Career Woman

Return to work after a baby: 5 key tips for a family-friendly career


Well, maternity leave is over….Sigh. Some of you may have had a great career before you took time off with your bubs. But, others among us were thrilled to finally throw in our tedious jobs and say a not-so-fond farewell to putting makeup on in the car, running in heels for the early train and gritting our teeth through long days of working for people who never said thank you!

Whatever your work situation was, for a lot of us, things change when we have kids. Priorities, time, what we’re looking for in a job, even how much of our identity is tied up with what we do for a crust. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably decided that your old job isn’t going to work with the new (cute) commitments you now have. Maybe it requires too much travel or too much time. Maybe it just requires too much of you, more than you’re willing or able to give.

So what do you do now?

Well, believe it or not, there are family-friendly careers out there! And maybe unicorns… Seriously though, there are professions that can allow you to have your cake and eat it too. You can get to see your children grow up without sacrificing the enjoyment, stimulation, social interaction and satisfaction that a good job provides. All you need are a few key ingredients 

1. Flexibility

There are some great options for childcare these days, but nothing is foolproof. Even if you find a great place for your little people in a centre, with a family day-carer, nanny or obliging family member, things happen. The carers get sick or go on holidays, and the days that you need at childcare fill up before you’ve even picked up the phone. Your mother-in-law gets sick or goes on holiday. You get sick or the bub gets sick- probably neither of you is getting to go on a holiday at this stage. Not to mention what work is asking of you- what happens if you need to work until six AND somehow pick your child up before six (or be charged the equivalent of your annual salary for every minute of overtime)?

So, what’s the answer? Flexibility.

If you find a role or a workplace that allows you to work from home, leave early, change your days or only work when you’re available, grab it with both hands and don’t let go.

2. The right skills

You may have some transferrable skills, but if you’re looking at an entirely new employment sector, a course of study might help you brush up. When you’re thinking about what to study, consider the point above- will that industry offer you the working arrangements you need? How about job satisfaction? And is the course of study itself flexible? A lot of people are choosing to study online now, rather than struggle to make it to classes and tutorials at set times. Online study allows you to work at your own pace and when it suits you, and the right provider will offer you a solid support system so that you’re not alone as you’re learning.

The right course can open doors to a new and rewarding career. If you’re going to start a new chapter in your working life, you might as well make it an interesting one, right?

3. Support

There’s an old saying that still applies today- it takes a village to raise a family. With so many competing demands on our time, working parents need support systems in place everybody’s lives run smoothly. So, when you’re thinking about your future working arrangements, it’s a good idea to think about who or what can help you on your way. Have you got a supportive partner or family? Are they encouraging and on board with your decisions?

If work is demanding and you’re stressed and tired, will other people step up to the plate? Who?

What about money? Do you need to be earning a certain amount? Will one party in your relationship support the other?

How will any parenting payments you receive be affected by your earnings?

If you choose to study, is there government assistance available? Will it be a good investment in your future earnings?

4. Know your strengths; do what you enjoy

There’s nothing like having children to make you realise how precious time is. They grow and change before your very eyes, and sometimes it feels like it’s happening in fast-forward, and you just want to press the pause button!

Because your time is more valuable now than ever, it’s important to make your work is a good use of it. Now’s the time to seek fulfilment, so you don’t resent those wasted hours.

Think laterally about your role at home, too- maybe the skills involved in your work at home can be carried across to work outside the home. For example, mums make great project managers, because they often manage a whole family day-to-day without batting an eye.

We’re used to considering all the stakeholders (if I pick up Jack from cricket, Milly will be late for ballet), avoiding mishaps through attention to detail and careful planning (Jack needs to have his cricket gear packed and in the car the night before because he’s hopeless in the mornings and likely to forget it) and forecasting budgets (if I pay the electricity bill in instalments this month, we’ll have enough left to pay for Milly’s birthday party). And, on the topic of budgeting- you’re practically an accountant already! Working out how to split your family’s source of income, across the various accounts, to ensure your bills and living expenses are paid, and planning ahead for Christmas or holidays- you’re already used to thinking about what needs to be covered in the short term (current liabilities) and potentially longer (long- term liabilities). These are the basic items on a profit and loss sheet that make a big difference to a business’s bottom line!

What are you good at? What do you love doing? 

5. Long-term career goals

Ultimately, what is it that you’re looking for, for you and your family?

They have needs, (plenty of them!) but so do you, and they’re just as valid. Is there an arrangement that ticks all the boxes for you, and gives you the balance that you’re seeking between work and your family life as well? You’re the only one who can decide what the right formula is for you.

It’s also good to think about whether what you want to do will serve your longer-term career goals as well. Are there options for movement or career progression if that’s what you want? What are the employment statistics like for the industry you’re considering, and is growth predicted? The website is a great source of info. Check out the industry you’re looking at and make sure there are openings for when you’re ready to get started.

About Katie Gaudron

Katie Gaudron works for a Brisbane-based registered training organisation, Churchill Education (RTO:31430). Churchill Education has helped a lot of people progress their careers through online training and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). If you want to have a chat about options that can give you more possibilities for a flexible and family-friendly career, call Churchill Education on 1300 793 002 and have a chat to our Skills Advisors, or visit our website Churchill Education to see what’s on offer.

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