From Worker Bee to Mom to Working Mom
By Jan Elizabeth Ditchfield
I was 20 years into a very successful career when my daughter arrived. Within that time, I had started two nonprofit organizations, oversaw the nonprofit cross-country consultation process that helped to shape Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, and was a well-respected gun for hire within the charity industry known for creating change within the human rights sector.
So when I became a mother for the first time at the age of 42 (imagine Gwen Stefani advanced-age mom, not buying Polident at Walmart geriatric mother), I didn’t think twice about what it would be like to return to work after taking an extended leave to enjoy being at home with her.
The reality I faced when I stepped back into the world of heels and power meetings is that we may claim we support working mothers, but in truth that is bullshit. And within my personal journey from playgroups to the boardroom, the driving pressure to be great at both things without considering the support that I needed in order to be successful, caused daily life to become overwhelming.
So, I made the conscious choice to step away from my known profession and pursue what had become so important to me by launching my own company. RISE offers personalized, responsive and passionate support to mothers re-entering the workforce. My soul focus is on empowering women back to business so you can achieve your goals professionally without it being detrimental to your mental health and families. We have known for years that we are capable of having it all, but it is time to start having the conversation that it shouldn’t be at the expense of our own well-being.
For the million things I have learned in my 20 years in business, and now seeing working life through the eyes as a mother, these are the five tips I wish to share with you to help your transition back to the working world be a little less stressful.
- GET YOUR DAYCARE IN ORDER. Do not, do not, do not leave this to the last minute. I have heard way too many horror stories of moms who delayed getting their daycare needs arranged and then found themselves scrambling to find a placement. You know very early on what type of care matters to you and your parenting values, so start interviewing for spots as early as you can. The hardest thing for any women returning to work is having to leave their child in the care of someone they don’t know. Imagine having to leave them in the care of someone you don’t trust.
- GET ORGANIZED. And by this I mean hyper-organized. Like, make Maria Kondo look like a rookie organized. Remember what it was like to try and get out of the house in the morning on time before you had a baby? Now imagine having to do this for you and another human. Set clothes out the night before. Turn on the television to get the extra 10 minutes to do your makeup uninterrupted. Practice the commute during rush hour to daycare and then to the office before your leave is over. Find any tricks that will help get up and out every morning with the least amount of tears on your end.
- KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Before you step back into the office, educate yourself on what your rights are as a working mother. There are very clear guidelines which outline what an employer can and cannot do when it comes to accommodating pumping at the office and discriminating against employees with children. This includes providing flexibility in scheduling when it comes to your daycare needs. Don’t assume your employer will be knowledgeable in this area, or forth coming with offering accommodations. Being your own advocate is the best way to ensure your rights are being respected.
- ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES. If being home in time to eat dinner is important to you, then establish that boundary with your employers before you return to work. It’s okay to pull back on how many extra hours you are working. It is also okay to put in extra hours without feeling guilty about it. The decision you are making about your personal/professional boundaries are yours to make as you see fit. Working mom guilt is unavoidable; however it can be managed by articulating your priorities to those around you.
- SHARE THE LOAD. 82% of women now work outside of the home, yet continue to be responsible for 80% of household chores. Have the hard conversations with your partner about establishing a more equitable division of chores and parenting before you return to work. It does not, and should not fall completely on your shoulders. If you are a solo parent, look to outside resources to help with the load. Can friends, family or professional help be tapped in order to make your day to day more manageable? Don’t feel the need to prove you’re a supermom by trying to do it all. The only opinion that matters if that of your child, so set yourself up to be their hero instead.
There is a very old cliché that says a happy wife is a happy life, but I like to think that a happy professional and a happy mother is a happy woman. Returning to work can take an incredible emotional toll on us physically and mentally. Empowering ourselves from the beginning may not balance the scales as we try to have it all, but it will definitely tip them in our favour.
Good luck mama! You got this!
Jan Elizabeth Ditchfield is an award-winning social entrepreneur and the CEO & founder of RISE, the only brand agency dedicated to helping women shape their professional identity after a career dedicated to their family. Learn more at risemama.ca and follow them on Facebook @risemama.