Who gave my inner critic a mega phone when I returned from Maternity Leave?

Guest Blog by Dr. Sarah Cotton, Transitioning Well

I remember coming back from my own maternity leave second-guessing everything I did.  I had always had a strong inner critic, however upon my return to work it was as if someone had given this voice a mega phone!

I have since learned that I am not alone. Both research and my own experience of coaching women on their return to work tell a very similar story. Research from the UK shows as many as 57% of women have doubts about their own professional capabilities in returning to work after maternity leave.

Talking with women about their decreased professional confidence upon their return to work, we often hear phrases such as…

“I feel like an imposter, just waiting for someone to find out that I am not capable of doing my job anymore”; and

 “I try to pretend as if I’m in total control, behaving exactly as I did before birth, frantically trying to re-validate my worth as a worker… it’s exhausting and completely unsustainable”

 Without the right support at this critical time to unpack and challenge some of these concerns, we know that it can have a profound impact, not only upon individuals but also the organisations in which they work.

I can’t help but wonder how many women either never return from Maternity Leave, or decide to leave once they are back, with their mega phone still on?

 Here are my TOP 4 Tips to help you turn down the mega phone…

  • Look for opportunities (either formal or informal) to meet and talk with other women returners within your organisation/industry – it’s always good to know you are not alone
  • Maintain regular, structured contact with your manager and colleagues via Keep in Touch (KIT) Days – staying connected helps to limit the unknowns and ‘mind reading’
  • Find a sponsor within your organisation, a champion who can advocate on your behalf and connect you to important people and assignments – mentors are good, sponsors are better
  • Speak to your organisation about Maternity Coaching to help get straight with your internal dialogue, isolate any issues and devise proactive and tailored solutions – helping to navigate uncharted waters

Dr. Sarah Cotton is an organisational psychologist, certified RETAINTM Maternity Coach, Co-Director of Transitioning Well and a working mum.

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