One thing’s for sure: when you have kids, your life changes forever. It’s one heck of a learning curve; our advice is to take it as it comes and to give yourself time to adjust. One big adjustment is when the end of your maternity leave starts to get closer, and you’re faced with a big dilemma: go back to work or look at options for a more flexible working life – or even just give it up and stay at home.
First point we’d like to make: while pretty much all of us worry about childcare and juggling children and career, some mums are delighted to get back to a career and a job they love – and there is zero need to feel guilty about this. As long as your baby is well cared for by your partner or by a form of reliable childcare, all will be well.
Some women find the juggle between career and family too difficult – perhaps they had a very demanding job beforehand, or they now really want to stay at home with their child – that decision should be supported too. Put simply, women (and parents in general) know what works for their family, and these decisions should be supported equally.
So what can you do if you really, really want to stay at home? How do you make the decision to stay at home? Try these following tips as a starting point:
How do the maths look?
- Think carefully about your income and your partner’s income to see if staying at home actually makes financial sense:
- What is your actual income from your job including salary, bonuses and perks (i.e. car, mobile phone, health insurance etc)?
- Now consider how much being in work costs you through transport, lunches, etc.
- Take one amount from the other.
- Do the same for your partner.
- Consider the cost of childcare. Does it make financial sense for you to work? For your partner to work?
Will this interfere with your career?
While the maths might make sense right now to stay at home, think of your career progression. If you put up with a year or two of childcare cancelling out your salary, will staying in your job pay off in terms of salary raises and promotion? Remember that childcare costs often go down significantly when your child starts school (but you may have to factor in afterschool costs)
Is there the opportunity for flexible working conditions or a career break?
If like many of us, you want to stay at home but you don’t necessarily want to give up your career, look at more flexible forms of working. Is there an opportunity to go part-time, term-time or flexitime? Can you use parental leave to take one day a week for a period of time? Is there an opportunity to take a career break for a number of months or even years? Aside from your job now, could you move jobs or companies for more flexibility?
Do you really want to stay at home?
Think carefully about the reality of staying at home with your child/children. It’s not an easy option; it can be relentless, lonely and exhausting – but also exhilarating and satisfying. It’s okay not to want to stay at home full time; I personally couldn’t do it, and that’s no bad reflection on my love for my children. I simply don’t have the skills or the patience (and I wish I had). If you’re unsure, could you take an extra month or two as parental leave and see how it goes? Or go back to work for a few months and decide from there?
Whatever your decision turns out to be, don’t beat yourself up. We all do what’s best for our family, and we should be supported for that.