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3 Ways to Adjust to Life as a Working Parent

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

This blog post is a collaboration between Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner, who are both Maternity Return coaches. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you. In this blog we talk about the time after you’ve returned to work and some of the typical themes that come up in coaching conversations.

Having a child is arguably one of the biggest changes you will go through in your life. Many women report feeling like a completely different person after they become a mother. There can be a shift in values, responsibilities and priorities and when you throw returning to work into the mix, things can get complicated.

Although everyone we work with is unique as a parent and employee, there are themes that tend to come up in return to work coaching programmes that are linked to discovering and accepting this new identity. These include identifying and managing boundaries, noticing when we need help and who can provide it, and dealing with comparison to other working parents.

1. Managing Boundaries There are different types of boundaries to be considered, physical, emotional, financial, time and non-negotiables are just a few. It’s important to be aware of our boundaries because without them we can start to feel taken for granted or taken advantage of and it can have the knock on effect of burning out, losing confidence in ourselves and our decisions.

Boundaries are important both at work and at home, and they’re a common theme in maternity return coaching as these come together. The boundaries we hold as a single person, may be different to the ones we need as a parent. It’s a good time to reflect on what you need, whether you’re getting it and how to make it happen.

Some boundaries, such as time or finances might be considered early on in terms of the practicalities of returning to work. What hours do you need to work to also be the parent you want to be? How much do you need to earn for it to make sense for you to return to work?

Working with a coach can also help you take a deeper look at what’s important to you now, and how you’re protecting those values. This may not be something you’ve thought about before. To help introduce this concept you can use the following sentence completion exercise.

I have the right to [progress my career, time with my family, my own space….]

If my boundaries are violated I will……….

If I’m asked to do something that crosses my boundaries I will……………

2. Asking for help Remember that you’re not superwoman!

Although it might be uncomfortable, it’s absolutely ok to ask others to help you if you’re struggling. It can be difficult when expectations have been set and we know from coaching hundreds of women, that there can be a lot of pressure to make things work.

The first thing we would suggest if you’re feeling that you can’t meet expectations is relieve the pressure by taking the time to identify what kind of help would be useful.

Do you need some emotional support and understanding from your partner or friends, would you benefit practically from hiring a cleaner to pick up some of the slack at home, can you speak with your line manager about your priorities at work and how they can be managed?

To help you start this thought process, create a mind map of the areas you feel overwhelmed in and note down any ideas you have that come to mind.

For more ideas on this topic, you can read our blog ‘How to manage expectations on your return to work here.

3. Comparison to other working parents As soon as I became a parent I was very aware of the huge divide between parenting approaches. Actually, scratch that, it was as soon as I became pregnant. Realising that people had strong feelings about how to give birth, how to feed your baby and whether they should sleep in your bed or not. It felt like everyone had an opinion about what I was doing, which made it really difficult to make my own decisions based on my own opinion. Welcome to the world of ‘should!’

Then I went back to work and another world of ‘should’ opened up. I should have been able to get straight back into the swing of things like Jo, I should have been able to work a bit later like Claire, my baby should be sleeping through the night like Annas… You get the idea. Having lived the experience, we really understand the feelings that come with that and know that ‘comparisonitis’ can still creep in sometimes if left unchecked.

The fact is that we’re all different, we have different home set ups, different financial situations, different values, different levels of tolerance for stress, different ways of communicating. The list is endless.

Remind yourself that no-one is doing this better than you, everyone who becomes a parent, and then a working parent, is figuring out their own way of making it work. Be kind to yourself and remember that there is no right and wrong answer here, just your own best way through.

Using the above activities around boundary management and expectations can be very helpful when we’re reminding ourselves of what’s important to us.

We hope you find this information useful and enjoy using some of the coaching activities. Please feel free to let us know how you got on if you did.

If you’d like more information about how we can support you and your organisation with return to work coaching, there are links to both our websites in the descriptions below.

About Laura

Laura is an EMCC qualified and accredited coach with a background in HR and Recruitment. She has 15 years experience of coaching individuals around their professional and personal development. Her own experience of returning to work after having her daughter highlighted that there was a need for more robust support through this transition which lead her to specialise in maternity return coaching. Clients share that they find her to be warm and down to earth, giving them a renewed sense of self belief, motivation and tools to cope in a fast paced and often challenging world. Her coaching approach is grounded in Positive Psychology focussing on mental health and well-being. She see’s her role as providing a safe and calm space for those facing uncertainty and making big changes in their lives.

About Sarah

Sarah is an Executive and Maternity coach with a background in HR, Diversity and Inclusion and Occupational Psychology. A mum herself, Sarah has experienced maternity leave and she has coached numerous women and working parents as they navigate their own journey into parenthood. She brings compassion and empathy to her maternity coaching, priding herself on offering a supportive but empowering space where her clients feel heard and able to find their own way through this stage of their lives.

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