Maternity leave can be an ideal time to consider your current work conditions, seek a promotion or investigate other opportunities in learning and training, writes Andrea Galligan
Returning to a familiar work role was something I looked forward to after my first pregnancy. Having to prove myself in a new position or start over was a major no-no with so much newness already swilling around my head.
Settling back into work with a much-loved team and client list was a far more attractive package, albeit without a salary review or potential promotion.
The fact that 42% of women admitted feeling nervous, in a recent PwC survey, about the impact children might have on their careers tallied with my feelings perfectly. As a first-time mother, it is difficult to counteract the conditioning that any time away from the office, including maternity leave, might undermine ROI on a future career move.
'It wasn’t long before I became the new parent trying to prove themselves back at the office'
Perhaps that’s why arriving back to the office the first time around, I’d no clear boundaries in place. Afraid of growing into my new role as a parent and clinging to what I knew, I became trapped in a work-life tug-of-war. It wasn’t long before I became the new parent trying to prove themselves back at the office. It's easily done if you neglect to define what your concept of non-negotiable family time is.
The obvious differences this time around with my second child was not only had I found an organisation to work for that respected my parental role as a means of positively influencing my personal life and as a result my work role, but perhaps, more importantly, my own step change into parenthood.
Setting boundaries around when work responsibilities were put away and when social media no longer needed to be checked meant that I was establishing parameters for my dual roles. Instead of conflict, I sought harmony between the two.
A ‘new parent transition workshop’ at the beginning and end of my maternity leave also allowed me to develop the confidence to map a communications plan with the organisation while on maternity leave and beyond.
When an opportunity arose for promotion, I’d plenty of advance warning to dust off my LinkedIn profile and apply. The prep wasn’t as easy as I’d have liked, what with nursing times and post-vaccination baby sniffles. But rather than talking myself out of the challenge as I’d have once done, worried about not being able to do the two roles ‘perfectly’, I felt the fear and did it anyway.
There are other ways to use maternity leave to re-evaluate your working life. Here are a few:
Mumtrepreneurs: Maternity leave can be the perfect time to work on an existing business idea. Having a wealth of skills, knowledge and expertise that you can tap into as both a professional and a new mother. Founder of successful baby linen start-up aden + anais Raegan Moya-Jones did just that.
Skillshare heaven: Not having the time or headspace to enrol in time-heavy courses, I signed up for Skillshare. With thousands of courses all taught by industry practitioners, there was no excuse for not staying on top of new up-to-minute skills, helpful when pushing for promotion while on maternity leave.
Power of network: Stay in touch. Without the luxury of time to read tons of academic journals in preparation for my interview, I called on trusted colleagues in the industry to catch me up quickly on key trends. Without this established network, my promotion would have been a lot more daunting a challenge.
Andrea Galligan is a content creator and communications professional. She lives with her husband and two children in Dublin 3. She promotes the benefits of healthy outdoor play on her Instagram account @numu_dublin
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