I speak to a lot of mums on maternity leave who feel a complete lack of confidence when it comes to thinking about their return to work. Having a baby is such a huge life event and then going back to work a few months later can bring up so much emotion and doubt.
And I get it, I felt the same after I had my children.
While you’re in it, self-doubt can take over and make the thought of returning to work feel completely overwhelming. And while it might feel that it’s just you, please let me reassure you, it’s totally normal.
Here’s why you might be struggling with your confidence…
When you were working before you had your baby, your identity is likely to have been wrapped up a lot with your job and your career. When you have a baby, your world changes. Maternity leave is a special time to recover yourself and bond with your little one, but it’s also a million miles away from the life that you knew before. Filled with endless nappy changes, broken sleep, mountains of washing, huge amounts of time preparing food only for it seemingly all to be thrown on the floor and so on…
It’s easy to see why a new identity forms when we become a mum as our babies become the centre of our world.
When you face your return to work it can then be difficult to see how this new identity aligns with the one you know your manager, colleagues, clients etc are used to seeing pre-baby. And it’s not that you don’t still have career ambitions and aren’t committed and want to do a fantastic job. I know you do. But you also have other responsibilities and priorities now and the uncertainty of how they combine can certainly lead to doubts over whether it’s going to work and whether you’re going to be able to do it in the same way as you did before.
Maybe you’ve had regular contact with your manager or HR while you’ve been on maternity leave and have been kept up to date with any changes that have been going on. But you might have had little contact and feel out of the loop. After all, a lot can change in the space of a few months or a year whether it’s team members, strategy, systems or something else.
The unknown can be a scary place and where all the “what-if’s” can start cropping up…
If you haven’t had that much contact with your company then those what-if’s might start playing on your mind and lead to self-doubt, imposter complex and overall fear about what might be lying ahead.
One of the most challenging aspects of having a baby can be sleep deprivation and the impact that it can have on so many things. A survey by Snuz found that 7 in 10 parents lost at least 3 hours of sleep a night on average in the first year of their baby’s life. That is the equivalent of losing 133 night’s worth of sleep before their baby turns 1!
I’m pretty sure that I would have been one of those parents with my eldest and that seeing what that amounts to blows my mind. Having been there myself with a little sleep thief I know how the build up of poor quality sleep can affect you both physically and mentally. From general crankiness, weakened immunity, difficulty concentrating, less productive, weight gain and so on, there are lots of areas that can impacted by sleep disruption. And all of these things can have a knock-on effect on our self-esteem and levels of confidence.
When you become a parent, it can be difficult to get round to finding time for you and the things that you used to enjoy doing. Whether that’s meeting friends, an exercise, an evening class…all of this just feels so much harder to schedule and then find the energy to do. And let’s face it, there’s also always a never-ending to-do list of things that you feel you should be doing.
But making time for the things that give you energy and joy (whether that’s something you loved doing pre-baby or a new hobby) can help can boost your happiness or sense of achievement which in turn can improve your self-esteem and confidence.
This is a biggy for a lot of mums. Going back to work and putting their baby in childcare will be the first time many mums have been away from their baby. This can feel heart-breaking, overwhelming but also really nerve-wracking. The “what-if’s” might start coming in again:
Also, if you’re dreading the thought of leaving you little one then spending just a few hours apart at this stage might be beneficial in the long run so that you’re not having to face it for the first time on your first day back at work when you’ve got so much else going on at the same time.
When we’ve got all these terrifying thoughts going on in our minds we’re naturally going to start questioning whether we’re making the right decision. This can in turn lead to doubt and lack of confidence about your return to work and everything that is affected by it.
These are just five reasons why you might be struggling with confidence as you think about your return to work. There are many more too. Whether you’re affected by these or other reasons, please know that there is support out there to help you prepare for your return to work so that you feel ready and confident.
If you want to start taking the first steps to feeling confident about your return to work, then get my free guide which includes some of my top tips and a short journaling exercise.