You play a pivotal role in her return to work.
Celebrate your partner, celebrate the mother of your children and appreciate the sacrifices she makes for you and for them.
On International Women’s Day, this post is dedicated to Teri, the mother of my children and the woman standing by my side as I embark on this crazy adventure.
I look back on my time before I became a dad and recognise that in my professional capacity I may have overlooked the pressure a mother returning to work faces. My eyes are wide open now but that hasn’t always been the case. I’m guilty of missing several chances to help a mother balance the demands of work, motherhood and her family commitments.
I like many before me am guilty of failing to help a new mum settle back to work. Yes I followed company policy but did I empathise fully with the situation? I don’t think so. I’ve seen it first-hand and on reflection I think I’ve been part of the problem. To some extent it’s society driven bias but in reality it’s a lack of education both on my part and on the part of employers. I admit I never received formal training to help with the transition back to the workforce but I could have educated myself on the early pressures of motherhood, I just chose not to do so.
It wasn’t until I had my own children and witnessed the challenges my wife faced as she returned to work following maternity leave that I took stock of my role as a husband and my role as a leader.
As someone who hadn’t had children I wasn’t comfortable initially helping a new mum get back into the flow of work. I certainly had no idea that many have little choice. They either choose to return to work in some capacity or they have that choice taken away from them and have to step back from their careers because of the financial burden that accompanies childcare arrangements.
For many there is no choice and as an employee in a leadership role I think these key issues are overlooked. I’ve had training on equality and inclusion and understand the complexity of different social biases. However I haven’t always been in a position to appreciate the struggle or the importance of helping someone adapt to both their role as a mother and their role as an employee wanting to progress their career, and contribute to the targets of the business on their return to work.
As a husband I get it. My eyes are fully open to the fact that women retuning after having a baby are fighting hard to be heard and fighting to be seen. I’ve seen and heard many things and today I’m fiercely protective of my wife and her position at home but most importantly her position in the work place.
We’re in a privileged position. She was able to return and whilst she’s faced many obstacles and had to wrestle with the guilt that’s constantly circling, she at least had the option to go back. Yes the mortgage costs and rising cost of living forced her hand but we’ve worked hard to find a balance.
Today she’s working condensed hours and that works for us, but like I said, many just don’t have that flexibility, and many employers are overlooking the pressure a mum faces and the impact returning to work can have on her confidence and in her ability to pick up where she left off.
Your role as partner is so important. You’ve got to bury the ego and accept that for many mums their choice to return to work is taken away. Yes you might be the provider but that doesn’t mean your partners contribution is limited to the childcare. Faced with difficult decisions after baby did you both agree on the future path for her and your family? Did you actively listen? I know in a lot of circumstances as a partner you’ve got it covered but do you check in? Do you recognise that every day she’s wrestling with this inner conflict that erodes her confidence and connection to the woman she was before baby arrived?
As her partner be aware and engage her in conversation beyond baby talk, and as a dad, recognise that it can be hard to support your partner as she wrestles with the conflict of giving up her job after having a baby. Here are some ways you can better support her in her new role:
Encourage Open Communication: Encourage your partner to communicate openly with you about her feelings and concerns. Listen attentively and without judgment, and offer support and understanding.
Offer Emotional Support: Let your partner know that you support her and are proud of her accomplishments, whether she decides to continue working or take a break from her career. Reassure her that you will work together as a team to make the best decision for your family.
Help Explore Options: Work with your partner to explore potential options that could allow her to continue working while also caring for your child. This could include flexible work arrangements, such as working from home or adjusting her schedule.
Be Supportive of Your Partner's Decision: Ultimately, the decision to leave or continue working is up to your partner. Regardless of the outcome, be supportive of her decision and work together to make the best choice for your family.
Be conscious that in the early days that as she adjusts to a baby and her new environment it will create stress, anxiety and eat away at her confidence. You need to remember that you’re going to work, regardless of how many hours you’re putting in, it isn’t comparable to raising a new baby or even a toddler, so ensure you empathise with the situation.
Now if she’s retuning or about to return to work you have to be switched on. She’s about to face things you as a man won’t even see.
Be Understanding: Your partner is likely to be juggling a lot of responsibilities and feeling a range of emotions as she transitions back to work. Be patient and empathetic, and offer support and understanding as she navigates this new phase. Let her explore the right balance. Listen to the options available and be open to alternative working arrangements.
Seriously, you’ve got to understand the biases she’ll experience and the blockers to career progression if you’re planning to have more kids. She cannot feel like a spare part at work, it’ll destroy her self-esteem.
Offer to help with childcare when you can. This could include taking time off work to look after the baby or helping to find and coordinate childcare options. Don’t leave her to juggle it on her own. Get hands on, understand the schedule and make an effort to find the balance that works for you both. She might have covered you for a year or maybe a few months, that doesn’t mean she has to shoulder the burden by herself.
Encourage Self-Care: Taking care of a baby and working can be a lot, so encourage your partner to take care of herself. This could include taking breaks, practicing self-care activities like meditation or exercise, or simply taking time to do things she enjoys.
Look out for Signs of Stress: Watch out for signs of stress or burnout in your partner, such as increased irritability, fatigue, or difficulty sleeping. Encourage her to seek professional help if needed.
Lads, ignorance is a poor excuse, get clued up on the challenges she’s about to face professionally and read the policies of her employer together and understand the flexible working policy if her employer has one.
Be aware of the financial pressure that you’re both under and start planning ahead and budget appropriately. You want her to feel supported in her decision
Overall, being a supportive partner during this time means being patient, understanding, and willing to help out where you can. By working together, you can help your partner navigate this new phase and make the transition back to work a little easier.
You have a duty to your partner to understand the pressures of motherhood and obstacles she faces as she looks to navigate early motherhood and that transition back to the workforce. As a leader I’ve made mistakes but as a husband I have this woman’s back and I see the struggle the working mum faces. I respect her resilience, determination and drive she shows on a daily basis.
To all the husbands and partners of working mums or mums who have sacrificed so much to raise your children be there, educate yourself as to the pressure she’s under. To the employers, make sure you’re educating your leaders on the issues facing the modern working mum.
Attention Employers: Is your organisation equipped to support working dads during these challenging times of hybrid working and remote parenting? The family dynamic is shifting, and the pressure to juggle work and childcare has only intensified. At The Modern Fatherhood Club, we've introduced a new workshop is designed to support career mums and their partners in navigating the challenges of returning to work after maternity leave.
Led by a husband of a working mum, this interactive session provides insights into the obstacles modern mums face in the workforce and the important role partners play in supporting them.
Participants will learn about how employers can better support mums before and after maternity leave, the impact of childcare costs on their return to work, and how to create a more inclusive workplace culture for all.
This workshop is perfect for those looking to create a supportive environment for working mums, engage women in conversations around motherhood and work, support modern fathers taking extended parental leave, and understand the challenges facing modern families. Join us for this important conversation and help create a network that champions and supports modern parents.
Aidan, Founder of TMFC
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