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Is Workplace Flexibility Holding You Back?

Do you feel stuck in a job you don’t love, through fear of losing your workplace flexibility?

As a working mum, our values in the workplace often change. Things that were important to us before evolve into something new. Flexibility is something that will ring true for us all. It shoots to the top of importance list. But, in being given the coveted flexibility we desire, does it hinder us from growth and potential new opportunities?

I asked five working mums for their thoughts.

"I’ve been with the company I work for nearly 10 years. I have a huge amount of flexibility, which I'm so grateful for, but the work has become monotonous and sometimes I wish I could look for a new challenge. I don’t, because I can’t afford to give up the work-life balance I currently have." "I don’t think I’ve been hindered at all, I have a really supportive workplace and have had a promotion since becoming a mother." "More and more workplaces are offering great flexibility, but what concerns me is having to prove myself all over again. I’m not sure peers and management would take me seriously if I walk in somewhere new and want to work school hours only in the office." "Senior leadership definitely knows they have me stuck. I been sidelined into a role I never wanted and I feel like I get overlooked for promotions. I do feel incredibly stuck through fear nowhere else will give me the flexibility I need."
- Anonymous Mums working in Corporate

Four out of the five felt trapped or scared to move on even if they wanted to. This is a problem. Work takes up a huge amount of our daily lives, so it’s vital we find it fulfilling or at least challenging for our sense of self identity and growth. I say it a lot, but a happy you means happy kids and happy families. If we’re unhappy at work, this will transcend into other parts of our lives.

So what needs to happen?

First up, let’s mention that the corporate world as a whole needs to change its attitude towards working mothers. Most companies say they offer flexible working options, especially since Covid, but often, the reality is far from as good as they’d have us believe. According to ABS almost 25% of all families have both parents working full time and over 70% of mothers in total are employed. It’s also worth noting that 1 in 7 families are single parent… and I can vouch for how hard this is. If businesses can’t genuinely offer mothers the same opportunities and progression in the workplace as other staff, we will continue to see mental health decline in this area.

That said, citing problems with the corporate workplace doesn’t help us in the short term and I’m not a fan of waiting to be rescued! So how can we help ourselves?

Here are 5 things you can work on to shift your mindset. Because at the end of the day, mindset is everything.

  • Start with gratitude. Write down the things in your life that relate to your current work situation that make you happy and rate them in order of significance. So for example, for me, picking my son up after school so he doesn’t go into prolonged care makes me really happy. It was something I really wanted to be able to do and for a long time I couldn’t, so the ability to do it now makes me smile every day.

  • Map out what you want. Get down on paper how you’d like to see your career path progress. Where would you like to be at work in 1 and 5 years’ time? Getting these things down on paper can provide undeniable clarity. It’s something you probably did a lot before you became a mother, so what’s stopping you now? I believe this will do one of two things: 1) Invigorate your drive, getting you excited and motivated to start making shit happen. Or 2) It will make you realise you don’t want what you thought you wanted. Either of these outcomes is a win!

  • Write a new CV. When was the last time you updated your resume? I’m willing to bet it’s a lot better than you think. Write down all the things you’ve done and can do so you can see in writing just how awesome you are. You think you won’t get flexibility elsewhere if you decided to move… why is that? Probably because you’ve lost confidence in yourself. Time to remind yourself what you have to offer. While you’re at it, find 3 people you’ve worked with in the past and ask them to tell you one of your key strengths/attributes.

  • Un-lying to yourself. Next up, write three things that you feel might hold you back getting a new role that you’ll love. Then, respond to those concerns as if your best friend were saying them to you. What would you tell her? This is about fact-checking the lies we’ve told ourselves that keep us stuck in places we don’t want to be; the negative self-talk we are oh-so-good at.

  • Take control of your goals. Now you’ve got perspective and perhaps a goal or two, time to take control back. Maybe you do need to work some longer hours. Perhaps you need to think about a complete change of pace or career. Maybe you need to up-skill or learn something new. Now you’ve mapped out where you want to be, find three things you can do in order to get you closer to that goal. They don’t need to be huge changes, merely move you in the right direction.

Next Steps

I realise this might seem scary or overwhelming. I myself have experienced all of this and more. We doubt ourselves when we become mums, because our priorities shift so much we don’t have the same faith in our workplace selves as we used to. More often than not, this is the negative bias we inflict on ourselves! The only way to break this cycle is to shift our own mindset and start believing in ourselves again.

I promise you, you are way more capable, valuable and brilliant than you are giving yourself credit.



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