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From Diaper Bag to Briefcase

by Mary Modina
From Diaper Bag to Briefcase
Members of the Working Mothers Support Group juggle family and responsibilities in the office.

Becoming a new mom is hard. Becoming a new working mom is harder and can throw even the most confident, successful woman for a loop.

“It’s really hard. When you’re at work, you think about home and when you’re at home, you think about work,” said Tina Orkin, program coordinator at the USC Office for Parent Programs. “You really need to find a good balance for you and child care.”

These days, Orkin brings her experiences and background to USC, where she mentors new and expectant faculty and staff moms across the University Park campus.

Together with Joan Weiss, program manager for the USC Center for Work and Family Life, Orkin organized the Working Mothers Support Group, an informal group that meets every other Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. to talk about how to balance work and family in their role as mothers.

“Working moms can be isolated and don’t always have a support group,” Orkin said. “By sharing with other moms, they can become more comfortable in their new role as a working mother.”

Orkin, the mother of Melissa ’04 and Jessica ’08, made the daunting decision to return to work after her first daughter was born. After being off for five months on maternity leave, she returned full time as a nurse practitioner in OB-GYN, but soon realized she needed some independence and flexibility.

“I wanted what I did to match being home more. I wanted to participate in my child’s life, so I was able to create a job that would allow me to do that,” said Orkin, who stopped working full time and began teaching Mommy and Me classes for 12 years in the San Fernando Valley.

A new mom faces a variety of emotional and physical struggles. On top of adjusting to a new 24-hour-a-day job as a parent and a changing relationship with her spouse, she’s also dealing with responsibilities at the office and missing her baby – not to mention getting by on two hours of sleep a night.

On a daily basis, she never knows when the phone will ring to let her know her child is sick and that she must pick him up just as she’s about to go into a meeting, or the babysitter can’t come so she has to make alternate plans. And at home, there’s dinner to prepare, bath-time rituals to oversee and a bedtime book to read – all of which needs to be done by 7:30 p.m.

From preparing for birth, breastfeeding, child care/day care options to adjusting to the new family, sleep issues and selecting a pediatrician, Orkin and Weiss dole out positive support and advice to this bi-weekly group that included new mom Trina Voss, business development and licensing specialist for the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation.

“Everywhere you turn, people will tell you that you’re wrong and that you absolutely must follow their (conflicting) advice or you’re ruining your child’s life,” Voss said. “The best advice I ever got (in class) was ‘Decide how you are going to raise your children, then surround yourself with people who will support you.’ You need to find likeminded individuals as armor against all the well-intended advice.”

With many of the Mommy and Me classes held on weekdays during the day, Working Mothers Support Group gives new moms the opportunity to share experiences and be supported during their lunch break.

“There is not one right way to be a parent,” Orkin said. “I don’t believe you can have or do it all. But I think that the more positive support you can have as a parent, the better.”

For more information about the Working Mothers Support Group or to find out the next scheduled meeting, visit www.usc.edu/dept/socialwork/cwfl/workshops.html

From Diaper Bag to Briefcase

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