Author: Emily Manley, Career & Interview Coach
At Relaunch Me, we coach many mums who have taken some time out of the workforce to care for their children and are considering going back to paid work. Often these clients say the same things – “but all I have done for the past (1, 5, 10) years is be a Mum, how can I return to the workforce now? Too much has changed, I don’t have any skills anymore, what would I even do?”.
Whilst these statements never surprise me, when I think more deeply about this, it really raises my hackles. These are women who have literally birthed a human. They have learned how to do most tasks with one arm, sometimes with vomit on them and often while enduring incessant crying/whingeing/yelling/things thrown at them. They have the mental stamina to hold their bladder for an inordinate amount of time and they can negotiate like a pro with someone whose brain capacity is severely limited, all while getting much less than the recommended number of hours sleep at night. And yet these women worry about not knowing the latest version of Microsoft Office, or not being able to hold themselves in a meeting!
The vexed issue of how motherhood is undervalued in society makes me downright cross . Afterall, motherhood is one MOTHER of a job! I can tell you now, the demands of the job of ‘Mother’ far exceed any paid professional job. However, it is not called the invisible job for nothing. So, it is not surprising these very impressive and clever women are feeling this way. Often these limiting beliefs that are so prevalent among our Mum clients comes down to one (not so little) thing. Confidence.
Why confidence is key
Motherhood has changed significantly over the years and mothers today are expected to keep a house, earn an income, smile at the school assemblies, cheer at the school sports and leave love notes in the kids lunchboxes – oh and if you are going to have a meltdown (which as Mums we all feel on the verge of at times), make sure you do it as quietly and politely as possible please.
When we inevitably fail to meet the impossibly high standards imposed on us by the modern world, we experience repeated withdraws from our confidence bank. This is unfortunately very difficult to avoid; however, the good news is we can get it back. And when we do – look out world!
How to start rebuilding confidence after a career break
Below are some ways to start rebuilding your confidence so that your headspace is more conducive with getting back out there and finding the work that you want:
• Find your people – fellow mums are everywhere. Find the ones you resonate with and speak openly about the triumphs and challenges of motherhood. You will quickly realise that you are not alone in your parenthood battles and you will immediately feel better that it is ‘not just you’.
• Offload a few domestic or child related jobs – talk to your partner or another family member and tell them that you are going to pass on two jobs that you feel will help ease your load. Don’t overthink this, just do it. It is hard to build your confidence when your mind is cluttered because you are totally overwhelmed by your full plate. If someone can do pick up one day a week or look after proceedings in the morning, go and do something for you – it’s amazing how much better about yourself you will feel having taken some time out.
• Think about what makes you “you” -take some time to think about the things you were good at prior to parenthood, what skills/talents were you proud of? Remembering who we were before kids is important. Ask your closest family/friends what your top three qualities/strengths are beyond being a Mum and then write these down and refer to them often. Start thinking about the sort of work that will leverage these skills, talents and strengths.
• Remember that many skills are built and honed in parenthood – organisation skills, stamina, resilience, negotiation skills, productivity, ability to handle pressure – there are all skills that you have to draw on when you are a mum. Often mums are some of the best employees for this reason. Remember this, and don’t be afraid to talk about it when meeting with prospective employers.
• Try something new – Always wanted to do that painting class? Try yoga? Do a triathlon? Just do it. Make it happen. Trying and accomplishing something new is a fantastic way to boost your confidence. When my third child was a toddler, I signed up for a half marathon having not run for many years and never having run more than 5kms. Whilst it was daunting, it felt great to do something for me and to achieve something that felt out of reach. The training also allowed me to have time out from the drudgery of caring for three young children under 5, it was as much sanity saving as confidence boosting!
• See a career coach – a career coach can work with you to identify your natural strengths, change your mind-set around your confidence to go back to work and help you to come up with strategies to re-enter the workforce in a way that works for you.
If you are planning on returning to work and are not sure where to start then contact us at Relaunch Me via our contact page.
We look forward to hearing from you.