Social impact manager Rebecca worked for high-profile sporting bodies and corporates but 31 weeks into her second pregnancy, she experienced a restructure. Ultimately she ended up in a better position, but the experience was difficult. She shares her story with us about her experiences.
What was the most challenging part of returning to work after your first child?
I was in a role that wasn’t stimulating me, so the most challenging thing was simply finding the motivation to care again about work. I learnt that when you return to work, you need to be doing something you really love. Otherwise it’s too hard to leave your kids and it’s not worth it.
Tell us about being made redundant just before your second parental leave.
There was a restructure about two months before I went on maternity leave. I really wanted a particular job, but wasn’t successful getting it. They wanted to put me in other roles, but I made the brave decision to encourage my employer not to put in me in any role (and then have to backfill it while I went on maternity leave.) Instead, I would see if there were any roles that I felt suited my career plan when I returned in 12 months. Whilst on maternity leave, I thought long and hard about the decision. There are obviously a lot of positives about returning to work to the environment that you feel comfortable in. But I didn’t want my career to stall. I felt like it had stalled during the previous two to three years. We took a while to get pregnant and then during the pregnancies I sat in a role for the ‘learning experience’, not because I loved it. So after six months of my maternity leave, I made a phone call and asked to take the redundancy option based on the fact that I felt like I needed to progress my career elsewhere.
Wow, that is incredibly courageous. Were you scared that you wouldn’t find another role?
It was a daunting prospect, but I quickly found there are a lot of companies that offer the flexibility that I needed. I actually felt much more confident job hunting at 40—my skills and experience were valued. When you put yourself out there, it’s amazing what comes your way.
How did it feel having your role impacted?
I think being pregnant may have impacted me on getting the role I wanted. I can’t be sure, but it felt that way. Up until that moment, I had never felt the issue of the glass ceiling for women based on family or associated diversity challenges. I felt totally deflated initially but you can’t control the system of big companies like that, so I quickly moved on and focussed on my family and strategically gave myself time out to think about what was next.
What advice do you have for women who find themselves in the same situation?
All things happen for a reason. I have landed a role back in what I love doing with a medium size corporate company who offer more flexibility than my previous employer. If I had played it safe and just taken any role in the restructure at my last company, I wouldn’t have had the great opportunity in this new role at this new company. My advice is to make sure you are passionate about what you are doing and don’t be afraid to take risks.
If you could go back and change anything about how you managed your career through parental leave, it would be….
I wouldn’t have sat in my old role for as long as I did. I was afraid to move because I was trying to get pregnant, and then was pregnant. I should have been more confident and proactive looking for the next opportunity to advance my career. This is easy to say in hindsight, and maybe I didn’t have the emotional capacity to do that at the time, but looking back I wish I had.
What are your top three tips for managing your career through parental leave?
- Surround yourself with positive and proactive people, who have a family and know from experience the decisions you will face. Use them, ask them advice—but then make up your own mind in regards to what is best for you and your family.
- Don’t lose confidence in yourself. The juggle of motherhood actually enhances your ability to prioritise and get things done efficiently. A positive attribute for any employer.
- Be brave.
Lastly, at the end of a busy week, how do you positively reenergise?
Exercise—run, cycle, yoga, anything to get my endorphins going!
- Favourite time of the day is … first thing in the morning.
- Instagram sites that inspire you … anything to do with holidaying.
- I’m happiest when … I’m in my king size bed with my husband and two kids having morning cuddles.
- I’m addicted to … peanut butter (at the moment!)
- Favourite wardrobe staple for work … bright dresses— I hate suits.
- Favourite weekend wardrobe staple … my active wear.
- Heels or flats? … ohhhh, tough one. Once upon a time heels but definitely/unfortunately flats at the moment and maybe forever!
Rebecca currently works as a social impact manager for a leading digital company. She has two children, Raphael two years old and one-year-old Elke.