13 years ago I found out I was pregnant, whilst this was not planned we were nevertheless delighted with the news.
At the same time (well actually 1 month earlier) Alpha-male had accepted a job relocation from Amsterdam to London and I had quit my job to follow him. Whilst I had no intentions of being a “trailing spouse” being pregnant did not really leave me much choice - let’s face not many companies are willing to hire a pregnant woman.
After our son was born I had planned to take 9 months maternity leave and then start looking for a job, but for many reasons (mostly because I enjoyed it and we could afford it) the nine months became 3 years.
After the three years, we moved to Belgium, which meant comming back to European mainland and more importantly I would start working again! By the time we had set up home and it was time for me to find a job I had been away from the job marked for more than 4 years and I was scared.
I was scared that I had “dimmed down” in the last 4 years – that I would not remember how to work, that I would not understand anything – but most of all I was scared that I would be stuck in a job with no possibility of advancement.
Of course I realized that I would have to step down the ladder compared to when I left, I would have to work hard and prove not only to my employer but also to myself that I still had what it takes (and to be frank I think I was the hardest judge). So I got a job (as a cover for a girl on maternity leave) and to my surprise I still knew how to work and I loved it (I still do). I worked hard and I proved my worth in the company. Now I am responsible for a customer care organization of 70 people covering 13 countries in 10 different languages.
But in the process I had to reinvent myself somewhat.
Looks: I was a home-mum long before the term “yummy mummy” were coined, although I liked to look good and dress well, more money was spend on son who grew out of everything and Alpha-male who needed to dress well for work. So when I started to work again I needed a new wardrobe – initially I got some wrong, but now my work-wardrobe gives me comfort and the style I like and want to portrait, but most important it is very easy for me to get dressed in the morning, because everything matches and are thought through.
Office life: One thing I really had to work on was the big picture, I used to think that if I did a good job – showed what I am capable off and that I have ambition to move up would be enough. But this time around I tried to understand the workings of a big corporation, in the beginning I forced myself to read all announcements from everywhere in the business – now it is such an integral part of my work life, because without understanding the big picture I would never be able to create a vision for my team. Of course I have had the great pleasure of working with people who readily shared their knowledge and taught me new things – things that helped me on the way.
So for every woman who are scared of leaving work to be with their child on the grounds that it might ruin their long term career I will always say that you can for sure do it, but I also believe the timing is vital: I was in my late twenties early thirties when I was out – I am not sure it would be a good idea now when I have hit forty. But on the other hand when I am hiring and see a CV with a “gap” from somebody who has been a home mum or dad I am not holding it against them (something I might have done if I had not done it myself). But whether the reason for re-inventing yourself is because you are reentering the job marked or you just think you need an “over haul” invest the energy, time and maybe a small amount of money. You will be a much happier person!