I distinctly remember this photo being taken. Its not the best photo ever taken of me – but its an important one. It was 2013 and I was in Istanbul delivering a leadership programme, the hotel was fabulous and had the most amazing infinity pool. So far – so glamorous. Here, I’m sitting in the Grand Bazaar enjoying a mint tea. From the outside it may have looked like I was living the dream – foreign travel, posh hotel, doing a job that I loved whilst my toddler and 9 month old baby were at home in Ireland. It looked like I ‘had it all’. But what I remember when I look at this picture is how overwhelmed and sad I felt. I felt exhausted, pulled in too many directions and intensely guilty that I wasn’t at home with my toddler and baby. I felt like I was doing a crap job in every area of my life. I didn’t share this with anyone, not even my family and close friends, I just ‘got on with things’ hoping I’d feel better soon. When I look at this picture I see it in my eyes. I want to go back and give myself a big hug.
The turning point came one day when a friend asked me ‘how are you’? Maybe she caught me at a bad time (on reflection it was the perfect time) as I finally shared how I was feeling. She listened, and together we came up with a plan that would help me help myself. I set boundaries involving travel and work, I rested more, I sat down and thought about my values and what that meant for me. Without knowing it at the time – I went through the first ever Mumager workshop. The idea was born and together that friend and I went on to co-found Mumager – six years ago.
The power of being able to share how you’re feeling, to realise that you’re not the only one struggling cannot be underestimated. Realising that there are practical things you can do, or small changes you can make that will have a big difference empowers women. Out of all the work I do, running the Mumager Ramp Up workshop is the most rewarding. We now have a number of clients who run quarterly workshops for their returners (in addition to sessions for all parents too). It’s a strong message that shows they are keen to provide support for this key life event.
The message in all of this?
- If you’re a returner and are experiencing a roller coaster of emotions – you’re not alone. You can guarantee that someone else will be experiencing the same thoughts/emotions/challenges. Regardless of what someone’s life looks like on the outside, they too may have their own struggles.
- Please don’t judge a book by its cover. We can never know what is going for anyone else. Instead of assuming, take time to ask, to listen, to understand.
- If you’re an organisation and aren’t yet doing anything practical to support returners – why not? There are many people working in this space who offer support. It doesn’t even have to cost a lot – educating managers on how best to support parents, or creating a buddy system so returners have someone to talk to are very effective.
- Finally, I’ve talked a lot here about maternity returners. However families come in all shapes, sizes and dynamics. Trying to balance work with a family can be a tough gig. There’s a lot we can do to enable people to be at their best at work and home – but that’s for another post 😊
So, that’s my story. We all have one – and I’d love to play a small part in yours. Keep in touch and let us know if we can support you along the way with our work at Mumager.