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Life as a consultant with two under two

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Life as a consultant with two under two

When corporate consultant Janice Yeo came back from her first parental leave with her daughter Kate, it would only be a few short months before her second leave with her son Chris. In the course of figuring out how to manage these two back-to-back leaves within the context of a high-flying corporate role and career, Janice learned a thing or two about making working parenthood truly work. We’re grateful that she has shared her thoughts with us here.

During my career at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), I’ve attended countless client meetings. But there’s one in particular that I won’t soon forget: the time a lunch companion tossed her meal all over the office floor and erupted into tears, all over a misplaced cup of water.

This wasn’t a tough-to-please client but rather my daughter Kate, who, at 8-months old, had accompanied me on a client get-together while I was on parental leave. Since then, I’ve mastered the art of juggling the needs of a fussy toddler with the high demands of work. But like any challenging project, there have been some triumphs – and tricky situations – along the way.

I had started with BCG in Singapore office in 2008, fresh out of university, and later transferred to Toronto, Canada as part of an associate abroad program. I now call the charming – yet chilly – Canadian city home. I became pregnant with Kate, and spent a year on parental leave. But here’s where my story differs from most: when I returned back to work in June of 2018, I was already expecting my second child.

Sharing the news of my first pregnancy was a cinch. I had worked for BCG for many years, boasted an excellent track record, and was on an enviable career path. But my confidence waned when I learned I was having a boy in January, only a few short months after returning from leave. It’s hard enough integrating back into the workplace as a new working mom. But as a pregnant new working mom leaving yet again in another few months?

As I navigated this tricky situation, I discovered a number of strategies that I believe can improve how we talk about pregnancy in the workplace and the way we view working parents.

My first instinct was to apologize for my second pregnancy. As women, I think we’re conditioned to feel bad about inconveniencing others.

Resist the urge to say sorry. My first instinct was to apologize for my second pregnancy. As women, I think we’re conditioned to feel bad about inconveniencing others. But the truth is, I love my job, I love how I’ve planned my life, and I’m excited about having a second child. By staying positive, and not apologizing, I’ve encouraged my BCG family to share in my happiness and support the next stage of my life and career. Similarly, I’ve learnt to stop apologizing for having to leave the office earlier to be home for dinner with Kate. My co-workers can still count on me to deliver the work even if I’m not in the office.

Seek out other women for advice. I turned to a female BCG career counselor and a couple of female colleagues who have had been on multiple parental leaves for advice. They helped me see my situation in a different light: one clear benefit of me completing my family in quick succession (I only plan to have two children), was that I’d return to the workplace permanently – a perspective I wouldn’t have gained if not for meaningful conversations with respected confidantes.

When regularly scheduled 9AM meetings with the client became too difficult to accommodate, I spoke with my male client counterpart and asked if we could shift our morning meetings to 9:30. Turns out, he also handles daycare drop-offs and happily agreed.

State your limitations. My default setting is to quietly acquiesce to any request as I didn’t previously think twice about putting in an extra hour of work. But that’s changing as I grow into motherhood – an extra hour of work means an extra less hour I get with Kate. I set “office hours” with my teams, providing them visibility into my commitments, so they know when to expect me in the office. I find open communication is key. For example, I’m responsible for dropping off Kate at daycare. So when regularly scheduled 9AM meetings with the client became too difficult to accommodate, I spoke with my male client counterpart and asked if we could shift our morning meetings to 9:30. Turns out, he also handles daycare drop-offs and happily agreed. I never would have known if I hadn’t communicated my needs.

It seems the less flexible my life becomes as a mother, the more laser-focused I am as a consultant.

Embrace being a working mom. Motherhood, in turn, has made me a better consultant and manager. Three o’clock in the morning feedings, on-the-fly diaper changes, and poorly timed tantrums can teach even the most experienced consultant a thing or two about workflows. Case in point: I’m now more efficient than ever. Email responses are perfectly timed, my calendar is determined weeks in advance, and I can complete a presentation deck in a fraction of the time it used to take me. It seems the less flexible my life becomes as a mother, the more laser-focused I am as a consultant. Another upside: I’m no longer reluctant to delegate tasks. This not only allows me to get home at a decent time, but it provides my team members with new learning opportunities. A hectic schedule has also curbed my tendency to micromanage, granting colleagues the freedom to make their own decisions.

Certainly, not everyone can relate to having two children in two years. But I hope my story can help change the mindset and messaging of working parents. These days, I wake up excited to make breakfast for my daughter. But I also wake up eager to work on some really compelling projects with people I respect and admire. It’s not always easy. And having my second child, Chris, will bring a whole new set of challenges. But by talking openly about pregnancy, delegating responsibilities for better work-life balance, and not being afraid to set boundaries, you’d be surprised by how many people are willing to move mountains to make things work. Even if it means having the odd messy client lunch.

#MindrMama Janice Yeo is a Principal in BCG’s Toronto office. She first joined the firm as an associate in the Singapore office in the fall of 2008, and spent a year in the Toronto office as part of the BCG Associate Abroad program. Her project experience covers telecommunications and retail sectors across Southeast Asia, The U.S. and Canada. Prior to rejoining BCG in the Toronto office, Janice spent two years with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, leading up their specialty select brands in Asia Pacific. Janice holds a double degree in Economics and Business Management from the Singapore Management University. Outside the office, Janice enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter and cooking.

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Backgrounder: New York City's new lactation law

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Backgrounder: New York City's new lactation law

Any new mom who has navigated the return to work while still nursing a little one knows that sinking feeling. Searching for the quietest breast pump on the market, in order to pump stealthily in a small cubicle with colleagues 3 feet away. Expressing milk while perched on the edge of a toilet seat. Pumping in a closet next to the janitorial supplies, praying no one walks in. So we’re breathing a collective sigh of relief about New York CIty’s new lactation room law, which went into effect in March 2019. #MindrMama and employment litigator Alex Berke shared her thoughts this new law and the impacts it may have on those of us working-while-pumping.

New York City recently passed a new law that provides clarity to employers and employees regarding what rights mothers have to express milk (most often through pumping) in the workplace. Berke-Weiss Law PLLC is a woman-owned employment law firm in New York. In our practice, we meet employers who are trying to comply with the law, and women who are being discriminated against by their employers. Often, pregnant women and new moms find that their performance is questioned after they announce their pregnancy, or have trouble being accommodated to provide care and sometimes even food for their children who are at home.

What is the new NYC lactation law, and when did/does it come into effect?

New York City’s new lactation law has two components: (1) creating requirements for lactation rooms for employers with four or more employees and (2) requiring employers to create a policy that alerts employees to the existence of the lactation room, and includes the process for requesting lactation-related accommodations.

New York State requires that a lactation room is provided to employees who express milk for up to three years after birth. New York City now joins New York State in offering protections to breastfeeding mothers. 

The NYC law went into effect on March 17, 2019.  Now, employers in NYC with four or more employees must provide a lactation room that allows mothers to express milk shielded from view and free from intrusion. The statewide law encouraged employers to provide specific amenities, but the NYC law now requires the lactation room to include at least:

·       An electrical outlet

·       A surface to place the breast pump and other personal items;

·       Nearby access to running water, and;

·       A refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage.

New York City has released model policies for employers, including a model request form. This process offers guidance for how employers should handle multiple requests from employees who may need to use the designated lactation room at the same time, an outline of the timeframe and process for employers to respond to employee’s requests for accommodation, and an overview of employee’s rights to be paid during the time they use to express milk.

Is this development a big deal for moms in NYC? Why/why not?

This development allows moms to clearly understand their rights relating to expressing milk at work, and provides a way for employees who are having trouble in their workplace exercising their rights to discuss the issues with their employer. Although employers already were obligated to provide some of these accommodations, the new law lays out specifics about what steps employees and employers need to take. The model policies released by the City also go into detail about what is required, and can serve as a useful for resource for employees and employers alike.

There are model lactation room policies that accompany the law -- what do these policies have to say, and how binding are they on employers?

These policies can be found here and can be adapted to meet the specific needs of employers as written. The law does not state specific penalties for not having a policy or a lactation room, but a violation can still create employer liability. Employers who violate the law may be liable for punitive damages, emotional distress, back pay and front pay if there’s a finding of discrimination. In short, if an employer does not have the appropriate policies or lactation rooms, affected employees may have a legal claim against the employer for discrimination, unless the employer can demonstrate that it is an “undue hardship” to provide a room.

What (if any) changes can moms expect to see in their workplaces as a result of this new law and the accompanying policies?

Moms should expect their employers to provide a lactation room policy, a lactation room request form, and that the employers are meeting all of the lactation room requirements. And, moms should expect to have more conversations about what they need to express milk at work. However, some employers still may have an out in providing lactation rooms that meet the standards set by this law. Under the law, employers can say that meeting the lactation room requirements is so challenging that they pose an “undue hardship.” There are standards for what makes something an undue hardship, including the nature and cost of an accommodation, the impact of providing the accommodation on the operation of the facility, or the financial resources of the employer. For example, if the employer only has a space available that is not near a refrigerator, the annoyance of purchasing a mini-fridge would not necessarily be an undue hardship. But, if the space is the only space available and would require re-wiring to accommodate a nearby fridge, that may be considered an undue hardship. If the employer thinks that an accommodation would be an undue hardship, they still need to have a conversation with the employee about other alternatives, and should work to come up with some accommodation that meets the employee’s needs.

What can we expect to see happening next in this space in the workplace and beyond?

When the City implements new laws, we can expect an education campaign to inform people of their new rights. The New York City Human Rights Commission will work on enforcement. We should expect to see more situations where people advocate for their rights in the workplace and seek redress if they are not being met. We anticipate continued efforts by women advocating for more nurturing and friendly lactation spaces, access to having breast milk shipped home from work trips, and insurance coverage for breast pumps that meet their needs.

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Mamas we love: Meaghan Murphy, Good Housekeeping

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Mamas we love: Meaghan Murphy, Good Housekeeping

As Executive Editor at Good Housekeeping Magazine, reaching an audience of 18.4 million people, and mom to ‘Irish Triplets’ Charlet (8), James (6) and Brooks (3), #MindrMama Meaghan Murphy knows a thing or two about staying busy. We caught up with this mama mogul to find out how priorities and positivity help to keep her head above water, why she believes a made bed means a quiet mind, and how a dinner invitation from J-Lo could lead to all the rules being thrown out the window.

You've said you're always guided by what's best for your family, who you call Team Murphy. Talk us through the ways family drives your decision-making, even when you're on deadline.

My motto is “family over everything” — and that requires creating some very distinct boundaries. For starters, I’m fiercely protective of my mornings and only work late two to three nights a month, when I have to because we’re closing an issue.

I front-load the day with quality kid time. After the kids wake up, we have a no TV/no devices rule and instead read a couple chapters of Captain Underpants (it’s the one series they all agree upon!). We eat breakfast, pack lunches, make beds, brush teeth… and argue over outfits. When the babysitter, arrives I power shower with just enough time to walk my little guy to preschool before hitting the train. I don’t schedule meetings before 10:30AM with the exception of a TV appearance so I have this Team Murphy time.

Once I’m at work, I’m there to work and I say no to things that aren’t work-related… a lot. The joke around the office is: “Don’t ask Meaghan for drinks because there’s a zero percent chance she’ll say yes.” It’s not that I don’t like my co-workers or business contacts, or that I don’t like to be social, but with an hour-plus commute to the ‘burbs, one drink means I miss what my family calls Highlights (a rundown of what made my kids say “YAY” that day) and the nightly tuck-in — and I need those things! A dinner request from JLo and A-Rod might be the only thing that would keep me in the city past 7PM!

As Executive Editor of Good Housekeeping, you're in a high profile and high pressure role. What do you do to look after yourself and stay fully charged? 

I’ve got a pretty consistent routine that keeps me operating at full battery. Exercise is key! I’ve found the only way to fit in fitness is to do it at the crack of dawn with my #goodvibetribe of like-minded workout buddies. We cheer each other on and make each other accountable. I’m at the gym by 5:30am and back by 7am, but I swear I feel like I’m going for drinks when I leave the house! Our exercise routine is pretty set: Extreme Boxing at POE on Mondays; Tuesdays it’s hot yoga at Home Power Yoga; FireBeat hot barre on Wednesdays; SLT Thursdays and The Blast (interval workout) on Fridays.

There’s also lots of “extras” that give me a charge: things like matching my mani to the cover of Good Housekeeping each month or over-decorating my house for every perceivable holiday!

You recently launched "The Yay List," recommending that people take the time to pay attention to the moments of joy that come up in any given day. Why do you think practicing positivity in this way is important?

Your brain might not be a muscle, but you have to train it like one to see the good. The more you actively and purposefully seek out the positive, the more easily you begin to automatically default to the positive, noticing all the awesome things around you. It doesn’t mean you no longer perceive the negative, it just prevents you from dwelling on it. The good vibes take over.

What is something you think needs to change about the way our culture treats parenthood? 

My husband didn’t carry our kids for nine months or push them out, but he is 50% responsible for their existence and their livelihood. Yet, I often feel like society puts more onus on the mom for everything. Somehow it’s supposed to be my job to: organize the play date; volunteer to be the class Mystery Reader; RSVP for the birthday party and buy the gift; etc. etc. etc. even though my husband and I both have full-time jobs. I love doing (most of) those things, but my life only works because I have an equal partner — a teammate who cooks, walks the dog, signs my son James up for karate and more. I applaud companies like Estee Lauder that now have 6 months paid leave for both moms and dads – it’s a start in the right direction!

What are your favorite go-to strategies for maintaining an organized home even amidst the chaos of working parent life?

Make the beds! Studies show that people who do are happier and more productive. When I leave the house with at least that one thing done I feel calmer, more in control and ready for the chaos ahead.

My #momlife hack is Beddy’s, zip-up bedding that makes it ridiculously simple for the kids to make their own beds. Also, if you can, hire help. Biweekly we have someone tackle the bathrooms, vacuum, dust…things I weirdly enjoy doing, but have to take a backseat to family time. You’ve gotta learn to outsource to the extent that you can!

Meaghan Murphy has been in the media for 20+ years. She got her start at YM when she was 19, after winning an essay contest on overcoming adversity, and being spotlighted on an NBC special. Two years later she was one of the founding editors of Teen People, an on-air lifestyle correspondent for MTV, worked on the creative team at Victoria’s Secret, helping to launch the PINK line, moved on to a senior editor role at Cosmopolitan before heading to SELF, where she was the fitness director and Deputy editor for nearly 9 years. Meaghan is now the Executive Editor at Good Housekeeping. She married her brother’s best friend who is 4 years her junior and they live a happy life in the Jersey suburb of Westfield where Meaghan was named Chief Spirit Officer, unofficially renaming the town Bestfield.

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