Regular blog readers/podcast listeners will recall that Sarah and I welcomed Lauren Smith Brody as a guest on Best of Both Worlds a few weeks ago. She is the former executive editor of Glamour magazine (where she was responsible for the Women of the Year awards), and is the author of the book The Fifth Trimester. The idea behind the Fifth Trimester is that the first three trimesters are the 9 months of pregnancy, and the fourth is the newborn phase combined with maternity leave. The fifth is when leave is over, and the “working mom” is born. It can be a rough first few months, as many babies still aren’t sleeping through the night, and they’re still only drinking milk (requiring much pumping for those choosing to breastfeed). The Fifth Trimester book is about what moms (and companies) can do to make the transition easier.
(One obvious answer is to offer six months of maternity leave for those who want it. But that is a larger matter, and pretty far from the current realities of the American workplace.)
Anyway, I found out that Brody was speaking at an Ellevate event downtown last night, so I decided to go and hear her.
In her talk, she offered a few very practical hacks that I thought I would pass along.
When you announce you’re pregnant, put dates on the calendar for discussing what your work situation will look like. Especially as a first time mom, you may not know what accommodations, if any, you’ll want. Maybe you won’t be interested in anything beyond maximizing hours with the baby. Or maybe you’ll decide “Now that I’ve had a baby, I can conquer the world!” and you’ll want all the new professional opportunities you can find. Either way, when you tell your boss and co-workers you’re pregnant, put some dates on the calendar for discussing how work is going. Maybe a call right before returning to work, a meeting a week or two later, another in a month or two. Having dates on the calendar magically makes things happen, and it also means that everyone knows decisions don’t have to be permanent scary things — because there’s another date on the calendar to discuss these decisions again.
Schedule something adrenaline-inducing for 2 p.m. This seems foolhardy. Everyone yawns around 2-3 p.m., and if you’re sleep deprived with a baby, you’ll be even more tired. Why schedule a presentation at 2 p.m.? The answer according to Brody is that your body will produce adrenaline for things you need to be really *on* for, and that energy can push you through the rest of the day. (Handle with care – if you think you’ll be nervous about this, better to stick to putting big stuff in the morning and trying to catch a nap in the afternoon if you can!)
Use your commute. Brody’s research found that new moms found their commutes measurably more stressful after having a baby than before. Maybe it’s a hard-stop to get to daycare pick-up, or the knowledge that this could have been time for yourself, or maybe just the feeling that you aren’t putting in enough hours at work or home and here you are sitting in this &%^$ traffic jam. In any case, try to repurpose it. She suggested using it to take hours off your work day — scheduling your first and last meetings as calls during your drive. I am not sure about this due to the safety factor, though I also know pretty much everyone does it. You can also carpool with people so that you can work every other (or two out of three, or three out of four) drives. Public transportation might make work possible. Or use it as me-time: favorite tunes, audio books, special scents to make your car an aromatherapy experience. Or… pump? I recently saw a time log where a woman was pumping during her morning and evening commutes by using a special set-up: car adapter, a cover, a hands-free nursing bra, etc. It certainly saves time!