Here we are! The first ever Thrive Momma book review – must read books for working women. I hope to make these book reviews a regular occurrence on the blog and a source for must read books relevant to working women. Post finishing a book, I CONSTANTLY find myself scouring various lists to find an interesting read. My hope is that my love of reading can help steer my fellow working mothers to must read books I’ve found to be inspiring, informative or just fun. After all, who has time to waste on a bad read? (more…)
Category: "mom inspiration"
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.
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.
Working motherhood is like swimming upstream
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
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.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends unequivocally that mothers exclusively breastfeed babies for six months. There is a litany of health benefits that are connected to breastfeeding for both the child (less illness, fewer hospitalizations) and for the mother (reduced risk of pre-menopausal cancer). In 2011, a government agency report reported that of women who take maternity leave, the average leave taken is 10.3 weeks. (An astounding 30% of employed women reported not taking any leave at all.)
So that implies that women who aim to comply with AAP recommendations need to take on the challenging and arduous arrangement of carving out that extra hour every day for on average 16 weeks.
And yet, the deck is stacked against them in almost every conceivable way. It is no surprise that 77% of mothers start breastfeeding after birth but only 16% of those mothers make it to that recommended six month mark.
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.
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!
In our conversation we covered:
- Transition coaching for working mothers
- Corporate consulting for greater employee retention
- Challenges facing working moms from returning to work after maternity leave and managing their energy
Thanks for listening!
The struggle is real for working moms! Lack of time, meal planning prep and the relentless giving of our time, our and energy to others. That is why this blog round-up from Thoughtful Journey Counseling of some of my most favorite mom-support experts is a keeper. I was honored to contribute a nugget about how to master the morning routine. Hope you enjoy them all!
25 Tips for Working Moms guest blog!
This week I’m honored to have Lori guest blog about her experience as a successful lawyer and how to do a better return to work! I had the pleasure of meeting her (over the phone) I was blown away at the depth of her knowledge and how she helps so many women gracefully return to work through her online course experience. She is on my Resources list for a reason. Also subscribe to her newsletter for the Saturday secrets…they are super helpful. Welcome Lori!!
As a lawyer, I’ve been trained to think and write in a logical manner. Explore options; think through arguments; marshal facts; present them in a way that makes sense. This type of thinking suits me: I love order.
Enter, motherhood. A baby who cries for who-knows-on-earth what reason, or refuses to drink from any of the 15 bottles you buy him. A house that seems to self-destruct simply by your stepping in the door. And a schedule so unpredictable you never know when you go to sleep one night whether you’ll make it to work the next day, or if the next superbug from daycare will suddenly attack. THIS is not logical. THIS is an order-lover’s nightmare.
After having my first baby, I learned to go with the flow a bit better, more or less coped with my return to work, and picked up some serious prioritization skills through my parenting adventures. Enter baby number two, though, and I just couldn’t seem to hold it together after my maternity leave ended. 1 child + 1 child felt like 85 children, no one was sleeping (ever, it seemed!), the to-dos on a daily basis weighed down my mind and my spirit, and I was a mess.
Though I worked in an office where plenty of women had gone out on and returned from maternity leave, no one seemed to be talking about how hard the experience was or what we should be doing about it. And though there seemed to be an educational curriculum for everything about new motherhood (how to write a birth plan, how to massage your baby, how to puree baby food…), I hadn’t found any robust educational information about how to plan for and return from maternity leave without losing your mind.
Determined to fill this gap and help new moms re-frame their leave experience, I put on my logical lawyer hat and got to work reading and researching ways we can do this leave-and-return thing differently.
My mission? Find a way for new mamas to view their maternity leave and return as a career and leadership opportunity, instead of a career impediment.
And find a way for them to feel calmer, happier, and more confident in the process.
The results of this research led me to develop a four-pronged approach to a calmer, more successful maternity leave, and to create a course called Mindful Return that brings new mamas together in an online community to work through these four prongs together:
- Creating a Mindful Mindset for Return: Learning how to BE with my children when I’m with my children, and BE at work when I’m at work has been critical both to maintaining sanity and to feeling competent in each of these two spheres of my life. Mindfulness is about being aware, awake, and present in your life, and starting habits like a gratitude practice (writing down 5 things I’m grateful for before bed each night) have really helped me to be more calm and present.
- Learning the Logistics: There are so many logistics to learn in new working motherhood, from how to get out the door in the morning, to how to nourish yourself, to how to pump milk, to how to negotiate a flexible schedule, and how to fit all the odds and ends in every week, just to name a few. I found that making a serious commitment to learning logistical tips, tricks, and techniques really helped to free up my mind so that I could be more present on a daily basis.
- Turning Leave into Leadership: I’ve grown frustrated with workplace cultures that seem to encourage us to apologize for taking time away (to do a normal human thing like have a baby), or somehow make us feel less committed, less competent, and/or guilty for being back (sometimes all at the same time). As working mamas, we are *powerhouses* of leadership skills. We’ve learned to prioritize like nobody’s business, anticipate (reasonable and unreasonable) client demands, roll with the unknown, and problem-solve on the fly. One key to getting my own head in a better place about leave and return was learning how to identify and tout these skills and believe in my own ability to be a leader.
- Staying in Community: This is the biggie, mamas. Sitting alone on my kitchen floor wondering how I was going to get everything done wasn’t a smart or healthy way to approach my own sense of overwhelm. I’ve since learned the immense power of relying on both in-person and online communities for all aspects of life, but especially for massive life changes like bringing a baby into the world. Committing to connecting with friends and colleagues convinced me that the power of “me too” is a life- and sanity-saver.
When I set out to fill this returning-to-work educational void, I had a strong hunch my four-part approach would work for others, given how much it had transformed my own thoughts about going back to work. Now I don’t just have a hunch, though, I have evidence – every lawyer’s dream! – that this approach truly makes new working mamas’ lives better. By being in community with others going through this transition at the same time, I’ve watched new mamas gain the confidence to ask for the type of schedule they want. Spend more time during their leave enjoying their babies instead of worrying about their return. And I have felt the power of giving a common language to mamas’ concerns.
So to conclude, my argument is YES, mamas. You CAN do this maternity leave and return thing in a calm and empowered way. You don’t have to just survive this period, but there are things you can learn that will help you thrive in the process.
I rest my case.
Lori Mihalich-Levin is the founder of Mindful Return and the creator of the Mindful Return Course, which helps women plan for and make the transition back to work after maternity leave. She runs the 4-week, online course every two to three monhts, and women from all over the world have joined the supportive Mindful Return community to reduce their stress in the maternity leave and return period. Lori is also a Partner in the Health Care practice group at an international law firm called Dentons and is also mama to two beautiful red-headed little boys.
I may not win any awards for this but… I know our complete pantry, fridge and freezer inventory at any given moment. It may not seem like much, but any mama who struggles to keep bread in the house past Wednesday can appreciate the immensity of that. Keeping your kitchen inventory in your head is like the mom-world equivalent of a Emmy or a Grammy.
You know what? Shoot, there SHOULD be an award for that! I’ve got a rhythm down, I know my clans eating habits and I’ve got food eating and food purchasing down to a weekly science. HOT DAMN. That’s it, I’m gonna create the “Planys” awards for all the badass moms who successfully plan and manage their homes. Accepting nominations now 🙂
The reality is that you have a child and you are expected to successfully raise a tiny human, to know how to meal plan, buy healthy on a budget and manage a household and take care of yourself at the same time.
This is on-the-job training where your fails are on display for everyone to see.
But it didn’t always come so easy for me. We were constantly running out of stuff, over buying produce and dreading the “what’s for dinner?” question. Do you struggle with the same pain? The problem is not you…it’s that we didn’t learn this stuff in college, ya’know!
Now that I’m a mom, these are the classes that I WISH they taught in college:
LISTENING TO AND TRUSTING YOURSELF: So much of the exercise of motherhood is developing your intuitive muscle. As our technology evolved, the volume on our guiding voice went way down. Our secret mom super-power is not reserved for the mom who looks like she’s got it all together (besides, she doesn’t). But it lives in all of us. Slowing down to hear the tiny voice is the real work!
Homework: keep an intuition journal and write down each time you trusted your intuition. It’s way more often than you expect and it’s tangible evidence of your genius.
TIME MANAGEMENT FOR BUSY MOMS 101: We do an ungodly amount of stuff for at least 3 human beings every day, 365 a year! On top of that we work, we maintain the social calendar, we plan birthday parties, we make time for friends, etc. Keeping all of that straight takes tools, time and, eh hem, may I suggest, TRAINING. There is a reason I created the Time Management for Busy Moms workshop. So many busy moms feel like they are behind the eight ball. Don’t feel bad if you can’t manage it all. You can’t, no one can. And no mom should manage it all, by herself.
Managing your time is all about getting your priorities aligned with how you WANT to spend your time on. And learning how to say NO, deciding what you can delegate and finding out what you can outsource.
Extra credit: write down three things that you HATE doing each week (i.e. folding laundry, paying bills, going to three grocery stores for food) and write down who you can delegate to, who you can outsource to or simply write down NO if you can stop doing it.
MEAL PLANNING aka TIME MANAGEMENT 201 If you are thinking about what you are going to make for dinner that night on your commute home…that is too late! In fact spending 30 min at the start of each week can actually save you hours of panic and frustration.
Cheat sheet: The dirty little secret about meal planning is that the first step has nothing to do with food or the kitchen. It has everything to do with your time and how much or little you have to cook. Set aside some quiet time, light a candle and make meal planning something to look forward to. Here are some of my favorite meal planning tips.
LONG TERM RELATIONSHIPS: Our society is really good at closing the deal with the wedding hoopla but, holy cow, a marriage with kids is a PHD level curriculum. A committed relationship is a daily, conscious choice to show up and be there for each other…through the good, the bad and the mundane. Evolving together is the key, yet it’s too easy to drift away.
Open book test: My hubby and I swear by the 3 ‘ations of a happy marriage. 1. Communication. 2. Vacation and 3. Fornication (with each other). You have those firing on all cylinders and you have a healthy marriage.
STOPPING THE MADNESS WITH MINDFULNESS. There are facts and then there are the “facts” we make up in our heads. We can weave some tight webs of stories, lies and torture for ourselves if we are left in a room alone to think. Mindfulness helps to break habitual thought, and have enough self-awareness to rise above our own bs. If you can rise above only 1 out of 10 times…total win.
Mid-term test: Try mindfully doing a simple task. Brush your teeth mindfully. When a thought enters your mind focus back on the bristles on your gums. You will pleasantly be surprised how even that sliver of time can relax your busy mind. You could also try mindfully eating as well.
FUN: HOW TO BE AN ADULT WITHOUT HAVING TO GROW UP. Having a mortgage, raising the next generation and increasing shareholder value is a tremendous responsibility! What do taxes and breastfeeding babies have in common? They suck the life out of you. Remembering to always have fun and to not take life so seriously is the key to happiness!
Extra credit: Who you surround yourself with is key. Reach out to some local moms and make some new mom-friends!
REDEFINING YOURSELF AND SELF-CARE: This should be a pre-requisite for all majors. Motherhood changes you. It changes our biology, your physiology, your priorities and whoever you were in the past. We need to learn how to reinvent ourselves from the inside out with dignity, with support and with a hot-ass pair of skinny jeans (because skinny jeans solve a lot of problems).
Final exam: Look at yourself in the mirror. No REALLY look at yourself in the mirror, the way that you lovingly gaze in amazement at your beautiful child. Say “I love you” to yourself in the mirror. Keep saying it until you mean it. Keep saying it until you FEEL it. Now YOU can feel the love that you give out to world all day long.
Ok, ok. Now that I’m a mom I realized that there ARE classes in college that I SHOULD have taken:
- Child development
- Child psychology
- Bowling (I’m a terrible bowler)
Are you going to do your homework, Missy!? Now that you are a mom, leave a comment below the classes do you wish you would have taking in college?
Speaking of classes. I”m very excited to share with you very soon that two of my most popular workshops: Return to Work After Maternity Leave and Time Management for Busy Moms will soon be online classes later this year!
I’m honored to be one of the 21 amazing women who will be interviewed for the Moms Making Memories free online summit!
Elizabeth gathered premier experts on health, wellness, mom-life, parenting experts and more so that you can have some sanity in your busy life!
I’ll be talking about how:
and I know you will enjoy them all!
9 months pregnant I heard a friend say “parenting: the best thing you will ever do and the hardest thing you ever do.” And especially for a busy working mom we have an extra layer of added pressure, demands on our time and fatigued minds due working for 8+ hours a day.
We can’t afford to waste time gossiping, worrying or spreading ourselves thinner than and we should. As I have been exploring the topic of mom-energy in my own life and meeting and BBFing mom energy expert and working mom expert on the topic (more on that later) I’ve come to realize that
Protecting my mama-energy is my # 1 job
Does this come naturally to me? No. I love to help people (viola, ThriveMomma was born), I love to share my talents, and to be a mama and spread the love. But my PB&J has been scheemered too thin, too many times. Illness, tiredness, resentfulness, dullness, agitation, dissatisfaction. Any of these sound familiar? I’ve experience them all. And they all stem from me not PROTECTING my time, my energy, and being out of alignment with my higher good.
I’ve got a few tips on how to deal with a few of the trickiest spots mamas get into: overwhelm, frustration and feeling stuck:
Overwhelm is all about too many thoughts clouding your progress forward.
Mom-stress, mommy-angst, mama-frustration…stem from a place within. Your toddler with a tude is the CAUSE and your rage is the result. But often your involuntary negative reaction to the 3′ tall catalyst boils down to what you are THINKING, FEELING, and DOING and if out of alignment.
Your thought is “I just want a peaceful evening, and he is talking back again!” You are feeling like a failure, sad, exhausted, confused, etc. You don’t use the gentle patenting technique that you read about online.
Wanting one thing, feeling and doing another leads to so much internal strife! And adds to the already tense situation. So, ask yourself, are my thoughts, feelings and actions in alignment? Is that direction positive?
So next time you find yourself overwhelmed ask yourself if your thoughts, feelings and actions are speaking the same language.
One of the first skills I work on with my clients who return to work is: Learning to say no, delegating and outsourcing. Saying no to things is not weakness, it’s power! At the begining of each week, write down, what should I stop doing, what should I start doing and what do I need help with. The question about stopping is particularly helpful. Women are notoriously bad at saying no. Practicing it every week will make you stronger when it comes to big things.
Indecision is actually a decision. Damn it! But procrastinating or getting too caught up in a decision process you have actually consciously or not decided to remain stuck. So a series of questions to ask yourself in the moment are: What do I have to do? What do I want to do? What was I born to do? The first two questions help you decide whether you are obligated to do it, like grocery shopping, diaper changes and coffee IV drip. The final question is about sometimes you are compelled to do something. You were born to be an incredible mom. You were born to share your gifts with the world. Keep these questions handy when you are feeling pulled in multiple directions and follow your heart!!!
As busy working mothers we have mastered the art of multi-tasking. Whether it be face-timing a client while breastfeeding while sitting on the toilet (true story) we are able to accomplish so much in a day. Most Saturday mornings I’ve got each out worked out of where we need to be, what to eat, and how much free time I get all before 6:50am.