Women make awesome Outdoor Instructors. Fact
When motherhood collides with career goals, there can be a tricky transition period which takes a bit of honing to get the logistics right. Returning to work outdoors is no exception.
Returning to work after motherhood is totally do-able
Here are a few things to think about when returning to (or launching) a career in the Outdoor Industry after having kids.
1. A reliable support network is key when returning to work
The demands of working outdoors can be quite different from an office job. Often you’re responsible for leading a group on an activity for half a day or a full day. It’s often tricky to leave part-way through a kayaking or climbing session when your child’s nursery rings up with the dreaded call and tells you they’re sick.
It’s a good practice to physically draw out a diagram of your own personal childcare network. Who can you call on? Partner / Grandparents / Family members / Friends / Neighbours / Babysitters – list everyone you could confidently call upon to step in at a moment’s notice. Talk to the individuals on your network plan and ask if they’d be willing to be part of your ‘emergency crew’.
2. Manage your employer’s expectations about returning to work
‘Women can have it all’ they say. Of course we can, but it’s flipping exhausting! Sometimes I feel like I’ve done a day’s work before I’ve even started the commute to work and that’s just after doing the nursery and school run.
Trying to be an outdoor instructor hero 5-days a week is not achievable for every mother returning to work. An employer would much rather they got the very best of you for 3 days a week, compared to a shadow of a human dragging themselves from activity session to activity session Monday to Friday.
Be open about what’s achievable at this current standpoint in time and ask your employer how you can be most useful to the business with the skillset you have.
Returning to work after having kids is complicated in any job role and the Outdoor Industry is no exception. A good employer will appreciate you taking the time to present a number of do-able working patterns. It shows you’re willing to be flexible, whilst protecting yourself from overload.
At Land & Wave, we have lots of mothers working in a variety of roles; some 4-days, some 2 days and some on an annualised-hours style contract, where they receive a set monthly salary and work more hours in the summer than the winter.
You can’t expect your employer to be flexible if you’re not open to a variety of options too.
3. Mum Guilt vs Work Guilt – the motherhood puzzle
I returned to work when my firstborn was 9 months old. I found a great nursery and was blessed with grandparents who were willing to help out with nursery pick-ups. I returned to work Wednesday – Thursday 09.00 – 14.30. I thought I’d nailed the perfect work-life balance – I was wrong…
Guilt took over. I felt guilty for not working enough and guilty for not parenting enough either. I felt frantic dashing between nursery and work, barely feeling like I’d have enough time to get into work or offer a meaningful amount of time to my daughter by the time I’d picked her up from my parents at 3pm.
Strangely, it wasn’t until I increased my working week to 4-days, that I felt like I was achieving a good balance.
I now have every Friday off to be a full-focused mum, and work hard Monday- Thursday to achieve what I need to in my career.
I found that choosing a nursery that I had full confidence in, helped alleviate some of the ‘motherload’ guilt. Nursery provides an unbelievably nurturing environment for my child to play, bake, get messy, make play dough, go on trips, dance and enjoy forest school every week. Yes, we pay a shitload of money for it, but it gives my child a great place to play and make friends. It also gives me the space to work and find mental stimulation that motherhood doesn’t provide me. (Yes I did say that out loud and I only feel a smidge guilty about it).
4. Look for skills pathways that suit family life
Like it or not, life changes when you have kids. I was always one of these people who said ‘my babies will just fit into my life’ and then along comes this little pink blob and shit gets real. After the lovely portable newborn stage comes toddlers – demanding, narcissistic toddlers who need your time and energy.
For me, gone are the days of the impromptu after-work beers or the post-work gym-sessions. Those have been replaced with a mad-dash to the nursery doors before I get fined for a late pick-up.
Becoming a parent and working in the outdoors is largely helped by being able to control your day and the timings of your day. The ‘seasonal style’ of working as an outdoor instructor is not always best suited to being a parent. There’s often evening activities or weekend work, some of which can be shoved in your rota relatively last minute.
Looking for ways to control your work diary is key to getting shit done and also getting out of work in time for nursery pick up.
At Land & Wave, we have some instructors who have chosen a skills pathway of being able to deliver Outdoor First Aid courses and Lifesaving courses. This work gives those instructors the stability of 09.00 – 17.00 work, which you know won’t run over. Look at your company’s diary – pinpoint which specific work could give you the most control over your own diary and ask about a skills training pathway that makes you a useful person in that field. It’s all about making yourself indispensable in qualifications, that give you the most control over your diary.
5. Motherhood Skills – 3 Ways Having Kids Gives Your CV a Boost before you return to work
Becoming a mum can actually bolster your skillset for work – don’t forget to update your CV, with these essential skills.
The skills motherhood equips you with should not be overlooked. I thought I was a decent multitasker, but motherhood takes your multitasking abilities to legendary status after having kids. Appreciate this and enjoy how it can improve you as an outdoor instructor.
There’s no denying having kids makes you even more compassionate and gives you a bigger understanding when working with kids and adults. Use your nurturing instinct to bring the best out of the groups you’re working with.
There’s no bigger boost to your productivity than having kids. Knowing you’re working to a daily deadline to get your work done before dashing off for the nursery run is a great motivator.
For more on this topic have a look at https://www.workingmums.co.uk/jobseekers/returning-to-work/
If your children are due to fly the nest soon and you’re looking to start or restart a career in the Outdoor Industry, check out our 15-week Outdoor Instructor Training programme to build your qualifications and confidence in the Outdoor Industry https://landandwave.co.uk/outdoorinstructortraining/ It could be the kickstart you need to return to work in a really positive way.