Quick, everyone go and print this out and put it on your bathroom mirror/screensaver/child’s forehead/frequently-viewed flat surface of your choice! Regram from @nytparenting quoting @schultz_connie (💛👏💛👏!)
Happy first day of school, two days late (because photo approval can take 48 hours...enjoy those opinion-free babies, friends!). I’ll never forget Will’s first week of preschool. I took that year’s version of this picture, and then sank down on the linoleum floor outside of his classroom and nursed newborn Teddy for the one-hour “phase in” that day. The clock was ticking. W had 5 days to adjust to preschool, and I had 5 days left of maternity leave. But instead of feeling pressure, I found that each day got a bit easier, or at least a bit more predictable.
Now my boys are big enough to graduate out of uniforms (W) and to be shy about smiling with big kid teeth in a little kid face (T). But I still believe in phase-ins for the fifth trimester. If you don’t have access to a graduated reentry schedule, consider stealing a couple of days from your leave and applying those hours to shorter days your first couple of weeks back. Tell your boss it’s proven to foster long term retention.
I don’t know where all of you wonderful people came from, but I have a crazy influx of new followers this week, so I’m doing that instagrammy thing of introducing myself for anyone who’s new here. 👋
I’m Lauren. I’m a magazine-editor-turned-working-mom advocate and entrepreneur who came up with the term “the fifth trimester” after muddling through my own return to work the only way I knew how: openly messily. It was so hard and so satisfying to get through that season. And I found that my colleagues and friends were grateful for my honesty — and that it had made me better at my job. After a few years, I decided to leave my corporate life and research the challenges of the return to work after baby in America, where new motherhood is sorely under supported. I also knew that my own experience — while ridiculously hard — had been quite privileged. So I interviewed and surveyed 800 diverse women about their own fifth trimesters. Their #workingmom triumphs, struggles, and hard-earned advice are the backbone of my book, The Fifth Trimester.
It’s been two years since the book came out and now #thefifthtrimester is a movement and a business. I take my research into companies to help them do a better job of supporting new parents so they can retain women, pay us what we are worth, and create a more inclusive, human, productive, inspired, viable, profitable workforce. Phew.
Here on the ‘gram, I’ve got lots of resources for working moms (and to be clear, that’s all moms...we all work) and just personal moments of my own life as a journalist, professional speaker, and entrepreneur and mom of two now-big boys, ages 8 and 11. I’m learning as I go.
Because so much of what I teach is meant to help prevent the Motherhood Penalty, I’m also really open here about the juggle of paid vs unpaid work. My goal is to help each of you understand and broadcast the value of motherhood at work...and change your industry from within. Ultimately, we’re going to revolutionize our country’s support for parents one working mom at a time...and get paid doing it.
I’m an optimist to my core, and I’m here for you, and here to learn from you, no judgment. Thanks for being part of this movement. 💛
On newsstands tomorrow in the Sept issue of @harpersbazaarus: my interviews with @gabunion and @evalongoria, who are using their power and talent to redefine working motherhood in the notorious boys’ club of Hollywood. They’re hiring moms, bringing their babies on set (and, at least for this shoot by @ericraydavidson, on the red carpet), creating roles that are truly nuanced about parenthood, and negotiating for the flex and pay we all deserve. I’ll link to the full story in my Stories and bio, but in the meantime, here are two bits I just loved from our conversations that I just pulled out of my transcripts for you:
Eva, who carefully acknowledged her privilege, talked about bringing her newborn on set with her and inadvertently normalizing motherhood among the crew of women she’d hired. “That was bananas and I honestly don’t know how I did it... But I had to. I had responsibilities. I had commitments.” .
Gabrielle told me that she’s over, “tired ass tropes about moms” written by men who assume we all, “either have some sort of superhuman strength or are the Madonna Mary perfect, superhero mother who is just completely selfless....In reality, all moms are not created equal and all moms do not enjoy every aspect of parenting the same. And resources, privilege, race, region, support, all play a role in how we all experience and enjoy parenting.... Playing a black mom, if I’m not going to bring that full experience to the table, I’m not interested.” .
Thank you for the amazing assignment, @amysynnott 💛
Quick PSA from the @bumbleandbumble changing room: IT STILL COUNTS AS SELF CARE....
...if you’re on your laptop the whole time! If you love zoning out during a hair appointment or a pedicure, more power to you, and enjoy. But since those activities aren’t really relaxing to me anyway, I like to jam through emails or assignments.
When you’re a working mom, self care very very very rarely looks like lying face down in one of those squishy face holders on a massage table. So let’s all please adjust our expectations of what counts as taking good care of yourself so that we don’t think we’re constantly falling short if we don’t have the money, time, or desire for grand acts of wellness. You can even do something in the care of someone else (or your career) and double dip into having it count for your own wellness too. Here are a few more things that you might not assume count as self care that I swear really really do! .
Saying yes to the post-work drinks with your colleagues. .
Sleeping 10 extra minutes and declaring it a professional ponytail day. .
Strolling your baby to the drugstore to buy tampons/TP/lightbulbs because you’re out and you don’t have childcare. If the sun warms your hair or your baby is looking up at you and smiling and giving you a moment of joy, own that. Who cares if you’re running an errand? That moment counts. .
Talking to your friend’s sister’s husband’s cousin about how to break into your field. Yes, you’re doing all of those people a favor, but I guarantee you’ll recall your own earliest career steps and feel pride. Enjoy that. .
👯♀️ Starting a group text with 3 or 4 friends you love. I have two, and those little mm hmms and check-ins and double-tapped hahas are like a receiving line of hugs throughout my week. .
Giving your baby a bath. Or choosing his outfit. Or nursing her to sleep. Some babycare tasks (research shows there are 317 per day) border on drudgery. But others? They’re the very fulfillment of the fantasies you may have had about motherhood for years. Make a mental list of your favorite top three and every time you do one, remember that.
Well, it's EOD on Monday post vacation, and I haven't gotten all of the way through the ⭐️starred⭐️ emails I'd held over from last week, but I have managed to hold onto the feeling of this glorious picture, which is basically how I spent every one of those seven awesome days -- surrounded by kids and smelling like a campfire and looking like I forgot to pack a hairbrush (because I did). It was my first real OOO experience since launching The Fifth Trimeser four years ago. I'm so privileged to be able to do work that lets me be my own boss -- as a former corporate worker bee I get how lucky I am -- but that often means I'm never, ever really off. I’m too worried about growing this business, which feels like it could disappear in a poof at any moment. This vacation was a bit of an experiment, all in the name of practicing what I preach. Here's what worked (and what didn't!):
1️⃣ I made a plan for all of the kinds of emails and inquires that might come in, noting an alternative contact for each. 2️⃣ I confirmed that said alternative contact was cool with that and also gave them instructions to call me (like, on the telephone -- gasp!) if anything was urgent. I also offered to reciprocate. 3️⃣ I unsuperglued my phone from my hand (easiest when you're in a pool, or at the beach -- so I did lots of water stuff on purpose, seriously). 🌊📱🙀 4️⃣ I made a LOT of plans with friends. Part of what I get out of my work is a social-feeling connection with colleagues and clients. I made sure to have friend time for me, not just for my boys. 5️⃣ I realized that being out of touch completely was actually causing me *more* stress, so I made a deal with myself and checked email at night, responding only to things that a) took <10 mins, b) would make my life easier post vacation, and c) were unaswerable by anyone else. Turns out that's a small Venn diagram, but it let me feel responsible. 6️⃣ I told my kids it was a work-free week. I wanted them to appreciate that I'd taken the time...and I knew that I'd hold myself more accountable. 7️⃣ I used the word "family" in my OOO email, as in, "I'm on a family vacation," which sends the message that I value everyone else’s families too.
Just a little reminder for anyone who needs to hear it: That baby who requires all of your deep breaths and patience and identity shifts (that of course you’ll weather with profound love but that doesn’t meant they aren’t hard)...will one day burst with pride doing something you can’t. And it will be cloudy day magic.
This week I did something that has me feeling simultaneously righteous and sheepish: I set my first out of office email since I started The Fifth Trimester (screenshotted here). 💛 It's taken me four years to get my business to a place where I didn't panic I’d miss some opportunity by not replying instantly. Four years to negotiate consulting contracts that include time off. Four years to be as good a boss to myself as I tell my clients they deserve. Four years in which my sons have gotten older and learned to do useful, career-supporting things like getting their own cups of water. 💛
So far, three vacation days in, my boys and I have dug holes at the beach and read Harry Potter; we've sailed, eaten ice cream, folded one million warm-from-the-dryer beach towels, and played Bananagrams. I think I’ve only yelled once. 💛
But I would be a jerk and a half if I didn't admit that *this hasn't been possible* until now. (And that my dear husband -- the guy with the health insurance and direct deposit -- is back at home working and covering for his colleagues on vacation.) 💛 One irony of timing: I was featured in @nytparenting newsletter this morning alongside paternity leave advocate (and @olympiaohanian dad) @alexisohanian, talking about how important it is that bosses take parental leave (and vacation). I've gotten a bunch of emails today about it and am sitting on my damn hands trying hard not to reply until next week...since all of those people just got my heartfelt OOO message! 💛
In that newsletter, NYT Parenting lead @jessgrosewrites shares her OOO from maternity leave at her old job editing Lenny Letter. It's a snarky, no-apologies note that most of us couldn't get away with. But it was on brand at the feminist newsletter. She worked for months to plan coverage, and her envelope pushing made cultural impact for everyone who got that hilariously brazen bounce-back. (Scroll over to see it.) 💛 In that spirit, my wish is that we all take one step beyond our OOO comfort zone, and then acknowledge the privilege -- the office, the income, the childcare, the partner -- that lets us do so. We ALL deserve that agency. Show how powerful it can be. And also, eat the ice cream.
Not sure if I’m prouder of having a whole #fifthtrimester segment on @pix11news or of finally figuring out how to post it here! Thank you so much to @babypaloozanyc (and sponsors @getcozykin and @suburbanjunglegroup) for making supporting working Motherhood — in all of its forms — the theme of this amazingly inspiring day. And thanks to the unstoppable @kalaramatv, a Fifth Trimester mom herself, for agreeing to be my instant friend after this interview. 🤩 (posting the whole glorious thing in my bio!)
RIP, Toni Morrison. I had the honor of meeting her, briefly, in 2007 when she agreed to accept the Lifetime Achievement award at Glamour’s Women of the Year awards, a project I was running (barely, frantically, overwhelmingly) at the time. I was newly pregnant with my first son and not yet “out” to the world. Here was this literary giant, this feminist, genius, one of the most important writers and thinkers of our time who knew that she had the obligation and opportunity in her gorgeous work to open our eyes to injustice. Her work mattered, so much. And do you know what she wanted to talk about? Being a working mom. Here she is that night with her best friend Fran Lebowitz, who introduced her. And here are a few of my favorite quotes from her profile in the magazine, written beautifully by @gaudybird Daryl Chen.
Phew. That’s a lot of chairs filled by people who are not currently worrying about childcare over summer break...or taking time away from work to get their babies vaccinated on time...or frantically making up for the income they lost over a too-short maternity leave. ⭐️ This week, at an event in Oklahoma, a @paycomsoftware manager asked me: How do we make lasting, significant change for working parents beyond our own workplaces? How do we create a culture that values and supports parents? ⭐️ The answer is this: We change cultural norms by voting in candidates who have these very challenges top of mind. But guess what’s really hard to do when you’re in the thick of early working parenthood? Run for office. ⭐️ My friend @liuba4congress founded her PAC @votemamaus specifically to offer the resources and playbook for moms with young kids who want to make it happen. ⭐️ Slide over for two @votemamaus fundraisers in NYC next week. To attend (or just donate to help fund a mama candidate), email: SARAH@VOTEMAMA.ORG.
Hello from Oklahoma City, where I just wrapped up speaking engagements one through three of the six I have scheduled this week. Six. This is not a humblebrag. This is a holy shit this work is scaling brag, and a please let me not fall over brag, and a thank you, Mom, for handing down to me this gorgeous circa 1990 dress that I wear when I need POWER (also when it fits, which isn't always). I'm so lucky to have parents whose support I feel constantly, and they remind me to BE that parent for my boys one day too even while I'm working and far away from them.
Which is all a lovely segue to tell you guys about @babypaloozaNYC, where I will be leading a panel discussion on Wednesday morning with some incredible advocates for "The New Working Mom Movement." Because, yes, we are a movement. We are moving mountains, one boulder at a time (sometimes in slightly-tight vintage dresses). Here are the details:
Babypalooza NYC is the premier influence and media networking event for the parenting industry. The event will welcome more than 200 media and influencers on Wednesday, July 24 from 10:30-3pm to meet with brand leaders from top family brands. If you are an influencer or a journalist and would be interested in attending, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM @babypaloozanyc. cc-ing my co-panelists from @GoodHousekeeping @GHGadgetGirl @momdotcom @getcozykin @suburbanjunglegroup @thefifthtrimester @audreypuente @babypaloozanyc