Our resident careers expert Sinead Brady says it's OKAY to not abide by the rules after your little one comes along...
This time 6 years ago I bought a book called Half a Wife. At the time I had an 11-month-old, I was pregnant with my second and about to return to work after my first maternity leave.
In a frantic search to figure out how to manage going back to work and mind my beautiful new baby, while also finding the time to do the basics like eat and sleep, I bought ‘that’ book which promised all the answers. The title captured it all, as I felt like half a wife, half a Mum and half a person.
I had always turned to books so it was natural to think that it would hold all the answers. It didn’t. Instead, its luminous yellow cover taunted me. If I couldn’t even find the time to read how, was I going to manage going back to work? First, I hid the book. That didn’t work. So I threw it in the bin. Relief followed. I still didn’t know how I was going to cope, some days I still don’t, but at that moment, I gave myself permission to trust myself again. I was not half a wife, half a person or half a woman. I was Sinéad.
Everything I had achieved personally and professionally in the time before I had Saibhe all remained my achievements. Now I had more achievements, different achievements. Yes, there were days that I struggled to get dressed and yes, some days it was easier to go without milk than face the 3 hours it takes to get out the door. But I was still Sinéad. Still capable, still a professional, and still full of potential. In binning that book, I gave myself permission to remind myself of that. It also gave me permission to ignore the ‘shoulds’ of life. These ‘shoulds’ are the societal expectations that life after baby ‘should’ look and should feel a certain way.
Ignore the ‘shoulds’
The weight of ‘shoulds’ are heavy and come in many forms.
Should I stay at home or should you go back full-time? If you are a two-parent home, should one parent stay at home? If so, which parent should that be? Should I put my baby in a creche, get a childminder or ask the family to help? Should I feel sad going back, or guilty because I can’t wait to go back? Should I or should my partner take time off when the baby is sick? Should it always be me who down’s tools and gets up at night or are you going to share baby care? Should I still expect to want it all?
The list of should’s is endless. The answer is simple- listen to yourself, trust yourself and then give yourself permission to do what is right for you and your family - not what others say you ‘should’ do.
Figure out what you and your family really needs, wants and desires. Build a plan A and plan B. Ask yourself ‘What if, X, Y or Z happens, how will I manage?’ Figure out the potential pitfalls and the workarounds.
Build your social glue
While on maternity leave, get out and meet other parents. This might mean going to toddler groups or meeting friends for coffee. Better still, you might go to one of the amazing monthly Mum Talks. While you can bring the baby, the difference with Mum Talks is that their events focus on you. The monthly line up of inspiring speakers talks about you as Mum and your professional future. If you don’t fancy bringing the baby and want an exclusively grown-up treat, go to one of the IMAGE networking events.
What are your Momentous Moments
Re-build your confidence by focusing on your momentous moments before and after baby. What have you done that you’re proud of that you’ve learned from? Focus on your accomplishments and achievements and the active role you had in them. Get a notebook for your momentous moments and every time you think of one, write it down.
Figure out your Non-Negotiable’s
Whether you choose to go back to work or not, figure out what your priorities are personally and professionally. Your non-negotiables are a hugely important part of the conversation as they provide the platform upon which you make decisions. Once you have them figured out, talk to the key people you need to ensure that your non-negotiables are understood and that a plan is in place to make them work.