I’m going to start this blog with a personal story. Read on if you’re just here for the top 10 tips.

I was made redundant from my job because of COVID while on maternity leave, which meant I had to find a new job at the end of my maternity leave. Starting a new job is nothing short of scary in itself, let alone when you’re starting after being on maternity leave for over a year. I didn’t dare say in my interview I was coming off of maternity leave for fear that it would put them off hiring me (which I know would have been discrimination!), but this left me in a more uncomfortable situation. In my first week working for this new company, my son fell really sick. He had a chest infection, a high temperature and was not himself. He wasn’t allowed in nursery (obviously), and yet I didn’t feel like I could ask my boss to juggle or take the time off because it was my very first week and I was trying to make a good first impression. So my mother-in-law kindly looked after him. I FELT SO GUILTY. I questioned all my decisions – Do I have to go back to work? Will I ever be able to juggle work and family? How will my boss take it if this happens in the future? I couldn’t concentrate. I’m sure that my first week in the office was not as productive as it would have been if I had just been honest and figured out a juggle that worked better for my situation at the time.

This job continued in that same manner. It was a young demographic so I was the only working mum there. I always felt judged if nursery called, never truly supported despite what they’d say. I worked way more hours than I was paid to, probably to try and overcompensate the fact I had to juggle family life. I didn’t feel seen because no-one can truly understand the juggle and mental load of a working parent until you are one.

Couple that with the fact I had also changed since becoming a mother and didn’t realise it yet. I thought I’d be the same person after having a baby, with the same work ethic, the same ambitions and the same priorities. The reality is you change. You change in the process of becoming a mother, not just physically and emotionally but physiologically too. Your brain actually changes during pregnancy. I was and still am a different person – and that’s okay.

After my second maternity leave, I worked for a company that was refreshingly accepting of the juggle of being a working mum. Most likely because my boss was a single co-parent of a young child too. He understood the challenges parents have to face – he’s been there, done that. I felt so at ease if nursery called me to pick one of my kids up, knowing I had the full support of my boss. I knew he knew I’d get all my work done and make up the hours, and he was also super supportive. This made me work harder. I wanted to give more to the company as the company gave more to me. He understood my circumstances and allowed me to flourish in both my working life and my parenting life.

The learnings from my story are:


1. Accept Imperfection

No one is perfect, and that includes mothers (hard to believe, I know). Accepting that you can’t do everything flawlessly helps to alleviate the pressure and guilt. Remember to have a bit of self-compassion. You are doing the best you can.

2. Prepare for Your Transition

Take the time to understand the transition you’re about to go into. Think about the future, what the implications are and how you plan on dealing with them. Set yourself up for success when you return so you feel confident going on maternity leave knowing everything is planned.

3. Communicate with Your Employer

Being upfront about your needs can make a huge difference. A supportive employer will value transparency and work with you to accommodate your schedule. Unless you communicate with them, they can’t help you. Give them the opportunity to help you.

4. Build a Support Network

Surround yourself with people who understand and support your situation, whether it’s family, friends, or fellow working mums. Don’t be afraid to call on them when you need to. There will be swings and roundabouts – I’m sure you’ll return the favour one day.

5. Set Realistic Goals

Set achievable (realistic and sustainable) goals both at work and home. This helps manage expectations and reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed. If you don’t know what you’re working towards, you won’t feel like you’re achieving anything.

6. Compartmentalise Your Time

Try to focus on work during work hours and family during family time. This separation can help you be more present and less guilty about where your attention is. This is easier said than done, especially if your little one is sick, but allowing yourself to be fully present in those moments (work and family) means you’ll be more productive and you’ll feel better for it.

7. Seek Flexibility

Many UK employers are open to flexible working arrangements, and as of April 2024, you have the right to request flexible working arrangements from your first day of employment. So don’t hesitate to ask for what you need to make the juggle more manageable.

8. Celebrate Small Wins

Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This positive reinforcement can boost your confidence and diminish guilt. We don’t get enough credit as mums for all that we do, so it’s important for you to take a step back and realise all you’ve achieved.

9. Connect with Other Working Mums 

Sharing experiences with others in similar situations can provide comfort and practical advice. You’re not alone and as with anything in motherhood, realising that by seeing that others are in the same boat as you really is half the battle.

10. Evaluate What You’re Doing 

Whether you work because it’s a financial necessity, personal fulfilment, or both, remind yourself of the reasons behind your choices. If it’s time to re-evaluate your circumstances and what you’re doing, then don’t be afraid to take that leap. Weighing up all options will help set you up for success down a path that’s right for you.

Combatting mum-guilt isn’t easy, but with these strategies and the right support, it’s possible to thrive both at work and home. Mothers are superhuman, we should all be proud of what we’ve achieved.

This article was written by Annabella Smith a Career & Life coach, and one of our partner coaches. Annabella helps mothers who feel unfulfilled, have mum-guilt or crave a better life, define their values, strengths and purpose so they can create a work/life balance that they deserve. You can get in touch via her profile page, and book a free discovery call with Annabella using this link.