A letter from neli’s CEO on supporting parents

5 Minute Read

Whew, this journey has been a whirlwind. I recently told my Co-Founders that I feel like I’ve lived 10,000 lives since going public with neli in October. 

We knew building in public was a choice. Many startups spend a year or two in “stealth” mode, working out kinks, building products, and launching when they’re on more solid ground. Personally, I’ve never been good at hiding parts of myself, and this work was too important to us not to share (plus, we try not to take ourselves too seriously), so we’ve been sharing our journey with whoever wants to come along for the ride. 

The upside is the incredible support we’ve received from moms, providers, workplaces, and more—the community that we’re building is truly special. We learn from each and every conversation. I wouldn’t change it. It’s made us stronger and driven us further. 

The (slight) downside is that everyone gets to see the thrash that comes with building something new. Every pivot, every message change, every new direction and decision is on display. It can make us look unsure or indecisive, and it can be a little embarrassing at times, if I’m being honest. 

Here’s the thing. 

We believe that when we know better, we do better. 

Know better, do better is a central tenant of neli. We pivot because we learn new information that we can’t leave behind. It’s how we become the very best we can be. It’s how we build a company that actually helps people—that does something that matters

It’s why I’m writing now. 

Where we were

Our initial launch with neli was focused solely on pregnancy and postpartum. We considered ourselves to be FemTech—sitting squarely in the health and wellness sector to create a space that puts moms at the center of postpartum care. 

Birthing parents don’t have enough support during postpartum. We don’t fully understand what’s happening in our brains and bodies, we’re expected to bounce back too quickly, and we take a backseat to the baby. Mothers are dying because the system that’s meant to help them wasn’t actually built for them. 

The more we learned about postpartum care, the more we realized that the biological changes set in motion by pregnancy impact birthing parents far beyond that “fourth trimester.” Studies have shown that postpartum nutrient depletion can last up to 10 years in birthing parents. Hormone changes at six months after birth have been associated with postpartum depression and anxiety and often go unrecognized because we think we’re beyond the “postpartum” timeframe.

Biological changes, the childcare crisis, cultural norms set for mothers, being mommy-tracked, and more have led us to a place where ​​42% of working mothers surveyed were diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression in 2022.

So, we expanded neli to help all working moms. 

But something has never felt quite right about that for us. We’ve struggled with questions around inclusivity—how do we hold space for our LGBTQ friends navigating parenthood? What about the dads who become primary caregivers and lack substantial support?

We also struggled with questions about viability. 

The problems for women, especially mothers, in the workplace and the world are very real. They are specific to women—rights to reproductive care are being challenged, a push for a “traditional” nuclear family continues to loom over the progress made toward egalitarian relationships, workplace flexibility instituted during the pandemic is being rolled back, and moms still earn about half of what dads earn after having a child.

These are big, systemic problems that mothers did not create and have little power to change. If we are only speaking to women, we’re teaching them to fend for themselves in a system that isn’t set up for them. We’re making the already overworked and undersupported do more work to support themselves. We aren’t building bridges—we’re widening the chasm. To help moms thrive, we need to equip more caregivers and bring them into the conversation.

Here’s an example of what I mean. 

There are common questions that a working mom gets asked that a working dad almost never gets asked. At the top of my mind is, “How do you balance your family and work?” 

I conduct a lot of interviews for neli, and I shy away from asking this question because, at this point, most professional women hate it because of its connotation that it’s our sole responsibility to figure out both. 

But the answer to the problem is not to stop asking the question. It’s an important one that can build community and help other parents figure out what might work for them. Not asking further isolates us all.  

Instead, we also need to ask the men. And they need to be involved enough in caregiving to have an answer. 

Where we are now

Recent studies show that fathers' brains change after their child is born, very similar to the way that mothers’ brains change. Neuroplasticity increases, new pathways are created, grey matter is impacted, and more. The significance of the changes seems to have a direct correlation with how involved the father is in caregiving—more involved equals larger changes in the brain. Prime time for this neuroplasticity seems to be during the immediate postpartum period. 

What’s more, research has also shown that all caregivers experience brain changes during the course of parenting. Foster parents, adoptive parents, step-parents, even aunts, uncles, grandparents—the list goes on—have access to the “mom brain” we’ve been told for most of our lives is exclusive to biological mothers. 

The very act of caregiving unlocks neuroplasticity. It’s a skill you practice and learn, not something you’re born with. 

When we know better, we do better

Yes, there are very distinct physiological changes unique to birthing parents. Creating and birthing another human being from scratch is a miraculous, wondrous, and even sacred feat we should hold in high regard. 

But the idea that, as a mother, you’re fulfilling your innate calling by giving birth and that you should instinctually know how to care for your child better than anyone else is a burden that’s been placed on the backs of birthing parents for far too long. 

It takes practice and support, just like any skill. You cannot and—dare we say—should not do it on your own. You don’t have to bear the burden of being the default parent while finding a way to crush your career and “have it all.”

And, to the non-birthing parents of all kinds: You have everything you need to raise your child. You deserve the time, space, and support from your workplace to practice your skill. 

We have always known that the best way to help moms is to build a village. Let’s help the village build itself.

So, neli will look a little different moving forward. Here’s what this means. 

What this means for parents:

We’re teaching the why and the how

Parents of all kinds are invited into our conversations and events. Everyone is welcome in our community. 

We’re also building unique pathways, courses, and educational content for birthing and non-birthing parents for all stages of parenthood. 

We won’t lose our unique offerings on pregnancy and postpartum for birthing parents—there’s still so much work to do there—but we’ll have more inclusive content available to all types of parents by partnering with neuroscientists, physicians, and other professionals to understand and explain how the transition into parenthood impacts you, and why it matters. 

Then, we’ll teach you how to develop your skills and build a community to support you while you do it.

What this means for workplaces:

We’ll continue to offer coaching and consulting services alongside support for HR and benefits teams on building comprehensive parental leave programs that benefit all parents. 

Things like

  • Employer and brand sentiment benchmarking around support for working parents
  • Comprehensive plans to move the needle for your workforce
  • Training and workshops around mitigating risk, supporting parents on teams, and building a more resilient workforce
  • 1:1 parental leave planning and return to work coaching
  • Employee access to all that neli provides for parents

We’re tired of the old way of doing things. We’re done working within broken systems. 

We’re bringing everyone together to change the trajectory for parents, families, workplaces, and communities. 

Join us


Brittany, Katie, Zack

Co-Founders, neli

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