“I don’t suppose I’ll ever get my career back,” she told me. “I’ve been out of the game for ten years. Nobody will want to employ me now.”
Sounds familiar? Up and down the country, too many mothers are having the same conversation. Brilliant, talented women, terrified of putting themselves out there. Women who have lost all career confidence after years as stay-at-home mums or demoted part-timers.
SO HOW CAN YOU GET YOUR CAREER CONFIDENCE BACK?
What if, instead of focusing on the work you haven’t been doing over the last few years, you started looking at all the work you have been doing?
For many of us, motherhood creates such seismic shift that judging yourself against your pre-children skill set doesn’t make a lot of sense. Here are some simple, powerful ways to reframe your thoughts and get some of your confidence back.
CELEBRATE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS AS A MOTHER
Think about everything you’ve learned over the past few years. Motherhood has accelerated you waaaaay past where you were before you had children.
Your current skill set is amazing. Your learning curve has been immense. You’ve shown grit, integrity, determination, creativity and leadership skills often beyond human endurance through sheer willpower and courage.
Mama, you’re bloody brilliant!
Write down all the amazing things you’ve achieved as a mother. Every hurdle you’ve jumped. Every lesson you’ve learned. Every single win. Soak them all up.
Create your own mother’s CV. I’m not saying you should send it to prospective employers – although I sometimes like to imagine the kind of world we’d have if you could. Create it for yourself. Use it to hold onto and gather strength from when you’re feeling wobbly.
FIND NEW ROLE MODELS
What’s your ideal of working motherhood? Who are your role models? Are there any women – online or in your world – who can shine a light on your career path and guide you toward career confidence?
I’m a child of the late-70s. My generation of girls was told we could have it all – but we weren’t shown how. I can’t honestly think of a single working-mother role model from my youth. Madonna and Thatcher loomed large, but neither of them represented an achievable (or desirable) path for me.
At home, my own mother struggled to fit work around childcare – settling for killer night shifts and drifting in and out of sleep during my waking hours. I only knew that I didn’t want that. But I didn’t know what I wanted in its place.
Today, it’s much easier to find women who are creating their own versions of working motherhood. Women showing us that we don’t have to slot back into corporate culture to be successful. They are highly visible on social media – I’m thinking of women like Molly Gunn (@selfishmother), Anna Whitehouse (@mother_pukka), Sara Tasker (@me_and_orla) and Beth Kirby (@local_milk). Maybe there’s someone in your own social circle who has found a different route to working motherhood.
If you’re lacking in role models, or your current ones are getting you down, go and find some new ones. Look for working mothers who are doing things in a way that rings true for you. Real women who present new opportunities. And then take their lead.
CONSIDER A NEW PATH
Here’s a thought for you. What if you’re not really afraid? What if the uncomfortable feeling you’ve got in the pit of your stomach isn’t fear, but dread…
Maybe this is your gut telling you to try a new way, to forge a new career.
The rigid Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 workweek is out of sync with the realities and pressures of motherhood (and fatherhood for that matter). But your work doesn’t need to be tethered to an office desk anymore – the digital revolution has cut many of those cords. So if returning to the office fills you with dread, what about becoming a freelancer, working from home, working flexibly, or starting your own online business?
If the latter appeals but you don’t know where to start, think about all those new skills you’ve learned as a mum. What are the real surprises? Which things do you absolutely love doing? Focus on those. (And maybe also make a concerted effort to avoid slipping back into doing the things you absolutely hate doing.)
Has motherhood unleashed a creative streak you didn’t know you had? What could you do with it? How could you turn it into a career?
For many women, there’s no straightforward path back to the careers we had pre children. But there is a path. In fact, there are many paths.
Focus on what you’ve achieved as a mother, find new role models and consider a different way of doing things. Then you’ll be ready for the next stage of your career.
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