Returning to work from maternity leave! Catching up with new Mums!
I seem to know a number of women going back to work from maternity leave, or who went back to work recently, so I decided to catch up with them and hear what they reported. What's going on for today's new mothers? Is it possible to have the best of both worlds and is what women want? Are we seeing any changes?
The answer was definitely "yes" - but with some qualifications.
All used the phrase "emotional roller coaster" Excitement, guilt, anxiety were all reported, as their maternity leave comes to an end and the return to work is underway.
Some women admitted to a "sense of relief" returning to work, putting on those smart clothes again, feeling that buzz, and getting back to using under used skills. "Doing something for me.
This was also accompanied by guilt that they even feel this way. [Tweet "After a period of time being at home with my baby I was losing my identity."]
Many say that "adult interaction" is what they longed for, so the‘baby brain’ can be stimulated. Others were excited about the prospect of tackling some new challenges for their own satisfaction. Some were nervous about picking up where they left off.
Having to leave a baby when you are not ready can be heart breaking. Not all countries have paid maternity leave.
Macie J of Boise, Idaho told me "I was allowed 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave but returned to work after 8 weeks for financial reasons. Although I left my daughter with my sister, it was still very hard"
Communication with partners, or support from family or friends I heard was essential, so these feelings are understood and the best scenario can be implemented for all.
Women know that their children are most happy and content when they are with their parents, this is natural. But that does not mean is they will be unhappy and discontented being looked after by someone else.
[Tweet "Childcare seems to be one of the biggest challenges and the most concern to parents"]
Samantha Dalton, Finance Manager with First Line Ltd, Oxford describes the thought processes she went through when she returned to work after six months maternity leave.
"I can't leave her - no one can look after her like I can" went through my head. It made me feel anxious and guilty that as her mum I was going to be "palming her off" on someone else, but over time many hours of talking, my anxiety eased and I thought "I am going to have the best of both worlds"
All researched their options, to find the best place for their child where they would be safe, secure and cared for. With these arrangements they felt much easier about their decisions. Some childcare facilities are even willing to send update text messages and photos in the day to help set minds at rest initially. That's a nice bonus! I was surprised! Care by one of the grandmothers was also a common solution. Read about Granny Day Care
Breastfeeding was another concern. For some it was difficult emotionally, especially if the baby had not taken to formula. Expressing, and storing milk, was a challenge for those that opted for that route. In some geographies, some employers have certain legal obligations to breastfeeding mothers and supporting breastfeeding can have business benefits too including.
Many of the women reported a shift in priorities, with a need and a wish to find a different type of work/life balance. All said they were committed to their work and wanted to perform well, but family responsibilities had become more important. And of course they missed their babies. Most happily had good employers who offered support in returning to work and were very understanding. A few reported challenges with managers who were less accommodating.
Handling issues around a baby's health was one of the greatest causes of concern, with guilt expressed for finishing on time or having to leave work in the case of sickness. Some were talking options through with their HR department around remote working or flexibility, which is a huge advantage. With Gen Y partners wanting a greater involvement in family life, there is also a better chance of sharing the responsibility. It's no longer just the sphere of the Mum.
Sophie Stevens, a London-based consultant said:
Childcare has been a challenge - we've found a great nursery after much persistence, but they will only do 3 or 5 days a week. Full time feels like too much at the moment ,but I'm blessed because my husband is happy to take one day off a week in the future so I can go to 4 days a week. That's the perfect balance for us - time at nursery, 3 days with mummy and 3 days with daddy. We're hoping we'll all be happy once she's settled in!"
[Tweet "Historically women have made all the changes at work, but increasingly men are opting for a four-day week or working remotely one day."]
The challenge of the period of transition was consistently commented on, which is perfectly normal. It was for me too. The first few weeks were tough dealing with a new routine, "getting up to speed with the professional role," and managing work/life balance. All said the positive side was being back to their old jobs, mixing with colleagues, feel energised and refreshed, which was a welcome change from being at home. All found it relatively easy to switch back to being in work. Read: Left holding the baby Maternity Leave without a strategy
And yes, it would appear that you can have the best of both worlds. Many couples had discussed one parent staying at home, but financial considerations were over-riding. Samantha said not going back to work would mean that they "would begin to struggle over time"
Manon Courville, Lyon explained "there is no question of me being able to afford to give up work, even if I wanted to. It was not conceivable. Happily in France ,we have generous maternity provisions"
Interestingly none were prepared to risk financial insecurity to be stay at home Mums. Those working part time saw that as an interim solution. All welcomed remote and flex working.
Wet wipes have now replaced the lipstick as the most important item in a bag! Vital for cleaning clothes, especially shoulders for any dribble or baby food before getting to work!
[Tweet "Been there, but saved by a wet wipe!"]
Balancing our professional and personal lives becomes increasingly complex and challenging.
Find out how to develop and manage your career if you are returning from maternity leave, in a way that will maximize your talents, overcome any obstacles and give you the opportunities for growth you deserve with 3Plus Career Coaching.
Read also: 10 tips returning from maternity leave
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Dates for the Diary
September 17th Latham Watkins Brussels 1200
In-house corporate event
Inclusive Leadership Workshop
September 20th EIGE Vilnius 0900
How to combat sexism in the workplace
Peer review of EU booklet authored by Dorothy Dalton
September 30th BD Foundation Webinar with Dorothy Dalton (online)
Topic: Leading with Emotional Intelligence
October 3rd JUMP Hub Brussels
Gender equality: how to build an attractive employer brand without falling into the trap of “gender washing”
Infrabel, rue de France, 9, 1070 Brusells
Open registration : http://jump.eu.com/hub-sessions/gender-equality-build-attractive-employer-brand-without-falling-trap-gender-washing/
October 15th NEHRA Event at AXA Brussels
Best Diversity and Inclusion Practices
October 22nd and 23rd Unleash Conference Paris
Open registration: https://unleashgroup.io
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