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Returning to Work After Maternity Leave: Key Questions to Help You Decide

Deciding on your perfect return to work date can be complicated. There’s your finances, career, workplace, and childcare to consider, and above all, your child’s well-being and what feels right. Unfortunately, we can’t give you your perfect return date, but we can offer some thought starters to help you and your partner or support network weigh the pros and cons and get on your way to making the right decision for your family. How often have you heard a new parent say, “I can’t wait to take a toilet break on my own or enjoy a cup of coffee in peace?” On the one hand, returning to work and regaining your independence can be exciting. On the other hand, it can raise difficult emotions like sadness, fear, or guilt.

Understanding your rights

First, know that you are entitled to return to work (under the National Employment Standards) and have the right to request flexibility in your role. Your company may refuse, but you have the right to ask, so we encourage you to read: Do I have the right to return to the same job?

Should I return to work?

Ask yourself: Do I want to return? It’s a simple question but an important one. Does the thought of going back excite you or fill you with dread? The reality is you know the answer to this question. Listen to your heart. Finish this sentence: I’m returning to work because… Think about what’s driving your return, whether personal or financial. If your driver is personal, consider the following:

  • Are you career-driven, and is the time right for you?

  • Have you thought about how you’ll manage the juggle and talk it over with your partner or support network?

  • What impact do you think it will have on the time you spend with your children and the quality of that time?

  • Do you want to do this for you?

  • Are you looking forward to being intellectually challenged again in a professional setting?

If your driver is financial, then consider:

  • Does your current role meet your financial needs?

  • Can you afford to take a reduced salary? If yes, how many days do you need to work to support your lifestyle?

  • How much will childcare cost?

  • Do you plan on having more children, and if so, have you a budget and plan for this?

Planning a smooth return to work

Is working flexibly a possibility? Can you afford to work flexibly? Have you secured childcare? Have there been changes at your workplace that will impact how and when you work? You want to ensure that you’ve thought of everything when you return and give yourself the best chance to make it work.

Return to work support

Does your partner’s employer offer a shared parental leave policy? Has your partner considered working flexibly? Will someone from your support network be available for childcare pick-ups and drop-offs? What happens when the kids get sick? Can you share the load? You need to have this conversation and be clear about who is in your support network and what each role will be. We know that speaking to others and having this conversation early on plays a huge role in setting your return up for success.

Career Planning after parenthood

Are you happy to continue in your current role? Many parents prefer to return to their previous role and have little stress while settling in. Others see that nothing has changed, and they’re just as driven as ever. Think about whether the work will satisfy you or if you’ll crave something new. Simply, would you prefer to return to your previous role, do you want something new, or do you need a career relaunch?

Parents return at different times and stages. There’s no right or wrong time, and you can read a selection of real stories that showcase different perspectives and journeys. Hopefully, these various points will lead to a discussion to help you navigate your return. Only you and your support network can decide what is best for your situation. We feel confident that whatever you decide will be right for you.

This article was written by our Return-to-Work Experts Circle In and was first published When should I return to work? Key questions to help you decide | Circle In.

For more expert articles, check out our Parenting Portal - Your Expert Guide to Parenthood or secure your pot at one of our upcoming parental education masterclasses.

Returning to work as a parent


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