Stacey Pitcher & Sheriden Choy
Recruitment Consultant & Program Manager (Business Operations)
Returning to work after parental leave is no easy feat – there’s so much to navigate, both personally and professionally, which is why having a supportive work environment that understands your situation is essential. In this article, two of the fantastic working mothers on our team talk about their experiences, as well as get some practical advice on how to make the transition as smooth as possible.
‘Empathy’ and ‘understanding’ are two words that come to mind when I think about how women can be supported as they return to work. When I went on parental leave with my first child, I was working full time in recruitment. I started back three days a week, but the company I worked for didn’t understand what it was like to have kids and wasn’t able to accommodate me or provide the flexibility I needed to balance work life with my role as a parent.
Taking parental leave with my second child, I started having doubts about whether I’d be able to return to my career. A friend of mine was working with Talenza and told me they were recruiting part-timers. From the first interview, I knew things were going to be different this time around. Andrew, the Director, has children of his own so understands that sometimes the kids are going to be sick, or that I’ll occasionally have to leave early for a school event. I felt like there was no judgment from their side about my circumstances as a working mother – they really showed a level of understanding I’d not seen in an employer before.
I’ve been with Talenza for three months now and it’s fantastic. I feel so good about myself, particularly in terms of my career and future. It’s completely changed my perspective. I look back at how I felt returning to work after leave the first time around and can’t believe the difference.
I want other women to know that just because you’re a mum, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful career as well. Sure, it’s a balancing act, but you just need to find a company that is willing to support you along the way.
I am a proud mum of two young girls under five, and let me tell you, the ‘juggle’ is real! From the moment we wake up (sometimes for the fourth time that night!), we are working, and we don’t have the luxury of clocking off at 5pm. Raising tiny humans is a tough gig, but one I wouldn’t change for anything in the world. To then add work on top of that – yikes, it’s full-on!
I think back to the version of me pre-kids. I used to see working mums come to work at 10am and leave the office at 3.30pm and think “they’re so lucky, what I’d give to have kids so I can work school hours”. Little did I realise, these mums had probably been awake since crack of dawn, dealt with a screaming toddler because they wanted breakfast in the yellow bowl, negotiated the outfit selection for the day, battled their toddler in a teeth brushing war and spent way too long trying to find the obligatory pink hair tie – all before they have even left the house. Not to mention the mother’s guilt that kicks in when tears and screams start at daycare drop-off. It hasn’t even hit 8am and we are already exhausted, only to do it all again that evening. The work of a parent never stops!
That’s why it was so important for me to find an employer who truly “gets it” and trusts I am doing my absolute best. I always intended on returning to work after spending the first year off with each of my children. I had worked hard at building a career pre-kids, and it was a big part of who I was – I didn’t want to lose that just because I was now a mother. I also didn’t want to give up valuable time with my girls, so I decided that working part-time (three days a week) during those early years was the best way to achieve the balance I wanted in life.
I feel extremely fortunate to have landed a fulfilling job with a company that genuinely understands life with young kids and is accommodating in so many ways. Not only have the Talenza leadership team created a meaningful and realistic part-time job for me, but they have also provided me with the flexibility I needed from day one. They all get it. They work to include everyone on company activities and don’t expect me to attend if it’s a ‘non-work’ day. There is no judgement when I start late or finish early for the school run, and no expectation that I ‘catch-up’ before I get in or once the kids go to bed just because I’ve not started or finished my work at the same time as everyone else.
At the end of the day, there is a genuine sense of trust that I am kicking goals while I’m here and an understanding that I am a part-timer. They offer complete support when I need it to deal with family issues and they afford me the time necessary to be a kickass mum on the days I don’t ‘work’. I genuinely couldn’t ask for a better team to be part of!
Overcoming the Challenges of Returning to Work
As we both know, it can certainly be overwhelming when you first come back to work, but having a supportive team and working environment can go a long way towards easing the transition. The most important thing is to have an open line of communication with your manager. Through frank and honest conversations, you will know exactly where you stand and can ensure you are comfortable with decisions being made about your role.
Before you head off on parental leave, have a conversation with your manager to talk through what your role might look like when you get back. It can help to know in advance the options that will be available to you, such as flexible working arrangements, part-time hours or working from home. Also, set up a time to have a formal or informal appraisal discussion so you can talk through your long-term career goals and how parental leave and returning to work may impact your role. This discussion will show your manager that you’re still committed to the business and are making long-term career plans.
Partway through your leave, you can meet up again to see how things are going and if anything has changed in terms of the company or your own situation. Just before you return, it’s a good idea to visit the office or catch up with your team for lunch to help make the transition back easier and more gradual. All of this will help you return to work smoothly and be confident about what the expectations are.
Advice for Working Mothers
Spend time understanding yourself and identifying what makes you tick. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mum, a part-time working mum or a full-time working mum, you need to do what works for you and be open to flexing as life changes.
There are so many pressures these days on mothers to “do it all”, but what we don’t realise is that we are doing all we can at each stage. We need to step back and re-evaluate what ‘all’ actually means for us as individuals and our family circumstance. Perhaps for you, ‘all’ means maintaining a balance that allows you to be a fulfilled and present mum, a valuable employee and a lifelong learner.
Likewise, try to remind yourself that you are no less important than colleagues in full-time positions. Working less or different hours doesn’t mean you aren’t making a contribution to the team and the company.
There’s no denying raising kids is a tough job, and the challenges are not always discussed openly in today’s society. For some parents, returning to work offers freedom and opportunity, while others can struggle with guilt and separation anxiety. Either way, being in a workplace where you’re valued and recognised for your achievements is a wonderful thing. We all deserve a work environment where we are supported, regardless of whether we have kids at home.
The team at Talenza understands the demands on working parents and embraces flexible working arrangements to help them strike the balance they need. If you’re looking for a role within a recruitment agency that truly “gets it”, contact Talenza today.