It's working for Marisa Levy
“I used think that women had to choose between being a driven career woman and a devoted mother. I now know that is untrue. Being a mother can make you a better employee, creative, and leader.”
You are capable of more than you ever thought possible.
I used think that women had to choose between being a driven career woman and a devoted mother. I now know that is untrue. Being a mother can make you a better employee, creative, and leader.
A better employee: I found that in the office I worked with a laser focus on accomplishing the tasks at hand because I didn’t want to deal with loose ends once I was at home with my children. When I am at work, I am 100% at work. When I am with my kids, I am 100% focused on my kids.
A better creative: Once I became a mother, I saw the world differently. I saw the world beyond myself and my experience.
A better leader: As a parent you are constantly striving to set a good example for your children. That mindset doesn’t suddenly evaporate the moment you step outside of the house. I strive every day to be better. I actively seek to learn from my mistakes and move forward in a positive, constructive manner.
Being a working mother is like a never-ending chemistry experiment. When the right balance is struck between the elements at play, then you have a miraculously life-affirming day. When the balance between work and motherhood is out of whack, then life can explode in your face. Every day you have to wake up ready to reset the experiment and try again.
No matter how long you take, it never feels like enough. I changed jobs mid-pregnancy and found myself, like so many other women, without a formal paid maternity leave. My company at the time was well regarded for having a strong maternity leave policy, but unfortunately I was not able to benefit from it since I had not been at the company for a full year (their required minimum) before having my child. I was granted the standard 6 weeks disability leave and was able to take one additional week from my vacation allowance. 7 weeks total leave for my first child.
I came back full-force, striving to impress my team with my dedication to the job. I came in early. I stayed late. I traveled without complaint. All the while attempting to breastfeed, pump milk, and parent an infant. I wanted to prove that motherhood had not changed me. It is something I regret to this day.
When I returned to work I still looked pregnant. I had barely gotten the hang of the oppressive breast-pump schedule necessary to keep my child in daycare and on breastmilk. I felt disconnected from myself as a mother. My focus was work. Years later, when I had my second child and qualified for a longer paid maternity leave, I reached the 7 week mark on my 12 week leave and broke down in tears. Only then did I truly understand what I had lost by returning to work so early with my first child.
My husband is my partner in all things. We are a team and we operate our lives as a team. We are each other’s cheerleaders, problem solvers, and pinch hitters. He is a reliable and resourceful co-parent.
I breastfed both of our children and it took a toll on our ability to have any regulated sleep schedule. Our daughter would wake up multiple times a night to nurse during the workweek. We had a routine. My husband would pick up our daughter, calm her down and change her diaper while I would go to the restroom and grab a glass of water in preparation to nurse her. (There is nothing worse than the realization that you are thirsty or have to go to the restroom while nursing! … and nursing typically triggers both.) Then he’d hand our daughter off to me and go back to sleep while I’d nurse her until she too fell asleep.
Each morning my husband would wake up before me (giving me those extra few precious minutes of sleep) to bottle up and label my pumped milk for our daughter to drink at daycare that day. We were exhausted, but we were a team. I never felt alone. I always felt supported. We were going through this together.
I think it is also important to discuss the “Secret Society of Mothers.” It is something that is rarely talked about. Once you become a mother, you also automatically join the Secret Society of Mothers. Other mothers will stop you in elevators to discuss the most intimate details of their birthing experience with a smile. Women will see your children in a grocery checkout line and quickly impart shockingly embarrassing parenting mistakes or thoughtful learning lessons. Complete strangers will give you a supportive nod or offer help as you wrestle with changing an infant’s diaper in a public bathroom with no designated changing station.
Fellow mothers quickly become the sisterhood you never knew you wanted or needed. This society becomes even more valuable when returning to work. There is a skill involved in pumping breastmilk in a bustling work environment. It takes planning, coordination of schedules, and a lot of creativity. For every possible problem, there seems to be a mommy hack to solve it—a hack discovered by a hard-pressed working mom and passed on to other mothers by the secret society. It then becomes your duty as a mother to pass on your knowledge to any new mother-to-be.
I travel a great deal for work. I travel by train. I travel by plane. I travel for weeks at a time. As a breastfeeding mom, this presents a host of logistical challenges. In my inner circle of women, I had few role models to teach or guide me. My lessons were hard-learned and my quick hacks were discovered out of necessity.
You want to know the most accommodating hotel chains for overnight milk storage? I have a top ten list. You want to know the best way to bring home milk after a week-long business trip? I can describe the cooler bags and ice packs that pass through airport security with ease. You need to pump on any type of moving vehicle? I have a way to do it discreetly and shamelessly.
I found myself becoming a known resource to any woman looking for ways to work, travel and pump in just about any situation. It was not uncommon for me to receive emails or phone calls from virtual strangers looking for tips and tricks. I happily responded to each and every request with one condition, they then had to pay it forward to other new mothers.
The Secret Society of Mothers ensures that you never feel alone. You are now part of a vast collective of knowledge and experience. You just have to remember to tap into it.