, Maternity Leave, Returning to work

What should you expect, when expecting…

So you’re super excited and maternity leave is not far away – you have the nursery organised, purchased some really cute clothes and have had a tour of the hospital.  You have a few weeks of work left before you are off into motherhood – so what are the key things to consider with work before you go?

Clear communication

Most workplaces require you to document your maternity leave period.  They need a letter outlining the date you plan to start your maternity leave and the date you think you will return.  Ensure that you consider your dates carefully and keep a copy of this document yourself.

 

Keep in touch

Sure you plan to send through baby photos when your little bundle arrives, you will probably get some flowers from work when the baby comes and maybe a visit from close colleagues a few weeks in.  This is all great, but if you have intentions to go back work in some capacity after your baby arrives, then keep in touch with your manager.  Depending on your workplace and your relationship with your manager this could be a formal arrangement where you might schedule a few coffee catch ups, or perhaps something less formal such as a touch base email or phone call.

 

Getting back

As you return date nears, there is certainly going to be a few butterflies.  Considerations around the care for your child when you are no longer with them 24 hours a day, but also perhaps either nerves or excitement about getting back to work.  You are entitled to have the same position and same remuneration when you return to your work as you had when you started your leave.  Depending on how long you have been away, things may have stayed the same or completely changed – but your role is legally entitled to you and should remain as it was.

In my experience, both cases when I returned to work my return to work was different and not what I expected.  In my first maternity leave of 9 months I came back to an entirely new team and new manager – with all of them having moved on in my absence.  On top of this, my whole department had moved into an entirely different area of the building.  It was like starting from scratch again.

In my second maternity leave of 6 months I was asked to come back early (I had originally stated 9-12 months) and agreed to come back in a part time capacity until the 12 months was finished at which time I would resume my full time role.  However this didn’t happen.  I was told due to budget reasons I could not have my full time position back.  I worked in a part-time capacity for a few more months before I was needed back full time and continued on my journey with that employer – and that manager was soon relieved of his duties.

Everybody’s journey is different.   What you choose to do may seem odd to other people, but it is your road to walk mama – only you know what is right for you.

What was your experience returning to work after your baby?

, Holidays, Kids, School

School Holiday Juggle

In Australia, if you are working full time you accumulate four weeks of annual leave per year.  If you have a partner and they also work full time they also accumulate four weeks of annual leave per year. If you don’t take any holidays together that equals eight weeks of annual leave per year.

If you have school aged children they amass around 11 weeks of holidays over a 12 month period.

Best case scenario you are three weeks short and that doesn’t take into consideration that you may be forced to take leave at periodic times of the year (Christmas shutdown anyone?) which may coincide with your partner reducing your total household annual leave even further.

So what are we to do?  How do we juggle this?

The maths is solid, if both parents work, we don’t have enough time in the year to look after our children.  It is a battle for everyone involved, but to help with figuring out a solution, here are some tips that may assist;

  1. Use your village

Your village is important.  Whether that is family who can come over and watch the kids for a few days, perhaps your neighbours or friends – even other school mums who may be home.  All of them can help, so reach out and get assistance from your village – just remember to return the favour.

  1. Work from home

If your workplace is flexible, then working from home is a good option.  Not always ideal, especially if you have active kids who need your attention often.  However you can usually get a jump on work early, spend some time with the kids during the day then finish of your work hours later in the day.

  1. Take your child to work

Some workplaces offer support to working parents by way of areas designed for kids to enjoy.  A small room set up with games, colouring, a TV and other such activities mean that you can get to work and do what you need to while your kids are only a few steps away.

  1. Leave without pay

Depending on your workplace policies, taking leave without pay may be an option for some people – although not ideal.  It may be something that your workplace is happy to offer and you are happy to take and if it works for you then grab it and go!

  1. Vacation Care

Many schools now offer before school care, after school care and also vacation care programs.  Whilst they come at a cost, they are professionally run on school grounds, by skilled educators who organise a range of fun activities and keeps them occupied for the holidays. A great option which kids actually really love.

No matter what your situation, the maths doesn’t lie and school holidays can be tricky for everyone.  Choose the right option for you and your family and don’t look back.  If you are happy and healthy and your kids are happy and healthy – that really is the main thing.  Don’t worry mama – you’ve got this!

, Lifestyle

Working Mums

In 2011-12, 53% of women whose youngest child was aged 5 years and under were employed. When their youngest child was aged 6-14 years, the proportion of mothers who were employed increased to 75%.

This coupled with countless sleepless nights, numerous cuddles, tears, laughter and tantrums, I think working mums fit more into a 24 hour period than any other person on earth.

For some working is a choice, for others working is a necessity.  With the rising cost of living, trying to reach for the Australian dream of home ownership, and with the mindset of providing our children with all that they need and desire, it is therefore necessary for many mums to consider going back to work after they have their children for financial opportunities.

My own story was really similar.  I had my first child in late 2010.  I had been keen to remain independent once home on maternity leave so I saved for a few years before my son came along.  I had envisioned my maternity leave consisting of meeting friends for coffee, getting my hair done, visiting the shops and having a great time.  The reality turned out to be quite different.  My husband had a career change two-months after our son was born and it took a few months to get that moving. So we were living off our savings for a little while.  The new opportunity took us interstate for a short period which meant that I couldn’t really form any strong bonds with my mother’s group – having only just met them all before we had to move.

Once back home I had to get back to work – for two reasons.  Financially we were not where we needed to be and I had to get back to work to keep the mortgage and bills paid.  But I also really wanted to get back to work.  I wasn’t sure if becoming a mother would change me, but I have a strong work ethic and whilst love my children very much, I craved the work environment.  I wanted to contribute to our household financially, I wanted to continue to grow my career and see where I could end up.  My theory was why couldn’t I still do all that and achieve amazing things in my career all whilst being a mum?

It takes some juggling and compromise, but if you want it to work, it can.

And so began my journey into being a working mum.  Since that time, I have had my second child, worked full time, part time, freelance – from both home and office environments.  I have worked with a few different employers and had different colleagues and managers.  My experience in this area is wide and varied and will continue to evolve in the coming years.

So I welcome you to this new space I have created – Wine For Mama.  A place where there is no judgement, no opinions, just information and examples where you can take as much as you need to make your life a little easier – learning from women who have been exactly where you are and continue to be a working mums.

 

Career, Lifestyle

The Call

We have all been there. Busy with work or other things and the call comes. This may be a call from school or childcare to say your child is unwell or has hurt themselves. Perhaps a call from family members or a nanny who is minding your child and needs to you come immediately! There are a myriad of thoughts and emotions that go through your mind when you see that name flash up on your phone – you can never pick the call up quick enough.

These calls can be challenging. Some of us simply run out the door, nothing else is of any importance. Some immediately feel guilt for having to leave work early combined with the rush of emotion that “I should have been there for my child” further enhancing the pull of life grabbing at us at every corner and pulling us in different directions. The balls we are so careful to juggle begin to fall down in slow motion as you realise that you need to get home, but in doing so you also feel guilt for not being able to handle your workload or for perhaps letting your team down as you won’t be there for that important meeting you were meant to lead.

The guilt comes in all directions. You feel like a bad parent for not being there, you feel like a bad employee and colleague for not being there, you feel like a bad partner (because you’re meant to handle all this right?) and you are guilt ridden to the core for not being there for anyone.

Unfortunately there is no simple solution. Each of us will feel differently to each other in these situations and also differently for each situation. Personally I feel that the older the kids get the guilt eases slightly. Only this week I ran out the door to collect my child from school due to an injury sustained in the schoolyard. My heart retching and aching to get there, but also understanding that it wasn’t an emergency and my child was safe and happy with the school nurse hanging out in the medical room.

We can’t be all things to all people. We can’t be in two places at once. We can’t live life full of guilt and despair. We can just do the best we can each and every day. Build flexibility into your workday, build your village and spread the load. You are doing a good job mama, so relax and enjoy the (bumpy) ride.

Career, Kids, Lifestyle, Parenting

Back To Work After A Baby

So the time has come.  You have been off on maternity leave, enjoyed lots of cuddles and amazing times, as well as some exhausting ones.  But your time is now up – so what do you do.

I think I cried for approx. a month when I realised I had to go back to work after my my first son was born – I went back to work full time when he was 9 months old.  I was going to take a full 12 months of maternity leave but needed to go back earlier for financial reasons.  I think when I left work I secretly thought perhaps I wouldn’t go back.  Not to the same place anyway, but perhaps to a new employer.  My reality was a bit different to my dream.

Depending on your circumstance here are my top 5 things to consider when returning to work.

  1. Do you need to/want to go back.

For some mums, once they have a baby and spend time with them – they really want to keep it that way.  So if this is you, and you have no barriers, then good on you.  That is fantastic and I am sure if/when you decide to re-join the workforce it will be great!

For other mums they want to stay home but need to go back to work – either for financial reasons or perhaps they just need to for themselves.  A person’s identity can be intertwined with their career.  Perhaps you just need to feel normal again – the normal you felt before babies – at least between 9am-5pm.  If you need to return for financial reasons then this can be hard – because your heart just isn’t in it.  But it isn’t all doom and gloom.  Whilst you will miss your baby immensely, sometimes we need to make hard choices in order to create brighter futures and for some, this is that choice.  I am not going to lie it will be hard initially, but you will find your groove, you won’t miss out too much (they will be in school very soon anyway) and the cuddles you get after a long day at work are super special.

For a lot of mums they cannot wait to get back into the workforce.  Being a stay at home mum just isn’t for them.  They love their family to the moon and back – but having a career is also fulfilling to them and something they have a strong desire to do.  Good on your if this is your path.

  1. It’s your life, it’s your choice

Many people are pretty opinionated especially when it comes to parenting.  Breast or Bottle, Working mum/Stay at home mum, School/Home school, I could literally go on and on.  But no one knows what is right for you and your family more so than you and your family.  So do what is best for you.  All families are extremely different.  Walk to the beat of your own drum and make your life the life you wish to live.

  1. Care arrangements

Have some care arrangements and back up plans ready to go well in advance.  It is no secret that Childcare in Australia is hard to find as well as expensive, so start looking as soon as you can and lock in your options.  Always have a back-up plan.  This may be a formal childcare centre a few days a week and then Grandparents a few days a week.  This might give you some flexibility to upscale either option if and when you might need to.

  1. Build your village

Having a village is very important but for some it is hard to cultivate.  If you have family nearby that is great – they will be a great help to assist when your child is unwell or needs to be looked after whilst you are building your career.   Outside of family, look at friends, babysitters, neighbours and other people you trust and know well whom you can call on if you are really stretched.

  1. Flexibility

It is great to work for an employer who offers flexibility.  This might be working from home on occasion, ability to flex with your time (start early/finish early) or the ability to go back part time to start with.  Many employees are now starting to acknowledge that flexibility is a key component to today’s working environment.  Not just for mums but for everyone as we strive for more work life balance.  If you are employed by a traditional employer then you need to think about if that is going to work for you and if not perhaps look at making a move.  There are some great recruitment agencies and other organisations that specialise in flexible employment options I suggest you check them out.  One I can suggest is Just Mums Recruitment – they are fab!

There are many other things to consider when going back to work.  If you have any tips, or perhaps want to share your working mum story get in touch with us, we would love to share it!