Breaking the Bias – The Return to Work
As a new parent going back to work, you’ll be experiencing a whole range of feelings – some positive, some negative and some that you can’t even explain. Whatever you do, please don’t be hard on yourself for what you’re experiencing. You don’t have to be like ‘others’ and are allowed to go through your own set of emotions.
Once you’ve permitted yourself to accept your feelings and had moments of empathy/acknowledgement towards your circumstances, decide. Decide how you want to feel. How do you want to experience your return to work?
Stay with me here, it’s not as crazy as it may appear.
Did you know that our thoughts shape our experiences and we have much more control over our thoughts than we realise? It’s true, and I wish someone had told me this when I went back to work after my first child.
Changing Personal Bias
My personal bias towards mums returning to work was formed years before I even became a parent. This is why it is so important to break the bias. We are taught through the media and other women that have experienced challenges, that it is common to experience baby brain. What I failed to realise back then was articulated beautifully by Stacey Jacobs when she said, “just because something is common…doesn’t mean that it’s normal and that it should be happening and that we shouldn’t bother to do anything about it.” It became common because we accepted it. It became common because we didn’t do anything about it.
That changes now. That changes when we do something about it. That changes when we stop making women feel small for taking a break to gain a wealth of new skills. That changes when we stop looking down on them for going on a personal journey that leads to exponential development.
When I see a woman returning to work or recently returned to work, I don’t see baby brain. I see a woman who usually can’t believe how much she has grown. In fact, up until we talked, she probably never stopped to appreciate how much she has developed. After months of growing and learning, there’s a sudden switch to focusing on the few minor details of her workplace role that may need some ‘refreshing’. The modesty when it comes to their development is unbelievable.
Make a List of Your New Skills as a Parent
If you are one of these women who hasn’t stopped to appreciate yourself, then I’m asking you to pause and make a list of all the new skills you’ve picked up since becoming a parent. There will be things you might not even have seen as a ‘skill’, but I assure you, there’s more than you can even fathom.
Here are a few examples to help get you started:
Empathy – this skill is going to help create a safe space for creativity and improved commitment from team members.
Quick thinking – helps diffuse difficult situations within teams and with clients/customers.
Laser-focused action – enables you to focus on what matters during periods of high stress.
Communication – finding different ways to communicate and connect with a range of personalities.
Motivation – willingness to understand and find ways to motivate team members. This is especially true for parents of more than one child, where you can appreciate the innate differences we possess.
Breaking the Bias and Embracing Change
You see these skills in successful leaders – qualities you may not learn in school but can most definitely pick up as a parent. It’s continuing professional development, and seeing it that way as both the employee and an employer can change the entire return to work experience.
The next big challenge is the constant need to prove you’re the same as you were before maternity leave. I often ask…Why do you want to be that person? Why do you want to go back to a historical version of yourself? You are not who you were when you began your maternity leave, and that’s a good thing!
It means you have developed in new ways – you are everything you were before, and more. If you started a new job today, you wouldn’t try to be the pre-baby version of yourself, so don’t try to do that. It is unfair to both you, your team and your family. With your growth, comes opportunities for team members to grow as well, and build resilience in the face of change.
Becoming the ‘New You.’
Some things I often hear when I advise people to just be the ‘new you’ include:
“I feel bad that my team will have to adjust to A, B or C.” So? It builds resilience. They would have adjusted to your maternity cover and would adjust to someone new if you ever left your role.
“The workloads will change, and people may not like that.” So? They will build new skills and learn more in the workplace, which can ultimately help their development.
These thoughts normally cross our minds as we begin to put ourselves further and further down the list of priorities. The long-term impact of not prioritising yourself during your return to work is more than you may realise. Losing yourself trying to prove yourself is never worth it because it will ultimately lead to resentment, blame and shame.
Do you want to prove yourself? Then do it by really being you and breaking the bias because that’s where the gold is. Embracing the parental experience and everything that comes with it is how you will shine.
Remember, the journey back to work and embracing the ‘new you’ takes both courage and strength. You are more incredible than you realise and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you, your family and your teams get to benefit from it.
If you’d like additional guidance, please reach out for a free chat to help support your return to work, with my maternity transition coaching programme. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Karishma Motiram, Working Parent and Mindset Coach.
Karishma Motiram is a Working Parent and Mindset Coach. Her passion is to put a spotlight on the added value, skills and growth that comes with being a working mother. Her long term goal is to change how businesses look at their parental leave packages, providing encouragement and support to return to work, rather than merely the time & space to be away contractually.