There are lots of reasons why women decide to become working mums. For many, they have worked hard building up successful careers. Their work is an important part of who they are, and they enjoy the challenge of work, as well as the creative and social side. Other women decide to go back to work because they need the money.
But whatever the reason mums decide to resume their career, they face the same difficult question: when is the best time to go back to work?
Factors to take into account
Probably the most important factor to take into account when deciding when to go back to work is how you feel about it. If the thought of being apart from your baby for more than a few hours fills you with dread, you may not be ready yet.
But equally, if you’re starting to miss being around adults in the day time, feel as if part of ‘you ‘is missing by not being at work, or need more creative or intellectual stimulation, you may be ready to go back. And remember, you always have the option of asking for flexible work arrangements, which can give you the best of all worlds by allowing you to spend time with your baby, while enjoying your work again.
Of course if you do go back to work, even flexible work, you’ll need to consider childcare. How do you feel about trusting someone else to care for your baby? Have you thought about what type of childcare may work for you? What options do you have locally and practically? These are all decisions you need to consider when planning if and when becoming a working mum is the right choice for you.
Making your finances work
Your decision to go back to work may in part be driven by finances. Can you afford not to work, or to ask for flexible work arrangements? If money is tight and you really don’t feel ready, are there ways you can reduce your outgoings to make staying at home a realistic option?
Make a list of your finances for a month and divide into two lists: essentials (such as your mortgage and utility payments) and non-essentials (for example clothes and dining out). Can you shop around on your essentials and save money? Do you compare your car insurance when you renew each year to ensure you’re getting the cheapest deal? Have you checked that you’re getting the best deal on your utilities?
And are there any non-essentials that you can do without or cut down on? Can you eat out less or choose cheaper restaurants? When reviewing your finances you may find that you’re happy to give up or cut back on some non-essentials if it means staying home with your baby for longer.
Why you can go back to work guilt-free
The good news is that if you do want or need to go back to work before you baby is one year old, you can do without feeling guilty that you’ll be causing them any ill-effect.
According to research led by New York’s Columbia University School of Social Work, going back to work in the first year of your baby’s life has no adverse effect on them. The study followed more than 1,000 children in 10 different areas and looked at the full impact of a mother going back to work, including family relationships and income, and her mental health.
It found that while there are downsides to becoming a working mum in your baby’s first year, there were also important advantages, including an increase in your (and therefore your family’s) income and wellbeing, and a higher likelihood that your child will enjoy high quality childcare. And when you take everything into account, the effect of you going back to work on your baby is neutral.
Make the right decision for you
Working and motherhood is a highly emotive subject and you’ll probably find that lots of people will have an opinion on when is the best time to return to work after having a baby. But whatever decision you make, you need to ensure it is right for you.
If you feel happy and fulfilled – whether that’s by staying at home with your baby or resuming your career – then you’ll be a more contented mother with more emotional resources to draw on, and that can only be better for your baby. So don’t allow the opinions and judgements of others to affect how you feel. Only you know when the best time to return to work is for you and your family.Hannah Martin