To go back to work after a baby or not?

In the past few months it seem's A LOT of people have been asking my opinion on whether or not to go back to work after having a baby, so I thought I would put my thoughts on the matter here as I have done it both ways. I'm not going to do the pros and cons of both, you can decide those. The most important thing to remember though is there is no right and no wrong in this situation, its what works for you and your baby. I can assure you that you cant win there is guilt and stress with both but as soon as you accept that, it all gets easier.

I am currently an "Accidental Stay at home mother" no really. I know I am lucky and some people think they would love to be in my position, I'm not complaining but I didn't exactly choose to be. One day when I was 25 the husband said "I really want a baby" I said "No lets wait a few years" and he said "No it could take a long time and I want a baby while I'm young" and I thought "Hmmm your right it could take a long time".... I was pregnant 3 weeks later. So along came Archie, and from being certain I would return to my job, I instantly didn't want to go back to work and instead spend all my time nurturing my little bundle...hormones are mental.seriously. The months progressed though, he started to get teeth, cry for irrational reasons and the final nail in the coffin ...he started to walk. Although I was beginning to feel a bit of cabin fever and knew our home would irrevocable be a pig sty now, I still thought it would be nice to give my full attention to looking after Archie, despite having a job I loved and one willing to accommodate part time hours. I chewed the decision over and over for months, we could afford for me not to work but at what sacrifice to our lifestyle and Archie? 

I'm not going back to work...are you insane?

Here are just a few things that went through my mind.

  • Now half of my wages would be on childcare...who knew it was SO expensive?!
  • Can we afford for me not to work and still do swimming lessons etc with Archie?
  • Did I have a baby for someone else to raise him?
  • Am I selfish to want to work?
  • Could I just give up my career just like that?
  • What if Archie HATES nursery?
  • What if I cant get another job after a break?
  • Who will cook the tea and do the housework when I'm at work?
  • What if Archie is ill and cant go to nursery?

I know some are crazy but they are all relevant and I'm sorry to be sexist but how many Dads are out there worrying about the 'Work/Life Balance'?....0%...Well until there is no food shopping done.   However I didn't need to drive myself a bit insane as fate intervened, sadly the husband became seriously ill for 6 weeks (thankfully 100% recovered) but he doesn't get sick pay, so now it was financially necessary for me to work to get us back on our feet. I had in the back of my mind that, if I didn't go back to work I would never know what it was like but if I did go back and didn't like it or Archie was suffering then I could always leave after a few months and truly know what was on both sides of the fence. I know that isn't exactly an employers dream but I truly think our economy wont thrive again until it is made more affordable, flexible and easier for parents to work. Before kids I begrudged our tax going on things like nursery for other people's children but now I've experienced how important it is. Baby's are only little for a few years, supporting them and their parents is an investment to our country and work force. Anyway enough of the heavy. After a year off Monday night dread came back no bother at all, I honestly was thinking this was wrong "I'm only going back until I can leave" but despite not looking forward to my first day back, unlike some people I didn't feel terrible for putting Archie into nursery. He had to go while I worked so what was the point of feeling guilty? On the first day he did bawl his head off but again there was nothing I could do, so I left him having a cuddle with the his lovely nursery nurse and I actually drove to work feeling literally like a monkey had crawled off my back. I did call mid morning to have it confirmed that as soon as the door had clicked shut behind me he was fine. Apart from the odd date night this was the first proper time I had spent without Archie in a year, not to mention I had just had a pretty intense few weeks with the Alpha Male being in hospital and it felt nice to be me again for a bit; I cant tell you what rolling the windows down and blasting your favourite tunes (not Disney) on the way to work can do for the soul.

Um on second thoughts....

The whole day I had this feeling I had forgotten something but I think it was my guilt. I had several cups of tea throughout the day and drank them while they were still hot, I caught up on some adult gossip, finishing all of my sentences and actually listening to my friends responses, it was like a little fog cleared in my brain and I was able to concentrate on a task until it was totally finished, if anything I was more efficient at work. Peopled called me Ashlie not "Archies Mam" not to mention I had a blissful 30 mins at lunch taking the time to pick something I actually wanted to eat and enjoying it without being interrupted or having to clean and sweep the floor afterwards, now I could see why my friends had said they come to work for a break. I knew I had made the right decision and this was perfect for us all. I worked 3 days which was nice to have something for me, earn a bit of extra money for our household and Archie was having a whale of a time mixing with other babies and doing tonnes of 'messy play' that my OCD didn't really permit often. It also meant I had two extra days to devote to Archie taking him swimming etc and to catch up on house work so we all had clean clothes and food in, then the weekend to enjoy as a family. I'm not saying it went smoothly all of the time there may have been a few times when me and the husband had both worked a full day, then had the predictable 'Who has it harder, who's done more' argument over putting Archie to bed and cooking tea. Also by far the worst part is that children from aged 1-3 yrs get every little bug, cold and virus going and even if they are now fine, if they have a temperature, have vomited or had diarrhoea in the last 48 hrs they are not allowed into nursery. So you are raring to have a day at work and have to make the horrible phone call to your boss, that you cant come in...again... because your'e fine but your child is not. On the whole though it was definitely right for us.  

Then Oscar came along. I worked until 5 weeks before my due date and had every intention of returning to work again in a years time. However the wheels were starting to wobble when I realised on my part time wage, with two children in Day Care plus Archie doing practically an extra year being an early September baby, (I know I don't have to even explain that to the parents out there reading this) so I would be better on benefits?! I honestly would just break-even on the packed lunch and petrol needed to get to work. Now I know friends who have done this for a year or so to keep their jobs once over the hump and the child has started pre school but again fate would play another hand to us. Firstly just 3 months before I was supposed to return to work my department was made redundant, there was talk of another job but it was full time and now I was quickly realised that having one child is like having a dog but having two is like going from having a dog to running a Zoo, so I needed less hours not more for the time being; in a way I was relieved but also sad....hormones man. Secondly the husband got offered a really good promotion which would involve relocating to Texas for 6 mths and a lot more off shore work for him which meant I couldn't work as had no childcare for the boys, but as a family we decided to go for it; you only live once. This is now over a year later, we moved to Texas, had a ball and moved back and that is how I became an accidental SAHM. Some days I love it when I'm teaching the boys new things, we can do what we like or if they are ill, I can take care of them and I don't have to make that horrible phone call to the boss but if I'm honest I do crave my 'Work/Life' Balance back. We are in the house a lot more now so it does seem like an endless cycle of housework and I have only not gone completely brain dead from I believe starting this blog. 

The game changer.

I guess for some the grass will always look greener and I can see how frustrating it would be to want to be a SAHM but you cant financially manage it. The only thing I would say is think carefully about your decision, contrary to popular belief I'm NEVER shoe shopping and eating chocolates here, looking after children (even yours) 24/7 is not for the faint hearted, you literally never get a break, which even from the hardest professions out there you get the chance to walk away for the night. I am speaking from my own experience where all of our relatives work full time so we don't have any help or someone even to call in on for a cuppa/ 20min rest and the husband has worked away for 5 mths solid this year so it can be tough; I don't care what anyone says or try's to guilt me with it is healthy for both of you to have some time away from your children. If you have ever done a solo food shop and it feels like a holiday you know what I mean. 

Times have changed so much too, but they haven't really caught up with society's views, woman are pressured to work and pressured not to work but still expected to have a clean home and tea on the table. Back in the day obviously women never worked and their job was to look after the family but back then most people lived with relatives or other women were at hand to help each other out, the husbands Nanna told me their Grandparents lived with them so there was a lot more help/support on tap. She also told me kids could play happily with other kids in the street for hours of entertainment, so you had a chance to get the evening meal made. Now people live (sometimes 100s of) miles away from family, there are so many cars on the roads too and frankly freaks out there its just not safe to let younger children just disappear to play out. Every once in a while the husband will make the fatal decision of asking me "What I've done all day?" if we are knee deep in Legos, dirty washing and its Cornflakes for supper...often. I always answer the same way "You know when the boys go to daycare its really nice of them to do all the washing, tidy the house and make the tea isn't it?....oh wait no they have looked after the children all day and SO have I"....he soon gets the message. Maybe I will work again soon maybe I wont but that's the biggest thing I've learnt with kids, is you fly by the seat of your pants.

Like any job its sometimes the best thing ever...sometimes not.

6 questions that might help you make the decision.

1. What do you want to do? I was going to put this last but to be honest its the most important because you should settle in your heart what YOU want then go from there trying to make it happen. If money had nothing to do with it what would be your choice, be totally honest. At the end of the day its you that has to do this not your spouse not anyone else, feeling stressed to death trying to get both of you suited a booted, out the door and then dropping a crying baby off, all before 8 am. If you cant have your choice that's hard but at least you tried.

2. What are your options? Know your rights here on the CAB Website. 
At your job could you maybe go part time or 80% or flexible hours so you can finish earlier? Would you be able to take a career break or are they looking for voluntary redundancy....ideal opportunity for some breathing space and a change get your ducks in a row before making a decision.

3. Can you afford it? REALLY do your sums. Do you know the average nursery for one full time child is the best part of £1000 per month...dont worry everyone knows its expensive but NO one knows exactly just how eye watering it is until the baby is already here. What does that leave of your monthly wage? If you give up work you not only will loose your salary but you will need to factor in the extra food and clothes for children and some hidden costs, like baby groups, music classes, swimming lessons etc all the things you are now guilted into, to 'stimulate' your child so you cant be blamed if they become a murderer see more here Are my kids spoilt...enough? . They only seem a few pounds here or there but once you add them up £££. I worked out all the little groups and stuff we did =  £50 a week = £200 a month have you got that on top?

4. Now can you actually afford it? If you absolutely can not pay your usual bills stop here the decision is made. If you however could cut back, are you willing to have just one car, not have holidays, cut your bills back, could a relative help even just one day with childcare maybe you could afford to go part time?

5. How will it effect you and your family? Are you willing to become a full-time, nanny, chef, chauffeur, house keeper and yet not contribute to the household income? I can promise you despite doing this really hard job 24/7 there is no pay and there will come a day when your spouse will say "No we cant have that" about something they don't deem worthy like.... a new pram that's 10x lighter than your current one that's also covered in beans and you cant really say back "Its my money I'm having it". On the other hand also consider how you will feel putting your child into daycare. Once I made the decision I tried not to feel guilty as there was no point and his nursery is fantastic but one day a lady popped into work with her baby and I had to walk away, it was like a punch in the stomach, that I was cheating on Archie if I held this baby when he was in ABANDONED in nursery....I've told you hormones man.

6. Are you willing for your career to suffer or loose your current job permanently? Its a tough one and some professions this wont apply, you could dip in and out but for others sadly not. Also as I said before children grow quick will be off to school and its more of a long term picture. I know a lot of ladies getting 'Mummy Tracked' or having to take jobs on a few years later that they don't enjoy because "It fits around the kids".  

Some very heavy, un-puréed food for thought there but this is a big decision, I have to be honest, I hope it has helped even just a little with the decision and you make the right one for you and your baby. As always may the odds be ever in your favour, because at times its really like the hunger games but with toddlers, right?

Ashlie xox

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