One and another Maternity Leave nearly always has  huge impact on your career. Whether its the financial challenge or the knock your confidence that comes with spending hours chatting to a mew being that can’t talk back, it’s unlikely you’ll go back in exactly the same place you left. But amongst all this one positive I found was that those months out of the office gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I wanted my career to look like. Or more specifically, the parts I no longer liked about it. Emma Fulton went on a similarly transformative journey and is now a  career coach, is dedicated to helping women reaching the potential:

  • I had no idea what I wanted to ‘be’ when I ‘grew up’.

  • As a teen I spent many hours, cutting class, smoking cigarettes and having angst-ridden chats with my bestie about ‘life’. (Sorry mum).

  • (It took 20 years before I realized that this was actually a massive clue to finding work that feels great.)

  • Pretty much everyone told me that a ‘good job’ was the golden ticket to success.

  • I can’t say I remember anyone ever helping me to understand the rest of the equation and how to create and live a ‘good life’ or what was meant by ‘success’. It was all about the job.

  • So I got good grades. I got into a ‘good university’ and I got a ‘good job’.

  • Fast-forward a couple of decades and I skipped out of the office of my good job on maternity leave, excited and terrified.

  • 12 months later I returned to work a single parent.

  • What followed was not pretty as the job/life equation came unstuck and me with it.

  • I didn’t have a life plan so to speak, more a series of assumptions about how my life would ‘turn out’ (there’s a massive difference). Either way, single motherhood definitely wasn’t part of it.

  • The emotional fallout was (predictably) devastating but it was the practical implications that took me completely by surprise and felt so much bigger than me.

  • The most pressing was that I could no longer do my job.

  • My job meant that long hours and travel was a given. With no family members to leave my baby with overnight (even if I’d wanted to), a nursery that closed at 6.30 and no budget for (even) more childcare, I was stuck.

  • I had no choice but to tell my boss what was going on. It was crushing and humiliating.

  • We came to an arrangement (minimal travel and no overnighters) and I coped for a while juggling nursery pick ups, working after my boy had gone to bed and going out of my way to ensure that my superiors knew that even if I wasn’t sitting at my desk, I was working.  

  • But it was unbearable. I was drowning.

  • And then something unexpected happened. I realised that I didn’t even like my golden ticket of a ‘good job’.

  • I wasn’t playing to my strengths. I had become overlooked. Others were progressing where I felt like I was stagnating, and I really wasn’t fulfilling my potential.

  • Not only that, but the combination of single motherhood and career death had devastated my confidence.

  • “Is this it?” was the thought that I turned over in my head month after month.

  • The good job was not providing me with a good life.

  • Looking back, I’ve no idea why this came as a surprise to me, but it did.  That’s one of the things about adding motherhood to the career mix new pressures and changed priorities will bring pre-existing issues to a head (no matter your circumstances).  

  • Thankfully the worst of times can also offer some life rafts of opportunity to learn and grow and if you can grab hold of one then you will move forward to something new, better and right for the new stage in your life.

  • I found the courage to stage a career revolution and re-trained as a coach. Now I help women that are stuck in their careers to nix their self-doubt, regain confidence, get clear about what they want and find fulfillment from their working lives again. It feels like I’ve found the work I was always meant to do.

  • Here are some of the lessons that I learnt on the way:

  • A loss of confidence is not a loss of ability and it’s not fatal. So many (if not most) of the women I work with struggle with their confidence.  But confidence is about our belief in ourselves and not about our actual abilities.  You’re still capable, brilliant, and talented. It’s only your belief about yourself that has taken a dive.  It sounds obvious but sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves.

  • Run your own race. Not only was I leaving the security of my corporate job to start a business (when I was the sole provider for my son), I was also walking away from a large part of my identity without knowing what the other side looked like. It was daunting as hell and the temptation was to compare myself to colleagues and friends (and find myself wanting). But their lives were not mine. So be bold. Strike out alone. Take the road less travelled.

  • Do what you want, not what you feel you ought to do.  These days when I find myself unsure about what to do in any situation, I ask myself if I want to do it or if I feel like I should. Many of the people I work with have ended up in their career because they felt they ought to do something and it’s taken them down frustrating career paths.

  • Define success for yourself.

  •  Success in life is about so much more than a good job, more money, a bigger house, the must-have this or to-die-for that.  We all know this and yet, so often social comparison drives choices that take us further away from what could really make us happy. Success for me now is about being able to do work that allows me to create, to share ideas, to support others and to have fun. I feel like a new person for it.

  • Follow the breadcrumbs Steve Jobs is famous for saying that when you look backwards the dots join up and that’s definitely the case when I look back to the teenager with short hair and dungarees that cut class to think about ‘life’. But that’s only useful once you’ve found the answer.

  • If you’re not sure what direction to go in, follow the breadcrumbs instead. Explore. Say yes to anything that lights you up and gives you energy whether it’s ideas, activities, or people. If something feels exciting and attracts you, give it a go.

  • Choose your flavour of shit sandwich.  Nothing is a panacea. There will be aspects of a role or career path that suck. There will be good job days and bad days. So work out what you’re willing to put up with in order to find something that otherwise feels great?

  • Take action. Thinking has its place but you can’t think yourself into a great job. You have to do something. Break it down to the smallest thing you can do right now, without procrastinating, and do it and then keep going.

  • Ironically it was single parenthood that was both the catalyst for transforming my career and also what made it much harder.

  • Whether you’re a single parent or not, transforming your career later in life and once you’ve got children can feel really intimidating but it’s 100% achievable.

  • There are so many wonderful female role models out there who have achieved loads only after they’ve had their children.

  • If you’re thinking ‘something’s go to give’ and your gut is telling you it’s time for a change, listen to it and tell the doubting voices to pipe down. You will figure it out.

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Mummy wumpkins February 13, 2019 at 12:09 am

    As a career this is like a pyramid scheme

  • Reply Nicky February 13, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    Thank you Emma and Clemmie for sharing- a really inspiring story. I have to remind myself that nothing is forever when I (often) find myself drowning with my “big” job and 2 small children .

  • Reply Niki May 25, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    This is such an inspiring blog… and one that I need to read on a regular basis … thank you

  • Leave a Reply