The modern world asks a LOT of women. Past generations didn’t have to deal with this choice and now millions of women everywhere are challenged by this all the time. Let’s look at some of the issues facing women leading up to leaving their job for Maternity Leave.
How do you give up your career to have children? You may value both highly, with your child of course having more importance to take some time off to nurture and love. But there’s no manual or instruction booklet on how to let your career go!
Every woman has a different experience; for some its an easy decision and others it’s one that presents a lot of challenges. For some are natural mothers and their life is dedicated to bearing and raising children, and others are career focused and have a personal drive to achieve. Each are valuable in society, each are experienced by many women, often both are under-appreciated.
5 Challenges facing women going on Maternity Leave:
- Leaving a Career you Love
Loving your job and leaving it was something I faced. I had associated my identity with my job for so long and now that identity was going to change with our first baby on the way. It was going to change in a way that was unchartered territory and uncertain.
- Career Progression
To be honest, sometimes saying goodbye to a job because of Maternity leave can be the worst timing. You had a plan to work your way up the ladder, earn more money and focus on career progression.
Career has become part of a woman’s identity in some cases which is why letting go of that part of their identity can be difficult. Career means Financial support and ultimately money gives you more choices.
- Re-entering the workforce.
Are you slotting right back into where you wanted to be? Are you disappointed with where you left off? Are you thinking of a career change altogether? These are questions coming up all the time for a Pregnant couple – How does the woman adjust to this essential time off and readjust when she wants to work again? Massive changes in her life, almost like wearing a minimum of two hats (one parenting hat and one career woman hat). How do you juggle this? It really is incredible that women somehow do manage it. It must be our excellent muti-tasking genes.
Financial Independence – the feeling of self-sufficiency definitely changes with a new baby. For some this means having to depend on your partner for financial support. But gone are the days of the traditional domestic roles with men as the breadwinner and women having home duties. Some households even do Mr Mum with New Mum going back into the workforce to support the family, financially.
Your sense of self does change and its like you out yourself on hold for a couple of years. The ability to leave the house, grab your keys, sunglasses and wallet and go suddenly becomes a beloved past-time. Freedoms become limited as your sole focus is to sustain life, feed, love and nurture that little one. Luxuries become free time and sleep!
So after facing these challenges, Here’s what I learned:
1. Letting Go
It’s been said before, many-a-time, but there’s truth in this. Bucketloads!
But when you’re Pregnant, if you love your job, saying goodbye to it, albeit temporarily can be REALLY hard. The recognition for me that my mind wanted to keep going, keep busy and be productive was an old standard I had set for myself many years earlier (A perfectionist & self-confessed work-a-holic!).
My body on the other hand was changing and I was not in control of it! I started becoming more breathless, physically more round and slower in my movements. My job is a physical job, so I had to recognise I needed more breaks between clients and to definitely include a lunch break!
The whole “What If?” questions began and thoughts of coming back to a business that was non-existent did cross my mind once or twice.
The blessing of Pregnancy is that I found my self worrying more in the beginning and less in the end about work, simply because I was ready for the next adventure and was physically & mentally exhausted. 9 Months was plenty of time to come to terms with what was ahead. Loss of one thing (temporarily) and gaining another whole gift was how I reconciled it. I was ready for a break after 12 years of private practice.
“If you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying. If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.” – Buddhist proverb
Tip: How Do I Let Go?
- Practice letting go by attending a regular Meditation class or Pre-natal, Post-natal Yoga classes. Here’s one I recommend. The more you practice letting go Physically with relaxation, the easier it gets.
- Try Progressive Muscle relaxation techniques
- Seek profesisonal help with a Pregnancy Psychologist if you’re feeling extreme anxiety or depression or are at risk or Peri-natal Depression. Here’s one I recommend.
- Practice, Practice, Practice. Pick your battles and weigh up your choice to get upset about something or not. Minimising stress is crucial during Pregnancy and more so, once baby is born.
- Reframe situations – Rather than fall into your default responses of stress or overwhelm, decide what meaning you make of these ‘sacrifices’ and look for the positive and the benefit. eg. Its only temporary. This gives me time to fully focus on being a mother. My baby will have my undivided attention. All I have to do is nurture this child. I deserve a break because I’ve worked hard. Having a mental break from work will be good for me. It’s not my responsibility anymore so I can just rest easy. I’m growing and learning new skills. This is exciting stuff!
2. Tuning In
When you love what you do for a living and you do fall Pregnant, Nature begins to slowly show you that you can’t do it all, all of the time.
Your body, once nimble and light, becomes weighed down by the the best gift ever! Alongside morning sickness, fluid retention, heartburn and more. The symptoms begin to stack up by the end of your Pregnancy.
Early on in my own pregnancy, I found when I was Mindful and listened to my body’s needs, I was “rewarded” with comfort and a feeling of ease. When I didn’t listen to messages like: “I’m thirsty”, “I’m hungry”, “I need to sit for a minute”, “I’m tired”, funnily enough I ended up feeling much, much worse. I’d end up with aches and pains the following day, or a headache. For me my body’s messaging was very clear, and so I learned to tune into your needs whatever level. Big or small, they’re all important, because your body says so.
It was like my Pregnant body was like a Barometer on hyperdrive, being sensitive to and indicating exactly what it needed and when. Or was my body always like this, but I just wasn’t listening?
Listening to your needs, REALLY LISTENING and tuning in is so important to your overall health & wellbeing.
Tip: How do I Tune In to my Body’s needs?
- Listening – You’re right though, you’re Pregnant. You’re not sick. But your body is changing and you need to respect that change. This is what many people have challenges with….Change. Listening can be that first step to acknowledging that change and that you can’t be working at your full capacity as you once did.
- Try Mindfulness Meditation – I recommend this teacher, Macarena Astrain in Sydney. Again, the more you practice mindfulness, the easier it gets.
- Check in with you body during the day. Stop what you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself, Am I ok? What do I feel like doing right now? If it’s not what you’re currently doing, then take steps to follow your body’s guidnace. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re thristy, drink and if you’re tired, rest. It’s as simple as that!
- Go with your Gut – Instinct is rarely wrong and the Pregnancy Instinct is heightened awareness to the max. Trust your body, senses and judgement.
- When you need extra support – Stress & Overwhelm can happen at any time. Seeking professional support from a Psychologist is highly recommended if you’re struggling with Pregnancy, don’t feel connected with your baby, or are feeling vulnerable. I recommend this Psychologist in Sydney for Pregnancy related Stress, Anxiety & Depression. Ultimately, your Pregnancy and bringing new life into the world is more important than your Career. If you’re struggling with reconciling your Career with being Pregnant or Maternity Leave, seeking professional help is really sensible. It shouldn’t be another Stress on top of everything else.
Women really are incredible! We want it all and rightly so, but learning to let go and tune in to ourselves is probably the most challenging lesson to learn, because we’re not used to doing it.
I’d like to hear your comments on your experience of leaving work behind and transitioning into Motherhood. Was it easy or difficult for you? What was the hardest thing for you to give up?
Or to begin a discussion privately with me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Registered Acupuncturist & Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioner