Sigrid Daniel, UK Director of Care.com, an online site which allows families to connect with millions of caregivers, shares some useful advice for returning to work after maternity leave.
What do new parents need to consider in the back-to-work decision?
Every week I speak to parents who are considering what to do about their childcare when going back to work. Too often for parents, this discussion tends to go "I'd quite like to go back to work. Then I looked around at the childcare options, and now it feels too expensive / inflexible / very complicated to arrange." Don’t feel defeated by this seemingly never-ending series of challenges. Hold on to what is important to you and think about balancing being a parent with having a career as a marathon, not a sprint.
Start thinking about and exploring your childcare options during your pregnancy. Ask yourself the following questions: Where do I want to be in 10 years’ time? Would I like to be financially independent? What are the compromises that we can make as a couple? If we make those compromises, what can we afford in the way of childcare? Once you have focused on what is important to you as a parent and as an individual, start to put together the childcare package that supports your family situation.
What childcare options should new parents take into consideration?
New parents should take all childcare options into account when drawing up their childcare plan and research them all to decide which works best for their needs and their budget. Once they have established a budget and have a good idea of what their working week looks like, parents should consider everything: nursery, nanny, granny, childminder, au pair or a combination.
Make sure that you take advantage of all of the free childcare available in order to stretch your budget: up to 15 hours free pre-school education from either two or three-years-old, depending on where you live; childcare vouchers from either partners’ workplace, shared pick-ups and drop offs with Granny, or a stay-at-home day for little one with a professional nanny or other childcarer. And while factoring in budget, don’t forget the commute – this adds time and can be tiring for both mum, dad and little one. Try to organize childcare that is either at home, near home or near your place of work.
How will a parent know if working full-time will be too much?
Only by trying. Many mums feel recharged from time with other adults, doing something that they are good at and enjoy. Plus having the odd excuse to dress up in a nice suit or have a coffee with colleagues can balance out your life as a parent. For others, full-time work becomes too much and they seek part-time options. Every person and family is different but the key for all mums is to remember there is no right or wrong…just what’s best for you and your family.
Once you are in the mix of being a parent and working, make sure you do all those things that your mother has always told you to – look after yourself by taking vitamins and supplements, go to the gym and don’t forget helpful extras such as an annual ‘flu jab. These little things help you keep on top of your responsibilities with a smile on your face.
How do you renegotiate terms with your boss following maternity leave?
Great question and one that I hear a lot about, anecdotally, from other parents. Make sure that you are fully au fait with the options at your place of employment. Read the Employee Handbook, find out what other parents have asked for and achieved and make sure that you go in with realistic expectations that fit your job requirements.
Many employers have begun offering access to childcare services as part of their overall benefits package. Be sure to see if yours is one of them and if not, it never hurts to suggest they look into it.
What flexible working options are available to new parents?
That wholly depends on the employer, the responsibilities of the job and the size of the company. Once, when I was hesitating over a return to work after my second child, my boss called me and offered me a pay rise. I countered with a request to leave at lunchtime every Friday so that I could collect my eldest from school.
It had not even occurred to him that my hesitation was to do with my family life rather than my general pay and conditions. He agreed immediately, as he was keen to hold on to a valuable employee. Sometimes, you have to choose your moment to raise these requests. And again, explore arrangements that other parents in your workplace have been able to negotiate.
For more useful information and advice, go to uk.care.com