Who am I? Returning to the workforce after kids can be challenging. Harvest Director, Maree Herath shares her experience.

In the blur of child rearing we become so wrapped up in our children that to know ourselves, to truly know ourselves is difficult. Some parents, never lose sight of who they were BK (before kids) as they purposely continue with elements of their life that existed before children came on the scene. This may include hobbies, sporting pursuits and often work, particularly for the main breadwinner who continues in the same role even after kids come on the scene. For many however they press the pause button on these pursuits saying “I’ll pick that up in a few years” – whether it’s diet, exercise, social life, education, or work. Invariably however a few years can turn into a decade in the blink of an eye. Often parents find themselves lost in a haze and then, once all the kids are off to school, they ask “Who am I?”.

Looking back to that time in life, the biggest challenge for me was diet and exercise. I’d make excuses for eating a truck-load of “not-so healthy” food – “I’m breastfeeding”, even though my child had practically weaned.  The other one was, “there’s no time to do formal exercise” and with a babe, a three and a five year-old it was a completely plausible excuse. But, these elements comprising a good diet and frequent exercise, were quintessentially who I was.

I found this had become a continual struggle between the existence I really wanted  (to be fit, healthy and lose the “baby weight”) and my current state.  I didn’t like who I had become and was personally dissatisfied with my situation. Now things could have gone downhill from here. The good news is, I identified who I once was and the importance and significance it was to me. I put a plan in place to make the necessary change. Roll forward to current day and I continue to enjoy regular gym visits and have taken up running. And, while the odd deviation occurs with diet we have, on the whole, a healthy lifestyle.

My situation is not unique.  Think about the primary carer? They often find themselves stepping out of their career for a minimum of 5 years. Sport, exercise, study and other time intensive lifestyle pursuits are put on hold. Chained to the house, the children, the routine for so long makes it challenging for the primary carer to remember; to know their true identity.

And yes, I am a list person. Part of rediscovering my identity was to write it down. What did I used to do? Where did I work?  What did my lifestyle look like? Then, I continue. What did I like? What did I enjoy? Most importantly what made me smile? Both inside and out. This included recreation, physical pursuits, sport, creative outlets and study.

Reflecting on this list allowed me to remember me. To rediscover my true identity. I would encourage any parent in a similar situation to do the same. This will help you return to the workforce after kids.

More recommended reading – Feel the Fear and do it anyway – getting back to work.

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