Returning to work can be both a relief and challenge in more ways than one for any professional mum. It can be hard giving up those precious moments spent with young children and navigating that elusive ‘work life balance’.
For others, it’s a relief to be able to have a cup of tea and go to the bathroom by yourself! And, as a mum, the small things make the biggest difference to your state of mind.
The biggest challenge for any parent going back to work is the feeling of ‘not getting enough done’ and as though things ‘aren’t as they used to be’. Financial, professional and in some cases, personal commitments impact on when and in what capacity parents re-enter the workforce.
When to return to work
Depending on where you are in your career and aspirations, going back to work will be different for everybody.
For many parents, whether going back to work part time or in a contract role, flexibility plays a big role.
Flexibility is a two way street and must be mutually beneficial. Employers will always be more flexible with employees that are adding value. Good employers will offer flexibility to get the best talent, and good employees will also think of what’s best for their employer.
My children were three months old when I went back to work and to be honest, it was a bit of a mixed bag. I went back to work quite quickly after having each, and really had to listen to my own advice, resisting the urge to be superwoman.
Resisting the urge to be superwoman
Many of the working mothers I deal with have shared their experiences on balancing between the best interests of their child and delivering professionally.
My ethos is: resist the urge to be superwoman. I know this because I experienced it myself when my children started school.
I vividly remember my husband reading The Age, drinking coffee casually as I scrambled around, packing lunches and getting the kids dressed while trying to dress myself. I started resenting him and all those feelings of ‘I’m doing it all, without help’, sank in.
I confronted him and asked how he had time. Couldn’t he see I was doing it all on my own?
His surprising response was: ‘who asked you to be a martyr?’
The silence in the room was deafening. I stopped in my tracks, which, for anyone that knows me, goes against my chatty nature.
It wasn’t until then I realised, he had offered to help. Many times. But I was so busy feeling like I had to do it ALL, it fell on deaf ears.
I was used to running a business, staff, clients and everything in between. I thought I could do it better. Faster. Or more to the point thought I was the mum and should.
That was three years ago and I no longer make breakfast or school lunches. In fact, my children are so well trained, if they get up early, and my husband is still asleep or at the gym, they say ‘don’t worry mum, dad will be home soon, we can wait.’
A fresh perspective
It’s easy to say ‘keep perspective’ when you’re not in the midst of a hectic schedule. But here are times when you must press the ‘stop’ button and recompose.
We regularly ask our clients, both business owners and seekers, whether they’re clear on what they’d like to achieve, both in a personal or professional capacity. The majority are taken aback and commonly say ‘I can’t remember the last time I thought about that’.
The same can be said to any parent. Taking ten minutes out with a cup of tea provides regular opportunities to consider the bigger picture.
My tea breaks have shown me that it’s better that I’m working. I’m challenged everyday but still able to enjoy work, family life and have my own space.
I have had to become a pragmatist, lower my standards a little on the home front and ask for help. At work, I recognised that to achieve the ‘work life balance’, I had to take things into my own hands and now work from home one day a week.
This approach allows me to focus on the big picture of the business and enjoy the greater things in life, such as walking my kids to and from school.
Asking for help has not only become a necessity but it has also become easier.
Even my children learned the value in not only asking for help, but also accepting relief on offer. Being a grumpy martyr is no fun for anyone and each day the pain from being told that ‘daddy’s vegemite sandwiches are better’ hurts a little less.
About Christine Khor
Christine Khor is Director of Strategy & Innovation at Carrera Partners, specialists in Sales, Marketing and Communications recruitment.