Break free of ‘mum guilt’

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Serena Williams this week admitted to having ‘mum guilt’ after returning to work after the birth of her son. Catherine Scott speak to Donna Davies who has written a book helping returning mums.

Donna Davies spent 15 years in the corporate world – climbing the ladder and achieving success.

Serena Williams has spoken about her mum guilt about returning to work after having her baby (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Serena Williams has spoken about her mum guilt about returning to work after having her baby (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

But, after returning to work at the Leeds-based utitilies firm where she worked in learning development and human resources, she soon realised how difficult it was to strike the family and work-life balance .

Having only six weeks of maternity pay, she went back to work after only 16 weeks, but looking back, it’s clear she had post-natal depression which was not as widely talked about as it is now.

With her second child, Donna knew she wanted to do things differently, but it wasn’t so easy, and she returned to work again feeling broken, having this time suffered prenatal depression.

Working with a male leadership team who didn’t have children didn’t make the situation any more comfortable, as there was no understanding.

support: Donna with partner Richard and sons Connor, eight and Joseph, two.

support: Donna with partner Richard and sons Connor, eight and Joseph, two.

“I had nine months off this time and when I returned to work everything had changed,” recalls Donna. “Not only that but there was just no support or understanding,”

After a while, she realised there was no more she could do in the company, so she decided to leave and start her own business.

“I was lucky in that I was in a position to be able to do that as my partner was happy to support me, but not everyone is in that position.”

She suffered from major confidence issues after quitting her job, but she found support in a women’s online community, Female Success Network.

Driven on by other inspiring female entrepreneurs and receiving coaching and help from leading businesswomen, one of whom was, in fact, a working mum herself, Donna finally found the strength she needed to launch More Than Mum Network, turning her hardships, into a way to help others in the same situations she had been in.

“What I really wanted to do was use my experience both in HR and as a working mum to help other women in my siutation. I could see both sides and realised that if my employer had done a few small things then they would not have lost an experienced member of staff.

“But I was also very keen on the mental health side of things. There is a huge feeling of guilt with working mums who want to be the best mum, best employee and best partner, but we are not superhuman, no one is perfect, but especially in this day and age with social media, we set ourselves impossible goals.”

Now Donna has published a book, which has gone to the top of the bestsellers charts.

Don’t Judge Me draws on Donna’s own experience but also tells the stories of other women in similar situations.

In just four hours after its release Don’t Judge Me captured the hearts of mums globally and is an Amazon number 1 best seller in the “Child Care” genre, which covers a huge variety of books for parenting and families.

“It was a very personal and emotional book to write as I had decided that I wanted to talk about my battle with depresssion, but it wasn’t easy as I hadn’t told very many people about it.”

Written for mums everywhere, 
it’s described as focusing on breaking the cycle of ‘mum guilt’ with the 
aid of humour, honesty and a little wine.

“Imperfect is the new perfect, and we are celebrating it,” says Donna who has been surprised by the reception her first book has received”

“I am just astounded by the response this has had. I think it’s struck a chord because this book is for every mum who has ever felt judged, guilty, doubted herself, felt stressed, irritated, tearful, angry, annoyed; honestly, the list could go on,” says Donna,

“I show you that you are not alone, as we all juggle motherhood, relationships, running a house and working. We are all trying to be the best we can and sometimes failing at it; I mean epically failing. I also want this book to be a reminder to all mums that no matter what you think of yourself, your little people love every fibre of you and worship you.”

Bringing together her experiences of post and prenatal depression, hormonal imbalance and anxiety along with HR struggles when returning to work, alongside stories from other mums from across the country, Don’t Judge Me offers insights from women who have overcome a huge host of challenges, and offers advice, guidance, and strategies to help its readers.

Covering subjects from maternal and mental health, to the importance of self care, nutrition and exercise, to exploring the impact family dynamics can have, to dealing with judgement in the workplace, this book combines real life experiences with practical exercises and a strong focus on mindset to help the reader identify their own feelings and work through them.

Donna is committed to supporting women returning to work after maternity through More Than Mum Network, and she has already helped many mums from across the region, who felt lost due to the lack of support from workplaces Donna transitioning back into a career after maternity leave.

“If this book can help just one women feel better about herself and the job she is doing then it has been worth it,” says Donna.

Donna’s tips for returning to work

Plan in advance. Do not leave everything until the last minute or you risk spoiling the last few weeks of maternity leave stressing about work. So plan in advance what you need to do and get organised.

Don’t be scared to ask for what you want. If you want flexible working, part-time hours or a job-share, ask for it. If the answer if no, as long as you have left enough time, you should be able to negotiate and agree on a solution that suits you and your employer.

Create a home schedule.Meal plans, drop-off and pick-up times and locations, events, work commitments. Plan and prepare on a Sunday so you avoid any last minute panics.

■ Emergency plan. There is nothing worse than a baby becoming ill through the night and you then have the awful task of either phoning in work and begging for time off or having to find childcare. So create a plan for all eventualities.

■ Take some time for you. Perhaps a few hours to get your hair and nails done. Whatever it is, put yourself first before you go full steam ahead at work.

Don’t Judge Me by Donna Davies 
is available from Amazon.