When your baby is born, you measure and document everything—their weight, the first wave, when they crawl. We are so enraptured by this new creature that we broadcast these miraculous accomplishments to the world (or at least to all our Facebook friends). But little-love is not the only thing in our lives embarking on a journey of growth.
You, as a new mother, are changing and growing too—often in ways you never imagined. But your life has become a baby-centric blur full of anxiety and doubt, leaving precious little time to reflect on your personal change and accomplishments.
Thinking about how women grow after a new baby—not only as individuals, but in some cases, into newly born working mothers—led us to the passionately prolific Lauren Smith Brody, author of “The 5th Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby ,” an insightful guide to helping new moms cope with the demanding pressure of returning to work while maintaining balance and sanity at home. We asked her to share some words of wisdom about the tricky tightrope walk that working moms face.
We started by asking Lauren how a mom can go back to work and be the same person she was before the baby. Her reply: “You don’t. You are both weaker AND stronger. And women have to begin to realize that in order to improve workplace culture as a whole.”
Not quite the advice we expected. Weaker? Yes, really, weaker. She went on to explain.
“The hundreds of women I surveyed and interviewed reported being back at work on average two to three months before they felt emotionally or physically ready to be there,” Lauren concludes. “We need to be sensitive to that vulnerability.”
So now what? How can we leave our precious little ones at home and successfully transform into a new version of ourselves, as working mothers? How can we emerge from an eight-hour day of meetings and colleagues and checklists feeling more in control, stronger, and more able to focus on our families?
Lauren assures us it’s possible! Here she shares five memorable milestones to look for and celebrate as you redefine the moniker “working mother.”
THAT FEELING WHEN…
1) …. you realize that leaving your child in someone else’s care is not something to feel guilty about. The more people who love your baby, the more diverse the influences on their life are. And that’s a wonderful thing.
2) … you help a coworker with a need in their personal life. Right now you may feel like you’re the elephant in the room (even minus the pregnant belly) every time you leave a meeting to go pump or ask someone to lead the presentation so you can take your tiny tyke for vaccinations. But then, one day, you’ll do someone else a favor—whether they have a baby of their own, an older child with a dance recital, an aging parent, or even a pet to care for. In that moment, you’ll realize that we are all in one big game of humanity, all throwing and catching the ball to each other. That feels great.
3) … you first say yes to something challenging outside your role as a mom. New motherhood gives you absolute license to say no to all the superfluous things you may have formerly felt obligated to tackle. Go with that. But the first time you do your “internal compromise mental math” to figure out if something is worth taking on—a new project, a work trip, more responsibility at the office—and you decide YES? That’s a big deal. Of course, there are always compromises that go along with that “yes,” but you’ve decided the tradeoff is worth it. And you’ll be proud of the results when you’re finished.
4) … you bend one of your personal “rules” and realize the world doesn’t come to an end. Maybe you gave a bottle of formula. Maybe you worked an hour late. Is your baby healthy? Cared for? Loved? Clothed? Did the mandatory stuff get accomplished? Then you’re doing fine. Cut yourself some slack. You can always return to your ritual the next day, or maybe even ease your sense of guilt across the board. It’s the moment you realize that as your baby grows and changes and has different needs, you will too. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
5) … you delegate something at the office and offer the mentoring that goes along with that. There is the kind of delegating you feel bad about (when you’re shirking your duties and passing them to someone else, but we’ve never done that, right?) and then there’s delegating that you to free yourself up for doing bigger and better stuff. This actually affords your coworkers a chance to stretch their skills and grow. When you figure out how to do the latter, you’re nurturing more than just your baby. You’re nurturing your colleagues too.
SHARE YOUR STORIES!
Whether it was when you sent your kids to school with mismatched shoes or gave a presentation on three hours of sleep and killed it—what was the moment where you realized you were a working mom? Share your thoughts on Instagram or Facebook with #babyation.