We all know children are passion killers, but nobody tells us we may find ourselves robbed of our passion for our careers too. Many mums return to work, ready to get back to being them, only to find the career they used to love has lost its shine.
The pre-children career
We all expect having children will change our lives in many ways. Mainly for the better but, let’s be honest, there are some things we begrudgingly accept as part and parcel, rather than embrace excitedly. Sleepless nights, toddler tantrums, kissing goodbye to leisurely Sunday mornings and romantic getaways… Let’s just say the excitement of crisp bed linen and an early night is for altogether different reasons once kids are in the picture!
Before I became a mum, I would take the MRT (or tube equivalent where I was based in Singapore), arrive into the buzz of the city, pick up a coffee, arrive into the office early, embrace the chitchat – especially on a Monday, hearing about everyone’s weekend antics… The office was where I spent the majority of my waking hours. I was good at what I did, well respected, high performing – I loved my job and the environment I was in.
Returning from mat leave, I expected those feelings of fulfilment, purpose and “professional me” to come flooding back. Of course I expected adjustments – logistics of childcare being the main one – but this was time for ME. I had worked incredibly hard to gain a promotion just before my first maternity leave, to avoid feeling held back because of taking time out (which is a whole other blog post!). I had no doubt in my mind I would be a professional, career-driven mum.
Return to work
I returned after my first maternity leave to a different job within the same company. It didn’t go well. I felt unsupported, my key stakeholders were on the other side of the globe and, in all honesty, I felt out of my depth. I was exhausted with a seven-month old baby waking around four times a night. I felt lost.
Soon after, I was pregnant again. We moved back to the UK and the next few months are a bit of a blur. I knew I wasn’t happy, but put it down to all the changes – new baby, new job, relocation. Next time would be different.
Returning after my second and final maternity leave would be no joke. I remember saying to my husband “this is the next phase of my career, not me faffing about between having babies this time”. I needed to get it right, no messing around.
Where did my career passion go?
I was excited and ready to go. Then BANG. I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the buzz I had before, in fact quite the opposite. Day by day, I felt more and more disengaged. All the passion that I had had in spades, dissipated. I became resentful of those that seemingly still loved their jobs.
I was losing motivation outside of work because of how unhappy I had become. I wasn’t very nice to be around. I felt trapped. I wanted this life, I used to love my job… what was wrong with me?
I tried really hard to just get on with it. I told myself things like, “When the kids are a bit bigger it will feel better again…” but it didn’t.
I speak to so many other women who have experienced the same. The jobs that look great on paper, that they once loved just don’t bring them satisfaction any more.
What I now understand, is that becoming a mum can shift what is important to you. The things that used to engage you just don’t any more.
Fast forward to now and I love my career. When I hit my career low, I took time out and realised having a family had, like so many others, shifted things for me. The company and the job were not the issue.
Yes, I could probably have been better supported upon my return, but the crux of it was I was trying to be comfortable in my old life. A life that didn’t fit any more. My values had totally changed. The things that used to matter most, didn’t any more. My career, whilst important, was not my everything any longer.
I discovered, via coaching, my top values are autonomy, recognition and strong relationships. The reality is, whilst these were being met in part, it was not in a way that also fitted with my needs as a parent of young children.
This of course doesn’t happen to every working mum. There are many happy working mothers – which is fantastic! However, when you do lose the passion you once had, it can hit you hard and leave you feeling guilty, confused, unhappy and trapped.
In my coaching, I talk a lot about career happiness. I strongly believe being happy in your career is critical. Some feel it’s selfish – surely doing the ‘right’ thing for our family is the most important thing?
Being happy in work impacts how happy we are out of work – as a mother, partner and friend, and so is not selfish at all. As parents we owe it to our children to show them we are important as individuals and that we can achieve change for the better in our lives.
You may just need a push to go for it. You may have no idea what the alternative is. If that’s the case and you need help working it out, I’m here and happy to chat – here’s a link to my diary.
My message here is quite simple. If you have lost the love for your career since becoming a mum, you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. You don’t have to stay in a job that brings you no joy and could be damaging to your mental health. You most likely don’t hang out in the same bars and wear the same clothes you did 15 years ago (well not every day, at least!), so why should your career remain stuck in the past?
If you’ve had enough of what you’re doing and think now might be the time to move on, check out my top five reasons NOT to put up with a job that makes you unhappy…
This article was written by career coach, Rebecca Amin.
January 15, 2022