The Doctor Do-Little of Leadership: Physical Intelligence
Return to Work post Maternity!
Amidst myriads of transitions through different life cycles that women face, maternity is one transition that where most of the tried and tested coping styles don’t seem to work.
If you are a mother returning to work or a manager learning the ropes of reintegrating returning mothers to the workplace, the chances are that you would have taken up coaching or read up on what are some of the steps you can take up to make this successful. Some of the common practices that are followed are : keeping lines of communication open between employee & manager, having a plan for child care in place with trusted supervision, attempt to address a working mother’s guilt and take on as much as you can chew till you get more comfortable with change. In this article, I would not want to repeat these larger realities but focus our attention on some finer nuances of coping with this change based on some lessons I have learnt through my experiences of coaching with mothers returning from maternity.
- Ask and not assume: With a lot of preset notions that people hold about how people view women returning to work, there could be many ideas that you as a returning employee would also hold about your manager or organizational practices. Set the ball rolling from Day 1 where you establish a practice of asking for clarification or volunteering to clarify so your commitments or expectations are not assumed on your behalf. This would help create an individual development plan for you & a closer sync between your needs and the organizational expectations.
- Trust & delegation go hand in hand: Letting go is even more challenging when the benchmark for the others’ performance is constantly measured with what you bring to the table – the way you would do it and the lengths you would go for it. This is especially tricky and true for mothers and they face a real challenge in being able to delegate responsibilities related to child care. It is important to begin building trusting care givers early on with a child and being able to support in the way the care giver is taking care. When you trust with access to resources, the ability of the other in rising up to the challenge with confidence increases.
- Address the guilt: While coming to work after handing over the baby to another trusted source can overwhelming it is important to address those ‘big’ feelings you may have at making this change. Your need to feel guilty to be at work can actually be reframed and looked up on as an opportunity to regain control over an area of your life that you built for yourself. The key to get a hang of it is: one to distinguish if you are missing the child or are guilty of neglecting the child; two to label your feelings appropriately to be able to ideate the right solution for them.
- Take the balcony view: In the here and now, parenting and mothering, even so, is a non negotiable activity. One is willing to forgo personal comfort and a good nights rest for it as well. The child doesn’t really grow up for the first few years atleast in the sense that they will continue to need you. So the adage that I will return to work once the child is grown up enough to not need the mother, may not work very well. Hence, it is important to make oneself go up to the balcony from the ballroom – to take an aerial view with an intention to understand what should you do and when to move closer to the life that you choose to live.
- Its ok if it was a break, its ok if it wasn’t: Maternity transitions are often termed as ‘maternity breaks’. While this is far from being a holiday where a mom-on-duty is vigilantly in action, completely devoting oneself to the care of the new born. It isn’t a rosy picture that is painted of a mother going for long walks with the bub! But perceiving something as a break can be an individual choice and has a lot to do with the mindset with which approaches this transition. If you were able to handle what was on your plate and you feel rejuvenated enough to return to work, celebrate the feeling. If you struggled and were as strong as you could be, and returning to work makes you even more strong, celebrate the feeling. It is your journey of motherhood, and it is a marathon! Privileged are organizations that have the eye to retain talent and have the foresight to know how much learning a woman would have gone through in this transition, which if channelized properly can pour in returns to the company itself!
Are you looking at creating boutique return-to-work programs for women in your organization or to prepare their managers and teams to prepare themselves in such scenarios?
Reach out to us at Human Dynamic for a confidential discussion on the same.
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Director of Leadership & Learning, Senior Consultant
PhD (Clinical Psychology), MA(Psychology)