Being a parent is a very tough job. The only people that might debate that are not likely to have children of their own. But balancing work with parenting can be a serious struggle, especially for new mums returning to work.
Employers that are unable to provide much-needed flexibility to new parents are not only going to be missing out on hiring some incredible talent, but are also missing out on opportunities to make their team feel truly supported during this challenging, yet incredibly rewarding time of their lives.
We spoke to five parents, from those working for corporates through to startups about their personal experiences of how they transitioned from parental leave back to their workplace. They shared some valuable advice on making this transition as smooth as possible and provided suggestions on what employers can do to support parents as best as possible:
1. Gemma Lindeman
– Head of People & Culture | Kapiche
The Excitement Of Returning To Work
Our first interview was with Gemma Lindeman, a Head of People & Culture at Kapiche. She said she felt both excited and guilty at the same time on the first day to work after the maternity leave.
“I was itching to come back to work if I am honest, I had always loved to work, and I felt like I lost part of myself on maternity leave. But the first day I dropped my daughter at daycare, crying as I left, was heartbreaking. I got in the car, and the penny dropped… If I am going back, it needs to be for a job that I love to go to every day! And that moment led me to my role with Kapiche… to help shape a workplace that people love where they work.”
The Need For Strong Leadership
Gemma suggested that the process of the organisations to create a more supportive environment needs to be led from the top down, and not just in words.
“Those in leadership roles need to show by examples for it to be taken seriously in the workplace. There have been times I have had to jump onto a video call with my daughter in a high chair munching away on snacks so I can join in a team meeting… this is my reality some days!”
She also stressed that the support has to include male employees. Working fathers also need assistance and understanding from the workplace to achieve a good balance between career and family.
2. Ella Cullen
– Talent Acquisition Partner | GrowthOps
Emotional Struggles When Coming Back To Work
Ella Cullen, Talent Acquisition Partner in GrowthOps, shares her struggles and difficulties she went through when transitioning back to her career.
“Coming back to work after your first child is a tidal wave of emotions and hormones – you feel a sense of freedom mixed with huge guilt! Suddenly for a few days a week, you get to become the ‘old you’ and leave the ‘new mum’ version of you back at home. There will be days you feel empowered or you will have days you struggle through with a few hours’ sleep and the ‘why did I commit to coming back to work’ days.”
The Required Change In The Work Style
Ella reflected that having gone back to a high-pressured agency environment straight after her maternity leave was a mistake. It took her six months to fall apart at the seams emotionally, and she had to make a big change in her work life to find a better balance between being a parent and her career.
“This was a total kick up the butt to start working for myself. I created an environment that worked for me, and within a few months, I was making the same money. My daughter had the happy me back, and I didn’t miss those precious moments. My clients always had clarity on my position, I had great support from my partner at home and made some life-long connections in the process.”
Four Key Criteria Of Job Hunt
After one and a half years working from home, Ella decided to head back into the workforce. She selected the company carefully based on flexibility, support, parental leave, and culture. At her current job, Ella appreciates having a great leader who understands the needs of working parents and allows flexibility – sometimes they need to dash to a doctor’s appointment or get held up at daycare.
“My advice to companies that say they will support a return-to-work parent is to actually do it! I feel lucky to be a modern-day mamma, and the more I am empowered, the more I will put into my work on a daily basis!”
3. Veronica Pollard
– Recruitment Manager | Estia Health
Challenge Of Balancing Between Family And Work
As a mother of two, Veronica’s biggest challenge when returning to work was to find the right balance between her family and career. When she first came back from maternity leave, travelling was a part of her work. Having to take care of her first child who kept waking up throughout the night and getting up at 4 am to make it to the 6 am flight made it very difficult for her to be present at work with the best focus and performance.
“You don’t want to let your family down. You don’t want to let your employer down, and also yourself”.
Learning to be at peace with the mum guilt, and not to put too much pressure on herself was the biggest thing.
Flexible Work Arrangement And Open Conversation
For Veronica, a flexible work arrangement helped. Her work allowed her to return on a part-time basis initially, which helped her to adjust to the dynamic transition from full-time parenthood to a working mother.
She also suggests having open dialogue is also key for employers to create a supportive environment for working parents.
“My advice to employers is to be ready for an open conversation. Don’t make assumptions and make sure they feel that they are part of the team during their maternity leave. Becoming a parent is a journey. A number one tip is to check in and understand their career goals (which may shift) by starting the conversation.”
4. James Brownlie
Chief Technology Officer | TalentVine
Sense Of Responsibility For Another Person’s Life
James Brownlie, CTO of TalentVine, is a dad with a 9-month-old son. He reflected that becoming a dad changed his priorities and responsibilities in his life.
“Becoming a dad really made me realise that life can be so incredible for us in every moment if we just stop to think of the miracle of life. It’s really re-invigorating and made me so appreciative for what I have around me. The sense of responsibility for another person’s life is profound and has impacted my life forever.”
Time Management Is The Biggest Struggle
James said finding time really is the main challenge at this point in his life. After having a new family member added to his life, prioritising tasks and duties has become more important than ever.
“There will always be a list of things to do for both home and work, and I don’t think you ever get through them all and say “That’s everything done!”. No. It’s all about having a workload that is manageable and not overwhelming for me.”
Flexibility Is Important
James also suggests that flexibility is the best support that employers can provide their employees with newborns, especially for those who value family as a top priority of their life.
“Not feeling guilty for having to go home early one afternoon or work from home another day has been so important to me. Having that at TalentVine has made my parenting life so much easier knowing that if my wife or baby needs me, I can be there at a moment’s notice.”
5. Shaun Restorick-Barton
Associate | Law Squared
Shaun from Law Squared is another working father with his lovely newborn. Becoming a new parent has shifted his priorities more than he expected, and he found it initially very challenging to bring the full focus and motivation back to work. He also had to be more efficient throughout the day so that he was able to leave on time every day to spend time with his son and share parenting duties with his wife, instead of leaving work at the usual 6.30pm time.
Supportive Work Environment
To him, the greatest support from work was the understanding of the employer and his team members about his new priority in life. Working parents tend to feel guilty for choosing family matters over their work, so sometimes employees have to be encouraged to spend time with family. He recalled that it was his director Demetrio forced him to take leave when his baby arrived two and a half weeks early.
“I needed to be told by my boss to take time off, I felt bad not being at work. I think it is really important for employers to encourage their staff to enjoy the time with their new family member and be supportive of their employee’s new priority.”
4 Ways to help Working Parents
So, what are the most effective ways to make your organisation a more inclusive, supporting workplace for new parents? Here are our top 4 tips that employers can consider.
1. Flexible Working
Parenting often accommodates unpredictable duties – doctor’s appointment, sports practice, school plays, etc. And parents can’t always plan ahead for these events or use holiday allowances to cover them.
Flexitime allows working parents more freedom to get where they need to be, without impacting on their productivity at work.
2. Remote Working
Being away from your children in the office from 9 to 5 can be a huge demand for parents. If your business is able to allocate staff some hours they can work from home each week, they will be onsite for all necessary meetings and contact time, but otherwise, able to fit their work duties around other demands. Remote working gives working parents flexibility to balance work responsibilities with seeing more of their children, which makes them feel happier in the office. Plus, we all know that just because someone is in the office, that does not mean they are productive, so trust your team to get their work done regardless of the time or place this is done.
3. Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave
Mothers often feel pressured to return to work after maternity leave because of financial strains. New mums would feel more secure in taking time out and return from their leave in a more productive and motivated state if they have the right financial support.
4. Onsite Childcare
Although this benefit is still not widely adopted, this is worth considering for the incredible convenience. Having the childcare onsite, parents are no longer missing out on time with their children due to the commuting. It also means they are on hand if a child gets sick.
It is incredibly reassuring to new parents to have their children nearby and reachable, which eventually allows them to focus better on work.
TalentVine – A Trusted Recruitment Marketplace
If you’d like to discuss your current hiring processes, we are always happy to help. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the TalentVine team, or any of our 300 specialist recruitment agencies.