Returning to work post maternity

In the grand theatre of post-maternity work life, the script has always seemed to favour the male leads. However, the quest for equality in family roles and careers for both sexes remains an ongoing battle.
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Abbie Coleman – MMB Magazine For Working Mums

The Returning Mum

From the conspicuous absence of mid-to-senior tier roles that accommodate part-time or flexible arrangements to the age-old, entrenched notion of who's presumed to don the primary caregiver cape, often reflective on who is the higher earner, and let's not forget the looming skills hiatus and earnings ebb during this period away from the career spotlight. In this high-stakes game, where time is both friend and foe, the stakes couldn't be higher for the women eyeing a return to their careers.

Return to workReturn to work
Return to work

In this arena of ambition, the applause for support often sounds more like a polite golf clap, and the currency of choice is, without a doubt, sacrifice. For these women, re-entry is a tightrope walk, where balance is an elusive prize and every step forward feels like a fight for self-worth, with an opponent that won't move from an outdated view of how the workplace functions even in 2024.

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As we navigate this labyrinth of aspirations and obligations, I can't help but wonder: When our stage is set, the lights are dimmed, and we step out, how do we reclaim the spotlight of our professional lives?

I conducted a MMB Returner Survey encompassing over a thousand working mothers re-entering the workforce within a year of giving birth for MMB Magazine. 72 per cent were women in middle management or senior-level jobs returning from small businesses to large corporations. While the outcomes may not surprise many of us, they nonetheless paint a sombre picture, and I fear it hasn't gotten any better.

  • 91 per cent of our maternity returners participants said no returner programme was in place for their return to work
  • Only 18 per cent of maternity returners felt happy and confident about work – having seen how their employer dealt with previous maternity returners.
  • 37 per cent felt so unsupported and isolated on their return that they wanted to leave.
  • 90 per cent said no returner support was offered through returner programmes or one-to-one coaching.
  • 60 per cent were worried about their requests for flexible working being rejected.
  • 83 per cent of respondents expressed experiencing a tangible or anticipated limitation in their career trajectory solely due to their part-time status, irrespective of their demonstrated abilities and skills.
  • Alarmingly, 71 per cent of respondents reported a need for more promotions since transitioning to part-time work.
  • A disheartening 42 per cent admitted to negative comments from colleagues after switching to part-time hours.
  • Over half, 51 per cent, shared a sense of career regression due to their reduced hours.

In striking contrast, 19 per cent of respondents believed their careers had not suffered due to their part-time status, underscoring a palpable opportunity imbalance.

So, whether it's been a mere 12 months or a substantial seven years, how do we navigate the return to work? Below, I've compiled some tips to help you find your footing.

Concise Career Comeback Guide:

Define your desires:

  • Tune into your dreams, not societal demands.
  • Identify values and must-haves: Flexi hours, career strides, earnings, industry love, home proximity.
  • Discuss with your partner and sync up your visions.

Skill spotlight:

  • Embrace your skills and articulate them.
  • Look at returner programmes
  • Rediscover and celebrate your pre-motherhood expertise.
  • Stay updated in your field, read, attend events, and tune into podcasts.
  • Be your own PR machine.
  • Shine a light on your achievements unapologetically.

Network magic:

  • Spruce up your LinkedIn and spotlight your goals.
  • Cultivate your network; it's often about who you know.
  • Reconnect with old colleagues and widen your circle, drop me a connection request on LinkedIn I will happily accept.
  • Join local groups for connections and confidence boosts.
  • Network genuinely; authenticity shines.

Mentorship marvel:

  • Seek out a mentor; their guidance is priceless.
  • Self-Kindness:
  • Brace for bumps on this journey.
  • Combat self-doubt with self-compassion.
  • Lean on loved ones or join an online support group.
  • Remember, mistakes are part of the human experience. Help is just an ask away.
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This guide is a steppingstone, not the entire staircase. Hopefully, it sets you on the right path. Here's to you stepping back into the career world with your head held high. This guide is a catalyst, not a conclusion. It propels you forward, ready to conquer the career world once more. Wishing you all the best in your pursuit, as they say, may the odds be in your favour! Read our full return to work guide