Writing For First Timers

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.

MY SIX OBSERVATIONS AS WE FIND OUR WAY BACK TO THE WORKPLACE

 

I was taking a little stroll down memory lane. There I found the last piece I published pre-pandemic, pre-she-cession and pre- end of the world as we know it (respectful nod to Michael Stipe). This article was published in February 2020. It was about Postpartum depression – really the whole of the spectrum from Blues to Psychosis. And, how to offer support in very real ways. The topic still applies. 

Since then I have written a great deal on our working lives during the Pandemic. From how we find and keep our kids in productive Learning Pods to ways in which organizations have created and maintained Family Friendly Work Cultures.

Here is what I’ve been thinking: 

Observation 1

All those articles I have written or you have read about return to work as a parent or both are completely applicabile now (as you find your way back into the workplace)

Observation 2

The part where I am constantly suggesting how very powerful a mentor can be is still true, but I can’t quite make the math work on this one — how can one be or find a mentor for something none of us have done before?

Observation 3

The same way in which organizations would offer increased weeks, months of parental leave —  the horse race as I call it, expect that to manifest itself in a new multidimensional format. 

Observation 4

Sure, pivot was a fun buzz word, but that is so last year. Expect to hear more about flexibility, remote, job share and off-site.

Observation 5

Dear employers, It really is your problem. Child Care, Eldercare, Remote Work Options — all of it. Zoom has brought whole lives out of the closet. No putting them back now. Rise up. 

Observation 6

TSA agents — has anyone bothered to retrain them re how to handle milk, pumps and pumping or nursing mothers?

 

What are you thinking about? I would love to hear it!

Our Beloved Sweet & Sour Moms Came To Us with the Winds of March

 

 

March is ending. A year of our new reality in the books. To say that this has been a year of extremes is an, well an extreme understatement. The list of lessons and losses is long and sometimes too hard to even process. Optimism is often hard to come by. 

 

Still, we have our families and friends – even from a distance. And, one remarkable thing, a gift from the chaos and rubble are new friends, to be specific new foodie friends. 

 

Sarah Bramlett

 

I met Sarah through time on Clubhouse. There, in the Food & Beverage Magazine rooms, I was drawn to her creativity and her endless spirit and energy. Her cakes and her creativity were just the light we needed, and we had to share.  

Stacie Billis Megan Spawn

I met Meghan and Stacie through an article I wrote for InStyle Magazine. Meghan was one smart and innovative cookie. Stacie was her soul sister, DIJFY Podcast co-host and equally effervescent partner in crime. These two have stolen my heart. 

Chasity Pritchett

I met Chastity through Clubhouse – again thank you Food & Beverage Magazine. This Virginia based entrepreneur is building her way to a new, fabulous place in the olive oil world. My hope is to keep learning about her craft and to meet her IRL in the not too distant future! Savory and so spectacular! 

Megan Day

Finally — BBQ. Wow, meeting Burnt Fingers’ fearless leader Megan has brought new energy and pep to my step. A mother, a pitmaster and a woman who knows who she is and where she is going. When we first crossed paths on Clubhouse, we were in a Food & Beverage Magazine room – I knew I needed to know more. And of course, share it with my It’s Working Project Family. 

 

So now you know — our beloved Sweet & Sour Moms came to us with the winds of March. What an absolute treat!

 

Stay tuned – April promises a month of Super-Star Moms…entrepreneurs who have bloomed into bold successes, shining as far as the eye can see!

How to Find Your Mentor

 

I have been spending a great deal of time getting to know the world of ClubHouse. What a remarkable universe of engaged souls!  On Friday afternoons (3pm EST) I host a room that is focused on a topic quite near and dear to me:  Mentors, Role Models and Finding Your People.

This room is joy. And a lot of fun. 

There is very much to learn and consider. Here are my big takeaways for successfully being and/or finding a mentor

  • Chemistry is Real. Fall for what you feel. We all have instinct – pay attention not only to the intellectual drivers but also emotional. Do you feel comfortable? Familiar? 
  • Mentors are not only older and wiser – that is an old model. Be open-minded when connecting with mentors –  they are often younger and offer new points of view. Remain open to finding the support you need from those who have different perspectives, skills and experiences. 
  • Be Generous. While of course, maintaining your boundaries is important, being open and kind is equally essential. There is no quid pro quo – nor should there be. Think of the relationship as mutually beneficial and act the same. 
  • Tend to your mentor or mentee relationship. It is critical not to be in the favor business. Mentoring is bigger and bolder than just transactional. It is about exposure, learning, ideating and care. When my mentee hits a homerun my excitement is palpable. It is remarkably satisfying to see her success. Share the feelings – good and bad. 
  • Honesty is worth its weight in gold. Candor between mentor and mentee is essential. Sugarcoating is a waste of time for you both. Use your skills to promote growth and resiliency in your mentee. 

 

If you’d like to find me – @TheJuliaBeck – I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Meet our Partner – Sandy Abrams, Founder of C.E.Om and Author of Breathe to Succeed

 

Before I took a keystroke, or even began to think about the effervescent Sandy Abrams, I took time to breathe. It is later in the day, and not my “prime time” and (thankfully!) through Sandy I have learned how to harness my energy and my creativity even as the day begins to turn to evening. So three fabulous, slow exhales later, I think I am ready to tell you about my friend and a great source of inspiration to me for nearly 20 years – the remarkable Sandy Abrams. 

 

We first met in the suburbs of Washington, DC. We had young children. We drove in circles – from preschool to activities and home again. I was launching a business, she was years ahead of me. She was open, generous and energetic with her time and knowledge. She still is. 

 

Since those days many things have changed. Our children are older. Sandy and her family have moved to California. She has become a woman of peaceful note —  a dedicated contributor who gets the biggest, most holistic picture. Her ability to bring a sense of connection and authentic care to one’s self is a coveted, attainable value – and this has captured the attention of many – from Oprah to wellness curators across the globe. She can be found at wellness retreats, company gatherings and if you are truly lucky, taking the time to simply be present together. They know what I am about to share with you — Sandy is the real deal. 

 

Her latest book, Breathe to Succeed is the latest in her C.E.Om brand. She is all about taking charge mindfully. Sandy teaches how as she shares her insights and intelligence with love and care. Beyond books, Sandy also keeps the door open for time with those looking to dig deeper. Sandy currently leads “Breathe to Succeed”  “Beverages & Breath” Workshops, 1:1 customized Breath & Mindset training for entrepreneurs, leaders, teams/employees and executives.

 

I feel so strongly that these skills are true, much-needed gifts to new mothers. There are so many moments of new and really of all motherhood that feel isolated, where confidence is just missing and when being the one in charge is heavy and daunting. When Sandy says Breathe to Succeed she is speaking to parents of all ages and stages. Remembering of course, success is however we define it, she equips women with the tools they need to parent not only the next generation but themselves as well. 

 

Read on, Breathe on and feel as fortunate as I do for Sandy and her stunning, boundless  energy leading the way. 

 

 

Meet our Partner – Ashley Connell, CEO and Founder of the Prowess Project

 

Prowess Project CEO and Founder, Ashley Connell is big on the “F word” — in fact I don’t think I’ve had a conversion with her in which she does not bring and keep Flexibility front and center. She, having built the Prowess Project from the ground up, has been long focused on best practices for elevating and empowering women in an ever-evolving workplace. The punch line — Flexibility, the essential trait that is redefining the workplace in the days of Covid was where prowess began. 

 

Understanding that one size simply does not fit all (again, big news to those making sense of Covid-19 but a core, long-standing belief of the Prowess Project) has allowed Ashley not only to build intimate cohorts of up to five women to elevate skills and insights, she then feeds graduates of each cohort into robust communities – connecting members in ways that empower and build confidence. 

 

Sounds good, no? It is. And then there is the role she plays with employers. Ashley is in just the right place at the right time. Prowess Project is able to bring employers up to full speed in their recruitment and even more key at the moment, in their retention process.  This by identifying both need and cultural fit. New and nothing short of a much needed game changer, women find their best fit while employers grow to be more adept and yes, flexible. And as the Pandemic continues on – Prowess Project’s services have expanded to help fortify private sector efforts.

 

Ashley considers herself part conductor (so many moving parts in her orchestra) and part innovator (offering a new, ever-evolving approach that nimbly meets needs on all sides of the table). She loves how she spends her days and the impact she is able to make on an on-going basis. And she should. 

 

When I think of her, I think of a dedicated, motivated woman with the determination to connect in new ways and the smarts to be in the right place at the right time. She is, as her website shares a driving force :

 

At Prowess Project, we drive progress.  In companies, by providing flexible talent and in women’s lives, by providing more options so they can have it all – fulfilling work and time for family.

 

By the time this is published, more days of the Pandemic will have passed. And the further down this uncertain road we go, the more Ashely’s driving and vision make obvious sense. Workplaces are newly redefining and open to finding ways to remain both productive and populated by just the right employees – altering workplace function, expectations and definitions well into the future. This involves employees being able to describe what they need and define how it is not a risk. And this, well this is the “F-word”! Thank you Ashley!

 

 

 

 

Why Do We Do What We Do and Will You Do it Too?

 

These are head spinning days. With each day come new complexities and challenges. We are up to the task. Still, the It’s Working Project cannot help but wonder, what toll is getting through another day taking on men, women, children, employers, businesses and our ability to feel connected to our best selves?

 

So we continue to ask you to share your stories with us. And now (drumroll) – we have expanded our queries to include the myriad of impacts of Covid-19. Please join us, share your story and help make the Portrait Project much more personal.

 

Why?

Care.com’s recent survey summary reminds us of the realities of our world, and it is not pretty.

Almost 70% of mothers are in the labor force, and about 42% of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in their homes3. In 2018, the labor force participation rate for all women with children under age 18 was 71.5% (for men, it was 93.3%4). That’s to say nothing of the 17.7 million individuals in the United States who are caregivers for an older adult with a health or functional limitation.

And now we know how quickly and dramatically the composition of our American workforce is changing as a result of the Pandemic. According to Women in the Workplace, Mercer & LeanIn’s most recent and rattling report, Covid-19 is impacting the lives of employees, causing struggles without an obvious elixir.  

The Covid-19 crisis has been extremely difficult for employees. Several challenges loom large, including childcare and homeschooling responsibilities, mental health, and burnout. Many employees feel like they need to be “always on”—available for work at all hours of the day. And a significant number of employees are worried about layoffs, furloughs, and financial insecurity.

Taken together, these challenges paint a picture of a workforce that is dealing with unsustainable pressure and anxiety. Almost half of employees say they have consistently felt stressed at work over the past few months, and about a third report feeling exhausted or burned out. For working parents—and working mothers in particular—those burdens are even heavier.

Join Us, Please! 

And here we are, The It’s Working Project — playing our part, doing our very best to ask and listen to the new realities of the American work and campus place. Our goal, as always, is to bring life to the data. To gather and share stories in compelling, personal ways — to move from data to experience – bringing life to the harsh realities and family-centric experiences to life. 

 

 

Student Parents and the Pandemic

We are so thrilled that we’ve expanded the It’s Working Project to include a broader range of parents including their specific needs and challenges. We are quickly gathering insights from student parents. These stories must be shared. The Washington Post did an outstanding job of introducing readers to some of these families, and the broad range of issues impacting student parents now, under the cloud of Covid-19.

 

Student parents

4 Strengths of Family-Friendly Work Cultures

 

In the media: Harvard Business Review

Date: September 14, 2020

 

As Covid-19 grew into a pandemic, Michael Schaffer, a father of three in a dual-working household, worried a lot: about his parents in Delaware; about his highly creative, curious, and social kids, who’d had to switch to remote learning; and even about his dog, who was now sharing the home with everyone 24/7. But what Mike did not worry about was his role at Edelman, where he was Senior Vice President, Digital + Corporate. While friends, family, and colleagues all around him had to suddenly adjust to remote work, he’d already been doing it for close to 18 months. That’s how long it had been since he and his family had moved from Washington, DC, to Los Angeles for his wife’s career. Edelman was committed to supporting the shifting needs of its employees and their families, even if they had to relocate, and to that end the company had put in place a set of technologies, protocols, tools designed to help enable remote work — which had made it possible for Mike to move to Los Angeles with his family but still stay on the DC team that he loved. He felt lucky.

The It’s Working Project, where I make sense of the challenging and ever-evolving intersection between work and caregiving, has interviewed employees and HR departments about how their workplace dynamics are shifting during Covid. It’s important that workplaces get this right, because although one-third of the US workforce is considered essential and has been on the job through the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the rest of American workers have shifted to remote work, some of them probably permanently. It’s been a bumpy experience for many employers and workers, especially parents, but in recent conversations with Mike and others I’ve noticed a compelling pattern: The workplaces that are thriving today are those that had already invested in family-centric policies and are building on what they’d learned.

As late as February, when companies committed themselves to family-friendly benefits by offering flexible work days, back-up-care reimbursement, and remote working options, and by prohibiting end-of-day meetings, they typically did so in the name of recruitment, retention, and brand culture. But no longer. Some of these programs grew out of the economic realities of a formerly low unemployment rate, they’ve left organizations well positioned for the quickly shifting workplace dynamics of Covid-19. To understand how — and why — I’ve begun collecting the stories of workers.

Let’s consider a few here.

Click here to read the full article.

Labor Day is Looking Well, Laborious

 

It is the start of a long, Labor Day weekend. I’ve got a good book and some yoga on my mind. Here in Maryland, crabs may be in order as well. There are glimpses of what kept us good and giddy in the past. And really, this is a feeling that is hard to come by as we enter into the early days of September 2020. 

 

There is much to say about our summer that was not quite recognizable. The hill we need to scale is now many miles higher as most schools are starting the year in remote learning mode. The logistics, the weight of it all is just a set-up for frustration and exhaustion. So let’s say you’ve come up with some masterful way to keep your world working…that would be remarkable really. And if so, please share! 

 

As our dear friend Melaine Fodder Kay shares…this is tricky business. Sending love and patience to all of you. And a reminder, we want to hear your story – please share!