High-Flying Females Should Not Feel “Guilt” Returning to Work After Childbirth

Successful women in business should not feel any guilt returning to work after having children.

They will have made the decision to return to work because it is in the best interests of their families and themselves.

Niamh O’Keeffe, MD of First100, a global company which aims to help senior women executives return to their roles after maternity leave, made her comments to coincide with International Women’s Day (Tuesday, March 8th).

Leadership performance acceleration company First100, which has offices in London, New York and Dublin, works with senior executives to put in place plans for their first 100 days in either a new role or the same role after returning from having a child.

First100 has issued a series of tips for maternity returners, including:

  • Let go of the previous role as full-time mother
  • Return to the work environment as a confident woman and leader
  • Find the right balance between the roles of mother and senior business executive.
  • Everything will have changed so prepare well in advance.

Niamh O’Keeffe said:

“Once a woman has made the decision to return to work, they need to let go of their role as full-time mother and carry no guilt. Guilt is something brought on by the individual and no one else.”

“The woman will have made this decision in the best interests of her and her family and they need to be pragmatic in making it work.”

“Living in the moment is critical. When the woman is at home, they need to be fully at home and not juggling their laptop and BlackBerry while making the tea or reading a bedtime story. Equally, when they are at work, it is vital they are not constantly calling home to make sure everything is okay.”

Niamh added that finding the “right balance” was crucial in order to make a true success of combining being a successful woman in business with being a mother.

“The working mum needs to take time out regularly to check they have the balance right. Sometimes one area of your life can get very busy which makes it easy to lose focus in another part of your life. Taking time out to refuel and refocus is very important.”

“It is also critical to set realistic expectations at work and at home as there are only so many hours in the day.”

The majority of First100’s clients are male, but the company is finding an increasing number of senior women executives asking it to help them navigate their vital first 100 days in a role or when returning from maternity leave.

First 100 days plans are becoming increasingly common-place within global organisations such as Vodafone, Accenture, Telefonica 02, BP, BT and Merck.

Niamh said:

“From my own personal experience and the feedback I receive from our consultants working with clients in the UK, Ireland and United States, female business leaders often make far more willing clients.”

“Women are often easier to coach than their male counterparts and more willing to listen and take on board new skills to help them succeed in challenging roles. Sometimes senior male executives are instinctively more defensive and cynical and need a little longer to be persuaded as to the merits of the coaching.”

“Undoubtedly, one of the principal reasons why women are generally quicker to understand the benefits of working with companies such as First100 is that they face the added pressures of competing in a still male-dominated business world, many with the challenge of juggling huge responsibilities both at work and at home.”

“Putting in place a sound strategic plan for your first 100 days whether you are taking on a new role or returning from having a baby can make all the difference between success and failure.”

International Women’s Day is on Tuesday, March 8th 2011.

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