Taking time off work when you become a parent is an inevitability, but why should it have to affect your career negatively? As I drove along this morning into work I listened to an episode of the Parenthood podcast and found myself agreeing out loud with much of the sentiment.
In this specific episode (8th February 2019) Marina chats to Dominie Moss, the founder of The Return Hub about parents returning to work after a career break, how they can be stronger, more resilient, better negotiators and ruthlessly efficient. True that!
It made me recall a blog I wrote about the skills parents pick up whilst doing the hardest job of all – being a parent – and how they can transfer these skills back into the workplace when they return to work.
I wanted to find out what other parents found when they returned to work after having had a baby and whether they believed they had picked up essential skills along the way that would translate back to the workplace. With this in mind, I put out a message my social channels to ask returning parents. This is what they said…
First and foremost, I feel I have become far more empathetic, both in terms of dealing with my team, but also my clients. One of my colleagues recently confided in me that I had become more ‘human’ at work, and I have to agree with her. I guess I didn’t quite realise my game face was that obvious pre-baby. Likewise, I have learnt to be far more efficient with my time, however limited or pressured it might be. I think this is partly due to the fact that I had to learn to be really efficient and productive with my time whilst off on maternity leave. For example, when Amelia went down for a nap, I was able to bash out a blog, hoover the whole house (rarely let’s be honest) or get a workout in. I feel I can prioritise and focus my time better now, and likewise the tasks that I do need to carry out, I do quickly and without getting side tracked.
Lianne Marie Freeman, a blogger from AnkleBitersAdventures said that her organisational skills dramatically improved when off on maternity leave and that she has been able to plan for every eventuality since becoming a mum. Given one minute your baby could be chatting away and the next you could be calling 111, I feel like I know this all too well.
EarningByTheSea blogger, Kaya La Roche, told me that she was able to complete a home study course in digital marketing whilst she was on maternity leave. She said it was always something she wanted to learn and because it was all online it fit in perfectly with her regime with a new baby. I’ve also considered similar courses and heard plenty of people speak highly of them. Take a look @DigitalMumsHQ for their #DigitalRetox class and @TechPixies if you haven’t done so already.
Similarly, Melanie Harwood, an education specialist at Harwood Education also recommended that mums update their tech skills. Melanie advised mums to “look into some online courses that will help build their knowledge base to ensure that when they return to work, they’re in a position of transition to move up to their next challenge.” She also noted, “most mums decide not to return to the world of work they were in before they had their child/ren. This is the perfect time for reinvention. I had my daughter and did not return to my job as TV and Documentary Presenter. I took the hit financially and stayed at home with her till she started primary school. I then created an education programme to teach children how to write.”
Jeannette Cripps from Autism Mumma said that for her it was all about time management. She explained, “time management really comes into its own returning to work after a baby, knowing that you have a set period of time and that you need to be somewhere before the out of hour rates kick in with childcare”. She pointed out this makes you work faster and smarter.
Welshmum, Christy Bruckner, recommended new parents to learn first aid as a new skill. Not only will this help them with their new baby, but it will be a great skill to take back to the workforce. She also said the following to me, “most of all I learnt how to be more patient and how to deal with someone even when I am tired and frustrated.” This is a great point. We all have that challenging client or team member, so being able to keep your cool in any situation is a great asset.
One mum wanted to point out that since she came back to work, she’s stopped sweating the small stuff. She explained, “I have to say the top thing I have learnt is not so much a skill, but a behavioural change. I have stopped caring so much about work stresses. I am much more chilled out now than I used to be. Some things are just way more important than stressing over office politics. I think it has probably made me a better worker, because I spend less time getting caught up in office problems and gossip.”
Jamie Sutton- Jennings who writes the blog Mama Bear of One mentioned that she is much more empathetic of others. She feels she can approach difficult situations much more diplomatically. She believes she now has better people skills and a better awareness of others. She concluded “mums can be written off by some companies when they return, but I feel that having mothers in a workplace can help it to thrive.”
Mona Kay, L&D Manager at Knowledge Train® said, “one thing I learned was to delegate tasks to my partner and family members. Delegating responsibilities to other team members when at work is also healthy. Organisation and time management were important skills I learned as well. Washing and sorting clothes in their drawers, keeping an inventory of their formula milk and designating a special place for the dummies helped me to become super organised. That enabled me to sort out my priorities during working hours and prevented me procrastinating. Last but not least, when I came back to my job in employee relations, I realised that I’d learned patience, humility and compassion in dealing with my colleagues.”
With skills like this it’s a wonder why it’s so hard for returning parents to get back into their careers. It’s time to celebrate parental leave and start shouting about what we can offer our workplaces when we return.