Becoming a parent is a life-altering experience, it can bring immense joy, and it can also bring a myriad of challenges. One common concern among those who we coach is whether it’s possible to maintain, or build a successful career after welcoming a new addition to the family.
When we look around, we can see that there are many successful women with careers, who are mothers. So we know it’s possible, but what does it take? And what do you need to consider.
As always this blog acknowledges that we are all different, some of us will want to take a step back from our careers when our children are young, others will feel more ambitious than ever before. Here, we’re sharing insights from our own experience, and those we have learnt from our clients.
Key factors to consider:
Flexible working arrangements
Putting this first as the options for working flexibly have changed considerably since 2020. We’re seeing it as a factor that can significantly impact the ability to maintain a career post having children. Companies are increasingly recognising the importance of accommodating employees with families. There’s pressure within organisations to close the gender pay gap, retain and attract more female talent. One way of doing this is by making work more accessible, with remote work options, flexible schedules and part time opportunities.
Acceptance that life has changed
Embracing the ‘new normal’ that is becoming a working parent and being able to adapt to change is crucial. This might involve re-evaluating your career goals, adjusting expectations of yourself and considering how best to prioritise tasks effectively. It’s not uncommon for individuals to find a renewed sense of purpose and focus, leading them to pursue career paths that align more closely with their values and family commitments. Working with a coach at this point can be really helpful.
A supportive working environment We’ve heard over and over again that a good line manager and supportive organisation can make all the difference to a new parents career. Companies that prioritise family friendly policies such as parental leave, on-site childcare facilities and a culture that values work-life balance, create an environment where parents can thrive.
Often organisations we partner with are looking at training for line managers, implementing buddying schemes and sharing stories from senior leaders who have returned to show that it is possible alongside offering coaching for their returners. Establishing open communication with your employer about your needs and expectations can help to pave the way for a more supportive work environment.
A support network
The impact of having a baby on your career is profoundly influenced by the support systems in place, both at home and in the workplace. Building your network is critical as a working parent for many reasons. Connecting with other working parents, buddies or mentors at work is great for providing insights and encouragement for what’s possible. You will also want to consider child care arrangements, emergency plans and emotional support.
Self care In this instance we don’t mean a trip to the spa or a weekend away (I mean, it’s not to say you can’t!) but managing a career alongside being a parent requires a daily commitment to looking after yourself, having strong boundaries and allocating time for professional and family responsibilities which helps to prevent burnout and builds a more sustainable lifestyle.
It is possible to have a successful career after having a baby. While challenges undoubtedly exist, so do opportunities for growth and fulfilment. Embracing the reality of this experience involves recognising and adapting to the changes, seeking support when needed, and finding a balance that allows both your career and family life to flourish. Parenthood doesn’t have to be a roadblock; instead, it can be a catalyst for a more meaningful and rewarding professional journey.
If you’d like more information about our maternity return coaching programmes, please get in touch.
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.