Category: "time management"

A Military mom’s journey to working motherhood

September 18th, 2017 | no comments
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

Returning to Work While Breastfeeding: A Checklist for Moms

August 28th, 2017 | no comments

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.

Read: Preparing Baby for Your Return to Work

About a month before heading back to work:

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.

Read: Pumping at Work: Could We Make it Any Harder?

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!

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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.

How to prepare your kids for summer camp

May 16th, 2017 | no comments

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.

 

Thank you to our guest post from Alex of Safeytoday.org !!

More than milestones – your free guide!

May 12th, 2017 | no comments

What a phenomenal summit. I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did!

As promised your Thriving as a Busy Mom – Essentials guide will kick-start your journey to managing your home, work, kids, your partner and yourself with ease. I’m so happy to share with you:

  • 3 healthy and easy recipes
  • Shared Google calendar that will save you and your partner time
  • Evernote app tips to help get your life organized
  • Mama Self-Care Planner (printable) to get more “me-time” in your life
    • Mindfulness video that can quickly recharge your energy from anywhere

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Pumping At Work: Could We Make It Any Harder?

January 25th, 2017 | no comments

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.

Creating a theme for 2017

January 7th, 2017 | no comments

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…

“What you resist, persists.”

I wrote on my Instagram feed:

My theme for 2017!

Flow.

As in EASE.

Allow.

Be in the moment.

Delight in synchronicity.

Go with the flow.

Yes please! All of it and a side of 🍟!

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?

  1. Keep faith that everything will all work out. Trust that life is working FOR YOU not against you.
  2. Have awareness of yourself in each moment
  3. Don’t judge yourself or your circumstances
  4. Allow and don’t label it as good or bad
  5. Ground and center yourself so you have a clear head
  6. 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?

How to thrive as a working mom podcast interview

January 7th, 2017 | no comments

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!

Motivating Mom Podcast interview

October 8th, 2016 | no comments

movtivating-mom-podcast

I’ve admired Lisa Druxman for her bad-ass entrepreneurship and her Fit 4 Mom business that helps so many moms! I joined Body Back because it’s the best way I know to fit in a workout post-baby.

It has been on my bucket list to meet Lisa and when she asked me to be on her podcast, well, drop the mic, dream come true!

I’m humbled and honored to share some of my favorite tid bits on her Motivating Mom Podcast. We covered my “secret recipe” for a successful return to work after maternity leave, my favorite self-care tips for busy moms and what it means to be “okay with okayness”.

Take a listen here.

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And be sure to click on the purple “podcast” icon on your iphone. search for Motivating Mom Podcast.

Do yourself a favor, subscribe and enjoy!

25 Working Mom Tips

June 26th, 2016 | no comments

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!

25 working mom tips

Is There a Better Way to Return from Maternity Leave? One Lawyer Mama Argues YES!

June 11th, 2016 | no comments

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!!

 

thrivemomma lawyer return to work

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.

 

 

  • 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 minful return

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.