A professional’s experience of motherhood – and 10 lessons learned

Much has been written about the reasons why women in Australia and around the world are absent from senior management roles, boards and the C-suite.

It’s easy to throw the word ‘resilience’ at women and expect them to climb the corporate ladder without much in the way of mentoring or guidance. Sheryl Sandberg suggests ‘leaning in’ - with a few caveats.

" Be flexible and considerate of one another. You’re in this together."
Sarah Imm, Founder, Vélo-à-Porter

When I was pregnant with my first child in 2006, I had no idea of how the pregnancy would affect my professional career. In reality, it is a punt. It depends on so many factors.

But in the process of mixing a career in investment banking with children and starting a new career, I learned some very valuable lessons.

How to manage then? Here are some practical tips to managing your career after returning to work post-maternity leave.

  • Build your network. I found my next role through my professional network. I had developed it several years before deciding to have a child. Find out who performs your role at your competitors. Attend industry events to meet people within your expertise. Consider your next role a few times a year by looking at job search websites and touching base with headhunters.
  • Look for a mentor and rely on him/her professionally. They should have more experience in your industry. How to find one? Refer to number 1, above. It may be more helpful that s/he work at another firm. Try to frame your situation or issues appropriately and have clear development goals in mind which form your basis for discussion(s).
  • Choose your manager carefully. The best manager may or may not have children but demonstrates work is a part of life and is willing to assist in your professional development.
  • Be kind to yourself. Try not to negate the feelings you have, especially your gut instinct. With so many moving pieces in your life, kids, partner, work, self, it’s important to listen to your inner voice.
  • Avoid self-doubt and guilt. They are crippling. Accept you are doing the best you can. Try to get enough sleep and take sick leave when you need it. You are now the linchpin to the family business and its efficient running (or not).
  • Negotiate a flexible working schedule and/or working from home regularly. If you need to drop children off at childcare, suggest a later start and finish to your day. Your partner will need to do the same.
  • Work out a routine with your partner of pickups and drop-offs. It may change from week to week. Be flexible and considerate of one another. You’re in this together. Remember?
  • Consider hiring a nanny for after-school or childcare pick-ups a few times a week to give you more time to finish (and less stress). And you definitely need a cleaner now.
  • Incidental exercise, where you fit activity into your life, is now your friend. Extra time to exercise is now a distant memory. It will help you to keep stress at bay. Consider bicycling or walking to the office.
  • Look after yourself because no one else will. Accept help when it is offered, especially by your partner.

Sarah Imm is the founder of Vélo-à-Porter, a lifestyle brand based in Sydney, Australia. She had a nineteen year career in investment banking with international institutions in New York, London, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two children and writes about fashion, bicycling and bicycling with kids on Follower her on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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