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When to go back to work after having a baby?

Posted by fiona Toomey on
When to go back to work after having a baby?

Sanity, adult conversation and cashflow. There’s plenty of reasons to feel eager to go back to work after having a baby. At the same time, it’s a big step. Let’s make a virtual pros and cons list and weigh up the realities of juggling new mum life with a career.

Gone are the days when mums had to pick one or the other: either you stay at home and raise the kids, or you go to work. We’re glad this dichotomy’s been dispelled. For one thing, BOTH of these things are work. We challenge anyone to breastfeed a teething, face-grabbing six month old and tell us it’s not work. 

It’s amazing that women have more options these days, but with more options, come more decisions. If you are going back to work full-time, how will you organise your childcare? Could you work from home? Of course, lockdown makes things even more complex, at the moment. 

We’ve put together a list of considerations to help you get all your thoughts on paper. Sometimes it helps to just disentangle the big things from the mum clutter inside our brains.


Maternity Leave - The Legal Stuff

In the UK, eligible employees are entitled to upto 52 weeks of maternity leave. For this reason, many mums plan on taking a full year at home with their baby. It varies from person to person. Some women choose less, some more. 

However, each company will have its own guidelines about how much paid maternity leave you’re entitled to. They may also have employee schemes that allow you a portion of time on full pay, half pay, and so on. Double check your employee contract and speak to your boss if you’re uncertain about your entitlement.

Cashflow

Having children is expensive. Cashflow is an important consideration, especially in the early days when you’re adjusting your finances to accommodate the extra family member. 

Though statutory maternity pay is a great luxury for women in the UK, it doesn’t stretch very far. Eligible for 39 weeks, this is broken down at a rate of 90% of your average salary before tax 

(AWE) for the first 6 weeks, followed by £148.68 or 90% of AWE thereafter.

If you’re the main earner in your household, your maternity pay may dictate when you need to return to work.

Childcare

Money is one of the biggest necessities to consider when returning to work after having a baby. The other is, of course, childcare. You need someone to be able to take care of your little one whilst you’re in work. 

Childcare is expensive, so this might influence whether you’d be best off returning to work part time or full time. The availability of relatives or a wider support system may also influence this. 

The average cost of childcare in the UK is an eye-watering £242 a week. Yes it occurred to us too, that’s like buying a designer dress every week. Ouch.

Many mothers find that a combination of different support systems work best for them. For instance, you may choose to work three days a week, pay for one day of childcare, and call on a friend or family member to help out for the fifth day.


Keeping your sanity

Yes, it’s perfectly okay to admit that Paw Patrol is driving you up the wall. Spending time with our babies is truly magical, but everyone reaches that point when they’re craving conversation with other adults. 

If lockdown’s taught us anything it’s that staying at home with the family is wonderful, but also takes its toll on our mental health. If you’re reaching the point when you’re needing respite from mother-baby time, you know it’s time to go back.

How lockdown impacts going back to work after maternity leave

At the moment, we know that all of these points are up in the air. Lockdown might mean that you can’t go back to the office, unless you’re a key worker. This could mean working from home for some time.

The current situation makes balancing work and childcare very difficult. However, we’re hoping that changing working patterns will have a lasting impact on business decisions. Thousands of businesses are being run from home, and it goes to show that home working really does have a place in a modern climate. 

Fight off the mum guilt 

Mum guilt afflicts all of us. There’s drawbacks of going to work and staying home. But remember, there is no right and wrong. You just have to do what’s best for you and your family. When the time comes, chat to your boss and loved ones about what you need, and remember that you have options. If anyone tells us you’re doing it wrong, please swiftly jab an elbow their way. 

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