Women ‘lose confidence’ after 11 months on maternity leave

Women on maternity leave begin to lose confidence in their ability to return to the working world just 11 months after giving birth, according to new research.

Experts found millions of new mums cope well with the dramatic change in focus that comes with caring for a new arrival, but around the 11-month mark they are struck by a confidence crisis sparked by the feeling they are no longer capable of cutting it in the professional world.

The study found around eight out of 10 new mums feel unchallenged, lacking in confidence and socially isolated. The results also showed two thirds admit being drained of self-belief when it comes to the idea of returning to work after time away starting a family.

The study by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) also found fears over not being accepted or taken seriously in their former industry were prominent, while many simply felt they would no longer be able to cope with high-powered demands or pressure.

Jane Scott Paul, Chief Executive of AAT, said: “It’s only natural that as our families grow our daily routines and priorities change, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that one’s career should be negatively affected or sacrificed.

“Employers are missing out on the skills, expertise and knowledge that these women can bring to businesses across the economy.

“With Nick Clegg announcing the need for shared parenting responsibilities, it’s evident that most women take sole responsibility for raising their families, ultimately giving up work. While some mums may make this choice, we need to ensure those who want to return to the workforce can do so with confidence.”

Nearly half of the mums who were currently working felt their new job was a little beneath them and failing to develop them at all professionally.

Additionally, one quarter were envious of friends and former colleagues they’ve seen climb the career ladder while they have been unable to progress professionally.

However, 57 per cent say they no longer have the confidence or feel capable enough to re-join the industry and take up the same level of responsibility as before they had children.

Lack of flexibility was cited as a big block to getting back on the ladder, while forty per cent felt they were nowhere near as sharp as they used to be.

And four in 10 felt they were losing confidence both socially and professionally by having to stick to a routine that often isolates them.

The study also revealed one in four mums rely on social networking sites for company, interspersed by the odd coffee morning or visit from a friend or relative.

In fact, 45 per cent sometimes go whole weekdays without ever talking to another adult.

Researchers found many mums carried out the same chores in the same order every weekday, often without even speaking to anyone else in person.

Forty per cent describe their social life as bordering on non-existent and a quarter rely heavily on social media for contact.

Jane Scott Paul added: “Many employers invest time and resources into training women, only to lose their expertise when they choose, for one reason or another, not to return to the workforce.

“It’s high time that women not only feel confident when returning to work, but appreciated and highly valued.

“By offering attractive and flexible work packages, these women can be encouraged back into work bringing their skills, knowledge and experience with them.”

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