Scary Days for New Parents

Back to work after baby, more like a trick than a treat!
Back to work after baby, more like a trick than a treat!

You think a haunted house is scary? Try going back to work after baby. That is arguably the scariest, most intimidating day of any parent’s life. The sheer unknown of it all combined with the lack of simple yet necessary supports from employers makes “day one” a potential disaster. And, according to our on-going research through the It’s Working Project, one that leads to new parent attrition in high numbers.

And it is not getting better in terms of time or support. Or even in terms of curiosity on the part of the private sector — “hmmm, I wonder how we can make small, high-return investments in the name of supporting parents and course-correcting the challenges at hand?”. No, not that.

Assuming that the amount of parental leave is stagnant (for now) the answer to better support lies in the on and off-ramp policies and practices on the part of the private sector. Simply, how to set parents up for success white on parental leave and then again upon return? How to create and support a workplace culture and ethic that not only acknowledges and understands the off and on ramp but also takes pride in doing it well?


Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau

According to one of our favorite infographics, produced by the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, women are heading back to work sooner than ever before. This means that support needs to address the needs of all parents, including parents of the very young. With this comes the obvious need to support pumping of breast milk in the workplace. Lucky for the private sector and for employees, the answers are quite straightforward.

Consider these areas of inexpensive focus with high return for new, pumping mothers as outlined in our tools for HR Professionals. Note the low-cost, high-impact strategies that are designed to proactively cover the full spectrum of the relationship between and the needs of employer and parental employee. And the bonus -it is a great brand story well worth sharing. Here are a few of the things you can offer to help support new, nursing mothers in the workplace.

  • Well-equipped pumping spaces
  • Pumped milk shipping services
  • Lactation support services to teach skills, problem solve and prepare for all circumstances (can you say airport security?)
  • On-site peer support
  • Secondary equipment (to reduce stress and strain, a “work pump”) including pumps, etc.
  • Nursing wardrobe allowance

These basics go a long way, speak volumes and drive a shift in earnest. What have we missed? What do you have to support your pumping at work? Wish you had? Please share it with us here.

And of course, share your back to work with baby story with our It’s Working Project.

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Parent Zero: Will You Be the Workplace Disruptor?

The first time I thought about Parent Zero was ten years ago. My now friend and then new client (fun fact, she became a client because her mother read about me in Baltimore Magazine and thought we should connect) was quite busy redefining corporate social responsibility and digital engagement for Graco which, prior to being acquired by Newell Rubbermaid and moving to Georgia, was headquartered in Pennsylvania.

During Lindsay’s time at Graco, she became a mom and was determined to nurse her children as long as possible. She worked hand in hand with Graco’s Human Resources department to build what became a state-recognized and award-winning lactation program in hopes that every mom would have the opportunity to breastfeed their child after returning to work. She was able to breastfeed both of her children until nearly a year which, in her own words, “took every bit of help and humor she could find”.

Lindsay was Parent Zero.

#LeadonLeave Business Panel — Labor Secretary Tom Perez; Stephanie Jackson, Union Square Hospitality Group; Jenny Dearborn, SAP; Tom Nides, Morgan Stanley; and Brent Bachus, Deloitte LLP

These were before laws and mandates. Before ACA required pumping spaces. Before the It’s Working Project was listening, before A Better Balance and a remarkable field of like-minded organizations around the country were successfully advocating, before States and even cities such as New York raised the bar through legislation in support of pregnant and nursing working women, elevating the expectation for care and experience. Before the Department of Labor drove programs such as #LeadonLeave urging the private sector to understand and embrace the business case behind supporting families in the workplace.

Before all of this there was the slim chance that a parent with enough will, clarity and confidence would “go there” and ask for a space to pump, flexible schedules, and other key supports of working parenthood. And beyond the will, the odds remained slim that an individual employee carried enough value in the eyes of the employer, empowering them to state their needs and make them a requirement of staying. And of course there was not only the question of asking there was having ones needs met and the execution beyond that…

Lindsay was a Parent Zero. She was the parental employee who asked for more and stood in partnership with management to build a symbiotic, strengthening policies and thoughtful support systems that will serve to support all. We read about them over and again in the Portrait Project. Stories of Beth, Tatiana, Manon, Emma, Warren and many more.

When I am out speaking and participating (thank you DOL) — I hear over and again about what it was to be Parent Zero. This week, after a brilliant job moderating several panels at New America, Jonathan Cohn said that he was that Parent Zero, the father within his organization who moved the needle.

And now to hear Hillary Clinton share in Fortune Magazine and in her own words her experiences as well. That helps to further illustrate, and bring to life a rich narrative around what we knew then and what we still know, there is no status-quo but there is a new normal. The difference is how we understand the business case for leave, how we embrace the realities of the economic case for mending our chronic leak and how willing we are to course-correct via complicated maneuvers that ultimately create a cultural shift that leads us to change.

White House Summit for Working Families 2013 — Megan Beyer and Ellen Galinsky

As Anne Marie Slaughter, of New America likes to say, it is time to leapfrog and I could not agree more. Now is not the moment for a band-aid it is a moment to look honestly at the wound and begin to invest in the healing. Labor Secretary Perez summed it up beautifully when looking at the intersection between private and public sector in this process — it requires, leadership, data, investment in partnerships, a relentless commitment to being the change and finally, an orchestrated effort of cross the finish line and maintain the vision for generations to come. Be it leave, childcare, pumping — the support is possible and probably the best bet we have for getting where are going.

Were you a Parent Zero? Been mentored by a Parent Zero? Seen your organization shift under the weight of a singular individual’s needs? We would love to hear more. Share your story with the It’s Working Project and we will make sure your experiences become part of the rich, candid mosaic of stories that are the Portrait Project. Thank you!

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