Recently, I purchased Lauren Smith Brody’s The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, & Big Success After Baby (Doubleday, 2017). My husband and I just had our second child, and I was hungry for advice about how to navigate working motherhood with a new baby, even though I had done it once before. I really enjoyed all the practical wisdom, insight, and, most of all, the emotional support it offers. It contains advice on everything from how to pump on an airplane, to how to ask for a raise after being on maternity leave, to how to work at home and actually get stuff done—and it’s not just from Brody; much of the insight comes from the 700+ women who answered a 50-question survey she posted online (some of whom she then followed up with). The Fifth Trimester is for all moms, whether they work in an office, at home, or don’t work at all and just need some help finding confidence and feeling more like themselves again after giving birth and while taking care of a tiny human while running on fumes. I won’t detail all the techniques for being more productive while working at home, but I do want to highlight some of the advice Brody offers about navigating the emotional terrain of working at home after baby.
“Do not let working for yourself rob you of the very freedom you sought when you decided to become your own boss.”
Brody writes about what she calls “Superwoman Syndrome,” noting that when you work at home, it’s very easy to take on too much of everything: too many work projects, too many home projects, too many social projects, etc. etc. It’s okay (and even important) to be choosy about the projects you take on post baby. As a new mom, your emotional well-being has to come first, because it’s crucial for your baby’s well-being, as well as the rest of the family’s.
“You need to know how to have difficult conversations that mix personal and professional in ways you might not always find comfortable.”
This line was not in the section geared specifically toward work-at-home moms, but I found it incredibly relatable. Remote employees or freelancers might be able to continue working when others would take a maternity leave, but doing so requires them to be upfront about their work-life integration. You might not have to disclose personal details (and that might not be a great idea depending on your work environment and profession), but I do feel that it’s important to be transparent about what your work situation looks like and what your boundaries/needs are.
A few other very helpful recommendations relevant to work-at-home moms include the following:
Set daily work-time limits to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Don’t feel the need to get everything done in one day—you can’t; that’s the nature of being self-employed or working remotely.
Just like you should schedule in time to work, you should block off mommy-and-me time during the week. Brody notes that this will help enforce boundaries during work times, and I agree. I find that when I carve out time to be fully present with my daughter, say, when I take her to music class, she generally respects my work time at home.
It’s okay to use some traditional work hours for personal things, if you’ve worked more hours outside of the traditional work day (and if it’s okay with your boss). I often will take a break mid-day to go for a run, and sometimes I feel guilty about this, but then again I usually get up at 5:00 a.m. to start work, and I often work late into the night.
I’m loving everything Brody has to say about finding peace (and hopefully fulfillment) while working post baby. The Fifth Trimester seems to meet moms where they’re at and offer them genuine solidarity, regardless of their work situations.
Jennifer Janechek is the director of content strategy for Sound Wisdom. She has her PhD in English literature from the University of Iowa and her MA in English from the University of South Florida. She is also the founder of The Work-at-Home Mom Blog, which provides inspiration and community for moms who juggle work and parenting simultaneously. Her writings can be found in Entrepreneur, The Good Men Project, and many other publications.