Returning To Work After Having A Baby
Mothers deciding whether to return to work face a hard dilemma. You might feel torn between wanting to stay home to look after your baby full time, your career aspirations, and financial pressures. Ultimately it's up to you to decide whether it's more beneficial to you and your baby for you to stay home, or for you to work and put your child in childcare. It's a very personal decision and there are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether to go back to work.
Working Out What's Best For You
Most mothers dread the idea of leaving their babies or toddlers with relative strangers all day, but if the idea of leaving your child all day every day leaves you cold, you might not be suited to going back to work just yet. If this is the case, you can always pick up your career later on in life, when you feel more ready to put your children in childcare, or when they start school.
If you want to carry on working but don't like the idea of full time childcare, consider working part-time, or ask your employer about flexible working. You could also consider working from home. Many women actually change their careers after having a child to an industry which is more child-friendly, such as setting up their own business so they can choose their working hours, or working on a freelance basis from home.
Many women go back to work not just for financial reasons, but because they enjoy their work, and get fulfilment and satisfaction from their careers. If you feel that you'd be missing out on fulfilling your personal ambitions then factor this into your decision on whether to return to work or not. If you'd be miserable giving up your career, or putting it on hold, to care for your child, your child will pick up on this and you won't be the best mother you can be to your children.
Considering what's best for your child means deciding what's best for your family as a unit. Studies have found that women who return to work actually have better mental health than stay at home mothers. If you choose to return to work, see our article on The Working Mother for how to maximise quality time with your children.
Is It Bad For My Child To Be Put Into Daycare?
It's very common to feel guilt at the idea of putting your children in childcare to enable you to return to work, and many parents see childcare as a compromise that they would rather not have to do. However, time at daycare can give children valuable skills, such as teaching them about boundaries, and giving them social skills. It also gives them the opportunity to make friends, enjoy different surroundings, and help prepare them for starting school. Recent studies, including one by University College London, have shown that putting children in childcare does no damage to their emotional and developmental wellbeing. This study also found that both boys and girls are less likely to suffer behavioural difficulties when both parents worked than where just one parent worked.
Some mothers don't have a choice about whether to return to work, but do it because they can't afford not to work. If you're going back to work because of financial considerations, remember to factor in the cost of childcare, which can be significant. See if you can get help with childcare costs such as childcare vouchers from your employer or extra tax credits. If you have any relatives who would be happy to help with childcare this will reduce childcare costs as well as allowing your child to be looked after by someone they already know. If it looks like your salary will only just cover childcare costs, you may decide you'd be better off at home, but also remember that by going back to work you may get pay rises and promotions, which will give you more disposable income.
What's Best For You and Your Family?
Every family is different, so no-one can say whether going back to work or being a stay at home mother is the best option for you as it depends on your family circumstances, and the personality of you and your baby. Don't be influenced by the opinions of others on whether you should return to work or not, or by what other mothers you know are doing. Some mothers plan to go back to work after maternity leave but can't face leaving their child, while other women think they'll be stay at home mothers but find themselves itching to get back into work! Be flexible about your plans, parents often change their minds when it comes to crunch time and they have to decide. Remember that whichever decision you make is reversible, if you go back to work but feel unhappy, you might decide you'd be actually better off staying at home. Similarly, if you decide to be a stay at home mum you can always rejoin the world of work whenever you feel ready.