Winter-Ready Gifts for Working Mamas

‘Tis the season for baby announcements. So what do you get for the working mamas on your list?

How about something soft, warm–and most importantly–practical, from mompreneurs who’ve been in the same shoes…

The team at Bloomingdale’s helped me highlight brands created by mama makers, some of which are featured below. (Clicking on the photos takes you to Bloomingdales.com, using affiliate links, where you can shop online through Dec 21 12pm EST and choose express shipping at checkout to receive your order by Dec 25.)

San Francisco-based Ingrid & Isabel makes super soft and flattering maternity wear (in fact, I’m still wearing the mama-led brand’s cowl neck sweaters well beyond my basketball-belly pregnancy). It’s evident that founder Ingrid Carney knows what matters to busy mamas: this Maternity Nursing Wrap Cardigan ($88) does double duty and is machine washable.

What’s cuter than a baby adorned in an animal-ear hoodie? LIVLY makes this Unisex Hooded Cardigan with Bunny Ears ($58) and other dreamy baby clothes out of Stockholm. The brand was created when founder Lisa Carrol had premature twins whose delicate skin called for the softest cotton she could find, ultimately leading her to Peru for its signature Pima.

Speaking of Pima, Kissy Kissy has been in the baby business since 1996, when its Peruvian-born founder, Roxana Castillo, sought out the softest pajamas possible for her grandson. The brand is widely celebrated for its jammies, like this Unisex Moon-Print Footie ($36) — and donates clothing and fabric to six women and children’s charities.

Based in Utah, Freshly Picked was started by Shark Tank alum Susan Petersen, known for setting the baby moccasin world on fire. Working mamas can be interchangeably office- and weekend-ready with this Faux Leather Diaper Bag ($175).

I’m going to assume I’m not the only working mama that still has a long list of holiday shopping to do. For more ideas and inspiration, check out Gifts for the Tired Mama and Mama Makers from Head to Toe.

Mama Maker: Amy from Pink Stork

Military wives are warriors in their own right, and Amy Upchurch takes this to a whole new level. When she was 21 weeks pregnant, Amy’s doctor told her that she and her baby had 24 hours to live.

Amy had contracted a blood infection from a “picc” line while being hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)–extreme nausea, vomiting and other symptoms that can lead to severe dehydration and weight loss.

Fortunately, within 24 hours she had made a “complete turnaround” along with little John Hamilton who was later born premature, but healthy nonetheless.

Amy’s pregnancy was a miracle in itself.

“I had always been told I was not going to be able to have kids growing up,” says Amy. “It was a big surprise when I found out I was pregnant” just three weeks after marrying her Marine Corps husband and settling into Virginia.

Three “HG” ridden pregnancies later, when Amy found out she was pregnant with her fourth child, she threw up her hands.

“Out of desperation, I really started researching and working with doctors and midwives, and came up with this protocol to combat this HG that was going to come and hit me like a train,” says Amy.

“I ended up having an amazing fourth pregnancy with all this information that I had gathered, and implemented in my body,” says Amy.

“No more emergency room visits or ambulance rides.”

She delivered a 9-pound baby boy full term.

Soon after, Amy developed Pink Stork to “help other women who struggle during their pregnancies” beginning with a line of morning sickness products.

“It was really cool that it was starting to help other people–close friends and people in the military community,” says Amy.

Word of mouth gave Pink Stork a boost as it expanded into prenatal vitamins, nursing supplements and fertility products. (Their lactation tea smells and tastes delicious as I unwind after putting the kids to bed — a welcome alternative to suffering through other “mother’s” tea on the market.)

Women Helping Women Succeed

It’s no surprise that military wives rallied around Pink Stork at its inception. Amy says they’re not only advanced problem solvers, but also “really strong women, really smart women and really resourceful women” and they excel at forming a connection with their community, more so than the “civilian world.”

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Looking back Amy says, “it was always helping other people–that’s still what I enjoy so much today–that’s what makes everything full circle.”

She recalls a note from one customer who had a double-digit number of miscarriages before finally delivering a healthy baby.

“My heart goes out to them,” says Amy. “That’s why I do what I do.”

Helping other moms is both personal and spiritual, for Amy.

“I clearly remember laying in the hospital beds and doing nothing for months,” she says. “Minutes seemed like hours. I just remember thinking, why in the world am I laying here? Why am I so sick? How come I can’t have a normal pregnancy? Why is God putting me through all this pain?”

“I look back now and I understand exactly why I was laying there and exactly why I went through those struggles,” Amy says. “I feel very blessed to be able to go through those challenges and have those questions answered.”

She’s on a mission to continue finding answers for moms and solving problems for “this stage of life.”

“Pink Stork is going to take their hand and walk them all the way through until they get the answers and results they want,” says Amy.

“I love to see what people are looking for, what moms think, what moms need,” she says. “If any of our customers are looking for something we don’t have, let me know. We can help you, and if we can’t help you, we’ll point you in the direction of someone who can.”

How this Mompreneur Makes it Work

Running a business is truly a family affair, in Amy’s eyes. Her husband, who was deployed during some of her most difficult moments in pregnancy, now plays an active role in growing Pink Stork.

“He’s very much a part of the business,” says Amy. “He’s very supportive of helping other families because he knows what it’s like to see your partner suffer and to feel helpless.”

“I like to think of Pink Stork as not only my family but also all of our employees,” she says. “It’s a family, it really is.”

Amy wants her employees to know that she takes pride in being a woman-owned company, and that she understands and celebrates working moms.

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“We have babies that come into our office everyday,” beams Amy. “You can give a mom sitting in front of me, with a baby laying next her, seven different jobs and she will complete every single one of them just like the next person.”

“I get energized from a good challenge,” says Amy, about becoming an entrepeneur. “I knew nothing; I didn’t go to school for business. I Googled a lot of words. I sat in a lot of meetings and phone calls and learned from osmosis. I’m still learning from osmosis.”

“I would hate for someone to have looked at me when I was starting Pink Stork and had four little kids running around–which I did–and say, ‘You’re crazy.'”

“When you find something that you believe in, and you want to go for it, I encourage anyone and everyone to believe in themselves and just go for it,” says Amy. “Don’t be afraid of what other people think.”

“Keep doing your thing. Don’t worry about it. It will all fall into place.”

Turning a New Leaf After Mat Leave

As I anticipate my return to work amidst Fall’s cooler mornings and cozy evenings, it feels like the closing of one chapter and starting of another–despite how taxing and complex the handoff may be.

I always feel a wave of nostalgia this time of year, especially since three years ago I became a mother for the first time–experiencing Matrescence firsthand–and one year ago when I learned I’d go through it for a second time.

Reflecting back on the baby and toddler milestones that whizzed past us over the course of the past four sleep-deprived months, I now feel a sense of pride of what ensued.

Here’s a typical “work week” by the numbers, as a temporary stay-at-home mom (and aspiring Chief Household Officer):

  • 14 hours of breastfeeding per week, typically every 2-3 hours around the clock
  • 45 ounces of pumped milk per week, typically while multitasking one-handed thanks to my pocket-size Spectra S9
  • About 15 bottle feedings per week from the aforementioned supply, plus more than 400 ounces of supplemental formula (until we got hit by silent reflux, nixing dairy)

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  • Nearly 1,000 diapers, from teeny-tiny Pampers Swaddlers to my favorite super-soft and sustainable Bambo Nature, where we grew up to size 3
  • Countless hours of eye contact and smiles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cobbled-together dinners, and bedtime stories

All together, these helped double the size of our once 7-pounder, while his older brother started preschool and became a “threenager” before our eyes.

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I squeezed in self-care through the help of my village, technology and conversations with a group of Mama Makers & Shakers who appeared at the most clandestine times:

And then there are the memories that don’t have a number attached to them, but are immeasurable in the way they’ve brought our family closer.

Together, the four of us have continued to ride the rollercoaster of emotions that started when life caught us by surprise on the last day of May. Both boys keep us on our toes, but when the chaos settles, the sweetest moments are revealed.

While I’m still not sleeping, I don’t have a freezer stash, and I can’t tell you what the next six months will bring, I will embrace the unpredictability.

I won’t feel like I’ve stepped away from my career, but rather enhanced it by overcoming non-stop challenges over the last four months.

This time around, I won’t strive to be super mom, but will remind myself to stay present and do my best for the moment.

When Life Catches You By Surprise

Today is the original due date of our now 3.5-week old baby. His early arrival and the transition for our whole family have kept us on our toes ever since.

When I became a mother for the first time with my oldest, and then a working mother, life changed dramatically. Little did I know that baby number two would completely rock our world again, in his own unique ways.

Here’s what I did (and didn’t) expect while expecting, and what’s surprised us most now that he’s here:

The third trimester was faster and more intense the second time

Around the mid-point of my pregnancy, I started to sense that this baby might run ahead of schedule. He was measuring a week ahead at his 20-week anatomy scan and the technician and doctors all made comments about active he was, making it hard to measure him as he did flips and somersaults for the camera.

Right at the start of the third trimester, the doctor confirmed he was already head down, which was no surprise to me. I was having strong Braxton Hicks, which I didn’t have until the very end of my first pregnancy.

(I also learned that if you’re dehydrated, contractions can quickly turn into something more serious. It still seems to be a little known secret of just how important drinking water is during pregnancy.)

I carried on, preparing at work for the countdown to my planned start of maternity leave, and enjoying our final moments in the family routines that we had become accustomed to. We took lots of evening walks and I savored bedtime snuggles with my toddler, anticipating those moments would be harder to come by after the baby’s arrival.

However, I was growing increasingly slow on those walks and often felt too tired to read more than a couple of books before bedtime. (I would liberally edit our big brother-in-training’s favorite “hospital book” aka Babies Don’t Eat Pizza: A Big Kids’ Book About Baby Brothers and Baby Sisters.)

At my 35-week appointment, I was already 3.5cm dilated and 80% effaced, so the doctor predicted a couple of more weeks at most.

Little did I know, I’d be back in L&D 9 days later with contractions, another 1.5 cm dilated, and no signs of stopping.

Just because we’ve done it before, doesn’t mean it’s easier this time

When we found out we were having another boy, my first thought after laughing at our luck, was that we had everything we needed so it would be easy. From clothes to baby gear, and eventually less hormonal teenage years, I felt like we were all set.

Then I delivered a “late pre-term” baby at 36 weeks + 4 days, and everything changed.

That morning I had taken our first born to school, feeling like it might be my last time for a while. I took one more conference call and then walked into the family birth center to get checked out. While sitting there chugging water, I went from 4.5 cm to 6 cm, at which point they decided to admit me.

The labor itself was about as comfortable and peaceful as you can get. I repeated the low-dose epidural that had worked well with my first delivery, and sat around waiting to progress.

Meanwhile, we started to wise up to what it might mean to have a baby almost a month early. Despite reassurance from nurses and doctors that had preemies of their own who are now thriving 20-somethings, we didn’t know what to expect other than the immediate goal of delivering a 5-pounder.

Well, our little guy arrived at 9:26 p.m. on May 31 at a whopping 7 pounds, with a head full of thick black hair. All over again, we were instantly in love and mesmerized to finally meet him after all this time.

He passed all the tests they run for things like breathing, blood sugar and temperature regulation. He was sleepy during feedings, so the nurses encouraged me to try hand-expressing — but I quickly turned to my old friend Medela and a syringe to make it easier.

We were released from the hospital on schedule, and made an appointment to return to the doctor 48 hours later to check for jaundice. The doctor’s main concern at that visit was his weight, which had dropped down to 6 lbs 6 oz, so my new goal was to make sure he was eating enough.

Out came my brand new pocket-sized breast pump, bottles that claimed to be the next best thing to mom and a whole lot of math to figure out how often to pump, how long the milk could stay at room temperature, and how long before I had to toss a bottle he had started. (All while sleep deprived, since he was eating every 1-2 hours around the clock.)

It wasn’t until 5 days later that our instincts told us that his coloring didn’t look right, so we requested a blood test. Our suspicions were confirmed with a phone call that I don’t wish upon anyone, telling us our 6-day-old newborn had to be re-admitted to the hospital. His bilirubin levels had spiked and he needed blue-light phototherapy to flush out the jaundice.

One of the hardest parts of that dizzying moment was fighting back tears while telling our toddler that we needed him to be a big boy, and get back in the car to head to the hospital, right after he had walked in the door from school. This is one of the many reasons we’re so grateful to live near his grandparents.

I grabbed all the bottles I had pumped and some basic necessities, and we rushed out the door. What followed were two days and two nights of sitting in a hospital room while our tiny, lethargic 6-pounder lay under a blue light with a mask on for hours at a time.

My mission during that hazy hospital stay was simple: get him to eat and fill as many diapers as possible. I bottle-fed him under the light, and passed the hours by scheduling out feedings, pumping, and hand-washing bottles and pump parts, over and over again. The nurses came in every hour or so to check how much he was eating and what his diapers weighed.

He passed his final blood test with flying colors, and we celebrated with our much more alert baby. We came home and started to settle back into what felt like the beginning of a new routine for our expanded family.

Our whole family is changing, together

The four of us are operating on little sleep, so we can instantly go from happy to sad or angry in a flash. We’re all being challenged and pushing up against each others’ boundaries.

The stressful moments have been peppered in with plenty of happy times too, like visits from the grandparents, starting out weekends crowded together in bed, and sitting at the kitchen table enjoying daddy’s new dinner creations.

Some of what we’ve experienced has been pretty textbook, including the potty training regression and acting out by our toddler to get attention.

What I didn’t expect was being hit by a ton of bricks when I couldn’t be available to my first born for routine things like helping him get dressed or putting him to bed. I was a puddle of tears the first night home, but now my heart swells watching father-son bonding take its place.

While we’ve dedicated so much time and attention to helping our newborn gain weight and keep the jaundice at bay, our now 2 3/4 year old is blossoming before our eyes.

His vocabulary has doubled again, as he uses full sentences, asks questions and energetically narrates what we’re all doing. He’s obsessed with how things work, and can use his age-appropriate screwdriver surprisingly well.

Friends told me he would seem like a giant next to his tiny little brother — which is exactly what he looked like when he came to the hospital to meet him — but what I didn’t expect is how quickly he would take to his newfound independence. He loves to be a helper, too.

We’re learning, all over again, to prioritize what’s best for the moment

The first time around, it took me a lot longer to surrender to the changes brought on by parenthood. We basically added a child to the lifestyle we had created in an urban setting, and I attempted to keep my foot on the gas pedal at work.

It wasn’t until I realized I was putting too much pressure on myself to be super mom, right around the same time that we began house hunting in the burbs, that we realized how much change was inevitable.

This time, just under a month of two kids under our belt, we are turning everything upside to create the life that’s best for right now. We’re even flirting with the idea of getting a minivan.

Through more doctors appointments and lab visits than seem possible in 27 days’ time, we’ve learned to advocate for our family when something doesn’t feel right, even when we’re told otherwise. We’re mama bear and papa bear on steroids.

And while I’m looking forward to reconnecting with working mamas and mompreneurs to tell their stories, I’m currently in awe of moms who stay home full-time.

(The prospect of being outnumbered for more than a few minutes at a time was terrifying at first, until I reminded myself of what I’m capable of managing in the workplace.)

I’m so grateful for the village of parents who’ve been through this before us, and amazed by those who’ve dealt with much more.

In hindsight, finding diapers and clothes that fit (a la Chrissy Teigen) and pumping around the clock are the least of our worries.

Thankfully, the couple of hours that we get to enjoy “wake time” with our sleepy little guy are growing in number each day.

Even though this month is a blur, we’re living this new life one moment at a time.

Mama Maker: Veronica of Maia Moda

Trying to nurse her 5-month-old in a dress, while attending a wedding, inspired management consultant Veronica to do something she had always wanted to do, and start her own business.

“Once you have a child, it really zeros in on what’s important in life. What do I want my legacy to be and what do I want to spend my time on?” she says, describing what ultimately led her to bring the idea to fruition when her son was one year old.

“You go through so many changes as a new mom,” said Veronica. “One of the things you want to keep is some of yourself. Part of that is your ‘pre-mommyhood’ style. You don’t want to have it give it up, and why should you?”

“In today’s world, we have innovation all over the place. There’s no reason your nursing clothes shouldn’t have the look you want,” she says.

Veronica is tapping into virtual mom’s groups, along with NYC’s Garment District and burgeoning community of women entrepreneurs, to help propel her line of American-made breastfeeding-friendly apparel, Maia Moda.

She’s even been accepted into the 2018 class of Project Entrepreneur, started by Rent the Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, in partnership with UBS.

How This Mompreneur Makes it Work

For Veronica, it’s the blend of motherhood and running her own business that makes it all possible. She says her holistic approach now leads to more open and passionate conversations.

“I never used to talk to people that much about my work because it was very separate,” she says. “Now I feel like the two worlds collide a lot more. Because of my business, I’m super excited about it so I’m happy to talk about it.”

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As a mom of two now, Veronica has figured out a schedule that allows her to spend part of her week on the business, supported by a nanny for her baby and daycare for her oldest. She appreciates having dedicated days of the week for focusing on Maia Moda.

Women Helping Women Succeed

Veronica is encouraged by the changes she’s seeing around the culture of breastfeeding with “celebrities showing off their bumps and looking fabulous” and people posting “brealfies” (aka breastfeeding selfies).

“Women are feeling much more comfortable breastfeeding in public. We’re here to support that and to make that lifestyle work a little better through the clothes you wear.”

This also means Maia Moda clothes are washable, stain-resistant, wrinkle-free and “classic, but in line with the trends of today,” says Veronica.

“We want you to be really happy because there are enough things on your mind,” she says, noting she can be reached anytime, and welcomes feedback and requests.

While you can shop directly on the Maia Moda Web site, I decided to do so on Amazon so I could test-drive the Maia Top on my 7-months-pregnant belly.

As you can see, the flowing style can work all the way from baby bump to breastfeeding:

To read about more mompreneurs who are passionate about changing the culture of breastfeeding, check out Mama Maker: Sascha from Mamava and Mama Shaker: Jennifer Jordan from Aeroflow Healthcare.

Mama Maker: Sascha from Mamava

Finding a place to pump while out in public, or at work, is something Sascha Mayer, co-founder and CEO of Mamava, doesn’t want moms to have to worry about.

Since 2013, Sascha and her co-founder Christine Dodson have equipped stadiums, airports, schools, government buildings and other workplaces all over the United States with private pods for breastfeeding mothers.

You can see for yourself by downloading the Mamava mobile app to find nearby locations, as well as other public mothers’ rooms vetted by user ratings and reviews. (From a quick search in my neighborhood, I found more than a handful of options within a 5-mile radius. I see more outings in my breastfeeding future!)

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While building their own families, the two mompreneurs incubated Mamava at a design agency in Burlington, Vt. At the time, they traveled for work frequently, which meant “pumping in restrooms, closets and even the backseats of clients’ cars.”

From the beginning, Mamava has focused on sustainability as a certified B-corporation. It’s demonstrated both in the way they design and manufacture their American-made products, as well as their outlook on the role breastfeeding plays in a cleaner planet.

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“Sustainability to us means empowering every woman with the opportunity to breastfeed if she desires to do so,” says Sascha.

“In addition to its health benefits, breastfeeding eliminates any need for packaging and shipping that formula requires. It’s a zero-waste solution, and one that can help reduce the prevalence of many illnesses and health conditions, which results in lower health care costs.”

Women Helping Women Succeed

Inspired by this New York Times article, Sascha and Christine are working hard to remove any barriers to breastfeeding in the workplace by taking to the halls of the Nation’s Capitol, the tech-spotting Consumer Electronics Show, and everywhere in between.

“We are really focused on our mission which is about changing the culture of breastfeeding by helping make it an accessible choice for all mothers,” says Sascha.

The pop culture shift is is starting to show, with recent photos of breastfeeding celebrities and political candidates going viral.

“A major milestone for us would be to have breastfeeding rates increase from 81% of new mothers to 90% by the end of this decade,” she says.

“In the months and years ahead we are bringing other tools and products to market that will make it easier for moms to reach their breastfeeding goals, and for facilities and employees to support them,” she says.

Just last week, they officially launched the Mamava Mini, designed for workplaces that need a compact solution that retains the privacy of their original suite and adds additional productivity features, like a laptop desk.

“We also hope to be able to bring the brand and our solutions to international markets in the near future.”

How This Mompreneur Makes it Work

“My mantra is that perfection is the enemy of progress – whether at work or at home,” says Sascha. “Sometimes good enough, is good enough.”

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“I have a wonderful supportive husband who takes on more than half of the childrearing, and believes in my company’s mission as much as I do,” she says.

Now that Sascha’s kids are getting older, she values their growing independence and recommends other moms “encourage their children to take on responsibility.”

“It can be painful when they make mistakes, but eventually they learn and are empowered by their accomplishments,” she says.

It’s something to look forward to for those of us still in the infant to toddler stages!

Speaking of which, if you’re a mom-to-be trying to solve the problem of where to pump in the office when you return from maternity leave, Mamava’s team offers the following tips:

  • Create a transition plan with your employer before you head out for maternity leave
  • In the transition plan, include your plans to pump at work and that you will need access to pumping accommodations upon your return
  • Check the laws and make sure your employer knows how to comply with them
  • Rally with other women in your workplace to request a Mamava lounge, as many other moms have done!

For help choosing a pump and other accessories, check out another “Mama Maker” with similar goals for making breastfeeding more accessible: Jennifer Jordan from Aeroflow Healthcare.

Mama Shaker: Lori from Mindful Return

Every mom knows what it’s like to find herself at the brink. For Lori Mihalich-Levin, those feelings of overwhelm multiplied after her second child was born, “at that moment of desperation where one child plus one child felt like 85 children.”

“I was sitting on the kitchen floor crying many nights because I just didn’t know how I was going to hold everything together.”

“I was a wreck. It was really at that point when I realized I needed to build in some moments of intentionality,” she says.

After discovering Abundant Mama, which helps mothers focus on abundance instead of overwhelm, Lori “came out on the other side feeling so much better.”

“I had tools for focusing on gratitude and abundance, I had a community from moms all over who understood I couldn’t get the Cheerios off the kitchen floor and that was okay,” she says.

She noticed that there were programs for everything from birth plans to baby massage, but not how to plan for your maternity leave and return in a way that felt empowered, “like you weren’t going to go off the rails.”

Lori was inspired to fill this gap for new moms “who are just trying to get out the door to work.”

Women Helping Women Succeed

As a lawyer by day, Lori burned the midnight oil creating Mindful Return, a 4-week cohort-based program to help new moms plan for working motherhood, that’s flexible enough for any schedule.

“A lot of moms are in the course while they’re feeding their baby at 3 ‘o clock in the morning.”

  • Week 1 is about a mindful mindset for returning.
  • Week 2 is all about the logistics (“pumping, not pumping, putting food on your own table, negotiating flexibility, dealing with sick days, snow days and the unexpected”).
  • Week 3 is about how to view your maternity leave as a leadership opportunity (this particular topic has me intrigued!)
  • Week 4 is all about staying in a community and not isolating yourself.

“It’s so important to stay connected to other new moms and share in all the struggles.”

Lori partnered with a Mindful Return alum to create an artistic reminder of all the skills that working moms gain — something that we can never hear enough.

I spoke with another one of Lori’s students, who says she feels “more prepared, confident, and excited for this new chapter of my family’s journey.”

“As a first-time mother, the prospect of returning to work after maternity leave was both daunting and exhilarating,” says Jen. “The content of the course and the opportunity to connect with like-minded mamas going through similar experiences really helped ground me and helped me feel more prepared to re-enter the workforce.”

“I start work tomorrow and I am grateful for the community Lori created, and for the lessons learned,” she says.

Note: I’m not the only second-timer to find all this proactivity to be intriguing, after fumbling a bit the first time through.

“Some women didn’t have the best return the first time, and they want it to go better the second time.”

Mindful Return is not limited to first-time moms, or even just moms at all.

In fact, Lori recently launched a paternity leave course to help address the stigma that many dads face about asking to take time off.

“I really, truly believe that we all succeed when both men and women are engaged in the very early days of childcare and child-rearing.”

“Comparison is the thief of joy. If I’m looking around at my colleagues at 4:30 when I’m heading out of the office and thinking, ‘oh my gosh, what are they thinking of me?…”

“No, I need to worry about my plan, my life and what’s right for my family.”

Asking For It

Through the growth of Mindful Return and Lori’s family’s need for a more flexible schedule, she’s become a living example of how to create a “career portfolio” that works for you.

“I think we often have a lot more power than we think we do.”

While interviewing for a new role, Lori first presented herself as a candidate for counsel, instead of a partner (one level above), because she desired a 60 percent schedule.

“Then at some point, I said ‘no, I think I should be a partner at this law firm on a 60 percent schedule,’ and most of the firms that I was interviewing with said, ‘okay, sure, fine.'”

Her natural reaction was, “if it was going to be fine, why didn’t anyone say ‘you can be a partner’?”

“Because nobody is going to say it. If you don’t ask for something, people aren’t just going to offer it up to you,” she says.

Lori recalls another example where a mom who took her course was terrified to meet with her boss during maternity leave, to ask if she could switch to an 8-4 schedule (instead of 9-5) so she could have more time with her baby after work.

Her boss was so relieved that she wasn’t there to announce her resignation, she quickly realized she had “lost all this sleep over asking for this silly thing.”

“You never know until you ask,” says Lori.

So where to begin?

“Dare to dream about what might be possible in your world. Sit down and journal about it, exploring all your different options and trying to figure out what would be best for you,” she says.

“Then break the dream up into bite-size pieces and go after one of those pieces.”

Lori recommends starting by proposing a trial period for a flexible arrangement. In her experience, it often works out just fine.

“I attend to my legal clients’ needs whenever they happen, but I don’t have to be in one specific place at any particular, given time. So it allows for some flexibility in weaving together those two worlds,” she says.

How This Mompreneur Makes it Work

Lori builds moments into her daily routine very intentionally, along with mantras like “I am enough.”

“I think ‘enoughness’ is a huge problem in new parenthood. Because there’s never enough of anything,” she says.

Every morning, evening and sometimes on the way to work, she “carves out times of pause.”

Before the kids wake up, this includes:

  • Writing in a gratitude journal
  • 10-15 minute yoga practice

Between 7:00 – 9:30 a.m it’s a typical morning:

  • Her husband makes breakfast
  • Everyone gets dressed and off to school
  • She hops on the metro to get into the office

After work:

  • At 4:30 she hops on the metro
  • She picks up her kids with her husband
  • They alternate who makes dinner
  • She has “Thomas & Friends” playtime with her kids
  • Then it’s bath and bedtime

Her evenings after the kids go to bed, include:

  • Working on Mindful Return for a couple of hours
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Meditation

“You have to be patient with yourself. Know that each incremental step matters.”

“You can really make an impact, and be a leader, and start something amazing with a lot of baby steps,” says Lori.

Mama Shaker: Jennifer Jordan, Aeroflow Healthcare

When Jennifer Jordan returned from maternity leave back to her business development role at Aeroflow Healthcare, she set a goal to continue breastfeeding for the remaining eight months of her son’s first year.

Realizing that “being a mother made me the subject matter expert,” Jennifer identified an opportunity to create a new division at Aeroflow to make it easier for women to meet their own breastfeeding goals.

“Luck, opportunity and hard work came together,” she says. And in 2013, Jennifer became director of Mom and Baby at Aeroflow Healthcare.

While pumping is a non-negotiable for any mom returning to the workplace, the Aeroflow Breastpumps team is on a mission to make it accessible — and reimbursable — for more women in all walks of life.

Only the Best for Baby

Jennifer’s team searches for quality breast pump manufacturers to partner with, like Medela whose products are manufactured in the United States, Canada and Switzerland, and packaged in the U.S.

During my first pregnancy, I chose Medela’s Pump in Style since it got the highest reviews and the bottles were BPA-free. I rigged it with a portable battery to make pumping on-the-go somewhat easier, sported a poncho or nursing cover, and carried my precious cargo around in an insulated lunch bag and cooler.

This time around, I may opt for the Sonata, Medela’s first smart pump, since it’s designed to be quieter, and comes with a portable battery and mobile app. I’m also excited to add the much more discreet Freemie hands-free pumping to the mix, and perhaps a sleeker-looking Petunia Pickle Bottom Tote too.

How This Mama Makes it Work

Jennifer believes as mothers that we’re our greatest critic, and proudly describes herself as “perfectly imperfect.”

By finding a way to channel her passion at Aeroflow, she’s also discovered the formula to being the best mom and wife she can.

“I’m a better mother because I work,” she says, encouraging moms to embrace whatever balance is right for them.

For Jennifer, that means a daily ritual with her son on the drive to school every morning. They have what she calls “our special time together” to talk and prepare for the day.

Women Helping Women Succeed

Jennifer’s advice for other entrepreneurial moms is to trust your instincts, live your truth and your passion, and surround yourself with powerful women you can learn from.

“Put 100 percent into each and every moment,” she says.

40 Working Mom Stories That Made 2017 Shine Brighter

2017 was undoubtedly a big year for women, and looking back it feels like working mamas are finally getting a chance to shine.

From a conference dedicated to mompreneurs in San Francisco to booming Facebook groups with 20,000+ members, there is a movement of moms leading and building businesses, and redefining corporate culture in the process.

As a working mom myself, I haven’t written as many stories about all these amazing mamas as I’d like to, so I found Twitter to be the next best way to quickly spread the word.

Here’s a recap of 40 moms, moments and would-be blog post topics I found to be particularly inspiring in 2017:

Working Mom Tales From the Road

Discovering the Working Parent Resource podcast set the year on the right foot. (Thanks Sarah for everything you’re doing to help make it easier for working parents to find their way!) Here are some of the working mom voices that inspired my morning drive time:

There’s nothing that gives a busy mama more relief than hearing a kindred spirit tell their story, which was my experience hearing Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less author Tiffany Dufu share hers on the Heroine podcast:

The Naked Truth About Working Motherhood

Getting other humans out the door in the morning is nothing to sneeze at, and Liz Petrone managed to bring humor to the madness:

While Neha Mandhani reminded us why it’s helpful to embrace imperfection…

Motherly editor Colleen Temple perfectly captured the conflicted emotions of motherhood, “to every mother who wants to give herself a hug when she checks on her sleeping children post-bedtime because today was a tough-as-nails day and now in the still of the dark night, she wonders if she was enough, did enough—I’m that mama, too.”

SWAAY captured confessions from 14 working moms, including the mompreneur behind Kindred Bravely (softest maternity/nursing bra ever!):

Why It’s Worth the Working Mama Juggle

Sometimes we need a reminder of why we’re crazy enough to try and juggle it all. Two videos captured it very nicely — one from tried and true baby food brand Happy Baby and another from DigitalMums.com which helps create flexible jobs:

Tend Lab founding CEO Amy Henderson is championing the evolution of corporate culture to better recognize and support parenthood. In addition to her spot-on quotes about the benefits of working moms in Mother, she also moderated a fantastic panel on juggling it all at the In Good Company conference:

These quotes are the closest things I’ve found to an antidote for working mom guilt. The first comes from a profile of stylish mompreneurs behind Nomad CollectiveELLIS BROOKLYNFreshly Picked Baby MoccasinsPembroke PR, and Catherine Kwong Design in Mother. The second is from the Krazy Coupon Lady who appeared on Mario Armstrong’s Never Settle Show:

Making Life Before and After Maternity Leave A Little Easier

I loved the words of maternity-benefit pioneer, Maven‘s CEO and founder, Kate Ryder, on the GirlBoss podcast discussing how to make the most of her time in the office as a new mom, “One of the first things I did when I had a kid was reduce meetings to 30 minutes.”

Author of Here’s the Plan.: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood and WeeSpring founder, Allyson Downey, is helping women educate themselves on maternity leave and returning to work after baby, as featured in Motherly:

Kim Chappell so eloquently captured the emotions of a new mom getting ready to head back to work after maternity leave, which made me want to reach through my phone and give her a reassuring hug:

Designer Sarah Sherman Samuel admits she “had no idea how I was going to feel, what I was going to take on, or how I was going to do it” once she became a working mother. She shared how she’s currently arranged childcare in a way that works for her:

A new mama who’s near and dear to the TripIt team, Natalie DiScala, wrote two great pieces for moms facing the reality of traveling for business, covering everything from nursing to childcare:

When Motherhood Inspires New Business Ideas

“Kids are the ultimate start-up.” I love this quote from the co-founder of bkr glass water bottles in Mother (which were a welcome inclusion in the spring The Zoe Report’s Box of Style along with other mompreneur-created products):

Sarah Michelle Gellar found the inspiration to start FoodStirs and step away from travel-intensive acting after she had her daughter:

Kango founder Sara Schaer set out to kick carpool chaos to the curb by launching a Lyft-like service in LA and SF, in which all the drivers are fingerprinted and background-checked:

Air Force veteran and Euphoric Herbals founder Cindy Collins started making herbal teas for her clients as a doula, around the time she had her first son. As her family grew, so did her business (from $3,200 in revenue in 2011 to more than $400,000 just five years later):

Beluga Baby wrap founder Haley Campbell launched her company four months after giving birth to her daughter. She lived to tell the tale in Motherly:

Advice from Women Who Paved the Way for Today’s Working Mamas

I’m lucky to be surrounded by inspiring women leaders at work, some of which were featured in Working Mother and Inc:

SitterCity CEO Elizabeth Harz has refined working motherhood by planning ahead and shared other tips with Working Mother on how to carve out more time and cut yourself some slack:

Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, the powerhouse literary agent behind Oprah, Sheryl Sandberg, Brene Brown and Arianna Huffington, reminded us that guilt is essentially useless:

Fashion mogul and pioneering mompreneur, Eileen Fisher, shared her one working mother regret on the How I Built This podcast:

Research that Gets it Right

It’s time for outdated research on “advanced maternal age,” “geriatric pregnancy” and my personal favorite, “elderly multigravida” to go the way of the dodo. The New York Times helped shed some light:

A study in the Atlantic followed up with 37 women who graduated together, 20 years later; the results from the  “Ambition Interviews” were both fascinating and heartbreaking. Authors Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace have written a book, The Ambition Decisions: What Women Know About Work, Family, and the Path to Building a Life, which comes out in June 2018:

Working Mom Voices Are Getting Louder

Melinda Gates became a welcome and powerful voice in the gender gap discussion by highlighting how America’s workaholic culture isn’t helping moms–or anyone really. She’s not the only recognizable face bringing much needed attention to the issues facing working moms:

As a “digital” participant of the inaugural In Good Company conference, I was delighted to see these recaps (and live vicariously through them) in Vogue and the San Francisco Chronicle:

Stitch Fix CEO Katrina Lake made headlines when she IPO’d with her toddler in tow. I was equally interested in surfacing the day-in-the-life secrets to her success as a mompreneur:

I can’t wait to see what 2018 holds in store for working moms. In the meantime, you can count on me to keep sharing stories every chance I get!

The Working Mother’s Dilemma: What to Feed Baby

It starts when you return to work after maternity leave. How often do you pump during the workday? What do you do about business trips? How long can you keep it up?

The dilemma continues into the world of baby food jars and pouches. Which ones are the most nutritious? Which ones will my baby actually eat? Lead and BPA free? Least amount of sugar?

Pumping as a Working Mama

I made it through one month of full-time pumping and part-time work, which I was fortunate to have as a transition period, followed by full-time work and part-time pumping. That first month back started with an awkward series of pumping sessions amidst an overnight business trip that involved:

  • enough clean, spare pump parts and a portable battery pack for rushed airport mother’s lounge stops (and the sweetest Alaska Airlines lounge attendant ever)
  • runs back to my hotel room in between meetings and networking events which made me arrive late to everything
  • an incognito cooler to carry that precious cargo through TSA and all the way home
  • a poncho, the pumping mama’s wardrobe hack!

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The Long, Slow Wean

My first month back to work full-time was less motivating. I started looking out at the horizon to a 3-night business trip, which coincided with the 6-month mark, and it felt like the right time for me to start a long, slow wean. It was hard to find resources on weaning over a 4-week period, but fortunately I found a post that showed me the ropes.

I dropped one feeding at a time every few days (starting with workday pumping) until I was nursing every 12 hours (first thing in the morning; right before bed), then every 18 hours, then once a day, every other day and so on. The grand finale was one last nursing session after I returned from my work trip where I had made it three days without pumping. It was also the night before my son turned 6 months old.

I think the decision to wean is entirely personal and I admire the working mamas who keep it up through the first year and beyond. You are true warriors!

Formula for On-the-Go

Sometimes formula is the only option and I found early on that my hungry little guy needed to supplement the real thing. I did a lot of research and found Baby’s Only to be the closest to mom, with the cleanest ingredients:

Baby’s Only Organic Dairy with DHA & ARA Formula, 12.7 Ounce

However, when I figured out that there was a room temperature option, that was also portable, organic, and didn’t create a powdery mess, I made the switch to these handy pre-mixed 2-oz containers:

Similac Advance Organic Infant Baby Formula, 48 Bottles, 2-Fl Oz, Ready to Feed

I eventually discovered auto-shipments directly from the manufacturer were the most cost-effective and mom-brain proof. They were perfect for the first few months at daycare, trips to the gym, and traveling.

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The Best Baby Food Jars & Pouches

I left behind any notions of making my own baby food, despite how much I like to cook, when time became precious as a working mom. Our weekends were for rest and play; I didn’t envision myself in a baby-food making frenzy. So I searched for the closest thing I could find: jars with the purest organic ingredients.

Stage 1 favorites included:

Earth’s Best First Apples, Og, 2.50-Ounce (Pack of 12) ( Value Bulk Multi-pack)

Earths Best Organic First Beginner Food – Pear, 2.5 Ounce — 12 per case.

Stage 2 favorites included:

Earth’s Best Organic Baby Food Stage 2 Apples and Apricots — 4 oz

Earth’s Best Organic Stage 2, Corn & Butternut Squash, 4 Ounce Jar (Pack of 12)

Earth’s Best Harvest Squash Turkey Dinner (12×4 Oz)

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Then we graduated to pouches, which were even easier to feed on-the-go. Favorite pouches for stage 3, 6 months and up:

Earth’s Best Organic Stage 3, Pumpkin, Cranberry & Apple, 4.2 Ounce Pouch (Pack of 12) (Packaging May Vary)

Plum Organics Baby Food – Organic – Quinoa and Leeks with Chicken and Tarragon – Stage 3 – 6 Months and Up – 4 oz – Case of 6-95%+ Organic – Wheat Free-

Favorite toddler pouches:

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Super Foods, Apples & Butternut Squash + Super Chia, 4.22 Ounce (Pack of 16)

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Super Foods, Apples, Spinach, Peas & Broccoli + Super Chia, 4.22 oz (Pack of 16)

Happy Tot Organic Toddler Food Plus, Kale Apple & Mango, 4.22 Ounce (Pack of 16)

I’ll admit when I first started feeding solids, I was focused on ingredients and wasn’t yet thinking about sugar. Later in the toddler stage, I searched high and low for the least amount of sugar and it came down to these two.

Lowest sugar toddler pouches:

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Baby Food, Love My Veggies, Zucchini/Pear/Chickpeas & Kale, 4.2 Ounce (Pack of 16)

Once Upon a Farm Cold-Pressured Wild Rumpus Avocado

Safeguarding Against Contaminants (and Mom Guilt)

And then this morning, while I’m trying to enjoy a few sips of coffee in between chasing my toddler around, I hear that lead and other contaminants were detected in 20 percent of baby food. Lovely. Just what this paranoid mama bear needs to hear.

I double checked that all of the formula, jars and pouches mentioned above made a list of “clean” baby food in an independent study conducted by the Clean Label Project, and/or were verified directly with the brand (in the case of Happy Baby and Once Upon a Farm).

Avoiding overly processed, packaged foods is always a good idea for babies and adults. Also, the reality is that soil contains lead and other contaminants, so when in doubt, check to with the baby brands directly to see if they conduct testing.

When mom guilt rears its ugly head, we have to remember we do our best for each moment. Hopefully my research can give busy mamas back some time and peace of mind.