A mum of two from Huddersfield has embarked on a new business venture this week, driven by her own experiences, but also fuelled by conversations she had around mental health awareness week and the shocking statistics she uncovered in her research.
Donna Davies, an HR expert and ex ‘People Experience’ strategist, founded More Than Mum Network when she quit the 9-5 in 2017 and has since been developing her own business, offering support for mums returning to work after maternity.
Having established a Facebook support group and a service providing 121 coaching for women returning to work, Donna has already helped many mums from across the region, who otherwise felt lost due to the lack of support from workplaces when it comes to transitioning back into a career after maternity leave. This week she expands her services to enable her to reach even more women, with a range of support packages, now accessible online.
On the back of research showing that 39 per cent of women rated their return to work as “difficult” or “very difficult” , Donna supported mental health awareness week with the development of this new arm of her business, discussing with her network what information they really wanted, but felt was not readily available via their employers.
The majority of Donna’s network reported feeling anxious about returning to work (89 per cent) and so Donna’s mission with More Than Mum Network is to provide information and support to help alleviate the stress and anxiety currently experienced.
Having battled through post and pre-natal depression, anxiety and HR difficulties herself, Donna knows what it’s like to be in the shoes of her clients and her mission stems from her personal experiences. She is now offering a range of services from online intensive courses with face to face interaction, to printable workbooks, in a bid to provide a service accessible to every Mum.
Her support is two-fold, working directly with mums to support them through the transition and bridge the gap with HR, but also working with and championing employers to help them provide better returner programmes for women. Her further research showed that 31 per cent of women felt their relationship with their boss deteriorated after returning to work, and a 3rd claim they didn’t feel comfortable around their boss and employees, which is something Donna wants to tackle.
Donna is passionate about championing organisational change and wants to see the development of Mum’s networks within corporate organisations become more widespread. She is campaigning for this movement, alongside that of a trade union for Mums, which she is determined to facilitate working with key partners.
She said: “My experiences of returning to work were very stressful, and I also saw evidence of this with other new mums within the organisation where I worked. It isn’t standard practice to reach out to new mums, to offer support and guidance, or to address flexible working options – but why not?
“These women have been through a lot in the months/years they have been out of the workplace, yet they are committed to their careers. Why is there so little in place to support them? Often there is no minimal effort made to re-integrate them back into the team, to bring them up to speed and update them on company changes – they are just expected to dive in feet first and get on with it- I know this was certainly my experience and the experience of many of my clients.”
“If we think about how ‘out of it’ we feel after returning to work after a two week holiday, imagine how we feel after returning to work after a 12 month period where our lives have been turned upside down. It’s crazy.
“I’m here to support mums, both before, during and after maternity, to ensure they are clued up on what their rights are, that they feel comfortable with what to ask of their employer, and to bridge the often awkward gap between HR and the women returning to work. I’m also here to empower employers to be more ‘mum friendly’, to help them put better practices in place and to improve the landscape for women returners, as a whole.”
More Than Mum Network has a range of services with the most intense being the ‘No Guilt Allowed Returners Programme’ which includes weekly interactive sessions, VIP access to online support in a group chat with other members, check-in messages, masterclasses, printable workbooks. A personalised return to work plan and ongoing follow up sessions for 3 months are also included to ensure mums feel fully supported throughout the transition. On the other end of the scale, mums can access a ‘Complete Return to Work Plan’ which offers 20 pages of templates, guidance and tools at just £8.95.
All the services cover topics such as financial planning, childcare, managing expectations, emotional mindset as well as all the practical work elements such as communication with your employer.
Donna spent 15 years in the corporate world -climbing the ladder and achieving success, yet she didn’t feel fulfilled, even when working at board level, influencing the direction of the business, and managing the impact on colleagues.
Donna soon realised how difficult it was to strike the family and work-life balance and to be a single working Mum after her first child proved more difficult than she could have imagined. Having only six weeks of maternity pay, she went back to work after only 16 weeks. When looking back, it’s clear she had post-natal depression which was unrecognised at the time.
Left sleep deprived, stressed and anxious about her return to work she soon realised it’s not easy to be black and white and leave your personal life at home.
“Being off work for 9-12 months and having experienced the biggest mind-blowing life event that leaves you feeling like a different person can leave you in a dark place when you have little or no support. With stats showing that 63 per cent of women don’t feel that UK companies are family friendly, and only 1% of respondents having had the support of a coach or counsellor, More than Mum Network is here to change this.”
With her second child, Donna knew she wanted to do things differently, but it wasn’t so easy, and she returned to work again feeling broken. Working with a male leadership team who didn’t have children didn’t make the situation any more comfortable as there was no understanding. After a while, she realised there was no more she could do in the company, so she decided to leave and start her own business.
She suffered from major confidence issues after quitting her job, but she found support, more than ever before in a women’s online community, Female Success Network. Driven on by other inspiring female entrepreneurs and receiving coaching and help from leading businesswomen, one of whom was, in fact, a working Mum herself, Donna finally had the support she needed. She found the strength she needed to launch More Than Mum Network, turning her hardships, into a way to help others in the same situations she had been in.