It’s not often you hear the word “matrescence” dropped in casual conversation. But Erin Erenberg, an attorney, mom of three, and former tech and entertainment executive, is so committed to improving the experience of modern mothers that she’s made maternal advocacy her profession, complete with a lexicon to articulate mothers’ needs so that they can relax and feel more whole.
In 2017, having just given birth to her third baby, Beau, in Los Angeles, Erenberg also birthed Totum, a company that initially provided products, resources and events for new mothers—women going through “matrescence,” or the physical, emotional, hormonal, and social transition to becoming a mother. Erenberg launched this business, a big pivot from her work as an executive inside tech companies, talent agencies and the music industry, because she was shocked by how few resources existed for a woman who’s become a mother. Totum means “whole” in Latin, and choosing that company name was intentional for this trademark attorney. Erenberg’s mission is to help modern mothers be whole, not “balanced,” which she believes implies perfectionism and leads to disappointment.
“There’s so much attention on a pregnant woman, then plenty of infant care,” she said. “Both are important. But when a woman welcomes a baby, she’s just gone through a massive physical event. Her postpartum hormone drop is considered the single largest hormone change in the shortest amount of time for any human being at any point in their life cycle. And yet, there’s not even a routine healthcare visit for a new mother before six weeks’ postpartum. Most new mothers will tell you that they feel entirely discombobulated in their minds, bodies, ambitions and relationships. That experience requires acknowledgement and support.”
In 2018, the Erenberg family moved to Hilton Head Island, which has been a second home for Erin’s parents since the early ’90s. “I grew up coming here on vacation when I was 11, and I met so many wonderful people who’ve come back to Hilton Head to raise their families. When my husband Victor fell in love with Hilton Head, we began coming here regularly as a family. As our family grew, we knew we wanted to raise our kids in an environment where they could grow up more slowly than they might in L.A,” she said. Victor is now the owner of Island Holistic Veterinary Hospital in the Village at Wexford.
Just as they established roots on Hilton Head, the global pandemic hit, and the Erenbergs were hit with another unexpected difficulty. Their now nine-year-old son, George, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes the day after Mother’s Day, 2020. George is doing well now, but the lifelong diagnosis shocked and scared the Erenberg family, who have no history of the condition.
“When George got sick, I was still operating Totum as a consumer products business,” Erenberg said. “But I was hurting, and I was hearing from the nearly 17,000 mothers in our online community that they were fed up with shouldering the burdens of unpaid labor at home, losing or stepping away from their work to become Zoom teachers, keep up with laundry, and keep their families safe.”
Just as Erenberg had noticed an unsupported sore spot in matrescence, she saw a different one during the pandemic. Mothers were feeling burned out, resentful, and depressed, and over 2.5 million mothers were edged out of the workforce to prioritize care, all while feeling uncared for themselves.
As a result, Erenberg pivoted Totum’s focus and created a series called “Totum Talks,” a monthly webinar on Zoom to connect mothers to experts in everything from postpartum pelvic health to money management to how to equitably divide household labor with partners. She also launched Totum Work, a consulting practice to help companies retain and advance their working mothers.
Totum Work offers policy review, workshops, consulting and coaching to companies who want to improve their culture, particularly where working mothers are concerned. Erenberg has been hired as a speaker and subject matter expert on topics like work/life balance, mindset, overcoming burnout, and achieving equity at home and at work, by companies like ErgoBaby, Ritual Vitamin, Hatch, Norwegian Cruise Line and Montage Hotels. Her work has been featured in Goop, LA Times, and Parents, and she has spoken as an expert on over 15 podcasts.
Erenberg explained, “In 2020, mothers were isolated and concerned like most everyone else, except they also took on a disproportionate amount of unpaid labor in the form of managing Zoom school, never-ending laundry, housework, and parenting children who were bored, scared and confused about the new abnormal way of life in a pandemic. The result is that moms don’t want to go back into workplaces that don’t acknowledge their value as people outside of work—workplaces that would rather keep that kind of humanity invisible.”
Erenberg has also reestablished her intellectual property legal practice after getting so many requests during the pandemic, mostly from mothers who wanted to start new businesses or find a way to negotiate through a one-sided business contract. She now practices with Belzer, PC.
“Nathan Belzer (owner of Belzer, PC) is the kind of boss that everyone should have,” she asserted. “He’s supportive, kind, and puts his family first. If everyone ran their business the way Nathan does, there would be no need for my services through Totum Work.”
Of all the advocacy projects she’s leading these days, Erenberg is most excited about a new nonprofit organization she co-launched called The Chamber of Mothers.
When paid family leave was cut from the infrastructure bill in late November, Erenberg and eight other women who run successful motherhood platforms came together to unite mothers across the country to advocate for their interests. The Chamber of Mothers assembled in 48 hours, taking the lead of lobby organizations like Paid Leave for All and PL+US to inform American mothers on the personal implications of federal paid leave being cut from legislation.
The U.S. is one of only nine countries in the world who don’t provide federal paid family leave. According to Erenberg, when the proposed 12-week policy in the Build Back Better initiative was cut by lawmakers to four weeks, a lot of mothers recalled how they were feeling and how their healing was barely over at four weeks postpartum.
“One of my colleagues said, ‘We need something like the Chamber of Commerce, but for mothers.’ The notion behind the Chamber of Mothers is to align mothers’ interests, pool our spending and voting power, and work toward the kind of change we need,” Erenberg explained.
In 48 hours, the Chamber of Mothers amassed over 1,300 active advocates and gained a social media following of more than 8,000 followers, including celebrities, influential motherhood platforms, and brands. The nonprofit is now established to unite mothers as advocates to create the kind of America they want to live in and bestow to future generations.
“That last part of the mission is inspired by something our babysitter, who’s just 21, said to me,” Erenberg said. “She got excited about the traction we immediately received with the Chamber of Mothers. She sent me a note saying, ‘This moves me because I realize all of you who are working on these issues are finished having children of your own. You’re doing this for us.’”
Erenberg says she’s motivated to create a better experience for younger women, including, eventually, her daughter Arabella, who’s now just seven years old.
While much of Erenberg’s advocacy work takes place on a national level, including her trademark practice, she is enthusiastic about the possibilities of working with more local organizations and mothers.
Recently, Erenberg held a fundraiser in her home for the Chamber of Mothers. “My greatest joy in work comes from connecting with other mothers in real life, creating meaningful things together,” she said. “There is so much local talent, so much heart. I’m thrilled for what we can create when local mothers come together to support one another.”
To find out how Totum Work can help your company, visit www.totumwork.com. To join the Chamber of Mothers, head to chamberofmothers.com. To gain support and encouragement as a mother, follow @totumwomen on Instagram. And to work with Erenberg directly, reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.