So, When are you going back to work?

One of the questions that new mums often hear is ‘so, when are you going back to work’. In the group of mums I met when Daniel was born, I was the only one who opted to finish work to stay at home, something I still find strange to think of a group of 15 mums. I also only know one other person locally (via twitter) who stays at home (but also works in the evenings)

When I was pregnant with Emma friends asked if I had thought about going back to work after Daniel’s maternity leave to claim another year of maternity pay (well, 39 weeks maternity pay). I would have been back in work for about a month I think before taking maternity leave again. It didn’t cross my mind.

Some people found it really hard to understand that it was an active choice from my husband and I that I would finish paid employment to care for Daniel and the new addition. Now that Emma is five months and Daniel 21 months, I’m beginning to have this question asked again…. people often assume I am on maternity leave with Emma.

It’s funny the assumptions that the choice to give up work brings. Prior to having Daniel, I had a good job that paid well in excess of national average earnings. My husband and I earnt a very similar amount, and had I returned to work on a full time basis, childcare costs would have been around 40% of my take home pay – a large chunk I guess but still leaving me with a decent amount – enough to comfortably cover the mortgage and other bills. 

On hearing I stay at home, other mum’s reply that ‘oh, that’s great. I really enjoy my job so I’m looking forward to getting back’. There is an underlying implication that I didn’t enjoy my job. Don’t get me wrong it frustrated me but I enjoyed elements of it and the translation of what I was working on and writing as it became policy was great. Seeing the personal development of colleagues as they secured promotion or achieved something was another thing I enjoyed. I have seen the shock on other mums’ faces when I tell them what I did prior to having Daniel – I think sometimes they wonder if I had a mundane or basic job or perhaps one paying minimum wage that made the process of working to pay childcare a bit pointless.

Some people (mums, Dads etc) find it really hard to understand that I chose to leave the job I did.  Other comments include about it being ‘fair’ that I ‘rely’ on my husband to pay for me…. and I even heard one mum mutter that I must be claiming loads of benefits (I’m not… other than child benefit). I don’t see that I am reliant on Damian for money. We have always had joint banking arrangements and both spend the money as we see fit, of course larger purchases are a shared decision but day to day I don’t ask Damian for an allowance. We manage the finances jointly.

Whilst I was at playgroup on Monday some mums were talking about putting their children into nursery one or two days a week. This idea has never crossed my mind, although some people did wonder when Emma was born if Daniel would go to nursery for a couple of mornings a week. The mums I was talking to have differing reasons for thinking about nursery. One mum is expecting her second baby later this year and another was worried about whether her child was socialising enough and learning enough being at home. I think that sometimes we expect too much from our children. Daniel doesn’t  yet ‘play’ in the traditional sense with other children, by this I mean it’s not play that we would recognise as play. He does however interact with children and he and his friends at playgroup enjoy using the play kitchens together, be it one closing the play oven door and another opening it. They are not playing in any real imaginative way, assigning role to each other and interacting. Yet. That will come. And I’m really relaxed about it.

For me, Daniel and Emma don’t need to be in a nursery environment yet. They will likely join when they are four – in preparation for school. Again, shock sometimes registers with other mums when I say that they won’t automatically go when they are three. Some can’t understand why I wouldn’t want to make use of the funded education place. The choice for us is simple; we don’t believe that, at the moment, a nursery can provide more for Daniel and Emma than I can at home. We go to groups where there is a structure to the activity (Jo Jingles) and we go to groups where it is very much free play. We go swimming, to the park and spend time with family. We do arts and crafts, visit the library and talk about our expeiences of the world that day.

There is enough activity for Daniel and Emma to stretch their minds and to help develop their knowledge, understanding and experience of the world around them. My role as a stay at home mum is chief carer and educator (amongst many other things!) to Daniel and Emma. At the moment, Daniel and I are working on colour. Not in a sit down here and you will learn colours way, but more a gentle approach to introducing colour into our discussions. A gentle approach that is working. Emma is learning how to sit up – and she is getting there, much to her delight. As we move into the coming months Emma will be in the weaning process and become more and more engaged in the books that Daniel and I read – she already enjoys our multiple daily readings of Room on the Broom. She doesn’t, at the moment, need any more formal education than that.

Daniel’s knowledge and understanding astounds me daily – we use sign language (of which I will write more soon) and he is now signing on Emma’s behalf – I can’t wait until Emma does her first sign for me (most likely milk). It’s been a really useful tool for communicating with Daniel but also to extend his knowledge and for him to demonstrate his understanding of what we are reading, talking about and doing.

It’s always a difficult discussion to have with other mums about the choice to use childcare. I know for some, there isn’t an option but to use childcare. Some mums don’t want to be at home all day, and like many jobs, really aren’t suited to being at home (for example I know I would be useless working in a doctors surgery or a hospital. So I don’t. The same is said for parenting. Some people just aren’t suited to being solely mum and are far better parents when they work elsewhere in the day). I am really fortunate that I have a lot of help from my own parents; even just another pair of hands at playgroup is a godsend. 

People also often wonder how we can afford for me to not work. I make no apologies that careful financial planning over the past 5/6 years has enabled my husband and I to get to the position where we can comfortably reduce our household income by around 40%. We acknowledge that having children means we miss out on some luxuries such as multiple holidays a year, a flash car (we ave a boring but practical family car) and we both have basic mobile phones.  For us, me being at home in the day ensures that Daniel and Emma are in consistent environments, that they enjoy the time together (Emma already adores her big brother and welcomes him with huge smiles whenever she sees him) and that they have chance to just be small and to play. I take my responsibility to be their primary educator seriously and try to be led by their interests. Currently this means a lot of animal and sticker based activities! But for us, this process works.

Being at home with the children has taught me so much more than my previous job did or ever could. I understand more about how children learn. their schemas and I realise I am more patient and imaginative than I had previously realised.

So, when I am going back to work I perhaps should reply with ‘I don’t think I ever really stopped; just changed the job that I do’.

 

Mami 2 Five
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37 Comments

  1. 1st November 2014 / 22:06

    I can absolutely relate. I loved my career, but now I’m at home with my kids through choice and it works for us. Sacrifices have been made financially, as I earned nearly double my hisband’s salary, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Yet I do have close friends still asking me about work, just not getting it. Of course I blog now, so have plans in that direction, but I hope to always be home for the kids first and foremost. Each to their own, so I’ve no idea why this is something we need to defend! Great post x

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:41

      Thank you so very much for commenting. I think there is such an expectation that mums WANT to go to work AND be a mum. I am not sure they all do. I know very few who have made the choices my husband and I have though. I can’t ever imagine returning to the sort of job I did beforehand, nor can I imagined a job that would fit around school hours (although that is a little while off for me yet!) xx

  2. 1st November 2014 / 22:24

    This is such a great read. I’d love to know how things were in days gone by, did our Mums and grandmothers face such a competitive and often judgemental environment when it comes to child-raising? I hope not. More often than not, I find people’s responses to situations comes down to simple jealousy or insecurity. Some Mums would love to stay at home full time but can’t, for others it’s a choice and it should always be respected. As you mention, my colleague returned to work 3 days a week because in her opinion (which is the most important one really) it makes her a better Mum.

    I’ve encountered this same kind of attitude since we were married. People assume we don’t want kids which goes hand in hand with apparently being selfish. The reality is we might not be able to have them, but I don’t want that to rule my life and am a firm believer in making the most of the hand you’re dealt. Apparently because I’m not in mourning all day every day, this too makes me selfish. So we go on nice holidays, we renovate a house, we live in London – why shouldn’t we as a childless couple both earning a good salary?

    I say good for you for doing what you believe in and to me as an uninitiated outside, you sound like you’re doing a wonderful job. When we all learn to stop judging, the world be a happier place X

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:39

      thanks for commenting. It is strange isn’t it how we have ended up in the position of people being in the stay at home or work camp – and very little inbetween. I think a lot of it comes down to media. There is a perception that women want it all, but really do they? I am not sure they do.
      Some mums need the break away to come back to their children invigorated and refreshed, others like me find that having children has unearthed a creativity and resourcefulness you never knew existed! xx

  3. 2nd November 2014 / 07:58

    I’m getting asked this all the time and Baby R is 5 months. I really don’t want to go back at all and it would be my dream to be a stay at home mum but unfortunately our financial outgoings won’t allow. I’m looking at going part time as I can possibly afford but nothing would compare to the being at home. thanks for sharing #sundaystars

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:37

      It drives me mad how quickly people ask! Let mums enjoy those early mums without the stress of the looming return to work!
      thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment, I really do appreciate it x

  4. 2nd November 2014 / 09:45

    A really good read – it’s sad that you feel you need to defend yourself. There is no right or wrong decision about returning to work or childcare, you do what is the best decision for your family – I wish people (usually other mothers who should know better as they have also had to make these tough decisions!) would stop judging each other.
    You sound like you, and your children are really happy with your decision – and that’s what matters! Good for you x

  5. 2nd November 2014 / 15:45

    I feel for you…it honestly doesn’t matter what option you take. It seems that we are judged no matter what we choose. There are not many people around who are genuinely accepting of whatever plan you put in place for your little people! As long as you and your family are happy then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks and it does make me sad and mad that we have to explain ourselves like this!

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:35

      I agree. I do wonder how we got to the stage where we have to justify decisions. i think there is an awful lot of pressure on mums to ‘have it all’ but I don’t really believe that you can, which means anything less is a failure.
      thanks for stopping by and commenting, I appreciate it 🙂

      • 2nd November 2014 / 20:39

        It’s funny that you’ve written about it as it’s something thats been bugging me and I wrote about it last week. Watch out for my new weekly feature starting on Thursday about how different families have organised themselves after kids #balancingact

  6. 2nd November 2014 / 16:28

    What a brilliant post and one to which I can completely relate. Only the other day my hairdresser asked why I hadn’t enrolled my 5 month old daughter in nursery yet! I know my choice to stay at home with my daughter for now isn’t for everyone but the truth is I enjoy it. I don’t find it tiresome or boring. I left a reasonably lucrative but ultimately unfulfilling job in finance. It was stressful and to be honest I dreaded going in at the end. Now I’m doing something I love; being a mum. I can’t say if I’ll want to be a SAHM forever but for now it’s the only job I want to do.

    ‘I don’t think I ever really stopped; just changed the job that I do’ – Sums it up perfectly.

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:34

      thanks for stopping by and commenting. I find being a SAHM the most demanding thing I have done – having to stay one step ahead of a toddler tantrum, sensing when my 8 month old needs a rest, oh and making sure we have nappies, food etc. As well as leaving the house of course. I am so happy to have the time I do with them – they will only be small once and I’m glad I get to see all their milestones first xx

  7. 2nd November 2014 / 17:46

    This is a really good post and I’m glad you wrote it.

    I am currently 25 weeks pregnant and debating whether to stay at home or go back to work at the end of maternity leave. I am currently going to see how it goes – I would like to stay at home and I think I, personally, would be a better mum to my child that way (I have a tendency to put all of my effort in to one thing, I would rather that be my child) but at the same time I do love working. Am currently considering whether it is viable to make money whilst being at home as well.

    It’s nice to get the opinion and viewpoint of someone who is already a stay at home mum and their experiences.

    Emma | frillsanddoodads.com

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:32

      Hi Emma (great name BTW – my daughter is an Emma 😉 )
      I think that being a mum changes your perception of things; I am glad that we have made the choices that have allowed me to be at home. I enjoy blogging and am hoping to monetise that a little bit, but if I don’t I don’t. what is important for me is that the children have my time xx

  8. 2nd November 2014 / 17:55

    Fab post. As my daughter is now 6 months old I am being asked by other mums about work and childcare. I’ve taken a full year maternity off from work and I’ve already made up my mind, I’m going to leave my job at the end of it. I’ve spent over 12 years looking after other people’s children in a career that I very much enjoy, but it would be wrong to leave my own child to continue doing that. We can afford for me not to work, so I’m not going to. All mums should do what they can/want to do without question or judgement from others. It sounds like you are doing a fine job with your two littles – if you see no need for nursery than that’s all that matters. Keep on doing what you’re doing, mama!

    #sundaystars

    Jenna at Tinyfootsteps xx

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:31

      thank you Jenna. it is strange isn’t it that mums feel under so much pressure to explain choices.
      thanks so much for taking the time to comment xx

  9. 2nd November 2014 / 20:09

    i can really relate to this. as soon as my son started full time school ppl started asking when id be coming back to work full time. erm…im not! its strange how ppl get very fixed ideas about how things work after you have kids. its really refreshing to read someone taking their role as mum seriously and with joy rather than a sense of neccessity. great post!

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:29

      thank you, I do wonder how we got to this stage of having to justify choices that we make about oging to work, or staying at home.
      thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

  10. 2nd November 2014 / 20:33

    I found this really interesting, everyone has an opinion when it comes to what Mums do don’t they. I have been really surprised by people’s reactions to my choosing to take some time out of my career to be with the children. I always feel that I have to justify it for some reason, when actually, it’s no-one’s business but ours & our families! x

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:45

      I am the same, I find that a lot of assumptions come with the decision and when I tell people what my job was they are surprised I opted to stay at home. Different things work for different families,
      thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment xx

  11. 2nd November 2014 / 20:40

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this, what a thought provoking and interesting post. It’s fantastic that you are able to stay at home with your children, perhaps the reactions from other people come because they might not be in that position and wish they were? Being a stay at home mum is definitely not the easy option and I think everyone has to find the right balance for themselves. I work part time now but had an extended maternity leave second time around and really appreciated the extra time spent at home. Thanks so much for linking up with #sundaystars x Julia

    • 2nd November 2014 / 20:47

      thanks for commenting. it is always a difficult subject to write about, and I hope I have done so without sounding judgemental of other famliies decisions. I jst get frustrated with the assumptions others make.
      Thanks so much for hosting this linky – some great posts linked up today xx

  12. 3rd November 2014 / 12:56

    I think one of my biggest lessons from becoming a parent is that every family does what’s right for them. I’ve never understood how anyone can cast judgment on others choices. If not going back to work is the right choice for you – and of course the fortune / good planning to be able to – that’s the end of story. Good for you for doing what you think is best. In the Netherlands (where I’m an expat) you only get 16 weeks maternity leave. It feels far too short.
    #SundayStars

  13. 3rd November 2014 / 18:51

    I totally relate to this and echo many of the comments but I thought I’d add my point of view as I’m a bit further down the line. I gave up my well paid career 8 years ago. My mummy friends assumed I’d left a low paid job or that my husband was loaded or that I was lazy. I put most of these reactions down to jealousy. I was accused of selfishly denying my children the social nursery experience. They went to preschool at 3 without any trouble, made friends, played nicely. As a family we embraced UK camping as an annual holiday, I down graded my car, only bought clothes with birthday/Christmas money and shopped at lidl (when it was rubbish). We don’t have any savings, we just cover our bills. The youngest is at school now so I’m a dinner lady on minimum wage at their school. One day I’ll get back my career but for now my job is mum and i don’t care what anyone thinks.

  14. 3rd November 2014 / 23:25

    Your last sentence sums it all up for me! Being a mum can be really hard work and much more hours than a full time job, especially when you have two so close in age!
    I haven’t had a full time job since I was pregnant with my twins almost 14 years ago. We are lucky our outgoings are low enough for me not to have to work. We have 5 children and people presume we are on benefits and that neither of us work!
    I don’t understand why people feel the need to judge anyone else’s choices. We all do what we feel is best for us and our families, end of story!
    BTW Daniel sounds like he’s right on track with his playing, at this age, and for quite a few months yet, he should be playing alongside other kids, the playing with bit will come but not till later on 🙂
    Thanks for linking up to the #SundayStars linky x

    • 4th November 2014 / 20:34

      thank you Kate, it is nice to hear from someone who is further down the line! I do wonder when the world of parenting became so very judgemental!!

  15. 9th November 2014 / 09:45

    What a fantastic, balanced approach. No-one can know you or your family life as well as you do, so no-one should be (overly) question any decisions you make. I’m not sure I’d have been suited to being a stay-at-home dad for any length of time, much less permanently, but that doesn’t mean I judge those that choose that route. Great piece. Thanks for linking up. #FamilyFriday

  16. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM)
    10th November 2014 / 02:26

    Fab post. It is amazing how sahms are much more of a minority these days, and the lack of comprehension about why you would do it by choice is a bit depressing sometimes. I love being the one to teach Monkey (and now Little Miss) about the world and wouldn’t change my decision for anything. Great post 🙂 xx #familyfriday

  17. Pam Francis Gregory
    11th November 2014 / 17:50

    Great post – The decision is yours & yours alone, so don’t let anyone pressure you.

  18. Rachel King
    14th November 2014 / 20:49

    Thanks for your post – I hate all the judgement! I get really frustrated by the amount of time we mums feel that we need to defend our decisions – whether that is working or staying at home. It’s your decision, and whatever you decide, the only opinion that matters is your own; no-one else can say what’s right for you.

  19. tonkatol
    14th November 2014 / 22:27

    Everyone is different but I totally get where you are coming from. For my husband and I, we financially could not afford for me not to work after having children, but I chose to find jobs working in the evening, so that I could be with my children all day and then my husband would be home with them on the evenings when I went out to work. My husband and I have never really had help from relatives (my brother used to love spending time with my eldest child until he moved away from the area and was great as a babysitter, but obviously he worked during the week), but our opinion was, and still is, that we were the ones who chose to have children and so we are responsible for their well-being and care. Too often, I see people expecting their parents to act as unpaid childminders – that’s not how I remember my grandparent’s role and not something I would have wanted my parents to become (my mum had Multiple Sclerosis and was totally dependent on my step-father for her care – my father died when I was 3). Also, although I did send my children to nursery aged three, it was only for a couple of sessions a week. I remember other mums sending their children to two different nurseries as one in the village would only give so many sessions per child – and these weren’t parents who were out at work. Three of my four children are quite independent now (19, 17, 15 and 8) and I work part-time during the week but I can honestly say that I have never, even for one moment, wished that I hadn’t spent their pre-school years at home with them.

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