Motherhood is a very unique and transforming experience. And if you are a career woman, this transition is even more dramatic. The thought of quitting perhaps might have crossed most of the woman entering into motherhood. Many do. For those who come back to work, there is constant challenge – guilt of leaving behind the little ones, fear of being left behind owing to the maternity gap, lack of confidence for not taking challenging projects owing to work-life balance, being judged in personal and professional domain.
What I have learnt from my journey and of some exemplary women leaders who have gone through this journey is that there are no absolute rules. Mothers, you have to make your own rules. Yes, there are learnings which can guide us to make us our rules.
- Guilt free Motherhood – Every mother goes through this emotion of guilt. As Indira Nooyi says, “You have to cope, because you die with guilt”. What stands most prominent in this statement is ‘cope’. Yes, each one will have to build a coping mechanism to reduce the feeling of guilt.
Find people whom you trust. Ask them how they have done it. Read stories of inspiring career woman who have gone through motherhood. Believe in what you have learnt and what is best for you.
A clarity on career and life vision would help you asking the right questions. Remember, some days would be for the mother in you, some days would be for the professional in you. Weigh what is most important today. Take your decisions and remember, there are many more strong women who are both mothers and professionals who are perhaps sailing in the same boat. You are not alone.
- The Mom Community – Communities act as a great support system. Be a part of the working mother community. If there is none around you, take the lead and create one. All our challenges and problems might already have a solution. Internet provides access to many such communities. Research has proven that we feel more confident and are able to face our challenges more confidently when we are part of a community. Some of the renowned online community is ‘Lean in’ by Sheryl Sandberg which has local chapters across many cities in the world. A little research and you might find many more local working mom community.
- Create the Extended Family – Quoting Indira Nooyi again, “Train people at work. Train your family to be your extended family”. Before people stop expecting from you, you need to bring down your own expectations from yourself. The perfect mother syndrome is killing. Is being the perfect mother, your only identity? If not, then shed it right now. Allow your family members
- to help you. Trust your husband, your parents, and your in-laws. They love the child as much as you do and would do a good job of taking care of the child.
- Overcome the Judgement Game –We are a society who is ready to pass judgements at a drop of a hat. Just as every individual find their individual coping mechanism to overcome guilt, you need to find your coping mechanism for this one as well. There could be few who give a damn to anyone judging them. For some it could be quite troublesome. If the person judging you is not important for you, don’t waste your time dealing with it. If it’s someone who is important – your spouse or some important family member, you would need to confront it. Do it with empathy and love. Have repeated conversations, take help of mom community, reach out to a common friend or family member who can be an influencer and sometimes just ignore. But remember, it’s about them, it’s not about you. Till the time you don’t judge yourself, you would be able to manage it.
- Have a Mentor – Mentoring is often best used when someone is facing a key transition point in their career, at the moment when self-doubt and lack of confidence may hold us back—a great mentor helps us to hold onto our ambition and to truly realize our potential. What can be a bigger transition than maternity transition? Having a mentor helps you keep focus on essential and important issues. A mentor can help you navigate your career points, network better and create effective strategies. A 30 minutes talk with your mentor can be the most energising and effective booster. Ask your organization to assign a mentor and if they can’t, reach out to leaders whom you admire and trust.
- Plan, Plan & Plan – If you are a working mother, probably you are juggling with various chores throughout the day. The best way to reduce the stress and anxiety is to PLAN. Make technology your best friend. There are many planners and apps which help you plan and organize in the most effective manner. ‘Todoist’ is one such app which can be downloaded. It distinguishes your work in important and not so important category. It gives you reminders and also brownie points when you accomplish your goals J choose what works best for you but do spruce up your organizing skills.
The key to all the above is clarity and understanding of what you really want of your life and career. A two year maternity transition is not the all and end all of your career. You never stop being the mother, even when your child is 20 years old. Building a career is like running a marathon and not a 100 metre race. It requires vision, courage, stamina and strategy.