There is something powerful about listening to and really growing through a writing assignment. I have been busy crafting a few chapters that focus on first-time mothers returning to the workplace for Harvard Business Review. One is specific to Breast Pumping and work and the other to PPD. For these, for all my writing, I call on sources that include the parents of Its Working Project’s Portrait Project. Here I find years of candor. And am reminded too of the evolution of working parenthood since IWP was launched in 2013.
One thing that comes up over and again – both via IWP stories (here are a few – Sara Weinstein and Natasha D) and my current research is one simple truth, parenting is a series of phases. Experience shows us that this too shall pass. Thus anxiety is comfortably lower in second and later time parents. I think of this in my own experiences. It was not a fluke that I grew more relaxed and confident as I made way to this month when my youngest graduated from High School. I am sure this is the natural result of my recognizing that there was always a route from here to there. And, sometimes the very best thing to do was absolutely nothing. This was a hard-earned truth.
Ann Smith, president of Postpartum Support International reminded me how very true this is with newly minted mothers. She stressed that even with the most caring mentors, dedicated support system and loving friends and family in place – a full one in seven, or 14% of new mothers suffer from a mild to severe perinatal mood disorder. PPD can happen to anyone. It crosses all lines – ethnic, geographic, racial, economic – you name it. And feels more likely to impact first-timers.
I am so very pleased that HBR has asked me to contribute two chapters to this book. And even more so that they agreed to accept PPD as one of the topics. We must keep listening and sharing the truth about new motherhood. Neither perfect nor completely in our control, it is ours. And if our experience feels bigger or heavier than expected. If we are fair in our expectations of a new version of ourselves and yet still feel off. There is help to be had. There is no shame in asking and receiving whatever gets us from here to there. Because, for better or for worse, this too shall pass.