What It's Like To Be 'Mommy-tracked' When You Return to Work After Maternity Leave
Introducing the HerFamily.ie resident Organisational Psychologist, Coach and Mum, Leisha McGrath who is here to answer all your burning questions on returning to work from maternity leave and how to achieve a healthy work/life balance:
This week, Leisha addresses a back-to-work issue sent from a HerFamily.ie (anonymous) reader:
Q: I have just returned from maternity leave and feel like I've been 'mommy-tracked' – my job is no longer the same, juniors in my office have been given parts of my job responsibilities, and I feel overlooked because I am a mum now.
A: Firstly, congrats on your new baby. Returning to work after a period of leave can require some adjustment, so my advice to you is to keep calm and let’s work on getting a strategy together to be proactive in dealing with this. While you’ve been away it is likely that someone else has been carrying out your duties, but now that you are back, it is imperative that everyone is very clear about what your role is. And what it is not. For some organisations that are, for example in a state of rapid growth, it could be the case that all roles and responsibilities have shifted while you’ve been away, and this may account for what you are experiencing. In other organisations, however, this may not be the case, and your expectation to come back to the same role could be well justified. Ideally, I would suggest that anyone returning to work should meet with their employer in advance of their return to iron out what their role will be, but when this has not happened, I would suggest that you schedule this meeting ASAP.
The purpose of this meeting should be to:
- Explain that you are happy to be back at work, ready to work hard and add value to the organisation. You want the tone to be positive and proactive, rather than moany and demotivated!
- Outline your confusion as to why others are doing your role. Be specific. Come with data.
- Get an understanding of what their expectations are of what you should be doing now. Will there be a transition period, wherein others pass the work back over to you that they had been covering in your absence? Or has there been some development in the role? What does your boss want you working on?
- If there is a change that you are unhappy with, you will need to understand what sort of input you can have in this; whether you have to accept it or not. If the change is legitimate, for example, due to company growth and does not represent a downwards step, this may be something that you just have to get on board with, but if your employer is indeed 'Mommy-tracking' you, then you will need to address this head on. In such an instance, I would recommend documenting all of the facts and potentially reaching out to the Citizens Information group specialising in this area.
- Where there needs to be a follow-up, ensure that you secure these dates, times and associated agenda.
Following the meeting, I would strongly recommend that you email your boss with a summary of what was agreed to ensure there is no confusion and to have the details of your meeting on record.
This needs to be done in a strong and considered way. Get the data. Take the emotion out of it. Be proactive and positive. You are there to do a great job and they should be lucky to have you. Good luck!
Got a question you would like answered about juggling life as a working mum? Send Leisha your questions: editorial@HerFamily.ie.