The Working Gal's Guide to Babyville

Your Must-Have Manual for Life with Baby


By Paige Hobey

By Allison Nied

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You’re an independent career woman suddenly dropped into the chaos of Babyville. You have a newborn to care for, three months (if you’re lucky) of unstructured time to fill, a work decision to make (to go back full-time? part-time? job share?), childcare to acquire, and family finances to balance. You need someone to make you laugh during the hard times, a doctor to call in the middle of the night, and a good career counselor to boot. Never fear! Sure to become the gold standard resource during that crazy first year, The Working Gal’s Guide to Babyville combines stories and sisterly advice from the trenches, infant care information and tips from a pediatrician, and career and budget guidance from a pro. From getting baby to sleep through the night to making the most of maternity leave, from weighing work options to finding childcare, from networking with new parents to emotionally transitioning from “Ms. Independent to Mom,” it offers desperately needed, easy-to-execute strategies and expert solutions on all manner of Year One issues. The essential guidebook for today’s busy career moms, it’s every bit as hip, smart, and savvy as the women who’ll be reading it.


The Working Gal’s
Guide to Babyville

The Working Gal’s
Guide to Babyville

Must-Have Manual
for Life
with Baby

with Dr. Allison Nied

For my son Bailey, who inspired this book, and my husband Charlie, who never said I was crazy to try writing it.

Also for my daughter Avery Grace, who missed the writing phase but arrived just in time for this dedication.

And for my fellow new moms: Here’s to raising a generation of shockingly well-adjusted, creative, enthusiastic children who make the world a better place and, more importantly, never forget Mother’s Day.


Here You Come!

Loving Life Among the Little People

Welcome to that postpartum parallel universe we call Babyville, a land seemingly run by the little people. Think of this book as your insider’s travel guide—whether you’re gearing up for your newborn’s grand entrance, looking for strategies to nurture a supersleeper, trying to make the most of your maternity leave, or wondering how to pump at work without feeling like an overpaid dairy cow in cute shoes.

My Adventures in Babyville

When I started this book, my son Bailey was six months old, and I was up to my ears in the new parent whirlwind you’re probably experiencing now—or will be soon. I had perfected the art of appearing coherent on five hours sleep. I was trying to fit mom into my self-image somewhere between adventurous and ambitious. I was fine-tuning my potential new mom friend radar: Pushing a stroller? Check. Has that cheerfully disoriented look of a woman thrilled to be out of the house but unsure what to do next? Check. All systems go. Approach at will and shamelessly use own baby as conversation starter. And after being tormented for weeks, I had recently made a work decision my prebaby self would have considered crazy.

Initially I approached working momhood with a sort of naive optimism. I happily planned to have a baby and, buoyed by maternal fulfillment, transition seamlessly back to my job—combining work and family life with Zen-like grace. Or something like that. And during those all-consuming first few weeks after my son was born, the plan still felt right. I was both madly in love with him and secretly thrilled I had a job to escape to after maternity leave. I remember one night during a 3:00 A.M. feeding actually fantasizing about being back at work. The computer waiting patiently on my desk. The meetings where nobody cried, pooped, or spit up. My colleagues (such an adult word!) milling about the halls, chatting about world events and philosophy. (I said it was a fantasy.) I was nostalgic for the safety of the known career world.

But as my son grew more interactive and the every-two-hour overnight feedings gradually improved, newborn chaos was replaced by a new sense of coziness. I was getting the hang of this new mom thing, resting enough to feel actual emotions, and successfully leaving the house with baby in tow. My glorious, newfound mom–life balance began to feel threatened by an impending work schedule that would clearly disrupt our peaceful world order.

So I did what any mature career gal with hard-hitting problem-solving skills would do: I panicked. I lay awake at night mentally debating work arrangements that would allow more access to my son while still paying the bills. I considered freelancing. I thought about asking to work from home. I contemplated every variation of flextime and part-time scheduling, from half days to job sharing. I woke up at the crack of dawn and scratched out the pros and cons of all my options, devising plans for negotiating with my boss and making mini–family budgets along the edges of the paper. I was a woman obsessed.

And that’s when the idea for this book was born. “You should really write this stuff down,” a friend suggested as I described the myriad work options I was considering. “Maybe you could make a magazine article out of it.” Or a book, I thought in a freakish moment of postpartum clarity. I sure couldn’t find one to help navigate all the challenges of my new mom reality—from finding a pediatrician to finding quality child care. I had the obligatory stockpile of parenting books, but none offered what I really wanted—those nuggets of wow-that-makes-life-easier parenting wisdom without all the filler. Expert tips for helping my son sleep through the night without the three hundred pages on infant REM cycles. Practical help, like a comprehensive life-with-baby shopping list. And maybe some mom-tested advice more current than my Girlfriend Guide’s “real fashion secret” for pregnancy: stirrup pants.

Eventually, my company (an Internet start-up) downsized (there’s a shocker) toward the end of my maternity leave, eliminating any hope for flexible work arrangements and sending full-timers’ workloads into the stratosphere. So, I decided to do the freelancing mom thing with gusto, over time give this book a shot, and see where life led me. I’d been managing a team that developed pregnancy and parenting content for the Web, and after I pushed an eight pound, ten ounce person out of my body, a bigger writing project began to seem doable. Since then, my career path, like that of so many new moms, has bobbed and weaved in ways I never would have predicted. I started freelancing using my Internet development experience, then added some marketing and magazine writing. And in between other projects, I tackled this book. I didn’t know if I’d ever get it published, but I wanted to try.

I set out to create the resource I needed (and answer the wide range of questions I had) when my son was born, using a concise, easy-to-execute format that is as fun to read as it is useful. I talked to new moms in every work arrangement imaginable, interviewed experts in fields from newborn sleep to child care logistics, and pulled from my own wild and wacky—and probably very typical—experiences. I also contacted Dr. Allison Nied, a great New York City pediatrician and friend, and suggested a collaborative project. She had the M.D.; I was living in the trenches of Babyville. Dr. Nied loved the idea of a year one book for working moms, and she provided detailed input on every chapter—even the career-related ones (she’s a working mother herself). All infant care, feeding, sleeping, health, development, and safety content comes with her expert seal of approval, and many of Dr. Nied’s quick tips are highlighted throughout the book.

And here we are. This book has been such a fun challenge to write; I really hope you find it helpful. And after you read it, I hope you feel even more supported and confident in your new role.

And Now, Your Adventures in Babyville

As you adjust to new motherhood, hang in there. This is going to be an amazing year. You’ll have unforgettable memories of childbirth or adoption. You’ll make great new mom friends. Your baby will—eventually— sleep through the night. And you’ll develop your own strategies for integrating work and parenthood, your own support group, and your own happy routines.

It’s a fascinating time to be a new mom. We have abundant opportunities and successful role models. We know more about infant cognitive development than ever before. Employers are increasingly offering flexibility and work–life supports, and even the less proactive ones are generally open to compelling proposals. And it seems the media can’t get enough of us. Some say we’re hyperscheduled perfectionists who apply drive sharpened at work to the nuanced role of motherhood. Others have tried to shed light on a mythical conspiracy of maternal silence. New moms are afraid to admit, the myth goes, that the “greatest job in the world” has some not so great days—and those early weeks of overnight feedings and 24/7 diaper duty can in fact be a tough adjustment. And some say we’re embroiled in a “mommy war,” stay-at-home moms and stay-at-work moms supposedly battling it out via passive-aggressive commentary in neighborhood parks.

My take on this topic may sound simple, but here it is: We each experience motherhood differently. Some of us get lucky. We have easy babies who sleep a lot, eat without complaint, and generally go with the flow. We receive the support we need. Our employers step up with mom-friendly accommodations or we have a handy knack for adjusting to life-altering situations without losing it. Other infants may be more challenging. Your postpartum hormones may be particularly intense, you may need more help, or you may simply require more time to settle into your new role.

We are bringing an impressive set of skills and life experiences to motherhood these days. We’re waiting later to have children than previous generations did, taking more time for school and career. But whether you bring your workday urgency home is up to you. After a lifetime in fast-forward, you’ll downshift to a cozy stillness during those early weeks, as your days combine hours of quiet feedings and newborn naps. But over time, you’ll get some play dates on the calendar and bring your high-energy enthusiasm to your new role. And I’m guessing we can all find a happy midpoint between hyperscheduling and missing out on the fun stuff.

There will be crazy days. And nights. Just know we’ve all been there, the most stressful moments often make for the best stories, and in the craziness lies the wild ride of parenthood.

And while personal choices around work and family are always emotionally loaded, the new moms I know treat one another with congenial respect—like a dispersed brigade bonded through universal battles with infant spit-up and interrupted sleep. Maybe I’m missing a “mommy war” somewhere, but I like to think we’re all in this thing together. In fact, the at-home versus working mom dichotomy is in itself outdated—these days we each find our own path along a spectrum of work and family life. Some of us sequence out of the workforce for a while and then return to our careers. Others start home-based businesses that can be managed as our babies nap. And some maintain the trajectory, income, and benefits of full-time career paths.

There are as many ways to combine work and motherhood these days as there are new moms out there trying it. I wish you all the best as you make your own choices—this year and over time as your family needs and career priorities shift. And trust me, they will. But that’s another book . . .

Chapter 1
Preparing for Maternity Leave

Gearing Up, Getting Prepped, and Transitioning from Miss Independent to Mom

Maggie stopped midstride, looked up at the curly-haired toddler on the babyGap poster, and knew it was time. She crossed the street and bought new underwear. (Yes, her cotton briefs were more comfortable, but she was a woman on a mission.) She went home and finally read the instructions on her ovulation kit. Then she called Josh and gave him the good news: Time to gear up the Tivo; priorities were shifting to the bedroom. Operation Babyville was about to begin.

Four months later, standing side-by-side in the bathroom, they first saw the line. Maggie looked up at Josh in disbelief and then rechecked the test instructions. Maybe she had done it wrong, though admittedly peeing on a plastic stick wasn’t rocket science. Maybe she was looking at it wrong, though assessing the presence of a line seemed pretty doable. Maybe the test was malfunctioning. Of course, two additional tests offered the same result. Ultimately, the mistake scenarios were ruled out, and the line remained. The wild ride of pregnancy had begun.

Maggie moved past morning sickness like a pro. She maintained a healthy obsession with potential baby names and surrounded herself with key prenatal literature—weekly e-mail newsletters on fetal development, eating-for-baby books, and flyers from Old Navy maternity. She knew more about pregnancy than any OB-GYN. Then she rounded into her third trimester (no pun intended), and it hit her. Her pregnancy was almost over, and by the time she could say, “Epidural, please,” an actual newborn would be making full use of the painstakingly selected crib bedding in the nursery.

It’s parenthood prep time—your opportunity to plan for maternity leave, gear up, learn newborn care essentials, and get a really great haircut. Yes, it’ll be a while before you see that salon again. For a comprehensive guide, read on. You’ll get the inside scoop on transitioning from Miss Independent to Mom, a shopping list of new baby stuff you really need (and the top 10 things you don’t need even though they’re cute), a final countdown to baby to-do list, and more.

Emotional Preparation: From Miss Independent to Mom

From Jennifer’s journal:

Hannah is two weeks old, and I’m still feeling like the real parents could walk in any minute, hand me $20, and offer to drive me home. After twenty-eight years of being Independent Jen, I’m suddenly a 24/7 caretaker and it feels odd—not bad, just unfamiliar, like that semester I spent in France trying to fake a decent accent and wishing I’d packed something black. And the magnitude of this parenthood commitment is slowly sinking in. Spontaneously leaving the house seems about as likely as fitting into my prepregnancy work clothes by the end of maternity leave—somewhere in the range of Never Gonna Happen.

In contrast to newborn care and postpartum recovery, my typical work challenges now seem like, well, child’s play. The client needs that report by tomorrow? Calm down, people! There’s no life hanging in the balance here, no physical pain to endure, no hormonal chaos to manage. What have I been stressing out about all these years? Overall, I’m completely in love with Hannah but still shaky on my new role as an actual parent. Just hoping it’ll sink in by Mother’s Day.

Let’s put things in perspective. When we were born, the average female married and became a mother at age twenty-one, and less than 28 percent of new moms worked during year one.1,2,3 Women went from living with family to starting a family at warp speed, often focusing on kids before or instead of careers.

Today, we’re taking time for school, work, regrettable road trips, and volunteering. We’re getting established in our careers, navigating the dating scene, and spending lots of time with friends. And we’re kicking some serious guy butt: Women are now more likely than men to graduate from college, work as professionals, and manage teams.4 Most of our career paths continue well past third stage labor. Over 70 percent of U.S. mothers with children under eighteen work for pay in some capacity, from full-time to freelancing, including the majority of moms year one in Babyville.5

We approach parenting with the diligence, planning skills, and sense of adventure we’ve honed during years of work and life experiences. We take classes on breast feeding and infant CPR, we consult friends about strollers, we research child care online, and we read everything ever written on infant sleep. Then our newborns arrive, and we realize we forgot one little detail: preparing for the emotional transition from independent career gal to mom.

Your New Title

Mama. Mommy. Mom. Mother. Does it feel real yet? If not, don’t worry; it’s going to take a little while. “Mom” happens to be a loaded word. Maternal, motherly, childbearing—these terms have lots of obvious connotations, but they don’t initially bring to mind active, accomplished, or adventurous. The institution of motherhood is historically more about aprons than adventures. The Mother’s Day cards you’ve been buying all your life suddenly become personal. That World’s Greatest Mom sweatshirt in the mall is a scary but viable impending gift. You now share more than you care to admit with June Cleaver, and after years of doing your own thing, you begin to wonder if you’re becoming your own mother.

Your New Role in Your Old Worlds

It was tricky enough to feel like yourself at work as your pregnant belly threatened to capsize you; now you get to balance your maternal drive and career drive. Your routines with friends may shift a bit initially as well. The book club meetings, spontaneous coffee runs, and Saturday afternoon yoga classes will be competing with newborn naptimes. And, if you have a significant other in your parenthood picture, you have to get comfortable with your new mom status in the realm of romance. Are you really expected to go straight from breast-feeding in the nursery to flaunting your (admittedly impressive) new mom cleavage in the master bedroom? To transition from maternal goddess to sex goddess faster than you can say Victoria’s Secret?

Acquiring citizenship in Babyville can require some matriculation time. Your well-established self-image suddenly expands, and motherhood changes your perspective on everything else—your career, your friendships, your significant other. But as you settle into your new role, you realize the change is good. Sure, things become more complicated, but ultimately you just feel blessed to have this perfect child—plus all the rest. You find a new groove at work; you create new routines with friends; you learn to transition between maternal love and romantic love without requiring therapy. Feel better knowing you are not becoming your mother, and you are not becoming June Cleaver. You are becoming yourself, with a little buddy to accompany you on your adventures in life. And yes, the adventures are only beginning.

Becoming a Mom: Like Turning Thirty, but with More Labor Pains and Less Party Cake

Becoming a mom is like other major milestones that fundamentally affect your sense of self—hard to imagine as you anticipate the change, but positive in the end. For example, turning thirty. Your birthday approaches. You’re certain the end of your twenties will be the end of life as you know it—practical Sunday afternoons doing home repairs will replace weekend road trips, DVD rentals will replace nights out with friends, your fun new job will start to get old, and spontaneous kisses on the sidewalk will fade into memory. Then you hit the big three-o, and you wake up feeling really good. You realize you’ve moved beyond your twenties and you still recognize yourself in the mirror; you imagine sliding into your third decade with a graceful joie de vivre. As time passes, your fears fade. You still go out with friends (unless anything new with Jude Law has been released on DVD—one has to keep her priorities in order). You enjoy your job, and your guy still kisses you spontaneously on the sidewalk (if you stop him and suggest it). You poll your friends and they agree. One can still be independent, daring, and romantic at the age when most of our parents had three kids and a station wagon. It’s a new way to think of thirty-something.

A New Way to Think of Motherhood

Similarly, many aspects of parenting have changed since we were kids— and we need a new way to think of good ol’ momhood. I have a few suggestions to get things started:

  • Paid maternity leave should be guaranteed for every working mom. And child care assistance. And flexible work hours. And weekly foot massages.
  • The next must-have video game should feature a brilliant yet refreshingly down-to-earth mom leading her family through the Brazilian rainforest. And she should do it all using her wit and photographic memory—no violence necessary.
  • All Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best reruns should be banned. And who’s writing those mom-targeted TV commercials? A quick word to marketers: Mothers actually aren’t emotionally devastated by laundry that doesn’t smell like a field of wildflowers or dishes that don’t sparkle like a new sports car. A new sports car we could get excited about. Dishes, no.
  • A mom should run the United Nations. (Peacekeeping. Feeding the hungry. Calming troublemakers. Not exactly a stretch.)
  • All prime-time sports programming could be replaced by heart-pumping highlights of moms juggling paperwork and pediatrician appointments with mind-boggling footwork and physical agility.
    Commentators could narrate the footage, “It’s Monday night, and we’re bringing you the big plays! This week, Catherine Kincaid has to give her big sales pitch just minutes after dropping her six-month- old son at child care. And he’s teething!”
  • A mom should have to sign off on all new legislation. And federal appropriations. And did I mention the weekly foot massages?

There are changes to be made. In the meantime, we’ll redefine motherhood for ourselves. And, like turning thirty without losing touch with all things daring and romantic, we’ll become the moms we want to be without losing touch with ourselves. Today’s moms and kind of ’70s-sounding). We’ve simply been trying to do the things that define us most and mean the most to us. Make more than one kind of mark on the world. Raise children, and land the raise that will help pay for their education. Provide. are hip and hilarious, savvy “have it all” (much too presumptuous Create a family and still create ourselves. and strategic; we’re lots of It wasn’t that we set out to things, but none requires an apron.

It wasn’t that we set out to “have it all” (much too presumptuous and kind of ’70s-sounding). We’ve simply been trying to do the things that define us most and mean the most to us. Make more than one kind of mark on the world. Raise children, and land the raise that will help pay for their education. Provide. Create a family and still create ourselves.

Founder and President of Executive Moms

Your New Baby Shopping List: The Stuff You Really Need

“I give up,” Sarah’s husband called from the other end of the newborn essentials aisle. “Are they kidding with all this stuff?”

Sarah looked at the dozens of infant feeding, cleaning, playing, bathing, diapering, and clothing options around them and realized they were in way over their heads. “There’s no way all these things are essential,” she replied. “We just have to figure out what we really need.”


On Sale
Apr 29, 2009
Page Count
440 pages

Paige Hobey

About the Author

The working mother of two children under three years old, Paige Hobey is a contributing writer for Parenting magazine and Chicago Parent. The Hobeys live in Chicago.

Allison Nied, M.D. is a board-certified pediatrician based in New York City.

Learn more about this author