We often speak to Mums and Dads who are worried about returning to work, who are not sure what to expect and whether they will even be able to find a job that will suit them. To help answer a few questions we spoke to Emma, one of the first Mums who GPS Return helped go back to work.
Tell us about yourself
I am a new mother of one, and previously worked a lot of hours per week, in an ambitious sales management role. I’ve always worked hard to move up, and not I've been afraid to work long weeks, in far-flung places.
This obviously wasn’t doable on return with a baby.
Why did you decide to return to work when you did?
I had always planned to return to work after maternity leave.
How did you find the experience?
I found returning to work nerve-racking. I worried about how I’d cope, how my child would adjust, and how we’d all balance the new commitments. It seemed too soon to be thinking about leaving her for a significant amount of time each week. I had already begun doing my keep in touch days in my old position when I decided to look around a bit more.
How have your priorities changed since having children?
My priority now is my child. I know this won’t last forever, but I didn’t have a baby to not be present as a parent as much as possible. All too soon I know she’ll be at school.
How straightforward was it to find the flexibility you needed?
Not at all. My old job had me over a barrel really. They offered four days when I wanted three. I felt that I would always be chasing my tail, and disappointing them and myself in that I couldn’t perform how I had done before I had a child. I simply wouldn’t have the time to devote anymore.
What does flexibility mean to you? Why is it so important?
Flexibility means having a working environment in which I’m not made to feel uncomfortable if I have to have time off for unplanned child sickness. That is the main thing for me. Working three days per week means that I have enough days per week and holiday to manage anything planned in my time off. I am very much aware that it’s important that I give back in hours and loyalty, what I gain in flexibility and trust.
Did you experience any pushback from recruiters or potential managers?
My previous job role were unable to be flexible in the way that was required. I found it difficult to approach companies making demands about hours and pay, without reducing my skill set significantly
How did you find your role?
I found my role through GPS at a time when I wasn’t yet properly looking but needed to find alternatives. I was uncomfortable with the plans that I’d put in place and knew I’d overcommitted.
I was already sold on the idea of using a recruiter because that was what I did and knew it worked. I wasn’t sure there were sufficient opportunities at my level (not that I’m super senior), to be able to get the skill set and salary I wanted AND the days. I didn’t want to have to compromise on all the work I’d done to become a manager in my field to be able to get back to work. That didn’t seem fair.
What impact has working flexibly had on your team/company?
In my current company, none – it’s set up so that most of the employees work flexibly. It’s very refreshing.
Have you changed the way you work since returning?
Not really, I still try and work more than my contracted hours to meet my targets. I still try to go over and above. I think it’s important to show willing in your role and to do the best you can.
How has your family coped with you returning to work?
It came as a bit of a culture shock after a year off with my baby. It’s actually done us all good as it’s meant that my husband has had more solo responsibility for the care of our child.
How do you balance work with your family?
I currently work three days per week in the office and reply to emails etc. on my days off where possible. This works really good for us all, and it shows willing when I need to ask for allowances in special circumstances i.e. my daughter was recently ill in hospital and I had to take time out. It meant that I didn’t have to feel guilty about being away from work, or worry about the reception when I got back.
What’s been the biggest challenge with going back?
Honestly, leaving my daughter behind. But the role and the team have gone into were a brilliant fit.
What’s most surprised you about going back?
I still had brain cells! And still had real value to give. I had only been out of the loop for a year, but it felt like longer so my confidence took a bit of a hit.
What advice do you have for others?
Go for it!. Be demanding but fair. Strive for the best you can, you’re not devalued because you’ve been out of the game for a while.