Katarína Vargová was a successful businesswoman running her own small company in the textiles sector in Bratislava, Slovakia, when she interrupted her career to raise her newborn son.
What started as a short break turned into a longer break and, after three years at home, she was ready to get back to work, but like many women who’ve taken time off to raise children, she found it a tough task.
“I had basically lost touch with the outside world,” she says. “I needed to get back into circulation. And I needed a new challenge.” The question was what to do. “I knew that whatever I did, now with a young child to look after, I would be balancing a number of responsibilities.”
Getting back into the swing
A special training course for women returning to the workforce after extended maternity leave, co-funded by the European Union through the European Social Fund, helped Katarína sharpen her skills and find new ways to express her talents and ambition.
One of the biggest obstacles after being away from work for a long period is regaining confidence, a challenge faced by many women after maternity leave. The training course therefore included modules specifically aimed at building self-confidence and assertiveness.
The course also put her in touch with people in the business community. “I knew I wanted to do something related to the arts,” she says. “The training programme helped me find people with similar interests.”
Looking back, moving forward
Through the training programme, Katarína met the owner of ‘Ateliér Keramiky Rena’, a small workshop that offers ceramics lessons in the suburbs of Bratislava. Katarína has now taken over the running of the workshop while the owner spends time abroad. Katarina teaches students the art of clay modelling and she creates her own sculptures, which she sells in a local gallery.
Her current activities, she says, take her back to where she wanted to be in the first place. “I studied at a school of fine arts,” says Katarína, “and I really wanted to return to that. I knew that my future work would have to include a strong artistic element. And that’s why I’m so happy I found out about the ceramics workshop.
“Here at the atelier, we give people a chance to express themselves,” she says, “to get their hands dirty, to unwind and feel free. Working with clay can be a very profound and therapeutic experience for some people, and the truth is I get lots of energy myself from my students.”
Katarína says she’s found the right balance in her life. She starts early, gets her son off to kindergarten, and then begins her day at the workshop. “Some days I give lessons, but other days I just work on my own stuff. Then I’m back to pick up my son in the afternoon.”
The training course, she says, gave her the confidence she needed to revive her career, and to strike out in a new direction, providing a helping hand that she is very thankful for. “The ESF programme helped me to refresh my skills in management and marketing, and to develop myself as an artist. It was just the kind of boost I needed.”