The thought of returning to work after you’ve been on maternity leave (or you’ve taken some time out to enjoy being a mum) can feel pretty daunting. There’s a whole host of thoughts racing through your head that range from childcare to an annoying nag self-doubt (‘what if I’ve forgotten everything?!’ You haven’t, we promise.) and it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed. But don’t fear – every day, there are lots of mums getting back to work in the UK.
Actually, that’s silly advice – of course you’re going to be a little afraid, that’s perfectly normal. The decision to go back to work can feel just as big as the decision to have a baby in the first place – especially if you’re not sure how everything is going to work (in terms of childcare, your hours, flexibility, etc).
That’s why we’ve put together this list of top tips for mums getting back to work in the UK. They cover everything from finding the right job to handling childcare. (If you’re a mum that’s recently gone back to work and we miss anything, be sure to let us know in the comments.)
Stage One: Mums getting back to work – First make the decision
For many mothers, the decision to go back to work is tough. There’s always going to be that pull between wanting to spend all day with your children and wanting to go back to work (or wanting to rediscover your ‘work self’.)
Jill Fernandez, a working mother of two children aged 14 and 11, spoke to The Guardian about her decision to return to work part-time:
In my experience, it’s best not to wait for that mythical perfect time to return to work. Rather like having a baby in the first place, there’s never a ‘right’ time to go back. I would advise anyone contemplating their return, to think about it carefully and when it feels 80% right then you should just go for it.
Stage Two: Starting to look for work
For mums getting back to work in the UK, this stage is often the hardest. Once you’ve made the difficult decision to return to work, there are a lot of challenges to overcome when you’re looking for that perfect position.
Before you became a mum, you were free to take any opportunity you fancied. Now, you have to juggle how long you’ll be working, whether you can afford childcare for the time you’re at work, whether there’s any flexibility for days when your kids are ill and a thousand other questions.
But you’re not alone – far from it.
Across the country, mothers are returning to work and getting access to hugely flexible working arrangements that help them juggle their work life and parenthood easily. More and more businesses are beginning to understand the value that candidate like you can add to their team – and want to make your life easier by offering flexible hours.
When you’re looking for jobs, be sure to look for jobs that have some degree of flexibility – whether that’s allowing you to work compressed hours (you work the same hours over 3 or 4 days rather than a whole week), job share with another mum (where each of you works 2 and half days a week, for instance) or allows for days working from home.
It might sound a bit demanding to want so much when you’re just returning to the workforce, but it’s key to making your life a little easier (and stress-free).
As Fiona Severs, the director of a legal recruitment consultancy, told The Guardian:
Be brave and ask for the flexibility that you need and make sure that it works both ways. Be ready to give something more back to your employer when you can, and make sure you make a good business case for working flexibly.
However, if traditional, 9-to-5 employment isn’t for you, you might want to consider working from home.
Home-based jobs for mums
If you’re not keen on returning to work full-time or part-time, but want to bring in a little bit of extra money, then it might be a good idea to start your own business.
And you wouldn’t be the only mum. Across the country, thousands of mums are setting up their own businesses or are freelancing to bring in extra money.
In fact, a report by Development Economics in 2015 found that ‘mumtrepreneurs’ added 30 per cent of value to the UK economy between 2011 and 2014, generating a staggering £7.2billion of wealth.
On top of that, it predicts that by 2025, mumtrepeneurs will contribute £9.5 billion to the UK economy and employ an additional 13,000 employees.
As Mum and Career note, eBay and Amazon have made it much easier for mums to start and run businesses from their kitchen table, all the while being a mum.
Stage Three: Getting childcare sorted
If you’re one of the many mums getting back to work in the UK, then childcare is probably going to be your number one priority – it’s the key to a stress-free (well, as stress-free as any aspect of parenting can be…) return to work.
Our top tips:
- Get ahead of the ball: start looking for a childminder early on. It’s a very personal choice, and you’re only going to be able to relax and do your job if you’ve found a childminder you trust completely.
- Plan B: Make sure you have a back-up plan for if your childminder is ill, gets a new job or just doesn’t work out.
- Plan C: Make sure you have a plan for if Plan B doesn’t work out – trust us, it’ll help.
Stage Four: Finding your feet (and making things work)
Your first day back at work is going to feel odd. You’re going to go through a whole range of emotions, from nerves to worrying if your child is missing you. But you’ll get through it, and you’ll soon remember what you loved about work in the first place.