One of the biggest challenges women face after having children is making the positive decision to go back to work. Even if they need to go back to work for financial reasons, the cost of childcare in the UK can make the decision a difficult one. There are so many things to consider, the whole process can become totally overwhelming, and many give up because they just can’t reconcile anything and wonder that if it’s this much effort making the decision, what on earth will it be like to actually physically go back to work!
Let’s face it though, unless you are super clear on your career goals and have a concrete return to work plan post-maternity leave nailed down, its unlikely to be a decision that you are going to make overnight. Full disclosure - I am terrible at committing to a decision and it took me well over a year to get my act together, and although he’d never admit it, I’m sure my indecision drove my husband mad. And even if, like me, you had a return-to-work plan agreed before going on maternity leave, you may now feel that what’s important to you has changed.
Some of the work I do with clients helps guide them through this choice-making process, helping them to “see the wood from the trees” by breaking the decision down. By doing this, we start to pin-point areas that might be blocking the decision from being made freely. For some it could be the thought of leaving their children with a carer, for others they feel they need to re-negotiate their working pattern but don’t know how to make that happen, for others they feel that they really don’t want to go back to work but can’t quite say it out loud.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, but one thing is for sure, only you can make the decision, obviously with your partner’s input, and until you have made it (and potentially worked through what is stopping you from making it), you will be stuck in limbo. But, once you have made a considered, well-informed decision, you can move forwards, without the nagging “what if” whirling round your thoughts, distracting you from the important job of enjoying life and your family. What you will find, is that if you take the time to work through your options, you will know the right decision because you will feel excited and ready.
So, here is my starter for 10. It is by no means exhaustive and I am sure as you read it, you will have 10 other things to add, but nevertheless I hope it gives a bit of clarity to help you move forwards in making your decision.
1. How do I feel about leaving my child right now?
This can be the biggest consideration for many women, and the one that takes them most by surprise. It can also be the one that takes the most time to work through and the conversation can go in so many different directions, specific to each individual and too numerous to detail here. But, be rest assured, there is a way to reconcile how you are feeling with a way forwards. It could be that the timing isn’t right, or that it is the perfect opportunity for that career change you have been dreaming of, or that the mum guilt is creeping in because you feel just a bit excited about getting a bit of your own life back. I could also be that actually you don’t want to work at all and it is more about being confident and supported in that decision.
2. Can I make this work?
How many days a week do you ideally want to work?
Is your employer open to discussing a different working pattern? This could be working hours or potentially a job share arrangement.
What impact would a different working pattern make to your earnings?
What impact would a different working pattern make to your career ambitions?
When you weigh up the cost of childcare with your earnings, does it make sense to work right now?
3. Who’s got my back when I'm at work?
Who is going to look after your little one when you are at work?
What provision will you have if you need to start early / work late at short notice?
What is your plan if you need to travel with work?
What is your back-up if your child is ill?
How are you going to manage the usual household admin?
As I am sure you can tell from reading these, each one opens a whole set of considerations on its own. The important thing is, you don’t drive yourself mad debating every single scenario. Instead make an informed decision that makes sense for you and your family as a whole, that you feel confident is right for you, at this time.
You’ve got this.