I was a mess, crying on the kitchen floor, not sure how I was going to make this working parent thing work for me…

The crying-on-the-floor with overwhelm is definitely something I’ve experienced, especially as a new mom.

Working parents have a lot to juggle today.

Last week I shared in our Facebook group how as adults we’re bombarded with technology, information, and work and the result is a feeling of constant busy-ness, the production of less valuable work and exhaustion.

Add to this parenting children and balancing a family life, it’s a lot.

This week I spoke to Lori Mihalich-Levin, a lawyer, a mom and the founder of a Mindful Return.

Lori Mihalich-Levin on building a portfolio career

Lori has a portfolio career. Rather than focusing on ONE thing, she balances her law career, her business and #momlife.

The result is she gets to use different parts of her brain everyday, boosting her creativity and realm of possibilities.

I loved this interview with Lori. She keeps it real when it comes to the challenges we face as women, and has some great advice on building a portfolio career.

You don’t want to miss it. And if you’re a working mom, you’ll love a Mindful Return.

Meet Lori. And after you get to know her, let us know in the comments – what’s the greatest insight you’ve taken from this interview? 

Give us some background. Where are you from, and where did you start out?

I’m originally from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.  I left there when I was 18 to go to college at Princeton in New Jersey, then spent a year living in Aix-en-Provence, France (highly recommend!) on a Rotary Ambassadorial Fellowship.  

Then, in 2002, I moved to Washington, DC, to go to Georgetown for Law School and never left! I now wear three main hats: Founder of Mindful Return, a health care Partner at a law firm called Dentons, and mama to two amazing redheaded boys, ages 5 and 7.

What is your mission, the work you want to do?   

My mission is to employer new parents to see themselves at leaders at their organizations. And to empower them to have calmer, healthier transitions back to work after parental leave.

What led you there? Can you recall any experiences you had that pushed you to your mission?

My own struggles returning to work after maternity leave led me down this path.  I had one child, and going back to work was a struggle. Then I had a second child two years later, and it felt like 1 child + 1 child = 85 children!  I was a mess, crying often on the kitchen floor, not sure how exactly I was going to make this working parent thing work for me.

What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?

I knew I wanted to do something about the massive lack of support for new parents transitioning back to work after parental leave.  But the first demon I had to face my own belief that a risk-averse, Type A, lawyer (with no business school education!) could actually start her own business.  

My husband, an entrepreneur, MBA, and career coach, was definitely key to helping me realize I was indeed capable of diving in and starting to help solve the problem I had identified.  He also helped convince me that “sales” wasn’t a dirty word!

The other key challenge I’ve faced since starting Mindful Return is the daily juggle between and among my roles as lawyer, business owner, and mama to two beautiful redheads.  

I’ve come to appreciate just how much I love using very different parts of my brain throughout the week, and how much I believe in the so-called “portfolio approach” to a career.  I’ve come to learn that I’m happy precisely because I’m not doing one thing full time.

What does living from a place of possibility mean to you?

I love this question.  For me, living from a place of possibility means getting quiet much more often that we typically do in modern life.  

It means sitting in the “white space” (which I talk more about here) on a regular basis and getting curious about what comes up.  It means abandoning the idea that there’s one “way it’s done,” and embracing the idea that the universe is indeed an abundant and magnificent place.

Can you recall a time when you shifted from making a decision(s) out of fear vs. possibility? What was that like? And why did you feel the need to make that decision?

Posting my very first-ever blog post on the web back in 2014 was one of those fear vs. possibility shifts for me.  I remember so clearly sitting on my bed, typing that first post, almost shaking at the prospect that it might be “out there” in the world at some point, escaping my control.  The fear part of my brain told me not to publish it. Not to open myself up to the world. That my ideas weren’t anything new.

And then, the possibility part of my brain got motivated by what I knew, deep down, to be true.  That what I was writing was in fact *not* already out there in the world (or I would have found it!).  That by sharing my story, I would be helping other new working moms feel supported and not so alone. And that no matter what happened as a result of putting that blog post into the world, it would be honest, authentic, and healing for me to do so.  

What advice do you have for 20 to 30-somethings who want to make an impact through their work but are currently feeling stuck?

First, even while you’re knee-deep in the struggle of trying to get unstuck, start an active gratitude practice.  (I love using The 5 Minute Journal daily, for example.)  When I “find the good” in a moment or situation, I’m always amazed at how much there is to be grateful for *right now*, in this moment, and how the experiences I’m having – experiences that may not be ideal – have indeed been excellent stepping stones for the next leap I want to take.

Next, recognize that wherever you are is a chance to have an impact on another human being.  So the substance of your work doesn’t make you excited to jump out of bed in the morning?  Can you make a difference to the life of a person in your workplace?  Focusing on the people always helps center me.

And finally, as you search for that way to make an impact, follow your intuition as to where the gaps are.  Look around, and when you find yourself saying “there really should be an X” or “wow, why doesn’t Y exist?” pay close attention to that.  And then know that with baby step after baby step, you can create something amazing.

What questions do you have for Lori on making work and life work? And what’s the greatest insight you’ve taken from this interview? Does building a portfolio career appeal to you? Share with us in the comments below or share a discussion in our Facebook group

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

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