The Mother Of All Jobs
A Survival Guide For Going Back To Work Post-Kids...
Before I had children, I was naïve enough to think that work would solve itself post-maternity leave, or that somehow we would win the lottery and I wouldn’t need to work. But once I had my son, I realised I wanted to work. I felt like I needed a break from motherhood some of the time to get back to a world where there wasn’t a tantrum when I asked for something to be done, and where I could close the bathroom door.
I tried the full time gig post children. And I honestly worship at the feet of women who can make that work. I could for a time and I loved it. I had a very supportive company who had a Friday 2pm finish for all staff (whoop, whoop!), an amazing boss and colleagues and really, lots of flexibility. I also had a partner who was on board with sharing as much as he could and would negotiate for ‘most important meeting trump card’ when gastro hit (he didn’t just assume his was top trump over mine). I left in the end because the international travel was incompatible with small people and a busy, corporate husband. Plus we wanted more children.
But then some of the itch came back. And then it came back so much I knew I could only scratch it by trying my hand at paid employment again. I looked into part-time roles on places like Seek. Nada. Just not many options and nothing that suited my skills. So I freelanced. But. There usually is a ‘but’ isn’t there. But, I just couldn’t juggle it all. I couldn’t get the childcare solution to marry up with the hours I needed. I just couldn’t find the solution to get the reports written and time for the thinking/creative work. And then gastro would hit, or the school would email about the ‘Book Week Parade’ happening tomorrow (always tomorrow, how did I not know?). Things would go to custard and I’d be cursing at myself, shouting at my kids and snapping at my husband.
I don’t have any magic bullets, but I do know that a lot of people want to research the hell out of options and what might/might not work in that fine balance called juggling. Here is a small offering of some suggestions which you can take or leave, from a mum who has tried parenting full time, working full time, working part-time, freelancing, volunteering and starting a new business from scratch. (NB: there are some resources I have found helpful at the end)
Our top tips and tricks for working post-mothering
Establish your values
See if you can use those values to define your work aspirations and plans for career progression and workplace placement. Granted this is not always possible, sometimes you just have to do certain work for financial reasons and you don’t get to match your personal and workplace values. If you are in the position where you can craft your next steps to be more aligned with your personal values think about:
- What makes you happy and what you would like your legacy to be and whether you can marry this into a sensible workplace scenario.
- Talk to potential employers about their values and stance in flexible working including finding out who in the organisation actively uses the various flexible options (it’s one thing to have a policy and quite another to encourage people to use them).
- Can you do a short course to get you closer to your ambition?
- Our friends at The Parent Village offer some great advice on getting career clarity after kids.
Find the right childcare for you and your family
Get to know what childcare solutions are available to you depending on the age of your children and your budget.
- Look into nannies, nanny-share, mummy-nannies & nonnas
- Can you squeeze in an au-pair (even just for the short term). We found ours on Au Pair World.
- What friends are working flexibly, and can you share a nanny or do a childcare roster – e.g. you take mine for half a day and I’ll return the favour. Think through friendly ‘rules’ governing what happens if kids are sick in this scenario. Don’t lose a friend because you didn’t disclose a vomiting child overnight. Think about this as an option too if you’ve got school aged children and can’t get into aftercare.
- Does your daycare have occasional spots? Are other kids going on holiday to snap up their spot for the short term?
- Can you mix and match daycares? I have friends that do 2 days here and 2 days there and it can work.
- Is there aftercare at your local school and is there a waitlist you need to be on?
- Are there after-school activities you can book your child into to bridge the gap from the 3pm pick up and your ability to leave work?
Find a recruitment agency that really gets mums & flexible working
There are quite a few agencies that can help you find companies that support flexible & part-time work and help you with resume writing and confidence boosting during an interview. We love Puffling which helps set-up job-sharing partners, and Jobs for Mums.
Learn to say no
(And PLEASE email me and tell me how you do it when you’ve nailed it)
Honestly, spend some time thinking about what your capacity is, and how to politely decline overloading yourself. This is not about being a slacker, but about being smart and realistic with your time. I really believe people (both at home and at work) will respect your time more if you’re not always available to them.
There's some great wisdom from Kirsty Smith (of Virtual Elves) who said to write your to-do list the night before, and if you can do that you’ll be in better shape to know your limits. I think that’s great advice.
Find a happy and productive co-working space locally
If you’re working for yourself or freelancing make sure you have somewhere to go at least once a week to get work done that isn’t your dining room table. Try work hubs e.g. Upswing if you need childcare as well, or The Little Space, or try a cafe with free WIFI or local library. It’s really important to feel the community around you and forget about the load of washing you could be doing at home.
Our top tips and tricks for mothering post-work
Get a joint family calendar/diary (ideally electronic) so you and your partner can share important work meetings, kid’s activities and personal time (including date nights)
Do a meal plan weekly (ask for your kids input so they feel invested and are less likely to complain at meal times). Think about whether you can budget for some pre-prepared meals eg. Dinner Ladies or Hello Fresh or invest in a slow cooker and stew during the week.
The Lunches Too!
Do a lunchbox plan and include some frozen items you can bulk bake to put in freezer to use as needed (muffins works in my family). If you need to leave early the next day, make the lunchboxes the night before. If your school has a canteen, seriously use it, and keep the online ordering account loaded up with cash for those desperate times when there is no bread or no time.
Ask For Help
Your friends or family will help (as would you) if asked. Make a list of people you/your partner could ask for help for various scenarios and offer the same help back on certain days. Eg. there are some days when I know my morning is stretched so I often ask a friend if I can drop my daughter at 8am to be taken to school by her. There are other mornings she knows she can ask for the favour to be returned.
Our school class parents have a Whatsapp group and we all know we can ask each other to pick up a child or wait until the parent/carer arrives at school if anyone is running late etc.
Ditch The Comparisons
Stop comparing yourself to other parents/families. Everyone does it differently and that’s OK. Don’t buy into haters and negativity surrounding parenting and what others looking for a quick byline and social media share think you should be doing. It is distracting, hurtful and can really railroad your confidence.
Be Kind To Yourself And Remember To Look After Your Own Wellbeing
Make sure you do at least 1-2 things per week that is just for you. Be it a passion/hobby, some exercise or coffee/wine with a friend. Just do it. You’ll be a better parent for looking after yourself and a good role model for your kids in doing so.
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