Striking a balance between family and work life can be intensely difficult – and a new report shows that fears around returning to work after maternity are making mums unhappy.
Mums Enterprise launched the ‘From Career Woman to Working Mum‘ report, which surveyed 1,000 mothers on happiness in their working lives, post-children. It attempts to uncover the hopes, fears and desires of working mums, as well as looking at what holds them back from making a positive career change.
Of the women surveyed, 74% had more than 11 years of professional career experience, and 62% previously held a managerial role. But, what happened with these jobs after they have children? Encouragingly, 47% of those surveyed said they did not experience any form of discrimination in the workplace during or after their maternity period.
Yet, there is still some apparent issues. Of the respondents, 24% were denied flexible working, 15% were passed over for promotion, 8% were made redundant whilst on maternity leave, 18% returned to a different role and 5% of those received lower salaries.
Offering flexible work is important to new mums; it came top of the list (60%) of wishes that would enable them to have more freedom, more time and increase happiness levels. At the same time, seven in 10 women said they were held back by financial worries, almost half doubted their ability to be a good mum and pursue what makes them happy and 6 in 10 lack confidence in themselves.
As an employer, understanding mother’s fears is important because this survey found that 4 in 10 women could have suffered from post-natal depression; 17% received a pre/postnatal depression diagnosis, whereas 26.7% suspected it without a diagnosis. Shockingly, less than 10% said their employer had a positive impact on their recovery.
This is something that employers should be taking note of; as the report found that from being happiest during maternity, the mother’s reported a 40% decline in mood when thinking about what to do about work when their leave came to an end.
So, what could be done to change this? Giving mothers confidence, support and freedom could go a long way. A massive 81% of respondents thought about making a change while they were on leave, including wanting more flexible hours or part-time work. Yet 58% of those who wanted a change didn’t make it happen, and then two-thirds of these said they were unhappier than ever before because of it.
The reasons that were given for not making the change were; not having the confidence, know-how, money or time to make the change.
Lindsey Fish, founder and CEO of Mum’s Enterprise, said her company is aiming to tackle these issues: “I am very passionate and conscious myself about the impact of becoming a mother overnight and in the years that follow, the effect that it can have on your mental health and well being. I truly intend to make it my life’s work to continue on our mission to help millions.”
With “family” and “balance” being the top words that mum’s use to describe happiness, it seems that flexible work and support can help new mothers settle happily back into their roles, or take the plunge into new ones. There are some positive signs in the report that employers aren’t discriminating against mothers, but society and workplace culture still have a way to go if we are to protect the mental health and the careers of new mums.