Disclaimer: This is purely from anecdotes and I am aware that anecdote does not equal data. But when talking to friends and colleagues with children, it seems that the below is a reasonably common shift in attitude.
If you think about it, before you have children, your career is pretty much everything you have been taught to work towards. Even the places you meet your friends are likely to be places of education or work.
Your career can be a satisfying source of challenge, achievement, a social life, gossip, a time consuming and – if you are lucky – enjoyable way to spend what often turns out to be the majority of your time.
You go out for after work drinks, you stay after knock off time to impress the boss, you adore office gossip and drink up all the latest juicy titbits while sharing a lunch break with colleagues.
Then you get pregnant. If you suffer morning sickness work is just horrible. But as you get bigger, you are the centre of attention for a while, and when work gets dull or quiet, you can lose yourself in little dreams about your new bundle of joy.
And then, off you go on maternity leave. And then, maybe a few months, maybe 18 months, later, you return. And you find that your attitude has changed.
Setting aside the culture shock which comes from being a stay at home mum to a working mum, and any residual doubting of choices therein, the actual attitude to the day to day workings of the office can change dramatically when you are a working mum as opposed to a working childfree person.
Mums are, let’s face it, masters of time management. We have an hour of nap time a day to make all phone calls, do all “proper” cleaning and complete all household admin. We know how to time a trip out between naps, to maximise energetic happy time without veering into grumpy tiredness or hunger. We forge on. We haven’t had a sick day since our children were born. So this translates to the office as being efficient, experts at prioritising and juggling.
We’ve spent many months placating a small child who cries as though the world is ending when their banana breaks in half. So placating clients and reasoning with the unreasonable? Easy.
Not only that, we lose interest in endless networking because we have neither the time nor energy, gossip seems dull and you may even take on a mother hen role, dishing out advice and tissues rather than delighting over the latest scandal.
Sick days are like gold so no more taking a couple of days off for a headache. Holidays need to be planned a year in advance. You turn into a clock watcher rather than putting in the extra mile.
You may worry about taking time off when your child is ill, or ducking out for the odd sports carnival, or leaving at 5pm on the dot, but really – given your new qualifications – you should be more confident than ever.
The hand that rocks the cradle really is the hand that rules the world – and the office.