Julia Merrill is a retired board certified nurse practitioner.
It’s no secret that the amount of sleep you get each night directly impacts the way you feel during the day. The National Institutes of Health explains that sleep is also important to your physical health, as well as your ability to remain safe throughout the day. Sleep is imperative for children, as getting a good night’s rest is vital to academic performance. However, creating a cozy and comfortable environment in which to sleep is expensive — or is it?
The answer to that question depends on the amount of work you’re willing to put into your bedroom and your ability to hunt down a bargain.
Sleep and Exercise
One of the best things you can do for your body is exercise. Not only does it keep your muscles strong, but just 30 minutes of physical activity during the day can also help you wind down at night, according to Johns Hopkins Hospital. And, fortunately, exercise is free. From yoga to swimming, there are plenty of no-cost ways for both children and adults to get moving.
Your physical activity levels are not the only things that determine whether you can reap the benefits of restful sleep. Another major contributor is your environment. If your mattress is old and outdated, consider upgrading.
Light is another major issue when it comes to getting a restful sleep, especially for children. The New York Times reports that children are more sensitive to bright lights than adults. This is due to the way light affects melatonin production, which can drop by 90 percent with exposure to bright lights prior to bed. Blackout curtains are an exceptional way to block outside lights and can often be found online for less than in-store. Many retailers offer a wide selection of competitively priced bedroom decor including room darkening shades, moisture-wicking cotton linens, and pillows for every type of sleep.
Notes on Nutrition
There is a reciprocal relationship between food and sleep. If you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to crave sweets and carbohydrates. If you have a diet comprised of mostly junk food, you’re less likely to sleep well. On the flip side, however, certain foods and drinks can actually help you and your children enjoy sounder sleep. A warm cup of caffeine-free tea, a handful of fresh cherries, and a small glass of milk are excellent options. Cherries, specifically, are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin, the hormone your body secretes that helps you fall — and stay — asleep.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to enjoy a diverse range of nutritional foods, even if you’re on a budget. This Vox article offers some great advice on how to do just that, including buying frozen fruits and replacing your high-priced juice and soda with plain old tap water. You can also look for grocery coupons using sites and apps like Ibotta.
You don’t have to lose sleep or overextend yourself financially trying to create a cozy, comfortable, and restful bedroom environment. With a little research and a few habit changes, your entire family can reap the benefits of rest.
We are so fortunate to have Kallie as our guest blog again this week. Her personal journey uncovering the culprits of mom guilt is so helpful. Enjoy!
Most first time mothers fail to see some of the worst challenges that come along with motherhood and parenting from the very beginning.
I know I did.
As I look back at what has challenged me the most through young adulthood and into motherhood, I have to give credit to the women who first opened my eyes to three ever present critics in every woman’s head.
There are two incredible women and authors—Dr. Brene Brown and Glennon Melton—who first identified the presence of these toxic voices most women and mothers live with in their daily life.
Whether you are a woman, a mother, or just a human being who loves books, I could not recommend two better writers whose words grace this world with timely wisdom, courage, and kindness.
Over the past five years, I have slowly awakened to the large mental space that these critical voices have taken up in my daily life.
They begin as whispers throughout our girlhoods, and by the time we show up to adulthood we are often numb and ill-prepared for their onslaught.
Like unwanted guests, these critics always manage to show up with some of the worst advice packaged so pretty that too often we reach for it out of habit or desperation.
These sly guests showing up uninvited to the table in our lives are comparison, scarcity, and foreboding joy.
Scarcity is the most elusive of the three.
Scarcity is the mindset our society in general has swallowed hook, line, and sinker. It is the belief that there is only so much to go around. That we are never enough.
Brene Brown puts it best, “We live in a culture with a strong sense of scarcity. We wake up in the morning and we say, ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ And we hit the pillow saying, ‘I didn’t get enough done.’ We’re never thin enough, extraordinary enough or good enough – until we decide that we are. For me,” says Brown, “the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough. I’m enough. My kids are enough.”
In my experience, this scarcity mindset runs rampant especially amongst women. It clouds our perspective every time we pass by the mirror. It comes out in our words that are quicker to assume the worst, first about ourselves, and next others.
This belief that I am not enough and that there will never be enough time has punished me more than most as a young mother. It is the evil voice in my head reminding me of every flaw, every mistake, and every shortcoming. It is willfully blind to context and effort, and absolutely deaf to kindness and grace.
Mindlessly succumbing to scarcity’s lies leaves me grasping for all the wrong solutions.
Some days it’s the pressure to do and be more as I try to fight off feeling like I am less. For me this looks like ignoring what’s best for me and my family so much that we all end up too busy, miserable, and over committed.
Other days it’s that clawing at the back of my throat and the hair that stands up on the back of my neck, as my defenses kick in anytime I sense someone questioning my choices as a parent.
Scarcity oftentimes presents itself as this baited hook that here is proof that I am somehow less than enough. That nasty hook it uses is its twin – comparison.
Comparison is the most often used, but worst measurement tool ever. It is always going to leave someone coming up short. We often secretly (sometimes openly) feel good about the times that it leaves someone else coming up short. It’s far too easy to forget how it’s only a matter of time before those roles will reverse.
Comparison is the critic that comes in with all the ready information of how everyone else is doing—better and worse.
For women this reigns supreme in how we look, what we wear, what we eat, what we buy, and the list just keeps growing.
For moms it comes in with every differing parenting choice, differing delivery choices and birth stories, differing child behaviors, differing baby gear, milestone accomplishments, feeding choices, parenting styles,…. A list that is both exhausting and never ending.
Reality shows me however that for every personal preference I have or choice I make I can always find someone who is doing something similar to make me feel good, or I can find just as many if not more who did something different or the exact opposite and subsequently feel worse about myself.
Comparison is the voice that screams that difference must equal loss or threat. That there are only either/or options at hand. It swims in the belief that if you are not with me you are against me.
Comparison cheekily promises us a feeling of validation, and then tricks us by leaving us entrenched in insecurity and shame.
The truth is that someone else’s choices or preferences hold no bearing on the worth of yours.
Comparison will always be there as a voice shouting its lies in the background. It is our choice to listen to it and believe it, or to see it for the false prophet that it is.
The last voice I find myself wrestling with is a doomsday prophet that steals all my joy.
Brene Brown was the first person to ever put to words my inner resistance to joy. In her New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly she termed the third critic “foreboding joy.” She describes it as the mental reaction we have to a moment of deep love or joy. Instead of reveling in the good, she pinpoints how so many of us suddenly find ourselves instead “dress rehearsing tragedy.”
I have experienced this my whole life in various amounts, but after I became a mother my weakness for practicing foreboding joy slammed into me like a freight train.
Watching my sweet sleeping baby through our video monitor and suddenly I am entertaining thoughts of someone storming the house at night and kidnapping my baby before I can even get to him.
Driving along with my husband and child, laughing and singing, only to suddenly be wrestling with a mental movie trailer of our lives being extinguished in a horrific car accident.
Receiving a report of good news from family or friends, or find myself feeling like our lives are in a good place for once, and all of the sudden I feel a reactionary wince, like I constantly need to be prepared for the other shoe to drop.
Dr. Brown goes on to share that the people she finds experiencing true joy, are the ones who when faced with the temptation to rehearse future tragedy, choose instead to practice gratitude.
Slowly I am finding that true toy is experienced in spite of and right in the midst of this messy, scary, and wonderful life.
Glennon Melton revealed the powerful trifecta these three critics hold by saying, “I think comparison and competition exist partly because we believe that there is a scarcity of good things in the universe. And that belief makes us kind of small and scared and unable to feel true joy for others or peace for ourselves.”
Left unchecked, scarcity, comparison, and foreboding joy’s predictable criticism will always play on repeat.
They are the source of most of the mom guilt I have ever waded through. Not actual failure or mistakes worth mulling over. Instead mom guilt is a bucket load of shame we bathe in after believing these voices and their lies.
And we bathe in it over and over until we finally see it for the load of crap that it is.
A dear friend and mentor shared some wisdom with me just after I had my son. She told me that the temptation would be great as a mother to constantly look ahead or look back and lament about where all the time had gone. She instead told me to do my best to focus on the present and enjoy each stage my son experienced. In short she concluded, “Be a mom that knows where the time went.”
This is one of the truest and most precious gifts of advice I have ever received from another mother. It also points to a deeper truth for anyone who finds themselves constantly fighting off the perilous advice all three of these critics have to offer.
Focus on the good you have to be grateful for today. Fight off fear of the future and what you can’t control with gratitude for the present. Resist the urge to let comparison and scarcity drive your assessments of yourself, your peers, and others you encounter.
Life is teaching me that any confidence or self-worth I now have comes from turning inward to find it.
This is where showing up counts the most.
I have to do the hard work of cultivating values I want in my life like peace, calm, kindness, wisdom, vulnerability, bravery, and faith. No one else is going to do it for me.
I have come to believe that as a parent, as a mother, as a person doing this internal work is some of the most important work there is to do. If I want to raise my child to be a kind, brave, and wise adult, I have to first be willing to become that myself.
Kallie Culver is a working mom, military spouse, volunteer addict, and a writer. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado, and spent her graduate degree studying employment challenges for veterans and military spouses. Having started her blog Untold Stories About Us during a crisis of faith, she is now a recently converted Catholic trying to live meaningfully with both faith and doubt.
Many women my age grew up riding the coattails of second wave feminism that brought more women into the workforce and made significant gains for today’s working mothers. I however grew up in a rural, county in Texas in a conservative culture that thrived on the anti-feminism pushback of the late 80s and 90s. In fact, feminism might as well have been a swear word where I grew up. On the rare occasion it was ever used, I remember most spit it out distastefully, followed by diatribes against its proponents as being awful women who hated men and threatened the highest feminine calling – that of being a wife and mother.
As children we tend to move through the world observing, absorbing, and parroting the views and ideas of those we are most closely surrounded by. For me, my entire worldview, for the first 18 years of life, was largely formed in a conservative, Protestant church culture and an insular homeschooling community promoting very strictly defined roles for women.
It has taken me ten plus years of struggling to find my way as a woman, young adult, wife, and now a working mother to fully realize the deep impact that growing up in this culture had on me.
Despite everything I was raised to be, life instead has given me the opportunity to swim upstream.
Buck the norms
As a young girl, I once thought of my future only in terms of being a submissive wife and mother-at-home, convinced this was the only gender role and expression of womanhood permissible and worthy of pursuit.
But then I went and married a man, who held the best of feminist views to his core, though I doubt he would ever feel the need to claim the title. He never even had to really think through his views about women much until he got married to me. In contrast to my upbringing, he grew up in a home of working women and a family culture that valued female independence, female capability, and family teamwork.
As a young 21-year-old walking down the aisle to a handsome man in uniform I was full of love, naivety, and rather clueless as to what I wanted to be “when I grew up.”
It did not take long for my husband to realize that it was deeply ingrained in my nature to rely on an authority figure for everything in my life.
Our first several years of marriage consisted of fights that circled round and round this gap between our beliefs and differing childhood experiences. His disbelief and unfamiliarity at dealing with someone who viewed herself as so dependent and so incapable, and my stubborn belief that female deference was my lifeline to safety and confidence clashed over and over. It was these fights however that taught me to be the woman I am today.
By learning to listen less to my fear of what others would think and more to what he was actually saying, I have slowly taken to heart a new self-worth that I never knew was possible to have.
My husband was the first man in my life to ever buck the responsibility of the male norm I grew up with – namely doing his work and my work for me. This was true for every area of life, where I had grown so used to deferring to a male’s opinion and final say. Personal growth. Personal beliefs. Spiritual beliefs. Spiritual growth. Financial education and responsibility. The list of what I had abdicated in my own life to be taken care of by the man was endless.
Unlike any other man I had grown up with, he was the first one in my life to actually want my input. He was the first man to challenge me on how little I thought of myself. He was the first man to push me to learn to think and decide things for myself. He was the first man to tell me to stop asking him for permission. He was the first man to tell me a thousand times, over and over, that I could work and someday be a good mother too.
In the fall of 2013 I came across two books that would forever change my outlook on myself as a woman, my desire to work, and my vision for my marriage and the family we could build. These books were Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Getting to 50/50 by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober. They inspired me to start crafting a career path for myself that would include meaningful work and taking ownership in contributing to my family’s financial success. Even more importantly they gave me an invaluable roadmap for how to build a marriage and a family around a model of teamwork, partnership, and purpose.
Finding my path and the faith to move ahead
My journey into finding my own career path and into motherhood has looked much different than I anticipated.
The last four years have been a winding path as I navigated many of the employment challenges all military spouses face. This has included numerous hours of volunteer work when paid employment was not an option due to our base locations. It has looked like taking part-time and minimum wage work wherever I could find it. It included accomplishing my masters’ degree from the University of Colorado completely online and negotiating with my department to be one of the first students to complete a third year thesis option remotely. Other common challenges have included navigating months of separation for both my husband’s job and my own education and career opportunities. Sometimes this has meant deployments or extended work trips on his part, while I kept myself and our household operating at home. Other times it has been me moving ahead to take advantage of an internship or to set up house and start job hunting once we received word of a new assignment.
Through this journey I have had to reckon with the harsh reality that the culture in which I was raised did very little to teach or promote skillsets in women like independence, self-reliance, or critical decision-making. In fact, it often discouraged them regardless of how desperately I would later come to need them. There have been more days than not, where I have felt ill prepared for the path life has taken me on. Strangely enough however,
it has been through facing those darkest moments of doubting myself and how I was raised, where I have found my own faith, my own value as a woman, and my path forward.
Motherhood: A beautiful crucible
My latest employment struggles have been deeply interwoven into my journey into motherhood. It started with completing my final year of graduate school and moving alone during the third trimester of my first pregnancy, followed by my graduation and the subsequent birth of my son literally hours after my husband returned. Then came maternity leave followed by a months long job search as I navigated first-time motherhood with a newborn in a difficult job market. Prior to my son’s birth, I had built up an internal confidence in my need to work and the value I could contribute, only to find myself birthing a child in a sea of unemployment.
I felt like my childhood understanding and picture of motherhood now loomed over me like a nightmare shadow – constantly whispering that my desire to work and to mother was for me, somehow impossible. The irony had not been lost on me that the military community I married into also has a large presence of stay-at-home parents.
Let me just say this here and now, I have nothing against mothers who choose being a full-time parent to be their life’s most meaningful work. Raising and loving our children is arguably some of the most important contributions we will make in a lifetime. I know this because I have one of the most loving and incredible mothers, who to this day sets the bar on how to be a loving and present mother. I have slowly learned though, as I have navigated my own adult path that choosing to stay at home and live solely on one income is a highly personal choice for any family and that it is not the only choice that allows one to be that loving, present parent.
Looking back on the time I had at home with my son, I see it now as a beautiful crucible that formed me through exhaustion and a new mother’s torrential love.
Beyond my employment struggles, I was also internally wrestling through the loneliness, exhaustion, and mental fatigue that come with brand new motherhood and postpartum realities. I battled postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD, and struggled to find adequate professional care for it until well over a year after my son’s birth. Amazingly it was my son and his endless need for my focused care and presence that helped me dig deep to find strength and resolve within like never before. I marveled over my son’s every movement in wide-eyed wonder. I breathed in his skin like it was a drug. I clung to his daily routines like they were a lifeline to sanity. I never knew someone could be so proud over the tiniest little signs of growth. I still am.
What I have learned as a working mother
The double standard for working moms is real.
I never realized until I was an unhappy, unemployed brand-new mother just how deeply I had once believed the debilitating double standard that a woman’s ability to contribute meaningful work to this world somehow lessens her ability to be a good mother.
Throughout this journey, I never have once doubted my husband’s innate ability to be good at his job and a good father. I never have once questioned his need to pursue his Air Force career, or his love for work and flying. I have, however, questioned and doubted mine a thousand times over.
Going to work as a new mom is stressful and exciting at the same time.
I started back to work when my son was nine months old. Navigating three sets of interviews, my first salary negotiation, and landing my current position felt like grabbing on to a life raft in a sea of doubt and angst. Despite knowing this to be the right decision for myself and my family, I still felt pressure to hide both my relief and excitement as I struggled with advice I heard from many around me warning that it would be really hard to leave my son and place him in full-time daycare.
Working can help to boost a new mom’s confidence.
In reality, after years of education, minimum wage jobs, part-time jobs, and countless hours of volunteer work, I had never been so happy to land a full-time salaried position in my life. The mental and emotional toll that both my postpartum experience and bout with unemployment had taken, left me desperate for something to change.
Working every day gave me instant relief and an intentional distraction from the constant barrage of self-doubt.
The right childcare makes all the difference!
As I navigated this transition, it was actually my son, again, who gave me the most confidence I had yet to ever feel as a mother. He responded to daycare with joy and delight. He loved all the new toys, activities, and playtime with new friends. He slept well. He ate well.
His caretakers gave me daily encouragement as they shared his discoveries, milestones met, and praised me for the good work I had done with him so far. I have found them not to be competitors for his time, but rather some of my most unexpected champions. They have fully supported my routines with him and they became invaluable resources of new advice and expertise for successful and customized care for my son.
I went to work when my son was nine months old, and I have been learning every day since that my work and my role as a mother both matter immensely.
Everyday is a choice.
This is my past and my future. It is still an ongoing journey to reconcile my doubts and past with my new daily reality. I have found myself again in unchartered territory and am having to teach myself how to navigate it. Old habits and old beliefs die hard. In spite of this, I keep showing up every day to create a different future for myself and for my son.
Working is a great way I teach my child.
I want him to grow up in a world that values work from men and women. I want him to know that it is possible for men and women to make meaning in their lives through time spent in their homes with family and at work doing what they love. I want him to know that the best parenting experience we can give him is by being parents who are intentionally present, supportive, and loving towards themselves just as much as we are in our care of him. I want him to know that it is the quality of time spent with family that truly matters, not just the quantity.
Quality time and being present for our family looks like work and school for all of us during the week, bookended with evenings and weekends spent as a family doing all the things we love.
I am a brand new working mama, and I am just getting started!
Kallie Culver is a working mom, military spouse, volunteer addict, and a writer. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado, and spent her graduate degree studying employment challenges for veterans and military spouses. Having started her blog Untold Stories About Us during a crisis of faith, she is now a recently converted Catholic trying to live meaningfully with both faith and doubt. Read more from Kallie at Untoldstoriesabout.us
Every nursing momma who’s heading back to work experiences a little uneasiness about how things will go once she’s back in the office. Questions swirl like, “Will my baby eat?”, “Will I produce enough milk?”, or “How awkward is it going to be around my co-workers?” Thankfully, this back-to-work checklist from Mom Loves Best will help ease your mind about what to expect, and make sure you’re properly prepared well before your maternity leave ends.
When your baby is brand-new:
You shouldn’t even be thinking about heading back to work yet. Your main concerns should be snuggling your babe and establishing your milk supply. But during this period do make sure you’ve got a good-quality pump, and once your baby is three weeks allow friends or family members to start giving your baby the occasional bottle. This will help your little one get accustomed to switching between bottle and breast, but also send the message that mom is only available for breastfeeding.
It’s time to start building a freezer stash of milk. At a minimum, make sure you have one day’s supply (about 25-30 ounces) in your freezer. You should also begin to talk with your boss about your return-to-work plan along with your pumping needs. You should be provided with a clean, private space that has an electrical outlet to plug in your pump.
The week before your maternity leave ends:
It’s time to do a trial run. Start pumping every three hours to get your body ready and to start building a regular pumping habit. Arrange a “practice day” at daycare, or invite your nanny or babysitter over to the house for a few hours. This will allow you to see if there are any unexpected challenges with your arrangements that need correction.
Your final piece of preparation will be to gear up emotionally for your first week back at work. Expect that you’ll be tired and cranky. Expect that your baby will be, too. Expect that you will feel mom guilt. And also, expect that it will get better.
The first week back:
The first week back is always the hardest, so if you’re emotionally prepared it won’t catch you off guard. You’re likely to feel a lot of stress during this time, so don’t panic if your milk supply takes a bit of a dip.
Once you’re back at work find ways to connect with your baby through evening play, frequent nursing, and lots of snuggle time. And be sure to keep your off-hours schedule clear – this adjustment week is not a time to make lots of social commitments but is instead a time to give yourself lots of grace and rest. Order take-out for dinner and leave the laundry for another day.
Before you know it, your “new normal” will actually feel normal. You, your baby, and your family will adjust. You’ll fall into a groove, and it will feel comfortable. Don’t let planning for your return to work overtake your precious maternity leave, but do be mindful of small preparations that will make your transition more smooth. One step at a time, momma. You can do this!
About the Author
Jenny Silverstone is the mother of two, a mommy blogger and an avid breastfeeding advocate. You can find her sharing her journey through motherhood her blog MomLovesBest.com and on Facebook.
You’re invited to attend the First Annual Superwoman Summit in Portland, Oregon October 20-22, 2017. The Superwoman Summit is a three day experience dedicated to the professional advancement of strong female leaders.
All individuals committed to the leadership development of women are invited to attend. This is an all-inclusive event.
I’m honored to be speaking at the first breakout about my favorite topic…. Balance is Bull***!
We are going to deep dive into your relationship with work and how you can shift your mindset, define livable priorities and reinvent work/life integration!
As parents you have the final say on where your child goes to summer camp. In the end you know best, and you should never send your child to a camp that you don’t feel 100% comfortable with.
Having said that, it’s vital to talk to your child and let them be a part of the process. They’re the ones that are doing the camping after all, and without their input you may be setting them up for a less-than-optimal experience. Here are some tips on what to discuss with your child when picking a summer camp that’s perfect for them.
What kind of stay are they comfortable with?
Summer camps fall into two categories in terms of stay – day camps and sleepover or overnight camps. With day camps, your child will participate in activities every day but you’ll pick them up before nightfall. With sleepover camps, your child will be at the camp site 24/7 for however long they stay.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and some children do better at day camps and some do better at overnight camps. Sleepover camps allow for kids to experience an immersive experience and helps them to foster their sense of independence. Day camps allow kids not quite ready for overnight camping the opportunity to experience a good amount of what summer camp can be. You should always encourage your child to take risks and confront trepidation, but you should never force them. Make sure your child says they are ready for a sleepover experience before shipping them off.
Also remember to discuss length of stay. If it’s your child’s first overnight camping experience, you may want to opt for a few days or a week – even if the full camping package last for two weeks or more.
What are they interested in?
Apart from type of camp stay, the most important question concerning summer camp is whether your child wants to go to a specialty camp or a general camp. The former focuses on one or two specific activities – think dance, music, horseback riding, sports, archery, etc. The latter tends to have kids participate in a wide range of activities.
If your child is obsessed with dance, for instance, they may do better at a camp that focuses on what they love. Anything else may be a distraction.
If your child doesn’t yet have a specified interest, sending them to a specialty camp in the hopes of developing an interest may backfire. General camps allow kids to experience many things, and can help them figure out what they love for themselves.
Don’t shy away from the “homesick problem”
You might think that as soon as you mention the word homesick, you’re setting your child up for failure. But according to Christopher Thurber, PhD, co-author of Summer Camp Handbook, and a spokesperson for the American Psychological Association, that’s simply not true.
“There’s a conventional idea that if you mention homesickness, you’ll just make them focus on it. But it doesn’t work that way. Have an open discussion with your kids about how they feel about going away. What’s most important here is that the parent gives the message that he or she believes the child can handle the stress of being away, that the child is competent at handling temporary, uncomfortable feelings,” he tells WebMD.
The more your child feels like they have a say in the decision making, the less likely they are to be overcome with feelings of homesickness when away.
Camp can be a great way for your kid to make new friends and learn new things while they’re off from school. However, if they have been struggling in a particular area of study, looking into summer tutoring services as an alternative is not a bad idea either.
I’m honored to have Romy Newman of Fairygodboss share this article with the ThriveMomma community! It’s also a thrill to announce that I’ll be writing for FairGodBoss soon! Take it away Romy….
Imagine you have a busy work day. You are just back from maternity leave and you’re trying to show your boss and everyone around you that you are still committed to your job, and can do your job as well as you did before you had your baby. On top of that, you have to get home to your kid/kids as early as possible – so you’re feeling even more pressured to get a lot of great work done in an ever shorter amount of time. And you’re probably sleep deprived because most infants don’t sleep through the night.
Now, imagine that you need to take two thirty-minute breaks – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – to pump milk. During these breaks, you need your hands (unless you’ve really mastered the hands-free thing in a way I never did) and you can’t talk on the phone, so you can’t really be productive at all. One more lost hour in the day – and worse yet due to biological demands, it’s not during the lunch hour when things are quieter…it’s when other people are looking for you and expecting you to be in meetings or available. (But you’ll definitely need to use your lunch hour to catch up.)
Under the very, very best scenarios, pumping milk after you return to a corporate job is no easy task. It takes you away from your work at awkward times, it can be messy, emotional and even painful. Under the worst scenarios, it can be downright onerous and humiliating – in a room that’s ill-suited for breastfeeding, a long way away from your desk, or where there is little privacy.
First, being away from her desk for one hour or more away daily is problematic for even the most generous boss and the most committed mother.
Further, while there is federal legislation that requires employers to provide reasonable (but not paid) break time as well as a place other than a bathroom for employees to express milk, this rule is vague enough to contribute to the problem. And, employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempted from these regulations if they impose “undue hardship.”
Lactation rooms can be few and far between. Even large employers have just one for thousands of employees, so women must jockey for time in the pumping room and often wait their turn. Further, pumping rooms are frequently located farther from an employee’s desk than is convenient. I’ve heard about women who have to travel for up to 15 minutes to arrive at their lactation room, thus tacking on another hour to their daily pumping time.
And, if there is no sink in the lactation room/area, women are forced to clean their pump parts and supplies in either the public kitchen or bathroom – alongside other co-workers, who are inevitably making small talk as the woman blushes.
Then of course, there’s the telltale, outrageously loud groan of the pump – which, unless the walls are really thick, announces to anyone within a 20-foot radius exactly what you’re doing.
Having pumped milk at work myself for more than 12 months in total (after two pregnancies), I can tell you that if you want to successfully fulfill your breastfeeding goal, ultimately you just have to pretty much dispense with your dignity.
In my case, I couldn’t be troubled with the commute to the “official” lactation room (just 5 minutes, but it adds up to 20 more minutes a day in total) so I just parked myself in an empty visitor office nearby where everyone around me could hear the pump. Every time I went into or out of the room, the best I could do was flash a sheepish smile at my many male colleagues whose offices were just feet away from the room.
Another woman reported pumping in her office, which had a door that closed, but did not lock. And walls that were shared on either side by male co-workers who could hear whenever she pumped. Apparently, however, the noise was not enough to secure her privacy. Although she placed a big “do not disturb” sign on the door and a chair behind it, one day a male colleague still knocked insistently and almost barged in.
The cherry on top of all of this is the extra 15lbs in your bag, which you then must carry to and from work on the subway. And that’s in addition to your laptop, because you’ll inevitably have to do work after the kids go to bed to make up for the time you missed because you were pumping, and because you ran out before you were done to pick up your kids from daycare or just simply to get to see them before they fall asleep at 7 pm. Cue the back problems.
So while almost everyone agrees that breastfeeding is best for our children, the path to supplying breast milk after mothers return to work is ridden with obstacles and humiliations. There has to be a better way – through better facilities, more support and less shame. So let’s call on employers to think of ways to make this difficult enterprise just a little easier for those new mothers returning to work.
Romy is co-founder of Fairygodboss and is passionate about helping women succeed in the workplace. She previously worked for 7 years at the Wall Street Journal in a variety of executive sales and operating roles, most recently as head of Digital Advertising. At Fairygodboss, Romy wears many hats — one of the consequences of working at a startup — and never experiences a dull day. Whether it’s talking to employers about Fairygodboss’ mission to improve the workplace, plotting out the product roadmap, or speaking to women about how they engage with our community, Romy maintains her sense of fun and infuses our company with her optimistic energy. Romy graduated with an MBA from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University and holds a BA from Yale University. She is the mother to two amazing children and wife to an extremely supportive husband.
As we enter a new year there is pressure for resolutions, changes, improvements or somehow stating to the world that you are dissatisfied with your current state. I’ve never been disciplined enough to keep a resolution top of mind for 365 days straight…who does, really?!
So, instead, this year I’m gonna roll with a theme because it’s more of an intention. And intentions are not so restrictive, limiting or have so much pressure attached. I’ve got enough pressure in my life, thank you very much!
This year for me it’s, FLOW. Ahhhhhh, I even relax just saying it. I don’t mean roll over and take all the crap that rolls your way this year. No. It’s not about inaction. This is coming from a place of intentional action. I interpret FLOW as a willingness to not judge the present and just go with it, pivot, embrace, fight, dance with it, ect. Because, after all…
Being in the flow probably feels a bit foreign for a “go-getter”, for a professional woman climbing the corporate ladder or a mom who’s just trying to figure out why her baby is crying so much!
This state of being is not an American value. Could it be perceived as lazy, bad mom, not career-oriented? So don’t feel bad if FLOW feels weird. We were not raised like this, this behavior is not rewarded in sports, taught in school or promoted at work.
But I argue that it’s the strongest place that a working mother can operate from!
Flow cuts out worry, anxiety, not-enoughness, or keeping-up-with-the-Jones syndrome.
Flow frees you to accept and then in turn, like the situation you are in.
Flow expands possibilities
Flow says “I’m okay”, “I’m a good mom right now”, and “I’m enough.”
Flow strengthens resilience
Flow doesn’t judge
Flow helps conserve your energy
Flow frees you up to experience life
How do you stay in the flow?
Keepfaith that everything will all work out. Trust that life is working FOR YOU not against you.
Haveawareness of yourself in each moment
Don’t judge yourself or your circumstances
Allow and don’t label it as good or bad
Ground and center yourself so you have a clear head
Protect your energy and keep going!
I’ll keep my #flow2017 vibe alive on Instagram and I hope inspire you to to keep your intentions going all year long too.
Leave a comment below about how the word FLOW feels for you?
It was a privileged to chat (and later nosh at Cafe Gratitude) with Jessica from The Superwoman Project about our current state of working motherhood, how companies can’t ignore half their workforce and what it means to thrive after maternity leave!
Her podcast in so rich with inspiring women, you must check it out. She can help you run your career like a BOSS!