The transition to motherhood is challenging for any woman. But it can be particularly difficult for those heading from the high-powered corporate world into the unpredictable life of dealing with a new baby.
Isolation, sleepless nights and a lack of control are all factors that new mums have to deal with and although there are plenty of parenting books and websites to help, the one thing they often don’t deal with is the emotional transition that career mums face.
Psychologist and parenting expert Jodie Benveniste says loss of identity for new mothers, particularly those transitioning from the corporate world, is an increasing concern.
“Many women these days have had careers, independence and a sense of being in control of their lives before having kids. Babies are beautiful but demanding and also unpredictable, and when a baby comes along we are unprepared for the enormous life change it brings”.
For Kathryn Hocking this is exactly how she felt after giving birth to her now three-year-old daughter Ava. “I was naïve; I thought it would be easy to get my baby into a routine and that it wouldn’t be that hard.”
It didn’t take long for Hocking to realise her expectations and reality were worlds apart.
“I really struggled going from project management type roles where I felt very much in control to being a mother of a newborn where I was most certainly not the one in control.”
It is not only a lack of control that can be confronting and overwhelming for new mums. The perfect vision of motherhood that is often portrayed in the media is often less than perfect in the real world.
As Benveniste says: “There is this sense that we are supposed to love every minute of being a mum because children are a gift. But that’s not the reality. It takes time to embrace our new life and new identity as a mum, and we also need time to mourn our old life and old sense of self.”
Jane Copeland from CopingWithJane.com agrees that the biggest issue she had to deal with after the birth of her son was the personal transformation.
“The massive impact that having a baby would have on my sense of identity, body, career, relationship and lifestyle was certainly the most unexpected thing I experienced after giving birth”.
It was Copeland’s own experience with her loss of identity that led her to write Boardroom to Baby.
“My own experience and that of others I encountered made it clear to me that for many women having a baby can make you redefine yourself.” Copeland’s says she wrote the book to create a new landscape for mothers to feel empowered and mentally prepared for the arrival of their new baby.
Benveniste suggests the best thing you can do to prepare for motherhood is to be open to changing our perception and expectations of motherhood.
“If we don’t change our expectations to better match reality, we can struggle with our new life more than is necessary”.
She also suggests putting the negatives aside to see change as involving a new sense of self emerging.
“Children expand our world so there are opportunities to grow, learn and love in a completely new and enriching way.”
For Hocking, motherhood and her loss of self forced her to realise that she was ready to make big changes. After researching career options she enrolled in a life coaching qualification’ and set up her own coaching business.
“I felt I had regained purpose and something to get passionate about again beyond my boring corporate job and my gorgeous baby.”
Hocking now focuses on helping other women turn their professional skills into a business they can run from home. “I have never been happier,” she says.
And Benveniste’s final advice for expectant mothers?
“Be kind to yourself, expect to learn something every day, notice all the lovely moments and not just the challenges.”
Five tips for career women after baby
Find your passion and research how you can turn it into a career. Ask your boss if it is possible to work from home. Think about starting a home business. Remember the possibilities are endless.
Remember what you did for ‘fun’ before having a baby and make time to do it. Whether it is a sport, a hobby or sitting down with your favourite magazine, make it a priority.
Date night. Schedule in regular a date night with your partner and rekindle your pre-baby relationship. Talk about adult things, not just baby.
Ask for help. Whether it is babysitting to get to the gym, for date night or just for five minutes to rest. You don’t have to do it all alone.
Talk to other mothers in the same position. Join your local mothers group or an online group, know that you aren’t the first, or the last mum to feeling like you have lost yourself after leaving the corporate world for motherhood.