Mat leave - anyone else feel like they're being put out to pasture early?

(9 Posts)
YoniMitchell Thu 12-Sep-13 16:57:07

I’m due to go on mat leave in January 2014 and plan to return to work after 7 months. I work for a reasonably large company in London, which is very female heavy, btw (if this is relevant) and have worked my arse off for years to develop a good career and now have quite a good, fairly senior role. However I now feel as though my work opportunities are being limited, but all in an un-obvious way, if that makes sense?

A few times over the last couple of weeks, as we’ve been working on some big pitches or programmes, people in the office have nodded to my bump and said things like ‘but what about you and the bump?’ and pretty-much suggesting I shouldn’t be in key meetings or leading pieces of work.

While I appreciate that as a potential new client you’d want reassurance that your team will be dedicated and give your business their all, I’m really starting to feel side-lined and I still have months to go! There's also the added complication (from a business point of view) that I lead a whole department and am the only one here with the specific experience and knowledge of a key sector, so it's not as though I'm just being precious, in many cases I'm actually the main person who needs to be involved.

My career is incredibly important to me – not to say my baby isn’t, I must stress! I have given this place my heart and soul and love my job, so I can’t help but worry about my position when I come back next summer. This is one of those industries where you’re only as good as your last project/pitch and my efforts and exposure to the big bosses so far have paid off and I was on a pathway to a more senior level and a seat the board – I think this is now likely to stall as I take some time out as I feel I’ll be starting from scratch.

Any advice on how to handle the next few months? Do I raise my concerns with my boss (female, career-driven, has children herself so will hopefully understand)? With HR? To be honest I don’t even know how I would without sounding pathetic or needy!

Sorry for the length of this wallow in self pity! Any advice appreciated.

LifeofPo Thu 12-Sep-13 17:03:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

YoniMitchell Thu 12-Sep-13 17:08:03

Thanks LifeofPo, how long have you been back? I've also been asked to feed-in to the recruitment spec for my mat cover so hoping I can raise this with HR in that capacity. I really do feel pretty shitty about this but need to work out if I'm being silly. I've always found it hard to let go of clients when I stop working on their business!

We're a consultancy, so everything we do is client-focused so it's just so tiring having to fight to stay involved.

LifeofPo Thu 12-Sep-13 18:39:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Blankiefan Thu 12-Sep-13 19:18:25

I've been resisting this type of behaviour. Towards the middle of my second trimester, I was sidelined from a project team that all of my peers had been appointed to. I challenged it and was told that my boss didn't want to our too much pressure on me due to my "personal circumstances".

As unconfrontationally as possible, I pointed out that my pregnancy shouldn't be considered when managing my involvement in strategic projects as this could be construed as direct discrimination. I was put on the team reasonably promptly thereafter!

I'm 33 weeks now and am trying to be responsible about handing over / getting things ready for someone else to pick up. Hopefully I'll be in for another good six weeks or so but I understand the need for business continuity. I guess it's a balance - be realistic about what will need to be given up but don't allow them to walk over you or your rights....

Good luck.

YoniMitchell Thu 12-Sep-13 20:41:49

Thanks Blankiefan, I will keep pushing to be involved where I feel I can add value. I have thought of the discrimination angle and will have a gentle word with my boss about it if it comes up again. Boss is often out of the office though so she's most likely unaware of this!

LifeofPo I might choose to selectively read your posts if they don't cheer me up wink grin

I honestly wonder if I'm just over thinking this, being too sensitive and worrying needlessly. I'm actually really going to miss work while I'm off!

babsie007 Tue 17-Sep-13 16:32:03

Not meaning to hijack your post, but I am going through something similar myself so understand what you are going through. It's so frustrating!!

Keen to hear the advise that others have to offer as its a tricky situation.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 17-Sep-13 22:25:37

OP, sorry you are feeling sidelined...

Going on mat leave is such a strange thing. You are still employed and engaged yet you need to plan for an 'enforced' absence. Not sure if anyone other than other women who have done it can really understand.

I felt similar in a senior job.

I felt better once I accepted I was going to leave (to have the baby) and there was nothing I could do about it. However it took a while to reach that mindset!

I would suggest three approaches:

1) 'Externally' in front of clients and your staff be really positive about your current projects and anything that falls once you are on mat leave - eg it will be fine etc. Your staff and/or clients might be just as anxious as you about you going. Try to be matter-of-fact about it and mention "When I come back xx we can do yy".

2) Talk to your boss, positioning it as 'I want to reassure you of my commitment to the role/company. I want to do a good handover and I am prepared for my return. Can we talk about how to do this?' etc. Just don't sign up for loads of contact during your 7 months off!

You can of course talk frankly to her, it depends on how you get on with her. If you feel it is mainly the emotions/hormones talking I'd be inclined to focus on managing you going, covering your role and your return etc.

3) Find a way to let out all the emotional feelings about it. So here, other working mums, DP, friends in RL...I spent a weekend crying about going/being hassled by my team (who were anxious about me going) and after that I was more able to let go as I was concerned about being so stressed...

It all worked out fine. They really wanted me back, agreed to pt and I was given a pay rise too!

Hope you feel better about it soon.

HTH.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 18-Sep-13 08:01:27

Ooh the bit at the bottom sounded a bit smug. What I meant was that despite my stress and concern it all worked out fine in the end. Hopefully it will for you too.

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