Two-thirds of working moms believe between four and eight months is the ideal time off for maternity leave, according to new research.
A survey looked at 2,000 employed moms of school-age children returning to the workforce, finding that six in 10 moms went back to work less than four months after their child was born, with 26% reporting they returned to work less than two months.
Results showed that while many moms had an easy time getting back in the hang of things when going back to work (55%), 35% said it was hard for them to regain their footing at work after being away.
Respondents cited barriers related to breastfeeding, including time, privacy to pump and a secure place to store breastmilk, among the top challenges of returning to work after being home.
The survey, which was commissioned by SurePayroll, found that many moms had a hard time not being around their child (55%) or getting used to a schedule again (33%).
Yet most mothers agreed that they feel gratified by the work they’re able to accomplish outside of their household (71%) and that they’re ready to take on the workforce, whether to make enough income for their family (56%) or because they want to further their careers (25%).
Fifty-seven percent of moms said they missed being at their job while on leave. The results showed the top things they missed about their job were their work itself (42%) and sharing time with their colleagues (41%).
Almost two-thirds (64%) said their drive to climb the corporate ladder was already high before their child’s birth, and 54% of working moms are more motivated than ever to continue their career ascension.
But the climb isn’t always easy; 46% believe they’ve already been treated as if they’re not committed to their work because they have children, and 51% think they weren’t considered for a promotion or new opportunity because of being a mom.
Many also recognized that the road toward their goals may still be winding, with 57% admitting they’re concerned that issues with finding child care will harm their career progression.
Respondents report gender-based bias — “archaic thought processes and opinions about women’s roles,” “male-dominated” jobs and “alpha-males who think that a woman’s place is in the home”— finding work-life balance, and “the mental workload of managing both the home and the job” as key barriers to women to climbing the corporate ladder.
One-quarter of respondents said the workforce is different now than it was before their child was born.
Half of the moms surveyed have switched jobs since their child was born, and most of these respondents said the search for a new job was more challenging than for their previous job (64%). Similarly, 63% said they find the interview process for a new job to be more challenging than they originally remembered.
“Attracting and retaining moms in today’s competitive job market requires a creative, flexible and personalized approach, starting with the interview process,” said Linda Alperin, head of sales at SurePayroll. “Hiring your team’s next star contributor could very well come down to how a mom returning to the workforce views their interview experience.”
Two-thirds of respondents shared that before their child’s birth, they felt the need to “have it all” by being a good mom, having a successful career and balancing other aspects of their life; currently, 70% of these respondents still feel this pressure.
However, nearly half of respondents said being back at work makes them feel like a better mom (48%).
And some are ready to be their own boss, with 59% of moms who aren’t already small business owners expressing interest in opening one.
“Women own about 43% of small businesses in the U.S., generating roughly $1.9 trillion per year. Women want to open small businesses for a variety of reasons, including greater flexibility, more control, and the ability to turn their passion to profit,” said Alperin. “More than ever, women want to have it all, and small business ownership is a path to that goal.”
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