Once again, science has gone through an awful lot of trouble to prove something totally obvious that we already knew. New moms on maternity leave feel totally inadequate about returning to work. If we're at home, we go for days without talking to another adult. When we return to work, we have less confidence. I mean, the whole study just paints the saddest, most demoralizing portrait of working motherhood you could ever ask for. Gee, thanks!
Okay, so we really didn't need these researchers to tell us it's insanely difficult to get our career mojo going again after we have a baby. Here's what we DO need: Some fresh ideas for HOW to get our career mojo going again.
So I've been reading Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In. And I'm kind of obsessed because it's totally turning around how I think about work. Sometimes we need a pep talk. Pep talks don't solve every problem out there, but they can help us see things a different way, and they boost morale. So here's a Sandberg-inspired pep talk to moms returning from maternity leave.
1. Make dads do more. Let's not call it "helping around the house." It's their house, too. These are their children, too. Dads need to do more housework and more childcare. They need to take on more responsibility at home. And we women need to be okay with dads doing those home chores their way.
2. Silence your inner critic. Women are more likely to feel like impostors at work. We feel like we're faking it. Guess what? The men ARE faking it. And they're totally okay with that. Men will grab new opportunities assuming they'll learn as they go. Women pass up new opportunities because we don't feel qualified. We need to trust ourselves and our ability to fake it and learn as we go.
3. Have a dream, but be flexible about how you get there. Everyone's career path has twists and turns. Keep your long-term goals in mind, but don't obsess over following a set path. YOU make your own path, your way.
4. Find mentors. Who do you admire? You don't have to tap them to make them your "official" mentor -- just make friends with people you admire, ask for advice, report back on how their advice helped you. And remember that people are flattered when you ask them for professional help.
5. Ask for flexibility, and use it. Some work places offer more flexibility than others -- but you'll never know what you can get until you ask. With the exception of Yahoo (lately) and hourly wage jobs, the days of getting credit just for taking up space in your chair are over. It's about what you produce, wherever or whenever you do it. When you talk with your supervisors, talk about how much you DO and the quality of your work, not how many hours you put in.
6. Are the men worrying about this? Now I'm going to borrow a little from one of my favorite writers, Caitlin Moran. She has a litmus test for sexism: Are the men doing it? Are the men agonizing over this same thing? Are the men also being punished for acting this way? If the answer is NO, cut yourself some slack. Be a little sloppy at home, be more bossy at work, and don't make yourself dance backwards in heels unless that's what you really enjoy.
What do you think moms on maternity leave need most to feel confident about returning to work?
Image via Snaptotes.com/Flickr