Today, we’re excited to share the working mama story of Cait Zogby, one of our Mindful Return alums! If you’ve been following along on the Mindful Return blog, you know that earlier this year, we announced our 7 specific ongoing diversity and inclusion commitments (Mindful Return’s Diversity Commitments: Reporting Out from My Work with a Diversity Consultant). One of these commitments was to use the power of storytelling, to weave the perspectives of a wide range of working parent experiences into our weekly blog posts and newsletters. This interview is the fourth in our “Amplifying Stories” series.
Cait is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, mama of twins, and the Co-Founder and Chief Community Officer at MotherNation. Tune in below for her important perspectives on doing work that matters, neurodiversity, and especially her advice to parents on using gender-neutral language in talking about kids and parents.
Mindful Return: Cait! Welcome to the Mindful Return blog. First, we’d love to hear a bit about your working parent story. Where do you live? How old are your kids? And what type of work do you do?
Cait: Thank you Lori! I’m thrilled to be sharing some of myself with the Mindful Return community. I am raising my 4.5 year old twins with my wife in the suburbs of Washington, DC. We just left the District. And I’m still having trouble admitting (and adjusting) to life in the burbs 🙂
I am an entrepreneur by way of perinatal social work. I am Chief Community Officer at the company I co-founded, MotherNation. MotherNation is a maternal well-being community and coaching platform. We create safe and brave spaces for everyone who identifies as a Mother to invest in themselves and each other.
Mindful Return: What inspired you to co-found MotherNation?
Cait: My own experience! My co-founder, Adrienne, and I became Mothers together when our first babies were born 1 day apart. We celebrated and marveled at all the cute faces, and the coincidence. (My twins were born 7 weeks early, and her daughter was 1 week late!) Then, we had our respective postpartum experiences.
We struggled in completely different ways, but we both struggled. We became witnesses to each other’s journey into Motherhood. Witnesses to the shift in identity. To the shock of how hard it was. And to the beauty of it all.
We learned from day one the importance of that witness. The importance of that support and community reflecting back at you what can be so hard to see in early Motherhood. That we were doing a great job.
We want more moms (all moms!) to have access to support, so they can forge their own path in Motherhood. One that allows them to uphold their values as a parent but continue growing as a person…and we wanted to make it easy.
Mindful Return: What was your biggest challenge heading back to work after having a baby?
Cait: I had a non-traditional “return to work” experience, as entrepreneurship is a very different work environment than my previous work as a social worker. I stayed home with the twins beginning at 28 weeks pregnant, due to complications. And I didn’t fully “return to work” until this year, when the twins started Pre-K 3.
I took advantage of a “flexible schedule,” working during naps and after bedtime for years. My biggest challenge was and continues to be organization. The mental load of Motherhood is so immense and unending, that both my life and theirs fell apart around me.
I was diagnosed with ADHD 18 months ago, and I actually learned that very often women (or people raised as women) don’t get diagnosed until parenthood. Why? Because so many of the ways we’re socialized allow us to skate under the radar in school and in work settings. We don’t even notice our neurodiversity until we have less bandwidth to apply those learned skills.
I spent so much of Motherhood before I was diagnosed struggling to reconcile my perception of myself as a capable person and the undeniable lack of capability I had in the moment. I forgot to pay bills, lost more documents than I can count, and missed deadlines left and right. Now, I have a lot of support around my ADHD, but I’m still testing out best practices for my unique self. And I know I’ll continue to learn and refine as I go.
Mindful Return: How has being a member of the LGBTQ+ community shaped your working parent experience?
Cait: I’ve been fortunate to always work in professional environments that were committed to DEI initiatives. But I should say I specifically sought out fields and organizations that I knew were supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
I’ve been very shaped by living and parenting with another working mom. It’s given me opportunities to confront my own heteronormativity and gender bias. It has also allowed me to see the perspective and experiences of a mom who is more masculine of center who is navigate working Motherhood, though my wife’s experience.
It helps me, someone who has enormous privilege in my community as a White, cis, femme person, remember that I am the least marginalized, most supported working parent who identifies as LGBTQ+. Knowing this, I interrogate systems that I navigate pretty easily, in support of my community members.
Mindful Return: What’s the top thing you wish individual Allies of LGBTQ+ mamas would do or know?
Cait: The thing I want each mom who espouses support for families like mine to do is use gender neutral language for everyone until they know differently.
Use “parent,” “person,” and “kid,” instead of “mom,” “dad,” “boy,” and “girl.” Children want organized and neat schemas. But people don’t actually fit into organized and neat schemas. It’s much more difficult for kids to expand their thinking after the binary and traditional family structures as the norm have been established, even if it’s easier for them to do than adults.
I come out at least once every day when correcting someone who asks about my husband or refers to my kids’ “dad.” Defaulting to neutrality is a simple step you can take to give agency back to an LGBTQ+ person in conversation – the choice to “come out” is theirs then, fully.
Mindful Return: What’s the top thing you wish employers would know about moms in the LGBTQ+ community?
Cait: I want employers to know that all employees want to work somewhere that values their whole self and recognizes nontraditional paths to success.
So many LGBTQ+ people are abandoned by their families and communities of origin and have had to build the path that led them to your door one step at a time, with little to no support. Most LGBTQ+ people spend collective years hiding or obscuring who they are for varying degrees of safety. Being in an environment that appreciates them fully is really meaningful.
Mindful Return: What’s your biggest hope or dream for your own career?
Cait: The biggest dream and hope I have for my career is that my work meant something to the people I’ve met through it. Having a career that helps people has always been important to me, and I’ll consider myself “successful” if that’s true.
Mindful Return: Name one of each of the following that inspires you *or* that you find incredibly entertaining: (1) a podcast; (2) a book; (3) a show; and (4) an Instagram account.
Cait: 1) The podcast I find most inspiring is “The Double Shift.” Katherine Goldstein and Angela Garbes are two people I admire professionally so much, and the moms who share their stories inspire me. I take some of their passion and purpose with me after every episode.
2) The book that inspires me the most is Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. Each time I read it, I’m renewed in my own passion for connection and community.
3) The most inspiring movie I’ve seen lately, as someone who doesn’t watch many movies, was Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The way in which the characters connect so deeply with so few words reminds me just how many layers people have and that each layer has its own unique capacity for connection.
4) The most entertaining Instagram account I follow is @goodasgoldblum – adventures in fashion with Jeff Goldblum and his stylist. I am fascinated by the cult following he has, and his style is fantastic.
Mindful Return: Tell us one story of you as a working parent that convinces us you’re human (and not a superwoman with a cape).
Cait: The amount of times working motherhood has reduced me to a pile of rubble and stripped away any ego I might have had is countless. I can’t even pick a specific story! My children are my most honest critics and my biggest champions.
Mindful Return: And finally, what’s one question I didn’t ask here, but that you’d like to answer? (And then please answer it!)
Cait: Question: If I had a whole day all to myself what would I do? Since this is my own question I’ll just state the obvious: COVID notwithstanding. Then I’d need to know if it was 12 hours or 24 hours. That would change my answer dramatically.
If I had 24 hours, I would catch the last flight of the night to Chicago, my hometown, and spend every moment possible there. Accepting there will be copious amounts of coffee and a smattering of delirium by the end, I’d get off the plane and go dancing. Then, I’d have tacos from “The Yellow Awning” on Western Ave. (That’s not its real name but definitely the best tacos). And then, I’d sleep for maybe 4 hours, max. I’d spend all day bouncing between my favorite spots, which are too many to count, and pour myself onto the last flight back to DC, promising myself I’d sleep in tomorrow.
If “a whole day” is 12 hours I’d stay in town. I’d wake up early and have coffee on my front porch. A long, leisurely bike ride toward downtown with an early lunch at Rasika. (I love Indian food!). After lunch, I’d take myself to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It opened right before my twins were born, and tickets were very hard to get. Then, free time was hard to get! I’d spend all afternoon there (even though I’ve heard that’s not nearly long enough) and then meet my wife and friends for Detroit style pizza and craft beer. Another leisurely bike ride home to cap off the night. And I’d get into a freshly made bed after a shower and read all night.
Cait Zogby (she/her) is the Chief Community Officer and co-founder of MotherNation. Previously a social worker and parent educator, she is driven to improve the experience of Motherhood in America through community, connection and equity. She’s a wife, mom and a forever champion of the underdog.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave