Return to Work After Maternity Leave? 10 Considerations
In This Post – Return to Work After Maternity Leave
- Have you been agonizing about whether or not to return to work after maternity leave?
- My personal decision about working after kids (hint: it was messy)
- Make your decision deliberately
- 10 considerations to help you decide
- A free Ultimate Career Planner for Corporate Moms (see very bottom of this page)
- Your Take Action List/Next Steps
The BIG Decision
Have you been agonizing about whether or not to go back to work after maternity leave?
Are you pregnant for the first time and not sure what it will be like being a mom? Some of the common questions working women ask themselves are:
- If you go back to work, how would you feel leaving your baby with someone else?
- If you stay at home, how would your family manage financially without your salary and benefits?
- If you stay at home, what would you do all day?
Or, are you already a mom and pregnant again. Are you thinking about:
- If I go back to work, how will I manage all the kid’s schedules?
- If I go back to work, how much will childcare cost vs. how much I make?
- If I go back to work, what will I be missing as the kids are growing?
- If I stay at home, what will I do all day?
- If I stay at home, how can I stay motivated (and have time) for my own goals?
- If I stay at home, will I be able to restart my career when I’m ready?
How will you make this decision? Will you wait until the baby arrives and figure it out then? Will you decide in advance? Will you try to go back to work and see how it goes, and then decide?
My decision about working after kids
After we had our first son, I took a 3 month maternity leave and then went back to work. At the time, my thought was he sleeps 3 times a day, what am I really missing anyway?
And for the first year, this arrangement worked for us. Yes, there were some challenging times:
- Pumping in the craziest places like airport and airplane bathrooms
- Pumping while on conference calls, and trying to juggle turning off the loud pump when I needed to go off mute to speak
- Feeling like I was missing out on a lot of the milestones first-hand
- Having a hard time turning off work to be present when I was home
But, overall, I look back and feel going back to work was the best choice at the time.
I didn’t really know what motherhood would be like, and my entire identity was centered around working, my company, and my title (to be honest). I think quitting my job cold turkey would have sent me into a spiral.
But, when my son was almost two, I ended up resigning my position of 12 years because my husband’s job was moving us to Hawaii.
I approached this resignation and the categorization of “working mom” or “stay-at-home-mom” as all-or-nothing. Either work or don’t. To me, it was black and white.
Luckily, my company offered me a third option when I resigned… the ability to work part-time as a consultant helping them with specific projects in areas that I had built up industry and corporate expertise.
I wish I had thought of that!
So, with that, I began my next phase as a consultant and coach. At the time, I thought moving and leaving my career was terrible but I quickly realized that I love
- to have autonomy,
- to make my own schedule,
- the flexibility I need to juggle 3 kids,
- the ability to set my own priorities, and
- the ability to work on the projects and with the people I choose.
Make The Decision Deliberately
Make a deliberate decision, so you can own the choice and know why you made it.
So many of us feel we have no choice, but that’s not true. We DO have a choice. There are just pros and cons related to that choice.
When you’re ready to make a decision, here are 10 things to consider.
10 Considerations When Deciding Whether or Not To Go Back To Work After Having A Baby
Here is a list of 8 topics to consider, including a list of questions for each. I’ve also included my personal examples for you – the good, the bad, and the ugly…all of it.
You can use this as checklist to decide whether or not to go back to work after after having a baby (your first, second, 5th, doesn’t matter. You always have a choice):
1. Your Finances – salary, costs, benefits
One consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your finances. (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
- If you stay at your job, how much would you pay for childcare and what % of your current salary would that consume? Consider extra costs if you travel and need extended coverage.
- If you leave your job and don’t work at all, could you adjust your budget to cover your expenses and the lifestyle you that matters to you?
- If you want to work part-time, what would that look like for you?Would the income be stable or project-based? Would you be okay with variable income or less/no benefits? The Ultimate Mom’s Career Planner (see box above to download) helps walk you through brainstorming ideas for part-time options. Give that a try.
- My personal experience: I had a executive level salary when I was working, and that was really difficult to walk away from. My husband also took a pay cut for his job, at the same time. And, for the trifecta, we moved to Hawaii, which is one of the highest costs of living in the country.
- While all of these financial adjustments seemed overwhelming at first, we quickly realized that we could happily downgrade our lifestyle and actually be happier because there was less to worry about.
- And, I was able to make more in my part-time/consultant role than I initially anticipated. In hindsight, I discounted my abilities and knowledge, and played into the stereotype that I’m just a mom and somehow my comp should be less…
- My advice to you – don’t discount yourself and your skills.
2. Your Schedule
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your schedule. (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
- If you stay at your job,
- How would you handle situations when your kid(s) is sick?
- How would you handle business travel, if applicable?
- How do you want to spend your time, optimally, and would you be able to create that schedule for yourself at work and at home?
- If you leave your job and don’t work at all,
- What would you schedule look like?
- How would you fill out your day and does that match to your personal priorities?
- If you shift to part-time (at your current job, on your own, or at another company),
- How would you balance work and personal responsibilities?
- What would your daily schedule look like – create an ideal schedule to see it in writing.
- My personal experience: For me, sometimes this part-time/hybrid schedule is straightforward and I fit in everything – kids, part-time job, and my own coaching business. Other times, it’s super messy! For example, there have been more times than I’d like to admit where I’ve had to pull to the side of the road to take a conference call standing outside my car while the kids are fighting inside.
3. Your Career Goals
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your career goals. (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
- First, consider what are your goals, independent of the work style you are considering
- Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but have never had time (or have been afraid to take the leap)? Maybe now is the time.
- Is there a cause you feel deeply about and would like to devote your time there?
- Do you have a goal of reaching a certain level/title in your current company, or at any company?
- Would you like to start your own business?
Now that you’ve established your goals and direction, think through your options:
- If you stay at your job,
- What is your promotion path at your current company?
- Do you want to continue advancing or are you happy with where you’re at?
- What are your short, medium, and longer term goals for your career?
- If you have bigger goals that your current company can’t provide, what is the best timing to start looking for a new opportunity and how does that fit into your family and personal goals?
- Tip: start networking now (e.g. keeping in touch with former colleagues + current and former customers, you never know what will come up.)
- If you leave your job and don’t work at all, consider that you MIGHT want to return at some point, and keep some options open for yourself
- What could you do to keep your skills current?
- What could you do to keep your resume current? (e.g. volunteering or mentoring in your field/industry)
- Would you want to learn something new, build new skills, or work toward shifting to a new industry or position?
- How could you keep in touch with your colleagues and customers. Find ways to send them value occasionally (e.g. articles that made you think of them, holiday cards, thank you notes)
- If you shift to part-time (at your current job, at another company, or on your own)
- What is your primary goal – money, skill-building, adult interaction, etc?
- Based on your primary goal, what part-time or entrepreneurial pursuit would fit you best?
- My personal experience
- I have figured out my career goals through a lot of trial and error over the last several years.
- I thought I wanted to be a CEO, first at a start-up and then for a large company. That’s where I was headed.
- But, then I realized that the goal of being a CEO didn’t fit into the lifestyle I wanted. Yes, the title was impressive but I didn’t really want what came along with it – managing a lot of employees, constant travel, rigid work schedules, enormous pressure, and questioning if what I was doing was adding true value to the world.
- After I switched to part-time consultant and coach, I started experimenting with various businesses, until I found exactly where my passion lies. I think the HUGE benefit o this Third Option (working part-time), is the mental space and ability to invest, to figure out what works best.
4. Your Family Goals
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your family goals (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
- First, consider what are your family goals, independent of the work style you are considering
- What does the ideal family-life look like for you?
- What does it mean to be a great mom? How can you best accomplish that?
- How will you know if you’ve accomplished your goals for the ideal family-life?
- How will you know that you’ve reached your mom/parenting goals?
- Why is what you’ve written out important to you?
- What will it be like if you don’t accomplish what you’ve described for your ideal family-life?
Now that you’ve established your family goals and direction, think through your options.
- Which of these options best facilitates the goals you’ve described? And why?
- Stay at your job,
- Leave your job and don’t work at all,
- Shift to part-time (at your current job, at another company, or on your own)
- My personal experience: I knew that I wanted to go to my kid’s events and games without asking my boss for permission. I wanted to snuggle my kids when they were sick without needing to juggle work meetings and obligations. I knew that i wanted to travel for business on my own terms, not when someone told me to.
5. Your Social Life
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your social life. (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
What kind of social life do you want to have?
What types of people do you want to surround yourself with, and is one style of work more conducive than another?
My personal experience: I made many life-long friends when I was working full-time. I miss seeing those people on a day-to-day basis but have made it a point to stay in touch.
I’ve also met a lot of amazing friends when I was at home and working less.
I will say it can feel like a ‘no mans land’ at times working part-time. Work friends don’t have as much flexibility to meet for lunch or coffee. I’ve found it harder to bond with stay-at-home mom friends because I don’t have as much flexibility in my schedule, and sometimes I have to cancel when something unexpected comes up with work. Also, I truly love working and tend to spend ‘extra’ time on my business vs. out building friendships.
6. Your Lifestyle
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your lifestyle. (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
The lifestyle consideration is one to contemplate.
- Do you want to be a family that travels?
- Do you want to be a mom that goes on trips with her friends, for work and/or for your business?
- Do you like going into an office?
- Do you like working from home?
- Would you prefer to focus on kids right now?
- Do you want to have a clear distinction between week days and weekends, or have that line blurred?
- What amount of money do you need to support this lifestyle and what are your options for making that money? (try thinking outside the box on this).
Think through your ideal lifestyle and then match up the work option that best fits (going back to work, staying home, or creating the Third Option for yourself).
My personal experience: I love working part-time from home. I love building my own company at the times and in the direction I want to. It gives me the combination of adult interaction, advancement toward my personal goals, and the ability to spend more quality time with my kids and husband. I also LOVE going to conferences on my own (or with other coaching friends) once or twice a year.
7. Your Choices
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your choices and options (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
It’s so easy to skip spending the time to make a deliberate decision and instead make assumptions about
- What’s financially possible and what’s not
- What the true day-to-day of your choice will be
- What your alternative choices really are (you’re most likely capable of doing more than you think)
And, it’s common to say things like “my hands are tied, I don’t really have a choice.”
And, then to feel like a victim of these circumstances and how we’re not living the life we’re meant to have.
You do have choices. Write them all down, and consider them carefully. Think outside the box.
Don’t be constrained by your own self-imposed limitations or fear.
The Ultimate Moms Career Planner can help you with this. Scroll to the bottom of this post to put in your name and email address. I will send it to you right away.
8. Your Self-Identity
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your self identity. (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
This one hit me hard.
I didn’t think through this at all, didn’t anticipate it, and didn’t even realize how much my own identity was wrapped up in my job and job title.
Here are so me things to consider, so you aren’t hit like a ton of bricks like I was:
- How do you define yourself?
- Do you define yourself (and wrap your self-worth) around your job title?
- Do you thrive on the praise you receive at work?
- How would you redefine yourself, if you choose an alternative path?
Think through how you define yourself and the potential ramifications of changing your career direction.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t something to be afraid of, or to use as a reason for choosing one path or another. It’s something to keep an eye on after you decide on which path you’ll take.
9. Your Expectations
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is your expectations. (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
Know that no matter your choice, nothing will be ‘perfect’ and challenges will arise.
Expect the challenges to come as with anything, and that’s okay.
Don’t expect that everything in life will improve based on this decision. Because, after all, you’re still you and the baggage will come with you anywhere you go (as it does for all of us).
10. What’s Driving Your Decision
Another consideration when deciding whether or not to return to work after maternity leave is what’s driving your decision. (Note: these 10 considerations are in no particular order, you will need to decide the priority and weight you give each).
And finally, as you’re thinking through and journaling about all of the topics above, one piece of advice is to consider what’s really driving your decision.
- Your goals
- Your desired personal and family lifestyle
- How you want to show up in the world
- What you and your husband envision as best for your family
- A clear vision of all the possibilities
Or, could it be:
- Wanting to stay in the comfort zone
There is absolutely no right or wrong answer. Just be sure you’re making your choice for reasons you like.
Next Steps Take Action
- Click hereto join the conversation over at The Corporate Moms Club on Facebook
- Click here to apply for your (no cost) Strategy Session with me. This is the best way to dive into your goals, what’s holding you back, and to make an action plan to accomplish what you truly want.
So now you have the 10 considerations to help you decide whether or not to return after maternity leave.
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