A Mum’s Story: The Benefits of Unpaid Leave

By admin 5 years ago

By Natalie Trist, Chief Credit Officer at Moneybarn.

Full time working mums don’t see their kids enough……fact.

Controversial statement, right?   The only thing I know for sure is “enough” is personal.   And irrespective of the time you spend away from your kids, you feel guilt… the type that’s deep seated.  The “am I going to regret this when I pack them off to University” guilt.

I reconcile myself with this on the basis that I work in a business, in a role, and with people and customers that inspire me.  I am not ashamed to say, I love working.  It teaches me to be the best version of me.   But, the risk of regret is real, and time marches on.

So, this year I decided to take extended, unpaid parental leave across the summer.  Did you realise this was a statutory right?    However good the organisation, this fact is not publicised (check it out https://www.gov.uk/parental-leave/entitlement).

Obviously, my initial motivation was time with the kids (equals lower mummy guilt) and avoiding the juggling of multiple holiday clubs.  However, I have come away with so much more, as have my company and team.  And the resulting benefits, which I share with you below, will extend way beyond the time of my absence.

1. Space encourages perspective 

We are all task-orientated individuals.  We get stuff done.

But putting your nose “too close to the grindstone” risks losing sight of the bigger picture.  Strategic thinking needs space and distance … dealing with the mundane things in life unclutters the mind and provides the headspace to realign yourself with what’s important.

Now I am back, I am re-energised and refocused.  I am back on my A-game.

2. It’s a test of your own leadership capability 

The true test of leadership is what happens when you aren’t there.  If your team needs you to function, something is wrong.

I have an amazing team.  They don’t need me for the day to day, and my time away reinforced that.   Did I check my phone occasionally?   Yes, of course, old habits die hard.  But not because I had to, because I could.

3. It creates opportunities for “stepping up”

When the cats away, the mice will play…. or they will step up.  There is no “kicking the can” on difficult problems.   Your senior management team will need to step up.   They will thrive on the opportunity this gives them, develop as a result, and you will see them blossom. I did.

4. Absence makes the heart grow fonder

We all worry about “out of sight, out of mind”.   Will they realise that they don’t need me?

But there is a reason you are in your job.  It’s your individual contribution, not only in terms of the bottom line, but also what you bring to the team dynamic.  They missed me, I missed them.  The relationships I have with both peers and my team have deepened as a result.  And maybe my boss might now consider me a little bit more invaluable?!

I can’t encourage you enough to take this opportunity while you can.  The benefits are multi-fold to both you and your organisation.  And yes, we are all eating baked beans for month.  And yes, it requires good financial planning, some priority juggling and a great conversation with your own boss.

But we are working mums, we are good at that.


  Women in Data
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One Comment

  • Claire Williams says:

    Can so relate to so much of this and reading whilst on sabbatical myself – not to spend time with my kids (as that’s not the path I’ve chosen), but to spend more time on me! 2 weeks in and I cannot believe the impact that TIME alone has, on every single aspect of my being.
    15 more weeks, and I’m squeezing every minute of value out of it. I’ll post a full “review” towards the end.

    Everyone should take time for them, whether with their kids, or just to spend time finding what else in life other than work are of highest value and sustainable on return too.

    Mine is focussed on getting fit (Mind, Body & Soul), this quote (from Margaret’s Attwood’s, The Testaments) summed me up perfectly, “During my career my body has merely been a vehicle for propelling me from one achievement to the next”