Why line manager support matters for working mums

Fatima Manaa from UBS talks about the importance of line manager support when she returned from maternity leave.

Maternity Notice letter

Close-up Of A Woman's Hand Filling Maternity Leave Form Holding Pen Over Desk

Fatima Manaa is a business manager at internationa banking firm UBS, which won the workingmums.co.uk’s Top Employer Award for Line Manager Support earlier this year. She spoke to workingmums.co.uk about how support from her line manager has helped her return from maternity leave during Covid.

I recently became a new mother, after a difficult pregnancy and an interesting birth experience wearing a mask. It was a life-altering experience. Nevertheless, I am very happy. My child is the joy of my life and I couldn’t ask for a better experience of maternity leave. I spent my generous six months of fully paid maternity leave learning how to be a mother and bonding with my child. Yet I was slowly longing to return to work.

Before I knew it, it was time to go back. Filled with mixed emotions, I plunged myself back into my old world. I work from home full time due to the pandemic and I take my baby to nursery every day. I’m lucky as it’s only a five-minute walk away. Yes, I was excited and yes, I missed work, but I quickly realised that the return to work was a lot more challenging than I had imagined.

However, as the days and weeks passed by, I found myself questioning things and wondering about whether anyone on my team noticed when I was away from my desk at midday to nurse my baby or when I didn’t turn on my video camera because I was wearing home clothes with visible mummy stains. Also, sometimes I was waking up shortly before having to start work after rough nights with a teething baby who didn’t understand night is for sleep. Did my colleagues notice? These nights happen more often than I expected.

All these questions sometimes made me feel very insecure. I realised my work life is different now. I never had to deal with such things before. It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I realised that yes, they did notice, but they simply don’t mind. I realised how lucky I am to be working in an environment where my co-workers understand how challenging it is for mothers. Not only do they understand, but UBS’ management actively supports and encourages flexible working. I do genuinely feel that I am not ashamed to say I’m a working mother. I don’t feel bad rescheduling meetings when they interfere with my duties as a mother and I find support whenever I need it.

I am also very fortunate to have something that I believe makes the most difference for a working mum’s career: representation in senior management. My senior manager,  Chief Risk Officer Nasreen Kasenally, is a working mum and a very successful professional. Her presence not only inspires me to reach high, but also makes me feel that I am relatable. I can’t describe how excited I was when we heard her child’s voice in the background while she was speaking on a call with us. It reminded me, it reminded all of us, that before being employees, we are all human and being a mother is as human as you can get.

*Interviews and case studies of all the winners of the Top Employer Awards will be published in a Best Practice Report in early May. Watch this space for more information on how to get a copy.

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