Episode 12

#12 Returning to work during motherhood The Matrescence Podcast

In this episode Bree interviews Kelly about her experiences as a working mum. This story begins when at 30 years old, recently engaged and waiting for her visa to be approved, Kel found out that she was unexpectedly pregnant. Having already packed up their home and committed to an across the globe move to her company's London office, she and her husband decided to go ahead. What was initially meant to be years of adventure traveling as a couple quickly turned into a stressful juggle as her roles as mother and employee collided. Kel shares what that experience was like, what she learnt and how that shaped her views of working motherhood. Now that Kelly is on the other side, hiring employees (including mother's) for the global company she works for, she shares invaluable insight into the patterns she sees in working mothers, how to find a family-friendly workplace, how to approach resume gaps and more. 

Transcript

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Kelly: [00:00:00] The birth of a baby is a defining moment in a woman’s life. 

[00:00:15] Bree: [00:00:15] But what about the birth of a mother? 

[00:00:17] Kelly: [00:00:17] That’s right when a baby is born. So two is a mother.

[00:00:21]Bree: [00:00:21] This transition from woman to mother has the name it’s called Matrescence. 

[00:00:26] Kelly: [00:00:26] This developmental stage is as powerful and irreversible as adolescents, and yet few women have ever heard of it.

[00:00:33] Bree: [00:00:33] So let’s talk about it. 

[00:00:34] Kelly: [00:00:34] Let’s talk about it. Each episode, we will bring you honest and thought provoking conversations, evidence-based research and knowledgeable guests in order to help you emerge a more powerful and aligned version of yourself. 

[00:00:47] Bree: [00:00:47] So join us your hosts. Kelly and Bree, as we attempt to make sense of Al Matrescence journey and to help you make sense of yours.

[00:01:01] All right. So Kel, why don’t you start us off by telling us a little bit about what you were doing prior to falling pregnant and what your transition back to work look like. 

[00:01:10] Great. So while I’m not going to cover the actual birth story here, because that’s a different discussion, I. Was not planning to have a baby when I fell pregnant.

[00:01:19] So what that means is I wasn’t prepared either financially or work-wise or in fact, in any parts of my life. So, uh, I found out that I was pregnant when I was 30 and I had actually, uh, organized a transfer to the London office of the company I worked for. We had literally, uh, just recently got engaged. We decided we wanted to go traveling.

[00:01:42] And so we’d packed up our entire house, shipped everything to the UK. We were waiting at his mother’s house for my visa to be finalized because I was on an independent work visa, not a spouse visa. And we literally had tickets out of Australia and I found out I was 

[00:02:02] pregnant. So it’s fair to say that while kids went.

[00:02:05] Necessarily never on the cards for you. They certainly weren’t on your mind 

[00:02:08] Kelly: [00:02:08] at that point. That’s exactly right. So we’d loosely said yes, we would like to have a family, but we were looking forward to a few years of adventure ahead of us traveling all over the world. , I had a great global job waiting for me.

[00:02:23] And for many people, if they’d been trying, they’d been waiting, it’s a really beautiful experience to find out you’re pregnant. Mine wasn’t like that at all. In fact, I was thinking, what have I done? Like, where is this? It was a really awful kind of experience in the sense that I was thinking to myself. I have no idea what to do about this.

[00:02:47] Uh, my husband was like, this, isn’t what I had planned. This isn’t the way I saw it happening. It was a highly stressful situation. So let’s just say we went ahead anyway. So we got on the plane, we went to London. I told my boss straight away, I was like, look, here’s the situation. Do you still want me to take the job?

[00:03:08] And they were like, well, yes. You know, if that’s all right with you, we still want you to come. And 

[00:03:13] Bree: [00:03:13] was that a bit of a no-brainer for you that you wanted to tell them straight away? Or did you consider delaying that? Were you worried about how it would be received? 

[00:03:21] Kelly: [00:03:21] I think I must have been somewhere worried about it, but part of me was thinking if I get there and they don’t want me, that’s a lot harder than canceling now.

[00:03:32] Yeah. And so, and also it’s probably just my value system because I’m really honest and I’m very, very direct. So there was sort of in my mind, no option in hindsight, I probably could have waited, but there was no point. So I got straight on the phone because I had a global. Boss who was in another country anyway, not even in the UK, in another country again, uh, and was like, this has happened.

[00:03:56] And they said, well, that’s okay, it’s fine. You know, it was a big global company. People have babies all the time. It’s not an issue for us. If it’s not an issue for you, we’ll just work out the plan while you’re on leave. So that was reassuring. And I knew that my husband desperately wanted to go to the UK.

[00:04:11] And so we, we decided to go, so. The pregnancy was a bit of a whirlwind because I was working in a global job, traveling all over the world, working a lot, which is a whole nother story. And effectively, we came to the decision partway through my pregnancy that as the primary breadwinner in the house, we really couldn’t afford to stay in London unless I was working.

[00:04:37] So what that meant was that I was able to negotiate taking six weeks off. I had no maternity leave rights in the UK because I was on a working visa. Uh, I had no financial support, uh, for anything I was able to access. , you know, public health care as a reciprocal agreement, which was fantastic. And I know that NHS has problems, but I can tell you that I’ve been a guest of the NHS a nber of times in prior years and during that birth.

[00:05:05] And they, you know, it was a great system, but that meant that I needed to go back to work after six weeks, albeit I could afford to go back to work. Part time, not full time. So that was our decision is that I would take six weeks leave. I would work right up until the birth so that I could take that unpaid, leave all with the baby.

[00:05:25] And then I would go back to work part-time and I could work remotely. , almost as much as I wanted, which 12 years ago was pretty forward-thinking for an organization. Uh, all be it. We had a lot of remote workers in the UK anyway, so that was the context of me going into my first book. So you have the baby 

[00:05:47] Bree: [00:05:47] and then what did that return to work look like for you?

[00:05:50] So, 

[00:05:51] Kelly: [00:05:51] yes, I had anger. I had anger. Yes. And the return to work was. It was traatic in one sense, but in another sense, it was really something that I felt I needed because I felt I was really failing as a mother. He was a very difficult baby. And so it was a return to some semblance of myself. , and so what I would do is I would put the baby in the pram.

[00:06:19] I would get on the bus. The red, double Decker bus and travel right into the financial district in the center of London, take the baby into the office and pocket in the corner. Whilst I did some work, which was horrendously surprising for everyone in the center of the financial district in London, because I don’t know if you’ve ever imagined this, but they do not see pregnant women or babies because almost everyone in the UK who has a child removes out to the suburbs.

[00:06:48] I didn’t have to go to the office, but I needed that. I needed to feel like myself again. 

[00:06:53] Bree: [00:06:53] Yeah. So there was the financial necessity, but also for you as a woman and as a person trying to make sense of her world, you felt that you needed that. Yeah. 

[00:07:01] Kelly: [00:07:01] And, and I think the great hindsight for that is that was my way of escaping from really understanding what I needed to be doing to create a sense of mental and emotional wellbeing for myself and my baby.

[00:07:14] So. Uh, a nber of months goes by and I am holding it together, working part-time. And the organization that I worked for was incredibly supportive and incredibly flexible. I had two male bosses, both of which had kids. And both of them sort of said, look, we’ve been there. So if you need something, just speak up.

[00:07:34] We’re not going to bother you. We’re not going to really ask you, but if you need support, speak up, it’d be the norm. 

[00:07:39] Bree: [00:07:39] But it’s actually quite, quite radical, especially going back 10 years and in a male dominant industry, isn’t it. 

[00:07:45] Kelly: [00:07:45] Absolutely. So I was incredibly happy to have that about three or four months in a bathroom out.

[00:07:53] And seeing things started to really unravel for me though, because I was still trying to keep up appearances of having this global job working part time. Albeit probably still on a full-time workload. Doing hours that were quite ridiculous. And I had the distinct memory of the moment when I decided that this wasn’t going to work and I was on a conference call.

[00:08:13] It was about 4:00 AM in London. And that my team was literally stretched from the West coast of the U S to Singapore, to Australia, to South Africa, to London. And so sometimes you got to call it was a ridiculous time, but I was up anyway with the baby. I had. He came over my shoulder and he was crying. And I remember wanting to say something on the call and the baby wouldn’t stop crying.

[00:08:35] And I was thinking to myself, how can I make the baby stop crying? So I can say something on the call. And then I had that penny drop moment where I was like, this is not healthy. Yeah. It’s this is not going to work. And I just remember finishing the call, settling the baby and my husband came downstairs.

[00:08:55] And because we also had a one bedroom flat in London and the bedroom was so small that you had to turn sideways to walk either side of the bed. So there was no space for a crib. There was no space for a cot, the change table. What was, uh, you know, in the lounge living baby was in the bed with us. No, that was great.

[00:09:12] I mean, co-sleeping, especially because I was breastfeeding changed a lot of sheets because like you, I had a lot of milk and leaks everywhere, but I would have 

[00:09:19] Bree: [00:09:19] needed all the slave you could get by the sounds of 

[00:09:21] it. 

[00:09:21] Kelly: [00:09:21] So I remember he came downstairs and I said, We have to go home and he was so not ready to go home.

[00:09:27] I mean, this was a defining moment in our marriage. We weren’t married at that time. We were engaged and he did not want to go home. And I was like, it’s not safe. Like, this is not safe for me to be here doing this with this baby. Yeah. We have to go home to Australia. , because I didn’t even, I couldn’t even verbalize at that time that I needed the support of family and friends, but I just felt like I couldn’t keep holding it together and keep working like that.

[00:09:53] Yeah. And 

[00:09:54] Bree: [00:09:54] I think that what is really interesting is what that would have looked like from the outside is so different to what it would have felt like for you experiencing it. And when I think about my postpart experience, I was home. Just as a stay at home mom and it was so intense and all encompassing and I had no other responsibilities or obligations.

[00:10:16] I can’t imagine trying to lean into that postpart experience while still maintaining my workload and my appearances outside 

[00:10:25] Kelly: [00:10:25] of the home. Yeah. And you’re right. I think society, places a lot of value on people who appear to have it altogether. So, you know, I was working, I was running the home. I was organizing a wedding.

[00:10:38] Uh, you know, there’s just so many things that you’re doing and all the while the inside of you is screaming, I can’t keep doing this. And when I was finally able to verbalize that and dealing with a sick baby, then it was like, I need to go home. And it was almost one of those. I’m going home and you can come with me or you can stay.

[00:10:59] And if you came, but, and I don’t know how much I’m sure other people have had those moments with their partners. My mom’s told 

[00:11:07] Bree: [00:11:07] me the exact same. You do. 

[00:11:09] Kelly: [00:11:09] And it’s a sad thing because you get to the point where you realize you haven’t been able to verbalize to them just how hard it is. And so, and when we do our birth story together, he gets a chance to talk about how tough it was for him as a new father, because it was very, very tough.

[00:11:22] He was a new father as well, but in the end, So we decided to go home. So I find the company, I say really, sorry, this is not working. I need to go home. And again, amazing organization really supportive. They went, actually, please don’t resign because we’re about to go through a big merger and acquisition.

[00:11:41] And if you resign, they won’t let us back fill your role. But if we hold that head through the merger, We’ll keep the role and we’re, and I said, yeah, but you don’t understand, I need to go. And they went, you don’t understand, you don’t have to come to the office, take your laptop with you, go home to Australia, just work your part-time hours whenever you want.

[00:12:01] As long as we cross over for a couple of hours a day. So I was like, fantastic, because I was going home to no job, no house, very little money in the bank. Like this was a financially driven. Thing. And I think that’s one of the reasons now I’m so passionate about financial independence and about supporting women in the workplace.

[00:12:21] And oftentimes the only time we find out that women want to have children, because it’s so hard and very taboo these days to say, Hey, are you planning a family? You know, is this, have you thought about this? It’s very taboo to ask because there’s many people who are choosing not to have children, which is fine.

[00:12:36] But I feel like I want to say to everyone, if you’re planning on having a family. Don’t miss out on the financial piece because your financial independence and the organization that gives you choice and choice is so powerful in a postpart period, because when you feel that you are stuck, when you have to go back to work, when you have to make decisions about where you live and how you live because of money, it is really tough.

[00:13:00] Yeah. And I 

[00:13:00] Bree: [00:13:00] think that, yeah. , the same that comes to mind is beggars. Can’t be choosers. And I think that we often get ourselves into that mindset of ms returning to work, that we have to take what we can get and we need to settle them, whatever works around our family’s lives or our husbands, you know, role.

[00:13:16] And so we ended up settling. And so that actually brings me to my next question. So we’re going to skip over a huge portion of your story, which hopefully you will touch on when you sit down with aunt. , but now what is your capacity? What, what. What role are you working in and how do you interact with moms?

[00:13:34] What are you seeing in the workplace now that you’re on the other side, you’re not the new mom, you’re the one hiring moms and working with other moms and mentoring 

[00:13:42] Kelly: [00:13:42] them. Yeah, no, it’s a great question. So my current role, uh, is a role in which I have looking after the wellbeing and welfare of the staff in the, you know, the business that I work for.

[00:13:55] And that, what that means is over the last couple of years, I would have hired. You know, recruited onboarded over a hundred people. Unfortunately, very few of those, uh, are women and very few working moms. And that’s a really complex issue that we won’t go into today about what does the market provide and what is out there.

[00:14:15] There’s a lot of work going on in that area, but in short, yeah. One of the roles that I play as is, is the women’s advocate in our business. So, which 

[00:14:23] Bree: [00:14:23] is a very male dominated industry, 

[00:14:26] Kelly: [00:14:26] dominated industry. We are updated statistics in Australia. 22% of our workforce is female. And in our industry, So that’s our business right now has 22% female.

[00:14:38] Our industry average would be closer to two. It’s probably around the industry. Average to be fair, it would range between 10 and 20%. It is changing. It is changing slowly and, but there’s two things. One is through the interview process, making sure that we look at. The whole picture, not just the technical skills, understanding rese gaps and understanding the value and the power of those rese gaps as a contributor to their.

[00:15:11] Their value system, their efficiencies and their effectiveness, because becoming a mother teaches you so much that you can’t write down. I mean, you don’t, you don’t fill out that gap in your rese with, , you know, negotiating with a baby organizing, you know, that there’s so many things I don’t need.

[00:15:29] That’s one of the reasons we do this, we don’t have the language for it. 

[00:15:32] Bree: [00:15:32] Yeah. And it’s so interesting because I think that what you’re saying is true. On our rese, it looks like we’ve done nothing we’ve we haven’t progressed in any way, but as the ms, I feel like I am so much more hireable now that I am a mom, I have learned to multitask and organize our life and be more efficient and more driven.

[00:15:51] I’m clear on my values. And I feel like that does translate to really tangible, uh, Things that a business can take advantage of, but how do we convey that to them? And is that something that you’re seeing in the interview process that ms tend to be quite dismissive of that time? Or what does that look like for you as the interviewer?

[00:16:10] Kelly: [00:16:10] Yes. In short, you will almost. Almost never have a woman bring up her family situation unless you ask. And then when you ask there’s that brief moment of fear that passes across their face of how are you going to judge me by what I say? So what’s really important to me during the interviewing process is explaining my process and explaining why I’m interested.

[00:16:37] And typically the way that I introduce the question is not to say, do you have any children? Because that is such a blunt question. I say to people, what do you do when you’re not at work? And by that. But I only asked that question when I’ve already built a rapport. And I’ve asked that of both my asset and both men and women a hundred percent.

[00:16:54] And what it does is it opens the door for them to say, well, I have a family. And therefore that influences what I do on my weekends. And in fact, more and more, the wonderful trend is more and more men being. Comfortable to bring up their family. And I’m getting questions from interviewees now, from men saying, uh, what’s your position on paternity leave?

[00:17:17] What’s your position on flexible working? So I can spend more time with my children. I have a young family, which means that whilst I can work nights or weekends, because some of our jobs have requirements for nights and work. We can work. , I need to understand how much, because I need to set the expectations with my family.

[00:17:32] So these kinds of questioning, but unfortunately right now there’s more confidence in the mentor as Christians and 

[00:17:39] Bree: [00:17:39] women. Morefield the need to hide it or minimize it. Do you 

[00:17:42] Kelly: [00:17:42] think? Yeah, one to two overtly, , present the fact that they have this constraint in their lives. And so. One, which is 

[00:17:50] Bree: [00:17:50] bizarre because we were looking at some statistics the other day that said 77% of women in Australia over the age of 15 are mothers.

[00:17:59] So it’s a huge percentage of women. And yet we’re all kind of doing this thing where we’re like, let’s just pretend that this isn’t happening and we can be fully available for this job, for this role as someone who, without kids could be. 

[00:18:13] Kelly: [00:18:13] Yeah, no, a hundred percent. And that is, that is the. Cognitive dissonance of this conversation.

[00:18:20] Some of that has come from the. Dominance of male leadership. And obviously there’s a nber of statistics and work, very good work going on around the balancing of the nber of female leaders in the industry. And then cascading that down. I know that, for example, when I went to Sri Lanka to work, I was over there for a year.

[00:18:40] And the very fact that. Myself. As a woman went over with a trailing spouse who was a man with my children. It was absolutely fascinating to both other ex-pats and also to the Sri Lankans. I’m certainly not the only one, but it was a minority. And what that did was it gave the women confidence to ask me questions and they would ask me lots of questions.

[00:19:01] How do you do it? What’s the situation? What’s the logistics. How do you, how does your family support this? Because at that time I was the primary. Uh, you know, breadwinner again. And my husband was looking after the kids full-time and he didn’t work when we were in Sri Lanka, although he has worked at other times and does this day, so coming back full circle to your point, it’s actually such a taboo conversation, and I’m incredibly passionate about working with women through the pre-phase of.

[00:19:34] If they decide they want to have a family, whether they already have a partner or not, and them thinking and planning about what are all the elements that they need to consider, not just the actual act of giving birth. So that’s, how do I be prepared mentally, psychologically, , you know, physically fit and well in order to fall pregnant financially.

[00:19:53] And work-wise because it will. It’s going to take a long time for that conversation to change consistently. There are amazing organizations out there doing amazing work around this. Unfortunately, it’s not consistent. So 

[00:20:08] Bree: [00:20:08] it’s a slow progress. So say that someone has had quite an extended amount of maternity leave and they’re returning to work.

[00:20:15] Would you suggest doing things during that period of maternity leave to keep your skills relevant? , To increase your employability, or do you think that in general workplaces are pretty understanding that this is part of, , you know, I don’t want to say hiring a woman, but a woman, but generally they’re the ones taking maternity leave just due to logistics.

[00:20:38] , And so what do you think about that? What can women do to prepare for that transition back to work? 

[00:20:44] Kelly: [00:20:44] Look, it’s a great question. I think, to answer that the point about what do businesses expect? I think there is no expectation from businesses that women on maternity leave will do anything. But I can say that if you do it is looked upon very favorably.

[00:21:02] So that really has to be a very personal choice, which also comes back to the, what did you need? As your part of your identity and what you want for the future. So perhaps that, yeah. So how long you take off work, what you do with that time can be very tied to what you want in your long-term future for.

[00:21:23] Some, there is not a focus on career. They work to live and they don’t live to work for others. The career is incredibly important and they don’t want to give that up. And so these, the motherhood transition is very important, but certainly they don’t want it to be at the expense of, so it’s quite broad, but I can give one specific example.

[00:21:44] Uh, there, there is someone at my work who took maternity leave and. Because I have such, you know, believe in this so much. I worked with her to negotiate the time off, uh, checked in on her. That’s the other thing that businesses can do. And with the women that I’ve had worked with me in my organization that go on maternity leave.

[00:22:03] I agree with them before they go off on a check-in process. So. You know, it’s your time off. I don’t want to invade your privacy. Would you like to keep up to date with changes in the business whilst your way? Yes or no. Would you like me to check in on you? Yes or no. What does that look like for you without invading your pros, your privacy?

[00:22:21] So for example, with one of the women, she said, I want to know if there is a structural change. If there is an organizational change, if something fundamental changes, please don’t wait, please call me. Fantastic. So we had an executive leave and a change of org structure gave her a call. She said, actually, you know what, I’d really like, I’d love a coffee.

[00:22:39] I said, fantastic. I went to a co coffee cafe near her house. We met, I updated her, I got to hold the baby. It was lovely. And she got to just be that interested again in what’s going on in the business, how is so-and-so what’s happening? And then she had. When often she said, fantastic, thanks. That’s enough for now.

[00:22:57] See you in a few months. So that was great, but it was all about having the conversation before she went off. And so I would encourage you if you’re in this situation where you might be pregnant and you’re thinking, Oh, how do I have this conversation? I suggest you find the person in your organization, whether it is your manager or your people in culture team to say, listen, I’d love to have a plan for the time while I’m off you.

[00:23:18] A great idea. You know, I’d like you to tell me if this, this or this happens. Please contact me via either text, email, phone. , you know, because many times we take people off their work emails and that’s been another conversation I’ve had other mothers who said, please don’t cut off my work email. I need that.

[00:23:33] And we’re like, you’re on leave. And they’re like, I know, but I can self filter. And then it’s checking in on them to say, Hey, just checking yourself filtering. And you’re not actually working because this is your time off. 

[00:23:44] Bree: [00:23:44] I think so. I think that’s awesome. And I think that it’s part of recognizing that once we become moms, we’re still women and we’re still employees and we’re multifaceted.

[00:23:54] And some people really want to just immerse themselves in m life. And they want to shut that door for a while. Whereas others, one is still be recognized for who they are as a whole person. And it’s something that I heard. With my mom’s group when they started returning to their corporate jobs was I feel so out of touch, everything has shifted.

[00:24:17] Everything has changed and it’s like, I’m coming into a new role in your organization. So. Potentially, if they were, they had set that up before going on maternity leave, then they would have felt more LinkedIn with what was going on. And that transition back to work would have been less 

[00:24:32] Kelly: [00:24:32] daunting. Yeah.

[00:24:33] Yeah, absolutely. And that’s been really powerful because we have certain communications which are, you know, got global organizationally. We also have CEO updates, which happen regularly, which are available on video. And so they could pick and choose to watch those as they wanted just to keep in touch.

[00:24:48] And then the other example that I was going to give was, , a. A young mother who took some time off and she came back to work. And as she came back to work, a role opened up, which was a promotion from the role when she left really interesting situation and they were going to go out to market and advertise it.

[00:25:06] And I said, well, what about X? And they said, but she’s just coming back from maternity leave. I said, yep. But before she went on maternity leave, she would have been on track for that role. Right. I said, yes. I said, so what’s changed now. And they went, but she’s been on maternity leave. Now these are. Uh, men who just like didn’t occur to them.

[00:25:24] And one of them is a father and the other isn’t. And. He actually thought about. And he said, he came back to the news and he said, I went home and asked my wife that question. And he said, she gave me an absolute bollocking, like, how dare you asse what she wants? How dare you asse she doesn’t want the promotion?

[00:25:39] Why don’t you ask her? And he came back to me and said, can we ask her if she’s interested? I said, yes, that’s actually all she wants. If she says, thank you so much for the offer, but I’m not ready. I don’t feel ready. Fantastic. But she knows that she hasn’t lost her place in the queue because that’s what happened.

[00:25:56] You put her down. The latter, because she took some time off 

[00:26:00] Bree: [00:26:00] and assed that they knew what she needed better than she knew 

[00:26:03] Kelly: [00:26:03] what she needed a hundred percent. So what gets even more interesting about this is I say, well, do you want to ask your horse to do it? And of course they went, Oh, can you ask her?

[00:26:10] Which I was like, fantastic. I get it. It’s a confronting conversation. Yeah. So I text her, can we have a chat pointer her up? She wasn’t her back from maternity leave yet, but it was coming within the next month. I explained the situation and said, are you interested? And you know, she was fantastic. She said, Actually I’d, I’d like to think about it because I’d like to know, and she has all the right questions.

[00:26:31] Like this taught me so much. She was like, who’s the manager. That was a new manager. She said, well, I haven’t met him. So one of my requirements is I want to meet him first because I want to understand what’s important to him and his value system about who I’d be working for. , what, uh, what’s the change in hours what’s change requirements.

[00:26:45] And once we’ve been through all of this process, she then said to me, well, actually it’s really good because whilst I was on maternity leave, I went away and did these certifications and exams to prepare for my next journey. So I’ve actually done the work. So she had already done the work on her leg. Her choice.

[00:27:01] Nobody asked her to, but she said to me, I realized that if I wasn’t on the front foot with explaining to whomever, I came back yeah. To that I was committed to my job. You would make an assption about me. So I did the work myself because this is very important to me. And so it was such a powerful conversation because she was ready and prepared with what she needed, what she wanted.

[00:27:22] So I organized a virtual meetup. With the new manager, they both spoke to each other because that new managers going well, why would I hire someone that I have know nothing about? So I was like, great. Let’s facilitate. So it was an incredible, powerful experience. And then when she came back to work, we allowed her to do a three month transition into the new role.

[00:27:38] The organization gets someone who already knows their business. It takes you. Easily three to six months to train up someone from the outside. So you get someone she’s a sense for the business, huge benefit to the business. She comes back in. She knows the people, she knows the customers. She understands the role.

[00:27:53] She’s done the work, and she’s got this commitment to her team and organization. And so, although three months sounds like a long time. It actually ends up being a lot less than that because you get the uptake on the new role almost immediately as her mind shifts into that. So that’s a very, that’s a positive experience.

[00:28:10] I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people saying there’s a lot of not positive experiences on returning to work. 

[00:28:15] Bree: [00:28:15] I think that that’s an interesting point because your workplace, I think you would agree is quite supportive of families and of mothers. And a lot of that is it seems due to the work that you do internally.

[00:28:26] So if a mom is returning to work. When they are being interviewed for a job, it’s a reciprocal process. They should also be interviewing the workplace and seeing if they are a good fit for them. So. As the m, what should you be looking for to determine whether this workplace is going to be supportive of you?

[00:28:47] Because there are unique challenges that come with being a working m, and if you’re not in the right environment, they can be really a huge barrier to you excelling in your job and your career, and just feeling like you’re succeeding. 

[00:29:00] Kelly: [00:29:00] Yeah. Look, it’s such an important question and there’s two key parts.

[00:29:05] One is. The policies that they have. So that’s what they’ve written down, but the other is how they actually behave. So you have some organizations that have terrible policies and nothing written down, but they behave in a very supportive manner. They make exceptions, they create policy on the fly for specific situations to ensure people feel supported.

[00:29:26] And that’s a very values driven organization. You have other organizations that have policies written down that look amazingly supportive, but in practice, They applied as a weapon, they’re applied to manage a situation. Well, then not applied at all. Or sometimes they don’t apply a hundred percent. 

[00:29:45] Bree: [00:29:45] So how do you determine what this workplace?

[00:29:48] So 

[00:29:48] Kelly: [00:29:48] there’s two things that I say to every employee and the way that I run as an employer, one is your immediate manager has a massive impact on your life. Right? There is no doubt. There’s so much research about that. So you want to make sure if you’re. Either interviewing for your new job, or if you’re returning to work and your manager has changed, sometimes you’ll be returning to work and you know, your manager and you already know this is not a good thing, that how that manager buys into your value as a han being and your alignment of expectations.

[00:30:21] So misaligned expectations is an absolute killer. So getting common understanding of what this change means to you in that role. The hardest thing about that is we don’t always know ourselves, but having a conversation because that manager will influence how you are able to operate or whoever those key influences are, but usually it’s the manager.

[00:30:43] So it may be a case of saying, this is what I knew about the job before I went onto leave. This is what I think is the implications of this change in my life, whether it is. Capacity and capabilities. So, , I’ve lost skills. I’ve gained skills, I’ve learned new things. I feel like there’s a bit of a gap.

[00:31:02] Here’s where I need support to ramp back up. Things have changed. So that’s capacity 

[00:31:06] Bree: [00:31:06] capability. And so probably why, while that feels like quite a vulnerable conversation, it’s better to have upfront because how they respond will allow you to. Figure out what the long term. Yeah. They’re going to be supportive of you, is that what you’re getting at?

[00:31:21] Kelly: [00:31:21] And you know, what, if you don’t ask their thinking in any way, cause they’re sitting there going, are they going to be the same person on it? You know, what’s happened to their skills. So they’re thinking it, but I can tell you because it’s so taboo in our society, there’s no way a male manager. Okay. That’s very strong words.

[00:31:37] It’s in going to be incredibly rare that a male manager is going to sit you down and go, okay, let’s talk about how your maternity leave and your transition to motherhood. Is going to change how you’re able to perform your role. 

[00:31:49] Bree: [00:31:49] Okay. That is I’m sure that they, firstly, they don’t know. What they don’t know.

[00:31:55] And secondly, as you said, it is quite taboo, not just socially, but like legally around talking about these concepts of how Parenthood affects your 

[00:32:04] Kelly: [00:32:04] work. Absolutely. And because it comes across, when we ask those questions, it almost feels like you’re immediately looking at the negative side. Whereas if you bring it up yeah.

[00:32:13] You’re able to say, actually, here’s all the positive things that I’ve learned about myself during this time. Here’s the additional skills I’ve experienced. Here’s the things that I think I can bring to the role now that I’ve learned through this transition. And he’s a couple of gaps that I think I’ve missed in the six, nine, 12 months that I’ve been away so that you being on the front foot is actually going to be a relief to that.

[00:32:35] To the, to whoever that person is, right? So your immediate team and manager, and how they view you as a person and respond to that conversation is really important. Okay. Now 

[00:32:46] Bree: [00:32:46] is there. Is there a way that you can gauge a company’s culture philosophy if you’re coming into a new company, because I don’t have a lot of experience in this area, but instead of signing the contract, starting work and realizing, gosh, they are, they are not practicing what they were selling.

[00:33:06] How do you, how do you gauge that? Is there somewhere we can? 

[00:33:10] Kelly: [00:33:10] So this leads me to my second point. So your immediate manager is super important, but then. Leadership at the very top is the second biggest indicator, because what we say is one thing, but what we do is another, so culture is just the way we do things around here.

[00:33:25] So, and culture flows down from the top, no matter what you say. So you can have an amazing manager, but if that manager is isolated in a toxic environment, it’s going to eventually affect them, which will eventually affect you. So. Getting information at the highest level about where that culture is set is super important.

[00:33:42] So having a look at the profiles of the leadership, depending on the size and shape of the organization, that could be anything from it’s a five person organization. So ask if it’s a small company ask, can I meet with the CEO? Can I speak to the managing director? Can I speak to one of the leadership team, just a five or 10 minute conversation with them, you know, can you introduce me?

[00:34:04] You get a, feel, you get a gut feel for how han beings showing up in the world, how they respond to you, whether or not they think it’s important. It feels very vulnerable to ask that question. If it’s a very, very large organization, it’s quite likely they’ll already be PR profiles on the internet.

[00:34:19] There’ll be videos of them interacting. There will be existing data and information or people who you will know who you might’ve actually had cross paths with them before. The other way that you can ask about culture is if you’re going to a face-to-face interview in an office, I encourage people to go and talk to people on the floor when they come to visit us.

[00:34:39] I say to them, if you want to understand what their culture is, go into the kitchen, where someone’s making a cup of tea and ask them. Ask them what it’s like to work here, ask them what’s important. 

[00:34:46] Bree: [00:34:46] It’s kind of like when you’re buying a house, talking to the neighbors. 

[00:34:49] Kelly: [00:34:49] Yeah, absolutely. Those people are living it.

[00:34:52] You can also see the faces of people. You feel the buzz like I can distinctly remember. And this was another Srilanka experience. There’s a competitor competitor of ours over there who was taking staff. They were out in the market and I was doing a lot of money around it. And we managed to get invited to go and visit.

[00:35:09] And so I felt like a spy. So we went into the office and they were beautiful. Like I am talking marble floors, an amazing warehouse conversion. It was so cool and slick. And there was just money in this whole fit out. Yeah. And I walked down the halls and it was like a funeral parlor. People were miserable.

[00:35:33] They had their shoulders slped. They looked like they were working away typing and then their eyes were darting to look at us, but they didn’t want to look in case someone felt like they were going to be beaten. If they stopped working. It was such an intense feeling. And I remember afterwards going and asking people who worked in our organization.

[00:35:52] Who had come from there, what’s it really like to work there? And they went, Oh, it’s awful. You just, you’re just a robot. They just grow. And I was like, okay, that is so funny. So you get a feel for places, but the culture really ultimately comes top down. The more information you can get also asking the manager, for example.

[00:36:09] So have you ever had anyone go on maternity leave and come back to work before. How did that go for you? What did you learn from it? What would you like to do differently? What do you want to know from me? That’s going to help you better manage my experience back to the office. The more on the front foot you can be with these conversations.

[00:36:24] And honestly, the sad truth is if they react badly to that conversation, you may not be able to afford to walk away, but I would start looking for another. Yeah. And I 

[00:36:34] Bree: [00:36:34] think that, you know, what is interesting is that there’s this saying, and it’s very true that we expect, what is it? Women. Oh, ms to work as if they’re not mothers and to mother as if they don’t work something along those lines.

[00:36:49] And that’s true. It’s all. Already a nearly impossible predicament to be a working m. You feel like you’re constantly letting people down. So if you’re putting yourself in a workplace that is unsupportive of that, and doesn’t recognize that there’s going to be times where you’re at work and you have to do m things and it’s going to make it that much harder to you.

[00:37:09] So while not everyone has choice available to them, if you are lucky enough to be able to have a couple of interviews or to be able to. To say no to certain things. There are things within our power that we can do to put ourselves in the best transition to feel like we’re going to succeed 

[00:37:25] Kelly: [00:37:25] in that role a hundred percent.

[00:37:26] So, yes, I don’t prese to think that everyone can walk away from every job because we all have bills to pay, but. What I would suggest is that the more on the front foot and the more organized you are, the more you’re willing to bring it up in a really constructive way. Like, you know, I’ve learned some things about myself.

[00:37:41] Here’s the things I want to tell you that I’ve learned this time. Now you tell me what do you what’s going on? So we can find the gap, the better experience you’ll have. And if that doesn’t go well, Then you can start planning to find somewhere else 

[00:37:52] Bree: [00:37:52] sooner than later. 

[00:37:53] Kelly: [00:37:53] Absolutely. So look that is obviously we’ve covered a lot of topics today and each one of those really can go quite deep.

[00:38:01] If there is something in particular, you want us to focus on. More deeply. I’m very passionate about this area and you will hear more podcasts coming in the future, which will tackle some of these issues. But we would be re very keen to hear if there’s specific topics you want covered because returning to work and the other topic we didn’t even cover yet is large gaps in time.

[00:38:21] So. 10 15 years where children have gone all the way through school. That’s a whole nother area that I would love to discuss sometime. Sure. And I think we 

[00:38:30] Bree: [00:38:30] definitely will. Excellent. So let’s wrap it up there and we hope you enjoyed listening. Give us some feedback if you want to hear more, because Cal is definitely your person and we look forward to bringing you more episodes on this.

[00:38:41] Kelly: [00:38:41] Thanks, Bree. Thanks for joining us for today’s conversation. If you want to hear more like this, don’t forget to hit subscribe. So you don’t miss an episode. If you’d like to know more about anything we talked about or you heard on the podcast today, check out our website, http://www.birthofamother.com.edu. You can find us on Instagram at Matrescence dot podcast or send us an email to info@birthofamother.com.

[00:39:08] Did I use. 

[00:39:09] Bree: [00:39:09] If you think others could benefit from this podcast, take a screenshot of you listening to this episode, to post on your social media and tag us. Alternatively consider leaving a review with your favorite things about the Matrescence podcast. This really helps us to increase our visibility and ensure we are reaching as many women as possible as always thank you for spending your time with us.

[00:39:30] We hope you will tune in next .

Kelly and Bree


kelly@birthofamother.com.au
brianna@birthofamother.com.au

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