New mothers are often not ready to just pick up where they left off at work. Their employers need to know and respond to this.
By Elaine Davidson, WorkingMother.com
The weeks leading up to the end of maternity leave and the first weeks back at work are undoubtedly the most difficult for many working mothers. Organizations—and we working mothers ourselves—can underestimate the emotional and physical strain of leaving an infant to recommit to demanding careers. Many managers are ill-equipped to coach their employees through this transition, lacking both knowledge and resources. This is a missed opportunity for many organizations, and the result can lead to dire implications, both financially and emotionally, for everyone involved.
At a time when more than 40 percent of mothers are the sole or primary source of income for their household, with research predicting this number to grow even higher, there’s a dire need for companies to invest in today’s working moms. Here are tips and strategies organizations can use to support a new mom coming back to work:
1. Ease up. Allow and encourage new moms to ease their way back into work to minimize the emotional strain and build up their confidence. Provide flexible scheduling options—and encourage women to use them.
2. Be proactive about support. Create an environment where new mothers feel comfortable exploring their options and know where to go for support. Don’t assume that they’ll broach the subject without prompting, as many new working moms may feel uncomfortable expressing anxiety
3. Encourage mentorship. Cultivate a “pay it forward” culture where experienced working mothers can provide support. New moms are often confused and overwhelmed by the spectrum of emotions they are experiencing which can range from pure sorrow, guilt and anger to frustration about their still-changing bodies to fleeting moments of excitement about getting back to work. Moms who have been there can be excellent mentors.
4. Challenge the status quo. Be innovative and open-minded about new programs and ways in which to support working moms—even if no one else is doing it (coaching for working mothers, life transitions learning series for managers, gift cards for mom and baby bonding, yoga classes, etc.). Support structures can come in many forms and require effort, as they don’t always develop organically.
5. Invest in maternity leave re-entry coaching. Designed to support new mothers in returning to their high-performing status, this should begin just prior to returning to work. Not all women will want coaching, but many will need and appreciate it.
6. Tune in. Just because she looks happy on the outside, don’t assume that a new working mother is okay on the inside. Ask her how she’s feeling and go out of your way to listen.
It is often assumed that new mothers returning from maternity leave are ready to simply pick up where they left off. Bridging an old work life to a new work life isn’t always the immediate answer. Often, the right answer is working together to help new moms feel energized, creative and supported during this time of transition.
Reprinted from WorkingMother.com
Trailblazer and working mom of three Elaine Davidson is paving the way for organizations committed to high-potential working mothers. Leveraging 20 years in global corporate HR roles for some of the world’s most prominent consulting and financial services firms, she is the founder and CEO of Working Mother Mentorship, a global coaching and consulting firm that offers maternity leave reentry and working mother mentorship programs for today’s workforce.