You’ve been mulling this over for a while, and now the time has come to decide whether you should stay at home or go back to work after your maternity leave ends. Whether this is an easy or tough choice for you, the unconditional love and care you have for your child will weigh heavily into your decision as you consider these common factors.
5 points to consider when deciding whether returning to work after maternity leave is right for you:
1. Consider your overall financial picture
Finances will play a huge factor on whether you decide to go back to work from maternity leave. For many people, this factor carries the most weight in their decision.
Can you afford not to work?
Now that you have additional expenses (medical bills, food, day care, life insurance, college planning, etc.), you may have to get calculative in your decision. Speak with a financial advisor who will lead you through a financial planning analysis, help your family create a budget and identify areas to cut out unnecessary expenses.
You’ll also want to consider how much you need to make for it to be worth it for you to go back to work considering all the expenses you’ll make as a working mom. If you went back to work, account for the cost of day care, before and after care for your child, your commute, food, etc. An evaluation and forecast of your expenses, including the costs of child care will help you evaluate whether it’s worth it for you to go back to work.
That said, if you chose to stay at home and forgo a working salary, you’ll still have many of the same items to account for, as well as some child care needs to budget in as well. Assuming that you will be your child’s primary care during the day, the cost will be less; however, you may be more inclined to put money toward activities for you and your children throughout the day.
2. Communicate with your partner
If you have a partner, the two of you should decide what’s best for you as a family. Communicate your feelings, thoughts and concerns related to all these other factors that will weigh into your decisions.
- Will you both be in agreement?
- Will you feel guilty about not contributing to household income if you do choose to not return back to work?
- What will both of your roles and responsibilities be as parents?
- What will be your new responsibilities as a stay-at-home parent?
You and your partner will need to define and discuss this together and come to a place where you both acknowledge, accept your decisions and own your responsibilities.
3. Understand your work environment and benefits
As a new mom, your values and priorities will shift. Consider all things related to your work environment and your career.
- Does your company support working parents?
- Does your company offer flex and remote options ?
- Will there be a private, safe and sanitary place for you to pump?
- Are there other employees who have children in the workforce?
- Does your company care for work-life integration, or are employees known to be burnt out and run to the ground?
You’ll like need to take half days or full days for your child’s medical appointments, snow days and other things you cannot plan for. It’s important to ensure you’re working in a supportive environment and for an employer who will not trigger an ounce of guilt in you. If you’re one of the first employees in your company to have a child, it can take some time for your employer to address your needs. Prepare talking points to help you with these conversations (some of which may be uncomfortable for you) and advocate for your needs.
4. Research childcare options
Another huge factor to consider is all things child care, including the cost and your comfort and confidence of having someone else look after your child. Finding childcare could be a long and drawn out process for your family. Get ahead of this well in advance.
Whether your child will be cared for by a day care facility, a nanny, an au pair , a friend or family member, the good news is that there are a lot of great options to choose from.
Each one has its own list of factors to consider, so you may want to research, get recommendations and referrals, shadow or trial run a few options. Know that no matter what you choose, you’re not alone and finding the best options for your family is totally possible.
5. Check in on your emotional readiness
Many moms will wonder whether they are ready to go back to work. Other moms may have no doubt about it. How will you know if you are ready to go back to work? As your return to work draws near, tune into how you’re feeling.
Are you dreading the day , or are you excited to get back? Many women tie their identity to their career. They like the prestige, power and sense of purpose that comes with it. They crave the connection and productivity they feel working in an office.
Other women feel uneasy about returning to work. They couldn’t imagine separating from their child at this time and giving their attention to work. These feelings can stem from your outlook about your work and your role as a mom.
Whatever your perspective, your feelings are valid and will help guide you in your decision, as you take into consideration the factors mentioned above. There’s no right or wrong answer, mama.
It’s no doubt that having a baby changes your life. If you choose to go back to work, you’ll feel like you’re pushed and pulled in so many directions. If you choose to stay at home with your child, you’ll carry a large load, and will probably put a lot of pressure on yourself to do it all.
Consider these factors in deciding what is right for you and your family. Own your decision and step into your role with confidence. There is power in your ability to choose and how you go forward in your decision will make all the difference.
A version of this post was published September 25, 2019. It has been updated.