The decision to return to work is a completely personal decision for every parent. For some, it will never feel like the right time, whilst others will be chomping at the bit, ready to get back to adult conversations centred on fine dining rather than baby food and taking public transport without having to consider the logistics of a pushchair. Whether you were home with your children for six weeks, six months or six years, the transition can be challenging. Whichever camp you fall into, there are numerous things you can do that will help you to adjust to a new schedule, both at work and at home.
Don’t rule out applying for full-time positions: Apply for full-time positions, as well as part-time ones, as these roles are often open to negotiating flexible hours. One of the biggest challenges for working parents is coordinating the nursery and school drop-offs and pick-ups, which rarely coincide with traditional, 9-to-5 working hours.
If you’re attracted to a flexible work arrangement, approach it with your employer – there are more options available to you than you might know. For instance, flexible working can involve altering your working hours, job sharing or working remotely – something which I negotiated while pregnant with my first child. Some employers specifically offer term-time working, and others are shifting towards a ‘results-driven’ culture rather than presenteeism, meaning that they don’t pay you for the number of hours you sit at your desk, but trust that you’ll get the job done.
The good news is, in the UK, all employees are entitled to flexible working – not just parents and caregivers – as long as you have worked for the company for 27 weeks. Just remember, you have the legal right to request a flexible way of working that is suited to you and your child’s needs. According to a recent US study, Reframing Motherhood, 32 per cent of mothers and 26 per cent of fathers name ‘flexible work schedules’ as being one of the most important factors in helping them to continue advancing in their career.
Although employers are being urged to be more transparent about pay and parental leave, many companies are still not particularly forthcoming with the information. If you will be returning to the same employer post-maternity leave, then start the parental-leave conversation early to help you determine if it will still be the right fit for you, come your return.
My best advice to parents is to have an open dialogue with your boss – or prospective boss – about what you both expect and what is on offer. It’s hugely important we normalise these conversations so to avoid highly educated women leaving paid employment, due to the challenges that come with combining employment and parenting.
Many mothers feel out of the loop during their maternity leave and suffer from insecurity about their ability to perform their job. Yet, motherhood is a strength. It teaches you empathy and ruthless time-efficiency – two necessities when juggling countless responsibilities. Remember that the skills required to manage a family can be similar to those that help build a corporate culture.
You should never feel the pressure to apologise for returning to work. You are valuable to your workplace and will become more so as you settle into this new phase of your life.
Motherhood is a time like no other, and you are sure to feel countless emotions when you decide to return to work. With an understanding employer and flexible working, you can create a role that is right for you.
Extract taken from Amanda Augustine - We are the City