Returning from maternity
Returning to work after maternity leave or an extended career break? Heed the 5Cs:
This is about getting clear on what you want and don’t want in your life (home and professional) when you go back. That could be hours worked, volume of travel, the person you report into, same job or different, how much time you spend with your partner sans kiddos. Listen to the tales of your antental buddies, NCT chums and playgroup mamas for sure but remember the words of Fleetwood Mac: “You can go your own way.” Every family is different and you’ll never know for certain what’s going on behind the Facebook façade, so do what’s right for you with conviction.
Chapter 1 of my book Mothers Work! is called “Know your ideal work scenario” and that’s the place to go for more on clarity – buy it now in Kindle (ridiculously cheap) or paperback. The final chapter, “Do what it takes to thrive” may also help you if you’re floundering.
Let’s be clear, you were great at work before you went on maternity leave (and if you weren’t, becoming a parenting will have improved you no end – see this post for Interflora’s ‘Hardest Job in The World’ campaign). Any confidence crisis you’re facing is in large part driven by you forgetting how good you were. Now’s the time to drag out past performance reviews and 360-degree feedback reports. You might also drop a line to colleagues/clients/suppliers who you’re prepared to be vulnerable in front of and ask them to remind you of your contribution. Strengths-based coaching is useful too because I can’t think of a coachee who didn’t leave with a straighter spine, conviction about her capabilities and a plan. Attending a conference and putting your nose in a professional journal are useful aids to rebuilding your sense of credibility too.
You can’t read other people’s minds if even you think you can. Other people can’t read your mind, even if you think they should. You need to let other people (colleagues and partner especially) know your hopes, aims, boundaries, expectations and concerns. Be prepared to negotiate and try and forgive your line manager for being crap at keeping in touch. They do genuinely worry about over-stepping the mark and being done for harassment. If you’re reading this before you go on leave PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let him or her know how and when you’d like contact.
There’s a useful section on pitching for flexible working in chapter two of Mothers Work! (Keep in touch and ask for what you want).
Returning from maternity leave is a stonkingly good excuse to be in touch with senior folk whose radar you’d like to get on. Drop them a line saying you’re coming back and as part of your resettlement into the organisation you’re approaching a variety of people to find out what’s new and how you can contribute. Tell them you’d love 30 minutes over coffee. If you think that’s vomatrocious (a word I picked up from my kiddos) I understand – you probably don’t work for a U.S. company or you are not American. Instead of or as well as, make a list of the folk you: a) really like, b) can make you look good if they deliver and c) could leave you up the creak without a paddle if they mess up and set up times to chat with them. Re-establishing relationships is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING to do when you go back and because diary busyness is worn as a badge of pride, set them up in advance of your return (on a KIT day 2-3 weeks before your official start back is a good idea).
You have nothing to prove. You have nothing to prove. You have nothing to prove. Do you believe me? It might be your return to work, but it’s not all up to you. Talk to your partner about how we are going to manage the load now that we both work. Go into discussions with your line manager with an idea of what you want him or her to agree to but be open to solutions that weren’t originally in your head. Open your mind to the possibility that other people can achieve excellent outcomes without direction or oversight from you. Carry the mantra “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.” (This can be applied as much to cake if you are still carrying baby weight as it can to saying yes to additional tasks because your ego has been rubbed). Now is the time to cede control to others and get friendly with delegation. You’re a changed woman since becoming a parent and you’d be doing yourself and your team a disservice if you tried to go back to life exactly as it was before. Move on lady – you’ve grown.
For more in this vein read chapter three of Mothers Work! “See your family as a team.”
Employers supporting maternity and career returners
Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip On Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work is published by Hay House priced £12.99. Buy it on Amazon and other bookshops. It’s been dubbed “THE book employers should be giving their returners” by Professor Karen Pine and indeed many do, including Carillion, Boots and Veolia. Find out more about how employers can support returning valued and talented employees at our sister site www.talentkeepers.co.uk.
The Talent Keeper Specialists run FREE comeback workshops in St Albans – click here for more information and feedback from participants.