• Julie Lundy

What three working moms had to say about leaning in, leaning out, and leaning on others.

Updated: Apr 29, 2019


You have to reinvent your working mother identity at every stage. The tough choices, and the compromises and sacrifices that follow, are different as each new milestone or challenge comes your way. Whether your baby still has night-feeds or your 3-year-old climbs into bed with you at 5 am (like at our house), or you’re dealing with a challenging childcare situation, a new or ongoing health issue for you or your little one, or a marital disagreement, working women are left wondering how do high achieving women and moms seemingly do it all?

Last week, at Climbing the Corporate Ladder Baby Step by Step, our panel of three working moms, Tara, Randi, and Lori, shared how they lean in, lean out, and lean on others.

Our panelists at Climbing the Corporate Ladder Baby Step by Step included:

Tara Goldenberg, Chief People Officer at Privia Health

Lori Mihalich-Levin, Partner at Denton, Author of Back to Work after Baby and Founder of Mindful Return

Randi Braun, Director of New Business at FiscalNote


On Leaning In

Lori, the founder of Mindful Return, shared her four key tools for working-mom success: Mindfulness, Logistics, Leadership, and Community. And when it comes to leaning in, Lori says "lean in to self-care". Every week when Lori and her husband review their calendars, they make sure the other one has time to do what matters most to them. It is different person to person, but whether you crave time with friends, a work out class, a game of golf, learning a new skill, going to a comedy show or concert, she says you should take the time to do things that make you feel like you.

"lean in to self-care"

Tara, Chief People Officer of Privia Health echoed, “Don’t go ten months without seeing your friends. [When you make time for friendship,] It makes you a better friend. It makes you a better wife. It makes you a better mom. You have to schedule your time.”

Personally, I find scheduling me-time takes the luxury out of it. Especially when the hardest shift for me in becoming a parent was how it limited my spontaneity. That doesn’t mean I don’t lean in to self-care, even if briefly! My morning routine includes 5 minutes to myself in the preschool lobby to breathe, scroll, check email or call a friend after I do the drop-off routine and before I race to work. Lori said, “micro self-care” is where it’s at, “don’t discount how important it is to regroup for even 2 minutes.” She uses a 5-minute meditation app, Insight Timer.

Add something small to your weekly routine this week, that helps you lean in to self-care.

On Leaning Out

Ever since the infamous Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In, women entering the working mothers club have felt the need to pick a lane: be a leaning in employee or a leaning out mom. So it was no surprise when we received a lot of questions for our panel about being okay with the decision to lean out, and what to do if we’re leaning in?

So we redefined it. Instead of making a choice, we’re going to just lean differently. Randi, mom of 2 under 2 and a co-breadwinner of her family, schedules her time so that she can be most effective when she’s working. Her workday starts early with dedicated work blocks so that her calendar isn’t back to back meetings and she doesn’t do work in the evening so she can re-energize for the next day through exercise, being with her kids, or watching Game of Thrones with her hubby. She reminded the mamas and aspiring mamas that instead of feeling guilty for how you spend your time remind yourself that in many cases, “your 75% is other people’s 110%. Scale back your own expectations.”

"your 75% is other people's 110%"

Tara returned to work from maternity leave (having spent half of it in the NICU with her 8-week premature little boy), the year after Sandberg’s book came out. The energy was YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL. But that couldn’t have felt farther from the truth. Tara reminded us that no matter what, there is a sacrifice. The financial trade-offs can be measured in your family budget spreadsheets, but the intangible sacrifice of missing out on your kid is one that only a mom can measure. Tara asked “When do you want to make the sacrifice? When they are infants and in those formative years or do you make them [the sacrifices] when there is soccer practice and girlfriends.” She admits she made a choice and missed out on a lot in the early years. It took a comment from her babysitter to remind her that even with the sacrifice, “she will always be mommy.”

All of these working moms admit, that the only way they could accomplish what they have in their careers is by leaning on others.

On Leaning On Others

Tara said, “people are going to ask what they can do. And it’s not lip service. Take them up on it… The answer is yes. Yes to the meal. Yes to help with pick-up. Yes to babysitting. YES.”

When it comes to asking our partners to help Randi said, “So much of the time, we shoulder the burden ourselves. We don’t even give them the opportunities to help.”

And Lori said, “We need to release the shame around needing help. When either my husband or I travel, we always recruit ... we aren’t ashamed to say we need two extra grown-up hands”

We had over 70 attendees at Climbing the Corporate Ladder Baby Step by Step and each one walked away having learned something new, having made a new connection, and feeling a little be less alone.


If you attended, will you tell us in the comments what your “lesson learned” was? See you at the next #TMPEvent.


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