The challenges of returning to work after kids: What I wish I had known

You spend years preparing for your career. Churning out essays, assignments and cramming for exams can take many years. In my case it was 9 years and 3 degrees later, with several part time jobs, social life and volunteering thrown into the mix. You land a job that is a great stepping stone to the next. Then after a few years of climbing the ladder you realise your passion lies elsewhere and you move into a different industry and profession. 
Just when your career is finally in full flourish, Mother Nature has a different plan and you move sideways into the role of parenthood. You quickly learn that this job is no longer 9-5, rather you have been catapulted into 24 hour responsibilities. Your job description now requires broken sleep, endless laundry duty and inventing creative meals for fussy eaters. The KPIs of this position entail relentless internal pressure to look good and plan your return to work. You are on a mission to get your body and career back. However, the universe has a different plan. Perhaps your role has been made redundant in a restructure or your boss is not au fait with flexibility. At this stage you may need to reconsider your professional path and how it will fit with baby or babies in tow.
This is such a common story and one that is hard to navigate without planning and support.
Now as a mum of two kids who are past the baby stage, I have greater insight into what I would have loved to have known a decade ago on my journey back into the workplace.
These are the facts. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission

  • 27% of women reported experiencing discrimination during pregnancy

  • 32% experienced discrimination when applying for parental leave

  • 35% reported discrimination when returning back to work (34% related to family responsibilities and 8% related to breast-feeding or expressing).

Clearly, to jump back into the workforce is not as simple as putting on your power suit and doing the commute. The challenges can be daunting.

You have changed and your job may have too!
When you left to nest before the birth of your child you may have been a Manager with a level of autonomy and authority. You were able to make decisions for the way you worked and the flexibility you required. Once you are no longer part of the inner circle, you lose that free rein and become subjected to decisions and changes that were made in your absence. 
Suddenly discussions re your return become more guarded and your role and its duties are being workshopped by others. This can leave you feeling vulnerable and lacking in confidence. Don’t freak out! Having reduced duties may be just what you need during this transition period. 
The reality is that your focus has shifted and your priorities are split between work and family. It’s a no-brainer. Your family needs to be your number one. Perfectionism and climbing the ladder are not priorities right now

Mummy Guilt is a real thing!
Sleep deprivation is your first obstacle. It’s hard to function let alone achieve on little sleep. Extreme fatigue can be a factor for breastfeeding mums and may contribute to the brain fog experienced and that doesn’t bode well at executive meetings.
The morning separation from your kids is heart wrenching especially when your child is inconsolable at drop off.  This invariably leaves you feeling upset when at work and colours your mood for the day. You are simply not as sharp and focused as you once were and that triggers the guilt - guilt for not achieving in any aspect of your life.
To counter your fear of failure, you need to compartmentalise. When at work, make it all about the job. Once at home, you need to make it all about the kids. If possible, negotiate working from home at least a day a week as part of your return to work plan.
Change your mindset to one where you recognise the importance of being a positive role model for your children. Being fulfilled professionally while still being a loving and devoted Mum sends out a strong message and should enhance your relationship with your children.

Having your village is what makes the difference
Reach out. Make the effort to meet other parents at school and pre-school. Offer your support when you are available and you will find others will reciprocate. Never underestimate the power of family, friends and neighbours to provide you with a buffer when things get tough. As a working mum you face the daily juggernaut of making it all happen seamlessly. The mental load of a mother can often be overwhelming to the point that even with massive amounts of caffeine there seems to be no way to get on top of it. This is where outsourcing and turning to your village is key to your wellbeing and success in returning to work.

If any of this resonates with you and you would appreciate someone to help you through this process, Flourish HR provides career consulting for individuals and SME's including career coaching, resume development/ update and set up of an HR function, employee relations advice or assistance with a specialised project including training or change. Flourish HR is particularly passionate about supporting parents who are returning to work after a career break or transitioning to a new industry.

Returning to Work with Confidence Workshop
Flourish HR is presenting a session on March 10 2020 at the Woollahra Library, Double Bay from 10am-12pm called Returning to Work with Confidence. Creche onsite available so you can bring your bubs/toddlers. You can register for this by booking via this link:
or RSVP via the Facebook event

Double Bay


  • Key Words: Return To Work,