Returning to work after Maternity Leave

Are you nearing the end of your maternity leave? We spoke to Julie Clabby, our founder for her thoughts…

5 Things To Consider When Deciding to Return to Work After Maternity Leave

When you become a parent, your entire world changes.   Everybody tells you that it will happen but until you are holding that precious little bundle in your arms you cannot even begin to comprehend the shift in your priorities.    All of a sudden, this little person has become the centre of your world and every decision that you make heavily hinges on their happiness and wellbeing.   Even the most ambitious, career minded women who had planned to take the minimum maternity leave and get back to work as quickly as possible may start to question whether a return to their career is the right thing for them and their family.

Staying at home to look after young children is no longer the norm in our society.    In 1981, only 24 per cent of women returned to work within a year of giving birth; by 2001, that number had risen to 67 per cent and in 2010 the Department for Work and Pensions said that 76 per cent of mothers returned to work within 12 to 18 months of having a child.    When well-meaning family and friends talk about your return to work they usually talk in terms of ‘when are you going back to work?’ rather than ‘are you going back to work?’

Every family’s situation will be different but there are five key issues to consider when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave.

Your finances

First and foremost, can you afford to not return to work after your maternity leave?

It is important to map out the family budget and understand all of your outgoings.   You will be able to make cutbacks but ultimately you will require a certain level of income to be able to cover your basic needs.    If you don’t go back to your old job are you still able to do this?

When working out this budget you also need to take into consideration all of the costs associated with you returning to work, everything from childcare and travel costs to work clothes and lunches.   All of these expenses add up and you need to be crystal clear about how much money you will actually be able to take home each month.

It’s worth bearing in mind your longer term financial plans.   Are you planning on moving house in the short to medium term?   Will your ability to gather a sufficient rental deposit or secure a mortgage be impacted if you don’t return to your job?

Once you are clear on your financial position you will be better placed to make a decision about whether returning to work is right for you and your family.

Your existing commitment to your employer

Maternity leave policies vary hugely depending on the company that you work for.   Make sure you understand what you have committed to when you signed your company maternity policy.   In some cases you may be expected to pay back any maternity pay (over and above your statutory maternity pay) if you do not return to employment after your maternity leave.     Have you factored in these financial implications to your budget?

Your career path

You may be considering staying home with your children indefinitely or your plan might be to stay at home with them during their early years and return to paid employment when they are at school.    The job that you do and the company that you work for will heavily influence how easy it will be for you to take a break from your job.

Some professions require workers to keep with continuous professional development, meaning a break is not an option.

Your levels of patience

You need to be very honest with yourself.   Staying home to look after your children is not the same as being on maternity leave.   When you are on maternity leave there is a defined end date and you are still considered a member of the paid workforce.    Being a stay-at-home mum is a different kettle of fish and looking after your children is now your full time job.   Some women thrive in this environment.  They love being there to watch their child grow and develop on a daily basis and personally I have found it very rewarding.   But it’s hard work.  It requires, patience, tenacity and the acceptance that day to day life is going to be pretty monotonous.    As romantic a notion as it is to be around for your child’s milestones, can you honestly, hand on heart say that you will be happy to give up your job and look after your children full time?   

What do you WANT to do?

If you are trying to decide whether staying at home with your children is right for you and your family then by all means weigh up the pros and cons, but before you make your final decision, listen to that little voice inside of your head.  What is it telling you to do?  Listen to it because it is usually right.

Personally, I don’t believe that all women, even if they can afford it, should stay at home to look after their children.  Looking after young children 24/7 is not an easy option, it is relentless, monotonous and very often a thankless task.     For some ladies (and their children) it would be an absolute disaster, they need the external stimulation and the distance from their family that work gives them.    For some mums the answer to this question is not black and white, many women sit in a grey area in the middle where they try to work reduced hours or on a more flexible basis to try to better accommodate the demands of their family with their need/want to work.  

Whatever you decide, be strong and be true to what is right for you and your family.   Everybody around you will have their own opinion about what you should or shouldn’t do but ultimately you need to be happy that the decision that you make is right for you and your family. For me, I set up my own business – Busylizzy and we now have a network of mums running their very own Busylizzy clubs across the U.K