Becoming a parent is a life-changing event that brings overwhelming feelings of love and joy. For many women in the workforce, maternity leave is a welcome opportunity to take an extended break and bond with their newborn. The length of leave varies – some take weeks or months, while others become stay-at-home mums for several years. Motherhood is undoubtedly a crucial and rewarding role, however the reality of giving up work for dirty nappies, sleepless nights and toddler tantrums can be incredibly challenging. The bathroom, once a room of convenience, suddenly becomes a haven for a moment of peace and quiet.
However, the most confronting issue associated with maternity leave is the impact it has on a woman’s confidence and self-esteem. Stimulating work, collaborative projects, engaging conversations and regular networking are often replaced by feelings of loneliness and loss of identity. At work, you are surrounded by colleagues who share common interests which creates a sense of belonging. Feeling valued for your work and receiving recognition for your achievements feels great!
Parenting on the other hand, is an even tougher job with no financial reward and rarely will you receive praise for a job well done. Forced financial dependency, not feeling appreciated, isolation and fear of judgement are common. You may also spend hours without engaging in adult conversation and when you do, it will usually be about all things baby. For those who stay out of the workforce longer, these negative feelings can manifest into self-doubt, lack of confidence and even depression.
According to a 2012 Gallup study of 60,000 mothers, 26 per cent admitted experiencing depression, compared to 16 per cent of working mothers. Retaining self-confidence and boosting self-esteem is therefore critical. Staying stimulated, engaged, connected and inspired contributes to a positive maternity leave experience and greater wellbeing for you and your family.
Below are some maternity leave tips to get you moving in the right direction:
- Plug into industry and market news. The world moves at such a rapid rate that if you blink you can miss the next big thing. Stay in-the-know and
keep abreast of sector/market news so when you return to work you know what has been happening in your industry.
- Stay connected to your workmates and colleagues. Just because you’re out of the office there’s no reason you shouldn’t stay in touch with your workmates and meaningful networks. Visiting the office gives you a chance to show off the newest (and cutest) family addition and catch up on what’s been going on in the business and the market. It also helps you to maintain important relationships and feel connected to your team.
- Explore, identify and evolve. Use this time to re-explore your personal values and identify what’s really important to you in this new role of motherhood. Set career goals that align to this vision and purpose so you can live the life you want and have a career that fits your needs and aspirations. This might be a flexible role, lead you to a new business venture or even a career change.
- Invest in your personal development. Completing a short course or further study is a great way to stay stimulated and further evolve areas requiring development or new skills. Not only does it look impressive on your resume, it keeps your mind active and when you decide to go back to work, you’re more qualified than before.
- Leverage social media to stay relevant. Explore topics you are passionate about, connect to relevant interest groups, capture these insights and share your thoughts and opinions. Start an Instagram page, update your Linked-In profile, blog. Whatever your interest, have a say, get your opinion out there and be heard.
- Socialise. Easier said than done when sleep deprived, but the positive energy you receive from being around friends and family is golden. Make the effort. Get up and get out – you never know who you might meet.
- Make time for yourself. Time may be a precious commodity but if a trusted family member or friend is willing to step in and babysit for an hour or so, do something special for yourself. Take up a new hobby, join a dance class, go to the gym or walk along a beach. Do what makes you
- Finally…. be kind to yourself. Being a new Mum is like a roller-coaster ride. You will experience many different emotions on this incredible journey. It is a huge life change. Take it day by day and make the decisions that support you and the life you want to live.
Maternity leave is a special time filled with many memorable moments and provides a unique opportunity to consider your next career or job role. So, how will you spend your time away from the boardroom?
Elly Stone is a founding FlexCoach and is passionate about supporting women in business and helping families transition into parenthood. She specialises in life and business coaching, career management and transitions.