It took me a very long time to find happiness once I decided to go back to work having had a baby. The thoughts that constantly went into my head were endless …

  • I was really going to miss spending time with my daughter.
  • Someone else was watching her grow up and it wasn’t me.
  • How was I going to juggle getting all my work done so I could get home on time?
  • Would my work colleagues now understand I had a family to get home to?
  • Would I be able to do the job?
  • I wasn’t the same person going back. My priorities had changed – what would that mean to me and my colleagues?
  • Could I cope with all the new technology?
  • Would I really be able to have a work-life balance … and so on?

Having been a working mum for over 20 years now and having brought up two amazing daughters, I can honestly say that the key to having a career and finding happiness is not in a plan you so carefully manage and lay out in your head; it’s in the approach, behaviour and attitude you display when things don’t go to plan.

I have been a coach and mentor for women returning back to work for many years now. The thing that constantly surprises me in all the conversations I initially have is the lack of recognition of the skills you develop from becoming a mother … skills that are transferable in the workplace – resilience, patience and flexibility to name just a few.

Being responsible for another human being also introduces the lens of perspective. Faced with a decision at work, whatever choice you make you know it’s not life-threatening. This realisation, whether non-conscious or conscious, has a huge effect on task prioritisation and decision-making.

The ability to reflect on what you have achieved in becoming a mother, and how you can take these learnings into the workplace, is empowering.

Combine this with an understanding that your colleagues remember you as the person before your baby and have no idea what insecurities you currently have going inside your head, and you are already ahead of the game.

When I returned to work, I was lucky enough to be offered some coaching support. I had never had coaching before and considered it only as a way to focus on my weaknesses – which at the time was something I didn’t want to focus on. I was just about holding it together with what I believed my strengths were. How wrong was I?

After the first conversation with my coach, I was able to set realistic goals for my journey ahead, pressure-test my thinking and find time to focus on what was important to me and my future happiness. On reflection, it seems obvious but, as a working mother without the space to focus on yourself, the ability to achieve this clarity is limited.

Three tips for any ‘returning to work’ mother:
  • STOP questioning yourself
  • START to recognise all the additional skills you have developed as a mother
  • CONTINUE to be you.

This article was written by Sue Payne, one of our partner coaches who is a coach and mentor with 20 years of leadership experience. Sue supports women to realise their full career potential at key life stages- returning to work, peri menopause, becoming an entrepreneur.  You can get in touch via her profile page.