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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The working mum experience: Part 1 - My return from maternity leave

The working mum experience: Part 1 - return from maternity leave

So the time finally came.

My year of maternity leave ended and I was left with the choice between returning to work, or becoming a stay at home mum.

Obviously, I turned to the inspirational memes for guidance in making this monumental and potentially life changing decision but sadly they were as wanky and passive aggressive as each other.

This was a choice I needed to make myself. Enter the pros and cons list.

On the face of it, neither really appealed that much.

I like the generally pleasing yourself that comes with being a stay at home parent, and (let's be honest) the lack of children that comes with going to work, plus the fact that you need your brain for more than counting to 20 and remembering whether kid's TV programmes are on Netflix or Iplayer. Oh, and the lunch breaks.

In an ideal world, I would probably be sunbathing my toned body on a luxury yacht sipping cocktails while a nanny watched the kids.

In fact, it would probably be best if they stay at home, kids and boats don't really mix... Sadly, this isn't an option right now (I remain an optimist).
What I would quite like to be doing

Perhaps the next best (and slightly more realistic) option would be a nice blend of the two worlds.

A few days at home with my darling cherubs and then a couple of days in the real-life adult world with the big people who don't need you to wipe their bums for them.

However, like many, many mums before me, I've come to the realisation that the notion that times have improved, that women can have it all, that it is possible to achieve that elusive work life balance, was all a bit of a con.

The workplace where I had put in many long hours over more than seven years were about as inflexible as they could be. After the birth of my daughter, and then my son: Request submitted, request denied.
My new colleagues. They're cuter than my old ones for sure.

The sad choice for me was to return full time or not at all.

As much as I'd love to do a five day week on four hours' sleep a night, risk missing out on my kids' milestones and dealing with the huge mumguilt that would probably come with it, and due to living in the merry old South East of England, pay out over two grand a month in childcare for the privilege, the finances just didn't add up. I would barely be breaking even. The harsh reality of exorbitant childcare is almost enough to put you off having kids altogether, even if the thought of pregnancybirth and never sleeping again isn't.

And this time around, you know what? I wasn't upset. Thanks perhaps in part to this very blog and the new skills I've learned I realised that it wouldn't spell the end of my career forever.

I didn't need to be scared*.

I was going to be a Stay At Home Mum.

Despite having spent over two years out of the past three doing this exact thing, this time it was a little different. This time it was official. I would be flying solo and there would be nothing to go back to.

Under my work on Facebook, it would say 'Blogger and Full Time Yummy Mummy**'.
This is the kind of thing I
will now be spending my time on

But wait: there was a twist.

Before I could fly free, I first had to serve one final two-week stint in the world of work.

After pulling the rug out from underneath me and the offer of a jobshare suddenly withdrawn, I was offered the opportunity to pay back my enhanced maternity pay with my holiday pay (ha bloody ha, right?) or come back for the required three months, using my accumulated holiday to cover all but two weeks.

So that is what I did.

Read part two here.

*I'm probably stupid.
**It won't. It would be both factually inaccurate and a little nauseating.

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  1. Making a law that says, "You have the right to request flexible working", is worth less than the paper it's written on. They should really add, "But you may as well not bother." So frustrating. Look forward to part two. #Chucklemums

  2. I can totally relate to this - I'm bipolar on going back to work at the moment! Not long now X

  3. What a brave choice. When we were discussing finding nurseries last week we were saying the only other option is to not go back to work. I really don't think I'm a stay at mum type and would go insane! Looking forward to seeing how you get on #chucklemums

  4. Shocking how expensive the childcare is! Here the government helps fund daycare, so you end up only spending around £325 a month per child on it. There's private daycare too which will cost more, still it's not as much as what you'd pay back in the UK.

    I'm am unsure whether I'd like to remain a stay-at-home parent. I now got language classes to keep me sane and get me out of the house, but I do miss earning my own cash too.

    There really ought to be better options for flexible working. I have yet to find out how it is here.

    1. The system in Scandinavia is totally different. It's a shame our government can't take a look at how it works!

  5. I hear you SOOO loudly. Going back to work has meant a grand total of about £100 extra per pay packet with the cost of childcare for both. It's insane. I completely respect your decision: I have mainly gone back so I can ensure I have a decent lunch each day. Good luck and I look forward to the next installment... #chucklemums

  6. So does this mean you'll now sign up to a nice pyramid scheme to make some easy money? #Chucklemums

  7. Hey; where did you get those white bathers? I'm after a pair just like it... But seriously; they really want you to bother coming in for those 2 weeks? Really? Make the blog your work! #chucklemums

  8. Hurrah, the blogosphere delights in your decision! I went back at first because BRAIN WHERE YOU GO but by the time school started I just couldn't fit it all in. *Sits and waits for blogging dollar to roll in* *twiddles thumbs* #chucklemums

  9. Good luck on your SAHM journey! It can be so hard to balance it all - I'm back at work 4.5 days a week and sometimes really struggle with work-life balance - plus childcare is stupid expensive. I'm better off financially working, but only just. This whole having-it-all thing is a farce, so we just have to make the best choices we can for our family and hope for the best.

  10. It makes me so angry when employers deny flexible working requests. It's so dark ages. I've been lucky that my employer allows me the flexible working, although it has been at the price of being passed over for a promotion I deserved. It is a bit of a con that we can have it all, but I'm still hoping that things will get better. Looking forward to hearing the rest of your story.

  11. I never thought I wanted to be a stay at home mom until Peachy came along. Now the thought of leaving her with anyone all day sends chills down my spine. I have a few more months of maternity leave. I'll have to figure out some way to stay home with my little peach. #chucklemums

  12. Good but tricky decision... Can I ask what you did? Btw- my ex employee was a tapeworm who did similar things-so inflexible for women. I got out while I could #chucklemums

    1. I was a local government service manager. Not the most exciting perhaps but you would hope one of the bonuses would be flexibility. Alright then!

  13. I was a teacher up until we had baby number 2 and realised full time childcare for two children would wipe out my wages. I gave up- best thing i did. I really struggled to begin with, felt very lost and isolated. I started blogging a few months later and that helped me a lot. I briefly went back to work part time earlier this year when my oh waas made redundant and hated it! Good luck x

  14. I'm so lucky that my employer (I'm a teacher) let me go back one day a week for a term, then two days, then up to three which is what I'm currently working (though not actually currently as its school holidays - another bonus of the profession - roughly a quarter of the year with the kids and no work!) I would refuse to go back to work full time and, like you, would embrace being a SAHM and caning Snapchat #chucklemums

  15. So many of us in the boat. Flexible working is a joke. I have to work in some capacity to pay the bills but it's hard for many different reasons. No wonder we're seeing the rise of the Mumpreneur!! When is part 2 coming, I need to know the rest! #chucklemums

  16. I left teaching nine years ago to stay home. I was a hot mess over it. Such a huge decision.

    Don't regret it.

    I mean I miss my friends and my brain...but really once I made the choice in my head it was much easy.

    Good luck and welcme to the SAHM club


  17. The blog world's gain and there loss! Can't believe you have to do 2 weeks for pities sake, they sound as inflexible as raw spaghetti. I properly laughed out loud at your yummy mummy comment because I know you can't be doing with nauseating sayings like that. Am interested to see what happens in the next instalment - it is good the way that 'everything' is blog fodder..... go geddum I say x #chucklemums

  18. I hope you did precisely zero work in your two weeks there...
    Working is really difficult, but I couldn't cope with staying at home all week - my kids would send me completely insane. I work 4 days now, which I'm finding a bit much - 3 days was ideal. Ho hum.

  19. I imagine you'll be a lot happier with this choice really. Also your blog is really good and doing dead well so you'll probably get close to matching a part-time wage soon (if you're not already). Plus all your blogging buddies count as adult conversation, hopefully (please say I do!) #chucklemums

  20. I often miss the fact that I can't go back to work. And then I realise that there is actually probably not enough room left in my brain for normal adult things after having to remember the names of Fireman Sam characters to hold a conversation with my 5 yr old, know how West Ham are placed in the table to impress my 8yr old, and remember how many bloody scoops of formula milk I just put in the bottle!

  21. I always think my perfect work/life balance would be not working but the Child still going into nursery three days a week. I can't believe your work made you go in for two weeks - did you actually manage to do anything in those two weeks? I remember it took me about 3 months after returning from mat leave to achieve anything meaningful! #chucklemums

  22. I'm up shit creek because when I go back, I will literally bring in an extra £30 a month maybe?! But I really, truly could not hack being a stay at home mum. But then, we're all going to be snapped up soon with book deals and such that that yacht and white swimming cossie combo is just around the corner, I just know it! #chucklemums

  23. Yes, wasn't remotely financially viable for me not to stay at home with the kids, as cost of two so close in age in child care full time here would be exorbitant (also south east). Unless I had a pretty high paid job, I would have only been covering the cost of the child care (maybe not even that) & earning nothing. Even in the unlikely event of getting a high paid job, I kind of felt that doing the workload and hours expected for a well paid job, but only getting a fraction of the earnings would not have felt worth it! My sister has the enhanced maternity package she will have to pay back if she does not return too. Her work are really nice though & they have accommodated her part time request. At least you had some holiday saved up to cover most of the period! #chucklemums


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