I didn’t expect that becoming a mum would weaken my self-confidence. I thought that motherhood would bring with it a new sense of purpose and direction, which, of course in one sense it does. But I found in another sense the abundance of advice, the unpredictability of my subject matter and the overwhelming sense of responsibility caused me to regularly question my decisions. This slowly ate away at my confidence levels and self-belief.
When I returned to work after my first child this feeling unexpectedly lingered. I had, perhaps naively, thought I would be re-entering a world where I knew what I was doing, where once again things I did had a predictable outcome and I would be good at it. This was quite true but there was another element that I hadn’t fully appreciated, that the workplace I left a year ago had moved on, that the market place had changed considerably and I needed to get up to speed quickly or I would not be fit for the role I was eagerly awaiting to get back to.
It seems that this lack of confidence and fear of ‘not being good enough’ is a common one amongst women returning to work after taking a break to have a child. Surveys for workingmums.co.uk found that confidence is one of the top three barriers to returning to work, along with availability of flexible work and childcare difficulties.
This is such a shame as after now having been at work for nearly a year after my second child I have realised that returning to work can be a lifeline in terms of restoring your confidence and sense of identity away from your role as a mother.
But the unfortunate truth is that still not enough women are returning to work, at least not to the high-powered roles they are good enough for. ‘She’s Back’, an initiative that offers support to women who want to return to work, and University of Edinburgh Business School found that 84% of women said that they wanted to return to their career at some point after having children, but the majority (75%) felt there wasn’t enough flexibility in the workplace.
This is such as waste of talent. Despite my initial fears of having lost many skills and knowledge I soon learnt that if you have the desire you can easily bring yourself up to speed. And not only that, there are a huge amount of skills and management lessons to be learned from taking care of small children. Juggling the lives, needs and behaviours of the most unpredictable and illogical clients you will ever meet gives you many invaluable skills that can be transferred to professional life.
So how do organisations encourage more women to return to work despite a potential lack of confidence or fear of lack of flexibility? Because of course, it is not only a concern for the individual, it causes problems for the organisation and the industries in which they operate.
Take the creative industry for example, according to Marketing Magazine marketing to mums is ‘broken’ due to misguided beliefs about their behaviours and the industry would strongly benefit from having more female creatives and more creatives that are in fact mums. It says ‘women are an important part of the mix, bringing an invaluable point of view, especially in creative industries like ours.’ Hear hear!
At Cuttsy and Cuttsy we believe that in today’s environment it is quite possible to cultivate a working environment that suits and attracts the working mum. One where it is no longer about when or where you work but what you do and the impact you make. One where it is about flexible/agile solutions that are compatible with family life and one where training is valued and built into your weekly schedule. It’s simply about employee and employer give and take.
There are a number of us ‘working mums’ at Cuttsy and Cuttsy who despite my initial lack of confidence I now strongly believe make invaluable contributions to the diversity and skill set of the agency.
I must sign off now as I have a negotiation training session with a four year and 18 month old to attend before bedtime…