4 common challenges working moms face and how to deal with them

We got the experts to weigh in on some of the most common challenges facing working moms. By Georgina Guedes

We all know that having a baby brings a massive shift in priorities – especially when it comes to your career. Some new moms work harder and smarter to provide for their babies, while still making more time for them, while others feel that work is less important than their new role as a parent.

We took a look at four common work-related concerns, and called in some experts to provide insight into how moms can navigate their way to a solution.

Challenge: I’m feeling guilty about working full-time again.

Life coach Caroline Hopkins says:

This is a common sentiment among many women. In part, it comes from where we find ourselves at this point in history. We have this internalised idea of what motherhood should be like, which only started changing a generation or two ago. We still believe in the old archetype of the mom who gives up her own life so that her children can have a better future. Now, we’re in the midst of an emerging archetype of what motherhood can be – women can both value their work and be good moms.

In her book Lean In, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says that as more women take on full-time work, and having two full-time working parents is normalised, the workload will be shared between partners and the guilt will be alleviated.

However, until this becomes reality, it’s worth focusing on the fact that all the research on the subject shows that having a full-time working mom doesn’t have a negative affect on children, and that it’s the quality of the time that they get with their parents, rather than the quantity, that matters.
It is my personal experience that working in a field that I love makes me a happier and more fulfilled person and, therefore, a better mom.

ALSO SEE: 5 reasons why you shouldn’t feel guilty about being a working mom

Challenge: How can I update my skills after working part-time for three years?

Founder and CEO of RecruitMyMom.co.za Phillipa Geard says:

This is a concern for employers when hiring moms who have been out of the workplace for a number of years – particularly in the area of technology. If the industry in which you work has a particular technology that they use (for example, many accounting practices require Pastel), then ensure you keep up-to-date with any changes. See it as an ongoing investment in your career and be sure to list the courses and modules you have completed on your CV.

Orla Ollewagen from The Appointment Firm says:

There are various ways in which you can upskill yourself.  These include volunteering outside your normal position to acquire additional skills, tapping into other roles or enrolling in a course – there are many online courses, which are free or reasonably priced that you can do after hours. In order to progress in your career, you need to prepare by learning “future skills”, such as advanced Excel on the job.

The challenge with this is that everybody is stretched in their current roles and development often requires purposeful action, diarising the time to do this and putting in extra effort. There is always a level of pain that comes with growth and being out of your comfort zone, but the pain of not embracing growth is far greater than the latter in my view.

Challenge: I’m having a post-redundancy confidence crisis.

Caroline says:

Some people feel that without the value associated with their job title, they are lost. If this is you, you need to focus on the difference between your “human being” self and your “human doing” self.

Secondly, you need to identify the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-confidence is being sure of your ability to do things. Self-esteem is whether you hold yourself in high regard. By distinguishing between the two, you can look at whether you have lost your confidence in your ability or have lost the capability itself – as you would deal with each one differently.

The third thing to ask yourself is, are you’re suffering from a loss of self-efficacy? That is the steady belief that even if you don’t know how to do something, you can learn how, because you know that all human beings learn from zero.

You can deal with all of these issues by working on resilience – developing the ability to overcome obstacles.

Challenge: I want to build a new career around my baby, but don’t know where to start.

Phillipa says:

Start with an understanding of what you do have and don’t fixate on what you don’t have. Ask yourself these important questions:

  • What are my skills? These can be what the industry refers to as hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are those you may have studied for – like accounting, teaching or engineering that you can teach to others. Soft skills are more difficult to measure and include your ability to get on with others, a good sense of humour, or being a good listener. When you have a baby, you might not want to continue being an engineer, but you will have gained excellent skills, like data analysis and critical thinking, that you can transfer to other types of work.
  • What are my strengths? Focusing on what you are good at will save you time and make you happier in your professional space. Look for a test on the internet to help you discover your key strengths.
  • What assets do I have that I can access, build on or strengthen? Do you have access to a loan facility to start a business? Do you have people around you who can advise you? Do you have a space in your home you can convert into an office? What about access to a fast internet connection and other important communication tools?
  • What’s important to you? Do you want to be at home to see your child’s first step, do you need to earn a certain amount of money each month, or do you just want something to keep you busy? Maybe you want to build on your career or change your focus.

The answers to these questions should help you to work out what your next steps should be.

Orla says:

It takes a while to start earning money from a new business, so if your family needs your income, it’s best to start saving as soon as you fall pregnant. Remember that establishing a business is time consuming, so be realistic about whether you’ll be able to dedicate enough time to make a go of it when you have a small baby. Many women have – but it’s important to be realistic about the demands.

Caroline says:

After you’ve done the market research into people’s unmet needs, the most important question you can ask is, what would feed your heart and give you the internal motivation to make it happen? With a baby, it will be a slow build, so make sure that it’s something that fulfils a need in you.

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