(NEW YORK) — Lauren Smith Brody, the former executive editor of Glamour magazine and mother of two, opened up about the difficulties she faced while returning to work after having a baby in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America that aired Friday.
Smith Brody, who penned the book The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity and Big Success After Baby, touched on everything from how to deal with guilt to tips on how to pump breast milk while at the office.
“Everybody knows about the first three trimesters, of course, which are pregnancy, and the fourth trimester is the newborn phase,” Brody Smith said. “But the fifth trimester is when the working mom is born.”
“It’s the time that is really fraught and really hard,” she added. “And in America, women go back before they’re emotionally and physically ready to.”
Smith Brody added that the idea for her book “was born out of a struggle and born out of a desperation, but its message is really one of optimism.”
She interviewed more than 700 mothers who were returning to work in varied industries, and amalgamated some of the best tips and advice to share with other women.
The mother of two admitted that for her, personally, one of the biggest challenges she faced after returning to work was sleep deprivation.
Another challenge was finding a way to schedule breast pumping while at the office.
“You’re trying to schedule pumping if you can, and then figure out what the heck you can wear that’s going to allow you to, like, disrobe three times a day and try to be fairly modest about it….and get it done quickly and get back to your work,” Smith Brody said. “It’s really, really, challenging physically.”
Smith Brody said that she ended up turning her “pumping time into work time.”
“If you can ask your employer to not just give you privacy, but also give you privacy in a room that has WiFi and a phone, and, you know, the ability to do your job, that you can actually turn that time into dedicated work time,” she explained.
In addition to the physical challenges that many women face when returning to work, Smith Brody added that many of the women she spoke to shared that they did not feel at all emotionally prepared to return to work.
“Emotionally, women told me that they really did not feel like themselves until they got to about the six month mark,” Smith Brody said. “And that’s a real problem that we have in our country.”
“They’re not physically or emotionally ready. It’s largely that they can’t afford to take the time that their bodies and their minds would need,” she said.
Brody Smith added that “every single one said the word guilt at some point.”
“However, what I found fascinating is that guilt means really different things to different people,” she said. “There are people who felt guilty for leaving their babies, and then there are people who felt guilty for sitting at their desk and having a cup of coffee and enjoying it.”
She said that from hearing all of the stories about guilt, she “came to the conclusion that we are post guilt. Guilt is actually kind of sexist in its nature. You never hear about ‘Daddy-guilt’ at all.”
Smith Brody also encouraged new mothers to not feel ashamed about how “messy” motherhood can be.
“I think there’s something that goes on in our society that I’ve heard again and again in my interviews, which is that women just have out-sized expectations of themselves,” Smith Brody said. “The very women who climb the ladder at work, go home and want to be these exponentially amazing mothers.”
She added that social media may play a role, when “you know we see…all the crazy homemade cupcakes on Pinterest, and you know everyone’s only perfect world on Instagram.”
“And you think that’s what motherhood is…and it’s not. Motherhood is messy, and I really, really want women to know that they can broadcast the mess. They can talk about what’s hard,” she said. “They can go back to work. They can still get their jobs done and do them well and then say, ‘Look what I did.'”
“It’s actually more impressive if you show that it’s hard and you get it done and you do it well,” the mother added.
The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby is currently available in bookstores nationwide.
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