As a mom of two with sixteen years magazine-publishing experience under her belt (she was Glamour’s executive editor, and while there, helped guide millions of readers through various lifestyle, fashion, and beauty moments), there’s little Lauren Smith Brody isn’t equipped to handle. Yet when she first transitioned back to work after maternity leave, she felt otherwise. The learning curve was steep and there was no guide to help her through that major life change. So Lauren did what any smart, business-savvy woman would do: she wrote one.
The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, & Big Success After Baby is, in short, a working mom’s bible. It’s full of useful tips and loads of research-backed advice. To add to that, she also founded The Fifth Trimester, a business that helps companies improve workplace culture and policies around new parenthood.
Here, she shares the details of her journey with Kale.Life.
“Coming back to work as an executive-level editor after having my sons was a heady, challenging, and often overwhelming experience. I worked at a generous company with decent benefits and wonderfully supportive colleagues, but it was still this breakneck gauntlet of transition, one that started with going back before I felt physically and emotionally ready (which is, sadly, the norm in our country). But! Once I got past those first few months, I realized that that’s all that time really was: a transition, not a permanent state of chaos.
Once I was on the other side of my new normal, I could see how well it had trained me for the rest of my life as a working mom. I was proud, even! Over the next few years, as I managed several women in their baby (or almost-baby) years, I thought of the transition often. And while my work was fun and fulfilling, the part I increasingly found myself proudest of was the time spent mentoring my colleagues.
I had wondered for awhile if it was time to be my own boss, to start my own thing, but I couldn’t figure out what that Thing was. Then, one day when I was on vacation and working on a memo of ideas as I considered applying for another job, the term “The Fifth Trimester” came to me. I realized I didn’t want the job, but I did love this idea. And from that moment on, I knew The Fifth Trimester was a book. I did a lot of research, surveying 700+ women before I even wrote the book proposal or looked for a literary agent. After reading the responses and combing through the data, I knew I was on to something. Then I came to the write-in answers, and line after line of various responses said the same thing: “I wish I’d known that getting through this transition would be such a point of pride one day.” It was then that I knew that this wasn’t just an advice book; it was a movement of working mom mentors, and my new job was going to be getting their word out to help future working moms. Together I knew that we could move the needle on workplace culture for new parents. How? By leaning in, and changing the policy from within your workplace—or even just by showing up every day and being transparent about the challenges and triumphs of new working parenthood. That’s going to revolutionize the way we work and live.
For a while I thought that perhaps I had stayed in my old career too long—that I should have made this transition sooner—but writing the book drew on every skill I’d honed in all those years in magazines: Interviewing, packaging, negotiating, deadline-meeting. It had all gotten me to exactly this new place that I love. In a way, my 25th trimester was just as vital a transition as my fifth.”
Interview edited for clarity.
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