So you’ve decided to become a working mum? I know how daunting and exciting that can be. There’s probably a million thoughts going through your head about how you are going to juggle motherhood, career and life. You are probably no stranger to the fears and self-doubts about your decision either.
After I became a Mum in 2012 I spent 8 months at home with my son, missing my career. Even though I had a fabulous mother’s group who I saw at least once a week, I felt like something was missing. The largest part of my pre-baby life and persona had vanished and I felt its absence more with each month of maternity leave.
I thought being prepared to return to work was all about securing daycare, getting enough sleep and having work outfits for my post baby body. I was wrong. There was more to it than that. I needed to fully accept my new responsibility as a Mum and think differently about myself as a working mum. I was no longer able to devote 100% of myself to my career all of the time. And this did not make me less valuable as an employee. In fact once I found my feet as a working mum I was more productive, confident and focussed than I had ever been at work.
Here are 3 things that made my transition from full time motherhood to working mum a bit easier. Three things I wish someone had told ME when I was about to return to work after my first baby 3 years ago.
1. Be clear on your WHY
It’s really important to get clear on WHY you are returning to work. There are many reasons why mums decide to return to work. The most common reasons in Australia are job security, financial and self esteem (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). No matter what your reasons are though remember this: all reasons are equally valid. The most important thing is to acknowledge YOUR reasons and remind yourself of why you made this decision when the mummy guilt creeps in. When I first returned to work I had to remind myself of my motives on days when the daycare drop off was difficult. Some days it was my son in tears and some days it was me. Other days it was both of us.
2. Be prepared to take personal leave
Before I had kids I hardly ever took sick leave. In fact I prided myself on my ability to bank sick leave. I considered it proof of how reliable I was at work. Turns out it was a good thing I had banked so much personal leave. When my son started daycare on my return to work he seemed to get sick a lot. The truth is we both got sick a lot in the first few months after I returned to work. Once our immune systems caught up it was much easier. In the early days of my return to work I struggled with feeling entitled to take sick or carers leave. Especially because I was part time and wanted to maximise my time in the office, not have my absence felt. If you can make peace with taking more personal leave now that you’re a mum, you will feel less guilt in the workplace. Remember that your role as a Mum is more important than your role as an employee.
3. Be in the moment at home and at work
In 2015 I surveyed 300 working mums in Australia about their return to work including fears, challenges, advice and what they enjoyed about being a working mum. Surprisingly many working mums cited physically and mentally separating home and work where possible helped them feel more balanced. I tend to agree based on my own experience. I am more productive at work if I am focussed on the tasks at hand and not worrying about my son. Something that comes with practice. On the flipside, when I am at home I am focussed on my family and try not to think about work too much. (Although I have been known to have great work ideas while hanging washing or having a shower!).
Even though there will be challenges as you transition into your new role as a working mum, you have a lot to look forward to. I really enjoyed using my professional skills again (which lay dormant but were not lost after 8 months of maternity leave). I also enjoyed my time with my son more and felt more fulfilled in motherhood and career. I felt complete as a working mum.
As featured on Mummy Misgivings.