Q: Is going back to work worth my while financially?
A: It’s up to you. You may feel that your salary will barely cover the cost of childcare. You may feel that staying at home is the best option for your family. Or you may not want too long a break in your career, even if it’s not providing you with much extra income after childcare costs.
Q: My friends are going back to work and I feel under pressure to do the same. What should I do?
A: There’s only one right answer: you should do what feels right for you and your child. You may be itching to get back to work after your maternity leave. Or you may prefer to be a full-time mum.
Whether you go back to work or not may also be influenced by your own childhood. It may be that your mum was a working parent. Or perhaps she stayed at home for your first few years and you want the same for your children.
Only you know what’s best for you and your family. You can always pick up your career later on, or find ways to work from home.
Q: Can I tailor my working hours to fit in with my family?
A: Talk to your employer before you go on maternity leave about what your options are with flexible working. As long as they know what your intended working hours are, they may be happy for you to adjust your hours to 8am until 4pm, for example. Anyone who has worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more has the right to ask if they can work flexibly. Working practices that support the work-life balance are becoming more widespread because of the benefits that they offer to employers as well as employees.
Q: How can I find childcare that suits my working hours?
A: There should be a range of childcare options in your local area to choose from. All have different hours of operation, so you should be able to find one that suits you:
Day nurseries, which are usually open from 7am to 7pm on weekdays.
Childminders, who may work from 8am to 7pm on weekdays. Some may also work at weekends.
Nannies, who may care for your child any day of the week and are flexible with their working hours. You can have a live-in nanny or a day nanny who comes to care for your child when you need them.
A relative, who may be flexible enough and happy to look after your child whenever you need them to.
It’s a good idea to see different people and places before making a decision. This will give you an idea about types of childcare available, and the variety in quality and cost.
Q: If I stay at home with my family now, will my career suffer?
A: You still have a CV to date with plenty of experience and skills. As a full-time parent, you’ll be learning new ones, too.
– While you’re away from work, keep up with news and developments in your line of work. You can follow business news on social media, keep in touch with colleagues, and find time to keep up with national news. Go along to networking events that appeal to you when you have the time.
– You could also take study at home online to keep your skills up to date, attend industry events and seminars, and keep in touch with former colleagues. If there are professional associations that relate to your job, make sure you renew your membership.
– You could also stay in touch by working at home on freelance projects or contract work.
– Make sure you update your CV each time you take a class or attend a seminar, and list all of your freelance work. You may find that you’ve gained some good experience and knowledge by the time you’re ready to go back into a full-time job.
Q: I’m a single parent deciding whether to go back to work. What should I consider?
A: As a single parent, you’ll be facing the same questions: can I afford childcare? What happens if my childcare arrangements fall through? Every mum has to make the same calculations.
If you decide to return to work, you could talk to your employer about flexible working. You may be able to change your hours or work from home for some of the time. If you have relatives nearby who can step in when you need help, ask if they’ll be happy to help out with childcare. You could speak to other single parents and form a support network between you. If you’re finding it difficult to decide, talk it through with friends and family.