for Urban Professionals & Other Skeptics in a Rush
This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m reminded of a day not long ago when I watched Anne-Marie Slaughter lean off the edge of a stage. She was demonstrating what would happen if she “leaned in” too far.
It was meant to drive home the point she makes in her new book, Unfinished Business, about women, men, work and family. It’s the culmination of the three years of research and contemplation that followed her Atlantic article entitled “Why women still can’t have it all,” that broke the Internet, and of her life as a woman, a mother, and a successful and ambitious professional. In it, she shares that the intricate web that creates a home and family has more value than she ever placed on it, until she leaned in too far.
Two years in, Slaughter left her dream job as director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department, to be closer to her adolescent boys. She also returned to Princeton as a tenured professor. Really, nothing to scoff at. By her description, though, the response to her resignation was that she just wasn’t up for it. That she decided to take the slow lane, the “mommy track.”
I’d been following Professor Slaughter for years for her scholarship in foreign policy and international law. She was already a celebrity in my geeky world, and her courage to lay out the costs and balance in her personal life catapulted her to my highest esteem. I was definitely the groupie at this event.
You’d think that someone like Sheryl Sandberg or Anne-Marie Slaughter have really made it, so they are free to say whatever they like with abandon. But I think the opposite is true. Anyone who has ever made anything of themselves professionally will tell you it took years of work and dedication to earn their reputation.
These women had plenty to lose as they spoke out as women in what remain male-dominated fields. They spoke out about being women in the one place where, knowingly or not, they’d both been trying to keep gender invisible. Only it isn’t.
There are times when we can pretend that it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. Morning sickness at work when you’re not telling anyone you’re pregnant yet is not one of those times. The loud whirl of a breast pump (or crying baby) in the background of a conference call you take from home when your baby is five weeks old but you’re needed for the team (or your own business), even though your basically delusional from lack of sleep, is not one of those times. Transitioning back to work while juggling your life-altering new identity as a mother is not one of those times.
Motherhood is often treated as something we can do on the side, while we keep charging ahead with our preconceived plans about what other parts of our lives will look like. The thing is, none of us actually know what we’re getting into before we’re in it.
What Slaughter drives home so elegantly is that we are out of our minds to think that caregiving and child rearing are invisible, background and secondary. They are what keep us going — they need more attention, and the people (usually women) who fulfill those roles should be valued and supported.
There is no question that work is changing when it comes to women, mothers and families.
JP Morgan just expanded a re-entry program designed for returning to the corporate world after at least a two-year “break,” with photos of woman all over the landing page.
The freshly launched Apres is a LinkedIn just for moms who’ve taken time away and are reentering the workforce, but not into the entry level jobs that have been the mom career tax we’ve grown accustomed to — rather, into roles for experienced professionals with organizations that value the many strengths that work experience (and motherhood) yield.
Corporate clients overwhelmingly embraced an online resource I launched in January to support women in their transition to motherhood, eager for a way to support their new mom employees on maternity leave and in the transition back to work.
Fairygodboss.com, a site that provides intel on employers’ female-focused policies, had more than 100,000 visitors this month, with traffic growing steadily by the week.
Daily I hear from in-house women’s and professional development committees from organizations across North America, trying to find or create best practices.
It sure is slow, though.
These pioneers are trying to forge a way that we can be successful, professional and still female. Or more specifically, still mothers in a meaningful way. Not females dressed up as and acting like men, but women living full expressions of their femininity, motherhood, creativity and professional skills. Women who feel confident in the value of what they bring to this world so that they can lean in, and frankly, lean out when what is core to them is to do the invisible, necessary and joyful work (I know, it’s so ironic) — of being a mother.
As Slaughter explains, we all benefit from cohesive family lives. We all benefit from not running around like lunatics trying to do it all and have it all, all at once. Moms birth the world. They need some support.
This post also appears in the Huffington Post.
Last week a client came over for dinner with her family. She is a law firm partner, a graduate student, a mother and totally clueless in the kitchen. This post is for her and for those of you who also want some kitchen literacy, if only to be able to use it in a pinch. I promise this is all easier than you think, takes less time, and like everything else from Curated Wellness, is cherry-picked to give you maximum impact with minimal effort.
The day of the dinner had been a hectic one for us, topped off with a teething toddler who didn’t sleep much during the previous night. Work was busy, the house was a mess and I didn’t think twice about putting a gorgeous dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. I’m not Martha Stewart, but I know how to make dining a nearly effortless pleasure. In about five minutes from now, you will too.
There are no recipes here but my top 10 tips for being able to make a healthy beautiful meal easily and without going for a big shop, because who needs to add that to a busy day…
You’ve got this. Bon appetit!
September 4, 2013 in Published & Press
What an honour! Here’s an excerpt:
“We are not strangers to the idea of balance and yet it is so difficult to achieve it. Even Rachel herself was once living in one extreme or the other. Which is exactly why she understands her clients. I totally believe in Rachel’s philosophies; I often forget that wellness isn’t just physical – hitting the gym and eating healthier food – but developing a balance between the physical and our relationships, career, and spirituality. We could all learn a thing or two from Rachel so read on…”
You can find the full review here.
This post originally appeared on August 20 in the Huffington Post.
One of my instructors at nutrition school, Dr. Mark Hyman, said something that really resonated. He said that most people don’t know how bad they feel until they start feeling good. Now the idea of working in wellness obviously isn’t to put everyone into a panic that they, unknowingly, feel awful (though I have seen that tactic used to my horror). What is clear as day is that many people settle for an abysmal state of “health”.
Working with type-A urban professionals, I see that while most people will do just about anything to feel better if they’re unwell, those same people can’t seem to motivate themselves to budge much in the name of prevention. Or even in the name of improvement, perhaps because such a vibrant state of well-being is so foreign that it’s unimaginable.
This curious epidemic is especially notable given the relatively recent rise in adrenal fatigue, also called adrenal burnout. Once relegated to the hippie alternative column in the minds of medical practitioners and prospective patients, this health issue is gaining traction because its identification and treatment really works.
Scott Davis, co-owner and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner at Toronto’sOctopus Garden Yoga Centre, cites adrenal fatigue as one of the most common issues he sees in his busy clinic. Six years ago, he treated me for this very condition.
According to Davis, the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are things that the busy professional might just take for granted as part of life: chronic back and muscle pain, constant fatigue even after caffeine or a full night of sleep, frequent colds and flu, low libido, inflammation and anxiety. A combination of these symptoms may be an indication that your adrenal glands, responsible for helping your body respond to stress by producing adrenaline and cortisol, are out of juice.
The stress that used to fire you up to work harder or faster or better simply stops having that effect, because the physiology of constant stress without recovery has worn out the mechanism that gives you your “adrenaline edge”.
What’s a skeptical adrenaline junkie to do? Davis offers three “free therapies” that complement TCM treatment, helping to “close the hole in the bucket” so that you can start restoring your energy in a sustainable way.
1. Exercise regularly, and in a way that honours your natural expansion and contraction from a state of exertion to a state of relaxation. Yoga is ideal. If you run, try alternating sprinting and walking instead of maintaining a steady pace.
2. Subtly change the way you eat — not so much what you eat, but how you eat. Make eating the primary activity at mealtime, rather than multitasking. An easy way to remember to do this is to take a moment at the start of a meal to say thanks.
3. Practice deep relaxation, like meditation or restorative yoga, regularly. Your body can re-learn how to unwind, shifting from “fight or flight” into “rest and digest”, and this is a terrific way to practice.
None of these are rocket science, and while they might take trying something new, they are all practical and easy to incorporate into even a busy life. The question is, are you ready to start feeling better yet?
July 31, 2013 in Published & Press
This post originally appeared July 31 in the Canadian Bar Association online magazine, which you can find here. You’ll be seeing more of me there as the new wellness blogger!
It’s no secret that the care lawyers show for their clients and colleagues (and perhaps also family and friends) pales in comparison to their self-care.
The statistics on lawyer well-being are also no secret, with notable issues being addiction, depression, and substance abuse. Burnout is just part of the work cycle when you’re a lawyer.
Despite these trends that we know so well, I’ve noticed a marked hesitation among lawyers, again and again, in taking even the most conservative and incremental steps to take care of themselves. The fear seems to be: “If I step off the mill, will I be able to get back on?” Perhaps more daunting: “Will I want to?”
So first things first: I’d like to dispel the notion that feeling well requires a life overhaul (more on that below), and that taking care of yourself and being an excellent lawyer are mutually exclusive goals. In reality, prioritizing well-being allows you to do whatever work you decide to do even better.
It may be that if you shift to run on things like sleep and nutrients instead of adrenaline and coffee, you will decide to jump ship and do something else. But that was always an option. The fact is, attrition is notoriously high in the legal profession, and the old adage that we find lawyers everywhere may mean one of two things: that legal training is a highly transferable skill; or that lawyers are prone to flee far and wide. The fear of what’s next, however, could be keeping you from considering another option: That you might just discover a sense of calm and clarity of purpose and thinking that you didn’t know was available; and that your practice will reflect that new state beautifully.
When the 11am and 4pm (and potentially 11pm) slump are memories of the past (along with the glucose-deprived brain that accompanies them), and important parts of your life – like relationships – are nourishing you rather than adding stress, you may wonder if you have acquired a superpower. And then, you can do with it what you will.
Whatever you decide, the distance from here to there is much, much closer than you think.
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