Returning to work post-kids: What you need to know
Making the decision to return to work post-kids can be an overwhelming and difficult one, especially if it’s been a few years since you’ve been in the workforce. You may not feel entirely ready, be worried about putting your kids in childcare or are unsure whether you can still do the job after all this time out of the game (yes, you can!). This is all completely normal and you’re definitely not alone, many parents have felt the same things and experienced the same dilemmas as you.
The transition back to work is a big change. You’re going to being with a small human (or humans) that relies on you 24/7 to survive, to having to think about other things like meeting deadlines and managing client expectations, and if you haven’t worked since pre-COVID, learning to navigate hybrid working and nuances that come with it.
We spoke with our PR recruitment guru and mum of two, Charlotte Flood who made the transition back to work a few months ago. We asked her about what parents coming back to work need to consider, how she felt coming back to work and for any advice for return to work parents.
When thinking about coming back to the workforce, what do parents (particularly primary caregivers) need to consider?
The most important thing is to really consider whether you are as ready as you possibly can be. Do you feel like you are going to work or returning to work in a supportive and respectful environment? Are you happy with the care you have sorted for your child/children? Can you afford it and is it financially beneficial for you to go back?
Another thing to consider is the working environment. Does it offer you the flexibility required to manage your workload and home life? Is it set up to support you? For example, at Creative Natives’ co-working space here in Sydney, we have a brilliant ‘Parents Room’ for expressing and changing.
Look for a company that offers you the understanding and support you need to balance caring for your children, while keeping up with the demands of your job. I was phoning day-care on multiple occasions throughout the day in those first few weeks and months to check in, and I was never once made to feel guilty or silly! In fact, I felt secure knowing my team and colleagues actually cared how my children and I were going.
Maternity leave for me was just the most special of times. I wanted to take as much time out as possible, as you just don’t ever get that time back. Becoming a parent is a life changing experience – you’re often not the same person you were when you decide to return to work. It changes your perspective and really does make you realise and prioritise what’s important. Working in an environment that fulfils your needs as a parent can help you adjust to these changes.
How might parents feel going back to work?
Vulnerability was a big feeling for me, along with feelings of guilt, sadness and heartache when leaving my children in care (especially since I’m from overseas and don’t have my family here to help out).
There’ll probably be a level of increased stress as you have a lot more to do outside of work, while still meeting expectations at work. There’s also the concern about the stereotype of parents being less committed to their jobs if they work less than full time hours or have to leave early because of their kids. This can leave you worrying about the impact it has on your career or how it may cost you a chance to work with a certain client or on an important project – so make sure to find a workplace that understands the needs of a working parent and values the work you do.
However there are lots of great feelings that come with going back to work. Ambition, motivation and happiness about being in charge of your career again. Plus, don’t forget the excitement of having time to enjoy a coffee in peace again 😉.
What challenges do they face when returning to work?
I think the unseen mental load of managing a household, as well as a career is huge, and not to be underestimated.
You’re now managing your career, role and company expectations alongside new family routines, budgets, logistics, unwell children at home with you while you work, and you may potentially be starting work later and leaving early. It’s a lot!
I definitely needed to set boundaries in both my work and personal life to make sure that I was present in both environments as much as possible. There’s a huge pressure for parents to manage everything exceptionally well at home and at work and be everything to everyone, and therefore burnout amongst parents is rife. Taking the time to set up boundaries to look after your own health and wellbeing is imperative.
What should they do to prepare for a job post kids?
I think be realistic, honest and kind with yourself. At the same time, back yourself, be courageous and brave – it will take time to settle into a rhythm and that’s okay! Find somewhere that understands and encourages this way of working, and helps you onboard properly.
The best organisations are the ones that realise that return to work parents are some of the most efficient people out there. Utilise the skills you’ve acquired during this break in your work life. Parenting teaches extremely important lessons in multi tasking, negotiation and time management. You know how to operate through the (beautiful) chaos!
Prepare for the fact that some days will be better than others, there will be days when you feel like you’re smashing it and others where you are exhausted and it all feels like a shit show!!
Tips for negotiating flexibility in a role?
Flexibility is an absolute necessity. Chances are you won’t be able to work the typical 9-5 day, but you do know that if you’re given the correct flexibility, you will be able to get the job done.
Parents are extremely conscientious. Your employer should hopefully understand that if you’re treated as an adult and you hit deadlines, then that’s the important thing – no matter where you’re working from or what hours you do.
If they’re still unsure, talk to your employer about setting KPIs. Once you’ve proved how productive you are no matter where you’re working from, it will remove any sense of doubt or negativity.
Best piece of advice for them?
Family always comes first, so make sure you’re working somewhere that values that. I promise you can be great and succeed in both sides of your life. You CAN be a loving, fun and present parent, AND have a great, rewarding and successful career, but ONLY if you have the support and tools to be able to manage it. Be kind to yourself and make sure you’re in a role that understands and respects both you, and your family’s needs.
Whether you’re a parent looking to get back into the creative industry after raising your children or interested in hiring a parent returning to the workforce, we can help! Get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plus, if you hire a parent returning to work through Creative Natives, you’ll get 50% off their placement fee! Learn more here.