I have recently returned from my second stint of maternity leave. I was fortunate enough to be offered a return three days per week with my 2 children (8 months and 2.5) in daycare those days. Upon entering into discussions after returning after the birth of my first child (then 10 months) I remember the conversation I had with my boss. “Don’t come back if you just want to ‘play office’” he said. This got me thinking. What motivates mothers to return to the workforce? Is it the money? Is it to have “adult conversations”? Is it about the balance of power in their marital relationship? Or is it merely to just blow the dust off the stilettos and the compact to “play office”? I was talking to one of my friends the other day, also a mother, and she raised a few points that:
1. She didn’t have to work as financially they were very stable
2. She would never get these early years back with her children so wanted to stay at home as long as she could [insert my ‘guilty mother conscience’ here], and
3. She didn’t have a wildly successful career or a job that she loved before having her kids so didn’t feel a burning desire to return.
It’s fair to say that she won’t be returning to work and that is the best choice for her and her family at this time.
Another friend of mine said to her husband “I am either having another baby now, or going back to work”. I thought that was an interesting frame of mind. And on the flip side, another acquaintance told me that her job was far too stressful and she wouldn’t cope with the demands anymore.
For me, it wasn’t just about the money. Yes, that certainly helps, however I might add that childcare in Queensland is highway robbery so for most of us mum’s, we wait for that monthly rebate with all the anticipation of a kid at a Wiggles concert. In saying this they are being educated by professionals with far more knowledge and resources than I have available to me. It wasn’t only about having conversations outside of teething, gas or which nappy rash cream is the most effective. For me, it was a combination of factors. I was lucky that I had a career that I was thoroughly passionate about, great colleagues and managers who are extremely supportive and genuinely care about us (the team at Optimum).
I also have discovered that I am a far more effective and contented mother and wife when I am working. I like missing my family, (just a little) and that makes my time with them ALL about them. This in turn, means that I need to justify my time AWAY from them. So, when I am at work I want to do my job and do it well. I want to be busy, exceed my objectives and lead my team well so that I can say at the end of each day, “YES, I did a good job today and I am doing the right thing by myself, my family, AND my employer.”
I have also discovered that there is no shame in admitting that I am a better mother when I am working i.e. spending time away from my children. This does not make me a bad mother.
I suppose what I am trying to say is when returning to work, it needs to be an informed decision, that you make solely based on your own situation and what is best for all parties involved. There is no point returning to work before you are ready, this is not fair on yourself, your family or your employer. In this situation I firmly believe that what is good for the Goose must be good for the Gander. I fully appreciate that in these economic times, people may be forced to work however, when there is a choice, make it wisely.
Happy mum, happy bub. Happy wife, happy life (just thought I would throw that in for good measure!)
Deanna Keating – Team Leader