Most Australian mothers suffer from a lack of confidence when they return to work after having a baby, a survey has found.
It surprises me that mothers don’t have more confidence when they return to the workplace – as they are armed with a host of new skills and experiences.
More than half of the women surveyed – 67% – spent a year at home before they returned to work.
However, in the Get Qualified Australia study of 550 mothers – aged between 18 and 64 years – only 32% of women felt confident to re-enter the workforce after giving birth.
The biggest concerns for mothers returning to work related to finding a good work-life balance and having up-to-date skills.
It seems the variety of skills mothers develop while staying at home are even under-rated in our own eyes.
My first day back in the office from Mums Milestones. Image supplied.
Leaving the house with a newborn, dealing with post swimming class meltdowns, washing and blow-drying my hair were all real achievements of my first three months with my son.
But my long days of being a new mother sometimes added up to:
"What did you do today honey?"
Mothering isn't counted as a series of key performance indicators. It's not a confidence booster, you just get through it somehow.
You don't get a gold star or any praise for soothing a screaming-baby, learning to breastfeed or coping with relentless night-shifts. I'd say they are all under-rated skills in life.
Watch Jamila Rizvi on returning to work at Mamamia. Post continues after video.
I'd argue the patience needed to deal with a toddler tantrum is far greater than any communication challenge in the workplace.
These unique skills that I have built, specifically for my son and I, may not be work-transferable but you can't help but grow as a person and become more adaptable when you parent.
Some of the real achievements when you are on maternity leave, according to Mums Milestones.
The other part of the confidence equation is being ready to return to work.
The main factors that would encourage stay-at-home mothers to re-enter the workforce are:
Flexible work hours (67%)
Ability to work from home (51%)
Ability to work part-time (50%) - (Source - Get Qualified Australia)
I found real purpose in mothering and I found it difficult to return to work at first.
I missed my son, I had a new working environment, and a new identity. My child-care arrangement was not working, I was living in a new city and nothing was familiar. I wondered if my post-baby-self could merge with my professional-self.
Jasmina Dugalic from Get Qualified Australia says it's "unsurprising" that so many Australian women have concerns about returning to work after the birth of their child.
"A high percentage [of mothers] feel that their skills and qualifications are no longer up-to-date," she said.
Jessica Brunton, 36 has been at home with her son for four years.
"I'm the most confident mum, but work, not so much," she said.
"Lack of work confidence perhaps stems from change in career and life aspirations. So much planning and energy went into getting ready to be a mother to a baby, I didn't really think about what comes next.
"I'm supposed to work now my kid's older, but I didn't really plan for it. Sometimes it feels like I have no escape plan. But I know once I 'get back out there' I won't look back. I'll feel great, and be good at whatever I do," she said.
The 36-year-old mother says her lack of confidence also comes from the luxury of financial choice and a supportive partner.
The funny thing is, when I think of the new fathers I know, they have great self-confidence. Many of my new dad friends are aware and have told their partners they do a great job at home.
Meanwhile, at our mum-group meet-ups we would ask each other for tips on how to do this motherhood thing better. We strived to improve.
That's what we probably do at work too. We doubt ourselves and want to perform better. In my mind, that attitude makes an excellent employee.
To those new mums returning to work, you should be confident. You got this. You can do this. It will get easier. If you're not confident, I think you have the ability to even prove yourself wrong.
During maternity leave the skills you had didn't go anywhere. If anything, you have added to them.
Did you know Mamamia has a parenting podcast? Join Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo as they discuss the glorious mess that is family life. It's the perfect podcast for non perfect parents.