How to go back to work after child number two
Going back to work after you’ve had a baby often poses its own challenges. But once you’ve had a second child, many working parents find it increasingly difficult to manage those challenges.
Perhaps you’re having to manage separate nursery and school hours, adapting to part-time hours at work or simply feeling overwhelmed by managing two rather than one child’s schedule.
Flexible and part-time recruitment agency Ten2Two looks at what should you think about if you’re a working mum about to return to work for the second time.
The cost of returning to work after child number two
Firstly, like anything, it’s important to work out all the practical arrangements before you leap back into the world of working. This will include how much you earn versus how much it costs to go to work, as well as finding suitable childcare and logistics for how a return will work.
Your return to work may be further impacted if you have secured flexible working arrangements from your employer – have you factored in how much less your salary might be if, say, you’ve reduced your working hours?
Think: childcare, travel fares or petrol costs, car park fees, lunches and a new wardrobe for work if applicable.
Don’t forget to look into your company’s childcare voucher scheme. If you claimed childcare vouchers before, you may still be entitled to them. However, if you’ve started a new job, the scheme closed to new applicants in October 2018. There may still be help at hand however, so have a read here to find out more.
The emotional cost of returning to work
When you return to work, you are likely to feel guilty. It is totally and utterly normal. It goes with the territory. As long as you recognise this, you can work on thinking about the positives of a return to work after child number two.
Your children will see you earning a living and this sends them a positive message about the world of work and they may even see you in a different light. You’ll also appreciate the time you do have together and really make the most of it.
Some people find it hard at first and have to lower their expectations a little of what can and can’t be achieved within the house and really examine what’s important. You may have to live with certain things not being quite the same as before, but remember what you’re gaining before you dwell too much on what you might be missing out on.
Too many mums we speak to experience guilt when returning to work. Here’s some advice to help you cope with the emotional cost of being a working mum:
- FOMO and mum guilt – how to combat unnecessary feelings of self-doubt
- Eight clever tactics to help you let go of guilt for good
- Why mums feel guilty (and how to stop)
- What can I do about my working mum’s guilt?
Preparing your kids for your return
Returning to work after your second child is a big change for you but also for your children. They will be used to you being around and used to being there for each other. Perhaps your return to work will coincide with separate childcare arrangements for them or at the very least a change of routine for them.
The best advice here is to talk to them about what they can expect and to talk through their new routines, perhaps with pictures to help them understand. Explain to them what you’ll be doing and why so they appreciate the reasons their little lives are changing. Watch out for signs of anxiety and stress in the kids and review regularly that the arrangements you’ve put in place are working for everyone.
Your legal rights when returning to work
It’s important to be aware of your legal rights when returning to work after maternity leave. If you’re not sure what they are, we recommend reading these articles:
- Returning from maternity leave – your legal FAQs
- Your legal rights when you return to work after maternity leave
The hard bits no one tells you about
When you have children, it’s pretty likely that you’ll develop coping strategies for dealing with the unexpected curve ball their existence throws at you. This could be anything from unforeseen illness, an incident at school or a last-minute assembly the school didn’t tell you about. This is possibly one of the most stressful aspects of dealing with a return to work.
For this reason, many parents choose to work part-time or to find professional jobs locally to where they live. If you can save energy on commuting times or have a day off to get to grips with the house and logistics for the week ahead, many people feel they can be better at their day job. Although this isn’t always a possibility for some.
If you have help or support around you such as grandparents close by, they can be an invaluable support if for some reason the unexpected happens and a child needs picking up from school urgently or if your train is delayed.
If you don’t, try to find other supportive parents or a brilliant childcare provider with some flexibility such as a childminder, au pair or even, if you can, a nanny. The more options you have, the better.
How to manage your other jobs
Of course if you’re a parent, your working day doesn’t end when you walk out of the office door. Here’s how to handle some of the other jobs you need to take care of every day.
When your children are young, sleepless nights are a given. But they can still be an issue from time to time as they grow. Tiredness is linked with depression, so if you are constantly feeling exhausted, make sure you take time out and be kind to yourself wherever possible.
You may have to aim for an earlier bedtime or take a nap on a weekend you could try to take it in turns with your partner to break down childcare so each person gets a break on their day off.
Here are some tips that will help you (and your child!) to sleep:
- Five expert tips to get your children to sleep at night
- How can I help my child to sleep through the night?
- Go to sleep! Three key strategies for exhausted parents of 2-9 year-olds
- Eight ways to get a better night’s sleep
If you can, get a cleaner to help you. If you can’t, how about breaking down the household chores into small manageable tasks, so you do 15 minutes of tidying in a blast when you get in at night. Be realistic about your energy levels. Try to involve the kids in simple things like tidying toys away after each play or putting plates into the dishwasher – it’s never too soon to teach good habits!
It’s important that everyone in the household pitches in with housework. Here’s how to help that happen:
- How to call a truce on housework battles in your home
- How to delegate more in your personal life (and why you should)
- How to delegate at home (and get your children involved)
Some people find it easier if they have a menu of meals planned out each week. It saves on ‘thinking’ and means you’re less likely to be staring at a half empty fridge wondering what to do next!
Try to think of some quick and easy meals you like to cook and plan in some days where you do easy suppers like jacket potatoes and salads. Remember, good food leads to good energy levels and you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to eat well.
Here are some quick healthy eating ideas and recipes:
- How can I prepare tasty and healthy meals for my family in a rush?
- Five healthy (and easy) summer recipes that kids will LOVE!
- Eight healthy treat recipe ideas for office workers
- A quick and healthy lunch recipe you can eat on the go
Now don’t shoot the messenger, but exercise can help to boost your energy levels as well as stimulate happy hormones and help you to feel like you’re doing something for you.
If you simply feel this is one step too far, how about building it into your work routine somehow? For example, could you cycle to the station on the way to work, take the stairs rather than the escalators? Or could you walk instead of driving to work or walk to the next bus stop to get some extra steps in? It’s not easy but the health benefits are excellent.
Before you go to bed, make sure you put the kids’ uniform or clothes out or have your children’s bags packed for the next day. Make packed lunches the night before and put everything by the front door so nothing is forgotten. Sounds obvious, but it will massively help with the mental load and help to ensure mornings are as stress-free as possible.
Now that schools are paper-free, there will be a fair amount of time to factor in printing forms or going online to accept communications such as school trips and bills. Set aside a half hour to update your calendar and sort out school admin like party replies and payment of bills so you don’t miss anything in the business of the working week.
Set aside a fixed time each weekend to do homework so your children know what’s expected and when. This can really help to manage everyone’s stress levels and means you’re not leaving it until Sunday night or a time when everyone is tired and fed up!
Not everyone finds being organised easy, so while a lot of this may sound obvious, it doesn’t always come naturally in reality. But if you can start as you mean to go on, you’ll find a return to work after having more than one child much easier. The effort you put in now to go back to work, will pay off over the course of your working life.
Want to start a side business or go freelance?
For many women, it’s returning to work after the second child that can be the breaking point. And the catalyst to find a way of working for themselves or starting a side business.
If this is something you’re considering, you’ll find helpful advice in these articles:
- Seven key steps to starting your side business
- Six things you need to start a profitable business while working full time
- Where do you stand legally if you turn your hobby into a side hustle?
- Your 10 first steps to a successful freelance career
If you’d like to find a more flexible professional role that’s local to you, contact flexible and part-time recruiter, Ten2Two. They’re a flexible recruitment agency in the south of England, and you can register with them here.
Photo by Echo Grid