To work or not to work?

Every Mother, on maternity leave, at some point has to weigh up the pros and cons of going back to work. This is never an easy decision to make, and quite often you can feel completely different about the prospect of returning to work when you are faced with it – a year earlier when maternity leave is only just starting and you haven’t yet held your baby in your arms everything can seem a lot clearer – having a baby definitely makes decisions a lot harder to make!

Firstly you have to look at your financial situation with and without going back to work. Would you have enough money to have a lifestyle that you could happily live with if you didn’t return to work? Would you be eligible for any benefits? Does the amount you earn cover the extra childcare costs?

So the next thing is childcare. Nursery, Nanny, Childminder, Family? There are so many options and they all have their own individual pros and cons.

I went to visit my work colleagues today, and they loved seeing LP. I try to drop in every couple of months to keep in touch. My Line Manager doesn’t work at the same place so my visits are very informal. I am due back to work at the end of August but I then have my annual leave and bank holidays for the year to take, so I will realistically have to go back in October.

Ideally, I would love to be a stay at home Mum – who better to look after my child then it’s Mother? But financially, I, like many other Mothers, need to work. I could stay at home, but we would have no ‘extra’ cash for clothes, haircuts, contact lenses… Not even the big things like holidays and meals out – I can live without those, but when you have just enough money for a very basic food shop and a tank of petrol a month things can get quite tough. It would also mean if I didn’t go back to work that whenever we next decide to have another baby we wouldn’t be eligible for any maternity pay – there are enough things to worry about when you have a new baby without having to worry about money too.

So I’ll be going back to work.

In order to go back to my previous job role – that I love and that was with people I really got on with and most importantly was close to where I live – I need to go back full-time.

The next issue is childcare. Dave works shifts and not on a regular shift pattern – every day is different. But this means that he is at home a lot during the standard working week. This means that if we were to put LP into a nursery we would have to put her in full-time – to cover my working hours, and yet on average half of the week Dave would be at home to look after her. Also, the cheapest full-time nursery place where we live is £1200 a month. Paying this amount for childcare would mean that there is no point me working – we would barely be breaking even!

The other option we are looking at is a childminder. However, most childminders, understandably, like to know what days and hours they are having the child and for it to be the same each week – This doesn’t fit in with Dave’s working ‘pattern’. I found a great website where you can advertise what services you need and then childminders/nurseries/nannies can respond with what they can offer to help your situation. From this website I have had at least a dozen responses from childminders able to cover just the hours that Dave and I both work – on average 75 hours a month. I would pay them for 75 hours a month and if I use more hours I would pay them an hourly rate and I would let them know which hours a month in advance. this would be approximately half the cost of a nursery!

I honestly didn’t think that there would be any way that we would find a childcare option that would work around our jobs and lifestyle. This is as far as I have got in my return to work – I am organising a meeting with my Line Manager at the moment and have told the childminders that I will contact them when I know more about my return to work. But what this has taught me is that there is a childcare option for everyone!

The main thing now is how do you trust someone to look after your child? I will be meeting these people, seeing how they work, checking references and seeing how they interact with LP. But how well can you ever know them? In life you must have a certain amount of trust and I will make sure that I find the best person I can to look after LP as well as Dave or I would.

So I now have just over 5 months to spend as much time as possible with LP, to make the most of every day and make sure that we have as much quality time as possible. When I go back to work I will be coming home, giving LP dinner and then it will be bath and bed 5 nights a week. So I will be living for the weekend with so much more emphasis than ever before! There will be so much to cram into those weekends – quality family time with LP, seeing her three sets of grandparents and then trying to prioritise the other aspects of our lives – other relatives, friends and social events. I know now that LP and quality family time are the priority, seeing grandparents comes second. The other people/occasions will be prioritised dependent on how much of a priority LP has been to them during the first year of her life – if friends haven’t seen her, haven’t spent time with her then I won’t be wasting those precious weekends seeing them. I will make time for LP to see the people who matter most and that have cared the most but realistically, if most weekends are spent being just LP, Dave and I then what more could we want?

Right now the thought of going back to work is horrendous. I cannot imagine leaving her every day for a week, let alone every day of the working week for the forseeable future. I now have so much respect for working mothers. Going to work and leaving your child in childcare must get easier as time goes on but I can imagine that my first day back will be unbearable. But I have got 5 months to get used to the idea of going back to work. Many people say that I will love going back, I’ll love a break from being a Mummy by then and will love the adult company. I think the people who say these things are either just trying to make me feel better, don’t understand at all or they are the kind of Mothers that really felt like that. I love my life now, and love spending every day with LP – she is the most amazing little person I have ever had the privilege of getting to know, she makes me smile endlessly and I love her company. We spend time with other Mummies and babies – and contrary to popular belief we do talk about things other than babies – I even had a conversation about the financial condition of the country and mortgage rates the other day, mummies have brains too! We also go on day trips, for walks and have a family day out every few weeks.

Going back to work will definitely be a shock to the system! But what is it they say, a change is as good as the rest?

To work or not to work?

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