Totum Women: Helping Modern Mothers Be Whole | Erin Erenberg

Totum Women: Helping Modern Mothers Be Whole | Erin Erenberg

Totum Women: Helping Modern Mothers Be Whole | Erin Erenberg

Hey guys, thank you for tuning in to this episode of MomTalks with Christa. I'm your host, Christa. And man, I am so pumped after today's interview, I spoke with Erin from ToTum Women. And it was just such a cool interview. Erin is so passionate about what she does. And totum women if you haven't heard of it, they are moms advocate. They're doing everything to help moms in everyday life from being from sharing education to workforce, and they work with companies and women to make things better for women after having babies. And she talks so much that I'm just I'm so excited just to share this episode with you guys. So yeah, we got a great episode for you guys. I just want you guys to listen with an open mind. And at the end, she talks about ways you can get involved, share with your friends and be a part of this amazing platform that she has created for all women. So, check it out. And at the very end, don't miss our new segment called mom tales of the week. We are posting them to Instagram and Facebook. And it gives you guys an opportunity to share your mom tales of the week share different stories, we have different questions that we will ask every week that kind of prompts you to share something with us. So, we're going to share some of our favorites at the end of the episode. So, stick around and enjoy this amazing episode with Erin from totum women. Welcome, Erin. Thanks for coming today.

Erin: Thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here with you. Yeah, I'm so excited. So, for anyone doesn't know, can you tell us first a little bit about you. And we'll kind of go from there. I'm a mom of three, I have a nine-year-old, a six-year-old and a three-year-old boy girl boy. I'm also an attorney. I'm originally from a very small town then from there have lived a lot of different places, traveled a lot. I've done a lot of different things were a lot of paths in terms of my career and my work history. I've done everything from work in music law to run a nonprofit in the music industry to working in tech and tech and entertainment worked as an agent for a while in LA and then but there's always been this thread of two things really social impact, like progress and change and being very driven toward autonomy wanting to work in an entrepreneurial way. So, I founded totum women, Toto means whole in Latin. And that's very intentional. Because my experience when I became a mother in 2012, I was a little bit on the older side, I was 34 when I had our first baby and I was not the kind of woman who had grown up playing with baby dolls, or even baby size. They got babysat maybe twice. Our had an idea or a plan around when I was going to have kids, I was really career driven. And when I got married to my husband, who's a veterinarian, by the way, which is sort of a fun fact, we got pregnant, I got pregnant really quickly, right after we got married. And so, I had this experience of new motherhood that absolutely shocked me in a wonderful way. Because I really loved being a mother and I encountered this woman inside of me that I hadn't met before, I found that I had these sides that were really soft, and loving and patient and slow, and kind and I think because I had been so career driven for so long, I had taken in this message that I had to be, direct and focused and high achiever and that's an exhausting way to live. And so, I've always sort of had this fraught relationship with my ambition. But then when I became a mother, I was really shocked at the revolution that had just happened in my body, like how much things changed overnight, and how, frankly, how long it took to heal from childbirth, and no one was talking about that, especially then my mind, I was thinking differently about everything. My ambition, as I just mentioned. I mean, I had a really big job at the time and I was expected to go right back to that. I didn't want to and I didn't know what to make of that. I felt sort of like a bad feminist because this was the time of lean in. That was like the zeitgeist at the time it was lean in and I just wanted to sit down. I was exhausted and really enjoying being able to breastfeed my baby and relax and be it tuned in connected to his needs and I didn't know how I was going to work when I went back to work in this environment that expected so much. So, body mind, ambition and relationships, my relationships changed overnight to everybody. I think that happens to every mother we see our own parents differently. We see our partner differently, our friendships, all of it changes, we need a new group of friends who really understand what we're going through. So, I had this big experience. And I was just shocked that it seemed like the world expected me to be fine, like business as usual. I was also shocked going to baby group and seeing how we weren't really open about what our actual experience was and I just felt like women deserve more women deserve to be whole that I kept feeling really discombobulated and really it's like Humpty Dumpty, like all these different pieces of meat like the me that I was before. I had kids and like, what's the future mean? What's going on with my body, I just felt like, women deserve to be whole and I don't know what I'm going to create now but I am going to eventually make my life about this. So that was 2012. And in 2018, I started to them.

Christa: Wow, that's amazing. I love that story of just kind of, as you were kind of brought into motherhood, you kind of realized like, okay, there's a lot that is not presented at first. And I think you bring up a good point about how a lot of times women have to choose or are told by society, like, choose career or kids. And then once if you do finally choose kids, then you have to go back to your career like nothing happened. So, you bring up amazing points about how can women show that they can be both, but also be real about their experiences in both aspects.

Erin: Absolutely. And I think one of the things that's difficult, and an idea that I'm pretty obsessed with at the moment is that it's particularly difficult in the US because we don't value care. And that's not something I say, just as a something, I think there's data around that and globally, even there's $10.9 trillion of unpaid and visible work on the shoulders of women and girls, and 70% of the top 1% of financially, quote, unquote, successful people in this country are men with a traditional family structure, meaning there's a wife at home, who is handling care, handling everything with the kids, all the mental load an invisible labor of what it means to run a household and look after vulnerable lives and people who are growing. And we saw that, especially during the pandemic as you hear people talk about it as a she session, all these women who were pushed out of the workforce. And Eve Broadsky, is a heroine of mine, and has also become a great friend ad what she says, which is I think a really edgy way to put it is that no woman really chooses to leave their career. It's that our careers are not set up for us to be able to care and the way that we would like to, and to continue in a career that we find fulfilling these. It's really a dichotomy that's set up in competition with one another industry and care really don't play well together.

Christa: That's an awesome. Well, I've never heard what you heard that makes you say, totally, because we are a lot of times made, like we're just saying made to choose. And I think the women that you said exactly, they leave the workforce, but not necessarily because they want to it's because there's something that's not working, it's not balanced, they're not able to balance or they're not able to get their passion from that job. Yeah, I think that's an amazing thing to talk about. So how has totum evolved over the years? You said in 2018 is when you when you started Totum? And so how did it kind of start? And then where are your kind of where's the direction kind of going now?

Erin: Yeah, thanks for that question. Because it has evolved a lot. So, I know this is near and dear to your hearts. We started out with a lactation product. And the reason for that is simply it was the first thing that I made for myself that solved a problem that I was able to deliver to other women. That's really the thesis and what keeps me going with Totum. Like, when I solve a problem for myself, I want to then repeat that at scale to help as many women as possible. So, one of the things that came up for me when I headed right back to work was that I actually feel really fortunate that I had a wonderful breastfeeding experience. Without its difficulties, I certainly had to learn what latch was like the baby's mouth had to be like really wide open all these things that we're not taught that we just, it's hard to kind of fumble through. However, I'll just to be honest, I had these really small boobs, I've always had small boobs, and they were like the little engine that could like when I needed to produce milk, they were fantastic. And I had this wonderful nursing relationship with our baby George and I actually ended up having that with all three of our kids. And I loved it, I love the time, sitting down, rocking him, nursing him, looking at his little face, feeling his soft skin, just seeing the purity, and just the cleanliness of his experience and all of our experiences when we come into Earth, it was something I hadn't thought about much before and it was just so beautiful and nourishing for both of us. And I went back to work, and I was unprepared for what it would be like to leave my baby, and then rely on pumping instead of nursing to feed him. So the very first day, I mean, I worked at a company called IndieGoGo and everybody, by the way, working there at best of intentions, it was just it went from this startup of like five people I think was like the third or fourth employee there to we raised a Series A and Series B and I had hundreds of employees by the time I went back to work. And I was part of building that success. And so, I went back and we were still working like a scrappy startup. And here I am used to feeding my baby between I really fed on demand, because I enjoyed that. And so, it was like, every 45 minutes or every two hours. And then at work, I was just like, whoa, how do I make this work? I was the first mother there. I was the second parent, but the first parent was a dad. And so, I didn't feel comfortable asking him like how do I carve out time to breastfeed? And where do I breastfeed and like I feel awkward about cleaning my pump, I really had no clue. And so, what happens is if you're not keeping up with a regular nursing or pumping schedule, our body it's all supply and demand. So, without regular expression, your body gets the memo, okay, I guess we don't need to make this much milk anymore. And then there's also this thing that happens where you're devoting your brainpower and your energy to something work related rather than being flesh to flesh with your baby. And in that, like I keep saying that kind of like slow mode adds that I felt an enormous amount of pressure to perform. And so, I wasn't stopping to eat as regularly as I had been at home. So, all that was going on, and I kept craving a cookie, I was like, I don't normally have a sweet tooth. But when I was breastfeeding, I had a raging sweet tooth and I kept thinking, I just really want a cookie that tastes like something my grandma would make to me, for me if I was like having a bad day and I want it to be really nourishing and nutrient dense and I wanted to help me make breast milk and I would like look around for the perfect cookie and there was really only one that was big on the market then, and it just wasn't for me. It was dry and crumbly. And I wanted like this soft mouthfeel cookie. Well turned out our company headquarters I was in LA at the time our company headquarters was in San Francisco, and I would stay with my husband's uncle and his husband. And my husband's uncle Robert had been a CEO and Mrs. Fields. So, I said to him, I like keep craving this amazing lactation cookie because I've researched lactation cookies and lactation foods at that point. And he was like, I don't know anything about lactation. He's like 60-year-old married gay man. It's like I don't know lactation but I know how to make an amazing cookie because I work for Mrs. Fields. So together, we created this recipe and these cookies. were fantastic. I mean, it was like a dark chocolate, big, dark chocolate chips and lots of rolled up loads and pistachios, and, pine nuts, and almond butter, all these really really nutrient dense ingredients along with the galactagogue that help you increase breast milk. So, I was making them for myself all the time, I would freeze like a big roll of them and just cut them up and make them all the time. And I was giving them to new moms. I took them to my baby group and anytime a neighbor had a baby or a friend had a baby, I would make them these cookies. And so of course everybody's saying to me like you need to this needs to be a business you need to start a lactation cookie business. And while I was flattered it didn't quite land for me and the reason with the benefit of some time now is that my passion was never baking. I'm not somebody who was like I just like love to bake, I love to bake and I was more interested with the broad mission of helping modern mothers be whole than I was sinking into the production and logistics of getting a cookie to market. That having been said, I did it, because it was the first like I said, the first thing that you no problem at all for myself that other mothers, I mean, not only did they love the taste, they were like really perfect these cookies really performed. Well. I mean, I, our HR manager at a company that I worked at later, was like, oh, my God, I was eking out an ounce and now I've got like four ounces on each side, these things are no joke they've really performed. And so, I was making them I started out working with a baker in Los Angeles, who's also a mom, she's like, former Google turned Baker. And so, we were making these and we were really successful with them, we got into Erawan, which is a well-known like hard to get into specialty foods, grocer in Los Angeles, we got into Erawan. Right away, we were featured in Go and it was really taking off but I was noticing that for me in terms of being the founder of this company, and where I wanted to put my time. So, I now had three kids. What I loved most was the events where we would I would sit around with other experts in the motherhood space, like pelvic floor experts do less maternal mental health therapist and I just loved listening to moms just hearing other moms experiences, and then convening for them experts who could help them navigate and feel less alone. That to me was the juicy piece. And so, I just noticed that we did keep going with the cookies, I turn them into a mix, because it's easier from a shelf life standpoint and a shipping standpoint, a cost perspective. So funny enough, we launched the mix right at the beginning of 2020. And I sunk a lot of personal funds into that it's just expensive to bring a product to market, we were working with a co packer and then depends on the kid. And then our son was diagnosed with type one diabetes completely out of nowhere, the day after Mother's Day 2020. So, my life was really turned upside down. And I consider the pandemic to be a collective trauma, something that we all went through as a trauma. And then I had this personal trauma my whole family did, we don't have a history of type one. So, it's not something that was ever on our radar. And frankly, I had no knowledge of how it even worked. And type one is an autoimmune condition. It's not based on how you're living your life. So, it wasn't like, I could look at his lifestyle and say, oh, you're heading down a path of XYZ. So long story ended up in the hospital for three days with us at the time seven-and-a-half-year-old son, and it was just him and me because it was the height of COVID. So, my husband couldn't be there, our family couldn't be there and it really turned my life on its ear and I had come out of that experience and had to really take a hard look at what I had built with totum because it's really myself and then some contract employees. And I was working really, really hard driven by a mission. And I had to really look at it and say, okay, my time is really valuable. I'm really devoted to care for this family. My family needs me and I need them. What how am I most useful if the problem I'm looking to solve is to help modern mothers be whole? That's never changed for me, by the way, Christa Like, that's always been it for me. What can I do? That I can have a reliable impact with less spend of my time and really look at like, what unique experience or gifts do I bring to this industry, so to speak, because now it's very different from 2012. There are a lot of amazing women who are leading motherhood communities and products that aren't just for baby, but they're for moms to you all included. And so, I had a look at what do I bring to this? That's, that's really my own. And so, I looked at the fact that I've worked in inside companies as a leader and an executive for two decades, I'm an attorney and I decided that I needed to really focus on maternal rights advocacy and so that looked like selling out of the cookies. We just sold out of the last run and decided we were going to pause production and consider whether, there's another company that wants to buy the recipe and when that happens, that's great. I would like to get these back into the world because they work so well. But frankly, I have really focused my efforts on working with companies who want to support their working parents. And doing legal work again, especially for female founders who are moms who need help with employment or business-related strategic work. And so, I really have rejiggered things. And we launched the website totumwork that focuses more on where we're going, we did also launch a series called totum talks during the pandemic, where we bring experts into the homes of women who are looking for support. So that's been great. But and now we are really focused on helping save federal paid leave. So, it's been quite a transition. But I'm really grateful to have my own company where I can just decide to move in this way. I love that, I think, because I think sometimes, we think once we go a certain direction, we have to, like stick that way. But I think pivots are like what make us eventually find like, where our passion lies, and that's where we were, we belong. So, I'd love that journey that you kind of took and like kind of figured out like, Okay, this is where I belong. And this is where I'm most useful to people. Absolutely, yeah, that's exactly it.

Christa: That's awesome. And so, we kind of you kind of brought up the federal leave. So, I want to talk more about that, too, because I know there's a lot that's been going on with it right now. And so, what kind of awareness are you bringing to it? And for those that don't know what's kind of going on with the discussion around federally right now?

Erin: So, President Biden and vice president Kamala Harris initially put forward an initiative that was the American families plan or the American rescue plan, this has gone under so many different names. And one of the most exciting pieces of that initiative was federal paid leave. And it's really a beautifully written initiative. It's incredibly inclusive and includes all genders, it includes more than leaves to take care of a child, it includes both parents who have given birth and adoptive parents, it includes caretaking for any loved one that you might have in your family that you want to you want to care for it includes victims of domestic violence, who need time away from work to recover. It's just a beautifully written initiative. So I was contacted by paid leave us who's one of the main lobby groups who is working for federal pay leave and has been working for federal paid leave for years and I one of the women on that team Jordan Avila I used to work with at omega, which is where I worked before totum and I love her and we've stayed in touch. And so, when I found out about what she was doing, and told her that I was really focused on advocacy, I had done my research around, what it takes to be a successful advocate. And one of the big things is, you don't want to reinvent the wheel, you don't, the worst thing you can do is make it about ego and say, well, this needs to be the totum women initiative to save paid leave, you got to look at who's been working on this for a while and has traction and has a strategy, and then hook your wagon to them and figure out how you can help so I really connected with them early in the year. What's happened with this initiative is that it started out on its own, then it was consumed by the infrastructure initiative. So, under the thesis of well care is family infrastructure. And so, let's wrap this all into infrastructure. But then and I think from what I've learned, one of the part of kind of the death knell of this initiative was that it also was consumed by budget reconciliation. So, you can imagine Congress is looking at, we've got a lot of stuff to pay for and we just went through this really intense time of the pandemic, so much going on with the economy. So, there's this huge initiative to look at. And then on top of that, of course, you've got political interest. And so, it looked like federal pay leave was going to pass. And it was 12 weeks of federal paid leave and talk to most moms. And they say, well, 12 weeks isn't enough. However, there are currently nine states that offer 12 weeks of paid leave, that's paid by the state. And so that's, that's the minimum that these states are offering. And so, it's a good working model, right, it's like so let's get to let's start at a place that seems tenable. And we can see some precedent for how this has been done by some states. So, start out 12 weeks, and then it got whacked to four weeks. And you started hearing women be really angered by that and what part of the reason is that when you're a new mother so even though this this initiative includes so many other people and different kinds of care, and let's just talk about moms, when you've given birth, what most people don't know, I certainly have no clue until I gave birth. Have you bled for around six weeks, and you're still bleeding, like four weeks in, you're certainly still leaking breast smell? Most times you're bleeding, you're recovering in your body. So, we at totum started this hashtag, build back bleeding as in, we can't build back bleeding. Because this initiative got built into, I've got to say, the build back better program. And so, we just started to say moms can't build back bleeding. And I think it's such a moment because a lot of what a woman goes through starting with her period, you know, it's a lot to go through in our bodies, and nobody wants to see it. Nobody wants to talk about it. It seems like icky or inconvenient or not pretty. And so, we hide these things from the time that we are. Young girls are like hiding our tampons or hiding our pads or not wanting our friends to find out that we were the first one to get our period. We know so little about it. Well, then there again, we become moms. And I mean, I don't know about other moms. But I was completely shocked when it happened in my body. I was so prepared for childbirth, I took all these Bradley birth classes and had an unmedicated vaginal birth. And so, I thought that I had done everything I needed to do my recovery was just going to be like, clickety split. No, it was intense. I remember telling my mom like, asking her to please go down and look at my vagina because I was afraid it was quote, unquote, two flapping wings. I was like, I don't even know like what has happened? She was so sweet. My mom was like, No, it's beautiful. You're fine. She got a very, very big bruise. And so, without getting too much TMI, although already done so much. She and my husband who's a veterinarian really figured out what was happening for me and helped me care for myself. But my doctor was like, see in six weeks. So, I think every Mom has her story about what was going on for her four weeks postpartum. So, what we've seen in the totum community, I started posting about this last week, and our numbers and our engagement, like really went up like a hockey stick. And so, I realized this is something that women are hungry for information on, they want to understand, where does this initiative sit? What can we do to help make sure that gets passed, and I want to tell my story, what happened to just finish up on kind of like where we are, so we lost federal pay leave entirely? And then there was a lot of fighting to bring it back. Nancy Pelosi really pushed that and lobby groups like Pateley. us we're really behind that too and really strategic. They had some rallies, rallies in Cisco, in New York and DC and pay leave is back in the build back better initiative, which is awesome. But it's back. It's still at four weeks. And, so we still have work to do, the delightful gift. And all of this is that so many of us who run motherhood communities so blessing a mother, honestly, Alexis and not safe for mom group, Lauren Smith, Brody of the fifth trimester, Daphne Delvaux, the mom, attorney, and on and on and on, we have all come together to form an alliance around this and we're gonna be rolling out something on social media within the next couple of days where every mother everywhere can get involved in a very specific way that uses her gifts and her interest to do something to say pay leave and then in the future, to advocate on behalf of mothers. So that's been the gift in all of this.

Christa: Wow, that's amazing. I love like the passion and goals behind everything you're doing because that was gonna be my next question, too, is how can women that are listening, get involved and spread the word or just create awareness of everything going on?

Erin: I mean, I would say for now follow at totumwomen on Instagram, that's where we're talking about this the most and feed posts and on stories and we're also pointing you in the right direction of where you can help and also follow paid leave us it's there's a little plus sign in between it at paid leave us and they are really doing amazing work so you can donate to them but also be I'm like, so tempted to tell you what we're doing right now. But I have to respect our time and with our partners, be just pay attention on Instagram on totum we are gonna be rolling out something with a lot of other motherhood community leaders, where you can specifically join up and get involved and be a part of this movement.

Christa: Awesome. And yeah, and by the time this episode comes out, it might already be out. So definitely check out their page because I've already posted by that point, we'll see. Awesome, well, this I mean, this has been such an awesome I think important episode. I love just hearing about the journey of where you guys are now and kind of how you've evolved over the years. And I just get so like pumped up when I talk to super passionate people, and I can just, like feel it for the screen, like when I talk to you. So, I think it's really cool all the work you're doing. That's amazing.

Erin: Thank you, Christa. Yeah, I am fired up. Sometimes I wish I were less fired up. I'm also tired like every mom. But I'm so fired up about it.

Christa: That's amazing. So, I always like to end these interviews with a fun thinking question, I call it so if you could have one billboard made today, we could share one tip with moms everywhere, what would you have it say?

Erin: Time is not money, your time is your time. And the reason for that is we buy into this idea that time is money. And it really shoots us in the foot all the time, because we are living in a world where there's still a very big wage gap. And so, and back to the start of 70%, of the 1% wealthiest in our country are men with traditional family structure. Women, you know, so many times say, Well, I have to do X, Y, and Z because my partner makes more money than I do. And we it's again, this is a broadsky, who I love and her book fair play, she calls it a toxic time message. And I think when we shatter this notion that time is money, we will start to remember that what we care about the what lights us up that what we enjoy matters, because this is it like this is our only life. And while it's important how we show up for our families and our kids like that spark within all of us is still so important and I hate to see that extinguish with so many modern moms who just feel really buried right now. So, your time is diamonds, as he would say.

Christa: Oh, I love that. That's awesome. I mean, that's a that's a great way to kind of sum up the episode too. And I think like, again, like your passion and goals behind everything, like speak through that quote. So, I think that's awesome.

Erin: Thank you so much. Christa. So nice to chat with you.

Christa: I love this. So, and then last but not least, where again, I know you kind of mentioned it before, but where can everyone find you on Instagram and then any other important links, all that and we can put them in the show notes as well?

Erin: Yep, you can find us at totum women, it's to T O T U M, Women plural at @totumwomen on Instagram, our site is That's our new site. And, if you have an employer who could be doing better by working parents, or I say the way that you pitch it to them is if they can help their working parents stop spinning their wheels at home so they can be more productive at work. Let me know I would love to help. We have several programs that can help. 

Christa: Awesome, very cool. Well, thanks again. Erin. It was so awesome talking to you. And thank you so much for all the work you guys do.


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