There is little to laugh about these days. I can spell it out, list the horrors – one by one. Rather, I am going to share with you how I am making it through. There will likely be many of you who imagine the answer is LEVAIN COOKIES. And that is not a bad guess – in fact, not a bad idea at all….Fiction, while yes, I am lucky to be in an escapist one-two punch of Emma Straub and Linda Holmes’ latest volumes that is not it either. Yoga – is a given – and not really for laughter. And I think you are all aware I am just days away from our new puppy. I have got the good stuff. But this is not what will keep me laughing.
The answer dearest friend of the It’s Working Project is Smartless, yup – THE SMARTLESS PODCAST. As a gen-Xer, the triad of Justin Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett are like a gift from the way-back machine. These are the boys who were my brothers – the ones with whom I hung in High School and College. Note for the record, I did not date bros – I dated older boys – these were my hangs – concerts and cheesesteaks in Philly-town Bars and learning to drive a stick-shift on Foxhall in DC. These were my absolute favorite people .And now, when the moment calls for this the most – they have reappeared in the form of the Smartless Podcast. And I laugh and laugh… following the credo – Must Keep Laughing!
I am deeply committed, aka addicted to the weekly fabulousness. It is my salve for the insanity of the moment. And WOW – this is great, pitch-perfect, unscripted and familiar. I am hooked and happy.
Will an hour a week remove the horrors of the day? Nope, an hour will not. However, it will give me the elusive laugh, out loud and from the core. This is my fix, my addiction – and I suggest you join me!
Somehow this month, this January feels endless. Or so it seems.
Short days, long dark nights.
I am cold and somehow cold leads to a non-negotiable need to linger longer and longer on the couch (it is a tete-a-tete, I need to be honest and it is the one of the most perfect purchases I’ve made).
The couch calls for my beloved blanket (Yes, get one from Anthro ASAP) and the blanket calls for a book.
Then the dog. Then music. The candle lit and sending good vibes everywhere. Then a nap. Then the best idea ever – popcorn and chocolate for dinner.
So for those of you who have defined better for yourselves and perhaps feel you are not meeting the mark – consider me your true North – I can absolutely make you feel better about whatever you may not be getting done.
In the meantime – here is a short list of the things that are keeping me in the spirit of listening to my love of the sensory…
Playlists like my current fave by me THIS TOO SHALL PASS including Dolly Parton (Happy Birthday) with Linda Ronstant and Emilou Harris- When we’re gone, long gone – the only thing that will matter is the love that we shared and the way that we cared- when we were gone, long gone.
So I must ask – what is on your January short list? What can you share with the rest of us? All ideas welcome!
Note: it is only August, I have much reading to do. Still as my summer of reading winds down, I felt as though this was a good time to share away.
These days are rough on all of us. What is, what will be? The questions are many. Covid and Delta have made it that way. Will there be school? Is there a way to work successfully? And this is where someone else’s story as a panacea comes into play. In very real ways, falling into someone else’s headspace is a magical elixir. Books are a gift like that.
To know me, is to know how much I love a great story. Books are my food, my snack, my amuse bouche, my indulgence — it just depends which one I am in the mood for. I have very strict formulas (I know, too much, right!). For example short stories serve to cleanse my palate before I remove myself from one reality and immerse in another via that next book. And ooooh, that next book – sitting in a stunning pile – fresh, new and hopefully waiting for its spine to be broken. It is kind of like some reality show…”pick me, Julia please pick me”…
I listen to books only if they are memoirs or nonfiction and read by the author. This was what Michelle Obama taught me and was further validated by Melinda Gates. Listening to the author share her own experiences – that is the holy grail.
As such, this year has been a careful balancing act of fact and fiction (sure this could possibly describe the real world too, but for the sake of this moment – we are talking books). And this year, 2021 has been ripe with worthwhile memoirs. For me, these books are holding me, like newly found best friends – the connection is powerful. And healing as well. In fact, a big issue I am having right now is that I am meditating less and listening to other people’s reality more. I know this likely requires its own interpretation. I am going with — I am too damn worn out to meditate or maybe not open to being quite so present with myself. I will own both, either or neither.
While I do consider these issues daily, Nicole Lynn Lewis brings them to live through her honest, first person narrative
Bottom line, I am spending my time lovingly listening to memoirs. I wanted to share a few that meet my criteria. To review:
Memoir or autobiographical
Read by author
Compelling, relatable or inspirational – the trifecta is a major win.
Here’s what’s doing it for me. Share yours, please!!!
I made an exception to my rules – yes I did, but just for this book, Crying in H-Mart. I read Michlle Zauner’s memoir, Crying in H-Mart the week it was released. And, lent it out soon thereafter. It is that powerfully compelling. Really, you must read this one, and take your time with it. And having a good stash of Korean food close by will be an essential strategy as well. You will also need tissues. So kimchi and Kleenex – got it? Note too – the H-mart in the book is located in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania (go Panthers!) on Old York Road…shout-out to my hometown of Philly!
Alight, alright, alright. No, you did not see that one coming did you? I began listening to Matthew McConaughey’s dramatic playbook of life and in specific his adventures and epiphanic moments at the request of my son Sam. It comes on fast and furious — little time to ease in, just BAM you and MM are BFFs and you are in the TMI weeds. There is so much energy packed into each word it can only be listened to during the day. And when you do – you get poems, prescriptions and well as a big chunk of things that make you go hmmm. I do get my 19 year olds son’s love of this one…there is a lot to process and a lot to plan for. It makes anything feel possible. And that is a good thing. @OfficiallyMcConaughy
Oh I adored spending time with Laura Friedman Williams as she made her way from we to me. Newly divorced and with no plan, we join along as she reimagins herself with such absolute candor. I have suggested this to my former divorce lawyer as a “new client” gift. And I have been sending this audiobook around as my super-empowerment with laughter guide to what’s next to my newly separated mid-life friends. Man the road is rough. It seems only fair that Laura is there to validate all that allures, confuses and frustrates. Either way, the more you read, the more you adore her. Including the ways in which she begins to make sense of herself. From learning what is the new way to do things (waxing 101) to what casual means in this century, there is much for Laura to master. Add to this – she is a ton of fun on social media. @laurafredmanwilliams
This one is an amazing first row seat into an outstanding performance of “she said/he said” genre — what is there not to love? Meet Joseph and Meg, a couple who openly share their first ten years through their own, unique lens. And who laid it all out there – consequences aside (I think!). It is fun and it is an expedition. A great deal happens in ten years. And yes, it does fly by. But the moments count and add up. I loved listening to Joseph Fink and Meg Bashwiner tell their truths — great stuff! @LadyBash (Insta spoiler – baby makes three!!!), hope there is a parenting book in their future!
Seriously – I could never have pulled off what Julie Klam accomplished in the research and writing of this book. And she reads it in a way that compels you from the very first word. Note, I think it is not called reading, but performing feels off to me. Her level of curiosity and willingness to cover the globe in an effort to uncover the true story of her great family myth is impressive to say the very least. We all know how each of our families grows stories, it is just a fact. It is only Julie’s insatiable curiosity and people’s instant, positive reaction to her charm, that opens the gates to the truth – not only in action but also in circumstance, that bring the pieces together. She breaks the fourth wall to add to the listening fun. We learn a great deal not only about the Immigration experience and Jewish life in the 1900s, we learn about choices and their ripples. Even simple facts like basic dates change the narrative completely. And I was so grateful to be along for the ride!
Next Up is….
Ladyparts by Debrah Copeaken is currently in my ears…I am hooked…guessing you will be too. It opens with blood and a lot of internal dialog about women’s health disparity in the US — I am in love. @dcopaken
And the mood. Add flowers and a candle to really escape. Inheritance was a wild escape as is Dani Shapiro’s Podcast, Family Secrets.
Heidi Rauch is about as authentically interested in and deeply committed to the well-being of expectant and new mothers as they come. Since 2002, Belabumbum has made responsibly sourced products designed to soothe and nurture a woman through her maternal journey. From pregnancy into motherhood – Belabumbum is an expression of much needed TLC. Belabumbum cares, nurtures and loves the new mother at a moment when cooing at new baby is the main event. The brand is all about reminding Moms to care for themselves. It is my favorite gift to give — one which tells the new mother that you see her, and want to send some love her way. To be candid — I still wear Belabumbum- the fabrics are that good, the cuts that kind and nothing is better for lounging, napping or the elusive good night’s sleep!
As long as I have known Heidi (which lucky for me is decades!) I have been impressed by her dedication and drive. All in the name of mother. She has been a friend to me and The It’s Working Project — including us in her mission through the years. We have enjoyed a remarkably synergistic relationship which has ranged from dog walks to biggest thinking, strategic planning and everything in between. All in the name of women everywhere.
Recently Belabumbum grew, joining forces with Adore Me, the disruptive lingerie e-commerce company known for their inclusive size range and commitment to promoting inner confidence for all women – not a bad duo!
Now, with the new and expanded Belabumbum nearly anything is possible. I cannot wait to see what Heidi dreams up next.
I have been thinking about, writing about, and remaining curious about the young mothers in my world. How can I help? I keep my ears and my heart open. And I ask, over and again, what can I do to help?
The truth is, the best thing I can offer – that any of us can offer in the midst of this madness is support. As we have passed the official start of fall and we move into cooler, more isolated days the form of this resembles something we knew in March. Yet our perspective (200,000 and growing deaths will do that to a culture) is much altered.
Educating children has become draining, painful really just too much. Working mothers, in particular, share their need for space – to breathe, to think, to consider or create — it is simply gone.
I asked some of you to share what you would like to gift these women in your lives. I thought I would share my shortlist of loving remedies. These will not change our circumstances or those of these women we do deeply love and respect. But these gifts are given in the spirit of love with hopes for a few minutes of self-care.
There is little that soothes my nerves like the smell of a carefully chosen candle. And the best news is that there are always candles to be found on sale. This is just the type of gift that says, “I care so very much”…
Otherland is a Brooklyn based, woman-owned candle company. That aside, their product has an authentic love for the art of candles- from stunning packaging to long-burning candles that fill a room with comfort and care. I am partial to Daybed and Chandelier. Other candles such as Nest and Fresh Sake (which reminds me of our first showroom in NYC) are also in the near-perfect range. These are a bit easier to find on sale. Consider Apricot Tea for quiet notes or Sicilian Tangerine for bright citrus day-long treats.
The end of a long day should have a reward. My vote — a decadent scrub for the shower. The two that I gift with love over and again are Ren Mococain rose and Fresh brown sugar. Each has equal parts texture, fragrance and TLC. Getting into a bed of cool, clean sheets after a soothed after a hot shower scrub is a treat that I give thinking of the true value of ten minutes for self.
The days are endless, ruthless and long. Sleep can be elusive. And that is why I like to gift sleep (or as close as I can get)! My two standouts are very different. This Works Pillow Spray is infused with Lavender, Chamomile and Vetiver. They even have a nap version which seems like a crazy long shot – even a tease so I do not give that one!!! Ren has a very different scent profile, Ren’s And Now to Sleep is quieter in scent. I sent this to a dear friend this week with hopes that she could get more rest. My fingers are crossed.
These are just a few ideas…The rule is simply this — send something that comforts, that might seem like an extravagance and that says I am cheering you on.
What have you been sending — we’d love to know!
Julia and one of her favorite young mothers, Jessica!
For 21+ Years Forty Weeks and the It’s Working Project have worked to raise and maintain awareness around the full picture of motherhood. New mothers in particular, first time mothers. are born when baby arrives. Yet, the ducks and bunnies and pastel cute things still get the attention, when in fact Mama could use some care and support. Let’s consider how to change this in real time.
Imagine this — after forty weeks focused on you and your health including: blood levels, hydration, mental state, well-being and all things that serve to indicate that your body is gestating as it should, a switch is flipped. After months of maternal care there is a moment, a rite of passage. A pregnant Woman becomes Mother. And Baby takes center stage. And that my dear reader is the whole story. At least as much as you know about it.
Frida’s rejected Oscars ad tried to let you in behind the maternal velvet curtain. The painful, insecure days of post-delivery, early motherhood and all the uncomfortable learnings and adjustments that top a long, evolving list of how things are not the same. While the ad did not make it to the Big Game — it did make it to the big web. Readers were outraged. And they shared with comments to underscore their frustrations.
“This is a cultural problem” you say — you are not wrong. And still, you are are not helpless. Here is what you can do.
Show up at baby showers with care and nurturing for Mother. Items that will rate low on the “how cute” scale but will win big “thank goodness” accoldaes in the real world of new parenting.
Need Ideas? Great, I happen to have some. These are the shower gifts of a true freind — you are givng your newly minted Mama friend the gift of Ahhhh — and that is how we begin to tell the truth and shift our culture, even a bit.
Soothe Look to FridaBaby for a selection of not at all chic staples for gentle, supported recovery at home. Consider Instant Ice Maxi Pads and Witch Hazel Soothing Foam. Perhaps include with a bottom-saving Recovery Cushion. Remember, women do not see their doctors for up to 6 weeks post-natally. That is a long time to go in pain and discomfort. These items are pure gold (though not at all adorable).
Sleep Yes, you really can give the most coveted, elusive thing of all — a good night’s sleep! Let Mommy Sleep brings the support of registered nurses and newborn care providers to give new parents good night’s sleep. Better still, you and your friends can build a “sleep registry” for your friend keeping Mama rested and closer to her best.
Simple Styling Comfort Getting dressed is really not a thing for new mothers. Day slips into night over and again. A shower, or even clean hair is a very big deal. Comfort that feels even a little close to self wins the prize. I adore Belabumbum for just this reason. This mom-founded company’s Lounge PJ Chic PJ & Robe Set is made with easy access for nursing, support where needed and crafted out of super soft fabric. Another idea — their Mama Robe is embrodered (says Mama) and comfortable with the new Mama in mind.
Support A few good consultants can be game changing for a new mother. Top of this list is a lactation consultant who will not only teach skills in advance of baby but also deal with anything (this can be painful and scary) that comes up. And while giving priceless access to a nonjudgemental, super positive CLC, IBCLC such as the legendary Heather Kelly in New York, do not forget the value of classes or groups. As a gift this is tops. Places like The Pump Station and Nurtury in LA or The Breastfeeding Center of Greater DC offer classes filled with information such as prenatal education and peers (aka new mother friends) both essentials in the new parent tool box.
Sips and Snacks As mentioned, time takes on a very different quality as a new mother. Still, food and drink are so essential for a strong recovery as well as milk production. The good news — there is lots of healthy food (and almost anything else) to be had via Postmates. Easy and yes — essential.
This topic remains top of my regular private sector agenda and close to my heart. Newly pregnant women, mothers and working parents desire and need their village. In specific, what was once a given – a community of knowledgeable caring souls eager to shine a light on the pathways and elevate women to a place of confidence set in the present tense. The concept of multi-generations of family existing in a single location is foreign to us now. My interest is not in lamenting what is lost. Rather, the idea is in building a new generation of support easily accessible and open to parents.
Here is a short list:
Breast Feeding Centers:
Offering supports from childbirth education, breastfeeding courses and of course peer groups. These low-judgement zones are focused on empowering women and sending them into their new roles with confidence and new friendships.
Peer Groups in the Workplace:
While some are part of a robust curriculum of peer based support others are more ad hoc. None are any less necessary. These groups not only offer information from what is available (as is leave and how to eek out more time from the layers of possibility) to how to return to work (where to pump, what tools are needed and which are the best) these intimate, honest collection of parents offer the essential power of community. First timers are grateful and hungry for the facts and the hacks. From there these same parents eagerly pay it forward with passion and commitment to the next generation (be it weeks, months or years) of working parents. Some of my favorite examples include Booz Allen Hamilton, Campbells Soup and Levi’s Strauss. There are many more — organizations from all industries, sizes and geographies getting it right in the workplace through connecting parents with each other.
The formula (no pun, truly) is simple — each year a large majority of women leave the workplace due to an inability to find their way to a comfortable, functional new normal as a working mother. These women are experienced and on their way to high, C-suite level management. And these women are not to be replaced. Certainly not inexpensively and in the most organic, honest sense – not at all. Top quality talent is irreplaceable. Yet the private sector loses sight of this very quickly. What this boils down to is the need for employers to recognize their vulnerability in losing quality employees, full of passion for their work not mention institutional knowledge and years of connection to the brand as a whole. Forward thinking organizations address this by looking for better leave and return set-ups. And, as it turns out, one of the most essential is also the least expensive — formalized workplace support groups. I have spent time with BirchBox and January Digital noticing how they have crafted programs to live both as tools (pumping rooms or mik shipping) and as more private offerings (parental groups). These are not meant to feed to organization but rather nurture the individual. And, it works well.
Be it your partner, parents, sibling or community – your family is your touchstone and your gold. They cherish you and support you as very best they can. Be clear — ask for what you want, need and crave (you know that is real) and get the full-on care that they are lovingly sharing your way. One key hack — remove their judgment from your choices. If you need a date night with your co-parent ask and take it. If they offer food or house cleaning say yes with no apologies. Remember the village? You modern day version may be a bit less traditional, but it is yours. Embrace the care, feeding and experience coming your way. You will benefit from knowing how very surrounded by love you really are!
Support for Sale:
Be it via a book (The Fifth Trimester is not only a must read but also a must gift) a service (Let Mama Sleep is just that — again, accept with grace then generously give to the next Mom). A podcast (The Double Shift or The Longest Shortest Time) or simply new approaches via Werk or One Million Work for Flexibility – find the intel you need to keep yourself strong and yes, supported.
Support is the thing. Simple, essential and offering an extremely high return for all involved.
We want to hear where you found your support! Click here to share your story with us.
Katherine Goldstein is as brilliant as they come. She shines brightly in a way that is welcoming and engaging. She is inclusionary and eager to leave this world much better than she found it in the name of working women. Those of us who read or listen to her never tire of her sharp and keenly observant point of view.
Katherine has followed her own path from traditional publishing career to a prestigious fellowship, which led her to be the voice to be heard in outlets including the New York Times. Now, with just days to go until the launch of her much-anticipated Double Shift podcast (yes, subscribe) we thought it a perfect time to give you a bit of Katherine in her own words.
Remember to share your back to work after baby story here and we will donate a package of diapers in your name to the DC Diaper Bank.