Not to work, duh! Ok so I know many of you probably scoff at that question and there was a time when I would have too. However, it’s all very well choosing the ‘not to work’ option – if you have plenty of money to buy boats and shoes to play with all day but what do you do when your maternity (or paternity) leave is about to end (and therefore pay) and you have the very real decision to face of whether you should or should not return to work. For many necessity is the key motivator for returning to work, for others it is the desire to have a bit of adult time, a career, a passion. Whatever the reason it is a decision that my mummy friends and I have agonised over – and I am sure we’re not the only ones.
I am currently on my second leave spell of maternity leave, I didn’t go back to work after my first period of maternity leave but only because my second child was born before it ended! My job is still there and my second bout of maternity leave is due to end next July so I have some 7 months to go yet. With two little ones with 11 months between them everybody assumes that I will not be going back to work! Truth be told not going back to work never really seemed like a option however the more I think about it the more I realise that actually it is not an unfair assumption to make.
With childcare costs being at an all time high it is not uncommon for it to make more financial sense to stay at home with your children and I can certainly see the attraction to this. Your children are after all only young once and avoiding the gruelling commute and the long hours out of the house to spend the day watching your children grow and experience the world strikes me as a pretty good trade off. Day trips and play dates will not be reserved for weekends you get to hear all the toddler funnies first hand and be there when the baby first crawls. Neither do you have to fight the rest of the work place for christmas with your children or beg borrow and steal to make the school play or to stay at home when they’re sick.
That being said there are days when my one year old is having a tantrum because I wouldn’t let her climb the kitchen tops and rummage through the cupboards and the baby is crying because he wants a cuddle, the washing has finished and dinner is burning and I think about my colleagues sat at their desk drinking their hot coffees and having two way conversations and I long to be part of that world again. A world where I wasn’t covered in snot, vomit or wee, where nobody threw food at me and where people listened to what I had to say because it was sensible and didn’t just walk off dragging the plastic dog behind them. A world with business trips and client dinners and wine with lunch – a world I moaned about when I was in it.
But it’s not just the here and now that plays on my mind, In fact the thing I find the hardest to reason with is what about the long term? After all, they are only young once! What happens when your children are at pre school then school and then going to their friends for dinner/the night and their reliance on you slowly decreases. You’ve walked away from a promising career to be with your children and then they don’t need to be with you. What do you do then? Return to work when the working world as you know it has changed so much and what career standing you had has been taken by your juniors? How do you then fill your days that were once spent running after all consuming babies? And what about your financial independence? Your pension? I can’t even begin contemplating how I would deal with that one, or lack of.
Truth be told I don’t know what to do for the best. To my mind the decision is by no means straight forward and I can see the pros and cons to each option. I miss work (sometimes) and I know I would miss my children (most of the time). I don’t know if I am too risk adverse to take such a long time out of my career and I don’t know that I could not maintain some form of financial independence. BUT and its a big but if I were offered the chance to spend everyday with my children would I want to turn that down either? I just don’t know. Perhaps there is a happy medium in working part time. Perhaps you have to try it to see. Perhaps the grass just always looks greener, I don’t know. What would you do? If you weren’t ruled by necessity what would you do?