After having my first child, Charlie, I was ready to go back to my job working as a Finance Business Partner for the NHS. Charlie had been born 5. 5 weeks early and unexpectedly so I always felt like I had started my maternity leave with unfinished business and uncompleted tasks. This probably affected my entire time off, as I found myself looking forward to going back to work after 6 months and wanting to get stuck in. I don’t think I ever really switched off from work during my first maternity leave, which is something I regret.
There were other factors that contributed to this. I had Charlie towards the end of October. This meant dark nights, cold days and bad weather. I didn’t get out of the house so much and hardly any of my friends had a baby at this point, so I didn’t attend any baby groups or socialise. I was still very career focused. I enjoyed having a break from work but still felt I had some milestones to reach in my career and so I went back full time.
Fast forward to now and I feel entirely differently. I had time to think and plan during my second pregnancy with my daughter Jorgie. I finished work on the day I had planned to and I had tied up all loose ends and completed all ongoing projects. I was ready to have some time off and spend quality time with both Charlie and my new baby.
I had Jorgie in April and the weather was glorious and stayed that way for several months. I enjoyed trips to the park, days out to the zoo, Gulliver’s world and time spent in paddling pools and gardens. Quite a few of my friends had babies around the same time as me including my cousin, so I did some baby classes and met some of them for coffee. I also spent lots of quality time with Charlie and that time is priceless and something I will probably not be able to experience again, or ever forget.
Some significant life events also happened around the time I had Jorgie. My Grandad died, and my husband’s Gran died all within a 4 week period. We moved to our dream home and I began to view life slightly differently. Life is so precious and short and can literally change for the better or worse from one minute to the next. My children are only going to be little for a short period of time and I want to be around to see them grow and watch as many big milestones in their lives as possible.
This is when I began to think about trying to go back to work part time. But this raised a lot of questions. Could I afford to go back to work on less hours? With increasing childcare costs, mortgages and bills to pay would it be possible for me to do this? I want to give my children the best life I can, make sure they have nice clothes, toys and annual holidays so would it be a mistake to give up some hours? What is more important – material items or my time, or both? Could I do my increasingly demanding job in less hours? If I didn’t go back part time how on earth would I fit in housework and laundry?
After juggling these thoughts in my head for some time, I concluded that actually spending some time with my children whilst they are young is more important than being able to buy them absolutely everything. I would still earn a decent wage and be able to comfortably manage. My children would definitely not go without anything. I could always go back to full time working later in my career and I had achieved everything I wanted to at this point in my life.
However, I realise that for other mums and parents they may be faced with a different outcome. They might not be able to afford part time and may feel that they have yet to still achieve some goals in their careers. I do think that working parents have so many competing demands and a lot of pressure and stress in jobs these days and particularly since the recession hit. This resulted in job cuts and remaining employees picking up additional work and in some cases this resource has never been replaced.
I have now met with my Manager to discuss my return to work and have put an application in to work 3 to 3.5 days a week. I am hopeful for it to get approved and I go back to work at the end of January.
There is no right or wrong answer in this debate and every parent will come to a different decision or be forced into one. However, I do think some companies and the government could do better at supporting working parents to assist in making these decisions. I recently read an article regarding childcare support in Sweden and maybe the UK needs to take a leaf out of their book. They heavily focus on supporting both mums and dads with both maternity/paternity leave and nursery costs, albeit at the cost of higher tax payments but that is another debate.
Whatever parents decide I’m sure that it will be putting their child at the forefront of their decision, where possible. All we can do is our best and hope that it is good enough.