As part of our campaign to #BREAKFREE from 'mum guilt', writer Lachane Harley explores the ways to make sure it doesn't hinder your career
On average, 50,000 women in the UK find their jobs under threat as a result of taking maternity leave – that’s a staggering 14% of the 340,000 women who take it every year.
The House of Commons Library found that women belonging to this category are usually forced out of their jobs because of discrimination, and usually don’t have the opportunity to continue their role on a part time basis.
Yep, believe it or not, but in 2016, being a working mom and wanting to ‘have it all’ is still an ideology which many fail to recognise. And even when companies do – it’s apparently not good enough. Back in September last year, Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, announced that she was pregnant with twins and would be taking very limited maternity leave – and would be working throughout her time off. And instead of giving her a high five for doing exactly what works for her (something we should all be aspiring to), she was immediately berated for propagating a culture which expects super womanhood in the workplace and out of it.
Which is why the main thing to remember is to do what makes you happy – and forget everyone else.
But if the guilt and the worry is still getting to be a bit much, here are five simple ways to balance work and motherhood on an even keel:
REMEMBER YOU ARE IN CONTROL
You may have spent the last 12 months attached to numerous nappy bags, and it might have been nine months since you last unblocked a colour printer, but you still have the ability to strive for success – and that’s nothing to feel ashamed of. Ask for help when you need it and don’t question yourself in silence – a network of family and friends is a invaluable in times like this, as are other colleagues. There’s no shame in asking for support.
STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME
By 9pm, you’re probably exhausted, we get it. However, being prepared and organised will save you time in the long run and allow you to catch up with any other tasks you need to complete. Take a few minutes out to set out any baby essentials for the day ahead and catch up on any work you have going before you crash. You’ll be grateful in the morning.
CONCENTRATE ON THE PRESENT
Juggling two equally important responsibilities is highly strenuous and it’s easy to become distracted. As difficult as it may sound, focus on your work when at work and the same applies when spending time with your baby. Concentration and focus is what will benefit you in the long term. Worrying about what you ‘could’ be doing instead won’t get it done – and will just mean you don’t do such a good job of the task in hand, too.
CONSIDER A FLEXIBLE WORK SCHEDULE
Many companies can be flexible when it comes to returning to work from maternity leave. However, if the work you do is compatible with a flexible arrangement, ask your manager if you can work outside of the office on a remote basis. There’s no harm in asking. Also, unless you’re a single parent, remember that looking after your child during work hours isn’t solely your responsibility – it’s up to your partner too. Sit down and work out a deal that benefits both of you – and doesn’t just prioritise his career. Yours is just as important.
HAVE SOME ‘ME’ TIME
Your time and energy may be diverted towards motherhood and achieving a successful career but you need to relax occasionally, otherwise you’ll be running on empty. If you struggle to find time to do something that makes you feel good about yourself, try and take at least 15-20 minutes before bed to tune out of all your stress. Turn off your phone, leave your partner with the baby and ignore your emails. Every little helps.