Stephanie Middleberg, a dietitian, author and mom shares how becoming a mom made her a better professional
Feb 23, 2017
The truth is that many women are afraid of entering into motherhood in fear of what might happen to their career. The hard reality is that there are still (despite of the fact that it is 2017...) many cases where pregnancy can cost women their jobs and career. However, for many, motherhood can bring a major shift in perspective that can make them better at what they do professionally. Ever wonder how becoming a mother might affect your career? The Mitera team met with Stephanie Middleberg, a registered dietician/entrepreneur/mommy of Middleburg Nutrition to find out how motherhood has made her a better dietitian and propelled her career forward into a direction she never expected.
1. Tell us about yourself!
I am Stephanie Middleberg, Registered Dietitian and founder of Middleberg Nutrition, a health and wellness practice in NYC. I’m also author of a new book called, The Big Book Of Organic Baby Food: Baby Purees, Finger Foods and Toddler Meals for Every Stage AND curate nutritional lectures and workshops at the 92nd Street Y here in NYC.
2. Where do you live in NY?
We live in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn NY
3. How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
Julian, 16 months
4. You've had quite a career in the field of nutrition and wellness. Can you share with us your background and career highlights?
You can say my career in this field started in high school, I was a very focused athlete, tennis in particular, and I realized very early on how important food was to my performance. Fast forward to my 20’s and working in healthcare PR. I found myself far more interested in the health side of the work than the day to day PR work (although this experience was priceless, more on that in a bit…) opened up US News & World Report’s best graduate schools (remember when that was a thing? Is it still a thing?) and settled on the Master’s of Public Health Program at NYU. It was at the same time I developed some serious stomach issues. Going through the process to deal with that, all different types of doctors and doing my own research, really left me without the answers, or the remedy I needed. This made me realize I’m not the only one dealing with this and that there must be a lot of frustration out there. So I dropped the Public Health focus and instead dialed in on the nutrition.
I was fortunate to be one of the few with an internship and job in a private practice. This experience was invaluable, not only as I saw firsthand how a small business was run, but more importantly it was exactly what I wanted.
Middleberg Nutrition opened its doors in 2010 and has grown organically since. Fast-forward six-years and Middleberg Nutrition has grown to five people, our own office suite and a test kitchen where we host media, whip up new concoctions and work with our clients. It’s been an incredible journey.
My clientele includes young picky eaters, the CEO who dines out every night, the elite athlete looking to truly fine tune their performance but more often just the person looking to feel better. That’s why I love this, because when people (and this is a people business first and foremost) experience the change, it puts them in an entirely new mindset.
Along the way I’ve been incredible fortunate to meet fantastic people and participate in some very cool activities. A lot of them stems from my background in PR. I learned how to effectively communicate very early on and the importance of brevity, timeliness and helping those you’re working with. This allowed me to work with a variety of journalists very early on, not because I wanted my name in the paper, but because there is so much information out there it’s vital to help people laser in on what’s important. These relationships led to all other types of exciting partnerships. For example I work with the storied 92Y to curate their health and wellness programming (including lectures and classes). But my biggest achievement today is the publication of my first book! The Big Book of Organic Baby Food. This was near and dear to my heart as I wrote it while introducing food to my son Julian, literally writing in real time! I’ve never worked so hard on one thing; it really takes it out of you! But I’m very happy with the result and hopefully there will be more!
5. Biggest cravings and aversions during Pregnancy for you?
Aversions: coconut oil. I loved it before I was pregnant and couldn’t even look at it while carrying Julian, which is tough because we practically bathed in it at home.
Cravings: I went right back to childhood. Roast chicken, broccoli and roasted white potatoes with ketchup. I think I had this every Friday night.
6. Can you share with us your breastfeeding and postpartum experience?
I had a tough time getting pregnant and did IVF but had a very healthy pregnancy, delivery and postpartum experience. I took to breastfeeding very easily and so did Julian. I feel that most moms have a rough patch at some point during pregnancy and mine just happened early. The best thing I did, and I recommend to everyone, was taking a lactation class BEFORE giving birth. I knew you could get a specialist at the hospital or after if you have issues but my friends and family had tough experiences with breastfeeding and I knew it wasn’t just “intuitive.” It really put me at ease on day one going in knowing what to do, how to sit, what position Julian should be in, all things that need to be taught. The best part of the class was that the instructor brought in a new mom with a three-week old who was having trouble breastfeeding and they did live feedings! It was intense but it was by far the best education I could have ever received. Second piece of advice is to bring your husband or partner to the lactation class. Those first couple days you are completely out of sorts and to have a second set of eyes and hand is incredibly helpful. Plus it brings the dad into the equation early, typically a time when they don’t know what to do or help with. I’m fortunate my husband was very involved from day one and wanted to go to the class, having him there in the middle of the night with a crying baby was a game changer. This was so important for the both of us. We really shared in the responsibility.
7. How you juggle career and family? What does work-life balance look to you?
On some days I feel like I got this and others I feel like I am letting everyone down. Communication is key and something I continue to work on every day. If I’m overwhelmed, I need to communicate that to my team and to my family, no one can read your mind or know why you’re in a mood without telling them. It’s still tough, especially in a service based business. It’s very hard to put a client email on the backburner even on the weekend and to be honest, most small businesses don’t have the luxury to “disconnect” when not in the office. I will however make sure that the phone is away in the mornings and in the early evening before bed with my son and while I have dinner with my husband. At the end of the day we all need to feel appreciated and valued so I try to let my family and colleagues know that.
8. Tell us what is your favorite food and why?
Chocolate and peanut butter (and ideally together). My son has a peanut allergy (the irony) and so now I sub with sun butter. My dad loves chocolate and I grew up having chocolate every night and it’s just stuck. For me, dark chocolate is my way to unwind. As soon as I get home, I reach for a piece or two as I transition from work mode to family mode.
9. How did adding 'mom' to your existing identity change you?
Professionally it’s changed a lot. It led me to write a baby food cookbook, which would never thought I would do. It also has made me more compassionate to my clients that are parents. I always “understood,” what it was like but now I KNOW what is it like and can give advice and tips based on personal experience. My passions in the nutrition field are also shifting. Because of my son’s eczema and food allergies, it has also propelled me to do more work about prevention of chronic disease in kids.
Personally, it hasn’t shifted all that much. All my friends have kids so it was already part of the conversations and social life. But things like night events have to be VERY special in order for me to give up seeing my son at night.
10. What does a brand like Mitera mean to you?
Pregnant and breastfeeding new moms want to look good too! Mitera gives us a great option to look and feel good, while having all that functionality we scoff at but desperately need! It also means celebrating moms and reminding us that it is ok to find our happiness and our new selves in our role as mom.
Walk us through an average day:
- 5:30am - wake up yelp from my son Julian
- 6:30am - if it’s nice, go for a run with Julian in our running stroller
- 7:15M - hand Julian to dad for breakfast
- 8:00am - leave for work
- 9:00-4pm - clients back to back all day with a break for lunch
- 4:15pm- return calls, emails to doctors, clients, etc.
- 4:30pm – head home
- 5:30pm - Dinnertime. My son eats then and we try to sit down with him and have a bite to replicate a family meal, it helps him stay focused! If I could get more organized I would ideally love to have my full dinner with him at this time but it is a bit early…
- 6-7:30pm - play time, bath time, Julian’s bedtime. My husband and I shift cooking/cleaning duties while the other one spends time with Julian.
- 7:30/8pm- dinner with my husband
- 8pm -9:30 - return client emails, review journals, do media work, etc.
- 9:30-10 - mindless TV
- 10:30 - Lights out.
Definitely check out her book here.