Employment and career challenges are harder in today’s world given the complexity of modern organisations and the speed at which business is conducted. Mothers returning to work also face challenges in their transition that we often forget about or underestimate.
When mothers return to work they not only have added challenges of new family dynamics, changes to their health and bodies, but also the challenges that transitioning into a new role brings. We as mothers, colleagues and managers often assume a mother’s transition back to work should be a ‘breeze’ when returning to an existing role or organisation. Newsflash! This is not always the case.
People change, roles change, leadership can change and projects and priorities can change. So what can make the transition easier for you, if you are a mother returning to work?
Whether you are returning to an existing role or to a new role, think of your return as a new start.
Plan the transition early and work out what needs to happen with childcare and the transition of your child. It is not only you transitioning, but your child is too.
Create and communicate a transition plan with an internal and/or external confidante as well as your family, to help with the challenges you reach along the way.
Make contact with your manager before returning
Where possible, a quick phone call or meeting can allow you to get up to speed on things that are important to your transition.
In my case, it allowed me to have a quick brief on the current projects so I could come prepared with a couple of ideas on how to be involved without being too consumed or not involved at all.
Allow enough time
According to the Altris 2007 survey on ‘Women Returning to the Workforce’, on average it will take up to 3 months for you to feel like you are up to speed after returning to work.
If it takes you time, it will naturally take time for your child to transition too. Ensure you allow enough time to help your child get used to their new routine and enough time for your career transition plan to take effect.
Michael Watkins, author of ‘The First 90 Days’, states the actions you take during your first three months in a new job will largely determine whether you succeed or fail. Give yourself time, and plan well!
Talk about expectations
Talk to your partner, manager and colleagues about expectations on you and on them. For example, you may be able to start work late, or finish work early – especially in the early months of your return.
Working out what is expected of you and what is expected of others will help your personal and professional relationships during your transition.
Work out your priorities from a scale of 1 to 5, and be realistic about the things that can slide for a while.
Does it really matter if your house misses a week of being cleaned? Can you really continue your volunteer work for your community right now? Do you need to be involved in all the current projects at work immediately?
Take time for you
It’s like the oxygen theory: if you don’t look after yourself then how can you look after your children, family and be reliable for your team?
Is there an hour a week that can be purely for you? If so, carve it out and schedule it into your diary so that it happens.
This can be an exciting time for you, so have fun in your day. Remember to smile, and work out your priorities quickly, both in and out of work.
Sometimes we feel like we have to be good at all things for all people. Reality check: you’re human, you can’t be!
We all have career transitions in life. Whether it is you or someone you know, the key is to remember to STOP, THINK, PLAN and ENGAGE with ACTION the next time a new journey is started.
Jayne Muller works with organisations and mothers’ transitioning out and back into the workforce, as they develop through their leadership journey.
She is an Executive Coach and Director for Altris, developers of leaders.