So it was a month before I had to go back to work and I am waiting for my boss at a coffee shop with baby Frankie in the baby carrier. I sat there wondering how 11 months had passed so quickly and how work had been a million miles from my mind in that time. I had blanked it out. I had wanted to cherish every moment of my maternity leave with my children at home and the new friends I had made. But the moment was here, my time with my baby was diminishing and I now have to switch from mum to work mode.
I sit there knowing he would tell me if my new part time hours are approved. Spending over £3k a month on fulltime childcare for 3 children under 4 really wasn’t going to be sustainable, why should I pay so much when I can work part time – I can do both, can’t I?
He arrives and we exchange pleasantries on how baby Frankie is doing and how life at home is going. In the back of my mind I am already thinking ‘childcare and hours will come up in a minute, be bold Cathy, present your case that you will make part time hours work whatever it takes’. So he starts, “We have reorganised since you have been off and have put you as a Head looking after all the Sales Enablement and Marketing activities for the sector”. ‘This is fine Cathy’ I tell myself, ‘it’s a new role but its fine, you can learn and do this. With a bit of time you can figure this out’. “And your reduction in hours has been approved” he continues. ‘Yessss thank goodness, I can work and be mum’.
He continues to explain “So as the new director gets busy, I have put a meeting in his diary for 4 weeks after your return date so you can present the new strategy to him”. Ok now I feel ill. Is it bad form to grab my baby bag and be sick in it? 4 weeks at 3 days a week is only 12 working days to get around the country, meet the team, understand what’s going on, what good looks like, where the gaps are and present my strategy. He definitely clocked I am going to be part time right? Does he not understand that I cant even remember how to retrieve my answer machine messages let alone create a strategy? I simply answer “sounds good”.
Why did I do that? It really didn’t sound good! If I knew and felt then as I do now I would have asked if that date could be put back. I would have said that I needed to look at objectives to ensure it reflected a part time role, that it was really realistic given my new hours. I could have even said I would like to understand more about the role first. But no, the people pleaser in me wanted to say OK straight away. I also felt humble, indebted that I had got part time hours and that I hadn’t been demoted. I felt the least I could do is work evenings after the kids were in bed on reduced pay to figure out our strategy for my director? I could have just presented whatever I had at that time but I felt that wasn’t an option for me in case they thought I was lame or had lost my edge – I felt I had to prove I was just as good as I had been before having a family.
Upon reflection, the issue was that I had changed but their perception of me hadn’t and I had never set boundaries. In their eyes I was still that go getter that they could rely on to deliver, even if it meant not going to bed. But I had changed, my priorities had changed and I could picture my husband’s eyes rolling when I would tell him I will be coming up to bed ‘in a minute’. Could I really be a brilliant mum, wife and employee?
‘Being bold and courageous’ and ‘Valuing and caring for myself’ are 2 of the 6 thinking habits that allow us to evolve and thrive through change. We need to understand our boundaries, be confident in our abilities and remove the imposter syndrome that tells us we don’t belong. We are all talented in our own individual way and the key is unlocking it. I have worked with many talented and successful women who are no cleverer than me but they would have just said it how it was! Its all about mindset. What was the worst that could have happened? Would my boss really have thought differently of me if I had pushed back? Would the outcome have really been that different? Given I can’t even remember what my presentation contained, did it really make a difference apart from the fact I didn’t sleep for 8 weeks and I am writing this blog?
Through coaching, I probe and question what is fact and what is a belief. If I had found coaching earlier in my career, challenging me, being my cheerleader, working it through, I would have realised my limiting beliefs and what it was costing me. I could have put less pressure on myself and been happier at work and home and have still done a great job for the company.
So I leave you with this, what beliefs are you carrying around that are effecting your happiness? What is it costing you (time with family, the job you always wanted, meeting new people etc)? What bold and courageous things will you do today that can make a difference?
#I am bold and courageous
#I value and care for myself