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Why Unpaid Leave Means ‘No Leave’ For Many New Parents In Colorado

The last weeks of Jenna Riley’s pregnancy were painful — extremely painful. 

She felt it every time she struggled up the stairs of her second-floor condo in Aurora and all through the hours she worked on her feet each day. She was carrying twins and suffering from preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy condition.

But she didn’t want to give birth a day before it was necessary.

“As physically exhausted and miserable as I was, I needed the pregnancy to last longer,” explained Riley, a 38-year-old who manages programs for adults with disabilities.

She wasn’t just worried about complications from a preterm delivery, which is common for twins. She simply couldn’t afford it. Her job didn’t offer paid maternity leave and she needed to work as long as possible to build up a cushion for a few weeks off.

“I worked really hard to save money while I was pregnant, and I worked two jobs all through my pregnancy as well,” said Riley, who makes just less than $50,000 a year. Her boyfriend is a therapist for Medicaid clients. Together, they hoped to cover her missed paychecks for a month, giving her time to bond with the twins.

But things didn’t work out as the couple planned.




-CPR, Andrew Kenney


10 things not to say to a mom on maternity leave

No matter how much a woman might love her job, having a baby makes it hard to head back to the office. Before you comment on your friend, sister, or cousin’s maternity leave, read this first. Your “helpful” comment or question just might be the opposite.

1. Aren’t you dreading going back to work? Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t, but either way, this isn’t something a hormonal mother with a fixed amount of time off from work wants to hear. In the former case, it’s an unwanted reminder, and in the latter, it’s just plain awkward. And either way, it presses our mom-guilt button!

2. Oh, you’re putting the baby in daycare? (Also see: You’re letting your mother-in-law watch her?!) Not everyone has the luxury of having a nanny (or wants their child home all day). If daycare—or mothers-in-law—aren’t for you, great! But remember: No new parents make their childcare decisions lightly, so please respect our choices.


Making Lunch (Out of Nothing at All)

Dear kids, I thought I had groceries and it turns out I didn’t. I am sorry for this sad excuse of a lunch. Love, Every parent (at least once).

We’re halfway through the year and the lunch struggle is real. That’s why we love the Holderness family new parody of the popular song from Air Supply. 

Nature vs. nurture: Is parenting overrated?

Yes or no: Is parenting overrated? 

A new video debates this question, bringing new research to one of the oldest questions in child-rearing: nature vs. nurture.

In this Oxford-style debate held by Intelligence Squared U.S., twin researcher Nancy Segal and behavioral geneticist Robert Plomin argue that parenting is indeed overrated and that the latest studies show that genetics play an even greater role than we ever realized in how a person turns out.

But their opponents, former Parents Magazine editor-in-chief Ann Pleshette Murphy and psychology professor Paige Harden, counter that upbringing and environment are the ultimate deciding factors. 

Warning: It’s a long debate but pretty darn fascinating if you tune in for just a few minutes. 

 In a neck-and-neck vote at the end, the live audience narrowly sided with the latter, deciding that parenting is not overrated.

What do you think? How much of a role does genetics plan in how we turn out?


4 Important Parenting Tips for Moms in Recovery

Behind every great child is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it all up.” – Unknown

 Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. There is no perfect guidebook for you to refer to, a parental encyclopedia to look up that unknown little fact you need the answer to, no map that charts a child’s life to give you a sense of direction, and certainly, no magic wand to ensure everything turns out just as it should.

 Recovery from substance addiction is a little like that too.

 With both of these huge challenges that life has delivered to your doorstep, to a certain degree, you just have to wing it, and rely on your mind’s intuition and wisdom to simply do its best. Yes, no all-knowing manual to guide you, but always remember, help is always close by. You just have to reach out.

 According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around 25% of children in the U.S. under the age of 18 experience alcohol abuse or dependence in their families. Sadly, some of these will become addicted adults themselves.

 But you can change all that. With your parental love and desire to guide and positively impact your children’s lives, the future you now hope for is ready waiting for you. It’s waiting for your children too. Here are our best gems of advice for parenting in recovery (and yes, you can do both of these right now – just remember to reach out…).

 #1. Your Oxygen Mask First

Concentrate on your recovery (that’s you putting your mask on first). This is, by far, the most positive way of being in the best place to be the parent you want to be. With recovery, comes energy, a clear head every day, and time – time to be a parent. Whether you’re in outpatient rehab in Denver, or another program elsewhere, remember – without recovery, you will find being the best mom a near-impossible task to achieve.

 #2. Recovery & Home

These are two separate things – try to keep them that way. Focus on your recovery during your program and meetings, but, when you’re with your children, focus on them, and focus on the right now.

 #3. Your Kids’ Feelings

Remember, your children might be confused, even a little angry at you. That is fine, absolutely. Encourage them to talk about these feelings, to share them with you. If your emotions get the better of you, before you do anything – reach out. To a friend, a sponsor, or someone in your program.

 #4. The Fun Stuff

Your kids are kids, and they need to play, laugh and horse around. To an extent, you do too. Having fun, smiling, laughing – these are great medicine for the mind, and they’ll do wonders for your own motivation. Making time to do this is important too, so that it becomes part of your parenting routine.

 Parenting & Recovery

At this moment in time, these two challenges should be your absolute priorities – being the best mom you can be, and staying clean and sober so you’re in the right place to do exactly that. Always remember to reach out for help when you need to. We wish you well!

In partnership with Mile High Mamas.

Conflicts Over Parenting Styles? How to keep your differences from hurting your kids

At some point, most couples are going to differ on how to approach parenting.

“I think in almost every family you’re going to find some disagreements,” says Dr. Alan Ravitz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “In my own family I know there were times when I thought my wife was too harsh and there were times when she thought I was too easy.” The important thing is to present a united front. “You shouldn’t disagree in front of the child,” he says. “You should disagree behind closed doors.”

This becomes especially challenging when parents develop extreme differences in their approaches to parenting-particularly when the child or children are struggling with a psychiatric diagnosis or a learning disability and treatment decisions need to be made. In these situations, the parents’ ability—or inability—to reach an agreement can mean the difference between successful treatment and an anxiety-provoking situation in which the child is left alone to sort out and interpret the confusing and often painful mixed signals he is getting from his parents.

Striking a balance

Maria and Alex consider themselves to be happily married, but when they fight it’s always about their children and it always goes the same way. “He’d say I don’t convey a message to our children that I care how they do in school or that I feel they have to work hard or that I care whether they get into a good college,” Maria says. “And I think he’s so hard on them that it leaves no room for me to be tough on them because I don’t think they can be getting that message over and over again.” READ MORE

Mommy Burnout and How to Avoid It

Dear Mommas,

You are true heroes. Parenting is one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences. You are so good at dusting yourself off after a long day of carpools, temper tantrums, picky eating, and drippy noses. We are proud of you for enduring, but we realize that sometimes you just get burned out — Mommy Burnout. Every mommy needs a break, but we don’t always know how to take one. Here’s some expert advice to help moms like you decompress. 

Here are some tips to help you de-stress:

  • Yoga or a relaxing stretch 
  • Deep breathing
  • Picture a calming location 
  • Talk with a close friend or family member
  • Exercise outside
  • Write out your feelings on paper or journal
  • Take a few minutes of “alone time” to re-group

If you feel like you’re too busy, check out these tips for simplifying your life.

  • Prioritize 
    • Create time to focus on yourself.
    • Create time to focus on your family.
    • Move less important things lower on your “to-do” list.
    • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Plan
    • Schedule screen-free time into every day.
    • Make a weekly meal schedule.
    • Schedule in a good night’s sleep.
  • Display your commitment to “less”
    • Create a family calendar and prove that it’s manageable.

Recognizing that you need help can be difficult. Remember that the strongest parents have the strongest network of support.

Here are some signs that a stronger network might make you a happier parent:

  • You frequently feel like you need to be in two places at once
  • You feel like a chauffeur
  • You wake up anxious that your kids will make you late for your day
  • Your current network is broken (e.g. relocation, divorce, family disagreements, etc.)

Tips for building a stronger village:

  • Find a partner for each area of your life (e.g. a work partner, an exercise partner)
  • Practice trusting your reliable friends and family to help you out with advice, carpooling, or finding solutions for stressful situations
  • Connect with your community – stop and talk with your neighbors or other parents you see regularly
  • Join a community club or group 
  • Connect with parents who have older kids and can serve as your parenting mentors

Get more parenting tips, games, and other resources, based on the age of your child, sent right to your cell phone 2-4 times a week for FREE with Bright by Text. Text BRIGHT to 274448 or click here to sign up! Also, check out Dr. Sheryl Ziegler’s book, Mommy Burnout for more advice on how to unclutter your life, manage stress, and be a heroic mother!


*Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to 274448 to stop. Text HELP to 274448 for help.


Emotional Terrorism: Coping When Your Ex Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder

I have a stalker. He doesn’t lurk in the bushes by my house with binoculars. He doesn’t follow me to work or spy on me while I run errands. But he still inserts himself into my life and the effects of his actions are present in my home. He is the father of my child.

My daughter’s father and I were never married or even in a physical relationship. I was never traditional and the way that I had my daughter was no different. I met this man on Craigslist. He wanted a child, I wanted a child and he seemed like a decent, generous and well-balanced person. I got to know him over the course of about a year. We even went to counseling together but he wasn’t wearing a t-shirt that said covert narcissist.

Even trained and experienced psychologists are fooled by the mask of normalcy exhibited by narcissists. In fact, before I got pregnant I thought of narcissism more as a flaw, like being self-absorbed or selfish which everyone can be from time to time.

Fast forward twelve years after the birth of our daughter in 2007 and I am now a walking textbook on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I learned the grueling way about this cluster B personality disorder.

The conflict between my daughter’s father and I escalated to the point where we ended up in family court when she was 8 months old in 2008. He wanted her pediatrician to be in his town even though she lived with me Monday through Friday and I didn’t live in his town. He wanted parenting time every weekend and revealed in court he was home from his weekly out-of-state job for five months. But never asked to see her even one extra night.

At that hearing in 2008, the judge asked him if he was willing to pick her up from daycare to start his parenting time on Friday after work he said no. He wanted me to drive her to his house so it was a convenience for him even though I was working full-time. But he was forced to agree since the judge told him that he just wouldn’t see his child then.

Before the judge gave me sole decision making for my daughter’s daycare arrangements, I couldn’t understand why this man would agree to send my daughter to a particular daycare center and then a week later change his mind, leaving me to scramble to find a new center. When I offered him more time with her I couldn’t understand why he told me that I only a few precious days of vacation and time for myself every year. Above all, I had no idea why he was so angry and couldn’t put his resentment aside, move on and co-parent without conflict.

For several years, the only label I could give him was jerk. Well, in my mind I selected a stronger word than jerk, but for the purposes of this article I’ll stick to jerk. When my daughter was about ten years old in 2017, I thought about some of his characteristics: lack of empathy, sense of entitlement and superiority, being a bully, angry, and anger issues, to name a few. I typed them into the Google search bar. Voila! Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) popped up.

I was almost relieved to see that a psychological diagnosis that encompassed all of these traits… then I was horrified and devastated. This would not get better. He intimidated me, bullied me and threatened me.

I learned how to cope by appeasing him so that at the slightest inkling of conflict my self-preservation instinct kicked in and I let him have his way. However, in 2018 I had had enough and stopped bending over backward for him. That’s when all hell broke loose.

Twelve wonderful years with my daughter. Twelve excruciating years trying to co-parent with a narcissist. I’ve read all of the articles that say instead of co-parenting try parallel parenting. The authors of these articles tell those of us who have children with a narcissist to disengage from the other parent, run our households without interfering with the rules of the other parent’s home and eventually the dust will settle. Then we’ll be able to co-parent successfully and get along.

But that’s not always reality. These authors never tell you how to handle schedule changes, obstruction of medical treatments, manipulation of your child and a host of other devious and deviant behaviors when the other parent is a narcissist.

My daughter’s father and I are not co-parenting. He is counter parenting while I do my best to navigate the chaos that he creates and raise our daughter. But isn’t that the point of the narcissist’s onslaught? Once you are a target, the harassment, the manipulation and the litigation may be relentless.

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Holiday “glitter grief” and an angel named Claire

I lost my mother in April.

It was a slow, painful death after a 30-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis.  Though she was larger-than-life, she wanted a small, intimate graveside service and we treated everyone to Chinese food at her favorite restaurant following the service. There were a lot of hilarious memories shared over a delicious plate of ginger beef–just the way she would have wanted it.

My childhood was heaped in tradition. Visits to my grandparent’s farm. Big, joyful celebrations. When I went away to college, she sent me care packages for every holiday that I assumed would stop when I graduated but they continued for many years until she was too ill to send them…and my dad took over. 

For the most part, my grieving has been sporadic. I have been mourning her for years, as anyone with a loved one who has an incurable disease can relate. But I wasn’t prepared for how difficult the holidays would be. As I unpacked our holiday decorations, so many of them held memories of my mother. A crafting goddess who was a successful restauranteur, she handmade so many treasures that she passed on to me. As I decorated the tree with my daughter, I found a lace angel ornament I have never noticed before, one that was undoubtedly gifted by my mom: Mothers are really angels in disguise.

I cried. She probably gave it to me when I first became a mother, not knowing how much it would impact me on my first Christmas without her.  I love these sentiments adapted from George Shelley:

Grief is much like glitter. In the original time of tragedy, it’s like throwing a big handful of glitter up in the air. Then you attempt to clean it all up, as you don’t want to have to see that everywhere & be reminded of that pain. Over the next few days…weeks…years – you’ll find remnants of glitter everywhere, tucked here & there. Triggering you of the pain. The ‘grief glitter’ will be found in many nooks & crannies of your life. As years go by, there will be less glitter found in those secret places. But when a small glimmer of glitter appears….your heart will always go back to that moment of great loss.

I gave the eulogy at my mom’s funeral. It was chock-full of hilarious stories and some sad ones, too. Following the service, Claire Neville walked up to give me a hug. For much of her life, my mom was the life of every party but as her condition worsened, she shut out most people except for her family.

And Claire.

This 80+-year-old widow–who has known her share of trials and heartache–refused to leave her, often bringing her thoughtful gifts and staying with her when my caregiver dad needed a break.

So, I was surprised by what sweet Claire told me at the funeral. “Oh, Amber. I just loved hearing all of the fun stories about your mom. I never knew her back then and it makes me so happy to hear about her full, wonderful life.”

Mic drop.

Claire had been such an integral part of my mom’s life that I never realized her interactions with her were solely in her later, difficult years. 

How many of us can say that we have stood by someone during their darkest days, weeks, months and years, no matter how much they attempted to push us away? Our world needs less frenzied Black Friday shopping for the “perfect gift” and more gifts of kindness, love and mending of broken hearts without expecting anything in return. 

This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again. -Howard W. Hunter

Because you never know what kind of an impact a simple, kind gesture can make. 

Join Our Movement for Accessible, Affordable and High-Quality Childcare

Denver mom Beth Slaboda decided to look into going back into teaching a few years ago. She had been working as a private part-time math tutor in the evenings and she thought going back would give her family a little more consistent income. She was wrong.

“We looked into childcare for our two kiddos and quickly realized that any extra I would make teaching (after paying for childcare) would be equal to or LESS than what I was making tutoring. I have such respect for single parents…I don’t know how they do it!”

Beth is not alone–Colorado has some of the priciest childcare in the country. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s 2019 report, a year’s worth of childcare costs thousands more than in-state college tuition over the same timeframe. A year’s worth of infant care is also higher than the average annual cost of housing in Colorado.

Can we just process that for a moment? Your child’s daycare costs more than college and housing. 

Being able to provide for our families is at the very core of who we are as parents. When I was approached by Colorado-based Affordable Child Care Now!, I was immediately struck by the urgency of their bipartisan message: “Many of the Presidential candidates have told us they are not hearing from their constituents that childcare affordability is a crisis.”

LET US BE HEARD!  By adding your voice, you are a part of the collective megaphone advocating for the importance of accessible, affordable, quality childcare.

The Stats Don’t Lie

So, why care about childcare, even if you are not directly impacted? According to the campaign’s research:

  • Investing in high quality, early childhood education and care pay off. Every dollar we spend now saves up to $11 in later spending on social programs, criminal justice costs, and more. 
  • Children who participated in high-quality early childhood education had higher college graduation rates and rates of employment at the age of 30 than peers who did not have access to high-quality early childhood education. 
  • Not only does high quality, early childhood education and care provide the foundation for a child’s success later in life, it can also break the poverty cycle. We know that investing in our children today will save taxpayer dollars later on.

Take Action (It’s Easy!) 

Go to Care for All Children to learn more about how your signature can influence the government to take a two-generation approach to their policies and investments—an approach that is both feasible and sustainable for working parents and preparing our youngest learners the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed. 

By signing the petition you are agreeing to raise your voice as a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor, employer, childcare provider, as someone who benefits and loses in society when we do not stand up for young children, hard-working families, and our economy.

It’s time to call for affordable childcare for all children by signing the petition:




Across the country, Americans are calling for equal access to affordable care for all children. Take a look at who is supporting the movement in your region and roll up your sleeves to move the needle. Let’s make a difference in the lives of our children and Colorado families!

Mile High Mamas is proudly partnering with Care for All Children. Make a difference in the lives of Colorado families.