From bump to baby to back to work

Workforce Adviser Zoe talks candidly about her emotional journey to motherhood and the nervous transition back to the world of work

For the last twenty years I have worked hard to build my career, and the last thing I wanted by going on maternity leave was for my career to come to a shuddering halt.

I made a conscious decision to be open with my Manager from an early stage in my pregnancy. Due to previous medical reasons I was required to attend extra appointments, some of which were near Cardiff, and at no point throughout the process was I made to feel like this was an issue. My Manager’s support made me feel at ease and relieved many of the worries I had about working during my unpredictable maternity journey.

The physical changes that happen during pregnancy can have a huge impact on a woman’s day-to-day working life. Towards the end of my pregnancy I struggled to fit behind a standard desk and started to worry about how I would effectively carry out my duties. A quick discussion with my Manager and all my worries were once again dissipated: I was allocated a ‘riser desk’ which meant that I could adjust the height to fit comfortably whilst sitting, or my preferred option, carry out my work whilst standing. This also helped alleviate some of my joint pain and discomfort. I was also encouraged to take extra breaks when required and offered flexible working, which due to the nature of my role included the option of working from home. I can quite honestly say that without these supportive adjustments I would not have been able to work up until the end of my pregnancy which I so desperately wanted to do.

I always knew that I wanted to take 12 months off work once my baby arrived and I wanted to put a career development plan in place ready for my return, which included dropping to 4 working days a week. Taking 12 months off would also have major financial implications and I wanted to make sure I was fully prepared, particularly for the final months where I would have limited to no income stream at all. My HR and payroll department kindly calculated and broke down what my pay would be over the 12 month period, which enabled me to put suitable plans in place. Having this honest and open relationship with teams across the wider College meant that I was not stressed or concerned about going on maternity leave and I was able to prepare as far as possible for all eventualities. I went on maternity leave happy and secure in the knowledge I would be returning to my position in 12 months’ time and everything was as organised as possible.

Then my whole world changed. My beautiful daughter, Seren, was born and she became the centre of my universe. I thoroughly enjoyed my maternity leave and the 12 months flew by. At no point did I feel like I was ‘out of the loop’ at work; I was always made aware of managerial changes, new members of our growing team as well as opportunities that may be of interest to me. I felt a lot calmer knowing about these changes and what to expect on my return.

The Gower College Swansea maternity leave policy supports individuals to take up to 10 statutory paid ‘keep in touch’ days to help re-integrate back into the working environment. I was really keen to take advantage of these opportunities, and although I didn’t use the full 10, I found these really helped make my transition back to the office as smooth as possible.

Towards the end of my maternity leave I put in a request for flexible working so I could get all of my childcare arrangements in place. I requested to reduce my hours to work over 4 days which was fully supported by the Management team, and a contract amendment was sent out to confirm the request. I was really keen to work as much as my new home life would allow; for me personally I enjoy work and the social interaction with my colleagues and the employers I work with. I wanted to keep my career on track whilst adjusting to my new family commitments and the flexibility offered by the College allowed me to easily achieve this.

Before I knew it my first day back in work was upon me; I felt incredibly nervous like it was my first day all over again. As soon as I walked through the doors, all of my worries disappeared and it was like I had never left – except for a considerable amount of new faces and the brand new office space which had at least doubled in size!

I am now a few months in and I am loving being back in work. Seren loves her days at home with her dad and grandparents and has also taken to nursery better than I could have ever expected.

I feel incredibly fortunate for the positive experience I have had. I am under no illusion that many others do not have such understanding and accommodating employers and subsequently their pregnancy and maternity journey can be a lot more challenging for many different reasons. I have a brilliant work/life balance and I feel that with the comprehensive support from the Better Jobs, Better Futures team and Gower College Swansea as a whole, I have successfully made the transition to motherhood whilst keeping my independence and professional identity.

I am passionate about using my experience to support other individuals and businesses with their attitude, understanding and practices towards pregnancy, maternity and the transition back to work. If you would like further information about the support our expert Workforce Adviser team can offer your business, please contact the team today.