According to findings from Dr Lynne Millward Purvis, women – particularly working women – undergo three ‘identity shifts’ when they become mothers. Before giving birth, we begin to feel increasingly invisible and undervalued as we prepare to go on maternity leave. After giving birth, we are forced to acquire a ‘mother identity’, which causes our goalposts to move. And if we return to work, we find we need to redouble our efforts as we seek to revalidate ourselves, both as employees and as mothers. (Dr Lynne Millward Purvis, The Transition to Motherhood in an Organizational Context). Those of us who take an extended career break miss this opportunity to revalidate ourselves as professionals and as mothers within the familiar context of our former role.
The process for regaining or re-crafting your professional identity involves reconnecting with your real interests and your values and articulating your skills and experience (even from long ago). It is ultimately a rewarding experience as the emergence of a new professional identity is inextricably accompanied by a growing self-confidence. Remember that you have already successfully changed identity at other points in your life (eg when you first started work or when took your break) even though that might have felt daunting at the time. You will be able to do it again if you allow yourself time to adjust.
Posted by Katerina – co-founder of Women Returners