The first job interview I did after having children was a train wreck. Racked with nerves and riddled with anxiety, I found the questions from the interviewer were drowned out by a damaging debate raging in my own head.
Did I still have what it takes? Did I ever really have it anyway? Was I hip enough, young enough, and even dressed correctly? Or had the years spent out of the workforce rendered me irrelevant?
Welcome to the confidence cliff – a ledge many of us unknowingly abseil off shortly after having children.
In 2017, Norwegian researchers kindly took it upon themselves to study this very phenomenon, surveying around 85,000 women to find a pattern that indicates self-esteem decreased during pregnancy, increased after the child’s birth until it was six months old and then gradually decreased over the following years.
Mothers with three-year-olds hit a low point in their self-esteem.
Sound familiar? It’s fair to hazard a guess that it does. Certainly, it’s a topic that’s been discussed at length amongst the circle of women I know.
But why at such a ‘magic’ time in life, does your self-esteem take such a hit?
As beautiful as parenthood is, it’s fair to say it comes with more than a little emotional, lifestyle, and relationship upheaval.
Between hormones, sleepless nights and endless groundhog days of feeding, naps, bathing and outings that require military style planning and supplies, it can get a little fatiguing.
Then there’s the clothes that don’t fit you, and the new dynamics of a relationship with your partner as you work out your collective parenting style.
Of course, far outweighing all that is this beautiful little person in your life, whose every need to you hope to fulfil.
But the trouble is there is no performance review for parenting. Unlike your previous career where you sat down each year to evaluate your job success, parenting comes with very little professional development and feedback.
Instead, you find yourself assessing your worth against idyllic Johnson&Johnson baby commercials, social media posts of parenting perfection, and that woman in your mother’s group whose child crawls early, speaks early and only eats organic food.
It’s an absolute confidence killer.
Primed with self-doubt and laden with lifestyle upheaval, it’s no wonder many women start second guessing their abilities when it comes time to return to the workforce.
The anxiety is also further accentuated by the industry changes you fear you have missed during time out from your career.
So how can you address it?
If you’re looking to regain some of that former confidence, it’s important to remember you are not alone and it’s natural to feel rusty, or a little apprehensive.
However, confidence is an attribute improved by practice and these are just some of the strategies that can assist:
· Revisit your previous successes – FastCompany suggests defining times in your professional life when you achieved success. Write them down as these help define your strengths
· Start taking risks – Risks help boost confidence, so step outside your comfort zone and tackle something you normally wouldn’t.
· Discuss your doubts – Talk to a trusted friend about your doubts, breaking them down into realistic or unwarranted fears. Then start addressing what you consider real barriers through training, upskilling and networking.
How did you find getting back to work after having children?