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Mum Returners

Knowing You Do Have A Choice…

Yesterday, I spoke to a room full of like-minded mums about to return to work from maternity leave and start the juggle of work and family life. Looking back at how I felt before I embarked on this journey, similar to becoming a mum for the first time, nothing really prepares you for it.

Nothing prepares you for the knots in your stomach when you realise you have to leave the office to collect your child but are being prevented from doing so because of transport issues. Nothing prepares you for the pressure you feel under from every part of your life to have everything perfectly worked out. And nothing prepares you for the ache you carry with you every day as you miss your child more than words can express.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association

After I’d answered lots of questions after yesterday’s talk, I was approached by a lady who has set up her own business as she tries to make the juggle work for her. What she said made me smile in a realisation of how far we have all come as working mums. “In years to come,” she said, “these mums will look back at your talk and realise exactly what you were saying. Right now, they might not get it, but I sat and nodded my way through your talk because it’s so true.”

The things I talked about for those new mums returning to work, also apply to you as a working mum too. The most important takeaway of them all is that you absolutely do have options and you have a choice. Knowing this and choosing to act on it, can be incredibly liberating.

The thing is, when I was set to return to work after my year’s maternity leave with my son, I didn’t feel as if I had a choice. We needed the money, and because of the financial incentives offered for me to return full time for six months, I felt trapped. It meant that I didn’t explore my options.

But you absolutely do have a choice and there are so many things that you can think about doing. If you’re concerned that your current employer isn’t going to be flexible, first ask them about your options for returning. If they say they just want you back full-time in your role, at least you know where you stand.

If, of course, this isn’t going to work for you, then you can think about an exit strategy. The big thing to remember in all of this is that you’re in control. It’s your life and no one should make you feel as if they’re dictating how you live it.

Options could include returning, but starting a side hustle and building that side hustle up so that it will become your exit strategy. You could look for another more flexible role closer to home so you limit the daily commute.

There are great sites in the UK especially such as 2 to 3 Days and Timewise that post out relevant jobs for returners or mums in particular. If you know you definitely don’t want to return and are feeling overwhelmed with everything that lies ahead, think about what you’re qualified to do ie what is your zone of genius. Could you focus on providing your skills to a niche market on a freelance basis whilst you figure out what else you want to do?

I know of mums who have bought baby class franchises, have become yoga and pilates instructors, who have used their maternity leave to re-train and become laser focused on how they want their lives to be, both now and further down the line, whether that’s working just three days a week or full-time but with home-working as an option.

You see, once you start looking at the options you’re opening yourself up to opportunities. These are opportunities that might not have otherwise been there before because you were so focused on one particular outcome with tunnel vision.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association
You’re a mum, so you’re already amazing

The most important thing in all of this is to believe in yourself. You’re a mum, so you’re already amazing. Now take that fire inside of you to either get a promotion at work (but make it work for you), re-train or find yourself something that is going to complement, not hinder the juggle of work and family life.

Good luck with it all – and please let me know how you’re getting on as I love hearing from you about your journeys. Our journeys are just that; ours. And no one’s is every the same – each is as unique and special as you and your children… x

PS – The waitlist for the Working Mum Association Members Club is now open. To register your interest visit HERE

Working Mum Mentors And The Other Things That Will Help With Your Return To Work…

Next week, I’m going to be giving a talk to an audience of Working Mums who are either planning to return to work or are weighing up their options. Because one of the most important things for you to remember as a working mum is that you do have options.

When I was about to return to work after maternity leave, I didn’t think I had a choice. I had to return because we needed the money, and my company at the time also had a really good financial incentive to go back full-time for six months. It meant that I felt compelled to stay, even though the prospect of returning to my role, filled me with apprehension and I was still in the grips of separation anxiety.

Nicola J Rowley Founder of the Working Mum Association

One of the reasons that I ended up launching the Working Mum Association was to create a global community where like-minded mums could support each other. It’s the support that I’d felt was missing.

It’s why I’m now also working towards the introduction of Working Mum Mentors at high profile UK companies because hopefully others will then follow suit. Put simply it’s a way for mums who have already returned to the workplace, to support others who are new returners as they go through those initial first six-nine months.

It’s a way for non-judgmental support and advice from a fellow mum, who’s experienced how difficult it can be adjusting to life back in the office, the hours, the work culture and much more besides.

Other things that can help with your return to work include having a plan in place to help you cope with the transition. For instance, if you say to yourself you will give it a year and see how you get on, you will feel under less pressure.

If the company you’re returning to isn’t great when it comes to flexible working, then look towards joining another company that appreciates you and the talents you have, and will also be more accommodating to any such requests.

Other things that you can consider if you’re still on maternity leave is to use the time wisely to re-train, or to start a side hustle. Retraining will help you expand your skill set and starting a side hustle, such as a blog or expanding what was once a hobby, could be the thing that will help you more effectively balance work and home life.

The most important thing to remember in all of this is that you have to be happy. There’s no point dragging yourself into the office day after day, knowing how miserable you are, and how much you miss your children.

Making a change, any change – can seem scary. But please try and embrace the change, especially if it will lead to a happier, healthier you in the long run.

Nicola J Rowley The Working Mum Association

You may well be reading this and as a new mum, you managed to breeze seamlessly back into the workplace on your return. You feel that everything has gone well for you, and you feel valued and respected in your role. In short, little changed whilst you were away on maternity leave.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for the majority of mums who contact us. They miss their children terribly, are not afforded any flexible working, and feel stuck and unhappy in what was previously a fulfilling job or career.

Whatever your circumstances please remember you have choices that are yours and yours alone to make. You get to choose how your life pans out, and there’s simply not enough time for you to spend it being unhappy.

PS Coming soon I’ll be launching an affordable monthly paid membership for the Working Mum Associaton. To get yourself onto the waitlist please contact me HERE

Maternal Mental Health and Why It Matters For Mums In The Workplace

This morning marks the start of the second UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Week, with a theme of ‘Support for All’.

Worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth, experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. The thing to remember is that maternal mental disorders are treatable.

Sometimes just finding the strength to admit that you have a problem is key to finding the help that you need that will help you feel more like yourself once more.

I don’t often talk about this, but after J was born he spent a week in intensive care and it triggered a severe bout of separation anxiety in me.
I found it so difficult to still be in hospital but for him to be three floors up and away from me, even though I was often wandering the corridors in the small hours just to check on him.

When it came to returning to work, I really struggled with being apart from him. It didn’t help that we’d just spent an entire year attached to each other, and like many, we didn’t have any family nearby so it exacerbated the situation.

It’s fair to say that after a short while of me returning to work full time, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that I was only getting to see J for 30 minutes a day. Something had to change.

Maternal Mental Health the Working Mum Association

The reason that I’m telling you this, is because, in this picture above, you would never have known that I was feeling this way. Of course, as soon as I was with him, I was fine again.

I tried counselling, which didn’t really work – I felt like I was helping the counsellor instead of the other way around. I was even sent for psychiatric testing. The middle-aged man with his clipboard was somewhat baffled as he couldn’t find anything wrong with me but said I should be prescribed anti-depressants as he couldn’t think what else would help! And yet throughout everything, I knew what the issue was – I just wanted to be with my son – but on my terms.

So, I ignored the man with the clipboard entirely and not long after hitting rock bottom – I put in place a strategy to make the life that I wanted. And part of that was building the Working Mum Association.

Because you never know when someone is struggling and you never know when someone closest to you needs support. Please just be there as much as you can for fellow working mums to help support them so they no longer feel alone on their journey.

It’s why I’m also going to begin work to encourage UK companies to start introducing WMM’s or Working Mum Mentors, where fellow working mums volunteer to buddy up with a mum returning to the workplace. Everything they say is between them, but it’s a start to end the common feelings of isolation and all the issues that can go with getting back into the swing of a nine to five.

Working mums are incredible but they need support to be able to constantly juggle everything that they do. And this is a good time for everyone to sit up and start to take notice. Because PND and Separation Anxiety and many more mental disorders really have to be taken seriously, not just brushed under the carpet.

I know this has been a bit of a heavy post for a Monday morning, but I didn’t want the week to not be talked about or discussed in some way here.

You’re all brilliant ladies – keep shining like the stars that you are… x