Create a New Experience at Work as You Integrate Motherhood +Work

In the study of Organizational Behavior there is a concept called the “psychological contract.” Psychological contracts are defined as “a set of 'promises' or 'expectations' that are exchanged between the parties in an employment relationship. These parties include employers, managers, individual employees and their work colleagues. Unlike formal contracts of employment, they are often implicit. It represents the mutual beliefs, perceptions, and informal obligations between employee and employer.” (Source: Wikipedia)

The psychological contract begins when you interview for a position at an organization. During the interview process, which can often be multilayered in many industries, you start to teach your employer, manager, and co-workers how you will show up in your work life, and they show you how they are going to relate to you.

As a new mom returning to work, you have the opportunity to re-negotiate your psychological contract. Since you have possibly taken twelve weeks to six months off for maternity leave, and have just had a baby, there is a universal understanding that your life has been altered in a significant way. You are now a mom. No matter what, you will always be a mom. A new identity has been birthed in you, whether you have adopted or birthed your baby.

Due to the time away from your paid work and the added identity of “Mother,”, now is the time to negotiate what you need to help you integrate work with Motherhood.

There is also the current reality of a global pandemic. As much as the pandemic brings with it great uncertainty, this time in our world also presents many opportunities. I am hearing from many folks, clients, and friends that they did not have the option to work from home before shelter-in-place was mandated, and now, organizations, companies and institutions are getting innovative and creative with work from home options. Never before has the modern day workforce have to become so nimble so quickly. This proves the point that flexibility with work is possible.

As a new mom returning to work during the pandemic, what should you ask for? What’s possible to ask from your employer?

First and foremost, you need to get clear on what you want.

  • Do you want to reduce your hours and work part time?
  • Do you want to extend your maternity leave?
  • Do you want to start just a few hours a week and then build back up gradually to full time over a few months?
  • Do you want certain job duties delegated to someone else?
  • If you are being asked to come into the office, but know you want to work from home, ask for that?
  • Do you need tech support to work from home?

Here’s an important fact to know: it will cost your organization twice as much to hire someone new. These costs include the interview process and the time that takes in addition to the onboarding and training of someone new. Most women, due to sexism, bring more value than they recognize. If you have been with your organization one year or more you have developed relationships, created operating procedures, workflow, and more, no matter what industry you work in. This has equity within your organization.

I mention this because many moms have told me they are afraid to ask for what they need because it will seem like they are being _______fill in the blank. (greedy, selfish, demanding) and that this will jeopardize their job security. In my 13 years of coaching, I have coached 100s of women, and one thing I know for sure, no one has been fired for asking for what they want and even better, most get some or all of what they ask for. So my direct coaching to you: get clear on what you need as a new mom and ask. This is your time.

I know these are intense times, being a new mom, a global pandemic and the awakening of many white people around racism. Things are definitely amplified. I want to encourage you as a mom and new Mama that when it comes to the workplace, there are options. Companies out of survival are creating more flexible working conditions like never before. And if your company is not, then I encourage you to be the pioneer, you will not be fired for asking, and even if it has not been done in your company before does not mean you won’t be the first.

New Motherhood is sacred, it is a time to cocoon with your babe and start building a life-long relationship. It is also a time of new identity and new possibility. The woman you were before you had your baby is gone, not all your value and characteristics but from here on out you will always have the identity of Mother no matter what happens. With every new beginning there is an end, that end is the woman you were before you had your baby. Just as you prepared mindfully for the birth of your child, you now have the opportunity to prepare mindfully how you will return to work. What makes most sense for your energy, income, health and satisfaction?

If you are looking for additional support as you process going back to work, join Michelle for her workshop at Natural Resources, Going Back to Work, on Saturday, September 19, 2:30pm.

Written by Michelle Olsen, a Career Purpose Coach and founder of GreenLight Coaching who coaches wise, sensitive women to find clarity and activate their soul’s purpose.

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