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!

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.