My situation is slightly different from the norm.
My husband and I had a role reversal. It started with our first Luka who is now two, where my husband took 6 months off when he was born. He is lucky enough to work for an employer who offer 14 weeks paid paternity leave. We have since recently welcomed a little girl in February and my husband is taking over 12 months off to be the primary carer. This said I do work from home so we of course work as a team to care for our little ones.
There are a few things I have learnt over the past two years on being a mother and running my own business (all of these will also be relevant to you if you are employed):
When becoming a mother it is more important than ever to either 1. Be doing something you are passionate about (when you love what you do, it adds to your energy rather than drains you), or 2. that you are very good at and you find most of the role comes naturally (this means it won’t take up too much of your physical or mental energy)
You can't ‘have it all’ - you can’t be wildly successful and always present for your children. The reality is you have to choose where you place your priority. I thought I could do both equally well but in reality one will always take priority over the other. This has been one of my biggest challenges as I am naturally very driven and have high energy so I always have to be doing 3 things at once. I’ve learnt the importance of slowing down since having children.
It is important to work for an employer that truly provides flexibility and understanding when it comes to work life balance and is very supportive, or of course like me work for yourself!
When finding out I was pregnant with our second, I decided that this time I wanted to do things differently and really thought more consciously about the three things I’ve shared above.
It's not an either/or situation when it comes to motherhood and a successful career, but you need to pick one to ‘master’.
This time I have decided to master motherhood. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be continuing working. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue to service and support my clients and candidates with full focus and attention. But I have decided what my priority is, my children, and everything else comes second 80-90% of the time. I have made conscious decisions about taking on work and the type of work I am doing.
Prioritising your family whilst returning to work is something you can also do if you are employed. You can discuss with your manager before going on MAT leave what your plan is, and what options are available for your return.
Some examples of options may include:
Switching from full time work to part time (e.g. returning 2, 3 or 4 days instead of 5, or working half days).
Exploring other roles within the team or company that will enable you to have more mental space for motherhood (for example if your previous role was very intense).
Expectations around when you would like to return to work after maternity leave.
Asking if you will be able to have more flexibility in your hours or work location (e.g. work from home options).
If you are planning / soon to have a family, or planning on returning to work after a baby, start asking yourself questions like:
Will my current role or career complement my journey into motherhood?
If money or career status was not my main driver, what would work look like as a mother?
Will my current employer be supportive in my journey?
Be patient with yourself. They call it a “transition” for a reason. It’s important to be kind to yourself, and know that you’re doing the best you can with what you have at the moment you’re in.