Advice for mums returning to work

The decision as to whether to return to work after having children is never an easy one. After all, there is not just yourself to consider, you’ll also need to give thought to childcare arrangements and costs, working hours, commuting times, bedtimes, teatimes and the school run.  With so many factors in play it’s essential to have a plan in place before you take your first steps into a new job.

The first thing to do is try not to feel overwhelmed by the task of organising your home and work life.  Many hundreds of thousands of women manage to return to work successfully whilst maintaining the right balance with their family; it can be done.  The key is forward thinking.  Think about every eventuality and have a plan in place.  Ensure you are fully aware of your entitlements both financially and as a working parent.  Make sure you’re claiming all the help you’re entitled to, including schemes like Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and free childcare for three and four year olds.  Find out about the company’s flexible working policy and ask whether they advertise jobs on a part time, term-time only, job share or flexible basis.

Childcare is probably the most important factor to consider.  Once you have found somewhere that your child will be happy, then you’ll start feeling much happier yourself.   There are many places you could look for a childcare provider:

Childminders

Childminders who look after children under the age of eight are typically self-employed and must be registered with Ofsted.  Childminders who provide care for children over eight years old do not have to be registered with Ofsted although many choose to do so.

Nannies

A Nanny will care for your child in your own home and can live in your house or be employed on a daily basis.

Nurseries and crèches

These can be private, run by a local authority, based in a workplace or in the community. They are for children from birth to five years old and are usually open all day excluding evenings and weekends.

Pre-school services

For a small fee, pre-schools will care for your child for a few hours a day.

Out of school schemes and kids’ clubs

These are for primary age schoolchildren, operating before and after school. Some are also open during school holidays.

Extended services (formerly extended schools)

This scheme allows primary and secondary schools to provide supervised play and learning activities for children between 8am and 6pm every day.

Make sure your employer is aware you have a family and check what entitlements they offer in terms of ‘time off for dependants’.  As a working parent you have right to take a reasonable amount of (unpaid) time off work to deal with certain unexpected or sudden emergencies.  Such unexpected situations include where your child is sick and they are unable to go to the childcarer or it may be your childcare provider who is sick and they are unable to look after your child.  Be as open as you can with your employer and as soon as you know you are going to be unable to come in, let them know so that can make arrangements to cover your absence.  Do not feel guilty for having a family or for putting them first.  Equally do not feel guilty for having a job and for sometimes putting that first.  The important thing is to strike a balance between the two; a happy work-life balance will mean a happy you.

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