Rare is the mum who finds it an easy decision to return to work after time off with her child or family. Sometimes she has no choice, of course. But even those who do have to weigh up whether it’s a cost-effective decision, and the implications for the family of time spent out of the home.
We talked to three typical mums about how and why they made their decision and how it has affected their family.
Louise Davies, 41, went back to work part-time when her daughter Freya was 10 months old.
“I was very lucky to find a job-share in a communications role,” she says. “I knew I wanted to get back to work, but not full-time, as I didn’t want to spend five days a week away from my baby. At the same time, I thought it was important for Freya’s social development to be around other children and get used to being with other people. She has just started school and loves it – I’m sure her confidence comes from being used to other kids and other environments.”
Louise adds that, for her, it’s important to be a role model for her child. “Not because looking after a family and house isn’t important – it is,” she says. “But it’s also important to me to have some financial independence, and for Freya to understand it isn’t just her daddy who earns money. That said, it’s a decision that’s made easier when you only have one child to consider – it gets a lot more complicated when there’s one or even two more to think about!”
That was one of the factors that Mirka Chovnik, 38, had to take into account.
“I went back to work as a nurse after having my first child, who’s now seven,” she says, “but after my second, now five, the cost of nursery and after-school care meant it wasn’t financially viable. I loved my job and was sorry to give it up, but at the same time, it’s nice to be at home for the children while they’re still so young. Just juggling the childcare required around my shifts, let alone affording it, would have been incredibly hard.”
Many working mums feel guilty about their desire to have a life outside their children, but Christina De Luca is convinced going back to work after both her first and second child makes her a better mum.
“I loved my job as a sales manager for a big jeans brand, and missed it when I was off with my daughter Isabella, who’s now six,” she says. “I went back four days a week when she was six months old. I did the same after having my son, who is two.
“The childcare is expensive and it’s tiring, but I really enjoy being with the kids on my day off, and as a family we make the most of the weekends. I’m better when I don’t have to do ‘mum’ stuff every day. I felt so guilty at first, but we’re all different, and this is the set-up that works best for me.”
4 questions to ask yourself when considering a return to work
1. What kind of alternative care will my child prefer?
Options include a nanny, nursery school or even family member or local babysitter. Each will have its pros and cons, from the financial implications to how structured your child’s day will be. Talk to other mums and consider your child’s personality (and your budget). Mixing it up can help – a day with grandma and a day at nursery can be the perfect combination!
2. How will I feel?
Whatever option you choose, own your decision, enter into it expecting the best and act accordingly. If you’re racked with guilt and downbeat about it, your child will pick up on that. The more positive you are, the better for your child.
3. Will it affect my relationship with my child?
No, is the straightforward answer. The mother/child bond is incredibly strong, and although at first it might pain you to see your little one showing affection for his/her carer, remember this is what you’re aiming for – you wouldn’t want to leave your child with someone they didn’t like!
4. Will childcare affect my baby’s development?
No. Studies show that babies of mums who work full time do not fall behind in terms of hitting their milestones. Besides, all children develop differently, no matter whether you stay home or not!
These stories have been brought to you by Pantene – empowering mums everywhere to be strong and shine in real and relevant ways.
We’d love to hear from you on whether or not you went back to work or stayed at home. How did you make the decision? How do you factor in ‘me-time’? Do share your comments in the section below.