Wow, such an amazing response to my blog on Make the Most of Your Maternity Leave. I’ve never had such a high readership. Clearly, there are a lot of women out there wanting to get the best out of their maternity leave.
The informal research that I conducted in September also asked women about their experiences of going back to work … and I’m quite shocked at how many women did not have a positive experience.
I was lucky, I guess. Two maternity leaves – both with the same law firm and both times, I got promotion while I was on maternity leave. I do recognise that is unusual. Both times, I was able to keep in touch as much (or as little) as I wanted while I was away. I found it was relatively easy to step back into my role PLUS I was able to negotiate a more flexible working pattern. However I know that my experience is not the norm.
As a coach, I really do want women to get the best out of their own lives – I guess I have always been a bit of a feminist (whatever that might mean). In my work as a coach, but also as an active NCT volunteer and breastfeeding counsellor, I meet a lot of women. Many of them have found their own way to balance paid work vs family life. However many struggle. I know some women who are highly qualified but are doing much more mundane roles because that is what fits in with their family. Some are happy with that choice, others are not. I fully believe that “it is choice, not chance, that determines your destiny” [Anthony Robbins quote]. Yes sometimes there is an element of luck or chance involved however I believe we all have the power to make our own choices. As a coach, my role is to act as a catalyst – your agent for change. I will support you, coax you, push you even … but I will not judge you or tell you what to do.
The feedback from the survey showed how many different feelings and emotions women experience before returning to work: anxiety, lack of confidence, nervous, upset, but also excitement, relief, happiness. And sometimes with a dose of guilt thrown into the mix too!
I want to make the return to work less stressful and more manageable; to give women confidence and encouragement; provide support that truly understands what you are going through. This is why my next project is all about helping women return to work after a career break or maternity leave. An opportunity to reflect on your skills and experience, refresh your CV and polish your brand. A chance to meet other women in your local area.
Get involved from the beginning and have a real influence on the course content and format: join me at a focus group session in Bromley on Thursday 7 November. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or come and chat to me at my launch party on Wednesday 13 November at Ripley Arts Centre.
I’d love to hear from you – if you have gone back to work after a career break or maternity leave, what was your biggest challenge?