Lori Mihalich-Levin is a rockstar. The mother of two founded Mindful Return, a community and e-course created to support new mamas through maternity leave; she’s an attorney at Dentons, where she chairs the firm’s Flexibility and Parental Leave Task Force; AND…she’s just written a book.
“Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave” comes out today (April 11) -- and we’re so excited to share with you some more details from the author herself.
We checked in with Lori to hear more about her book-writing process and to get her take on the biggest challenges many women face when they return to work after taking leave. She shares some insanely insightful advice, tells us what she hopes readers will take away, and explains how the hell she found time to write a book.
FGB: After founding a successful blog/e-course about returning to work after maternity leave, what prompted you to write a book on the subject?
LML: I’ve always wanted to write a book. And to be honest, after all the time I’d spent over the past few years designing the online course, blogging, and working with others on guest blog posts, it dawned on me last summer that I had already written a book!
I decided to weave together the lessons from my course and blog into a coherent, organized, and hopefully relatable and humorous manual for new working moms, that they could have right at their fingertips.
I am incredibly passionate about supporting new parents with the transition back to work after maternity leave. And I have repeatedly been struck by a lack of curriculum and well-written guidance about how to do the maternity leave transition and return in a calm and successful way.
Writing the book was a way for me to be able to help more women with these strategies than those who take my online course. It also allows a new mama to avoid wading through years of blog posts looking for the topics she cares most about.
FGB: How did writing a book differ from writing for your blog?
LML: With a blog post, I focus a fairly discreet topic and offer my own reflections and several tips about tackling whatever challenge I’m discussing. In writing the book, I had to take a much broader, more holistic approach to the return-to-work experience. All the specific advice and recommendations is in there, but I needed to think about everything a new working mama should know, and organize it in a way that flowed logically from one topic to the next.
FGB: What were the biggest challenges in putting together the book?
LML: Taking the time to find the right team was probably the biggest challenge. I knew I was capable of writing a well-written manuscript. Running both a business and a legal practice at the same time also taught me I could accomplish anything, if I do so in baby steps.
I knew I couldn’t do the whole book publication process myself, though, and that I would need to assemble a team to help me see this project to completion. I spent a lot of time researching and vetting both the cover designer and the publicist I wound up hiring, and it took a lot of iterations to get the cover right. It was all time well spent, though, and I’m delighted with the outcome!
FGB: What do you believe is the #1 challenge most mothers face upon returning to work post-maternity leave? What’s your general advice for overcoming that challenge?
LML: A few words come to mind, among them: overwhelm, guilt, unhelpful comparisons, and sleep-deprivation. Though I can go on and on about each of these, my general advice on addressing them all is fourfold:
(1) Remind yourself every day that comparison is the thief of joy. You do YOU, mama, and focus on what’s best for your family right now. Tune out the rest.
(2) Feel what you feel. It’s okay to be a jumble of emotions. To know that you love your work and your baby, and that you’re not ashamed of loving both. The best way to work through the hard emotions that come with working parenthood is to acknowledge their existence and “let them in” so to speak.
(3) Focus on micro-self care. You must take care of yourself to be able to take care of baby. And yes, you have no time right now. Even a few minutes a day of deep breathing, journaling, setting a meditation, doing some yoga stretches, or talking to a friend can go a long way to getting your head in a better place.
(4) Find your people. Don’t go this alone, mama. You really do need a village to support, you, and community is key to survival.
FGB: What do you hope readers take away from this?
LML: I want them to come away from the book truly believing and knowing, in their heart of hearts, that they are enough. As a mom. And an employee. As a partner. That they have the skills to be able to make this transition back to work after leave, and that no matter what happens, they can always re-evaluate things and change course.
When they finish the book, I want them to feel a sense of calmness and confidence in their new life as a working mom.
FGB: Between managing parenting, Mindful Return, and your work as an attorney, how on earth did you find time to write this?!
LML: Ha! Two things were key: boundaries and baby steps. I’m on a 60% schedule at my firm, and I set strict boundaries around my time. For example, 5-8pm, I’m offline (screens down!), with my family. And in the evenings, I do the “split-shift” to enable me to get a few hours of work in after my kids go to sleep.
I am also the biggest believer in the proverb that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Any project can be broken up into a million tiny pieces, and doing just a few of those pieces at a time eventually gets you to the end of the project. Finally, I’m extremely passionate about empowering women, so writing, blogging, and teaching the Mindful Return course really don’t feel like work.
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