Marissa Mayer, Bus Drivers, and Riding a Horse Together

“Can I email you later? I’m in labor.”

In “Maternity Leave? More Like a Pause,” a recent article in the New York Times, new mom and consulting firm partner Carmen, recalled sending the quote above as an email while she was in the delivery room, remarking “That…was a fun email to send.”

I admire Carmen: her dedication to her job, her strong work ethic, the humor and pleasure she found in sending a work email during labor. In the article, Carmen is one of the many voices defending another hardworking, mom-to-be: Newly minted Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Carmen, and her executive level cohort, support Mayer’s decision to forgo a full length maternity leave in favor of a shorter leave, which she will work through.

I agree with them: Let’s stop criticizing Mayer. Stop with the alternately gendered and “sanctimommy” jabs at Mayer’s alleged naivete about the demands of new motherhood. Step away from the betting windows when it comes to how she’s going to handle a new baby and her new position at Yahoo. None of this judgemental behavior towards Mayer is okay. High profile new dads enjoy the luxury of taking on whatever career challenges they want without the suddenly-child-expert musings of hand wringing Internet trolls. If you want to know my bet, Mayer’s going to handle it like she’s handled everything else: Like a hardworking, trailblazing, force to be reckoned with.  She didn’t work her way through the ranks of Google, become Google’s first female engineer, and go on to be the youngest Fortune 500 CEO ever because she was bad at making choices and thinking logically and strategically through decisions.

I’m glad women who have made similar choices are coming out in support of Mayer. But there’s something missing in this conversation: While Mayer’s decision can be supported, it’s also important to bring our voices together to support moms who don’t even have the option to make such a decision in the first place.

This includes moms who would like to take maternity leave but can’t afford to because our country doesn’t have a paid maternity leave policy. It also includes moms who don’t have the option to work through maternity leave given the nature of their job duties. Moms who may face harassment or unnecessary red tape when they need to take paid family leave. Women who could use the support and public encouragement of prominent voices coming forward and supporting their choices as well.

Here’s an example: My mom is a nurse. Unlike many of the women in the NYTimes article, she’s unable to swish her thumb across the bottom bar of her iPhone and assist in surgery from afar. A family friend is a bus driver, who likewise cannot operate that behemoth of a vehicle from a desk in her kitchen, bathed in laptop light. The same goes for women throughout a wide variety of sectors, including service, automotive, etc. And while they couldn’t work through a maternity leave due to the nature of their jobs, many of them lack the luxury of even having a paid maternity leave to turn down. In fact, most don’t even have that choice.  51% of new mothers lack any paid leave – so when a new baby arrives some women take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs. The U.S is one of only 4 countries that doesn’t offer paid leave to new mothers — we’re joined by Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho. 

The media wants us to get on our high horse about Marissa Mayer’s life choices. I say let’s get a new horse, and ask her to ride it with us. This doesn’t have to be a new iteration of the worn out ”mommy wars.”  We can celebrate Mayer’s accomplishments while working to support the millions of moms across the country who do not have the same choices that Mayer has, who do not access to maternity leave, or who face harassment and the jeopardization of their hard work based on the occupancy status of their wombs.

While everyone weighs in on whether Mayer is right or wrong in her maternity leave decisions, I have this to say to Yahoo’s new CEO:

Marissa Mayer, I’m so proud of you. You’re an inspiration to me, as a working woman who eventually wants to have kids. You’ve shown that it’s still possible to make huge strides in your career as an expecting mother. You and Yahoo have shown that not all companies will subject pregnant employees, or potential employees, to discrimination that can negatively impact their pregnancies and careers. I know you’re busy, but there’s something you can do that will have a big impact on your fellow expectant mothers across the country. Will you raise your voice with the MomsRising movement and support nationwide paid maternity leave? You’re an inspiration to so many women, and your support in making sure that all moms, regardless of income or profession, have the same parenting choices and opportunity to take paid time off if they need to, would be incredibly meaningful.

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“When the insurance ran out, it ran out, and there was usually no replacement. Conversations with friends turned constantly to free clinics, how to find cheap birth control, whether or not a troubling health malady warranted a several hundred dollar trip to the doctor. Don’t break a bone, don’t get pneumonia became a mantra. We crossed our fingers, knocked on wood, took our multivitamins religiously.”
3.1 Million Young Adults are Newly Insured via

Green #MothersDay Tips

Happy (almost) Mother’s Day! Celebrate the moms in your life with nontoxic gifts and treats. With these easy tips, you can take toxic chemicals out of your Mother’s Day breakfast, create your own luxurious beauty gifts for mom, and wrap up your Mother’s Day presents in environmentally friendly, affordable packaging.

Photo credit: Photo by Flickr user elviskennedy

Breakfast in Bed: Treating a mom in your life to breakfast in bed? You can keep your meal and fun and delicious while keeping pesky toxic chemicals at bay.

  • Wash the rinds and peels: Wash all of your produce, even produce with inedible peels and rinds. It’s especially important to follow this rule if you’re slicing through the peel, since chemicals from the peel can transfer into the fruit’s flesh through your knife. If you’re zesting citrus fruits, make sure to scrub the peel and try to buy organic. You should scrub fruits and veggies for about 30 seconds each, which you can measure by singing the Happy Birthday song twice.
  • Watch your water: Remember that filtered water isn’t just for drinking. Make sure you also filter your water if you’re boiling water or using water as an ingredient in a dish. If you don’t have a filter, the Green Guide recommends placing an open container of water in the fridge for a few hours, which helps filter out chlorine, and let water run for a full minute before you use it for cooking or drinking.
  • Shop Smart: Take these handy tools with you on your next grocery shopping trip. Use these lists from the Environmental Working Group to choose which produce to buy organic: The Dirty Dozen are the fruits and vegetables that you should try to buy organic if you can. The Clean 15 are fruits and vegetables that have a low pesticide level even when they’re not organically grown.  What’s On My Food is a searchable database that shows you levels of pesticides in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and more. The Breast Cancer Fund has a wallet card that shows you the top 10 canned foods to avoid, including fruits and vegetables.

***Looking for crafty ideas to spruce up your special breakfast? Check out our Mother’s Day Craft Roundup, which features a whole section on Mother’s Day Brunch themed crafts.

Nontoxic DIY Beauty Gifts: Skip the stores, and pamper your the moms in your life with DIY nontoxic beauty treats.

How to Wrap Your Mother’s Day Gifts: 

  • Tape:  The Green Guide recommends stocking up on PVC free tape or recycled gummed paper tape. And remember, when that flurry of gift opening is over and it’s time to gather up and recycle the wrapping paper, tape interrupts the recycling process. Make sure to remove all tape from leftover packaging and paper that you recycle this holiday season.
  • Cards: Decorate recycled paper to create homemade Mother’s Day cards!  If you’re feeling crafty, try this Mother’s Day Drawer Sachet Card craft tutorial.
  • Wrapping paper: Recycle, recycle, recycle! Newspaper, coloring book pages, old maps: All of these paper items make perfect wrapping paper. Let your kids decorate recycled paper by drawing or painting hearts, tracing hand prints, or just adding their own gorgeous scribbles.

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A Green Makeover for Your Bathroom

One easy way to reduce toxic chemicals in your home is to take a room by room survey. What products do you use in each room? What items may need to be replaced soon? Where do you have the most product turn-around? A good place to start is the bathroom. While you’re not buying a new couch every month (or every year, or even every ten years), your family probably routinely goes through items like shampoo, soap, and cleaning supplies. A few simple swaps, actions, and DIYs can drastically reduce your chemical exposure in the bathroom. Get your green home makeover started by trying these top 5 tips:

Body wash and Soap: A good liquid castile soap can be used as a face wash, body wash, and as a simple hand soap. Check the label when you’re buying liquid castile soap; Women’s Voices for the Earth recommends avoiding sodium lauryl (laureth) sulfate (SLS) and Diethanolamine (DEA). For sensitive skin, you may want to use unscented soap, or dilute it with warm water. If you’re buying other soaps and shower gels, make sure to look them up on the Skin Deep database first.

Shower Curtains: You know that sharp, new shower curtain smell? That’s the smell of chemicals off-gassing. According to Healthy Child, Healthy World, “shower curtains contain a host of other chemicals (Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs) which are linked to central nervous system, liver and kidney damage.” Next time you’re in the market for a new shower curtain, choose a cloth curtain, or one of the PVC-free shower curtains on this list from CHEJ. If you do purchase a new vinyl curtain, open it outside and let it off-gas outside of your home before you hang it up.

Cleaning supplies: Tub cleaners, sink scrubbers, tile sparklers—according to your local cleaning supply aisle, bathrooms require quite a few specific products. Skip the toxic chemicals in many conventional cleaning supplies by trying these easy DIYs.

Shampoo and Conditioner: Do a little research before your next haircare shopping trip. Look up shampoos, conditioners, and hair products on the Skin Deep database and the Good Guide. Both of these sites offer handy apps, so you can look up products while you shop. Or skip the searching (and save some money) with these easy DIYs.

  • Shampoo: This Planet Home recipe is so easy, and uses ingredients you probably already have at home! To whip up a bottle of homemade shampoo, just combine ½ cup of baking soda with three cups of warm water in a bottle.
  • Conditioner: Here’s a recipe from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. You’ll need: one egg yolk, ½ teaspoon olive oil, and 3/4 cup lukewarm water. Beat the egg yolk until it’s thick and white. Add the oil and mix well. Then add the water into the egg mixture and mix well.  Massage into clean, damp hair. Rinse with plenty of warm water after about 10 minutes.

Reduce bathroom moisture: Damp bathrooms can be breeding grounds for mold. Try these two easy tips from Planet Home to reduce your bathroom moisture:

  • Shower with a window or door open, and the exhaust fan on.
  • Take colder showers, which not only reduces moisture on the walls, but saves energy!

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A Non-toxic Kitchen Makeover

When I first started writing about toxic chemicals, a funny thing would happen. Every few weeks, after devouring a new study or article, I would race through my apartment, bagging up the series of surprisingly toxic products that lived in each room. At the end of this mad dash, my sense of accomplishment quickly turned into a sense of doom: There was no way I could afford to replace everything. Actually, at that point, there was no way I could afford to replace anything. Those bags never made it to the garbage can; I unpacked them every time.

Taking toxic chemicals out of your home can feel incredibly overwhelming. But you don’t have to throw everything away, and you don’t have to throw out your budget. Take small steps. Make changes that make sense for your budget. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Over time, I stopped making that frenzied, and ultimately unhelpful, race through my apartment. Instead, I found simple, inexpensive (often free) changes I could make to take toxic chemicals out of my home. Recently, we discussed easy tips to give your bathroom a non-toxic makeover. This week, lets take a look at simple solutions for taking toxic chemicals out of your kitchen

Cleaning supplies: Give your kitchen cleaning supplies an inexpensive nontoxic upgrade by making DIY versions (don’t worry: these are simple, two ingredient fixes):

Cooking materials: One easy way to reduce toxics in your cookware is to think about which pot or pan you use the most and focus on making that the safest. If you are in the market for new cookware, try these tips on materials from Planet Home:

  • Glass: Ovenproof glass is “inexpensive, reusable, and recyclable.” While it’s great for baking, most glass can not be used on the stove.
  • Ceramic: Make sure it’s lead-free, and skip painted ceramic dishes in particular unless you’re certain that they don’t contain lead.
  • Stainless steel: Aim for completely stainless steel if possible; these versions are the least likely to leach components into cooking foods.

Other durable, nontoxic materials include cast iron, copper, and enamel-coated cast iron. If you are currently using pans with a nonstick coating, make sure to replace them once the coating has been scratched or torn.

Tap water: If you’re in the market for a water filter, the Environmental Working Group’s  water filter guide will help you choose the filter that’s right for you and your budget needs. If not, there are a few easy tips you can use to make your tap water safer:

Wash everything thoroughly: The best way to detox your fruits and veggies is to make sure they’re thoroughly cleaned so that you’re not consuming any chemicals that are lingering on the skin. This is especially important for non-organic produce.

Making the most of your produce: Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of any healthy diet. Try to choose the healthiest produce for your budget, and make it last, with these easy tips:

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Mad Libs for Mad Moms

If there was a Hall of Fame for road trip games, Mad Libs would be number one. A word nerd from the get-go, I loved these books of swiss-cheesed sentences, blank spaces waiting to be filled with the comedic stylings of my easily amused backseat gang (“The Hippo ate a copy machine and walked into a punch bowl.” Can you believe it?! Hilarious!).

Vintage kids games are fun; but vintage legislation is not. Sadly, when it comes to protecting our kids from toxic chemicals, there’s a dangerous mega Mad Libs-sized blank space where comprehensive toxic chemicals reform should be. And as we all know, protecting our kids from toxics chemicals is no road trip game. It’s serious business.

Fill in the blank for families! Tell us why you want comprehensive chemicals reform: “I want comprehensive chemicals reform because ______________.”

Okay, so it’s not as funny as a hippo walking into a punch bowl. In fact, your fill-in-the-blank answer may not be funny at all. It might be very serious.

As you’ve likely guessed, this is about more than a Mad Lib game.  We’ll be delivering the answers you submit to leaders as we urge them to fix our broken chemical system.  And the voices and ideas from parents across the nation, combined together, are a powerful force for change.  Every submission makes a difference and adds up.  (So feel free to forward this to friends and family so they can act too).

That’s right, we’re compiling your fill-in-the-blank messages and bringing them straight to the top so Congress can know why families need comprehensive chemicals reform. Click here to add your message!

The time to act is now.  Our current chemicals legislation, the Toxic Substances Control Act, has not been updated since 1976. Back then, we didn’t know as much about how toxic chemicals can migrate from the materials and products in which they’re used – including furniture, plastics, and food cans – into our bodies. Our broken system leaves us exposed to countless toxic chemicals every day, chemicals that put our families at risk for cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, and more. We need comprehensive chemicals reform because we can’t protect our kids and families from toxics without the help of federal legislation.

*Share your experience today with us–and with Congress–by clicking here to fill in this question: “I want comprehensive chemicals reform because ______________.”

All of your feedback will be compiled into a book for Congress. We’ll personally present it to legislators as we educate them about the need for an update of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). An update to TSCA would provide vigorous oversight of chemical use to ensure all products are safer, and it would give the federal government enough authority to require that chemicals be tested for safety before they are put into the products we use every day.

Sharing the personal experiences of parents makes a huge difference when we’re talking to legislators of all stripes. In fact, they are our strongest legislative tool. Click here to share what you think with Congress by answering this question: “I want comprehensive chemicals reform, because_________.”

Tell us–and national leaders–today why you want comprehensive chemicals reform. And make sure to pass this along to your friends and families. The more voices we have, the bigger the impact! 

Together we can build a safer and healthier nation for all of our children.

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