The Fifth Trimester: Returning to Work After Maternity (and Paternity) Leave

I recently had a superb collision of events—the week I returned from maternity leave one of my coworkers suggested we go to a talk by author and founder of The Fifth Trimester, Lauren Smith Brody. The Fifth Trimester is a movement to help businesses and parents work together to create a more family-friendly workplace culture.

Even with an incredibly generous and supportive employer (like mine!), being a new mom reentering the workplace can be overwhelming, emotional and scary. There are so many more responsibilities at home while trying to keep your head above water at work. In fact, Lauren mentioned in her talk that first time moms have an average of 317 more activities per day than they did pre-baby. All those tasks wrapped up with far less sleep.

I found Lauren incredibly insightful, empowering and practical. Here are three pieces of advice from her book The Fifth Trimester and her chat at Work&Co I found most helpful in my transition back to Quinn Thomas:

Take a page from the military

Lauren writes in her book about her research on sleep deprivation in the military and how it relates to new parents. This was incredibly helpful as a mom of a baby girl that doesn’t sleep for very long! She recommends committing to trading off nights with your spouse. You should also reframe your idea of good sleep by achieving four straight hours in a row and the most obvious, yet most overlooked, cutting out outside influences that could be further depriving you of sleep late at night – think iPhone, TV and computers.

Extend your (family’s) leave time

Having my husband take off the first few weeks when I went back to work was hands-down the best thing I could have done for my piece of mind. I didn’t have to think about a new daycare routine, adjusting to a new caregiver or just overall being away from my baby after 12 weeks of being joined at the hip.

Get your work done

Ok Lauren didn’t say this outright, but this was the underlying theme to a lot of her advice. As a new mom in the workplace, you should feel empowered to ask for extra flexibility, experiment with routines that allow you to do a late morning feeding or request your office windows be frosted for privacy (which my employer happily did for me and my fellow new mom colleague).  So, it’s important you deliver on your commitment to your employer. To me, that just means there are times I have to toughen up and work early in the morning, late at night or on the weekends to get things done.

As Lauren mentioned throughout her talk, a workplace that supports working moms is good for the bottom line and our economy. It makes it that much more important for businesses and moms to work together for success in the office and at home. A huge thank you to Work&Co. for bringing Lauren to Portland and sharing her with the moms at Quinn Thomas.