YOU did it. You made the choice to follow the path with the signpost reading: babies.
Now, as your maternity leave nears its end or the call of adult conversation beckons, you are gearing up to make life even busier.
You’re returning to work.
Scared? No need to be.
Mothers Kate Sykes and Allison Tait have been there and share their tips for making it work in their book Career Mums.
RETURNING TO WORK
Work as a family to figure out when is the best time for you to return to work, Sykes says.
“Just because the time might be right to go back to work for money doesn’t mean that the mother is mentally or physically ready to go back yet,” she says.
The mother needs to be mentally ready for the childcare stage, she says, and also needs to consider the direction they want to take their career and how best to achieve that.
When you do return to the office, ensuring you are not overlooked for positions or promotions because you have childcare responsibilities is a constant battle, says Sykes.
Approach your manager about your goals, she suggests, and discuss whether part-time work will affect them, and whether there are opportunities for internal training.
“You’ve got to start talking. I think people come back to work and some are happy to just be in a role that’s maybe not as responsible, is more flexible and they’re still trying to cope with that work-life balance, but at some point, if you want your career to keep on track and to keep moving you’ve got to start asking questions about where your career is going.”
THE RESUME PARENTING GAP
When it comes to updating your resume, many women make the mistake of glossing over the time they’ve spent at home by putting :stay-at-home mum” in the job description, write Sykes, 37, and Tait, 42, in Career Mums.
“The trick is to translate your parenting skills into ‘wordspeak’,” they say.
Look at your skills, for example time management, and include them on your resume. Also include the skills you have picked up through unpaid or volunteer work, they write.
“Raising money for charity or your school, for example, involves communication, business development and marketing skills.
“Just because you weren’t paid for your efforts doesn’t mean your skills don’t exist.”
Looking for a flexible job is high up the priority list, says Sykes, along with finding childcare that’s right for your son or daughter.
She says once you know your child is happy and they feel secure with their carers, parents can work efficiently because they’re not in the office worrying about their child.
“You know that they’re being looked after, you know that they’re being cared for and so you can just get on with your day and be as productive as you possibly can be.”
Sykes believes a mother reaches a danger point when she starts thinking she shouldn’t return to work because of the high cost of care.
“Childcare has to be viewed as a joint family decision and the mother’s career should be just as respected as the dad’s career,” Sykes says.
“If it means that the cost of childcare is a little bit excessive in those first few years but you’re still keeping your head above water and it means that you’re keeping your toes in the workplace then that’s really important for a woman’s future earning capacity too.”
It’s much easier to focus on your career during work hours if the home front is running smoothly, reads Career Mums.
“In the office, you want to have a calm, focused attitude, and that’s not easy if you’re worrying about what’s going on at home.
“Good childcare is vital, but what matters even more is having a partner who’ll share the load with you fairly.”
In more than 65 per cent of Australians household, they write, both parents work.
To get the right balance, parental responsibilities, such as school drop-offs, sick days, shopping and cleaning, must be shared.
Sykes, who has three children aged eight, six and three, and Tait, who has two sons aged eight and five, suggest writing down your domestic duties. Then you can create a weekly calendar so both mum and dad know what their jobs are.
There are many wrong assumptions people make about working parents, and one myth is that working flexibly means you’re no longer serious about your career.
Look for role models, Career Mums advises, such as any executives or managers who are also working part-time.
You also have to accept the hours you work and not try and do a full-time job in part-time hours.
Another myth, Sykes and Tait say, is that you should be at home with your kids instead of working.
“There may be members of your organisation who judge you for your decision to return to work: you will not convince these people that their opinion is wrong, so don’t try,” they write.