I recently delivered my eldest child to university and have experienced my first taste of the empty nest. During the long drive there and back, I was thinking over my child’s 18 years and the many transitions we have both gone through. Two of those are relevant here: becoming a mother for the first time and returning to work after an eight year break. I noticed how differently I prepared for and experienced these two events.
As I expect is true for many of you, the months before my child was born were filled with hours of preparation and planning for both me and sometimes my husband. We read books and magazines, joined ante-natal classes and the NCT, attended yoga sessions and engaged a team of experts to support us: GP, midwife and even a water-birth guru! And we were lucky enough to have grandparents and friends to advise and guide us. Is any of this sounding familiar?
The result was we felt as informed and confident as we could be about the transition to this new phase of our lives.
The contrast with my return to work could hardly be greater. My husband was barely available because of the demands of his career (and, to be fair, I probably didn't ask for enough). There were few books, classes, workshops or experts to consult. The grandparents were gone and friends had either not stopped working or weren't ready to think about returning. It is not really surprising that I found my return to work so lonely and at times felt it was all too difficult.
I wonder if this experience too strikes a chord as you think about your own return. I think that the lessons are clear. Returning to work after a career break requires preparation, all-round support and guidance in the same way as becoming a mother did. You need both practical and emotional support through the transition and any ambivalence you are feeling. We are making it really hard on ourselves if we think we can (or should) do it alone.
These days there are a few more sources for women returners to turn to, (including this blog). We've listed all that we've found on our website and would love to hear where else you have found inspiration and support.
Posted by Katerina