How to go back to work when your kids start school

Are you ready to resume your career again now your children have started school? Read advice on how to return to work after a career break.

If you’ve taken a career break to be at home with your child (or youngest child), their first few week at school can be a mix of emotions: sadness that you won’t get to spend as much time with them every day, regret that your baby is growing so fast, and excitement that you now have a whole six hours a day to yourself!

So what do you do with all this extra time and freedom? Many mums start to think about resuming their career. (Or starting their dream business – you can read our top 10 articles on starting a business here.)

To help you work out what steps you may want to take next, Rebecca Robertson shares her advice on how to go back to work when your kids start school.

Why go back to work?

Returning to the workplace after years of nappies and teething can feel like a breath of fresh air. No one’s having a tantrum (hopefully!) and you finally get to have adult conversation again.

You also rediscover that part of you that’s lain dormant over the past few years – the one that thrives on challenges, goals, and using your professional experience. (Not to mention you have a reason to wear smart clothes again.)

Working can also be hugely important for good mental health, meeting many of our basic emotional needs. It boosts your confidence, and gives you back an identity and status beyond that of ‘mum’.

What do you need to think about?

However, if you’ve been out of the workplace for a while, the idea of returning to work can feel daunting. Do you still have what it takes to do your own job? Do you even want it?

And how confident do you feel in your ability to go out and secure work again? Or are you so out of touch and practice that you’re worried no one will even look at your CV?

If any of these worries (or even all of them!) sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone. And there are some simple steps you can take to feel more confident about taking the next step.

Work out what you want to do

A career break is a fantastic opportunity to assess what it is that you really want to do. All too often we drift through our careers, taking on roles that feel like a natural profession without getting a perspective on whether it’s still the right direction for us.

Taking time away from your career enables you to be more objective about it. And the prospect of possibly putting your children into wraparound school care sharpens your assessment of whether a job is something you actually want to do. You may even find that your interests and values have changed as a mother, and your previous industry no longer fits the new ‘you’.

So before you start brushing your CV off, go and have a coffee and write down all the things that you would like to achieve professionally, and activities you have been naturally drawn to throughout your life. More often than not, your new career path will come out of that list.

Also think about your new skills as a mother (read 17 surprising new skills you can add to your CV once you have children). Write a list of everything you do as a mother, then re-word that list into skills that you can use in the workplace, such as organised and disciplined.

Get support

You don’t have to struggle on alone in resuming your career. Today there is a great deal of support available for mums going back to work – from career advice, confidence classes and coaching, to CV writing experts and recruitment companies who specialise in helping mums return to work after a career break.

You can even join face-to-face or online courses that help you return to work with confidence.

How much time do you have to work?

As exciting as the prospect of resuming your career can be, many mums will still need to consider how they can make their career fit around their family. While some women are able to return to full time careers, others will need to look for flexible or part time opportunities.

Here are some things you’ll need to consider when assessing your working opportunities:

  •  The school run – can you fit it in? Who will do it instead?
  • School holidays – how many days annual leave do you get?
  • Staff development days – how many will you need each year?
  • Sports days and Christmas Nativities – you can’t miss these!
  • After school clubs – you want your children to experience lots of different things, but you still have to pick them up!
  • Breakfast clubs and after school care – they’re not usually free, and you have to organise someone to pick them up from school to take them there.
  • Sickness – what happens when your children are poorly and off school? Or fall ill during the school day? (If your child is sick, they usually can’t return to school for 24-48 hours.)
  • Doctor and dentist appointments – how will you factor these into your schedule?

We don’t mean to alarm you by listing all the barriers to returning to work! But it’s important to consider all these scenarios, and put plans in place to ensure that you have (almost) everything covered before you start your dream post-baby job.

Could flexible working work for you?

Many mums choose to return to work after having a baby on a flexible basis. And the Government is keen to increase the opportunities for mums to access genuinely rewarding flexible roles.

If you want to learn more about your rights to flexible working (or legal rights as a working mum generally) and how to successfully request flexible working, take a look at these articles:

How to start a job hunt

Starting a post-baby job hunt may feel a little daunting, especially if it’s a long time since you’ve been on the job market.

The key is just to get started – set yourself a goal, write out a plan and just start taking baby steps towards where you want to be. It’s also important to remain resilient through the inevitable ups and downs of restarting your career, and not letting setbacks derail you.

You’ll find some helpful practical advice and encouragement in these articles:

Are you ready to start your post-baby career?

There’s never been a better time to take your first step back into your career than right now. So if you feel ready, start making a plan!

Don’t worry if things don’t get moving straight away. If you stay on track and keep taking positive steps forward (and keep your mind open about what opportunities you may want to pursue) you’ll get there in the end. And as your child starts their new school life, you can look forward to beginning an equally exciting new chapter in your own life.