Returning to work after having a baby is a well navigated but tricky path. One that a huge number of parents make, but that is full of emotional pulls: guilt at leaving your child in some sort of child care, fear that this child might impact on your ability to fulfill your work role in the way you did pre-baby, stress about the choice of childcare, anxiety about stepping back into the workplace after some many months or years off, lack of confidence in your chances of landing a new job, self doubt, panic, but also delight at engaging your brain again, at reconnecting more with your life as it was ‘before’, finding part of yourself that has been on pause for some time.
Not all negative, but as a mother of two small children (1&3) the negatives seem to loom large for me. I didn’t take an official career break, being self employed it doesn’t always work like that. After my first child I was working with a client again 6 weeks post partum, I had a longer break after baby number two as logistics were harder. Finding someone willing to step in at short notice to look after two children is, in my experience, twice as hard.
I was lucky, I work in a team of four, we run our own business, and we support one another. For some, it’s an isolating time, and transitioning into a previously familiar workspace can take time. Even harder perhaps for those who may have had years ‘out of work’ (I know you are very much IN WORK when looking after children, but you understand my phrase!) and are trying to get back into the workplace. I spend time with other parents every day of the year, and I’ve really noticed how confidence can be knocked. How people think their role as full time caregiver to their child will mean they are further down the rung when applying for a job. That future employers might look negatively on this career pause, that people without children will be more valued or taken more seriously.
I don’t think this is the case but think the step back into work needs to be navigated carefully. Being in a confident, self-sufficient place emotionally is vital and sometimes we can need help getting to that place. I have had support after both children through a wonderful company in Bristol called Postnatal Angel. I needed help in caring for myself – making good food, debriefing on the challenges of my children and marriage, getting some time out without the children – I was lucky I knew where to go for that help and support.
I urge parents making that step back into work to find themselves the support they need to make that change as smoothly as possible. To let go of the guilt, to embrace the change, the new dynamic it brings to your family. To understand it’s ok to have children and a career and juggling the two is totally achievable, and to know you can still reach your full potential at work without it meaning you can’t be the best parent you can be.
Our interview technique and confidence building sessions are available to help navigate this stage in your life. We use a variety of bespoke exercises to get you in the best place possible to find the job that can fit into your new life, and work together to prepare you for any interviews. It needn’t be a daunting time; it’s an exciting new phase in your life.
Written by Celia Adams