“Time off again for your daughter’s appointments? Yes, I was actually asked that even though my employer knew I didn't have any support when it came to splitting appointments because I had moved away from my family and friends for my new promotion earlier on that year. It got that bad that I stepped down from the position and moved back home for family support. I couldn’t decide if it was because I couldn't keep up with the work load because I found my new position a lot harder or the pressure coming from being a single mother even though my daughter was in senior school and was pretty independent. I’m now working for a new company in an even higher position but this time I’m closer to my family and friends and it has made a massive difference having a company that understands I might have to take time off for appointments, but having that understanding there for my employer meant I didn’t mind also staying longer when they needed me to.” Carly
Going back to work is a worry that is sure to cross every mother’s mind. You have so many questions: Should I change my hours? What happens if my baby is sick? Will work understand? You want to have all this answered before you make any life-changing decisions, but you’re also so busy right up until you go back, that you push all this to one side. I didn’t want to return to work after my third baby, but I needed to assess the financial reality of this. It was a decision that took time. However, I did make a few impulsive decisions like taking my children out of kids’ club even though I knew there was a waiting list to go back in! I was thinking about how we could save money there and then over the difficulty of getting them back in if I returned to work.
Feelings about going back to work will vary from woman to woman. I understand that completely. How you’re feeling will depend on your personality, job role, your employer, your own baby's needs and the financial needs of your household.
My work ethos before having children was very different to what it was after I had my first child, second child and now my third child. It changed with the life lessons I learned and experiences that shook me.
I was once asked by an employee if I had anyone else to pick my son up after I received a call from the school telling me he wasn’t well and had to come home. I didn’t want anyone else looking after my son and, more importantly, I wanted to take him to the doctors and home to rest myself. I learned that not all employers understand this.
Your employer may pay you during time off for family matters but, in some cases, they don’t have to. This is why it’s a must for everyone to check their contract, company handbook or intranet site to see if there are rules about this. Each workplace will vary.
This can be a worry for working mothers, because we all know children being sick can come without any warning. When my older children were little I would quote to them a line that my mother would say to me before school if I didn’t feel well- that if I was very sick then my teacher would call her and send me home. Looking back, I know that my mum didn't say it because she didn’t want to look after me at home, but because she had work commitments.
Before having my children, I had the mindset that making money meant that I had to work long hours for a boss. For a few years I truthfully enjoyed getting up, getting ready, getting through the working day and then doing as I pleased, and then doing it all again.
I also had very few financial worries. Back then I didn’t have to worry about anything major other than feeding myself and my train journey home.
As you can probably imagine when I had my first child I found it more difficult to work full time around his needs, and then a year later my daughter’s needs. Two children a year apart both experiencing teething, temperatures and often not sleeping all night took its toll on my energy levels and commitment to work.
Returning to work was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome but I managed to secure a job in customer service. I realise now it was the pressure to return to work that made me accept the interview that led to the job. My children went to a private nursery and I carried out the same routine for a lot longer than I wanted to. It consisted of a quick walk to nursery pushing a double pram, kissing my children goodbye and then running, and I mean running, to the train station to travel thirty minutes to a job I didn’t enjoy. I would then finish, jump on the train, collect my children, return home, cook supper and then fall asleep with them.
I didn't make any friends at that job. I felt like I didn’t have the time. It upsets me even to this day thinking about how unapproachable I must have appeared. But I was afraid of letting people in and letting people down.
Eventually, I made the decision to change my career to one I thought I would be happier in. I got a job supporting children in schools. It fitted in with my own motherhood plan perfectly, being term-time only. I didn’t have to depend on childcare when they were off school, which I was truly grateful for, as there are a lot of mothers who wouldn't have this option. The pay wasn’t great for the energy that went into every day, but the children I worked with made it rewarding. However, during my time off, I felt like I had to spend every waking hour with my own children, because they didn’t have both parents at 76
home. And I was still in the get up, go to work, come home, eat, sleep and repeat pattern. So, I knew that eventually something would have to change with this too. If you are in the position where you can take support from family, this can release so many of the built-up anxieties that come with the return to work. Can anyone look after the baby for you so that childcare costs are reduced, and you can return to work part-time or maybe spend some hours building up your own business?
After having my third child, I decided not to go back to the school I worked in. I was lucky that this was a financially viable option. Okay, it wasn't a situation that was bringing loads of money to the table, but it did take away the nursery and childcare bills. If I’m honest this probably would have been around the same amount as my wage. Shocking I know. This is why I understand when mothers tell me that they can't afford to go back to work. You can literally be covering just your outgoings!
But as the months went by, I began to miss the children and the staff. They had been a massive part of my journey. I would also start to miss having a career that gave me an identity beyond being a mum.
I would hear more and more success stories from women who were running their own business around family life. But at the time I thought that I couldn’t do it. I soon proved myself wrong. One lady who inspired me raised three children alone and runs a very successful business. Even she admitted she wished she had a second pair of hands. I related massively with her because I also have days when I wish there were another four of me. But she still made it work. I knew that I could too.
You've got this where ever you're up to getting back to work as a mum.