we went! Here are my top three picks:
THE BREASTFEEDING CENTER FOR GREATER WASHINGTON
At 20 weeks, Meghan is ready to upgrade to a maternity and nursing wardrobe.
Hidden in a medical building at 21st & K — The Breastfeeding Center is both the most hidden gem and also the most essential resource in all of DC. Part community, part classroom, part retailer and part lifesaver — this is the one spot for care and comfort from the moment your pre-pregnany bras start to feel snug. I introduced Meghan to manger Gina who skillfully fit her for bras and helped her to hand-pick classes (Back to Work and Breastfeeding - a must for the first time expectant mom) easing her discomfort on multiple levels. While there we met an array of dads (picking up or returning rental pumps), Moms with adorable babies on their hip (a quick stop for Medela supplies), due-any-day women (seeking out in-home lactation support for post-delivery) and more. It was is an amazing micro-universe and the top of my DC BUMP ESSENTIALS LIST
Birth day buddies! Both Meghan and Rachel are due in late February – can you guess who is having what?
A cozy and sun-lit space that is full of great, nurturing energy, Fuse is a nesters haven! Owner Roxanna has given birth to a warm and welcoming world for expectant mothers This spot has the cool urban vibe of a resotred townhouse with the pure, exacting goodness of reofrmer based pilates. The one class to be for any DC Mom to be is Fuse’s Push Prep. This is a course designed for all levels of moms-to-be. What I adore is how doula and instructor, Randi prepares her students for a combination of strengh and relaxation that the body requires to deliver a baby while at the same time – keeping a real connection and encouraging new friendships along the way.
When Megan shared her pregnancy cravings with me, the choice to super-sate her cinamon and brown sugar Pop-tarts urges was immediately clear. We made a b-line for Ted’s Bulitten on 14th street. We were greeted by Ashlie who introduced us to owner Mike (a new dad himself) who had some fun with us – tempting Meghan with a new universe of flavors to choose from (classic strawberry, blueberry cheesecake, salted caramel and the over-the top peanutbutter and bacon). We did not stop there — we were offred the chance to design our own milkshake (I went with strawberry S’more) and sip our way into an indulgent afternoon. Ted’s menu also features a wide selection for those in the salty craving world as well (grilled cheese and tomato soup anyone?!?) – and will quickly become your crave-out go-to!
Ted’s Bulletin custom milkshakes to toast our guest of honor.
The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington
Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Saturday, December 1st, 2012
Kimberly is always a star!
I had lunch with one of my favorite people in the universe last week. Kimberly Seals Allers and I went to “our place” – the cozy and always delicious Black Market Bistro in Kensigton, Maryland. She came beautiful and brainy – as always. Her chic black ensemble was at once simple and stunning. And per usual, her smile and spirt made my day. That is what good friends are for, and certainly explains why the ritual of a long, lingering ladies’ lunch is so essential for surivial.
Since then I have been chewing on our conversation and the questions that Kimberly asked for her upcoming (oh, get yourselves ready) book. The bulk of the conversation and her inquiry had do to with the ways in which women support or derail each other in their role as mother. We talked about evolution and the state of the Mommy Wars - we did so with an eye on history ( thinking a bit about Rosie the Riveter – she was supporting a war not battling one with other mothers, no?!?!) but mainly with a deep desire for positive change.
I came to a very disheartening conclusion about how our daughters might experience their motherhood when I looked up and said (with great sadness) – that despite all our extraordinary efforts and the energy around advancing this critical dialog – our daughters would likely not have a very different experience…and I sighed….
Kimberly knows my POV – likely you do do. Success is a highly individualized state, it is based on a deeply personal, internal marker. This is truest in parenting sandbox where there seems to be so little fair play. And in specific, it is true when evaluating breastfeeding success, which I believe is found is in how a woman chooses to define it. It his hers alone to gauge. There is no clear answer, standard or finish line. This is a CHOICE
Riddle me this…why are we pro-choice in mixed company but full of judgement among out own?
Funny how we rally around the powerful notion of choice when a male dominated, institutional, governmental “threat” appears…we are good at that!
Just weeks ago there was an election where we clearly stood up for our rights, as women, to CHOOSE.
Still, when we are left among our own – you know with lactating breasts and ready wombs-we go harsh, unyielding and highly judgmental. Where is the sisterhood you wonder? Well so do I.
Two articles this week are well worth reading as you consider why we continue to fail to simply support other mothers. Why and how we have the audacity to support programs that are for the elite among us and that perpetuate the idea of a singular definition of success in parenting? And while our bodies, the very ones which we say we must protect via our right to choose - become a fertile battle ground among our own…
Take a moment to listen to Suzanne Barston discuss her new book Bottled Up on Take -Two…I neither know Suzanne nor have the read the book in its entirety – though I intend to change both those things! Her points are valid and well stated. Her questions important…
And then please give some focus the the brilliant way in which Alissa Quart and New York Magazine tackle the Milk Culture issues, especially the social-economic question (divide) of breastfeeding and regulatatory disconnect which is quickly becoming the new standard and very popular stance.
Having spent the week deep in the after-glow of my time with Kimberly (which means a great deal of thinking) and following along in the press, here is where I land:
We need to please stop and consider our actions not just our intentions. And find our way to caring enough as women, for women – to accept that we are not uniform because our parts are the same. We need to care enough to recognize and accept the full range of circumstances in which women live and strive to help to support each woman’s right to choose how to define her success as a mother. It is not asking a lot, but the outcome could be staggering. And, that might find us closer to free…
Friday, February 25th, 2011
I have been in the business of pregnancy and baby for more than a dozen years. And yes, I have seen a great deal. Brands come and go, trends come and go, enemies du jour come and go – it is part and parcel of being smack in the middle of one of the most profound and powerful moments in a woman’s life. But what remains constant is the awe with which we accept the responsibility of bringing life into this planet (no matter what form that takes) – and the incredible feeling of connectivity (to other women as well as to the universe as a whole) a woman experiences as a mother. This bonds us to each other and makes friends of seamless strangers. This is what connects us despite the wide range of our life experience, age, expectation and certainly situation. We are mothers unified by our desire to “figure it out” the best we can as we make our way down a new, unchartered path.
So, it would seem natural then that the rise of Facebook would be a boon for women. Here was a vibrant open community on which we could collectively see, share and experience the remarkable and new (and often overwhelming) journey of pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Yet, somehow Facebook has decided this is neither the place nor the community for such endeavors. We have all watched as breastfeeding and birth have become high targets on the censor list. Ask Ciaran Blumenfeld about how we have managed to build a successful Facebook community for Bravado without so much as the use of the world “nipple” (forget a breast image) to keep us safe. And now, this week it seems pregnancy photography is an issue as well.
Too Much for FB?
I’ve asked some of the best brains in the business for their (very) quick take on the reality of Facebook and mothers. It was my goal to bring together a wide range of voices to help us make sense of this one. And so meet:
Audrey McClelland- Founder of Mom Generations, Co-Founder of Getting Gorgeous and other landmark projects connecting women. Mother of 4 active boys – . www.momgenerations.com
Sarah Evans -Social Media Expert – UNDERSTATEMENT. Sara is excited to be pregnant with her first child. www.sevansstrategy.com
Samantha Ettus – Bestselling author, media personality and personal branding expert. Author of Forbes Personal Branding Blog. Mother of three beautiful children. www.samanthaettus.com and www.expertsmedia.com
Danielle Friedland -
Danielle Friedland, mom of 2 breastfed babies. The Social Media Manager for giggle and Healthy Child Healthy World and Editor-in-Chief of Bravado Designs’ Breastfeeding Diaries blog. She created the Celebrity Baby Blog in 2004 which she sold to People.com in 2008. www.bravadodesigns.com
Nicole Feliciano- Founder and Editor of Momtrends.com. Super savvy and connected Mother of two equally stellar breastfed daughters. www.momtrends.com
Here is what this amazingly well informed and diverse group of Social Media leaders had to say on the question of why images of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding – all central themes of motherhood, are such a challenge to Facebook.
Audrey McClelland - I have to admit, I was surprised to hear all of this was being censored by Facebook. Pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood is natural… and considering there are over 85 million moms on Facebook, it’s shocking to me that there isn’t a “safe” place to post certain things. I had always viewed Facebook as a place where women can come to connect, meet, share and engage… and I feel like this is stripping us from that. Truly. As modern moms, we look for ways to connect digitally because that’s the way people connect nowadays… it’s sad to see Facebook pull away such natural and open and honest images.
Sarah- I’m definitely new to this conversation, so what I’m sharing our preliminary thoughts…I don’t necessarily want to see my friends’ naked body parts on FB, but it is their decision to share.
Samantha - It is only this year that you could add your kids names and ages to your FB page in addition to your spouse. FB has been a late bloomer every step of the way in regard to parenting. In my mind it is a simple explanation – it was originally created for college kids by a college kid so it would be logical then, that the “grownup” categories are coming later, as the founders and the company age. Perhaps now that Randi Zuckerberg is married, a kid isn’t far behind and in turn, parenting will be a new focus. That is, if they get there before a competitor takes it on.
Danielle- Facbeook is not anti-woman — their staff is just not mature. I can’t confirm this but my impression is that Facebook is staffed by recent college graduates who don’t have pregnancy and motherhood in their mindset. They probably see a pregnant woman as fat instead of radiant. They probably see breastfeeding as “gross” instead of natural and nourishing. They have probably never seen a baby breastfeeding in real life nor were they raised thinking that breastfeeding is normal given that the majority of babies born within the last 20-40 years were not breastfed themselves. They just don’t get it. But you know who is? The COO of Facebook is Sheryl Sandberg, a woman who is also a mother. She needs to communicate to Facebook employees that pregnancy, breastfeeding and pride in motherhood is quite normal and in no way obscene. She needs to set policy that respects women and mothers as they are the largest growing population on Facebook.
Nicole- As for me, I find navel piercings more challenging than bumps and boobs. I’m sure this phenomenon is all about boys making decisions. Was social network (the movie) sexist? No, they just didn’t involve women that is different from being anti-woman.
The more companies we start the more conversations we steer.
And so with these insights comes more questions. And too, an opportunity to ask – what do you think?
Friday, October 22nd, 2010
I am lucky – I say it all the time. I have the great luxury of working on projects I feel passionately about and with clients who allow me to test the boundaries and push convention a bit (sometimes more!). I have been working tirelessly on one such project for a few years. Last November, my client Bravado Designs and I launched the Bravado Breastfeeeding Information Council.
Together, we set out to hear from real women. Bravado’s customers openly shared their experiences as breastfeeding women. We had 80,000 women who were eager to connect and communicate their personal stories good and bad. We had 18 years worth of experience to draw from. We asked and then we listened.
Next, we layered in the wisdom of a broad range of voices – Chris Pagula (Diaper Dude) shared with us the male point of view and helped us shape and make sense our important finding: The Man Behind the Milk. Lindsay Lebresco, who had personally advocated for, and then architected Graco’s nursing policies brought candid insights to our Pumping at Work Findings. Lisa Spiegel integrated her deep seeded understanding of the psychology of new mothers and couples, shedding amazing light on the topics at hand. Heather Kelly and Kimberly Seals Allerscontributed to our findings on First Generation Breastfeeders and finally, Bravado founder and IBCLC Sherry Leeder layered in her priceless wisdom on topics including breastfeeding in public. Our advisory board had a great deal to ante up – bringing an in depth understanding to the raw data and fueling the exchange. The launch of the BBIC was an important step in the process of gathering and sharing real time data on women’s experiences. And also in advancing the goal of openly communicating with all communities about nursing – without judgment but rather, encouraging acceptance, understanding and yes – support.
We shared our findings last year. You can watch the footage here.
The reaction to our inaugural event and research findings from those on-line, in the room and in all around us in the subsequent twelve months, has been not only powerful, but also breathtakingly candid and passionate. The buzz it has not quieted. The conversation continues and the data underscores for me the biggest lesson most base lesson of all:
Successful women have support
In all of our journeys, adventures and dreams – successful women have support
And yes (pay attention)
And it is not just a middle class mother that needs support– it is all mothers. At risk women, middle-class women, ALL women thrive though the support, care and nurturance of others.
Simple enough, YET…
I continue to read on and on about the WHO code as the issues– and how the many violators should be hunted down, drawn and quartered. And all I keep wondering – is why don’t we focus less on the WHO (violations) and more on HOME (opportunities)?
And so, not as any sort of activist but rather as one who simply loves, respects and personally stands for the advancement of women – let’s take on a new perspective and a slightly modified mission.
Let’s please commit ourselves to the women in our own communities. Whether they be our sister or a stranger cross town – let’s agree that this must be our promise and use our energy towards the opportunities closest to home. We will help and make a real difference where we truly can -closest to our home – in our families, or work-place our communities. Let’s grow confidence, skills and commitment to nursing in those that we know and love.
Today, Babble’s Heather Turgeon spoke of this critical concept as she explored why women quit breastfeeding. Kimberly Seals Allers did the same last week while considering the Michelle Obama’s remarks. I hope this is just the beginning of a new conversation…one that we will all have together.
Monday, February 22nd, 2010
It has been a long day. I woke up and did the usual: kids, workout, latte (OH, I got my mayorship back at Quartermaine’s – a big deal, you know) repeat and then jumped on the 12 to be in NYC by 3 and am now on the 6 trying to get home before 9:30. Seriously, I did a round-trip to NYC today….and when I got there, a great intro to Bravado’s latest wonder — Bliss:
Introducing: Bliss by Bravado
That is stunning model Jessica (due in late March) wearing Bravado’s latest introduction, Bliss in Ivory. It is an amazingly comfortable, sleek and super chic innovation – the perfect addition to the Bravado family. Look for it in March, up to size 40 F/G (in black and Chai too). The seamless molded foam cups, feminine embellishments and flexi-fit ™ technology make it my vote for product of the year.
Plus I’ll throw in a nomination for Jessica as most adorable expectant mother (ok, next to Jenni Hogan) too – what a beautiful woman – inside and out. Good luck with your new daughter and keep us posted! As for the bra — March is just a few days away — keep an eye out for more news…
Monday, December 14th, 2009
I adore the new Bravado Essential Nursing Tank in plum. Who can argue with seriously saturated color on the most comfortable nursing tank on earth? If I were a headless pregnant mannequin, this is what I would look like wearing it:
OOOOH, the hard-to find Plum is here!
Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Jodi Hilton for The New York Times
This story is not new. In fact the only thing new and wonderful about it is the image – I simply adore the image of this couple breastfeeding at home – and I can think of about three better stories to go with it. This is an old story, leaving me to wonder –
Are we really having this conversation again? I am quite sure I did an interview for NPR and later GMA on this topic – oh you know – the new mother-slim down myth about 4 years ago. The one where we confuse and deflate new mothers by swapping out their job as a new mother (which absolutely includes feeding her baby and yes breastfeeding is the absolute goal) with that of a woman who uses her body and physical attributes to make a living (and by that I mean you Rebecca Romijn –actress who has a fleet of people helping you to lose weight WHILE you breastfeed). When interviewed years ago for GMA my quote was about looking in the mirror and seeing and accepting a newly born mother, beautiful as she was rather than looking in the mirror and seeing the pounds and subsequent shame. But wait, now there is more – now we will layer in breastfeeding and garble up the issue and confuse women some more. So in the spirit of my mood while reading Cathrine St. Louis’ piece from today’s New York Times, I will simply say: NO NO NO – not okay.
I love breastfeeding. I support breastfeeding; I am educated, articulate and active in my support of women and their individual successes as a mother. I have spent so much time and energy on the topic – surrounded by intelligent, concerned and certianly connected women and organizations who consider the care and feeding of new mothers to be a near calling. One of my proudest accomplishments is the recent establishment of the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council with my client Bravado Designs. We have brought our years of passion, commitment, and connection together in an effort to raise the level of dialog to a place where women are not given mixed or harsh messages in the media around this important topic. What we have set out to do is empower women and I don’t see that articles like this do anything of the sort. This is not kind, nor is it respectful, nor does it help to simply a complicated time in a woman’s life. Most of all it does not focus on the real issues at hand.
Tuesday I helped to launch the BBIC – the plan, the goal the intention is to help the media cover the category of breastfeeding in a responsible, non-judgmental and informed manner. Please watch the whole of it here. And as evidenced by the New York Times today (yeah, ok it has only been two days) we have far to go…
Friday, November 6th, 2009
I have been thinking a lot about retail lately – that and breastfeeding. The former because it a life-long interest/passion (I know I am an odd one) and the later because I am working on one of the most exciting projects of my career with my longtime client Bravado Designs.
Obviously Bravado retails (and wholesales) bras – but that is not the retail I am thinking about. I have been watching retail spaces empty out – and worse, watching designer collections shrink and even begin to diminish in quality, creativity and risk-taking. Both feel quite sad to me. And there is no doubt that the recession has not done its worst yet. Actually, last season retail sales like Saks’ 50% off already half off prices (oh did we score on that one – have I told you about Bob’s amazing new coat?) have led buyers to bring in less inventory. Likely sales will happen earlier (like this weekend at Saks – 40% ) to move existing inventory before that much money is left on the table again and we won’t see mega savings like last year again in 2010 – but I digress.
I’ve traveled a lot this week and for some reason, have retail spaces on my mind. I am thinking about pop up retail (I adore this concept, always have – it is such a buzz worthy proposition no matter which way you slice it) and reading up on the the latest on the trend in Time Magazine.
I am reminded of the empty storefronts and how ten+ years ago I filled them with art installations in downtown DC as part of a joint initiative between CuDC and Douglas Jemal Thinking about how forward-thinking (and yeah not always fair to the artists, but ok) his vision was and how the art invigorated the then up and coming corridors of Penn Quarter and later spaces through out the city. Thinking that model was a good one…Doug Jemal made good use of empty space and it worked, quite well.
And so here is where I am, considering the fate of commercial real estate- – (free standing retail, malls, etc. ), and thinking about breastfeeding and all I know about new mothers (which is a decent amount). Dare I to say that few people are thinking these two thoughts together all that often. And so in an instant - I am clear and quite certain that pop-up nursing lounges make sense – they are an elegant solution - fill empty spaces with the amenities to attract and super-serve customers. Make customers absolutely certain that they are wanted and appreciated. Create buzz, excitement and community. Pop-up nursing lounges are a glaringly obvious strategy for making lemonade (really good, all natural lemonade). Nursing mothers overwhelmingly (85% according to recent BBIC data) seek out retail and restaurants that are welcoming. Well that is easy enough to build (and easy enough to remove when the climate changes). In the meantime, we are looking at pure gain – all around. Businesses show their breastfeeding friendliness and open the door to a powerful and loyal market segment. Literally breasts mean business. And pop-up nursing concepts are a low cost, low risk way to invite in new mothers (and their dollars) to brighten up dark, empty retail shells and welcome new life (literally, again) into otherwise dead space.
So ok – you Mr. or Ms. super retail developer – you see it don’t you? But, you may not see exactly how to get from this brilliant plan of mine to some place of tactical excellence and glory – but I do. Seriously, I ‘ve got it all right in my little head (and contacts file). So let’s talk….
PS – steal this idea and I will come with my friends and make you hurt.