Category: Managing Guilt

Career Mum … Can We Really Have it All?

Career Mum … Can We Really Have it All?

Is being a career mum even possible? Today I read that 6 in 10 women feel having kids is bad for your career. Really!!!????

In these days of “anything is possible”, so many career mums juggle work with looking after a young family. Perhaps you are lucky enough to work from home. Perhaps you are flying about in private jets and have an army of nannies and chefs catering to your child’s every requirement. Or perhaps you are like most of us working mums who do everything yourself and spend much of your life in a state of mania and panic that you have forgotten something vitally important.

A Career Mum’s Maternity Leave

As a Career Mum, I went on maternity leave a few days before my little one was due and returned to the office full time 11 weeks after he was born. I think this is fairly usual in the USA but not so much in the UK. Friends and colleagues often gasp in horror to hear of my very short maternity leave but I am the main wage earner in our little family and if the mortgage is to be paid and holidays are to be booked, I need to get to work. And the truth is I wanted to get back to work and felt little remorse about leaving my child with family and latterly, a private nursery which I paid through the nose for. Men are not criticized for not taking career breaks, so why are women often sneered at for wanting to have it all?

A Career Mum’s Guilt

As my son has grown older and my working life has become even busier; I have felt the gut wrenching pangs of guilt associated with not being at home. I have had embarrassing situations where my child was at nursery for 4 years and his teachers did not know who I was at graduation because I was rarely the one who had time to drop him or collect him; I have had parents at school assume my husband is a single parent; I have occasionally missed parents’ evenings, nativity plays and sports days due to travelling and/or work deadlines.

On the other side, I regularly sprint in to the office 10 minutes late as scraped knees have needed to be bandaged or breakfast spills cleaned up. I often run out of the office early to ensure prompt collection from after school club. I can’t tell you how many times I have needed to sign a document and rummaged through my handbag for a pen only to pull out plastic dinosaurs, snotty tissues and occasionally special pictures that my son sneaks in to my bag to cheer me up at the office (those days are the best days).

Working Mums – our children attend breakfast clubs, after school care, summer holiday clubs and occasionally even come to work with us. It is stressful; it is exhausting; it is enough to make you want the odd G&T on a Friday night.

Do I regret it? Would I change it? NO!!

A Career Mum’s Reward

I look at my 9 year old son with a mixture of pride and awe. This well-adjusted, confident, intelligent, hilarious little man is the way he is perhaps in spite of, but certainly because of our home set up. In a busy household where both parents work, he understands he needs to help out. He earns pocket money by performing well at school, undertaking the few household chores that he is set, and will save his pocket money for that Xbox One if he really wants it before Christmas. He understands the importance of working for things. He has a centred moral compass and demonstrates compassion for others. He is kind and helpful; running down the front steps when I have been shopping to help carry bags. Would he be all these things if I had stayed at home with him? Probably. Is he still all of these things even though I work full time? Absolutely.

Could you be a Career Mum and have it all?

No matter whether you are a working mum or a busy mum at home all day (and let’s be honest – that is the toughest job of all), we all try to teach our children the skills and values to grow up as responsible members of society.

Remarkable ladies do the “working mum thing” every day – they are surgeons, waitresses, lawyers, shopkeepers etc. We have relied upon and are eternally grateful to the individuals and institutions that have assisted us in retaining our sense of self, making us happier women than we would be if we were just “Mum”.

For many years, I have been lucky enough to be associated with Ably Resources Ltd. Our organization proudly champions gender equality in the workplace and has no glass ceiling for career minded ladies with children.

If you are a woman chasing that board level appointment and thinking that children will prevent that; my experience has been that you can have it all – if you’re willing to work for it!!

Author: Ami Wright. Ami is the director of Ably Resources. Ably is a leading specialist recruitment group. They specialise in finding (flexible) work for women in Engineering, Oil & Gas and Drilling, Marine & Subsea and Architectural and Structural Engineering. They cover UK, Middle East and South East Asia – mainly relocating expats to these locations.

Working Flexibly and Returning to Workplace – Should you feel guilty?

Working Flexibly and Returning to Workplace – Should you feel guilty?

Are you working flexibly? Or are you looking to return to the workplace and considering working flexibly? If you are you most likely will feel anxious about your children’s future whilst feeling self-reproachful for spending time away from them. Here’s some encouraging news.

Working Flexibly? – The benefits for your child

Women whose mothers were employed outside the home are more likely to hold jobs themselves, to have managerial responsibilities at work and earn higher wages than women whose mums stayed at home full-time during their childhood, according to a Harvard Business School study.

Similarly, men brought up by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household duties and spend more time caring for family members.

The findings also revealed that it didn’t matter whether mothers work flexibly in temporary roles a few months one year, or fifty hours per week through the whole childhood.

Rather, differences occurred when children had a role model who demonstrated that women are more than able to balance working both inside and outside the home. So, even returning to work a few hours a week could increase the chances of your child becoming successful once they reach adulthood, enter the labour force and possibly become parents themselves.

Another study carried out on children in Denmark, found that children, with mothers who returned to work for only 10 to 19 hours a week (similar to holding a temporary position or part-time job) during the first four years of their child’s life, had grades that were 2.6% higher, relative to children whose mothers stayed at home. And, in the long term, the children with working mothers grew up to do better. Having a hard-working, female role model to look up to far outweighed the fact that mothers had to spend a little bit less time with their children when they were young.

Working Flexibly – Job offers are growing

Increasingly, employers are catering to the trend of more mothers wanting to remain in or re-join the workforce. This coincides with a societal shift in opinion that mother should be able to choose to work flexibly whilst raising their children instead of being resigned to look after their children full-time, at home. The Internet is increasingly filled with specialised recruitment agencies, job boards, websites and even a platform such as Flexy, with accommodating, temporary and part-time positions that could be attractive to many mothers wanting to work flexibly outside the home whilst their children are growing up.

Working Flexibly – The benefits for you

Although society, as a whole, has come a lot closer to achieving gender equality, there still exists a great amount of pressure and parental guilt over both parents working outside the home. However, much academic research has proven that his should not be the case, as there a range of benefits to being or having a working mother. For example, Harvard Business School’s research provided evidence that not only do working mothers help their families economically, they also help themselves emotionally and professionally as well as setting an example for their children by showing that contributions at work and at home are of equal value, for both fathers and mothers. These are just a handful of powerful reasons for working mothers to feel accomplished and proud of the fact they are able to return to the workforce, rather than guilty for being employed whilst raising their children.

 

Author: Charlotte Woodhams. Charlotte works at Flexy, a recruitment app, matching workers and employers for short-term contracts and shift work. Jobs include: office, admin and reception, catering and events, retail and merchandising, research and testing, sales and customer service, street marketing and promotions, warehouse pickers and packers, cleaning and maintenance. Jobs are London-focused.

Going Back to Work Guilt-Free? - Emma's Story

Going Back to Work Guilt-Free? – Emma’s Story

Before my maternity leave began, I was asked many times if I was going to go back to work. At the time I felt unsure but hoped I would make the right choice when the time approached.

Now I am about to go back, I am still unsure. That’s because whatever I had chosen to do, I’d still feel guilty.

Staying at Home – My Thoughts

If I stay home, I’m relying on my husband’s income which would put a strain on us. Then I’d have to ask him for money – he’d be paying for his own birthday and Christmas presents…

Then what would the rest of the family think? Am I a stay at home Mum or an unemployed person?

I’d also consider the lack of adult company. I could go along to toddler groups, but that involves conversations about babies. I wouldn’t mind that of course, but for how long? My job isn’t particularly challenging mentally, but I still need to do a bit of thinking. However, with baby brain, that makes me nervous.

Going Back to Work – My Thoughts

Then going back to work can have it’s down sides. Apart from the early morning stress of getting everyone up, washed dressed, fed and out of the house on time, there’s the worry of leaving my lovely bundle of joy all day long.

Will the childminder know all of her little quirks? When she’s tired will she just want Mummy? Then there’s the other children who could pick on her. She’s just a baby after all.

Okay, so it’s all about character building and not wrapping her up in cotton wool, but there’s no way I want to miss those milestones. I want to see her first steps.

Make the Most of Maternity Leave

The one thing I made sure I did was savour every day I had with my baby when I was off work. I did things I probably wouldn’t get the chance to do once I was back.

I did every baby group going from Yoga to Zumbini. I even did stuff around the house and garden I wouldn’t normally do.

It can be lonely with a small baby all day long, so I checked out what was going on at the local children centres.

What’s Best for You and Baby

I made the personal choice to return to work part time. That way I could still keep my job with a possibility of going back full time again one day.

As my daughter is getting older, she’s becoming more independent. There’s more to life than hanging out with Mum. She wants to go off and play and learn with the other children. In another year, she’ll be going to pre-school. Then what will I do?

At least going back gives me options. If it works then that’s great. I’ve got a little independence myself, a small amount of income and something else in my life to focus on. It’s all about adjusting and just trying to get the balance right.

If it doesn’t work, then it’s back to the drawing board. I just need to remember why I need a job and why my baby might actually appreciate that in the long run.

Author: Emma Harvey, Emma is a working mother with a 12 year old and a 9 month old. She works in the care sector and has just returned from maternity leave as a trainer. She writes and blogs in her spare time. Read more on Emma’s own blog: HubPages

It’s okay to be anxious about returning to nursing after maternity leave

It’s okay to be anxious about returning to nursing after maternity leave

If you’re feeling panicky about returning to nursing after maternity leave then you’re not alone. Feeling guilty and tearful after a bad night’s sleep doesn’t bode well for giving injections and administering medication but there’s no need to worry.

Here are a few pointers to make sure you’re back to work in no time:

Remember employers understand

The core values of the nursing industry are compassion and care. The NHS have a duty of care to you and when compared to some more male dominated industries your boss will hopefully be a lot more understanding about the emotional and practical complications returning to work may cause. Your employer will be so used to welcoming mothers back that they will be ready to deal with all of the concerns and issues you may have. They might even offer you flexible working hours or have a special training programme for new mums. Speak to management before your return and see what they can do.

Options

If you’re thinking your old job may be too stressful or you’re looking for work closer to home there are many different hospitals and roles within nursing. You could consider doing agency work for a while – it’s best to have a look online for vacancies as there is a lot of well-paid temporary work out there until you’re ready to return to full-time work.

Before you return

There are lots of things you can do before your return to work to make the transition smoother. Nursing is ever changing, with budgets and targets to meet the NHS always having to evolve. Whilst you’re on maternity leave it’s a good idea to try keep up with the industry, you could do this by reading the Nursing Times. Making contact with your old colleagues in advance is also helpful, you can get the gossip and be filled in on important news so there isn’t too much to take in at first.

Childcare arrangements

Nursing can be quite physically tiring being on your feet all day and if your child isn’t sleeping very well this can make work quite exhausting. Make sure you plan with your partner who is going to get up in the night and take turns. Concrete childcare arrangements are essential; if you’re used to leaving your baby with a grandparent. for example. this should help you to feel less guilty and relaxed when at work.

Don’t feel guilty

Some mums are actually pleasantly surprised by how good returning to work can be. A lot of women miss having a laugh with the other nurses at work and enjoy being back in their normal environment. Even just getting ready for work, putting your makeup on and going somewhere without your child every day can make you feel like you’ve regained your independence. Also, as nursing is such a caring and rewarding profession it can make you feel extremely good about yourself again too.

Author:Brit Peacock is a journalism graduate who blogs on a variety of topics and takes a particular interest in writing about health-related issues. He has been published across a range of health websites, both in the UK and US, and is currently writing on behalf of UK nursing agency Nursing Personnel.

Making your own choice on the working/stay-at-home mother decision

Making your own choice on the working/stay-at-home mother decision

A Daily Mail report this week that only 1 in 10 women are stay-at-home mothers, together with the judge’s ruling in a recent divorce case that a mother should ‘get a job’ once her children are seven, have reignited the debate about whether mothers ‘should’ be at home with their children or remain in the workforce. We’re at a strange point in history where there seems to be pressure both ways: a longstanding societal push, reinforced by some parts of the media, to be an at-home mother and a corresponding push from Government and other parts of the media to keep mothers working. Mothers are squeezed in the middle, torn as to the ‘right thing’ to do and feeling judged whatever path they take.

External Pressures

I hear these mixed messages played out on the personal level as well, from the mothers I work with. Some women feel pressure from partners/parents/friends to give total attention to the family, while others feel pushed to get back to work. And we then have our own internal ambiguity: “I’m being selfish and ungrateful if I want to work and leave my children” vs. “I’m wasting my education and sponging off my partner if I stay at home”. It’s not surprising that so many mothers feel guilty whatever they do.

There’s no RIGHT answer

What I’d love to tell all mothers wrestling with your work-home choices, either post maternity or career break, is this: There is no universal RIGHT answer. This is a time in your life when you need to acknowledge all the internal & external pressures you are experiencing, and then decide what is the best choice for you and your family, dependent on your desires and your personal circumstances (which can also change over time).

So which option do you choose?

If you have no real choice and need the income, then avoid the ‘pro-full-time mum’ press, focus on managing your work-home balance, read our articles on how to ditch the guilt and stop labelling yourself as selfish.

If you do have a choice, then focus on deciding what you want to do, not agonising over what you ‘should’ do. There are many options: working as an employee full-time/part-time/flexibly, setting up your own business, going freelance, pausing your career with a clear strategy to return later, or being an at-home mother. And it’s fine to chop and change over the years as you create a life balance that works for you.

Finding my way

Personally, I was taken aback by the pull I felt to stay at home for a few years when my kids were small – I’d always pictured myself as someone who would never take a break. Being at home suited me best in the early years but after four years I was desperate to engage my brain again in other interests and went back to university to retrain, doing some consultancy alongside. I then worked part-time and grew my own business, working longer hours as my children got older. Many of my friends and colleagues had different experiences; from those who were very happy get back to full-time work after maternity leave to those have remained at home until their children are much older and are only now considering how they can find their way back into work.

Feeling content with your life

There is no single and perfect solution. But you’ll know you’ve made the best choice for you when most of the time you feel (fairly) satisfied with your life and rarely feel frustrated and stuck in a place where you don’t want to be. And if you don’t feel satisfied, that’s when you need to make a change, not when other people say you should.

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Who are your best return-to-work supporters?

Who are your best return-to-work supporters?

What do we normally do when we’re thinking about making changes in our lives? Our natural instinct is often to talk things through with friends and family – to get their opinion and test out our ideas. I remember many mornings spent discussing future plans with other mothers over coffee when I was on career break.

It can be useful to chat about your return to work ideas – setting up a business, returning to your old field, retraining, or whatever your inspiration may be. As you speak about your thoughts, this can help them to become more concrete and move you to action.

But this can also be a risky strategy as your trusted friends might not be the supporters you need to develop your fledgling ideas. If they pour cold water on your tentative plans, this can be a major knock to your confidence, raising more doubts and worries in your mind and stopping you moving forward to action.

These are some reactions potential returners have told me they received:
From other at-home mums: “What do you want to go back to work for – you’re so lucky to be able to be at home?”
“I can’t imagine having the energy to work. All the working mums I know are exhausted”
From family & ex-colleagues: “I never saw you as a [creative person / entrepreneur / mature student ..]”
From partners: “Well, if you’re absolutely sure that’s what you want to do …”
“If you think you can manage that and the kids without getting too stressed …”

There’s a big difference between these generalised negative comments, which can make you want to give up, rather than helpful specific questions that encourage you to reality check your ideas. If you’re facing comments like these, rather than simply taking them at face value, it’s worth putting them in context. Here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Your friends who are also on career break may want to keep you ‘on their team’. They don’t want to lose you to the workplace!
  • Your plans to return to work may raise doubts in their minds about the decisions they’ve taken. When we experience ‘cognitive dissonance’, where our actions don’t directly align with our beliefs (eg I should be using my education but I’m not in paid work), we feel uncomfortable. They may subconsciously try to convince you that it’s too hard to be a working mother to prove to themselves that their decision is correct.
  • Your ex-colleagues tend to define you by the role you used to have. This is similar to the cognitive bias called ‘functional fixedness’ where we find it hard to see familiar objects in a different light. Which is a real advantage if you’re returning to the same field, but limiting if you’re considering a new direction.
  • Growing up within a family we all often have set roles (the smart one, the creative one etc). If you’re stepping into a sibling’s role, they may feel challenged or disorientated.
  • Your partner and children naturally will prefer the status quo if it’s comfortable for them. Accept they may not be your cheerleaders initially at least!

To balance the naysayers, think about creating a group of return-to-work supporters:
1. Identify & seek out friends and family members who are encouraging and positive and fill you with a sense of possibility
2. Partner with one or more women who are also looking to return to work
3. Seek out a mentor – find a woman in your field who has successfully returned after a career break and ask for advice.

As our network grows we’re thinking about setting up a return-to-work support group. Also a number of successful returners have offered to be to mentors. Would you find either of these useful? In what format (eg.LinkedIn)? Let us know in the comments below or on info@womenreturners.com.

 

julianne&katerinaAuthor: Julianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

How to make time for your return to work job search

How to make time for your return to work job search

Two recent conversations with returners have reminded me how difficult it can be for women to focus on their return to work activity: there always seems to be something more important or time-consuming for them to do.

As former professionals used to managing busy careers, women on career break often fill their lives with activities that keep them busy, engaged and feeling productive. As well as looking after family and home, they frequently take on voluntary roles or small paid projects, develop new hobbies and simply ‘help others out’.

The difficulty comes when trying to return to work: how do you fit a job search into an already busy life? The truth is that finding a new role, especially when you have left the workforce, is a job in itself. Your return to work will only happen with dedicated time, energy and commitment.

Why it’s hard to find space

Somehow, it’s especially hard for mother and this is why:

  • you might not be sure whether you are ready to return, so you don’t give it your attention to avoid having to make a decision
  • you don’t know how to get started on your return to work, so you procrastinate
  • you’ve made some small efforts and have been deterred by the response (or lack of) you’ve received
  • it’s the wrong time of year (eg pre-Christmas/Easter/summer holiday)
  • it feels selfish to be focusing on yourself after so many years of putting others first
    you don’t know which of the other activities to cut out, in order to make space for your return to work plans

 

How to create space

Here are some ideas on how you can start to create time for yourself, so you can address some of these barriers, both practical and psychological:

  • start small – make a date with yourself! It could be sitting in a coffee shop for half an hour after school drop off, on your own with the purpose of doing your own thinking and planning. If you can do this once, you can start to make it a regular habit and then expand the time you devote to it
  • enlist a buddy – this could either be someone in the same position as you with whom you can meet regularly and share experiences and ideas. Or it could be someone who is simply there to support, encourage and celebrate with you and keep you on track
  • give your search a project name – to give it focus and make it more like a work project
  • sign up for a relevant course – this will enable to you dedicate time to your new direction, introduce you to others who might be helpful to you and signify that you are taking positive steps for yourself
  • address your reluctance to put yourself first – by trying it out! This post on Banning Selfish may be useful
  • delegate – perhaps you don’t have to keep doing all the things you currently do whether at home or elsewhere
    work with a coach – this will commit you to spending time (and money) on your return to work in a structured way and get you into the habit of giving time to this activity.

Remember that no-one else can do the work required for you, so your return to work will only happen if you give it – and yourself – the time and attention you deserve.

 

julianne&katerinaAuthor: Katerina Gould, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Working Mothers need to ban Selfish

Working Mothers need to ban Selfish

Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign has sent a strong message to young girls. It illustrates how powerful words can be in labelling ourselves and shaping our thoughts and feelings. Personally, I’d like to ban the overuse of a word that both holds back mothers from enjoying their work-family lives and can even get in the way of a successful return to work. Mothers, let’s Ban Selfish!

How often before having children did we label doing something positive just for ourselves – playing a sport, learning a language, reading a book – as ‘selfish’? Never, that I can remember. In fact, we usually felt quite pleased with ourselves that we weren’t just slumping in front of the TV but were staying healthy or continuing learning new skills outside of work.

But I’ve noticed that a strange transformation comes over many women when children arrive. Suddenly doing something for ourselves starts to make us feel bad, rather than good … it becomes ‘selfish’.
In the last few months, I’ve heard mothers describe all of these as ‘selfish’:

  • Going for a run on a Saturday morning / a yoga class on a Thursday evening
  • Signing up for a Monday evening cookery class
  • Re-reading Jane Austen on a Sunday morning
  • Going to an evening work event to make new contacts
  • Catching up on reading work journals for an hour on a Saturday

Taken further, some women describe their desire to return to paid work as ‘selfish’, usually if they don’t financially need to work but are feeling unfulfilled at home. It can be seen as a personal failing: “Why can’t I just be happy looking after my kids?”

By using the term ‘selfish’, we’re telling ourselves that we are lacking consideration for others and prioritising our interests above everyone else’s.  In fact the opposite is true. We see these choices as selfish because we’re putting our needs at the bottom of the pile. Driven by caring for others, we can end up becoming martyrs to our family.

Taking time for ourselves alongside the needs of your family is not selfish. It’s a healthy and positive attitude that is likely to improve your family life as you will be happier and more energised. Who wants a bored, frustrated and ‘selfless’ mother?

Are you ready to Ban Selfish?

julianne&katerinaAuthor: From the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.