The 7 Biggest Mistakes Working Mums Make
Returning to work after having a baby can be a challenging time, but you are not alone. Read on to learn insights and tips from expert coach – and mother – Rebekah Fraser
8 min read
Hello. I’m Rebekah and I’m a happy working mum. Yes, I’m a mum like you.
I have a bright, sassy, loving young daughter named Libby. She challenges me. She teaches me. She grounds me. She provides life’s happiest and most rewarding moments but the toughest and most heartbreaking as well.
But you know all this already because you’re a mum, too. And while I love my daughter deeply, I also felt a desire to return to some kind of professional work after my maternity leave – for me, for my sanity, and to make me a better mum in the long-term.
Getting back into work was HARD
I never expected the loss of confidence. I never expected the tiredness. I never expected that searching for the right childcare solution would make me feel so anxious. I never expected to feel so conflicted about my choices or care what others thought about them. I never expected to have to deal with mother’s guilt or for the need to learn to negotiate and delegate like I did. I never expected to feel so overwhelmed about trying to do something that I’d done so easily before!
Over time, I found my way (and so can you)
I grew my self-awareness so that I made my decisions in line with my values and felt at peace with them as a consequence. I learned how to ask for help and negotiate to get people onside. I discovered how to talk to myself so that I could take the necessary steps with confidence. I identified my priorities so that I focused my time in the right places. I made decisions that supported my long-term goal of how I wanted to experience my life. I found answers….and I want to share them with you.
Read on for the 7 most common mistakes I see mums making when they’re returning back to work, along with some of my biggest pieces of advice to help you navigate your own transition with more confidence, ease and joy…doesn’t that sound wonderful?
Working mum mistake #1 – Doing it all alone
Most mums have been the main caregiver to their children and often this trend continues when they go back to work.
Just because you’ve been the one to take responsibility for everything child-related (and in many cases, house-related) in the past, doesn’t mean that others (partners, extended family, older siblings) can’t start sharing this ‘second shift’.
Step back and take a look at all of the tasks that need to be done in your home and discuss ownership for these with your partner, kids, and family.
You can do it: Be prepared to give autonomy to others and share the load.
Working mum mistake #2 – Wanting everything done your way
A lot of the mums I meet would like their partners and children to help out more around the house YET don’t trust them to do the jobs ‘right’ so fail to delegate.
Because mums often feel they can do things better and faster than anyone else, they end up with everything on their own ‘to-do’ list.
Domestic ‘to-do’ lists never end, so unless you’re prepared to let something go, you’ll never free yourself of the “life-go-round”.
You can do it: Know where you want to spend your time and prioritise those things, delegate the rest and trust they’ll get done.
Working mum mistake #3 – Undervaluing yourself
Put your hand up if you work faster, smarter and more efficiently now than you did pre-kids? You’re not alone. There’s nothing like having focused windows of opportunity to get an outcome.
Yet so many mums fail to recognise their value in the job market. Time and again, mums fail to appreciate the skills they’ve developed as a consequence of becoming a mum and don’t aim high enough with respect to the roles and responsibilities they’re capable of.
You won’t get what you don’t ask for. Ask for a pay rise, flexible hours, remote working, a promotion, performance incentives…
You can do it: Aim higher, ask for what you really want and deserve
Working mum mistake #4 – Feeling guilty
The majority of mums report feeling ‘Mummy Guilt’ and the reasons for feeling guilty as a mother seems to be infinite.
Mums who stay home to care for their children often report feeling guilty about not pursuing their professional goals. Mums who go back to work full-time often report feeling guilty about missing out on time with their kids. Mums who work part-time often feel guilt as a consequence of ‘not doing either job to the best of their ability’.
Many times this guilt is a result of mums feeling judged and dictated to by family, cultural and societal expectations.
You can do it: Clarify what your family values are and stand firm in your decisions
Working mum mistake #5 – Expecting to see the world in the same way you did before
For some women having a baby appears easy, but for most of us, welcoming a child into your life brings with it a massive amount of adjustment and change.
For many mums, values, priorities and feelings change along with their new status. What felt important before can seem much less important after. Additionally, things that you took for granted before (for example, the freedom to determine how you used your time) may be mourned for now.
You can do it: Stop comparing yourself to the past, take the time to understand and accept where you are at now.
Working mum mistake #6 – Not looking after yourself
There is a saying that “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. It is not selfish to look after yourself and make sure you are in good shape to be able to give back to your family, your friends, your job. It is essential!
All too often mums get stuck in the habit of prioritising everybody else’s needs ahead of their own and run themselves ragged.
Take the time to think about what you like doing with your precious ‘spare’ time. Identify the things which ‘fill up your cup’ and energise you. These are the things that will increase your resilience and allow you to offer your best self to your family, friends and your job and are often the things that bring joy and satisfaction to life.
You can do it: Me-time is essential. Schedule time to do things that energise you.
Working mum mistake #7 – Expecting a quick transition
Finishing maternity leave and/or starting a new job after becoming a parent often brings with it feelings of anxiety and stress. ‘How will I manage everything?’ ‘How will I cope?’
There are many things to think about when you are making the transition back to paid work. Among these are: understanding your work conditions, selecting childcare options, travel strategies, new household routines, sickness contingencies, meal options, breastfeeding, work-wardrobe updating, professional upskilling, etc.
Identifying the challenges you will face and working out a plan earlier rather than later will help you understand what is involved in the transition and allow you to plan for it to happen as smoothly as possible.
You can do it: Have a plan and work it.