Three years ago I became a working mum. I returned to work after being a stay at home mum with my first born for 8 months.
I often reflect on the reasons WHY I returned to work. Sometimes to justify my decision to myself and sometimes to explain it to colleagues, friends or family.
In Australia the most common reasons new mums returned to work are:
- To keep job / employer requested return (26%)
- Financial (15%)
- Maintain self esteem (15%)
Nerd alert: this data is from the 2011 census and I’m really looking forward to seeing the updated data from this year’s census. Although that will probably take awhile to be published.
For me personally, there were a number of reasons I returned to work (in order from most to least important to me):
1. Career maintenance.
I had never before taken a break from my career, except for 5 weeks one time to travel the US and Canada. I feared if I was away from work too long I would deskill and the time and energy I had so far invested in my career would be wasted. Plus I genuinely missed working and missed the feeling of professional fulfillment in my life. At the time I returned to work my current work contract was up for renewal and I was also afraid if I didn’t go back it would be difficult to find another job, particularly a part time role (and I was probably right!).
I didn’t want to have to scrimp and save as a stay at home mum. I still wanted to enjoy life – weekends away, occasional take away, dinner/breakfast/lunch/movie dates with my husband and friends, new clothes etc. From my first job working at McDonalds at 14 years and 9 months old I had always earnt an income. Not earning an income made me feel very uneasy and I couldn’t imagine spending my husband’s income on myself guilt free.
3. Intellectual stimulation.
I wanted to use my brain again for more complex tasks than nappy changes and baby feeding. I figured someone else could just as easily look after my baby some of the week and allow me to apply myself to more complex tasks.
4. Adult interaction/social.
Even though I met up with my mother’s group at least once a week and other friends on maternity leave, I was still spending most of my time alone with a baby. My husband would come home from work to an overly chatty wife and even questioned my sanity at times!
Whatever your reasons for returning to work as a mum, it’s important that you have this information in the back of your mind for those days when the guilt creeps in, when daycare drop offs are difficult or you feel like you aren’t able to give 100% of your professional self at work.
There will be days when you will have to remind yourself WHY you returned to work and decided to be a working mum.
Also keep in mind that it’s okay for your why to change as well.
You may initially return to work for financial reasons and then realise that professional fulfillment is more important to you.
This happened to me. Not long after my return to work I realised that if I was going to spend time away from my baby then I needed to be doing something truly meaningful and fulfilling in my career. Spending time at work to maintain my career and earn money weren’t good enough motives for me.
My definition of success as a childless career woman was at odds with my new life as a working mum. My career was still important to me and so was being a mum.
I needed to make some adjustments to feel fulfilled at work and at home.
So I invested some time and energy (and money) into getting clear on my values, priorities and definition of success as a working mum with the help of a coach. Once I had clarity on these things I was able to find a career opportunity that fit with my values, priorities and new definition of success as a working mum.
Once I had a meaningful role that fit with my values, priorities and new definition of success as a working mum it was easier to spend some time away from my son, building a fulfilling career. This role was also part time and allowed me to feel fulfilled at home as a mum too. It was the best of both worlds.
Over to you. Please share your answers in the comments below.
If you’re a new mum preparing to return to work, what are you reasons for returning?
If you’ve already become a working mum what were your reasons for returning to work as a new mum? Have they stayed the same or did they change over time?
If you’re a working mum (or soon to be) interested in getting clear on your values, priorities and definition of success, download your FREE success planner here.
If you’re preparing to return to work you could also check out the FREE cheatsheet here.