After I had my first child I really didn’t want to return to work. I loved my maternity leave and apart from enjoying spending time with my little boy I just found it so liberating to be able to do what I wanted when I wanted. It was of course all determined by the whims of a baby, but still it felt like freedom from the constraints of office life. It seemed like my only restriction was attending baby swimming classes and I wanted to do that. Even nap time could be done on the move (his not mine) so I felt like the world, well my little corner of London, was my oyster. I really did wonder how I would ever find the time to work as I was just always busy.
However, I also thought about the money pit of an Edwardian house we have, the holidays I love and the years of education and hard work it had taken to reach my role so how could I waste that and not return to work? This is a decision that many mums face every day. We are expected to be mummy and go return to work, but we don’t always want to. I wish that this choice was actually a choice for us all. I get that some women want to return to work no matter what and get a lot out of their work, but what happens when that isn’t the case really and you don’t want to go back… Often society makes us feel guilty for wanting to be stay at home mom like we are just lazy and not really pulling our weight. After having my second baby this is exactly how I felt. I didn’t want to go back to work, but had so many conflicting feelings and pressures that it was hard to navigate through them all and make the right decision for our family. Here are some of the pros and cons of the return to work that you will face when making this decision.
Everyone has mum guilt at some point or another right? Decisions around the return to work are no different. I had guilt and sadness associated with even the thought of leaving my little baby. Its so hard as the decision about whether to return to work or not has to be taken when they are around 9 months old even if you plan to take the whole 12 months maternity leave and so they still seem really little. Its almost impossible to appreciate how much more adept they will be at coping with life after that additional 3 months.
This was a really tricky one for me I looked at nurseries, child minders and nannies to try and help me decide what to do, but I just hated all the options and yet ultimately decided to return to work. I realised that I didn’t like the options because I just didn’t want to go back. So why did I go back to work the first time? Purely financial reasons really. I was to receive a 3 month bonus as soon as I made the return to work and that meant a new kitchen and a holiday. I just couldn’t resist as you should have seen the hideous kitchen I was working with and how very pale I was. We also knew that we wanted a second child and needed to know that I would receive the excellent maternity benefits afforded by my company and so it was with a very heavy heart that I finally chose a child care option; a hybrid between my mum and a nursery, and headed back into the working world.
I managed to negotiate a part time return to work so dropped to 3 days per week as part of a job share, but I still hated leaving him every week and found it just a huge stress and rush to get to and from work, but once I saw how much he got out of attending nursery I relaxed and let him enjoy it and I have to admit that there were plus points too.
The good bits
I did kind of like having something to get dressed up for. On a Monday morning getting up and choosing one of my lovely work dresses and a nice pair of heels was kind of a thrill, but not as much of a thrill as drinking a hot cup of tea – what a fab feeling!! I also found that I looked forward to my two mummy days with him and enjoyed that time even more as it was so precious. The best feeling of all though was walking out of work on a Wednesday and having that being my Friday and knowing I had the next two days to play and enjoy with my boy.
Baby Number Two
I have recently had my second baby and so I am back thinking about this subject again and trying to decide what to do. All the same issues and feelings are there again and it is all compounded by the increased numbers. It is crazy but living in London I don’t think we can actually afford for me to go back to my 9-5 job. Now don’t get me wrong I was not the CEO or anything, but I had a really good, relatively senior role and had a great salary for part time work , but still it would barely cover the child care and travel costs. So if I go back there it would have to be full time. Although I often really like my job I must say it didn’t shine as bright for me once compared with my little boy… This means that whilst I am happy to do it if there is a financial benefit I just don’t love it enough to be losing money or just breaking even by going. I would rather be at home. Someone really has to do something about the price of childcare otherwise lots of women simply won’t be able to return to work even if they want to. In my part of London is it pushing £100 a day for childcare so with two kids that is crazy money.
So what to do now?
If I am not going to return to work in my previous role what can I do? Ideally I would just love to be at home with the boys pottering around and looking after the house, but financially that would be a disaster and with my personality I would probably just end up on every local committee and mummy group going and frankly become a right pain. I just need to find something more flexible that means I can both be a mummy and earn, but what that could be I don’t know. I guess that’s the million dollar question. Answers on a postcard please….