Having my first baby at 39 classed me as a ‘geriatric mum’, which brought a load of emotions and guilt with it. But what it also meant, for me, is that I’d worked for over 20 years and was lucky enough to sit in senior corporate roles and set up my own business before I had a baby. I was fiercely independent and loved the freedom of doing what I wanted, when I wanted.
Nothing could have prepared me for what was about to come.
At a routine appointment seven weeks before I was due to give birth, our consultant told me that “work stops now”. I gave birth days later. Only, I had a full calendar of client work to deliver – one-to-one coaching and leadership training – over the next three weeks followed by a celebration of massages, lunch dates and lie-ins booked in for the final four weeks before due date. I know now that birth rarely goes to plan.
My memory of the weeks, actually months, after that routine appointment, are a haze of crazy madness and a feeling that I’d lost all control. About six months in, my maternity leave routine took shape and then I found myself in ‘mum’ classes; baby massage, baby music, baby sensory. Everything baby. Nothing for me. Nothing to help me make sense of what I was going through having become a mum.
I was emotional, confused and resentful. I was told, “it’s your hormones.” “All this’ll pass”, they said. And largely, these feelings have passed but it’s not been an easy ride. The fact is that in the transition to motherhood, my identity, my relationships and my life has changed forever. And my work and business has too.
My transition back to work has been a slow and steady one, and being my own boss, I’ve been able to control how much I do, what I do and when I do it. And as I’ve sat with fellow mums negotiating their return to work, I’ve felt some significant advantages of that control, flexibility and freedom.
Experiencing my friends return to work and hearing their stories and often their difficulties, I was taken right back to when I worked in HR. Honestly, some of my most challenging conversations as an HR Director were between women and their bosses, talking through how she’d return to work after having a baby. It was so often a wrangle, both parties coming away not feeling heard and pretty unsatisfied.
I wasn’t a mum then yet I truly thought I understood what challenges mums faced in returning to work and what they needed to manage it well. But now that I have a child, I realise I didn’t have a clue. What I knew about and understood was the business’s perspective; the challenges, restrictions and requirements.
As I started work again, it became obvious that by bringing all my experiences, knowledge and expertise together, I can make a truly positive impact on maternity transitions, for everyone. And the benefits of this are significant; to individuals, families, businesses, society and the economy.
And so today, alongside my leadership work, I now work with women and businesses to navigate maternity transitions in a thoughtful and meaningful way. I offer coaching, training and consultancy services to businesses on all things maternity, paternity and flexible working and I work directly with mums to feel confident about who they are, what they want and how they’ll return to work. It’s exciting.
If you’ve got an experience to share, some thoughts on the issues or if you’d like some help navigating this sensitive and challenging time whether you’re a business or a mum, then please get in touch. It would be my total pleasure to talk.