Donna Davies, More Than Mum Network
Having a baby is a life-changing event for most women, especially when it’s your first child – I know this was the case for me.
As well as all the apparent changes that go alongside becoming a parent, we mums have the added changes of growing a human inside our bodies for nine months. Often after the birth we are so taken up in getting used to parenthood, we can forget to love and nurture ourselves as well as our new baby. When it’s time for us to go back out into the world again, either back to our original job or to find a new one, it’s easy to feel a lack of confidence in ourselves and our abilities, especially if we have suffered from anxiety around becoming a parent.
Women make up 69 per cent workforce in the UK, and more than 80 per cent will become mothers during their working life. With the average age of motherhood in the UK being 30, most women at work over this age will also be working parents.
The return to work after having a baby is a transition and can leave you feeling anxious, with all the choices you have to make. Mums often feel guilt once they’ve returned to work, worrying if they’ve made the right decision. We often see the debates about working mums versus stay-at-home mums, so it’s no surprise we doubt out choice to go back to work.
The first step in becoming comfortable with your decision it to remember how much you are valued. Your values, ambitions, ability and feelings towards work do not change fundamentally when you have a baby; however it may make you reflect on your core values.
Take the time to think why you are returning to work, what existing and new skills you have and how to utilise them, what value you bring to the workforce and where you see your career in the future. Understanding all of these can help shape your return and offer you some support during stressful moments.
The number of working mums is increasing year on year with recent figures showing 4.9m mothers in England with dependent children are working.
We all work for different reasons too, whether it’s financial, social, personal satisfaction or a mixture of all of these. Indeed 83% of working mothers say they wouldn’t give up their jobs to stay at home full time with their children. There’s no right or wrong, what’s important is you make the right choice for you and your family. Getting the balance right between work life and family life is unique for each of us.
Taking time now to understand why you are returning to work will help you make plans, it will prepare you for the changes, and when you have an awkward moment, you can reflect on your why and know that you are entirely doing the right thing.
You may not spend much time identifying your skills, strengths and achievements unless a time comes that you need to such as updating your CV or applying for a promotion.
Looking back over your career to identify your key achievements and the skills and strengths you used to accomplish them can help you set long-term goals for your return to work.
It will help you make informed career decisions such as do you want to stay in the role you held before your leave or do you want to progress, move sideways or have a complete career change. You may want to start your own business that you can work around your family.
Some mums can have a confidence crisis as they prepare to return to work so looking back over everything you achieved can give a much-needed confidence boost and remind you of your value in the workplace.
Lastly, don’t forget about all the new skills you’ve acquired as a mum that are transferable to the workplace. New capabilities such as time-management, crisis management, influencer, project management, counselling and many more. Don’t be shy to shout about these as they are critical skills for any business. You’re also in a position to communicate effectively with a different audience you can become the go-to person for new mums, expectant mums and be a change leader.
Knowing your value is a powerful thing. It means you won’t undersell yourself, you’ll have self-respect, and you will feel confident in your work & home life. Understand what you bring to the table and own it.
If you bring innovative thinking, then feel confident about pitching ideas, influencing decision-makers and finding creative solutions to problems.
If you’re the unofficial agony aunt for everyone in the office, think about coaching, an HR role or customer service role. Use your skills, and the trust people have in you to guide, help and support them.
Knowing what you want in life and combining this with your why values and your strengths will provide the framework within which you can manage your return to work. I know it’s not easy, but I have confidence that in using this framework you will make the right choice for you and your family.
About the author
Donna is a qualified HR management professional, and a mother who’s endured negative experiences of returning to work after maternity. Someone who’s suffered from postnatal and prenatal depression, Donna has now built a career around her passion, after the corporate world failed her. Her mission is to help Mums get back out into the working world after maternity, in a way that reduces stress, anxiety and overwhelm via her supportive community and range of coaching services through More Than Mum Network.