THE BLOG

Why Taking Nine Months Maternity Leave Was Best for My Career

09/03/2016 10:36 GMT | Updated 09/03/2017 10:12 GMT

I've been in the Marketing industry for six years and have two kids under five. I would never call myself a career woman but I know I could never be a stay at home mum either. I love my kids to the moon and back and believe I take better care of them (and myself!) if I'm not in the picture all the time. It also means I enjoy and make the most of the time we have together.

Anyway, enough about my background this is about work and maternity leave! In the UK where I live, we're fortunate to have the option of up to one year partially paid maternity leave (nine months paid and three months unpaid give or take). For us working mums this is a double-edged sword, something I've learnt the hard way, twice!

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When I first went on maternity in 2011 I was 26, had about three years work experience and was on the rise in my career. I knew I wanted to have kids but I also knew I wanted to maintain my career as well. My husband and I were all excited about our first baby and I couldn't wait to go on maternity! After baby 1 arrived it was hard and amazing all at the same time and the nine months flew by so quickly.

I went back to work when my baby was eight months and I was ready to get back into the swing of things. What I didn't expect was to go back to a completely different company; so many changes to name a few -

  • A number of the people I used to work with were suddenly my senior
  • I was being 'shadowed' again even though I had passed this stage of my career
  • I didn't feel welcomed any more -a few things happened which didn't sit well with me but I tried to push through.
  • I began to have self-doubt about myself and my abilities
  • I didn't get a pay review even though I had been working there for over a year before I announced I was pregnant at about 20 weeks (I probably should have pushed harder for this)

After about 4 months I knew I wasn't happy and it wasn't working for me so I began job hunting and it was glorious! I was suddenly in demand again and I felt more confident about myself and my skills! Within 3 weeks I got a new job and I moved on - clean, fresh start with obviously more pay AND responsibilities which I craved. Best career decision I made right there!

Fast forward to 2014 and I found myself in the same situation again - getting ready for my maternity leave. This time I was better prepared - to ensure I didn't 'feel' rusty, I took an online diploma while on maternity.

My goodness, it was crazy, a new-born, a three year old and a one year programme but it was very enlightening and I learnt so much about myself and what I could do. I felt proud of myself for achieving a diploma while on maternity and doing something with and for myself aside from taking care of my growing family.

I went back to work end of 2015 and once again I got a feeling of déjà vu, promotions, feeling of being left out, etc. That said, my second company/manager handled things a lot better than the first. However, if I'm completely honest with myself, I was ready to leave before I got pregnant but I decided to stay and keep my options open - then I got pregnant and that was that!

So I began job hunting again within four months of returning back to work. Thankfully, I found another job with more pay and responsibilities once again and I'll be starting in the next few months!

Has it been easy? Absolutely not, but I guess you could say I hate feeling left behind, I want to progress and I refuse to believe that just because I'm on maternity I'm not 'learning' and 'progressing' in my career.

I refuse to call it discrimination because it is what it is - life happens when you're 'on holiday having a baby', but I also know there are ways to rise above this. I refuse to feel guilty about wanting to progress or feel sorry for myself because everyone got a promotion and I didn't. Instead I chose to use this as catalyst to motivate me and push myself harder because I know I have so much more to give.

If all this makes me a driven career woman, so be it but I will not sit down while I know people I have more experience than are being promoted and I'm not just because I was on maternity! Nope, I'll just simply move on and get going...

It's tough wanting to have a career and be a mother at the same time and I know this is all part of the trials we must go through, but I believe it's about priorities and having the goals, support and plan in place and just work at it from there! Everyday is a new day to make a difference and be better!