‘I don’t think I’ve got any skills to offer, I’m frightened I’m not up to doing what I did before I had my family’ Sarah said to me in a consultation. Prior to having her family Sarah had been a marketing manager used to working at a frenetic pace and having advertising executives eating out of her hand, but Sarah now felt like this role had happened in another lifetime.
Becoming a mum for the first time, and adapting to this new role with its ever changing demands, is such a life altering transition that it’s easy to feel that you have lost touch with who you once were and the life you had before.
These fears are a common issue holding mums back from confidently returning to work; the longer the break you take from work, the harder it can be to reconnect to who you used to be and what you are still capable of.
So how can you bridge this gap and rebuild your confidence?
The value of motherhood
One way is to view your maternity break as a career transition in itself. Although you may have stopped working, your personal development and growth has not stopped since becoming a mum, if anything, the experience can’t help but change you in some way.
Consider how you have adapted to this new role? What new skills have you learnt? What qualities and strengths have you discovered in yourself? What have you gained from the experience?
Make a list of the skills you use daily, for example, persuading a toddler to eat his tea involves negotiation skills and problem solving; organising a birthday party involves events organising, planning, co-ordination, communication – all of which are skills that are useful and transferable to the workplace.
Many mums I have worked with describe how being a mum has given them more empathy, patience, tolerance, creativity, an awareness of their own strength and resourcefulness and a desire to give back to the community or make a difference in some way. How has this experience shaped you?
Of course this personal development might mean that your view of work shifts in some way. We often use the term going ‘back’ to work – but this doesn’t really allow for the changes in you that have taken place since having your children.
Your motivation to work can change dramatically after having your children and the meaning that work has for you may now be very different. Take some time to consider what this may mean for you. You may not want to work in the same way as before, or you might be contemplating a new career direction altogether.
A more accurate description would be to talk of ‘going forward’ into work and finding a way to integrate these new skills and experiences acquired from motherhood alongside your old skills and abilities.
Reclaiming previous skills and strengths
So having assessed your new skills and resources and decided the meaning work now has for you, how can you reconnect with those old skills and abilities?
The following exercises should help:
- Bring to mind a peak experience, a time when life was as good as it could be and you were ‘at your best’. It could be work related or involve your family. Take a moment to relive what you saw / heard / felt during this peak experience. How would you have looked to a fly on the wall? Happy, confident, in control? Make a list. What resources were you using: for example communication skills, the ability to bring people together? Recall how it felt to be in full flow and absorb that feeling.
- Reflect on your career path and consider what did you love about your favourite past roles? What excited you about these jobs? What inspired you? What were your most important or enjoyable achievements? How did you make a difference and add value? What strengths were you using?
How about you?
What has your experience been of returning to work after a maternity career break? What helped you rebuild confidence and bridge the gap between life before and after children? Please share your experiences, I’d love to hear them!
P.S. Want the gift of more time?
Of course all of the above requires precious time to focus on yourself which can be in very short supply when you’re a mum of young children!
If you would like more time to do this, together with structured support in the company of other likeminded mums, check out my ‘Reignite Your Spark Group Coaching Programme due to start in Tunbridge Wells in September.