Ten Things We Learned About The Fifth Trimester From Our Podcast with Lauren Smith Brody - The Grace Tales

Ten Things We Learned About The Fifth Trimester From Our Podcast with Lauren Smith Brody



If you thought there were only three trimesters, well, prepare to think again. While the newborn phase is often referred to as the fourth trimester, former Glamour editor Lauren Smith Brody took it one step further when she trademarked the term ‘the fifth trimester’.

She was referring to the birth of the working mother – the time when new mothers return to work and undergo a radical transformation in so many ways. She’s written the book (literally) on this phase and it’s full of insights and advice. Here are ten of our favourite takeaways from this episode.

Listen to the episode here.


On coining the term the ‘fifth trimester’…

What I struggled with was that while there were a ton of resources about pregnancy and about the babies themselves, there was just nothing, absolutely a desert of nothing about returning to work after baby.


On the motherhood penalty…

The motherhood penalty is the measurable impact of motherhood on a woman’s earnings and on her status in the workplace.


On breast pumping at work…

I would come out of my 20 minute, 25 minute pumping session and I would start handing back work to people that had my edits on it. I was really visible about that, because I wanted them to know that I wasn’t leaving to go take a break. I was leaving to do two jobs at once.


On the downfall of being your own boss…

There’s no shower I take when I’m not in some small way thinking about the mission of my work, and that can be a hamster wheel that kind of never ends.


On the importance of making her plans tangible…

One of the very first things that I did before I even wrote the book proposal for my book, to even find an agent, sell it to a publisher, and then start the company that came after, is I trademarked the term ‘the fifth trimester’. And that was on the advice of a friend who is a woman who owns her own business, who said to me, “Just go do that, pay for it. It’s not going to cost a ton of money, but it’s an investment, and it also gives you a deadline because trademarks expire if you don’t use them and it will make it real for you.”


On how mothers can accidentally freeze their partners out of parenting…

Try to remember that men are absolutely as capable of every single item of childcare and home life existence as women are, except for producing breast milk – and they’re working on that. That’s going to happen one day. Other than that, it really can and should be even, and as much as you can, tweak the system, because the system is very much stacked against you in terms of the fact that dad’s probably paid better for the job that he does than you are.


On the need for fathers to have solo parenting time…

When you go back to work, that’s when he needs to take at least a week, just him with the baby, to really learn how to do it all, and for you to learn to trust him. Otherwise, then you go back to work and you’ve done everything. You’ve professionalized parenthood – purposefully and wonderfully done all these things for your baby and learnt how to do it all so well. He hasn’t been able to have that time, even though maybe he wanted it. And when you get home at the end of the day, you’re the only one who knows how to do it all.


On how to manage the workload with your partner…

I recommend that couples on Sunday get together and look at their calendars and figure out, “Okay, what are my blackout times this week? If the baby has a stomach bug and can’t go to daycare on Tuesday, but I have a huge presentation I’m making for this unmissable thing, can I claim that time?” And just go ahead and pre-negotiate your week so that if baby does get sick, it’s already decided who’s going to be home and how it’s going to be handled. So it doesn’t become a crisis in the moment.


On how much maternity leave mothers really need…

All of the science really points to six months of paid parental leave as the minimum required to be protective of mom’s mental health and physical health.


On her best time management tip…

If you are tired, if you haven’t gotten enough sleep, one thing that can help is to try to organize your day so that in that post lunch slump that everybody tends to feel when we’re digesting our lunch, is counterintuitively – to actually schedule something that requires adrenaline in that time, because you’ll get a natural burst of it. If you have to perform in some way, make an important call, do something that’s a little bit scary, whatever it is, schedule it for that time and it actually will give you a burst of energy that’s helpful.


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