From my experience, returning to work after becoming a mum was both exciting and daunting. Exciting because I could have an adult conversation once again, go to the toilet without being interrupted, enjoy a coffee on my own, and what’s more, use my brain. However, it was also scary. I had so many questions - Would I be good enough? Had the sleepless nights taken its toll? Could I achieve a work-life balance and juggle work and family? Despite this, I pushed ahead and ignored the guilt I felt as I dropped my baby to childcare and headed back to work.
When I became a mother, my entire world changed. Everything I did was ‘baby related.’ I forget who I was momentarily, especially as I was sleep deprived and in survival mode for the first year. The corporate world was a distant memory, though I did remember I loved my job. I thought, once I get back to work, I’d feel like me again. I was enjoying being a mum, but I needed a balance.
For me, the most important thing was to get back into the workforce and find a job that offered flexibility. Since I wanted a part-time role, I decided to go into a completely different field than before. In all honesty, I didn’t want to go from being a Senior Marketing Manager to a Coordinator, just because I needed a part-time gig. A little egotistical I know (cringe), but that’s how I felt. I also spent some time thinking about my core strengths, and for me, this was my organisational skills. Luckily, I scored a job as an Executive Assistant. It gave me the flexibility I desired, and I was surrounded by a great team in an awesome work environment. I felt valued and appreciated, plus I was balancing my family life too. Happy days.
One year flew by and things evolved. I’m still juggling being a mum, but now I'm the Head of Marketing in the same workplace. My skills are celebrated, my confidence is back, and my career development has been taken seriously. Initially I started working 2 days per week, then 3, and now I'm working 4 days. I took baby-steps (pardon the pun), and adjusted my schedule according to what I could manage.
I understand that not everyone is as fortunate as me. A job and workplace that I thought was a short-term solution, has given me more happiness than I thought was possible. Being a mother is a great chance to re-evaluate what's important to you. And for everyone it will be different. For some, work will be a major factor to feel good about yourself, and for others it won't. And that’s OK.
If you decide to return to work, my advice would be to set expectations with your employer and team upfront. Have honest conversations and set boundaries. They need to be supportive of your changed life-stage, otherwise late arrivals or sick days due to yucky childcare outbreaks can cause ripple effects on your team and their workloads. If your full-time job is impossible to achieve part-time, then your employer should try to develop a suitable arrangement, from job share or an adjustment of tasks. You don’t want to be chasing your tail every day. You need to feel you can manage what’s expected of you, because in turn, this will help you to achieve work-life balance and ultimately be happier.
Remember, you are the most important person to take care of, because if you’re happy, everyone around you will benefit.
Author: Kristie Taylor