When is the best time to return to work after having a baby?
There are so many individual factors playing into this decision that there really is no right or wrong answer. One thing is for certain, this is a topic that attracts strong opinions, and you may find yourself hearing many of them! The most important thing to remember is that doing something to please others will not make you a better mum.
What are the factors to consider when making the decision to return to paid work?
1. Your work requirements and environment.
Are you expected to work long hours or is there some flexibility such as working from home or around childcare availability? Is there an option to return part-time? Does your profession require you to complete a certain number of working hours to maintain your position? Can you leave your workplace easily if your child is unwell? If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you will need to plan at least one break to express milk in order to maintain your milk supply.
Do you have family members who can help or will you need to organise a place at a day care centre, a nanny or au pair? It is worth enquiring with Centrelink as to your eligibility for childcare benefits and then weighing up the cost of care against your income. You may also consider whether your time for self-care or social events will be limited if you are asking family members to provide regular childcare during the week, and have no-one else to ask at other times.
3. The opinion of your partner.
If you are living with a partner how do they feel about you returning to work? Will they offer more help with domestic duties if you return to work? If you are separated, are you able to work at times that fit with your co-parenting agreement?
4. Your financial situation.
This is obviously a significant factor for many families, and those who require two incomes may feel that there is little choice. If you really don’t want to return to work but are concerned over finances, try making a list of all of your expenses and look for areas where you could save through shopping for a better deal or by cutting down on non-essentials.
5. Your child’s unique needs.
You know your child best. If your child has learning or medical difficulties that require many appointments, or special needs that you feel require your full attention you may choose not to return to work. Personality, temperament and developmental stage are also factors in how a child will transition into care and may influence your decision on care provider and timing.
6. Your personal values, needs and desires.
Mum guilt is real but there is no need to feel guilty when you are the only one who understands the full picture for your family and are basing your decision on all of the facts! Some women return to work for fulfilment and to reconnect with their sense of self outside of their role as a mum. This can provide emotional energy to give back to their child(ren) when they are together.
Considering all of the factors and weighing up the options to make a decision that is right for you and your family will bring confidence in your decision, and increase feelings of happiness, which can only be a positive thing for your family.
Midwife/Child Health Nurse and
creator of Wholehearted Family Health