This article is part of a series showcasing the thought leaders who will take the (virtual) stage for Dare to Self-Care, a free event meant to help women everywhere restore their mental, emotional, and physical health—no matter where they are in their wellness journeys. Click here to join the party at 3 p.m. E.T./12 p.m. P.T. on Monday, May 10.
Leslie Forde was burned out. Despite a promotion for which she was excited, company cutbacks and a newborn and toddler at home made the new job near impossible. “I was sleeping in one-hour increments,” she recalls. “I was short-staffed. And I was being called upon to bring my most clear strategic problem-solving self to a situation when I was depleted. It was the first time in my life when people who didn’t know me would say to me, ‘Are you okay? You don’t look well.’”
“I had just become a crazy, tired zombie-person,” she says.
But from that burnout came a passion project and eventually, a thriving business: Years—and a new job—later, Forde drew on her background in market research to survey moms about their needs and priorities. And from their responses, Forde drew what she dubbed “Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs,” a pyramid that clearly showed a solid foundation of children’s well-being, activities, and household needs, followed by stacks of professional goals and healthy relationship needs.
“Way, way up at the tippy, tippy top of the hierarchy are all the things that we need to do for our mental, physical, and emotional health,” she says. “Until I drew it, I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to make the space for them—and why after having kids, it just became impossible.”
Using that pyramid as a jumping off point, Forde launched a business with the same name aimed at conducting research and writing to help moms find more time for self-care. Today, it—paired with Allies @ Work, a sister function of Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs that helps employers enact practices that are more supportive and friendly to caregivers—is Forde’s full-time dream job.
“My story of burning out, even though it was really miserable for me at the time, now allows me to talk other people off the ledge and help them put in place the kinds of well-being and self-care practices that will help reduce burnout, and manage through times of extreme stress,” she says.
Here, Forde talks about her own self-care routine, how to deal with workplace challenges, and the best money advice she’s ever been given.
When she wakes up
It’s usually between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning. I’ve shifted since having kids to becoming a pretty early riser. And I’ve learned that I’m happier if I have some time in the day to myself—before my kids and my husband are awake—when I have some space to do some self-care.
Her typical morning routine
I think that one of the wonderful and chaotic parts of being a parent is that there are so many unplanned things that happen. I’ll get up at 5:45 a.m. with all these grand ambitions, and think, “Oh, wow, I have all this time before the kids get up,” and I’ll grab my journals, zip out of my room, sit on the couch, get myself set up—and then my youngest will be there: “Hi mommy!”
You just never know. So, you always have to have a Plan B and a Plan C. But my core activities in the morning are meditating and journaling, and running after I set up the kids for school, which right now, is on Zoom. On the weekends, when the kids are not in school, then I make more space—usually for a longer run, and more time journaling and a longer time meditating.
What she eats for breakfast
I make oatmeal pretty much every single day with wild blueberries, and that’s what I make the kids every single day as well—which they’re not as excited about. They think it’s pretty boring now but it has so much nutrition and it’s really good for you. But on Saturdays, by popular demand, I make pancakes. Saturday is pancake day.
Her first childhood dream job
I wanted to be an international lawyer, a supermodel, and run a very serious business. That’s what my Barbie did. That’s when there were no limits. It was like, “I’m going to do all these amazing things, and I’m gonna have this adoring family with my children, and I’m going to be married to the most incredible, gorgeous, super-successful husband ever, and it’s all going to work out.” Through the eyes of a child, you see those things on television, and you think, “I can do that. Why not?”
Her first actual job
My first job with actual paychecks was working as a salesperson in a clothing store. I eventually decided instead of international law that I probably wanted to go into international marketing, and by the time I was 15, I started doing part-time work at market research companies, doing telemarketing surveys—so my marketing career began very early in my research career.
How she deals with rejection in the workplace
In a much healthier way than I would have dealt with it even a couple of years ago! If something doesn’t work the way that I intended it to or hoped it would—when things don’t go according to plan in my professional life—I’ve learned to trust that I am moving in the right direction, in even better ways than I had imagined, and that each disappointment is leading me to something that’s developmentally better for me and fits into my life in a more meaningful way.