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Navigating the Return: Why Working Mothers Should Prioritise Settling Back In



Returning to work after having a baby can be a monumental challenge, especially for working mothers in executive roles. The balancing act between career aspirations and parental responsibilities often feels like walking a tightrope. It's common for women to contemplate reducing their roles or shifting to alternate positions that offer more flexibility. However, before making such decisions, it's worth considering giving ourselves time to settle back into our roles. Rushing into changes can lead to dissatisfaction and career setbacks. Let's delve into why taking time to navigate the return to work is essential and explore strategies for making this transition smoother.


The Pressure to Change Roles: Many working mothers in executive positions feel the pressure to alter their roles or reduce their hours immediately upon returning to work. This pressure often stems from societal expectations, workplace norms, and personal concerns about balancing work and family life. However, making hasty decisions without fully assessing the situation can have long-term consequences.


Statistics on Role Changes Post-Maternity Leave: While comprehensive statistics on the number of women forced into alternate roles after becoming mothers might be elusive, anecdotal evidence and studies suggest that it's not uncommon. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, around 42% of mothers have reduced their work hours to care for their children. Additionally, a study published in the Harvard Business Review found that 43% of highly qualified women with children voluntarily downshifted their careers by reducing their hours or changing to less demanding jobs.


The Pitfalls of Rushed Decisions: Jumping into a reduced or alternate role immediately after returning from maternity leave can be a knee-jerk reaction fuelled by the anxiety of parent-child separation and the challenges of juggling work and family responsibilities. However, such decisions can lead to dissatisfaction in the long run. Many women find themselves longing for the professional challenges and fulfillment they once experienced in their executive roles.


Navigating the Return: Instead of succumbing to panic mode, working mothers in executive positions could consider giving themselves time and space to settle back into their roles. Here are some strategies to consider:


  1. Gradual Transition: Negotiate a gradual return-to-work plan with your employer. This could involve phased-in hours or a flexible schedule during the initial weeks back.

  2. Delegate Responsibilities: Trust your team and delegate tasks where possible. Empowering your colleagues can alleviate some of the pressure and allow you to focus on reacquainting yourself with your role.

  3. Seek Support: Lean on your support network, both at work and at home. Discuss your concerns with your manager, HR department, or a mentor who can provide guidance and reassurance.

  4. Set Realistic Expectations: Recognize that it's normal to experience a period of adjustment upon returning to work. Be patient with yourself and set realistic expectations regarding productivity and performance.

  5. Reflect and Evaluate: Take time to reflect on your career goals and priorities. Assess whether your current role aligns with your aspirations and values. Keep an open mind and explore possibilities before making any decisions about changing roles.


Conclusion: Returning to work after having a baby is a significant life transition. While the temptation to immediately alter roles or reduce hours may be strong, try to resist knee-jerk reactions and give yourself time to settle back in. By navigating the return with patience, reflection, and support, you can make informed decisions about your career and find fulfilment both professionally and personally.

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