For most of us, the decision whether to stay at home or return to work isn't easy. It's important to take into account a number of factors: your economic situation, your personality, your attachment to your career, and, just as important, the feelings of everyone involved. Read on to find out how best to weigh your options.
Is going back to work worth my while financially?
It's entirely up to you and what kind of lifestyle you lead. You will need to review your budget and living expenses first. You'll also need to work out how you will manage on a single income, especially if you have EMIs going out every month or if you live in rented accommodation. You may need to make some adjustments or postpone some big spending for a while. You may feel that staying at home is the best option for your family. But you may still need to work out childcare costs.
For example you may want to hire a live-in or part-time maid to help you with the chores or you may want to hire someone who looks after your baby while you manage the household. If you stay in a joint family, you have the advantage of having a family member to care for your baby. However, there can be conflicts sometimes and you will need to have some ground rules in place. Even if you have family members looking after your baby, you may need to employ an additional maid. Whichever way you do it, raising a baby is expensive. You either lose one salary, or you pay someone else's.
It's also possible that you may not want too long a break in your career, even if it's not providing you with much extra income after childcare costs.
Most of my friends are quitting work and I really feel under pressure to do the same. What should I do?
There's only one right answer: you should do what feels right for you and your child. You may be itching to get back to work after your maternity leave. Or you may prefer to be a full-time mum. It's true that some women are under pressure to quit and look after their babies in the initial years by family members and friends. Whether you go back to work or not may also be influenced by your own childhood. It may be that your mum was a working parent. Or perhaps she stayed at home for your first few years and you want the same for your children.
Only you know what's best for you and your family. You can always pick up your career later on, or find ways to work from home.
Can I tailor my working hours to fit in with my family?
Working practices that support the work-life balance are becoming more widespread because of the benefits that they offer to employers as well as employees. However, a lot depends on the kind of profession you are in and the policies of your work place. Talk to your employer before you go on maternity leave about the options available with flexible working. As long as they know what your intended working hours are, they should be happy to adjust according to your requirements.
Unfortunately, some employers equate working long hours with working hard. If you work in an office which has a rigid approach to overtime you may not be able to get the option of flexible working. If your employer prefers you to keep the usual office timings, you may need to arrange childcare that fits in with the routine of your working day.
How can I find childcare that suits my working hours?
There are a range of childcare options for you to choose from.
- Family member. It is a great deal easier to go back to work, if you know that your mother or mother-in-law is prepared to meet your childcare needs. This can save you from a lot of the anxiety about leaving your child in the hands of a stranger.
- Live-in maid or ayah. You could choose an experienced ayah, who stays with you, to take care of your baby.
- Part-time maid or ayah. You could choose someone who takes care of your baby for a set number of hours while you are at work. Most part-time maids agree to work for either six hours or 12 hours per day.
- Daycare centres or crèches. With the increase in nuclear families and working parents, many crèches or daycare centres have sprung up. With some research you should be able to find one that suits your budget and your needs. Most centres have flexible timings, too.
It is a good idea to talk to other parents and friends before making a decision. This will give you an idea about types of childcare available, and the variety in quality and cost. You may share your ideas and get opinions from other mums at our BabyCenter community forums, too.
If I stay at home with my family now, will my career suffer?
Some women feel that, in order to keep a career going or be eligible for that next promotion, they must not quit working. For many, staying on at work is like an insurance policy for the future. Although the short-term rewards are limited, the long-term prospects may have more to offer. However, if you chose to stay at home, you still have a CV to date with plenty of experience and skills. Taking a break from corporate life shouldn't take you entirely out of the loop and you should be able to pick up where you left off. While you are away from work, stay aware of current developments by ensuring the following:
- Read magazines, journals, and online news sources that report on your industry.
- Maintain ties with coworkers. Online social media is great for this, you can follow your company and keep up with your coworkers by reading regular updates.
- Take some career development classes, attend industry events and seminars
- If there are professional associations that relate to your job, maintain your memberships and attend meetings to keep your network going.
- You could also stay in touch by taking on freelance projects or contract work while you are at home.
Before you leave your job, ask your employer if they would be open to employing you occasionally or on an ongoing part-time basis. This way, you'll continue to grow and develop your career while you're spending the bulk of your time at home with your child.
Make sure you update your CV each time you take a class or attend a seminar, and list all of your freelance work. You may find that you have gained some good experience and knowledge by the time you are ready to go back into a full-time job.
I'm a single mum. Can I still go back to work?
As a single parent, you'll be facing the same questions: can I afford childcare? What happens if my childcare arrangements fall through? Every mum has to make the same calculations. If you decide to return to work, you could talk to your employer about flexible working. You may be able to change your hours or work from home for some of the time.
If you have family members nearby who can step in when you need help, ask if they'll be happy to help out with childcare. You could speak to other single parents and form a support network between you.