Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? (Whether To Go Back To Work After Maternity Leave)
BC (Before Children), I had a fun and exciting job in the entertainment industry. Parties, concerts and gigs were all part of the package and my self-image was very intertwined with my career.
When I became pregnant I had to decide whether to take the maternity package on offer or cut the cord (so to speak) and be a SAHM (stay-at-home mum).
My head was in a total spin over it.
Then I got proactive. I did what I do best and got it out of my head and onto paper, journalling on my pros and cons and feeling into it. Next, I used another potent tool: visualisation. I closed my eyes and imagined what my daily life would look like in each scenario.
My visualisation looked like this:
Option A: Take maternity leave and return to work.
Find someone I trust implicitly to look after my baby for nine hours a day, five days a week. Get dressed and ready on little sleep, hand baby over and commute into the office.
Work all day, commute home, and have baby again at the ‘arsenic hour’ when everyone’s tired and cranky.
Option B: Quit my job and stay at home.
Be at home with my baby 24/7.
No creative outlet or non-baby-related interaction with adults; potential to be bored senseless.
Earn no income.
• Lose an essential part of my identity.
Writing it all down like this made me realise that I wanted the best of both worlds. To keep my creative cogs turning, continue earning money, still feel like ‘me’ – but to also be a big part of my baby’s daily development and not feel completely dependent on someone else to look after him. I already loathed my daily commute and wanted to drop that from my life.
Then the solution came to me.
I’d work from home as a freelance graphic designer, hire a part-time nanny and take on only as much work as I could calmly handle.
I promptly handed in my notice and used the remainder of my pregnancy to set up my home business. I already had the graphic design skills; now I needed to make it work for me in a whole new setting.
For a while it was a successful solution. I organised things like baby swimming lessons and musical playgroups on the days we had together and hired an amazing nanny to help on the days I worked. I never felt I missed anything as they were only downstairs and I could pop in and say hello anytime.
You can only guess which days I found more utterly exhausting and challenging! On the mornings when our nanny arrived, I felt an enormous surge of gratitude as she walked in the door. But I also cherished my days with my son and appreciated the balance of both realities.
However, my happy little set-up took on some fresh challenges when baby number two came along. I share that story over here but in a nutshell, I morphed into a super-stressed mama until I finally did some parenting skills classes and then went on to create my Project Me.
Every situation is different and you need to weigh your own set of pros and cons
There’s no point judging anyone else’s choices. What’s right for your best friend isn’t necessarily right for you. But it’s important that the career choice you make is done consciously and with an understanding of the options open to you.
Many mothers feel trapped in an old unsuitable career after having children. Others leave work, then feel they’re not using their brains or are wasting years of education and training. Both don’t realise that their skills, experience and gifts could be shared with the world in a different way.
If you’re considering a return to work, it’s important to honestly assess your situation and understand your true motivations. Whether you’re returning to work because of finances, because you want adult interactions, or because you enjoy your career, get clear about why you want it and what the benefits will be to you and your family. Be confident in your decision. If you’ve weighed it all up and you’re leaning in favour of staying home, be just as confident with that choice. Nothing’s carved in stone and you’re allowed to change your mind later if something interesting presents itself or your circumstances change.
I changed career paths completely after doing Marie Forleo’s online business school (B-School) and learned how to take the things I’m most passionate about and turn them into a business I love. (Read my story here of how I did that!)
YOUR CALL TO ACTION!
- Get it out of your head and onto paper. Your mind will feel clearer and the answer will be easier to see. Use my Challenge Solver Action Sheet.
- Use Visualisation: ‘Feel’ your life as if you have made one choice. Then do the same for the other(s). What’s your heart telling you to do?
- Brainstorm: Are there any solutions you haven’t yet considered? Is there a way of having the best of both worlds?
- Phone a friend: If you’re still stuck, who can help you? Who’s impartial enough to hear about your visualisation and have an opinion you trust?
In the comments below, please share your story. Have you made The Big Decision? Are you going through this now? Have you found a solution you’re happy with? What would you say to others who are struggling with this right now?
photo credit: snigl3t via photopin cc
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