If you’ve had a baby already, you understand how lonely the entire after-birth experience can feel. Add a busy work schedule to your newfound motherhood, and it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed. Why not employ some of these extraordinarily valuable and comforting techniques from author Lori Mihalich-Levin, JD, who is an expert at guiding new mamas to a calm and successful maternity leave.
Though you’ve literally just grown another human being and added another living, breathing member to your household, having a baby and taking maternity leave can be a strikingly isolating experience. Yes, there’s another person around. But your adorable baby will quickly prove not to be someone who can really hear you out, support you, and provide true empathy. At least not yet!
Both of the maternity leaves I took began in the winter, which certainly didn’t help motivate me to get out and about. While my babies were delightful, feelings of isolation set in. And given the “I’ll be fine and figure everything out myself” attitude I (so wrongly) adopted with my first child, I found myself in tears on the kitchen floor more often than I’d like to admit – both during maternity leave and the first few months I was back to work.
With baby number two, I realized the error in my ways and became a huge advocate for building communities to pick you up and support you as a new parent. These groups are critical both to your sanity and to your education as a new mama. So I challenge you to get out there and meet others with babies the same age as yours, and to connect with women who have been there, done that, in the new motherhood department.
In person or online, you might ask? I’m a huge fan of both. My baby-and-me yoga classes were awesome for connecting me with other new moms in the neighborhood, and the Abundant Mama online course introduced me to amazing moms with kids of all ages, literally from all over the world.
What happens, though, when you head back to work? You can’t go to those daytime new mama groups or yoga classes anymore. And sometimes you just want to hang out with other working parents who get the struggles you are going through. I had what I thought was a great idea to connect with other working parents at my daycare…but in the beginning, we were all completely frazzled in the morning and at the end of the day. Drop-off time was chaotic, and at pick-up we all wanted to run home. All of which left little time for new working parent bonding.
I did manage to find a groove with my working mom posse, and I’ve learned a few tips about how to create one.
6 Tips for Finding a Working Parent Posse
- Find a Working Mom Friend at the Office: If you know anyone at your office who did the maternity-leave-and-return thing in recent history, consider picking her brain while you are pregnant and setting up lunch with her for your first day back from maternity leave. She’ll understand your jumble of emotions, will probably have good tips, and she’ll be a safe person to confide in about those new parent dilemmas.
- Find your Employer’s Working Parents Group: If you’re in a larger organization or company, there may be a “working parent professionals” group already set up. Ask HR about it, find out who the key contact is, and join. Going to even one or two of their events will help you find “your people.”
- Create a Working Parents Group: If there is no working parent group at your office, consider creating one! I had the opportunity to interview Rachel Thomas, President of Lean In, and her number one recommendation was to “form a working mom posse” at your office. I know, I know, you don’t have the bandwidth right now. But it doesn’t have to be a heavy lift. I promise. For the formula I used to set up a “Returning to Work Community” for new parents at my former employer, check out How to Form a Working Moms Posse at Your Office. Founding a group will make you a happier, more connected mama and employee, with a mentor group you may not have considered. And you’ll change the lines of other new mamas in your workplace.
- Join a session of Mindful Return. This 4-week online course connects new working mamas (most of whom are on maternity leave when they take the course) to other new working mamas from all over the place, in all different industries. It’s a peer mentoring group and well-designed curriculum for a smooth transition, all in one.
- Remember Your Professional Organizations. Do you belong to a professional organization for work? Perhaps a bar association if you’re a lawyer, etc.? Often, those groups have committees or sub-sections specifically focused on working parents. Have lunch with just one member of that committee to find out what the group does and how you might benefit from it. Again, not a heavy lift to find out more.
- Explore Your Online Resources. Check out the awesome articles on Working Moms Against Guilt, and check out their list of Top Blogs for Working Moms. Also check out working-mom specific Facebook groups like Breadwinning Mamas, Working Mom Safety Net (a spinoff of Longest Shortest Time Mamas), and industry-specific groups like Lawyer Mama Rockstars, or Moms in Policy and Government.
Yes, it takes a little bit of effort to build and kindle the working mom group that will support you, but the rewards far outweigh the effort. Finding that working mama posse early on will save your working mama sanity more times than you’ll be able to count. Promise.
Lori Mihalich-Levin, JD, is the Founder of Mindful Return, a blog and e-course that helps mamas returning to work after maternity leave to feel present – both with their babies and in their careers. (Sign up for Saturday Secrets, her weekly tip for making life as a new working mama just a tiny bit easier!) She is also the author of Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave, which Working Mother called “every ambitious new mother’s bible.” She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and two little redheaded boys and is a partner in the healthcare practice group at Dentons US LLP.