Providing support for working parents is quickly becoming a business priority. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, returning to work after having a baby presents a variety of challenges as parents re-evaluate their career and their future. Businesses who want to retain their key talent, close their gender pay gap and progress women through to senior leadership positions need to pay close attention to how they support and enable working parents to thrive.
For women in particular, taking maternity leave can be pivotal moment in their career. It is a time of major change as they navigate the journey to becoming a parent alongside their personal career aims and working patterns. Many women experience a kaleidoscope of emotions as they prepare to transition out of the workplace, experience giving birth and learn how to take care of a child before preparing to return to work whilst entrusting their child to someone else to be cared for.
The changes that women (and working parents more broadly) face at this time can be particularly unsettling because they are new, often unexpected and may challenge their sense of identity. Feelings of vulnerability, low confidence and self-esteem often show up alongside emotions such as guilt and shame. Coaching can help working parents feel positive about their future at the organisation. Being given the opportunity to talk to a coach in confidence helps them feel valued and appreciated while providing a sense of comfort that the organisation is committed to their personal development.
A wide range of topics may come up in maternity coaching – from working through the different emotions and decisions that need to be made, to how to ask for flexible working or finding ways to adjust to the demands of their lives which are likely to be completely different from before they became a parent. The role of the line manager can be crucial in ensuring this transition is as smooth as possible, showing empathy and patience as the returning employee adapts to their new situation. Coaching for line managers can be beneficial as can workshops or online webinars designed to upskill managers and offer them the opportunity to share their experiences and learn from one another.
Less than a fifth of women feel confident returning to work after having a baby. More than a third feel so unsupported and isolated on their return that they consider handing in their notice (People Management, 2018). If you are interested in learning more about maternity coaching and how your organisation could benefit, check out our series of videos exploring the entire journey from before the leave starts, through to preparing to return and then the first few months back at work.