After the birth of my first child I returned to my previous role as a Chartered Secretary with an Asset Management company. My hope was I would be able to work flexibly (four days a week) but a colleague had resigned whilst I was on maternity leave and the role was even more demanding; so it became clear that a full time commitment was needed, only this time nursery drop off and pick up were added to the pressure. So when I became pregnant again we decided that I would be a stay at home mum.
I stayed at home for four years, I weaned, potty trained, dealt with tantrums, ensured naps were taken, visited museums, farms and play parks. I didn’t get a moment to myself until my husband walked in at 6.30pm. I am so over playgroups and messy play but I would not change a single day. My youngest was heading towards Reception and I had been considering a return to work for a little while. My degree was in Law and I also completed the LPC before sitting further exams to qualify as a Chartered Secretary. I considered trying something else but I had enjoyed the career I had built up over 15 years and felt I wanted to use that knowledge and experience. So I updated my CV, mentioning my ‘career break’, and I contacted a recruitment agency.
At this time, I was also getting involved in local regeneration projects and joined Twitter to keep informed of local activities, so I also searched on Twitter for Company Secretary roles. I was very surprised when I found a role at M&G Investments that was not only similar to the position I had left four years earlier, but that also was advertised as being open to applicants who had taken a voluntary career break and that stated that the organisation was ‘happy to talk flexible working’. I had to apply!
Following quite a rigorous recruitment process, I was offered a position on four days a week. As I was a ‘career break’ employee, this included four 90 minute coaching sessions with Women Returners which provided guidance and structure on my change back from ‘mummy’ to ‘career mummy’. These sessions with Katerina were extremely helpful. From the first session before I even commenced employment, and throughout my early stages of adjusting, the coaching provided time to reflect on how I felt I was performing, what objectives would be beneficial to set and how I could perform to the best of my abilities for myself and my employer.
M&G share my view that we all have a life outside of the office and that being able to balance these roles brings out the best in the employee. They understand that working flexibly allows the employee to feel valued and therefore that they will work more efficiently and give more to the role. I enjoy working and I enjoy the role I am in at the moment, but being with my children is priceless. The fact that they need me less now allows me to pursue my own goals, and being a working mother always will be a juggling act, but it helps that I have an understanding employer that recognises the importance of delicately balancing one’s commitments.
My advice to others returning to work after a break is:
- When looking for positions consider all routes: Consultants, direct with employer, through social media, through friends/school gate parents and through Women Returners.
- Be clear on the hours/days you wish to work. Employers appreciate knowing what you can do, they can either work around it or suggest an alternative but at least they understand your requirements. Be realistic – consider whether the role will be possible on a part-time basis.
- Remember that your ‘work self’ returns pretty sharpish, so have no fear – you will not have forgotten it all!