Navigating the Truth to Return to Work: Post Maternity Leave Thoughts

High-quality childcare- check

New-outfit- check

Anxiety- double check

Confidence- 404 Error

This was the exact scenario when I was already decked up physically to head on to my workplace post-maternity leave. Now the question arises, what went wrong?

Six months after giving birth to my second child and re-entering the workplace was incredibly difficult. Apart from the obvious guilt of leaving my baby at home, my mind crossed a hundred thoughts while stepping out for the office.

I was downhearted and sleep-deprived and realized there is nothing quite like that first morning back to work after your maternity leave.

The Transition was not Smooth

To rejoin work, my preparation started about a fortnight before. I set out everything I would need. I had work clothes that actually fit, pumped up milk bottles at home, given instructions to my housemaid, and a lot more that almost every working mother does. Moreover, this was not the first time I was experiencing motherhood and going back to work. Been there done that!

However, I was experiencing mixed emotions. The D-day has finally arrived! After having a few cups of black coffee, I finally reached my office only to realize everything is just the same but me.  

A Person with New Priorities and Concerns?

Albeit this new juggler in me now has a different set of priorities, that doesn’t make my professional work any less important to me. Nevertheless, my manager and the super boss decided to stay light years away from the logic and poured me with statements and questions like:

“You must have forgotten to access your outlook account?”

“Do you still remember your password?”

“We may just have to figure out how to get you back on the team”

“We might not be able to give you any salary increase or bonuses this year”

Rather than getting welcomed, I sensed a feeling of dejection and self-doubt. This struggle was for real!

Being Reflective and More Effective

I reflected on my situation. From anxiety to trouble with breastfeeding, leaking breasts, changed body shape to leaving my new baby for the first time felt unnatural. My brain was flooded with hormones, and additionally the unwelcoming behavior at the workplace made things worse.

It made me ponder that my goal is to have a long and fruitful career and I’m only going to do it with an organization that offers family-friendly policies. I would not give a second chance to a company that does not recognize me as a mother. So, to redefine a good balance between work and motherhood, I spent the next few months re-evaluating my career choice.

Some Realizations

I was feeding my son, staying up all night with a baby, heading to work without any sleep, and then coming home to do it all over again. No! That’s not what I wanted to accomplish. I realized motherhood doesn’t entail the wage penalty and host of other challenges.

69% of women anticipate a pay cut on re-entry along with hiring disadvantages in the workplace.

A mother needs to be supported when she is coming off maternity leave. Having a strong support plan can help a woman get back to work. So, more often than not, there is an enormous struggle for women to acclimate back to normal working life after having a baby.

End Note

The disparity in gender roles in the Indian society results in the gender pay gap, especially when women stay out of the workforce or take a break for care giving circumstances. It is extremely crucial for employers to understand and accommodate the needs of new mothers for supportive work culture. Flexible work culture is a boon to female retention.

However, over the past few years, a lot of companies have understood the physical and emotional exhaustion associated with motherhood. Hence, they have been sensitive and empathetic in this situation. But things still demand further changes to make it easier for working mothers like us.

If you are someone who may go through such a situation, always remember nothing should stop you from performing well in your personal and professional life. The battlefield is all yours. So, set your milestones and act no less than a superhuman.   

Accommodating the needs of new mothers is a major step employer can take in an effort to retain and promote female employees. Flexible work arrangements is a boon to female retention.

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