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blogging on when babies go to work

Leaning on Each Other to Lead: Parents have the skills and talents to create meaningful change together

Last November I uploaded my ebook, Lean On and Lead, Mothering and Work in the 21st Century Economy, to the iBooks Store.  In addition to the next-gen interactivity within the book, Apple allows authors to update publications, with readers automatically receiving free updates.  So I designed a new cover (with the help of my artistic teenage son), cleaned up commas and clunky phrases, spruced up graphics, re-worked widgets, and added content.  My 1.1 update went “live” yesterday.

Where is the love for #BlkBfing? Join the 2/12 chat!

The #BlkBfing chat is back on 2/12 at 7 PM ET with a powerful conversation on the hidden importance of support for successful breastfeeding from family support and nursing in stores to workplace pumping and family leave.  The chat is hosted by MomsRisingEbony.commater mea and Women’s eNews.

Our guests and co-sponsors include:

Mater Mea: inside conversations on motherhood and working

Two years ago American media seemed to be gripped by one important question: “Can women have it all?”

As a young professional woman with aspirations of having an enviable career and a family of my own, I was incredibly invested in knowing the answer to that question. I had eagerly read former State Department director Anne-Marie Slaughter’s much-debated Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s roll-up-your-sleeves screed “Lean In,” expecting some insight into how to set myself up for a future that didn’t sacrifice career for becoming a mother and vice versa. And while I did find bits of wisdom in each career woman’s musings, there was one major thing I didn’t see in their stories: me.

You see, the recent media coverage of working motherhood has largely been lily white: From the stock images TV networks use for their coverage to the talking heads dissecting these think pieces, it was rare to see a woman of color discuss the unique career and lifestyle gymnastics it took for her to “have it all” in mainstream news outlets and websites.

I support the FAMILY Act. Do you?

I took advantage of California Paid Family Leave after my baby was born. During that 12 weeks, I bonded with my baby by breastfeeding him as often and as long as possible; I also built a very good milk supply. By the time I went back to work when my little one turned 3 months old, I had two gallon of breast milk stored in my freezer.

The working environment I returned to was, unfortunately, very unfriendly to breastfeeding mothers. I went through a long, exhausting process of fighting just for a reasonable pumping space and a harassment-free office, which caused me to be stressed out with my milk drying up.

Luckily, I was able to continue exclusively breastfeeding my little one with my stored milk supply. When I was about to use up that storage, I left my job and became a freelancer. I was relieved and my milk supply came back.

Breast milk on the go

My job requires frequent traveling. As a journalist, I’ve been reporting from places such as quake-stricken Haiti, war-torn Mexico, and typhoon-damaged Taiwan.

These are challenging works. The biggest challenge, though, is collecting and transporting breast milk while traveling. After all, I’m more a mother than a journalist.

Lucky enough, America is a very breastmilk-country, in comparison to many of the countries and areas around the world. I never had a problem with carrying breast milk through airport security checkpoints, nor with  hotel staff members to storing my breast milk for me.

To collect, transport and keep my milk fresh while traveling, all I need is a breast milk pump, some sealed containers such as bottles or storage bags, and an insulated cooler with frozen ice packs.

An Unthinkable Choice

By Alicia Gay

Asia Myers, a pregnant woman expecting a baby girl in less than a month, works for an employer that forced her to make an unthinkable choice between a healthy pregnancy and her paycheck.

Early in her pregnancy, Asia suffered from complications serious enough for her doctor to put her on bed rest. After she improved, her doctor cleared her to return to work as a nursing assistant at a long-term care facility, as long as she did not do any lifting. Despite the fact that Asia’s employer routinely grants this kind of accommodation to workers with similar lifting restrictions, her employer refused to give her an accommodation to avoid jeopardizing the health of her pregnancy. Instead, her employer told her that she could either take unpaid leave or continue working without considerations for the health of her pregnancy.

When she was denied the accommodation she requested based on her doctor’s restrictions, Asia had to go on unpaid leave.

Planning a Career Break? Make Sure It’s a Pause, Not a Dent

A decade ago, Lisa Belkin wrote “The Opt Out Revolution,” a New York Times Magazine piece that became instantly famous. It profiled women who had chosen to leave high-profile careers to stay home full-time, arguing that they had opted out because (to quote one) “women’s brains light up differently.” I subsequently wrote a report documenting that the print media in general, and The New York Times in particular, had been writing precisely this story since the 1970s, announcing over and over again that women had finally discovered that they wanted to stay home rather than work.

My Journey to Bringing Babies to Work

I was never able to take more than four weeks off work after the births of my children. My husband filed for divorce a week after the birth of our third daughter. Two weeks later, I moved on my own with our children from Utah to Massachusetts, where my soon-to-be-ex-husband was living for work. In order to support my family, I had no alternative but to start full-time temp work a week after the move. With the 1.5-hour commute into Boston, I was away from my children for 13 hours a day, five days a week, for the next two months. Trying to successfully breastfeed meant pumping in bathrooms. I vividly remember standing next to a sink in a tiny bathroom trying to balance the pump gear (even the stall was too far away from the electrical outlet) and desperately willing my body to relax so that the pump could do its job. Most days I couldn’t stop the tears as I stared at the bottle with less than an ounce of milk in it each time I pumped, feeling like a complete failure for being away from my baby so much and not even being able to make enough milk for her.

August is National Breastfeeding Month, A Time for Advocacy!

Here’s a spin on National Breastfeeding Month: activism! August is National Breastfeeding Month and August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, which is a time to advance breastfeeding as part of the country’s larger healthcare agenda. Throughout the month, MomsRising.org will collaborate with other groups to advocate for a society that is more supportive of breastfeeding. Join us!

The Downside for Dads

Co-written with Katherine Ullman.

“My small contribution to feminism is leaving the office at 5:15 PM three times a week to pick up my daughter…and not hiding it.” You might expect that these are the words of a working mother who, after too little sleep and too many people wondering “how she does it,” decided to draw a line in the sand for all to see, with work firmly on one side and family on the other.

But you’d be wrong–we heard this from a young professional father. And who could blame you for your guess? With all of this recent hullabaloo about female breadwinners (elegantly complicated here and here ), it’s easy to overlook the small ways in which working fathers’ lives are changing, too–or to even consider their evolving role in the work-life frontier at all.

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