Struggling to get back to work after having a baby? You're not alone
As if childbirth wasn’t hard enough…
I vividly remember the day I decided to get back to work after having a baby — I had an anxiety attack. And this coming from the same woman who worked as a TV anchor in a reputed network until a week before her delivery.
Because I had taken three years off to be a stay-at-home mom to my son, I felt the confidence draining out of my body as I spoke to a prospective employer. After all, there were people out there who were younger, savvier, and perhaps more driven. Where was I?
“The biggest challenge we’ve seen in women getting back to work after having a baby is a loss of confidence,” says Neha Bagaria, founder and CEO at JobsForHer — a portal that facilitates new mothers in restarting their careers by helping them in areas like job opportunities, mentorship, confidence building and re-skilling.
Among the many complex reasons that keep mothers away from a full-time career, an online survey conducted by the company revealed that access to childcare was the biggest factor – a massive 38%. Some of the other reasons were low self-confidence (21%), outdated skill set (19%), family bias (15%), and lack of women-friendly company policies (8%).
Another study, conducted by the World Bank in collaboration with the National Sample Survey Organisation, revealed that 20 million Indian women quit their jobs between 2004-2012. About 65%-70% of these women never returned to work.
Shraddha Shah, a mother of two boys now, has been struggling to get her career back on track. She had started off as a promising product manager with an MNC. “When my older son was eight months old, I had an opportunity to get back to work full-time but that did not pan out as I did not get any support from my in-laws or my parents. I conceived one month into my marriage and everything was new, so there was little or no confidence and they thought I would pass on my child’s responsibility to them. So I had no one with whom I could leave him behind.”
Shraddha did take up a job when her child turned four and went into work three times a week, but balancing both worlds required skills that would put a professional juggler to shame. She quit the job five months later when she conceived a second time.
Clinical psychologist Dr Fatema Kapadia says many women come to her after restarting their careers with anxiety levels higher than Chandrayaan 2. “When a mother returns to work after having a baby, she may be anxious about the well-being of her child or not spending enough time with the child. I tell them to draw a healthy work-life balance, where work is left outside the house and to spend quality time with the family. Plan weekend getaways if you can and dedicate that time just to the family.”
Aisha Marwah, mother of a 4-year-old girl, returned to work when her daughter turned one. “I went through an emotional turmoil and I was a wreck,” she says, revealing that she had to give it up three months later. “I could not meet the demands on both ends. I had no time left for me which left me feeling extremely agitated all the time and in an unhappy space.”
Dr. Kapadia’s advice on me-time doesn’t seem selfish, which is what most women worry about. In fact, ensuring you remember you’re still human and have a unique identity and interests might be what keeps you from unravelling faster than an old sweater.
“Before you go back to work after having a baby, make sure you divide your daily chores with your partner and plan your activities, otherwise you will be stretched thin if you are expected to handle the domestic front wholly as well,’’ she stresses.
“You should have a positive outlook towards taking this step and find that one person you can talk to about how you are feeling. Please devote some time to yourself in the day, whether it is yoga, meditation or just going for a walk.”
Photo – Leninscape/Pixabay
Puja Shah, mother to two young girls, and also a director at Waterfield Advisors, says her biggest fear when returning to work after a gap of four years, was being out of touch with the market, and the fact that the relationships built over the years might have frayed. “It was like starting from scratch but I adjusted quicker than I thought. I went out there with no guilt of leaving my children behind because we have to do this, we owe it to ourselves. But, none of this would have been possible without the support of family and, more importantly, the company I work at. They were and still are extremely accommodating and made this transition easier for me.”
This made me really happy. To know that there are companies out there that are doing their bit to help working moms. Companies like Google, Godrej, the Tata group, Philips and many others have a ‘return to work’ program to help women ease back into the work force.
Neha Sahaya, a corporate lawyer, took a break for a year after she became a mother. When she decided to get back to her schedule, she started studying to be a nutritionist — something that had always been a passion for her. A year later, she runs a successful business keeping people healthy.
“I didn’t want the corporate life — I wanted flexible hours and to enjoy what I do,” she says. “I look at this gap as a blessing. But none of this would have been possible without the help of my in-laws and my husband, who shared the responsibilities, while I studied and took on a new profession. Even though it is my own business, the stress and guilt of leaving your child never ends. You are constantly thinking about what is going on back at home. But, with time, you learn to deal with it. It never goes away, but you manage.”
When I started applying for jobs, I was anxious; but as I write this, I am beginning to feel more hopeful. Our time to shine isn’t over, we just need to press the restart button and take off.
And I’m ready.
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