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An exercise to boost your confidence as you return to work after parental leave

In the run up to the return to work, individuals can find themselves experiencing a new sense of vulnerability and diminished confidence. Maternity leave in particular, given that it is usually an extended period of time away from work, is a complex transition with long term consequences. The nature of the parental transition is unique, involving high points and low points with fluctuating levels of confidence and motivation lasting beyond the maternity leave itself.

Women often re-evaluate their career as they return to work. The reality of juggling a dual role of parent and career can be daunting, prompting a shift in values and a kaleidoscope of emotions. Finding practical ways to support clients as they navigate this time, in particular, helping them to connect to what matters most to them professionally, can calm the unease that so often accompanies the end of maternity leave.

A confidence boosting memory aid

An exercise I often share with my clients before they commence their leave is to create a confidence boosting memory aid. This can take any form the client wishes to use; a mind map, a letter to themselves, a vision board, or even a good old fashioned scrapbook. The idea is to help the woman to capture the professional side of her identity before her world turns upside down and she finds herself up to her eyes in nappies and delirious with a lack of sleep.

This confidence boosting memory aid can be put away in a draw or filed away on a computer once it is complete and kept safe until the return to work beckons. At which point, she can take it out and remind herself who she is. Who she was. Who she can be. It is a powerful way to reconnect with the meaning of her work, the skills and experience she has to offer and why she does what she does.

I tend to offer my clients a few questions to help prompt their thinking when they start this exercise, but there are no rules. The intention is for this to be a deeply personal exercise, and one that requires space and time for reflection.

The questions include:

  • What do I do really well?

  • Why do I do what I do?

  • What are my proudest moments from the last year or two?

  • How do I see myself? How do others see me?

  • How do I want to be seen when I return?

  • What impact am I able to have through my work?

  • What am I most excited about when I come back to work?

  • What do I wish for myself as I adjust to being a working parent?

Of course the reasons for a sense of diminished confidence will vary, and not all clients will experience a sense of self doubt as they return. Each woman’s experience of maternity leave is different, and this is where providing coaching with a skilled coach is invaluable.

Coaches who work in this space need to be able to meet clients where they are, adapting to whatever they bring to the coaching, whilst also ensuring that tangible benefits are realised to ease the client into the return to work.

Note: This exercise is based on one shared by Nikki Seignot in her book Mentoring New Parents at Work.

Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about how parental coaching can make a difference in your organisation.

My colleague Sarah Turner and I have been busy creating content highlighting the importance of organisations providing support for working parents. As part of this, we created this video series exploring the entire journey of maternity leave, from before the leave starts, through to preparing to return and then the first few months back at work. If you or your organisation would like to understand more about how to support your employees as they take parental leave, please get in touch.

This blog post is a collaboration between Maternity Coaches Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.

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