APRIL #MAMACRUSH: LAUREN
March, 29 2018
We're very excited and honored to present this month's #MamaCrush. We love all our our Mamas, and each one of them contributes to her community, society and, of course, family, in her own unique way. But Lauren Brody, takes this privilege even further, she has made it her life's work to help support women during their transition back to work. Every trimester from conception onwards is unique; full of joys, new experiences and challenges. So much has been written about pregnancy and the arrival of baby, but what about when women have to go back to work? What happens then? For many new moms, this trimester, which Lauren ingenuously coined the Fifth Trimester, can be the most challenging of all. In a country with one of the least generous maternity leaves; women have little time to work through all of the newness in their lives before being back to the grind. New emotions, new bodies, new priorities, new sleep schedule (!), new wardrobe headaches (hi Allette!), new expenses and, oh yeah, a new sweet little baby. Read Lauren's insightful interview where she discusses her important work but also provides practical tips.
Lauren Smith Brody
Where are you from?
Mostly Atlanta. I was born in Ohio, lived in Texas and Atlanta as a kid, then NYC all of my adult life.
What are your kids’ names and ages?
Will (9), and Teddy (6)
Can you describe each child in a few words?
Will is my little engineer and future world problem solver.
Teddy is Mr. Jazz Hands, all drama and imagination and heart.
They are utter opposites and (mostly) good buddies.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do?
I’m the founder of The Fifth Trimester, which is a consultancy, a book, and (I hope!!) a movement to help businesses and parents collaborate to improve workplace culture. The goal is to make it easier for women to stay in their careers (however they define them), and make positive changes to their industries from within. I do lots of things -- too many, probably, but I love them all. I write about these issues in the press, I do corporate speaking and consulting, and private workshops and coaching. I also do partnerships and content production for brands that want to reach new mothers.
How did you get into this?
My 1.0 career was as a magazine editor. When I was pregnant, and in the 4th trimester (newborn stage), there were so many resources available for guidance, but that fell off completely when I came back to work at 12 weeks. I had a much better situation than most American women -- enough money in the bank, an employer who did better than required by the government, wonderful parents, the best husband -- but still, I struggled enormously, had postpartum anxiety, and a totally changed sense of self, all of it. But in that transition I found a new purpose to my work: Making things better for the other parents who’d come after me. It took a few years and another kid before I made the leap, but I had this notion that there was a whole missing trimester, a fifth trimester, and it deserved real research and attention. I ended up doing interviews with hundreds of working moms from all fields, all approaches to motherhood -- as diverse an array as I could find -- as the foundation for my book. The book came out last spring (it’s just out in paperback now, too), and since then, I’ve grown my own company from the ground up. My most recent two gigs were speaking engagements at Google and AmEx, so it’s getting real!
Why is this work so important to you?
It’s nonstop, running your own company. I just spent three full days/nights doing my taxes, while doing a part-time maternity leave fill-in gig, prepping for two talks next week, doing two new business proposals, and meeting two story deadlines. But the rewards are immeasurable. I’m doing work that I know makes a difference, and I’ve really found my voice and stride. That’s pure joy. My kids are proud of what I do. It doesn’t get better than that. I want to reach every new working mother -- want them all to use the term “the fifth trimester,” and to acknowledge that this is a real time of transition that’s not necessarily fair in our country, but during which they can find agency and satisfaction.
What are some of the things you want to accomplish that you feel you haven’t yet?
Ha! I suffer from never-enoughness syndrome. I’m always trying too hard, and I never make things look easy! So that’s a dangerous question. But sure. I’ll put it out in the world: I want to give a TED Talk. I want my business to grow every quarter. I want to figure out my next non-fiction book, and I want to finish the novel I started writing a couple of years ago. And I want to figure out how to take August OFF with my boys.
How do you manage doing this important work and managing being a mom; this so-called “work/life balance”?
First, I don’t believe in balance. This is helpful! I believe that a satisfying working mom life involves periods of leaning waaay into work sometimes, and waaay into family at other times. I try to assess every 4 to 6 months and look back and see if, over that longer-lens view, I’ve managed my priorities well. Maybe there was a book tour, or a kid who had some stuff going on at school….but over time it shakes out. I try to prioritize self-care, and my marriage, because everything else goes better if those two things feel tended to. And while I preach openness and honesty in the workplace about motherhood, I also think that openness and honesty about work with your kids is just as important. My boys are big enough now to know why work matters to me, so I take some comfort that I’m modeling that. But even when they were little -- 2 or 4 years old -- I would tell them about what I do and why it matters. That really helps.
What is your favorite thing about being a mom?
Oh, just the joy in the little stuff. Being able to be not at all jaded about running into the ocean with them, or licking the batter bowl. When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be a grown up. As an adult, I LOVE the silly moments the best. I love the times when I see my husband in my boys. I (mostly) like when I see myself in them. And more and more I’m awestruck by times when they are so clearly their own little people.
How has motherhood changed you?
Please see all 352 pages of my book. ;) I think life just feels more precious than ever.
What is the toughest part about being a mom?
Same answer as above. Life feels almost too precious sometimes. I try not to take the ups and downs of parenting too seriously, but that’s a challenge because it’s the most important thing I’ll ever do.
Since we are a nursing fashion brand... first: can you tell us a little about your breastfeeding journey?
Sure! First, I absolutely believe fed is best. I managed to breastfeed both of my boys exclusively (with pumping three times a day at work) for 10 months each (had to be exactly fair...sigh). But, to be honest, the difficulties I had nursing my first son were a huge part of what made my transition to motherhood such a tough one. I had big breasts, he had a small mouth, and nothing felt as natural as I’d hoped. It took us months (and a breastshield, and several rounds of antibiotics) to get it right. Then, once it got “easy,” I was back at work and frantic to produce enough milk.
None of this is to say that I disliked nursing, though. There’s no better feeling in the world than when your body does what it’s meant to do to provide for your baby. All these years later, I miss it! And the second time around was so much easier.
What do you wish someone told you about breastfeeding beforehand?
Nippleshields! God, they helped so much. I carried them in every purse in a denture container!
Tell us a little bit about your style. How important is fashion to you and what are some of your must-haves?
I have a funny relationship with fashion because I worked at a fashion magazine for so many years and felt pressure to be stylish (and fit into the clothes). Ironically, I’ve really only come into my own style since leaving and working for myself! I’m short and pretty feminine, so I tend to love things that balance that out: leather jackets, collared shirts, penny loafers.
Finally, being from NYC ourselves, we love hearing about what other mamas love about living in NYC with kids. What are some your favorite things?
The Cooper Hewitt design museum -- it’s the perfect hybrid of fun for the kids and fascinating for the adults. You get a scanner pen to “collect” your favorite pieces onto your own website at home. And there’s this amazing room where you design your own wallpaper, and it’s projected onto the walls all around you.
The Makers Faire in Queens every fall.
Tinkersphere, in the East Village. It’s this tiny amazing shop where you can buy all of the bits and pieces you need to make anything electronic.
Catching turtles in the Turtle Pond in Central Park (probably illegal but we always put them right back!).
We bike to school in the spring (they bike, I jog), and I get a kick out of doing this very suburban-seeming thing right in the city.
Fun stuff: one word answers:
What do you want more of? Travel
What do you want less of? Trump
Favorite food? Fries
Favorite time of day? Magic hour on the beach, or 3pm on workdays when my energy burst always happens.
Most attractive thing in a person? Brilliance
Least attractive thing in a person? Intolerance
You go, Mama! To learn more about Lauren and her work, visit www.thefifthtrimester.com.
p.s. All photos (except the hospital room one) taken by Nancy Borowick.