13 | Lori Mihalich-Levin: Work after parental leave

On the thirteenth episode of Better Monday podcast Milla Heikkilä and Lori Mihalich-Levin talk about the challenges facing especially new parents when returning to work after parental leave.

Lori herself is a mother of two. She went through a struggle when she got back from maternity leave. She is a lawyer by profession, but she also helps new parents to adjust to the new situation with her company called Mindful Return.

For Lori having a better Monday means two things

  1. Alone time over the weekend to recharge
  2. Having childcare

“I was often crying on the kitchen floor. Both children were waking a lot up at night, so I was very sleep deprived. And I just felt like I didn’t know how I was going to manage it all.”

The lack of support for working parents pushed Lori to establish her own company, Mindful Return. She felt like new moms, like herself, needed new tools, community, gratitude practices and ways to transition more smoothly. Over the years the company expanded and is now helping not only moms and dads, but also companies that offer Mindful Return online course as a parental leave benefit.

The biggest challenge new parents face when returning to work after parental leave is sleep deprivation because it affects everything one does. Also, the stigma of taking leave is a huge problem – especially for women. Lori’s goal is to normalize working parenthood. Becoming a parent actually sharpens all leadership skills!

“Working parenthood is the perfect training ground for leadership.”

Tips for new moms and dads to return work after parental leave:

1. A mindful mindset for going back

Implement some rituals to your day (micro practices), which are just for you. Taking a shower or commuting to work can be perfect for a little meditation or just sitting in a silence.

2. Logistics

Dare to dream about the flexibility you need and ask for it! Maybe you need a shorter week or childcare support after your parental leave?

3. Leadership

When it’s time for a review conversation with your boss, remember to include all those things you did and still do to make your transition from parental leave back to work go smoothly.

4. Building community

Find other working parents and connect with them.

Organizations should acknowledge that there are issues about returning to work after parental leave. Leaders should ask their employees how they are doing and how they could make the return easier. Good communication is vital so that new parents also know about all the support the company can offer.

After covid-19 flexibility and remote work are the new normal. Lori hopes that we continue using this flexibility learned during these times. However, one thing that still requires attention is to de-gender the leave taking and really encourage men to take parental leave too. That will help women and their careers and make working life more equal.

When asked what makes a company better employer than all the others, Lori answered “listening”. Parents know that companies can’t solve everything but just acknowledging the problems and sending out the message of empathy helps.