Everyone else and their opinions

You will find, if you haven’t already, that everyone you talk to will have an opinion. They will tell you what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, how you mustn’t do X and must do Y. They are just opinions. It is what you do with them that counts. Your inner self and your own instinct will be the one thing that will help you make the right decision for you. Only you know what is right for you and your family.

Listen to your gut, everybody will give you their opinion – ignore the noise and listen to your own radar.
— WoMo Dee, London. Two girls, age 7 and 10.

Drawing support from opinion

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Going back to work

It is human nature that we tend to surround ourselves with people and talk to those people who will help us when we need them. If you think about your circle of friends you will be able to identify people you call when:

  • you want some sympathy;
  • you need advice; or
  • those people you can call who you know will give you a talking to when you need it.

These are just examples and you will be able to draw on your own when you think about your own network.

As you go through the process of returning to work you might find that calling for advice from your friend who hasn’t gone back to work and is a full time mother may not be the best source of support. It may sound obvious and I could be wrong, but pulling together a support crew (I call this your 'Wolf Pack') who can be by your side and may have been through something similar may be more useful.

Think about who you know and who will be best placed to support you with their opinion:

  • Consider who you know that has a child/children and works.
  • Is there someone you aspire to or admire?
  • Someone you are really impressed with?

If so, ask to talk to them. See if you can have a quick coffee. If they are working, offer to go and see them at their work place. I'm sure they can find time to mentor and support you through your own journey. Any mother that has done it will have learned some of the pitfalls, know the things they found tough and may make suggestions to you that will make your life easier. There is no one person with all the answers, and the WoMo network shows just that!

Opinion that makes things worse

WoMo Network | The Working Mothers Network | Going back to work

In our circle of friends and family we can all identify with the person (or people) who are the negative force. This person is probably brilliant in a crisis. They relish in being brilliant at supporting when you are at your lowest low. When you are working on change in your life and embarking on a big adventure, just like returning to work after having your baby, these people can drain your energy. These are the friends who say things like 'it will be so hard’ or ‘I don’t know how you are going to manage’. They may even be able to tell you about someone else such as ‘my friend literally could not cope’.

This is the support you want to avoid.

At a time of big change and excitement, this kind of discussion will only serve to increase your worry levels, drive your fear factors and potentially have you agonising deep into the night. Watch out for these people in life.

What you are trying to achieve is brilliant.

Remind yourself of the reasons you work. You have your own motivating factors for returning to work that are unique to you.

While you are making the decision to return to work, you will talk to your friends, family and potentially your colleagues to decide what the right thing is to do. Whether you ought to ask for flexible working, how often you think it is ok to leave the office early to pick up your child, full time versus part time and the effect on your child, how much your PoWoMo should in their opinion share the load. The list is endless and as a woman, particularly one who is a new mother, these subjects will be top of the chat list over coffee with your NCT group or equivalent. Pick the right people to talk to.

Be assertive

This is when you need to be assertive with yourself. It is easy to be swayed, confused and feel all over the place after having a baby. You are suddenly learning something new. It’s like being at school and learning a new language you have never heard before. There are hundreds of books telling you how to parent and even more opinions being thrown at you, and sometimes you will make mistakes, take someone else’s opinion, run with it and then realise it feels wrong for you and doesn’t fit your life.

This is what I mean when I say – get assertive. Think about what is completely right for you, your baby, your relationship, your lifestyle and your life and go with it. Stick by it, be true to yourself and trust you intuition when something just doesn’t feel right.

Read ‘The Smart Girls Guide to Getting What You Want’ for more ways to be assertive. Mary Hartley talks of how we are concerned about what others might think. Not everyone has this concern but it is very common in many women and can hinder how we make decisions.

Childcare opinions

When you are deciding how to manage the care of your child as you return to work, you may find you are trying to do what you think is right based on opinions of others, or maybe even an article you have read in the newspaper.

There are many articles written relating to childcare. You may read one that says 'nurseries are great for socialisation' and then another article a week later stating 'children need one on one care and only the mother is best place to do this'.

The point of it is, if you do enough research you will find the evidence you need to support your decision. So you have to trust that your intuition is the right one and push forward to make it happen.

You may find you are fighting off resistance. Your mother may not have worked and is the type of woman who is horrified that you are returning to work full time leaving your baby with a child-minder. Regardless of whether it is your mother, your friend or an article, you will find a way through and know how to stick fast to what your values and beliefs tell you. 

I am not suggesting for one second that you make decisions at the total disregard of what the people closest to you might, but be careful to form decisions that are right for you and your family.