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The World of Work for Moms, Maternity Leave + COVID-19

This post is dedicated to the moms.

Even if you’re not one, you’ve had one, you know one, you very likely love one. Please still read this if you’re not one. There might be a mom in your sphere right now who could use some support. She might be your daughter, your sister, your friend, your colleague, your employee, your neighbour, your wife or even you.

I remember spending a good chunk of the remaining weeks of my maternity leave worried about my return-to-work. Precious time I would have preferred to be fully present with my family, instead was spent dreading, “what ifing” and just generally agonizing over my return. I wasn’t doing the work I’m doing now then, at least not in the same way. I was still in corporate Canada. The irony of the situation didn’t escape me. I was a career counsellor and return-to-work expert developing hundreds of return-to-work plans for people coming back to their job after an extended absence. Yet, there was no support available to me during my own return.

I found the return-to-work transition from maternity leave stressful both times. The anticipation of the return and also the return itself. The constant worry those first few months I was back each time the phone rang--praying I didn’t need to make a quick exit to pick up a sick child. Then there was the exhaustion and adjustment required of the new drop-off and pick up routines after sleepless nights, my commute, and of course going from having a child basically stuck to me for months and then suddenly not seeing them at all for extended periods and then only briefly after a long day.

I hear my experience echoed in the words of my clients today. Highly competent professional women capable of getting things done. Baby in one arm, briefcase in the other. They manage demands with mind blowing grace and professionalism. These are moms. By virtue of this they do what moms do. They see what needs to get done and they do it. They are women any business would be better off for having on board for myriad reasons I could go on and on about.

Yet, they are largely left unsupported. The shift in identity required to go from professional woman to mother and back to professional woman is overlooked, as is the shift required if a choice is made not to return-to-work.

My clients tell me they feel a level of isolation and even stigma upon their return from maternity leave that has them considering whether their mental health would be better supported by them not returning. Of course, this is now further impacted by COVID-19. But the decision to not return can prove just as difficult. The loss of income, advancement, professional identity, community, engagement, challenge etc.

I’m hearing so much from the women tasked with “double duty” during these times of Covid-19. Maintaining their professional role from home while simultaneously ensuring the needs of their children are met educationally, physically, and emotionally. And the laundry still needs to get done. I still hear way too much clapping for the dads who do their part. Who’s clapping for the moms?

For the moms who are deciding to not return-to-work whether it is an actual choice or a necessity during these times, the devastating impact this will have on our workforce is yet to be felt in full force. It’s coming. It will be felt. Not only by women but by the businesses they lead, support, and grow.

So, why am I writing about this? Well, because I want to help. I want to let the women who are facing this stuff and the men who love them know that there is support available. There are choices that can be made that don’t have to feel like sacrifices. There are options and tools that can be exercised and put in place. If you’re struggling or know a mom who is, please reach out to me. We’ll have a chat and I’ll tell you how I can help.

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