Back to work after baby? Consider the pros and cons
The newborn’s growing into a bonny baby and your restart date is just a few days away. However, you’re not too sure what your next step should be. Should you stay home with the baby for a few more months? Or should you return to work since you love the challenges and camaraderie that your workplace offers?
The governments in the Gulf are doing their bit to make the decision easier for new mothers. Dubai Crown Prince Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum recently announced a new maternity leave policy, allowing women to add up to 120 days of annual leave and unpaid leave to their maternity leave. The breast-feeding period has also been increased to two hours from one hour and can be taken for a year after the baby’s birth.
According to Sheikh Hamdan, the new policy will “help employees have closer family bonds, and enhance their sense of family stability”.
Under the amended Labour Code in KSA, women employees are entitled to maternity leave with full pay for 10 weeks (regardless of length of service) from April 2016.
Yet even as newer policies are introduced to make the transition back to work easier, many new mothers continue to wrestle with the decision. And the truth is, there isn’t one, right answer. To make a successful re-entry, first you need to figure out what will work best for you and your family.
Considering these factors will help you decide whether you’re ready to go back to work after baby:
#1 Finances: Can you afford it?
Staying home – especially with a baby – isn’t cheap. You need to consider big-budget items such as childcare, emergency savings, education, retirement plans and other ongoing expenses such as vacations, parties and home improvement. There are likely to be other expenses that baby brings along – new gear, mom-and-baby classes and household utilities. Draw up stay-at-home and back-to-work budgets and gauge what works better for you. Remember that cutting down drastically on expenses may work for a couple of months, but will lead to frustration over the long term.
#2 Child Care: Will you be happy with the quality?
One of the main reasons mums don’t want to go back to work is that they aren’t happy with the quality of childcare available. If you don’t have this one thing in place, you’ll never be able to focus and work effectively. Whatever you’re working with – grandparents, other family, nanny or a day care facility – make sure you choose one that’s best for you and the baby. Shadowing your help for a few days before you get back to work gives you a good idea of how things will be when you’re not around. Walter S. Gilliam, associate professor of child psychiatry and psychology at Yale School of Medicine, in an NYT article, said: “Regardless of what choice you make, you need to form a strong relationship with the child care provider and feel OK about it, because your child will be reading those cues.”
#3 Emotional wellbeing: Will you be able to take it?
How will you feel about being away from your baby? How comfortable will you be with the idea of someone else caring for him or her? How will you be if you miss major milestones, be it first word or steps - in your baby's life? Dr Marjorie Greenfield, author of The Working Woman's Pregnancy Book, believes: “Many times, what you think you want while you are pregnant is different from when you have the baby.” Review your hopes and realities with your partner, but don’t feel pressured by the demands of your spouse, friends, in-laws or boss to make a certain decision. Talk to people, but remember that this is a personal choice – there can never be any right or wrong.
#4: Career & Goals: Can you let them take a backseat?
There is never a right time in your career to have a baby, but your success at aiming for a balance depends on how willing you are to work things around it. Ask yourself a few important questions and be honest. Do you still have professional goals to achieve? Will you be able to rejoin the workforce after a three-year break? Could you think about lateral moves now? Would your employer be receptive to a flexible work arrangement? Consider the big picture to see how staying home could affect your career. Are you willing to take that risk? Dr Greenfield writes: “It's really hard to be home with a baby -- harder than going to work. Some women miss their job and their adult lives and want to go back to work.” Think things through, weigh your options and decide.
Having a baby is a life-altering experience. One month down the line, you may wonder if you made the right choice. Bear in mind that no decision needs to be permanent. Whatever you choose, you can revisit a couple of months later for adjustments that may be needed. Every woman needs to find the fit that’s right for her, the baby and her family. To find that balance, you may even want to consider moving to a contract job. Paige Hobey, mother of two and author of The Working Gal's Guide to Babyville: Your Must-Have Manual for Life with Baby, suggests: “Think in terms of the next 12 months rather than your entire career path, which can be overwhelming.”
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