Michelle Friedman is founder of Advancing Women's Careers LLC a coaching and consulting firm based outside of New York City. Michelle Friedman is a certified executive coach, organizational consultant, facilitator and speaker with an expertise in women’s career paths. As Special Advisor to iRelaunch, she participates in a range of roles including developing and onboarding our coaching programs, facilitating iRelaunch corporate strategy sessions and reentry consulting engagements with employers, universities and professional associations, and at the iRelaunch Return to Work Conferences.
Uncertainty and fear that comes with change is 100% normal
“What does this mean for me?”
As your first day back at work approaches, you will probably begin to hear family members’ concerns about the impending changes at home. The time you have spent away from work running a household and/or acting as the go-to parent has likely been very helpful and convenient to those around you. While they are excited for you and the increased family income, they are likely wondering what this means for them.
Since the uncertainty and fear that comes with any change is 100% normal, try not to be surprised if resistance arises. Actually, please expect it. That way you will not make it “wrong” or “bad”. Instead I suggest you view it as a gift: resistance clarifies what people are concerned about losing (i.e. what’s important to them) and creates an opening for constructive dialogue. My overarching piece of advice is to approach your return to work together as a team. Get everyone involved in making this transition smooth, fun and exciting!
- Start by discussing your hopes and concerns. Share why returning to work is important to you as well as what worries you. And then ask the same of your family members. Begin with your spouse, but later involve children on a level that is age-appropriate for them. Try using this very simple visioning exercise: “If we could wave a magic wand and 1 year from now my relaunch was going really well, what would that look like for you?” This acknowledges the changes others will experience and your desire to find solutions that work for everyone as much as possible.
- Get into preparation mode – together. The
visioning exercise should have helped clarify priorities. As a next
step, you can agree together what will change and what will stay the
same. For this, I like the “Start-Stop-Continue” exercise. For instance,
your list might start with:
- START meal planning on Sundays and helping kids be more independent with certain tasks. This bucket also captures the introduction of new family traditions such as a Saturday morning date with a different child each week.
- STOP doing low-value tasks that can be delegated to others in the household or outsourced entirely. I’m picturing things like cleaning and errands, as well as certain volunteer work you chose to let go of.
- CONTINUE reading at night with the kids and exercising a few times a week. This category highlights what will not change, since consistency during transition is reassuring and grounding.
If some of the things you STOP doing are items that family members will START doing, make sure to offer lots of praise as they take on new responsibilities. While others might prefer for you keep doing everything, this is a chance for them to build confidence and self-efficacy.
- Remember to have frequent check ins. How are we doing compared to that magic wand vision? What tweaks do we need to make? What have been the pleasant surprises we didn’t anticipate? Nothing needs to be set in stone, as this will be a work-in-progress for all.
And on your family’s journey to the “new normal”, make sure to celebrate the little accomplishments along the way. Now’s a great time to let go of perfectionism and be patient with yourself and others. Before you know it, together you will have mastered this transition, just like other things you have accomplished before.