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Guest Post Working Parent

Guest Post: Tips from a Successful Mompreneur

January 15, 2018
successful mompreneur

Today on the blog we have a guest post from Claire Adams, development expert and Human Resources/Employee Relations specialist.

In her post, Claire shares the inspirational story of a successful entrepreneur and working mother–her sister-in-law, Audrey. In sharing Audrey’s story, Claire highlights the challenges and triumphs of running a successful business while navigating motherhood.

Many thanks to Claire Adams for sharing her story!

sucessful mompreneur

One Mompreneur’s Road to Success: Audrey’s Story

Successful women have always been an incredible source of inspiration because they are amazing role models who have made important life changes to reach their goals. One such woman in my life is my sister-in-law, Audrey, a renowned mompreneur.

If you’re unfamiliar, a “mompreneur” is a woman who is both a mom and an entrepreneur. I’m so honored to know her and to witness her life in person, and I’m proud to share her story with you!

Entrepreneurship is not a 9-5 job

Similar to motherhood, entrepreneurship isn’t a 9-5 job. It requires a lot of time, effort, determination, and money. Some would even say it requires some blood, sweat, and tears, too.

Of course, as an entrepreneur, you establish set work hours, but what about all those hours before and/or after them?

My sister-in-law, Audrey, runs a successful hair salon in Sydney, Australia, and even though she has a professional staff, there are still many tasks that only she can complete.

Additionally, her kids are still young (3 and 4), which can make the workday a bit more difficult when they make a complete mess of her paperwork or download viruses to her computer (it happens!). That’s why she’s learned to take everything with a smile on her face, because no one said that it’s going to be easy!

successful mompreneur

Entrepreneurship is not a 9-5 job.

Give your child the best possible care

Pursuing your career as a mom and an entrepreneur can be difficult, and Audrey knows this better than anyone. Her husband, my brother, Noah, also has a full-time job, which makes it hard for them to organize and care for their children full-time.

To accommodate their schedules, they worked to find an appropriate child care center that would offer everything their kids need to grow into smart and caring young people.

For them, this meant enrolling their kids in the amazing Young Explorers Learning Centre. It was exactly what they were looking for. The center helps children develop a unique set of skills and gain knowledge in a relaxed learning environment, which gives them peace of mind as working parents.

successful mompreneur

Giving your child the best possible care helps you focus as a mompreneur.

Discuss everything with your partner 

Audrey believes that the key to success as a mompreneur lies in discussing every possible issue with your partner.

Having the same financial goals is essential, so be sure to have the same financial orientation as your partner.

It can be a bit difficult if you’re a saver and he’s a spender, or vice versa, so it’s always good to discuss all potential problems and threats.

Audrey and Noah always make sure to understand what the other wants so they can set their future financial goals. When you’re both on the same page, everything runs much smoother.

Once you’ve done that, Audrey advises coming up with a detailed plan to make your goals happen.

Creating a budget is the first step, so do that and stick to it no matter what. Besides that, you should always listen to each other carefully since successful communication is one more step toward achieving your goals!

successful mompreneur

Discuss everything with your partner.

Make sure your work area is well-organized

Finally, make sure you have an organized work area. When your work area is a hot mess, it’s highly likely that you’re going to be disorganized, too. That’s exactly why proper organization is so important and probably one of the most important steps toward becoming a successful mompreneur.

Start with organizing your desk and general office space, which can become easily disorganized with documents, files, and folders. This clutter can make you feel mentally cluttered too, so eliminating it is important.

Cultivate a creative and stimulating working environment that will help you be more productive. This is particularly important when it comes to your home office. According to Audrey, it can be tricky to sort everything out in the beginning. However, once you manage to do that, everything becomes much easier later on!

In conclusion

As you can see, being a successful mompreneur definitely isn’t the easiest task to manage; however, you shouldn’t get discouraged when you hit your first obstacle.

I hope Audrey’s story is one that motivates and inspires you. She is an example of a successful, enterprising woman who has managed to stay focused even when things have gotten challenging. You can achieve the same success.

Finally, remember to always keep your family close since they will be the best reminder of why you work so hard to accomplish your goals so fiercely!

Claire Adams

Claire is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Many thanks to Claire Adams for her guest post. If you’d like to contact Claire, she can also be reached at [email protected]

How do you make life work as a working mom? Let me know here or on social media!

Interested in collaborating with me? You can reach me at [email protected].

Career Working Parent

7 Signs it’s Time to Ditch Your Toxic Employer

January 9, 2018
ditch employer

Have you been feeling like maybe it’s time to ditch your toxic employer and take back control of your career?

As a workplace civil rights attorney, I’ve had the privilege of working with scores of employees from a variety of backgrounds and workplaces. Sometimes these people have become clients and sometimes they have not.

Whether I meet with someone for a one-time consultation or work with a client for years, there are common threads found across all dysfunctional work environments.

This is true regardless of whether you work in healthcare, education, social work, law enforcement, hospitality, the legal profession, or a different area entirely.

To be clear, there is a difference between a hostile work environment as defined under the law and a generally “toxic workplace.”

In this article for Fairygodboss, I discussed how to spot the signs you work in an unlawful hostile work environment. I explained what does and does not legally constitute a hostile work environment.

I’ve also written about how to spot unlawful discrimination at work.

When a workplace is permeated by unlawful discrimination and harassment, it is, by extension, a toxic workplace, whether or not it legally constitutes a hostile work environment.

However, not every toxic workplace will feature conduct that breaks the law.

Nevertheless, working in a toxic environment can still be stressful, unpleasant, and bad for your well-being.

Below are seven signs that you may be working in such a workplace, and that it may be time to ditch your toxic employer once and for all.

toxic employer

1. They don’t respect you.

toxic workplace

We all deserve respect in the workplace. If your employer doesn’t respect you, your time, or your contributions, or permits an environment where others are allowed to engage in a pattern of disrespect, it may be time to move on.

Determining whether you are receiving the respect you deserve is a subjective endeavor, but here are some obvious signs your employer does not value you:

  • Your employer regularly allows a select few to steal credit for the work of others.
  • Your employer uses harmful, bias-riddled language, indicating they hold certain workers in higher esteem than others.
  • Your employer treats you as though they don’t trust you.
  • Your employer engages with you in a volatile, unprofessional manner.
  • Your employer harps on alleged weaknesses without ever praising strengths.

No one expects a workday to be a day at the fair, but if your employer appears hell-bent on keeping you at a certain “level,” they probably are.

2. They break wage and hour laws.

toxic employer

Another sign it’s time to go: your employer routinely breaks wage and hour laws.

This might not seem like a big deal, and sometimes you may not even realize you’re being shortchanged, but you should never tolerate working for an employer that does not fairly pay its workers.

Since wage and hour laws vary by state and federal law and contain many legal nuances and complexities, I’m not going to delve into an extensive analysis on the issue.

However, these are some ways to tell that your employer is not paying you fairly:

  • Your employer regularly asks you to complete work “off the books.”
  • Your employer requires you, an hourly worker, to work beyond your scheduled hours but refuses to document these hours.
  • Your employer unjustly withholds commissions if you work by commission.
  • Your employer does not post required information about wage and hour regulations in the workplace.

There are heavy penalties that can be levied against employers found guilty of breaking wage and hour laws.

If you believe your employer is violating these laws, you should consult with a labor attorney in your state.

However, even if you choose not to engage legally, know that these violations are a sign that it may be time to find a new employer.

3. They make you feel guilty for being a working parent.

toxic employer

If your employer makes you feel guilty for being a working parent, it may be time to hit the road.

Not only that, but they could be engaging in conduct that constitutes unlawful discrimination–for example, based on pregnancy or family status.

Nevertheless, even if your employer’s conduct does not cross over into discrimination territory, conduct that disparages workers because of parental obligations is harmful, antiquated, and bad for business.

Take it as a sign that it may be time to move on.

4. HR is ineffective.

toxic employer

A business or organization is only as healthy as its Human Resources Department.

As this Forbes piece states, “each employee’s life cycle begins and ends in the HR department.”

“Human resources professionals are the protectors of the company culture and the purveyors of the corporate conscious.” [Forbes].

HR has a duty to thoroughly investigate the employee complaints that come its way.

It’s a weighty responsibility, and thankfully there are many good HR professionals out there who take their jobs seriously and do an admirable job of balancing their obligations to both workers and the employer.

However, there are others who fail in this regard. Frequently, this has as much to do with a workplace’s culture as it does with an HR rep’s professional abilities.

That being said, a work environment where HR fails is a work environment where toxicity thrives.

Keep that in mind when deciding whether it’s time to move to a different employer.

5. There is a high turnover rate.

toxic employer

Another sign it’s time to leave? Everyone else leaves–constantly.

It is never a good sign when an employer can’t retain its workforce.

It is much more expensive for an employer to hire new talent than to retain its current pool.

If they can’t get anyone to stick around, it may be a sign of deeper problems within the organization.

6. They engage in discriminatory employment practices.

toxic employer

If you think your employer may be engaging in unlawful discrimination, this article I wrote for Fairygodboss may help you.

In it, I share the various signs that point to unlawful workplace discrimination, including, but not limited to: questionable hiring practices, biased language, unfair promotions or assignment of work, unequal pay, assumptions regarding an employee’s plans or abilities, disparate enforcement of policies, and retaliation.

If your employer is engaging in workplace discrimination, or if you have reason to believe they are, you might take it as a sign that they’re not the right employer for you.

Do remember that the onus is not on you as a worker to leave though. Rather, it’s on the employer to stop its unlawful practices.

I’ve known many victims of workplace discrimination who chose to stick it out with an employer for one reason or another.

Whether because of length of service, pension options, fringe benefits, job security, passion for the work performed, or some other reason entirely, choosing to stay with an employer is a personal choice. 

You don’t have to leave, but, like any relationship, it is your choice to do so if it’s not right for you.

7. Your gut is telling you to go.

toxic employer

The final sign it may be time to ditch your toxic employer? Your gut is telling you to go.

I know it is hard. For the most part, people need their jobs, and it’s not like new positions just fall from the sky.

It takes time to build a reputation and a career, and upending that overnight is not a choice most would willingly undertake.

But, if you’re in a bad place, you might want to consider doing so.

Only you will know what’s right for you.

Disclaimer: This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Always contact an attorney directly if you are in need of legal advice.

Maternity Leave Working Parent

10 Tips For a Happier First Day Back From Maternity Leave

December 13, 2017
Back To Work

There are several firsts you’ll have as a brand new mom–the first time you see your new baby, the first time you bring your baby home, and the first time you venture out into the world alone with your little bundle.

As a working mom, there are several other firsts you’ll have as well.

At some point, instead of worrying about how you’ll survive an outing with your little one, you’ll wonder how you’ll ever survive your first full day without them.

If you’re anything like the average American working mother, you’ll probably face this reality much sooner than you’d like.

I’ve written before about steps you can take to have a happier return from maternity leave.

I’ve also featured helpful advice from a chief authority on this matter, Lori Mihalich-Levin, of Mindful Return.

However, I have not yet tackled advice for the big day itself: the day you finally return to work after having your baby.

Regardless of how long your maternity leave was, you will likely feel it wasn’t long enough.

Even with a lengthy leave, however, ripping off the Band-Aid and going back to work that first day is likely to stir many different feelings.

I had a four-month maternity leave with my son, loved my job, had an incredibly supportive employer, and I still remember the fear, dread, and uncertainty I felt leading up to my return.

For months, I couldn’t even bear the thought of returning and being separated from the little baby I nurtured and loved so much.

The last month of my leave was a final countdown toward a future I couldn’t quite conceptualize.

When the big day finally came, I summoned all the bravery I had, stepped into a cute pair of shoes bought during my leave, and courageously walked into my new life as a working mom.

That first day was not easy, but it wasn’t the end of the world either.

Here are my tips for how you can make your own first day back a little more bearable.

Back To Work

1. Set out everything you need the night before. 

Early on, the pure logistics of getting yourself and your baby ready will probably make your head spin. It will help if you set out everything you’ll need for your first day the night before–outfits, lunches, bags (the baby’s and yours), and anything else you’ll need for the big day.

2. Give yourself lots of leeway the morning of.

Having been a mom for at least a little while, you’re likely aware that things rarely go according to plan with a child.

Give yourself time to put yourself together in the morning and get out the door.

If you have flexibility with the time you can arrive at work, use it! You may need a few extra moments to compose yourself after saying goodbye to your little one, or you might want to just take a little time to yourself before your big arrival.

3. Treat yourself on the way to work.

On my first day back, I made a little Starbucks detour before heading to the office.

I didn’t stop in or stay–I just pulled into the drive-thru, ordered my favorite drink, and sipped it on my drive while soaking in the sounds of the radio and my newfound quiet time.

If you need a similar pick-me-up, go for it!

Your morning and afternoon commute will be one of the few moments you’ll truly have to yourself from now on.

4. Be honest.

When you arrive at work, put on your professional face, of course, but be honest about how you are feeling if people ask.

If you’re an emotional wreck, you don’t have to lay it all out on the table for them, but it’s perfectly healthy and fine to say something along the lines of “this morning was a bit tougher than I expected, but I’m happy to be back” or “it’s tough, but I look forward to what lies ahead.”

Owning your feelings may better help you process them, and it also lets your colleagues know that you are proactively working through the transition.

5. Don’t try to get through everything at once. 

On your first day back, don’t try to get through everything you missed during your leave all at once.

Give yourself some time to ease back into a routine.

Schedule times to check-in with your boss, co-workers, direct-reports, and anyone else who may have handled some of your work while you were away.

Begin clearing out your inbox, catching up on office mail, voicemail, or anything else that piled up–but ease into it (provided you have the flexibility to do so).

On my first day back, I looked through emails, revised my to-do list, and briefly checked in with colleagues, but I didn’t try to get through everything that day.

I spread the workload out over the course of my first week, tackling the most pressing issues first.

Ensure your pace is natural and not frenetic.

6. Bring pictures of your baby.

Bringing photos of your baby or other mementos from your time away will help as you begin to unite your two worlds together.

On my first day, I brought a photo collage with pictures from my son’s newborn photo shoot.

Our office building had a policy that required we ask for assistance when hanging pictures (probably to avoid damaging the walls), but I didn’t care about policy that day. I grabbed a hammer and set of nails and got to work.

I still missed my son, but seeing him on the wall helped me feel like he was there with me too.

7. Check in with your caregiver.

You’ll want to create a comfortable relationship between yourself and your caregiver, and calling to check-in every 5 minutes might not accomplish that.

But, early on, it’s perfectly normal to check in a few times a day as needed.

On that first day, check in as little or as often as you need. You may find yourself checking in less as time goes on, but those first days and weeks are all about ensuring you and baby are secure in your new arrangement.

8. Enjoy your lunch.

Your first day back to work may very well be the first time you’ve been able to eat a meal with both hands since the birth of your child.

Take advantage and eat something that requires use of both hands–bring on the big salad!

9. Leave the office on time (or earlier).

You will likely be hyper aware of every second that ticks by on that first day.

Don’t feel guilty if you decide to leave the office promptly at 5 PM, or even a little earlier if your schedule permits.

You survived your first day back, and that’s worth celebrating.

10. Take a deep breath.

Finally, whenever you need to, take a deep breath.

Whenever you feel like crying, whenever you feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath and center yourself.

Then close your office door or take a walk and let it all out.

Let yourself feel whatever you’re feeling.

As the days and weeks pass, things will likely get easier.

And if they don’t, you still have choices.

Your plans can always change, and no matter what you do, you are still mama.

Have you had to navigate a return from maternity leave?

What advice would you give to a mom on her first day back?

 

Law Working Parent

What You Need to Know About New York Paid Family Leave

December 6, 2017
Paid Family Leave

Chances are, if you live in New York State, you’ve heard about New York’s Paid Family Leave policies, which take effect January 1, 2018.

With this policy change, New York will join California, Washington, New Jersey, and Rhode Island as the only states in the U.S. offering a form of paid family leave.

This is, of course, great news for New York families who have until this point had to cobble time together for their leave, relying on pieces from disability insurance, FMLA, vacation time, and so forth.

This is also good news for employers since research shows paid family saves employers money.

There are several terrific resources out there for employers, employees, and healthcare providers to learn about what these changes mean for them. However, locating, navigating, and understanding this information can be a challenge.

It’s not my goal to re-invent the wheel, so in this post, I will be linking helpful resources and providing succinct explanations regarding what these changes mean.

Like my Working Parent Resources page, the goal is to create a library of resources along with the reasons they are helpful.

As always, although I am an attorney licensed in New York, this blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Always contact an attorney directly if you are in need of legal advice.

paid family leave

Paid Family Leave: What it Means for You

paid family leave

In general: New York’s Paid Family Leave program “provides wage replacement to employees to help them bond with a child, care for a close relative with a serious health condition, or help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service.” Source: New York State Paid Family Leave.

The program covers both men and women, meaning both mothers and fathers will be eligible for paid family leave.

These laws also guarantee that an employee can return to their job following leave and continue their health insurance.

How much leave does the law provide? New York’s Paid Family Leave is scheduled to phase in over four years, starting January 1, 2018 with up to 8 weeks of leave per year and resulting in up to 12 weeks of leave offered by 2021.

The New York Paid Family Leave website provides a chart of the official schedule on its “Timeline” page.

In sum, the length of leave will increase yearly in accordance with the following:

  • 2018: up to 8 weeks of leave
  • 2019: up to 10 weeks of leave
  • 2020: up to 10 weeks of leave
  • 2021: up to 12 weeks of leave

How much are employees paid while on leave? Wages will be capped based on the statewide average weekly wage. The wage percentage employees will receive under the law will start at 50% in 2018 and increase to a max benefit of 67% of the average weekly wage in 2021.

The New York Paid Family Leave website provides a chart of the official schedule on its “Timeline” page.

A Better Balance also provides a helpful explanation of this point in its One-Page Overview of the New York Paid Family Leave Program.

In sum, the percentage benefits will increase yearly in accordance with the following:

  • 2018: 50% of weekly wage up to a cap of 50% of the statewide average weekly wage
  • 2019: 55% of weekly wage up to  a cap of 55% of the statewide average weekly wage
  • 2020: 60% of weekly wage up to  a cap of 60% of the statewide average weekly wage
  • 2021: 67% of weekly wage up to  a cap of 67% of the statewide average weekly wage

As you can see, although the length of leave does not increase between 2019 and 2020, the benefit percentage does.

What does the cap mean for employees and what is the statewide average weekly wage?

Baby Caravan, LLC posted an easy-to-follow guide for understanding New York Paid Family Leave, and included a helpful breakdown of how workers will be affected by the cap.

As Baby Caravan‘s post on New York Paid Leave aptly explains:

“For example, if in 2018 you earn $1200 weekly, then you’d receive $600 per week in paid leave benefits.

Benefits are capped at the percentage of state average weekly wage. The AWW for [2018] is $1,305.92. So the maximum benefit for paid family leave in 2018 is $652.96, since the benefits is 50% pay. For individuals who earn above $1305.92 per week, knowing what this cap is will be helpful for budgeting purposes.”

Those figures would change with the percentage caps each year until 2021.

Is the program mandatory? According to New York Paid Family Leave, “the program is not optional for most employees. The exception is if you are in a job that will not allow you to attain the 26 continuous weeks or 175 days needed to qualify for Paid Family Leave (for example a seasonal worker).”

Baby Caravan provides an additional list of exempt workers under its “What Are The Exemptions” heading here as does the New York Paid Family Leave website under its FAQ and Eligibility sections.

These exempt workers include: independent contractors (unless they pay for their own coverage), farm laborers, clergy, public sector unions (unless paid leave benefits are collectively bargained for), and individuals who are collecting workers’ compensation benefits and not currently working.

How are benefits funded? Benefits are funded through small employee payroll deductions, meaning a small percentage of an employee’s income will be deducted per paycheck. The New York Paid Family Leave website provides an online calculator to view an estimate of your weekly payroll deduction HERE.

To be clear, these are nominal amounts to pay for the benefits received. In fact, the weekly payroll deductions are equal to just 0.126% of your weekly wage.

For example, if your weekly income is $2,000, your weekly Paid Family Leave payroll deduction is estimated to be $1.65.

Does the program affect private leave benefits offered by employers? New York’s Paid Family Leave policy provides a floor, not a ceiling. As such, additional employer benefits can be combined with or stacked on top of the paid leave offered by the state.

Additional Information and Where to Find it

paid family leave

For information on what kind of family care is covered, visit:

New York Paid Family Leave “Eligibility” Section

A Better Balance’s “Important News for New & Expecting Parents in New York

A Better Balance’s “Overview of the New York Paid Family Leave Program”

For additional information on how employees benefit, visit:

New York Paid Family Leave Employee Fact Sheet

Family Leave Works by A Better Balance

Paid Family Leave – Provide 12 Weeks of Paid Leave

For information on how Paid Family Leave benefits employers, visit:

Paid Family Leave Insurance: Benefiting New York Businesses

Busting the Myths on Paid Family Leave

New York Small Businesses Need Paid Family Leave

For Even More Information, visit:

“Get The Facts” by the New York State Paid Leave Coalition

To Contact Someone about New York Paid Family Leave, call or visit: 

To Contact New York Paid Family Leave

Call: 844-337-6303

Contact A Better Balance Online

Or Call: 1-833-NEED-ABB

If you found this post helpful, be sure to share with family, friends, and colleagues!

Disclaimer: This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Always contact an attorney directly if you are in need of legal advice.

Featured Maternity Leave Working Parent

11 Questions: Lori Mihalich-Levin of Mindful Return

November 22, 2017
mindful return

Lori Mihalich-Levin is the working mama guru behind the successful program “Mindful Return.” I recently had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Mihalich-Levin regarding what Mindful Return is and how it helps working mothers. I am pleased to share this interview on the blog today.

Mindful Return

1. For readers who are unfamiliar, can you describe what Mindful Return is, and why you started it?

Mindful Return is a 4-week online program (and a blog!) designed to help new parents return to work after parental leave in a more calm, empowered, and successful way.  I started it, because while there seemed to be a curriculum out there for everything baby-related (how to make a birth plan, puree baby food, massage your baby…), there didn’t seem to be a course one could take on “how to navigate maternity leave and the return to work without losing your mind”!

For the past 3 years, about 500 women have taken the Mindful Return course, and the paternity leave version just for dads will be launching in January 2018.

2. What led you to create Mindful Return? Were you prompted by something in your personal or professional life? 

Mindful Return was definitely born of my own experiences returning to work full time after my two boys (who are now 4 1/2 and 6 1/2).  I returned to an employer where plenty of people had gone out on and returned from maternity leave, but no one seemed to be talking about how challenging this transition could be.  I was first inspired to launch a “Returning to Work Group” at my office.  (More on how to form a “Working Mom Posse” at your office here.)  Then, taking the Abundant Mama e-course with moms from all over (with kids of all ages) inspired me to develop an online program where new working moms could connect, mentor one another, and learn how to do this transition in a better way.

3. In your opinion, what are the biggest difficulties women face in returning from maternity leave?

Oh, there are many!  But here are three I hear frequently and have experienced myself:

(1) Sleep deprivation is high on the list; it can be a huge struggle to figure out your new life and balance work demands while having your sleep interrupted every two hours.  American maternity leave policies, as you probably know, aren’t known for their generosity; so many moms end up heading back to work right around the time of that dreaded 3-month sleep regression.

(2) Finding the time and energy to pump milk during the day is another challenge many moms confront.  With the irony being the more you stress, the less milk you produce.

(3) Guilt.  New moms returning to work are trying to figure out their own new identities, trying to be good moms, and trying to be good employees.  We often hold ourselves to remarkably high standards and feel guilty when we come up “short.”

4. In your opinion, are the struggles working women face in returning from maternity leave primarily related to inward pressure, outward pressures, or a combination of both?

Definitely a combination of both.  Society often holds up the image of the “you-can-do-it-all mom”, and social media doesn’t exactly help to dispel these myths.  Workplace policies tend not to favor working parents, and it’s well known that there’s a “motherhood penalty” in the workplace (there’s even a Wikipedia entry on the topic!).  At the same time, many of us put an incredible amount of pressure on ourselves to be all things to all people at all times.  It’s okay to ease back into work, find new rhythms, and just “be” in our new lives as mothers.  But we often don’t give ourselves permission to do these things.

5. Following up on the last question, how does the Mindful Return course help women navigate these pressures?

The Mindful Return course focuses on a different theme each week, as follows, to help take some of the stress (and feelings of being alone) out of the return to work:

Week 1: A Mindful Mindset for Return.  This week of the course helps new working moms develop skills that will help keep them from going off the rails, mentally, when they return.  We work on gratitude practices, perspective, coping with new motherhood and anxiety, and self-care.

Week 2:  Logistics.  During this week, we focus on learning all those logistical ninja tricks around things like transitioning to childcare, negotiating flexibility, coping with sick days, snow days, and the unexpected, nourishing our little ones (whether we’re pumping or not pumping), and putting food on our own tables at night.

Week 3:  Leadership in the space of return.  Yes, working mamas can be amazing leaders at work upon their return.  During this week of the course, we focus on things like taking credit for a well-planned leave and return, learning delegation skills, naming those skills we’re gaining as parents that are applicable at work, and being a role model for other parents.

Week 4:  Community.  This week reminds us of the power of “me too” and the importance of not isolating ourselves.  We remind ourselves of the perils of isolation and explore things like the new parent communities that are most helpful and ways our villages (from caretakers to in-laws to friends) can support us.

Beyond the curriculum, the course helps new moms feel like they aren’t alone.  Everyone going through the course is in the same position, facing the same fears.

6. Beyond the 4-week course, what other resources does Mindful Return offer to mothers returning from leave? 

7. From your experience, what are some of the biggest concerns women have about returning to work after having a baby? And do concerns change in relation to whether the woman is a first-time or second-time plus mom?

Some of the biggest concerns women have include: (1) will my baby be okay with this person I’ve chosen as a caregiver (but may not know well)?; (2) will I miss seeing my baby’s milestones?  (Read this if you’re worried about this one!); (3) how will I regain my focus at work and be as productive as I used to be; (4) how will I afford the ridiculous price of daycare?

A large percentage of moms who take the Mindful Return course are second, third, and even fourth time moms.  Which tells me it’s still a struggle, no matter which time you do it.  While you may, for example, already trust your daycare provider by the time your second baby arrives, other logistics are infinitely more complicated when you add another baby to the mix.  When our second son arrived, my husband and I used to joke that 1 + 1 = 85!

8. If you could offer one piece of advice to a woman who is currently on maternity leave and having difficulty navigating her return back, what would it be? 

To say two things to yourself every morning when you take a shower: (1) you are enough, mama; and (2) comparison is the thief of joy.  You WILL get through this (fleeting) time in life, and you don’t have to go at it alone.

9. What are some ways non-parent colleagues can help facilitate a new mother’s return to work? 

Great question!  We working parents are always in need of allies at the office.  I think the number one way non-parents can help is to show compassion for the new mother.  To understand that things have changed in her world, and that the hours between 5 and 8pm are both insane and precious.  Believe in her for the long-haul, too.  Yes, these first few months back are crazy; and she will be the most loyal (and efficient) employee you can imagine if you give her the time now to find her new groove.

10. Do you have a particular Mindful Return success story you’re interested in sharing with readers?

Absolutely!  I have two, actually.

  1. Not long after a Mindful Return course session ended, I had lunch with one of the participants, who had just returned to work the prior week.  When I met her, I was anxious to hear how her return went.  “Oh, the return was totally fine, thanks to the Mindful Return course,” she said.  “Now let’s talk about something more exciting, like my baby and your boys!”
  2. After taking the lesson on negotiating flexibility, one of my mamas mustered up the courage to meet with her boss over lunch to ask for adjusted hours (i.e. starting and ending her workday earlier).  She was terrified to make the ask, and was afraid of what her manager would think.  The reality?  Not only did her boss say yes to her request, but her boss declared, “Oh, take anything you need!  I thought you were asking me to lunch to say you weren’t coming back!!”

11.If nothing else, what is the one thing you’d like readers to take away from this interview today? 

Working mamas rock.  We gain superpowers of efficiency, patience, the ability to meet the needs of clients who can’t communicate their needs, and we become problem-solving ninjas.  Be proud of yourselves, working mamas.  You are truly amazing.

Thank you to Lori Mihalich-Levin and Mindful Return for this interview!