I paid it forward in the workplace by encouraging other expectant moms to develop a breastfeeding plan. I shared with them my experience and explained their rights as a breastfeeding mom in DC.
What was your primary motivation for returning to work or changing your work situation after starting a family?
When I became a mom my perspective on life changed completely. I realized quickly that my current work situation--one that required me to be out of the house and away from my daughter in a stressful and fast-paced environment-was not going to work. Starting my own business would allow me the time, freedom and flexibility to be the mom and mompreneur I wanted to be. Plus, the business I wanted to start—one that provides nutrition, culinary and lifestyle support for breastfeeding and weaning moms-- was in alignment with where I was in my life.
Tell us about your planning for your new child - timed around your career? Not at all? Share the skinny!
Truth be told my daughter was a surprise. While I did want a child...sometime...I didn't plan to have one. My daughter was a wonderful and unexpected blessing that has changed my life for the better in ways I could never have planned for, even if I had tried.
What was your biggest challenge to going back to work after starting a family?
My biggest challenge going back to work was figuring out how I was going to continue to breastfeed. I had to go back to work well before I was thinking about weaning so figuring out how I was going to work and pump and breastfeed was my biggest challenge. That said I was definitely one of the lucky ones. My daughter was primarily cared for by my mother and godmother when I was at work. Both of them agreed to bring my daughter to my job each day during my lunch break where we all ate together. In addition, I pumped twice a day to keep my supply up and to prevent engorgement. It wasn't glamorous. I pumped in a rather well used conference room with uncomfortable seats and dirty floors, and my colleagues often walked in on me. But I did what I had to do and it was worth it knowing I was able to give my baby the best.
How easy was it to put a childcare arrangement together and did it work for your family?
I was one of the lucky few who was well supported by family. I was blessed to have my mother and Godmother both retired, in the same city as me and willing to babysit. I was and continue to be grateful that they were available so that I very rarely had to get anyone other than a family member to watch my daughter. The few times I did have to choose non-family care I got wonderful recommendations from trusted friends.
Did you have a back-to-work mentor? How did he/she/they help?
I did not have a back to work mentor and I think having one would be a great idea. Every mom could use the support of a mama who has been through it before, knows a mama’s rights and can offer tips and tricks of the trade. I hope to provide some of that support through my mentorship and breastfeeding plan workshops.
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?
I took a little more than six months leave. I managed that only because I was in the process of moving when my maternity leave began. I was quite comfortable taking the leave time. I was less comfortable with getting back to work.
Have you, or a partner, paid it forward as a parent in the workplace? Tell us a bit more.
I paid it forward in the workplace by encouraging other expectant moms to develop a breastfeeding plan. I shared with them my experience and explained their rights as a breastfeeding mom in DC. I helped them script conversations with their team leaders so they could talk openly with them about their needs and intentions as a breastfeeding and working mom. There were even some frustrated fathers whom I supported as they tried to encourage their wife/girlfriend/partner to breastfeed when they were resistant. I even met with some of the new moms to offer support and guidance.
What, if any, advice would you give to employers to ease strain around family leave and returning to the workplace?
The strain around family leave and returning to work would be eased if mothers and fathers felt comfortable discussing their needs, intentions and rights with their company's leadership. I think it would be great if employers offered breastfeeding classes for expectant moms who wanted to attend. It would be great, too, if employers made nursing rooms commonplace so that breastfeeding moms retuning to work have a comfortable and safe place to pump. And a working mom’s peer-to-peer initiative would be great too!
What factors contributed to your chosen feeding method for your baby?
For me breastfeeding was the easiest, healthiest and simplest choice for my baby. The act and art of breastfeeding resonated with me as a spiritual practice that connected me to my higher self and nourished my daughter and myself.
A good day is when:
A good day is when I meditate in the morning, drink hot herbal tea by my window, see my daughter laugh and learn, eat some steamed greens and I have the opportunity to support a breastfeeding or weaning mom on her journey.
One mistake I learned the hard way:
I learned the hard way that diet can impact me, my breast milk and my baby. I’m grateful for the lesson because now I can share what I've learned with other moms.
Best piece of advice for other parents starting a family and deciding on how to balance family life and work?
Before baby comes, look within and decide what really matters. Think about what is really important to you and what you really want. Then, put into practice the structures needed to nurture them. Communicate clearly with your partner and your circle of support so everyone is on the same page. Understand that balance doesn’t necessarily mean equal balance. It can mean holding space for all the things that are important to you even when some things hold a higher priority and take up more space than others
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