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Published on 15th March 2023

Navigating a new world as a working mum


After 15 months off work, following the loss of my brother, and having my daughter, I have now re-entered the working world, and it feels good. Why? After navigating and surviving grief, losing myself and rebuilding my life, as well as learning how to be a mum… I finally have something that is just for me. I can be myself, do what I enjoy and have conversations that excite me. Miss Rachel and Hey Bear are great, but there’s only so much of that you can take (if you know, you know!).

I am now navigating a new world as a working mum full of energy to succeed in my career, with a baby (oh and planning a wedding)! I wouldn’t say that I find it a ‘juggling act’, or that I am missing out on anything because of all of this (something that I was worried about before having children). Of course, there are things I find hard, things that fall down the pecking order and times where I say no.

I wasn’t expecting to feel as energised coming back to work, so that has been pleasantly surprising. I guess I had never thought of it any differently because of the societal influence and bias I’ve heard throughout my life. I often think returning mums can be perceived as wanting to take it slow, not interested in their career or that children are their only priority. I’ve even had some shocked faces when I’ve said I’m returning to work full time. I’ve been influenced about society’s view of what a working mum is; that we can’t have it all and we have to put ourselves at the bottom of the barrel. However in reality it feels different for me; hybrid working, sharing parental responsibilities with my Fiancé and taking care of myself, all contribute to this.

I find being a working parent (and a parent in general), you can take 10 steps forward and then 20 steps back. There have been tears and days where I have felt broken. I don’t always feel like ‘me’ and I don’t love all of it, which I try to be open about. I do this because I often have found myself comparing to other people’s highlights or people who seem to be able to manage it all perfectly with no bumps in the road. When in fact for a lot of people, this isn’t a reality.
The culture that I work within at Cadent and WUN and knowing that I can be authentic, has meant that I bring my whole self to the work that I do. I don’t hide who I am, I can talk openly, and I don’t need to put on a brave face if I am having a tough time. I’ve also received some sound advice from my ‘mum’ network to help harness my energy and anxieties. It hasn’t just been words, but a feeling that they have given me; to take my time and be kind to myself during the challenges.

My advice to anyone worried about ‘missing out’ on their career if they start a family, or returning after having their child, is to surround yourself with people who validate and support your feelings and help you get to where you want to be. Never be afraid to ask for help; even when swallowing your pride is difficult. You are not alone in your journey and that learning to be a parent and have a thriving career might take some time, but you will get there. You can’t be everything to everyone, but you should be a priority. If you want to hear some more advice from some amazing women, have a read of the advice I was given when I asked for help as I was returning to work.

Link to Sharna’s LinkedIn post referenced above

Sharna Matson Knight, WUN advocate & Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Manager at Cadent