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IKEA's new parental leave policy definitely raises the bar for American retailers.

If you're an expecting new parent, there's probably a million and one questions racing through your mind at any given moment.

What's the correct way to hold a newborn? How many onesies is too many? Is it bad that I've never changed a diaper?

Oh, and how in the world am I going to balance work with being a parent?


Photo via iStock.

That last thought clearly doesn't belong. Yet, it's still one on the minds of most American workers about to welcome little ones into their families.

Far too many U.S. workers lack paid parental leave, and those in blue collar and low-wage positions — like fast food and retail — are most affected.

You've probably heard this line before, but it definitely bears repeating: The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world to not have a national paid maternity leave policy. Unfortunately, many businesses won't take the initiative to provide that sort of benefit if they're not required to; a mere 13% of American workers had access to paid family leave in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Having time off after expanding your family benefits parents and babies alike. Studies suggest that paid parental leave lowers infant mortality while improving the mental health of mothers, among other critical factors. Dads, too, are more likely to become involved in family activities, forming beneficial bonds with their kids.

While the U.S. has a lot of work to do on the issue, the tide (slowly, but surely) seems to be turning. And news out of Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA this week is the latest proof.

IKEA announced on Dec. 6, 2016, that starting next year, most of its employees will have access to new, generous paid parental leave benefits.

If you've worked at IKEA for at least one year, you'll be able to take six weeks of fully paid parental leave and another six weeks of 50% pay. The benefit is company-wide too: It doesn't matter if you're salary or hourly, working at corporate or at an individual store, an expecting mother or an expecting father, LGBTQ or straight, adopting or fostering a new little one — you'll have access to the policy.

What's more, if you've worked at IKEA for more than three years, your paid time off increases to four months (eight weeks of full-pay, eight weeks of half-pay).

Photo by Thord Nilsson/AFP/Getty Images.

The move came about because IKEA actually listened to its employees. And their message was clear: Employees wanted better work-life balance.

According to a statement from the company, research into its employees' priorities found that work-life balance and moments spent with loved ones topped the list.

"We believe time with family and friends is so important for a healthy work-life balance and a happy and productive workforce,” said Lars Petersson, president of IKEA USA. “Our co-workers are our most important resource, which is why we continue to invest in helping them reach their dream.”

And as it turns out, investing in your workers pays off. It might seem counterintuitive to let an employee leave the company for such an extended period of time, but providing paid parental leave has been known to be good for business, helping companies recruit top talent and significantly lowering costly worker turnover, among other upsides.

Photo by Solum, Stian Lysberg/AFP/Getty Images.

IKEA isn't stopping here either. The company also wanted to be more accommodating to employees who don't want to become parents and has introduced a new sabbatical program for them as well. As The Huffington Post reports, the program gives workers with at least seven years' experience three months of unpaid leave with the guarantee their job will be waiting when they return. The more years under a worker's belt past seven, the more time off they can take advantage of.

New and expecting parents have a lot on their plate, and whether they'll be able to make ends meet between work and parenting should never be part of the equation.

"The home is our arena,” Petersson told The Huffington Post. “We think that it’s really important that people working for us get a chance to experience their home, especially when you’re welcoming a new family member."

This way, new parents can mostly worry about messy diapers and finding the time to sleep — not where their next paycheck is coming from.

Science

Sustainably good news: Recycling is getting better and this family is showing us how

What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these stories as an invitation to do better?

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There is no shortage of dire news about the state of modern recycling. Most recently, this NPR article shared the jaw-dropping statistic that about 5% of all plastics produced get recycled, meaning the rest of it ends up in landfills. While the underlying concerns here are sound, I worry that the public narrative around recycling has gotten so pessimistic that it will make people give up on it entirely instead of seeing the opportunities to improve it. What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these news stories as an invitation to do better?

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Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Doom Patrol” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.

Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?

During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.

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Little boy and his mom get surprised with tickets to Eagles game.

In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in all the negative news we're exposed to, but in reality, most good deeds are done away from a camera—just one person helping another without desire for fanfare. And for mom Bryanne McBride and her young son, Mason, that's exactly what they were doing when they got the surprise of a lifetime.

Bryanne was approached by a man in a parking lot asking for a dollar to catch the bus. The entire time, the mom scrounged around in her purse looking for spare change and revealed she felt bad because she thought she had some. Bryanne's desire to help was a simple act of kindness to another human in need without the expectation of something in return.

During the time it took for the unsuspecting mother to dig for loose change, the "stranded" stranger, Zach, introduced himself and asked if the duo were from Philly. Once they said they were from the area, he then inquired if they were Eagles fans...the football team, not the birds. "You ever been to an Eagles game?" Zach asked.

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Woman without an internal monologue explains what it's like inside her head

“She's broken my mind. I don't even understand what I'm not understanding."

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The notion of living without an internal monologue is a fairly new one. Until psychologist Russell Hurlburt’s studies started coming out in the late 90s, it was widely accepted that everyone had a little voice narrating in their head. Now Hurlburt, who has been studying people's "inner experience" for 40 years, estimates that only 30-50% of the population frequently think this way.

So what about the other 50-70%? What exactly goes on inside their heads from day to day?

In a video interview originally posted in 2020, a woman named Kirsten Carlson gave some insight into this question, sharing how not having an inner dialogue affected her reading and writing, her interactions with others and how she navigates mental challenges like anxiety and depression. It was eye-opening and mind-blowing.
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Two couples move in together with their kids to create one big, loving 'polyfamory'

They are using their unique family arrangement to help people better understand polyamory.

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Polyamory, a lifestyle where people have multiple romantic or sexual partners, is more prevalent in America than most people think. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, one in nine Americans have been in a polyamorous relationship, and one in six say they would like to try one.

However popular the idea is, polyamory is misunderstood by a large swath of the public and is often seen as deviant. However, those who practice it view polyamory as a healthy lifestyle with several benefits.

Taya Hartless, 28, and Alysia Rogers, 34, along with their husbands Sean, 46, and Tyler, 35, are in a polyamorous relationship and have no problem sharing their lifestyle with the public on social media. Even though they risk stigmatization for being open about their non-traditional relationships, they are sharing it with the world to make it a safer place for “poly” folks like themselves.

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Native Siberian shares what daily life entails in the coldest village on Earth

See how the people of Yakutia, Siberia take showers, do laundry, go to school and more in minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit.

A man in the Yakutia region of Siberia takes an ice bath in minus 50 degrees Celsius.

For most of us, waking up to a temperature of minus 50 degrees would spell catastrophe. Normal life would come to a screeching halt, we'd be scrambling to deal with frozen pipes and power outages, school and work would be canceled and weather warnings would tell us not to venture outside due to frostbite risk.

But in the Yakutia region of Siberia, that's just an average winter day where life goes on as usual.

When you live in the coldest inhabited area on Earth, your entire life is arranged around dealing with ridiculously cold temperatures. Villages don't have running water because freezing pipes wouldn't allow for water treatment. Kids go to school unless the temp drops below minus 55 degrees Celsius (which is then considered dangerous). Showering involves spending hours stoking a fire in the bathhouse to create a steamy, warm room.

Native Siberian Kiun B. has created a series of documentary short films detailing what daily life is like in Yakutia's frigid winters. She was born and raised in Yakutsk, Siberia, widely recognized as the coldest city on Earth, where average winter temperatures hover around minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. As seen in her videos, smaller villages in the Yakutia region regularly dip down into the negative 50s, with the lowest recorded temp in the Yakut village of Oymayakon reaching a mindblowing minus 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

The popularity of Kiun's YouTube channel demonstrates how curious people are about life in such harsh conditions, as her videos have been viewed by tens of millions of people in the past year alone.

Check out this video detailing a day in the life of a family in a Yakutia village.

Can you imagine going out to use an outhouse in minus 40 degrees? Oof.

Another of Kiun's videos goes into more detail about how people shower and do laundry in the region. You might assume they wouldn't line-dry their laundry outdoors, but they do.

Watch:

What do people wear to protect themselves from the negative temperatures? Frostbite is a real risk, so it's important to have the right kinds of clothing and outdoor gear to stay safe and relatively comfortable.

Kiun shared some frigid fashion norms from Yakutsk, which include traditional fur hats and boots as well as lots of layers and down jackets.

However, there are some Yakut folks who see the cold as something to embrace. For instance, this man takes an ice bath out in the elements as a morning ritual. It's something he has worked up to—definitely not something to try on your own during a cold snap—but it still has to be painful.

(Seriously, please don't try this at home.)

The way humans have learned to adapt to drastically different environments, from the sweltering tropics to the Arctic tundra, is incredible, and it's fascinating to get a close-up look at how people make life work in those extremes. Thank you, Kiun B., for giving us a glimpse of what it's like to experience life in the dead of winter in the world's coldest inhabited places.

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Recently, Facebook censored two posts from a transgender and nonbinary couple that featured the couple appearing topless. Even though their nipples were covered, an AI system took the photos down for "violating the Sexual Solicitation Community Standard" after they were flagged by a human user. The couple appealed to Meta, and the photos were reinstated, but it was enough to catch the attention of Meta’s oversight board, which advises Meta on content moderation policies and is made up of academics, politicians and journalists.

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