When Jane, a former corporate high flyer, came for her first career coaching session, we explored how overlooked and invisible she felt in her role since having her children.
‘Just because I’m now a Mum my bosses’ assume I’m no longer ambitious in my role so the opportunities that were previously earmarked for me are no longer there’.
She understandably felt immensely frustrated and angered by this assumption and oversight. She was also feeling bored, stuck and stagnant and had lost confidence in her abilities due to this ‘stalemate’ situation.
Having worked hard for years to build a career, and valued the role you’ve created for yourself, it can be a shock to the system to realise that, once you return from maternity leave, your growth and development at work is stymied by others’ perceptions that you will somehow now be ‘less’ committed or ambitious than before.
There is an assumption that a desire for part time work means part time commitment.
Yes, motherhood brings with it new challenges around fitting work around your other responsibilities – but in your time available at work you still bring your previous expertise – and now added skills and experience from your other role as a mum.
Not just a mum
What isn’t often appreciated is the fact that, in becoming mothers, not only do we nurture the growth and development of our offspring but in doing so we too grow and develop, as I outlined here in an earlier post.
From my research with fellow mums I know we gain a wealth of skills, we learn compassion, empathy, diplomacy, responsibility, tolerance, patience and how to put another’s needs first in caring for our newly dependent newborn. Not to mention our enhanced multi-tasking and time management skills!
Whilst the phenomenon of ‘baby brain’ is real, a biological imperative for our species’ survival, it is also blessedly temporary. It can be a relief to return to work to re-fire those parts of our brain that haven’t been challenged by motherhood and reconnect with a ‘self’ from prior to our children’s birth. Once we get over the initial ‘wobble’ in returning to work, our appetite for our own growth and develop rekindles.
Inspired and ready for new direction
In fact many mums I work with have shared that becoming a mum inspires us to be better role models for our children , to role model for them a love of learning and growth and development, as well as instils in us a desire to make a more meaningful contribution to the world for future generations.
So to find ourselves now limited by the traditional structure of the organisation we find ourselves working in can feel a real anathema.
We can take heart here in the recent growth of female entrepreneurs who are developing a new feminine way of doing business: they take into account wider social values alongside profits and focus on the quality of the work / service/ product delivered as opposed to the literal number of hours worked and where the work takes place.
So if you find yourself feeling stuck in an organisation that overlooks your talents post maternity leave there are a number of steps you can take.
1. First regroup and consider all that you have learnt about yourself since becoming a mother. Alongside this consider the meaning and purpose that work now has for you. Does your current role give you the opportunities to use the full breadth of your skills and talents?
2. If you are happy with your current organisation identify how you can develop and enhance your existing role. Approach your boss with your ideas and articulate your goals and ambitions to take back control of your career path.
3. If you are looking to reduce your hours, or take advantage of technology to work more flexibly from home, consider the business needs when making this request and get buy in from colleagues. Focus your discussion on your professional responsibilities and how you will cover these in the time allocated.
4. If you feel you have exhausted all development opportunities at work, and feel the need make a bigger contribution, consider whether a change of career direction is required, where your skills can be utilised in a more meaningful capacity.
5. Consider setting up your own business, perhaps utilising your skills on a freelance basis. Many mums make this choice as it affords them the ability to work from home and create flexible work schedules around their family commitments.
6. If you know you want to make a career change, or are contemplating setting up your own business, but don’t have a clear idea about what you want to do, consider hiring a career transition coach to help you clarify your ideas, gain confidence in your abilities and take steps to create your new career direction.
How about you?
Have you faced similar challenges in developing your career post maternity leave? How have you overcome them? Please share your experiences in the comments box below, I’d love to hear them!
P.S. Need some help with navigating your own career crossroads?
Take a look at my ‘There’s More in Me’ career coaching programme. You can fill in the form there and then schedule a FREE consultation to get some clarity on the situation you are facing.