Returning to work – whether corporate, freelancing or the entrepreneur world – after a break for motherhood can be daunting.
Whether it’s a six month or six year leave of absence, the time away can really lead to a loss in confidence when its time to go back. This can be for a variety of reasons:
A lot of dramatic changes happen when a baby enters your life
It’s a very high stress environment with emotions running the full spectrum from the depths of despair in the middle of the night to the infinite joy of staring at the beautiful creation that depends on you so deeply. This deep turmoil can really rock a person to the core.
Returning to work can mean doubling your workload
The sad fact is that many mothers are also responsible for all household matters while working full time. When you are barely hanging on as a stay at home mum it can be hard to fathom how things could possibly run smoothly if you threw a forty-hour a week job into the mix too!
Body image issues
Mothers’ bodies change post-baby, some more than others, some a lot more than others. There are so many factors that can be in play, but it can be easy to focus more on what others see – the before and after – and less on the fact that you have undergone a profound life change and your body reflects that. Trying to fit into old work clothes and the fact that your size (and boobs!) may be fluctuating can really affect a mother’s self esteem.
Intense sleep deprivation
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is one of the most tortuous and damaging things for the human body. Many mothers (and fathers) struggle with this for years and it can have a very real effect on rates of depression as well as basic cognitive function.
Feeling like life has gone on while you have stood still
The first year of having a newborn can seem like a strange bubble in time – so much time and emotion goes into this new little being that mothers can emerge from that first year feeling totally out of touch with old friends, communities, technology and their professional world.
What can be done? How can mothers emerge from this life stage feeling confident and emotionally healthy?
The most important word: Support.
There are lots of forms this support can take, including:
Your partner: Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns or needs. Keeping overwhelming feelings to your self can only make it worse. Share your worries. Ask for help.
Extended Family: Grandmas, brothers, aunties, cousins – rope them all in!
Domestic help of any kind (live-in, part time, confinement nannies, babysitters, au pairs, meal catering) can all take some of the burden off and can be such a valuable investment.
Outside the home:
Seeing a counsellor or therapist can help to get outside perspective and can also help you work things out when things like anxiety or depression reach a more serious stage.
Support groups: Groups for new mums, mother and baby groups or working mum networking groups can be a great place to share concerns and hear how others are managing.
Company support: If you are on maternity leave, see if your company has any support in place. It’s in their interest for their returning employee to come back feeling great so if there is nothing yet in place it might be time to push the HR department a bit!
Other forms of help:
Prioritise self care: Good nutrition and exercise can make a world of difference to how you feel – keeping your blood sugar levels even can help with mood swings, and muscular strength can help you maintain energy levels throughout the day.
Try something new: Staying curious and open can help with your confidence and can also help you meet new people and open up opportunities. Whether it’s just popping down to the local art gallery with baby in a carrier, to Paddleboard lessons or joining a book club, getting out in the world and finding new things can be refreshing and inspiring.
Take a break from social media: Facebook groups can be every new mum’s best friend – who else is available for conversations at 2am when you’ve been up for two hours with a colicy baby? But those pictures of friends who seem to manage it all, or those who were in a bikini two hours after delivery can be disheartening and depressing. Social media can be addictive and unhealthy for sensitive, emotional new mums. Try and set some boundaries for yourself.
Motherhood is life-changing, challenging, emotional and amazing. It is so many things at so many different times and affects every woman in a different way.
Loss of confidence can be paralysing, but remember it just takes a first step to start a journey towards feeling healthy, stable and positive. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help – you are not alone on your journey.