Rebecca Amin, Our New Flexible Working Warrior on MummyJobs.
One in three working mums suffer with unmanageable levels of anxiety and stress caused by managing a job and looking after children, according to a survey by Smart TMS – a mental health clinic.
This is a statistic I and, I am sure, many other mothers can relate to. Sadly this is often a silent struggle – many fearing if we voice our feelings we may be judged as a bad employee or bad mum. We thought we could have it all – the career and the family, is this how it is meant to feel? Should we just suck it up and get on with it?
I am Rebecca Amin, a Career Coach and I used to think that’s just how it would have to be. Thankfully, my mind-set has now changed, but it wasn’t easy.
Returning To Work After Maternity Leave.
In February 2016, I returned to work after my second maternity leave with all the thoughts so many of us have, “it’s my time to get back to my career, to being me again!” I returned, full of excitement, ready for phase two of my career – the post-children part. With some trepidation – I had returned from one maternity leave two years before and struggled. I had fallen pregnant quite soon after my return, so put my lack of passion for my work down to pregnancy and first time mum stuff – getting to grips with nursery, new routine etc. This time it was for real. Time to make my mark again, get back to the heady days of high performance, recognition, loving my career again…
BANG. It didn’t happen. At first I gave myself time to settle back in, gave myself allowances. However, each day felt harder and harder to find motivation for my work and all passion for what I did had gone. The fact was the environment and work I was doing had lost its shine. I didn’t care enough. I still did what was needed, because I had to, not because I got any enjoyment from my work.
This is not what I expected. I had always enjoyed my job. At first I felt confused – what was wrong with me? Was I suffering from delayed post-natal depression? Why was everyone else happy? Then guilt – why is this not enough for me? I should feel lucky to have a good job, healthy kids, a nice home… Next resent and anger. Why should I do this? Why can’t I do something that gives me some satisfaction?
Looking back, this looks like the stages of grief and I now believe, in some way, I was grieving my working life pre-children.
My Career No Longer Suited Me.
Don’t get me wrong – I love being a mum. I wanted to have a career, but I couldn’t carry on like this. As I worked through what was happening it became clear the career I was in was simply the wrong fit for me at this point in my life. I wanted to do something more worthwhile and meaningful to me. I needed to make a change – but what and how?
Despite the creeping sense of greyness blanketing my life, I needed my salary and an alternative job that I felt excited about, at the right level was hard to find. As a result, I wound up feeling completely stuck.
The Need To Make Positive Career Choices.
For a time, I told myself sticking with a job I was unhappy in, was what it meant to be grown-up. It was the realistic and responsible choice… But this approach was not sustainable if I wanted to protect my mental health and be happy at work, and therefore in life, again. I went round in circles and eventually bit the bullet and made changes. I took a four month sabbatical. During which I spent time reflecting on what would make me happy. I thought about what I really needed in my working life and career and trained as an accredited Career Coach.
I have since found these thoughts and feelings of course were not exclusive to me. It made me feel shocked and saddened to realise just how prevalent this unhappiness, anxiety and stress is, in working mums. This is why I dedicate my coaching to supporting mums in the same situation.
Of course not all stressed mums need a total career change. Some do, but some simply need tweaks – more flexibility. Not to be made to feel guilty for going to Sports Day, not smiling on the outside apparently holding it all together, but regularly hiding in the bathroom crying on the days it all feels too much.
Mental Health At Work.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, almost 15% of working adults experience mental health problems in the workplace. Women in full-time work are twice as likely to suffer than men (19.8% vs. 10.9%). People Management have reported more than a third who have flexible working experience an improvement in their mental health as a direct result.
The Future Of Work.
I love supporting my clients to take control and figure out changes to get back to being happy in their careers again. What I would love even more would be if more felt flexibility at work was an option. Not something gifted to you once you have proved yourself after years of service. And I don’t mean the honour of being allowed to work from home on a Friday, but true flexibility that impacts on life for the better. Seeing so many leave jobs with flexibility at the crux of their struggles is outrageous. The talent lost. The confidence shattered of individuals feeling like they are failing. The belief they can’t continue professional careers if they have children and need flexibility.
The optimist in me feels the tide may be turning. I for one truly hope we may be at a pivotal point for flexible working.
If you enjoyed this post share across your social platforms. Also tune in next month to read more on children being career passion killers…
If you would like to find out more about my Career Coaching, please visit my website Rebecca Amin Coaching.