However much you were rocking the corporate world before you had your baby, the inevitable lifestyle changes that come with being a new mum mean that the comeback can be unsettling. "What could undermine a mother's confidence more than being sleep deprived, covered in baby sick, and not having enough time to go to the loo, let alone shower and put some makeup on in the morning?" asks Anna Yates, psychotherapist and owner of Mind Solutions (Mindsolutions.ae). "The lack of sleep, plus pressure to be the perfect mother and career woman, triggers off stress hormones, which can very quickly make a new mum feel overwhelmed and inadequate."
But it's not just the lifestyle changes that make reentering the workplace daunting, says Louise Karim, managing director of recruitment company Mums@Work. It's also the knock in professional self-confidence and a sense of being out of touch after dwelling only in the domestic realm for a while: "Mums approach us daily with the same fears and uncertainty," says Louise. "They worry about things like keeping up with the pace of technology. We often hear things like: 'I'm feeling out of date'; 'I've changed, what does that mean for my career?'; Will I ever catch up?"; "How will I juggle a career with my family?'"
Add to this the fact that paid maternity leave in the UAE is just six weeks for private-sector workers, plus that we're operating in a culture where the 'working mother' is still a relatively new concept, and it's no wonder some mothers find returning to work difficult.
But it doesn't have to be this way, says Mums@Work's Louise Karim. While becoming a parent may push your mind and body to the max, it also forces you to build a resilience and determination you never had before: "So then why are these skills not transferable when entering the workplace?" asks Louise. "Why should so many of us feel we've lost our confidence, when the reality is, we've gained so much? We've been on a journey that has enhanced every skill we've ever had." We couldn't agree more. Here's your guide to acing your boardroom comeback...
UAE working mums say:
What tends to knock a working mother's confidence?
"Lack of trust from colleagues that she can still do the same as she could before maternity leave." -Marivic Fabia, communications specialist, Philips Middle East & Turkey
"It takes quite some months to accept your new body shape after having carried a baby for nine months, which can affect all-round self-confidence." -Stephanie Malecotte category lead, Personal Care & Mother and Childcare, Philips Middle East
Not being understood
"Other people's perception of maternity leave can make things difficult; it's often considered to be a holiday, which any mother knows is far from the truth." -May Buhaisi, category lead, Health & Wellness, Philips Middle East
Career Comeback: Your game plan
Manager director of flexible-work recruitment agency Mums@Work, Louisa Karim, outlines six steps to finding your ideal job as a new mum
1. Reassess what you actually want
Evaluate your situation and look carefully at what type of employment you are after. Look at whether your interests and skills have changed and what roles could be more suitable if you're looking for a career change. The more comfortable you are with the role/organisation and the flexibility offered, the more confident you will feel going into it. Whether that's returning to your previous job, approaching companies that offer flexibility or changing your career path, look at what works best for you.
2. Work on your CV/LinkedIn account
Once you know what type of employment you are looking for, it's time to get your CV up-to-date and start building your social media presence. Do a little research and tailor your CV to suit the types of roles and industries you're applying for. Avoid leaving a big gap in your CV; an option could be to include any voluntary work you've done or include a 'relevant experience' section that highlights how you have developed characteristics considered desirable for the types of roles you're going for. LinkedIn is also so important! This is a chance to showcase what you are all about. Remember keep it professional and no selfies please! For useful tips and techniques check out some of the Mums@Work workshops.
3. Know your stuff
One of the biggest concerns employers have about returnees is that they won't be up to date with the latest advancements, processes and practices in their industry. The hiring manager will be looking to see if you know your stuff, so try to stay connected during your career break. Keep on top of the latest trends and the key news and influences in your industry, either through taking an online course, signing up to a relevant workshop, or reading trade magazines and websites.
4. Investigate Returnships
These are similar to internships, except at a higher level of seniority for people who have had previous experience but may have been out of the industry for a while, and they are often paid. Even if there no permanent job at the end of it, these can help you fill any larger career gaps, creating a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professionals. [Mums@Work has a Returnships initiative, as does Mumzworld, Mastercard, Hopscotch.work and many other companies.]
5. Start your job Search
When you're happy with your CV and LinkedIn profile, it's time to start searching for your perfect job. LinkedIn has lots of options, while the Mums@Work job board is dedicated to roles in a range of industries that have an emphasis on flexibility.
6. Network, network, network
Identify chosen people in your industry; read about them, follow them on social media, reach out to them for coffee. Have objectives set and don't be afraid to ask for advice and introductions. Build meaningful relationships - you never know what they will lead to...
UAE working mums say:
What other challenges face mothers returning to work in the uae?
"Nurseries in the UAE (when you do not have a nanny at home) close quite early in the afternoon, which impacts your flexibility at work." - Stephanie Malecotte, Category Lead, Personal Care & Mother And Childcare, Philips Middle East
Expressing milk and finding balance
"For breastfeeding women, needing to take pumping breaks every 3-4 hours - sometimes having to leave a meeting to do so - is always a challenge. And work/life balance; having to take care of a newborn and keep up with work responsibilities without burning out." - May Buhaisi, Category Lead, Health & Wellness, Philips Middle East
Keeping your job
"Job security can be a concern here; sometimes your previous position gets dissolved while you are on maternity leave, or the person covering you may take over the role, leaving the newly returned mother in limbo." - Marivic Fabia, Communications Specialist, Philips Middle East & Turkey
Did you know...
Two out of three women admit to feeling a knock in confidence about returning to work after time away starting a family, according to research by the association of accounting technicians.
69% of UAE women who are aware of their right to pump milk at work do not because of a lack of facilities at their workplace, according to research by Yougov for Philips Avent.
75% of women have experienced bias as a result of having had children - being passed over for promotions, or even forced out of their jobs - according to a survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
UAE law mandates that:
- All 'able' mothers must breastfeed their child for the first two years (although it does not seem to be policed)
- All new mothers are entitled to two 30-minute nursing breaks from work every day for the first 18 months after delivery
Is your work breastfeeding friendly?
The Philips Avent Expressing Lounge Initiative
Are you concerned about how you'll continue to breastfeed once you go back to work? If your company doesn't already have established facilities for mothers to express breastmilk, tell them about the Philips Avent Expressing Lounge initiative.
This nationwide campaign aims to encourage and enable employers to become more baby-friendly by implementing a space for breastfeeding mothers returning to work from maternity leave for the purpose of expressing their milk. "The initiative is aligned with Philips' global commitment to improve the lives of 3 billion people by 2025," says Chris Watts, marketing manager, Mother & Childcare, Philips Middle East.
"A recent poll of UAE mums revealed that 69% of working mothers who are aware of their right to pump milk, for their babies, while at work do not because of the lack of facilities at their workplaces. Based on these findings Philips Avent's ambition is to provide companies in the region the support they need to create a breastfeeding-friendly workplace. Having a supportive working environment will help mothers in their work-life balance, which will also improve productivity in the workplace.
"To get involved we encourage companies to sign up to 'Mommy's Expressing Lounges', to make it easier and more relaxed for mothers to express their milk in a private hygienic space in the workplace, helping mothers to maintain breastfeeding for longer."
To sign up, contact firstname.lastname@example.org