Returning from maternity for the same job, but is it really still the “same job”?

Fertility stories

Becoming a mother is the most mind-blowingly happy experience, it is truly life changing. There are some tough days, but overall, it’s a blessing that I do not take for granted. Some challenges I anticipated, others I did not. When and how to take maternity leave I remember, became a real worry as the weeks and months passed after the baby arrived. The competing priorities of parenting responsibilities and the pressure to return to work became almost overwhelming. When it comes to maternity leave planning, I realised that there were many factors I hadn’t properly considered.

How long should I take for maternity leave?

I read the company maternity policy and was aware of the legalities surrounding employment law that should be in place to protect me, and my job security. But because of the nature of the job, I had some valid concerns. As someone who works in a client-facing role, this didn’t necessarily mean that the same clients or projects would be available after my maternity leave.

So, for women in client relationship management roles or similar, you may find that once you return to work, you may have a totally different allocation of clients in your portfolio. This may not be a problem if you don’t mind which clients or projects you take on, or if you didn’t have any projects or clients that you’d invested a lot of time and effort in. However, if you really enjoyed working for certain engagements or with certain people, taking maternity leave for longer than 6 months may raise the risk that you will no longer be able to return to the same clients or projects as before.

This can be disappointing, but from a corporate point of view, it’s annoyingly understandable or maybe even inevitable in some circumstances, given that the demands of the clients don’t stop just because you do. They may also be happy, or heaven forbid – prefer- working with the person covering your maternity. Perhaps it may not be cost-effective for the firm or the client to change the main contact again once you return? Every company will be different, but the practicalities back in the office are hard to anticipate before you step away.

Is it realistic to expect things to be the same when I return?

With these concerns in mind, I decided to take a maternity leave shorter than 6 months. Allowing me to keep the same client portfolio upon my return, at least on paper. However, in reality, dynamics had changed. Someone covering my work during the maternity period, stayed on the team after my return.

In practice, this meant that now two people (at the same grade) covered the same work as I used to manage alone, before my mat leave. It created an undercurrent of competitiveness that wasn’t always healthy. I had enough pressure at home now with the new baby, so this change that looked like I was getting extra help, actually created tension at work that hadn’t existed before.

In the end, I left the company for other reasons, however, I can’t deny that the redistribution of workload/team change that occurred when I returned from mat leave certainly made me question whether the firm, team or career path was right for me.

What lessons have I learned?

I have never regretted taking mat leave shorter than the one year I was entitled to. But if I needed to take maternity leave again, I would adjust my expectations in advance. Keeping the same client portfolio is clearly not realistic.  The needs of the client come first, and as you can be away for a relatively longer time, work still needs to be completed to retain the clients long-term. Next time, I would rather plan based on personal needs, such as when the baby will start nursery or when I would feel physically and mentally ready to return to work. It would also be worth thinking about how to make the most of my husband’s shared parental leave etc.

Taking some time off on maternity leave may be a good opportunity for you to pause and assess what matters most.  Is it time for a role or career change? While work is undoubtedly an important part of your life, you have to factor in the indispensable role you now play in the lives of your baby and family. Being a mother has made me more family orientated, as I realised how rewarding it is to raise a child and spend time with them creating a family and a life we all deserve!

Editor’s notes:

Amelia is a full-time working mum in a top financial services firm in London. She returned to work after a very short maternity leave. Her husband took a shared parental leave. When she was planning to start a family, her career was one of the main things considered. But things didn’t go as planned.

We would appreciate a quick survey on the length of maternity leave:

Read this next

360 Me

The First Magazine To Take A Holistic Approach To Reproductive Health, General Health And Wellbeing ​

More For You