A guest talk from a lovely mummy called Jess on her experience of looking for work while on maternity leave…
Going “forward” to work: My observations from job hunting while on maternity leave
My last job contract ended as my maternity leave kicked in and – 11 months later – I’m still not really sure what I’m going to do next. Since becoming a mum, I haven’t had many moments of introspection or time to think about me. So when I was given the unexpected gift of 6 months of pro bono coaching I was both excited and apprehensive about investing some time and thought in the person I’d got into the habit of considering the least.
My coach offered me evening Skype meetings to fit around my responsibilities, and initially I chose to focus on job hunting because of my worry that I had no job to go back to at the end of my leave. I felt alienated because I didn’t fit the mould of the other mums I knew. They all seemed to have old jobs to return to and were now considering how to negotiate their return to work in ways to suit their new mum identities. In several cases this wasn’t without its challenges – part time work wasn’t available, or the role that they had left now seemed entirely unsuited to family life. I struggled to see how to throw myself into my career and job hunting when my top priority was my new family.
The focus of my coaching sessions started to shift towards finding ways to build my confidence and see the opportunities of my situation. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve taken from my early motherhood experiences is to tap into my instincts. So I started to apply those same principles to what I might “do” next and try to trust the process. I began to feel more excited and empowered, though it all felt quite vulnerable still.
My coaching has now almost reached its end and I’m happy to say that opening up to this introspective process and exploring my new identity as a mum has really helped me to work out what makes me tick personally and professionally. Thinking about how I can use this new self-knowledge has become exciting rather than daunting. I don’t yet know what I’ll focus on next, professionally, though I do know that I want it to be something with the flexibility to allow me to spend the majority of my time with my baby and supporting my family from home.
Another product of this process is that I’ve begun to notice different work setups and circumstances for mums that I wasn’t previously aware of. This gives me hope. Refreshingly disruptive mumpreneur role models now populate my Instagram feed and I’m more aware of market dynamics that could favour a career chapter that doesn’t restrict my ability to be at home for the larger portion of my week. Labour market statistics show rising numbers of people working part time – in January 2017 10,000 more people were working part time than at a year previous. There’s a lot of media discussion about trends of a “gig economy” (work done by contracters and freelancers). Home working is becoming more common and I’ve come across several initiatives whose business models are based on a mum market looking for new ways of working that wrap around family life.
Those inner voices that tell me I’ll never get back into the job market or develop my career are still unsettling at times. But models for working and being a parent are starting to evolve. So hopefully we won’t continue to be faced with a polarised choice of either going back to work or being a “stay at home” mum or dad.