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Mum returning to work
"I felt like I shouldn't have anything to complain about, yet I felt like something was missing"

CASE STUDY: Emma - Woman wanting to return to work and a new career

Emma* is a 43-year-old stay-at-home mum and she sought coaching to help her find a new career that would fit in around her family and would give her a new-found identity and purpose.


This is her story when we first started working together.


Emma had three children aged 7, 9 and 11. She had chosen to give up her role in the City when her first child was born and had spent the past 11 years supporting her family and husband as the family “CEO”.


Although she enjoyed the freedom of running the household the way she wanted to, and was always “busy”, she felt like something was missing in her life. From the outside, her life looked ideal, however, she felt small and as if she hadn’t really achieved very much, other than helping her children grow into lovely young people.


When she met up with her friends who worked, she felt inadequate, and unable to contribute to the conversation about work and the stories they shared. She knew she had a lot to offer, but she didn’t know what that might be or how to go about finding out.


She was fed up of doing all the constant and mundane domestic tasks that are time-consuming and kept her busy for hours. She felt bored, frustrated and over-whelmed by everything that always seemed to need doing for everyone else. She felt stuck and didn’t know how to get herself out of the situation she found herself in. If she went back to work, who would do all the tasks that got taken for granted? She was already busy enough, without going back to work. Wouldn’t it just add extra stress to the whole family?


She’d love to go back to work but had concerns about how a job would fit in around school hours, the children’s school holidays and the demands and responsibilities she had in caring for the children and running the family home. And she felt like she would go mad if she had to pair up another pair of socks in the laundry.


She found herself yearning for more from life. She wanted to be more than she was. She really wanted to learn and grow and prove to herself that she was competent and capable of having a successful career that she loved. She wanted an identity and purpose that was separate from being a wife and a mum. She wanted to be known for something and become an expert in a field she was passionate about.


Although her husband had a good job, she wanted to earn her own money and contribute financially, and she knew the extra money would be useful in helping to pay off their mortgage and going towards other family expenses.


Even though she had a wide circle of friends, she still felt lonely and isolated at times. She yearned to belong to something, and she missed the office banter from her previous career and being part of a team.


She found herself feeling small at dinner parties when someone she didn’t know asked her what she did, and she felt excluded from certain conversations because she believed she had nothing interesting to contribute.


There were days when she felt completely invisible, unappreciated, and insignificant. She felt as if she had sacrificed her own happiness for the sake of her family.


She wanted to go back to work, but she realised she had lost her corporate confidence and worried that she had no credibility because she was “just a mum”. She was concerned that a potential employer wouldn’t take her seriously.


She found herself constantly feeling tired and lacking in energy. There was a heaviness that weighed her down. She realised she needed some help to figure out a new career that would fit in around her family and would help her to overcome these feelings of malaise and get her “joie de vie” back.


Emma and I worked together for a series of six coaching sessions. This is her story a year later in her own words.


When I met Marie, I was feeling really stuck. I felt like I shouldn’t have anything to complain about, yet I felt like something was missing in my life. There was an empty hole that I couldn’t seem to fill no matter what I did. From the outside looking in, I had a lovely home, three great children and a husband who had a good job, but from the inside I felt a bit empty, trapped and worn out. I knew I wanted to go back to work, but I didn’t want a job just for the sake of it. I wanted to do something that had meaning to me and I wanted to learn and grow and become more than I was. I also wanted to take part of the responsibility and stress of the financial burden away from my husband and share it between us, and this meant I wanted to earn a decent income. Although he earned well, we had a lot of outgoings and his salary only just about covered everything. There was no room for the extras, or for “what if” scenarios.


Marie helped me to understand more about who I am, what I had to offer and what was important to me. She helped me to create a powerful mindset, re-gain confidence in myself, figure out a new career and work out a clear path towards achieving it. The whole process was fascinating and gave me many insights into myself. I learnt so much and was able to overcome all the obstacles that were in the way of me moving forwards – both real and imagined.


I am now in a role I love, working for an organisation that aligns with my values and has a great culture. I have flexibility and autonomy in what I do, and I work with some wonderful people where I enjoy banter and feel I belong. I have my corporate confidence back, and although there are still moments when I don’t feel completely sure of myself, I use them to learn and grow. I feel so proud of what I have achieved over the past year, but even more importantly, my family are really proud of me and I feel like a great role model for my children.


I love earning money and contributing to the breadwinning, and I now no longer feel guilty if I want to spend money on a spa day, or pedicure, or an expensive outfit, because I have earnt it.


My husband has noticed a real difference in me as well. He says I am calmer and more relaxed (and nicer to be around!), and I feel less frustrated because I am stimulated and am learning so much. Now when I do the laundry and am pairing socks, I don’t feel like I want to kill anyone! The domestic chores actually feel like a welcome break from work, and a time to relax and switch off, or even mull things over because I am so stimulated at work.


Since taking on my new role, so many opportunities have come my way. It feels like I have opened a door which has led to endless more doors being open to me. I feel a ‘deep down’ happiness and joy and now feel like I am living life to the full. My new role is rewarding, satisfying and meaningful.


I also have so much more energy than before. Even though I am tired at the end of every day, it is a different kind of tiredness that doesn’t feel heavy and all pervading.


The journey hasn’t always been an easy one and has had a number of ups and downs. There were some big adjustments to make, especially for my husband and children, but knowing how important this was to me, they have been really supportive. They have all had to help more with chores (which is no bad thing), and my husband has even started cooking dinner at the weekends to help share the load. So, there have been some other upsides to going back to work!


I have met so many amazing women since embarking on my quest for personal fulfilment through a new career, and now feel part of several new communities and am surrounded by many inspirational people. I love the sharing of ideas and meaningful conversations that fill my soul with joy. I am a completely different person from a year ago, and I know I still have so much to accomplish. I figure I will be working for at least another 20 – 25 years so I may as well love what I do, because that’s an awful long time if I didn’t.


I now enjoy going to dinner parties and other social events because I can now be part of conversations that I wasn’t previously. Life feels complete, full, rewarding and meaningful. And most importantly, I have found a new identity and purpose that fits with who I am and that feels amazing. I feel I am living my best life. And even though there are still struggles, obstacles and difficulties to face, I now have the right mindset to face them, thanks to my coaching with Marie.

*Name changed to protect identity

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