Friday 9 March 2018

MATERNITY LEAVE: Do I return to work or not?

MATERNITY LEAVE: Do I return to work or not?
As I write this I'm almost ten months into my maternity leave with Poppy and although I always planned on having the full year off, my return to work isn't so simple. Do I want to return to work? What is best for our family? What makes financial sense? There are always going to be a lot of questions regarding returning to work after maternity leave, even if deep down you know the answers already. It can be hard to even think about returning to work and leaving your little one, let alone the reality. After having Isabella I was lucky enough to negotiate returning part-time, so I went from working five days a week to three. It worked really well for the most part, as Isabella settled into nursery well and I knew that I still have two days off a week with her. 

However, when it comes to Poppy it's a bit more complicated. She's our second child, which means two children going to nursery and the financial implications of that. Unfortunately, Isabella misses out on the three year old government funding by 3 days (I believe the cut off is the 31st March and she was born on the 3rd April), so despite being three when I would return to work we will still have to pay for her until September. Paying for two children to go to nursery is so much money where we live, though I know it's nowhere near the most expensive childcare fees out there. My cousin lives in London and her childcare fees are eye-watering! When it came to considering what will happen at the end of my maternity leave we obviously had to think about the financial implications. Not only 'can we afford it?', but also ask ourselves if the benefits of working (wage, adult conversation, career prospects etc.) are worth it for how much money would actually be left each month.
The idea of not returning to work, or at least not properly, scares and excites me in equal measures at the moment. I know that I am extremely lucky to even be able to consider not returning to work, but life with children isn't all play dates, eating cake and catching up with mummy friends. Parenting is hard. Children have the ability to push you right to the edge, just to claw you back with a cute smile or big hug. There are days when I question whether I can tackle this parenting role again tomorrow. Days when bedtime can't come quick enough. Days when I just need a little bit of personal space. Days when the constant moaning/crying/tantrums/kicking of legs are just too much. Days when work seems like a much better option. 
But, is work really a better option? The answer to this will be completely different for every single parent out there. Some people have to go to work, others look forward to their return and many dream of not ever having to go back after maternity leave. I found going back to work after having Isabella a really positive step in our family life because it meant I appreciated our days off together more and I slowly learnt to enjoy time away from her. Isabella has always loved nursery and learnt so much over the past two years there. Obviously there were also tricky parts, like the guilt and juggling working and home life, but all in all I look back at my return to work as a positive one. 

Now that the end of my maternity leave with Poppy is quickly approaching I am left questioning what the best thing is to do now. I have to go back to work for a little bit, so that I don't have to pay back the extra maternity pay I received, but after that there is a big question mark. 

Could I handle being a stay at home mum?
Do I use this chance to really work on my blog?
How would I manage juggling work with two children?
A lot of my work is actually completed outside of 'working hours', so how would I fit that in?
What would make me happier?
What would make our children happier?
Can we afford for me not to return?
How would I fill the week with purposeful activities, like they'd be getting at nursery?
Am I comfortable being completely financially dependent on my husband?
How will I fund our lifestyle? (car tax/mot/bills/days out/subscriptions/toddler groups/buying gifts etc.)

A lot of these I don't have answers to right now because it seems like such a big decision. I would absolutely love to be able to spend as much time as possible with my children as they grow up, but am also fully aware of the emotional rollercoaster that comes with that. Am I strong enough? When I look back at returning to work after Isabella I remember considering my working days as 'days off' because they were a lot easier than looking after a temperamental toddler and I got paid at the end of the month!
There are a lot of ideas and suggestions up in the air at the moment and I'm feeling the pressure to decide on what is best to do for everyone. Did you find it hard deciding what to do at the end of your maternity leave? 

Feel free to leave a comment - I love reading every single one :)

Helen x


  1. Hope you find a solution that works for you and your family. I wonder if it would help to use parental leave to extend your maternity leave to bring it a bit closer to the September funding for childcare (annoying to just miss out and then have such a long wait).

  2. It's such a hard decision to make - I went back for a day after my first son, and again with my second, but by number three I was ready to stay at home. I love that I'm here all of the time for them - but I also am here ALL OF THE TIME, if you know what I mean. It's swings and roundabouts, and there's no right answer for everyone, just what feels right to you :)

  3. Paying for 2 kids in nursery is a lot. One of the reasons why I didn't go back to my old job.

  4. For me, the decision was easy - we'd have been £10 per month better off if I returned to work, and I wanted to be with my child more than I wanted £10. Money was sooooooooo tight (it still is, though we do get tax credits now that we've got two kids) but I've never regretted my choice. That said, I am quite jealous that my partner gets to spend two uninterrupted hours a day reading books on buses to and from work!

    It does sound like you've already made your decision, so I hope you find a way to make the situation work for you. If not, perhaps you could find work once Isabella's free hours kick in?

  5. After having my fifth baby, and with three babies 2 and under, I couldnt afford the child care to return work so the decision was made for me!

  6. I knew there was no way I could be a stay at home mum when my maternity leave was coming to an end. I craved adult conversation and really wanted to get back to my job as a scientist. Then last year I gave it up to move to Portugal and had my son full time for 4 months until he started preschool and it was tough. Now, he's in 5 days a week which has helped him learn portuguese and he gets interaction with other children (he's an only child). I think it does us all the world of good. Whatever you decide I'm sure it'll be right for you and your family x

  7. I returned to work part time after E. I think was definitely the right thing to do for us, but like you, I think the decision would become more difficult were we to have a second.
    I hope you come to a resolution soon!

  8. I think as you said it’s all about what’s best for your family and what will work for you guys. I know from my friends how expensive childcare is in the UK

  9. I found it so, so hard going back to work at the end of maternity leave. I had so many mixed emotions about it, just like you. In the end I lasted two months. I loved work so much and it really felt like I was getting a break by going to work. But I also hated putting Evie in childcare and we realised that the wage I was bringing in wasn't significantly more than we were paying for the childcare. (Which is crazy, but its extortionate where we live too) In the end I left my job, which was such a huge and hard decision to make. But leaving my job actually opened up doors that I didn't even think were possible for me. I spent way more time on my blog and now, two years later, I'm actually a full time freelancer and blogger. I completely understand what you're going through right now. It's such a difficult decision to make. I hope you come to a resolution soon! xxxx

  10. I hope you find a solution hun! It’s so hard knowing what to do for the best! After Chloe I returned 3 days a week but had to cram in nearly 30 hours! And was out of the house 7-7 with travelling! I had to go back to work as we needed to pay for everything,
    And now third time round...I’m at a loose end on what to do! Im not due back until September but need to find a job! �� I was made redundant 3 weeks into maternity starting so everything is up in the air at the minute! And it scares me that come the end of August I don’t have an income! So a job hunt is on the cards for me �� and need to weigh up what is best to do! I need to work to cover my half of bills etc but at the same time it needs to coinside with the children, especially with one in school one in pre school and then nursery fees if I have to work in the day!
    I’d say if you can and have that option, take all the time in the world with your children, they aren’t little for long enough and their best learning comes from being with parents, their are many things you can do with them that they will be doing at nursery, I’m level 3 qualified in child care and honestly child lead learning is the best, let them explore, create and find their own limits and learning,
    However if you are worrying a little download the eyfs as a guideline you can see where abouts they are at age/stage milestones and t also gives you what you can do to progress thier learning and support them,
    If you want/need any info just message on fb ��
    I have a hard copy of the eyfs if you wanted to flick through it next time your local ��
    Faye xx

  11. I can imagine that's a hard decision to make and I know I'd want to spend as much time with my children as possible. But like you say, work is sometimes easier. I hope you manage to make a decision.

    Ami xxx

  12. I would double check the funding if I were you, ours kicks in from the first term they are 3 and our term begins on 16th April - not sure if it differs around the country. I had the same issue as you though - two in childcare was just impossible to fund so I made the choice to work from home

  13. So many things to consider! A piece of advice someone gave me - don't stress too much about the decision as whatever you decide doesn't have to last forever. If you decide to go back and it doesn't work out? You can quit. If you choose not to go back, you can always return to work at a later time. You can reduce your hours, up your hours... nothing is forever. Just do whatever works for you, however long it continues to work for.

  14. Such a hard choice, I decided not to go back to work after having my son as we had 2 under 2 and we could not have afforded the childcare costs for two little ones plus an older child. I do miss working so much, but I am glad I stayed at home now xx

  15. Sometimes im glad i work and sometimes im not. Theres a lot of pros and cons for both and i think ill always wonder if I chose correctly or not. Id say go with your gut and work out the rest later.

  16. I’m here right now too and it’s coming round much sooner than I expected. What I could push to a side last year is now almost here. I experienced pregnancy discrimination so am no longer with my previous employer but having to consider applying for jobs, or working freelance from home. Or perhaps even not working outside of the home at all for now. But will my career still be there when preschool comes around. And what if we want another baby...and do it goes round my head!


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