"I think there are a lot of moms like me who are self-employed because the traditional business world doesn't work for us; we're sort of forced to find creative ways to contribute financially to our families."
What was your primary motivation for returning to work or changing your work situation after starting a family?
I always thought I would be a stay at home mom after having kids, at least until they started school. That's what my mom did, so it felt right for me and my family. Starting my business when my children were all under 3 was part calling and part economic decision; neither of which I saw coming.
I think there are a lot of moms like me who are self-employed because the traditional business world doesn't work for us; we're sort of forced to find creative ways to contribute financially to our families.
Tell us about your planning for your new child - timed around your career? Not at all? Share the skinny!
It was the opposite for me- my career was planned around my children. I knew I would sell my previous business when I became pregnant and then when I started Let Mommy Sleep, the goal was for work to happen only during naps and bedtime.
What was your biggest challenge to going back to work after starting a family?
That I would be taking time away from the kids that I could never get back.
Did you have a back-to-work mentor? How did he/she/they help?
I did not have a back to work mentor but I must say that the local blogger community--also all moms--was a great source of support for me. Connecting with these other women who understood that cheering each other on meant success for all of us was inspiring personally and professionally.
How much leave did you take, and how comfortable were you taking it? If you are a single parent, how did you navigate your leave?
Not applicable for me. At my company though, my family leave policy is very simple. Family comes first and if caregivers need time to be with them, they may take as much time as they wish. If you're taking maternity leave, your job will be waiting for as long as you wish.
Have you, or a partner, paid it forward as a parent in the workplace? Tell us a bit more.
The caregivers and nurses that work for Let Mommy Sleep are encouraged to take as much family time as they wish, at any time. Maternity leave is unlimited and family time is held in the highest regard. In the home office we often say that we're in the business of helping families, but we're also in the business of keeping women working.
How did you work with your doctor, adoption agency, or Human Resources department to plan for your family leave and return?
For me, it was really coordinating with my husband that made everything possible. The initial intent behind Let Mommy Sleep was for it to be a "side" business to contribute a little to my family each month so it was a very personal decision for our family.
If you returned to work, when did your confidence around work kick in? How long did the adjustment take (or are you still adjusting?) When did the “new normal” set in for you?"
I'm not joking when I say that after 5 years my confidence is tested every single day. I think that is just the life of a small business owner.
What, if any, advice would you give to employers to ease strain around family leave and returning to the workplace?
You know, this is a tough one because while there are so many wonderful companies like Hilton and Facebook that offer employees paid family leave, there are an enormous amount of businesses whose hands are tied because they simply can't afford it. The model in California of each employee giving a small amount to finance leave for new parents is genius and it works for large companies, but for small businesses like mine of 25- 100 workers, the contribution wouldn't amount to enough to cover the benefits for 2 or more people.
That being said, my advice is to get creative! At Let Mommy Sleep we work on a team model where essentially, any worker can be a backup for any worker to ease any strain around family leave. This model was unheard of when we began, but it was born out of a need to keep good people however we could.
Teleworking, non- traditional hours and working in teams where each team member can shoulder the load for the others for specific time periods are all relatively new models that work. Additionally, keeping communication open before the family leave arrives is a must; the fact is that returning to work for a new mom after 3 months is never easy and while it's not the employer's job to make it easy, planning ahead and having clear expectations can certainly help both the parent and worker to ease back in to work.
What factors contributed to your chosen feeding method for your baby?
I breastfed my first for about 3 months because I wanted to give him the best health benefits I could. When breastfeeding remained difficult to the point where I was beating myself up and unhealthy, we switched to formula.
I made the decision to formula feed my twins because I wanted to be available to my 18-month old as much as I was to my 2 newborns, formula allowed other family members and friends to feed 1 or both of my twins during those difficult first months. For my family, formula allowed me to be a more present parent to everyone.
FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, did you need to pump? If so, how easy was it for you to pump?
Yes. Milk production was an ongoing issue but no, I didn't need to pump due to returning to work.
FOR MOMS: Was there a place for you to pump that met your needs and was conducive to your success? FOR DADS: What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby?
Pretty hard. It sounds silly to say today, but I wish I had known I could ask someone for help.
A good day is when:
My children and husband are content and my work is quiet.
What I wish I had known:
I wish I had known that our babies and children are really teaching us, not the other way around.
I know that sounds like a cat poster, but the greatest gift of working with brand new families has been seeing the pattern that if we just trust our little ones and our instincts, everything will be okay. Our speeded up culture, millions of think-pieces about parenting decisions and yes- being up against the clock of maternity leave are all extremely loud noise that make us unable to hear what our littlest ones are saying to us. And if we can really listen, our babies and kids are telling us just to slow down and trust that love will lead us.
One mistake I learned the hard way:
That parenting is just one big fluid journey and very few issues are black and white. As a first-time parent I thought Everything Was So Important; you can't have baby co-sleep or he'll never stop, you can't give a child non-organic food, you must be on a schedule and on and on. What a waste of time and energy all that was!
Best piece of advice for other parents starting a family and deciding on how to balance family life and work?
This is the time to get your village in place. There's nothing more stressful and guilt inducing than when work and family both need you urgently at the same time. Nothing. So have your child care, family help, neighbors, telework options etc. in place before you're stretched so thin that you lose your confidence. On that note- you will be amazing!
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