The Picture of How to Retain New Mothers After Leave

How to retain women at work

Melody Blackwell went viral recently as the picture of the working mom in her native habitat – desk in front of her, infant on lap, phone under chin, pen in hand. 

The feat is punctuated with the headline: “She makes it look easy.”

But there’s another important player in the vignette who’s not pictured in the photo – the woman behind the camera.

Melody may be hard at work. But it’s her enlightened boss, Dr. Elizabeth Baker, who made it possible – and not just because she snapped the pic. The Tennessee chiropractor actually posted the photo in an effort to nudge employers to support working mothers.

“We need more small and large businesses to see this is doable and should be allowed more often,” reads her Instagram caption.

Amen.

In fact, Dr. Baker’s comments on the subject read a whole lot like our return-to-work instruction manual for bringing new mothers back after leave.

A sampling (as told by Yahoo Lifestyle):

On planning ahead: “Once she got pregnant I knew we needed to figure out a way to make this work. We had nine months to plan, at least!”

On asking the right pre-leave questions: The conversation started as soon as she learned her employee of more than four years was expecting.

On paving the road out:  While Melody was on maternity leave, Dr. Baker and her other two employees started shuffling the responsibilities and trying to pick up the slack.

On paving the road back: It was Dr. Baker who suggested that Blackwell work from home and bring the infant in once a week for a half or full day.

On being flexible: New mothers (and babies) need to stick to a schedule for things like breastfeeding and naps. “The flexible work schedule seemed to strike a perfect balance between honoring the mother-infant bond and retaining a valuable worker.”

As for whether or not it looks easy  – we’ll defer judgment on that. Our take is that nothing about working and mothering is easy. And in fact a study we’re about to release will have data showing just how not easy it is.

But Dr. Baker sure is making it possible. She calls her bring-your-baby-to-work response in part due to the high cost of child care (And PS – we have some thoughts on how employers can help with that, too). And she tells Yahoo she knows her solution isn’t for everyone. But she encourages employers to talk to their people about what would work best for everyone – employee and the organization.

We couldn’t agree more.

Brava, Dr. Baker. And check back next week for news about our study.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

January 25, 2019

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.