Don’t let becoming a mother end your career.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a full-time, stay at home mum, just to be clear. In fact, I am in TOTAL awe and admiration of women who are. I just don’t think I could do it. 

I don’t have the patience, resilience or organisation skills to be one! I think motherhood is definitely the best ‘job’ I’ve ever had. Certainly the most fulfilling but probably the hardest.

I also know that I spent nearly 15 years building a career and NOT being a mother. So it stands to reason that a decent chunk of my identity is caught up in my career and the ‘professional’ – I use that term loosely! – version of myself.

“Who I was before I went away and what I had been good at had become a distant memory.”

My confidence was at rock bottom when I went back to work after my 1st mat leave in 2015. I’d gone back part-time and I didn’t really feel like ‘myself’ any more. My job had changed beyond all recognition and so had I. My expectations, my boundaries, my priorities, my sense of identity and confidence. Everything.

I had enjoyed a pretty successful career in employee engagement and organisational development before going away on maternity leave in 2014; a highlight of which was leading the People team who won the Sunday Times Best Company to work for two years in a row in 2015 and 2016.

When I was made redundant a few months later, my confidence took another nose dive. Who I was before I went away and what I had been good at had become a distant memory. I lost sight of my natural talents, the skills and the experience I had worked so hard to acquire, all flew out of the window – almost overnight.

“Your mortality and the meaning of life can become a very real point of reflection in parenthood.”

So what was it about this time out that knocked my confidence so hard?

It is well-documented that many talented mothers lose their sense of self after having children, even though they were often highly successful and full of confidence prior to their career break. I’m sure one of those reasons is the emotional shift and perspective that having children provides; and that there is perhaps more to life than having a fulfilling career?

As a new parent, it soon becomes clear that it is no longer just about ‘you’ anymore. In fact, many mothers find themselves dedicating themselves entirely to the every whim of their mewling new bundle, failing to shower, clothe or feed themselves properly during the early months of motherhood! This is an exaggerated description but you get my drift. 

Your mortality and the meaning of life can become a very real point of reflection in parenthood.

This loss of identity can also be affected by the stigma attached to having ‘time off’ to have a child. Apart from the fact I would argue that maternity leave is far from ‘time off’! some employers are still not as empathetic as perhaps they might be to the challenges faced by returning mothers. 

The often tricky transition back into the workplace as confidence issues raise their head, the newfound time pressures around childcare and the often emotional pull back to their family being just a few examples.

“Without more support and flexibility in the workplace for working parents, nothing will ever change and more and more mothers may as well sign their own 'do not resuscitate' forms on the careers they have worked so hard to build.”

I consider myself to be one of the ‘lucky ones’ and I managed to secure a freelance contract, as Shine Brighter Consulting, after I was made redundant and worked until the birth of my 2nd daughter with a brilliantly supportive organisation who saw what I had to offer, in spite of my own self-deprecation.

I took 14 months off on maternity leave and basically tried not to think about what I was going to do when I went back! It was very much a case of putting my head in the sand, I see that now!

“I galvanised my own passions and frustrations around wasted female talent in motherhood, mobilised the skills and experience gained in my 15 year career in coaching, people and organisational development and set about reconnecting with my own values and strengths.”

But it had become clear to me that being a stay at home mum was not an option for me. From either a financial or mental health standpoint! I’m definitely more than a mother. I am a working mother and, health permitting, always will be in some capacity. I’m doing it for me and I don’t feel bad about admitting that.

I also want to make my little girls proud, instil a great work ethic in them and show them that they too can work whilst being great mums one day. I am also passionate about changing the way the world of work regards and treats working mothers.

 Without more support and flexibility in the workplace for working parents, nothing will ever change and more and more mothers may as well sign their own ‘do not resuscitate’ forms on the careers they have worked so hard to build.

So after my 2nd maternity leave, in March 2018 I galvanised my own passions and frustrations around wasted female talent in motherhood, mobilised the skills and experience gained in my 15 year career in coaching, people and organisational development and set about reconnecting with my own values and strengths. And so the coaching arm of my business was born.

So as well as my leadership development, employee engagement and culture consultancy work, which helps organisations create purpose-led, extraordinary workplace cultures where the best people – even parents! – thrive and grow, I also work directly with ambitious women who want more from their careers.

“Through intuitive and science-backed coaching, I’ll help you reconnect with your unique values, talents and professional purpose so you can grow a brilliant career or start a values-led business you love, that aligns authentically to your personality and purpose. All on your terms.”

If motherhood has had an adverse effect on your own career trajectory and the corporate world has left you lost and disillusioned, I’d love to help you make work your happy place again.

I offer affordable group career coaching in the form of my Shine Collective Membership and 1:1 female founder coaching and mentoring if you are looking for more bespoke, intensive support with your work happiness.

You can book a free ‘no strings’ call to find out more and see if we are a good fit.

You can follow me on @theworkhappinesscoach on instagram and facebook and join my free Facebook group The Work Happiness Playbook.

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