I recently coached a mom who after five years of being a full-time mother was feeling restless and lonely. She loved spending time with her children, giving them the right upbringing, managing the house, and yet there was a niggling thought in her mind that she should return back to work and that she should do something more than being a mother.
As we all know, a new mom is bombarded with information on motherhood. How to feed your child, how to make your child sleep, how to be the perfect mother! The do’s and don’ts, the must and must nots, the importance of being a good mother, spending quality time with your child, the caring, the bonding and so on. And you follow this advice given by books, by well-meaning aunts, you not only give up your job but also your friends, your hobbies, your “self” and you smile through it all as you cherish each moment with your little one. Till one fine day just like that BOOM…your kids don’t need you anymore, leaving you ‘jobless’ and you don’t know what to feel or what to do next.
You scramble around trying your best to keep yourself busy. You hope they have forgotten their lunch box at home so you get an excuse to go to school. You insist that they can’t travel by themselves and you go to pick them up after their activity. But for how long? There are no classes or schools for ‘graduating moms’ and there is no fixed term of tenure either.
Although there is no clear-cut answer on when is the ‘right’ time to get back to work, here are a list of hints and tips based on my own personal journey and experiences of other moms I have interacted with –
- Define “work” – This answer itself will tell you a lot about what you can or cannot do. For some, ‘work’ could be getting back to a full-time job, for others it could be a part-time home-based business and yet for some it could be spending time doing different things. So define what work really means to you before you step on the pedal for the next step.
- What feels “right” to you – A lot of times we focus on ‘the doing’ – the task, the goal, the activities – all left-side brain work. A goal is just a meaningless goal if it does not connect to the right-brain, to the feelings and emotions associated with it. Visualise yourself in your dream job, or that business that you want to start or that hobby that you want to take up, how does it feel ‘being there?’ What does your home look like without your presence for those few hours? Are you feeling ok about that? Are you excited when you place yourself in that office chair, talking to your future colleagues? Do you see yourself happy?
- What “feels” right to others – Sometimes taking a decision to get back to work is not an individual decision, the whole family needs to be involved in it. How ready are your kids to see you get back to work or to spend time away from you? How ready is your husband to pitch in and look after the house if need be? Do you have an extended family support and are they happy with your decision? Talking to your family and support system well in advance would ensure that everyone feels like a part of your decision, so when the transition happens they feel ready and excited just like you!
- How practical is the change? – Sometimes you and your family members may feel ready and good to go, but if you don’t have the right practical support at home and at work, each day would become a challenge. Do you have someone you can depend on to look after your child, is your work place close to your home, what are your finances like, how stressful is the job? Hours of work? Flexible hours vs fixed? What about your physical self, would you be able to get enough hours of sleep and rest between managing work and home? These are some practical and important questions to be answered before you take this decision.
- The Big “WHY?” – The ‘Why’ lies at the core of all the above. While you may debate and discuss on the right time for a change, asking yourself why you want that change in the first place can help give some concerete answers. Ask yourself – What are you seeking in your work? Are you driven by having your own finance or personal fulfilment? What matters to you the most- Balance or having an identity of your own? What skills do you have that are not being utilised? What skills would you like to build? Where do you see yourself in a few years time? What is important to do now that will get you closer to that desired future?
Taking a decision will take its own time and will come naturally to you as you go along on these lines. Try not to push yourself for an answer, as the right answer will come to you when you are ready. The right answer will help you feel lighter, better about yourself, so anything that makes you feel more burdened probably needs to be questioned more. You could think about hiring a professional coach who can help you get clarity on your goals, support you work on your action plan and be your accountability partner during this journey.
Lastly ‘getting back to work’ does not need to feel as a complete revamp in your life, you can make this change as gradual as possible. You can take up a hobby, learn a new skill, do a part-time job or volunteer at school, all while managing your home and bringing up your kids, so that when they do grow up and you feel the need to go back to a full-time job or profession, you have the confidence, discipline, skills and experience with you to make that transition with a smile! Good Luck!