This is something very relevant to me at the moment and to a lot of other women I’ve met over this last 10 months.
When I went off on maternity leave for the first time, I was so utterly excited to be embarking on the next chapter of my life and to meet out baby and become a mum. That’s all I wanted to focus on, think about and work towards. It’s such a privilege to be a mother that I didn’t want to miss a single second of it. So I vowed that work would take a backseat temporarily and I’d concentrate on myself and my family.
That’s exactly what I did.
Then fast-forward six months and that dread of returning to work starts to creep in. The questions, the uncertainty, the worry, even fear. I quickly realised I wasn’t the only new mum feeling like this, in fact it seemed more women than not were feeling like this. It didn’t seem right and didn’t sit well with me.
Without boring you with all the details, my circumstances changed, returning to my previous job was no longer an option and I was faced with an uncertain future when it came to my career. And it was terrifying. Terrifying but bloody exciting I quickly decided. In fact, it was probably the best thing that could happen to me! But I was lucky. Not everyone feels this way and not everyone has a job to go back to after they close that door (temporarily) and embark on motherhood. In fact it seems that many women are made redundant, or their jobs are changed in their absence, or they are simply made to feel like they are no longer required in the workplace.
Can you imagine what that does to a woman’s self confidence? A woman who has just spent 9 months of her life growing a small human (after all, that’s how we all get here) and who has spent somewhere between 3 and 12 months at home with said human, trying to do the absolute best by them, whilst entirely and utterly exhausted. Well, I’ve seen first hand that it can leave otherwise confident, powerful women, nervous, anxious and afraid. Surely this isn’t right? Surely this is the time in a woman’s life where she is supported, looked-after, nurtured and boosted?
Well unfortunately in my experience, this just doesn’t seem to be the case. And it’s sad to see and makes the inner feminist in me scream out in frustration that in this forward-thinking day and age, we are still ultimately making things bloody difficult for women and mothers.
So I quickly made it my mission to meet as many other mothers, working and not working, share our stories, offer each other advice and support where it may be lacking. I joined Facebook groups and meet-ups and surrounded myself by inspiring people (not just women, I hasten to add) and decided that I would have “the balls” to go it alone and do my own thing, because I deserved to. That way I would be in control of my career, I would be answerable to myself and I would have the opportunity to both work and be a mother. Something that seems very hard for many women out there.
It’s not been easy and I’m not going to tell you I’ve not worried whether I’d be able to pull it off, be able to make up my now lacking salary and whether I’d truly love it, I have. I’ve worried quite a bit actually. When I’ve supposed to have been concentrating on being a mother and working out how all that works, I’ve been distracted by the fact that I’d need to earn some money, that I’d need to find a way of working that meant I didn’t spend all our hard-earned money on childcare and that I’d need to find a way that gave me as much time as humanly possible with our beautiful daughter. All of this has been flying through my mind for months, along with nappies, breast-milk, bottle-feeding, weaning, poop-explosions (not mine) and every-bloody-thing-else I’m expected to have in my head at any one time.
I guess what I’m trying to get at here, is that it just still seems that the world of work in this country is still pretty backwards when it wants to be. I’m certainly not saying that it’s always that way, or every employer doesn’t offer their new mums support. I’ve heard some fantastically positive stories that give us all hope. But I have seen, listened and watched amazing, wonderful, intelligent and talented women and mothers, be made to compromise their career and feel like they are no longer of use in the workplace. And that isn’t right, plain and simple.
So if there are any other mums out there reading this, or young women, or partners, or bosses or anyone really, that might take something away from this post. It’s that we all need to support each other, we need to nurture each other’s talents and women who have been off on maternity leave are just as capable (if not more so) than they were when they left.
And if you don’t feel like you’re being treated the way you deserve during your maternity leave or on your return to work and you have that yearning to go it alone, then do it! Have “the balls” (whatever that means!), know your worth and bloody go for it. You’ll be surprised at how many people will be routing for you.
Have you experienced any changes since being on maternity leave, good or bad? I’d love to hear from other new mums about this.