By Cheryl Crilley, Business Director at Kinetic Worldwide.

There are lots of skills you pick up as a new mum that make you a more efficient employee: 

– multi-tasking  

– time management 

– organisational skills 

– and dealing with conflict (or tricky clients, some might say!) 

At the end of my first maternity leave, I rocked up to the office excited to be back and ready for the challenge. 

I quickly realised things would never be like they were before. It was impossible to keep on top of my usual workload within my now 4-day week. Some things were beyond my control, and I didn’t like it. I found myself worrying about work on my days off instead of enjoying that time with my family. If I wanted to be the best version of myself at work, I felt like a failure at home and vice versa. People were saying to me, it was like I had never left. But to me, it was all so different. 

This all came to a head one day when I was so engrossed in finishing a client presentation that I forgot to pick my son up from nursery. I made it just before they sent out a search party. He was the last one left and seeing his little face light up when he saw me replaced my panic with guilt.  

This was my wake-up call, that I was trying to do too much and putting too much pressure on myself. 

People always said having a second child would be easier; I was only one month into my second maternity leave when the pandemic struck. Maternity leave can be quite an isolating experience but add actual isolation on top of that, and I had some long, lonely days to deal with. With baby classes cancelled and everyone told to stay home, I had very little interaction with the outside world. I struggled to find my voice again, but this time I found I wasn’t alone:

  • 9 in 10 mothers face issues when returning to work after maternity leave, whether this is a struggle to balance time between childcare and work, financial struggles with the cost of childcare, feeling marginalised or even missing out on promotions because of maternity leave.
  • More than a third feel so unsupported and isolated on their return that they consider handing in their notice, and 90% are not offered any formal support through a returner programme.  
  • 53% of working mums link episodes of depression after going back to work with poor treatment at work. 
  • Nearly 1.1 million women dropped out of the workforce between February 2020 and March 2021. The rate of unemployment was even higher for women with children. 

I am so fortunate that I got the support I was looking for in Kinetic. The leadership team really understood the need to be even more connected to the agency and always wanted to get a clear understanding of how people were feeling and where they could help. It allowed me to navigate this uncertain time better. Hopefully sharing my top tips will help others in the same position: 

Set boundaries and be honest 

Have open and early discussions with your boss about expectations for your first few weeks back at work, especially if childcare is likely to be an issue whilst we are still in the pandemic. Keeping the dialogue open and setting and managing expectations early helped to alleviate anxieties I was having about returning to work, and it helped my boss plan for my return. 

Your self-development is important 

As timing would have it, I was invited to join GroupM’s Back in the Game workshop that supports parents and carers returning to work. It gave me a much-needed boost and some confidence back, and I learned how to control my inner voice. 

WPP also launched the Sponsorship Programme which was all about breaking down silos and increasing representation of diversity at all levels in the organisation. 

I signed up for the MEFA Mentoring Scheme and was lucky enough to be paired with the brilliant Collette Phillip. Her honesty was refreshing, and she really empathised with my concerns and challenges on my career progression. She helped me navigate the areas I needed to focus on, and ways to measure success. Our sessions always ended on a high which motivated me to take action and drive the change that I wanted for myself and my career. Day by day, I was rebuilding my confidence. 

Lucy Cutter also ran Google’s #IAmRemarkable training at Kinetic which was another game-changer. It allowed me to reflect on the year I’d had and celebrate my achievements, no matter how small they seemed. 

I also started listening to a podcast called Squiggly Careers which resonated with me and inspired me to seize the opportunities in front of me at work. 

Find your circle of trust 

Apart from having an incredibly supportive family, I learnt how important it was to surround myself with people who had my back. I received so much support from people when I was brave enough to open up about how I was feeling. I found a group of people whose coping mechanism was similar to mine, and it was empowering. We laughed and cried together, encouraged one another and they were always there with a glass of wine when I needed one! 

Finding ‘me time’ 

For me, I got back into my fitness which gave me more energy, and a real sense of achievement. The scales weren’t quite moving backwards but it did wonders for my mental health.  

We’re all exhausted, worried and doing the best we can in challenging circumstances. Despite the uncertainty, we are trying to create stability for ourselves, our families, and our clients – and we are doing an amazing job! I finally realised that you can find happiness in all that chaos. My journey to self-acceptance had finally begun. 

Sources: WSJ,, Pregnant Then Screwed, 

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