To work or not to work

By Pamela Weatherill

Sometimes it feels like there are only two possible choices: Be a stay-at-home mum and feel guilty about not contributing to the family budget; or be a working mum and feel guilty about not being at home with your kids.

The question of whether to return to work or not can feel like a no win decision.

The trick is to make sure that you and your family are happy with your decision and how you carry it out and then you will win - no matter what your decision. The starting point is being clear about what you want, and what is best for your family. You're the mum after all.

For Kathy the decision was totally about finances, "I was lucky enough to have employable skills and find work that was flexible around school hours. Working part time was the only way to ensure that I could provide financially for the boys".

Sometimes, just enjoying the work you do is a deciding factor, "I loved my work. I loved my baby. I worked with my employer to find a way to do both. Working also means I'm not loosing precious skills too." claimed new mum Andi.

Fiona, speaks for many mums when she says, "The thought of trying to fit work, commuting and dropping kids off to childcare doesn't feel like it's worth the stress or the money."

For some mums like Caroline the decision is really clear, "I had kids because I want to make a career of parenting. Jason and I were really clear about that before we started a family, and we are doing our best to stick to that."

It seems that the only common advice to be found in the research about whether to return to work or not, is a recommendation to ensure you have had time for your body to readjust physiologically after having a baby before returning to work. For every child rearing age after this, there is no clear indication about what is best - either way. You will find research to support you no matter when you go back - or don't go back to work!

This is one decision you have to make yourself. You need to be happy with it. By all means include other people who will be impacted by the decision, such as your partner, and even older children. However the kindest thing you can do for yourself and your family is to weigh the odds, make the decision and move on with confidence.

Most importantly, you must also allow yourself to change your mind along the way -parenthood lasts for a long time and when you re-weigh the odds during different phases, the result could change. Once you enter the workforce you have the choice to leave it or change jobs. If you are at home with the children right now, it might not be the right thing forever.

Either way, make the right decision for your family - and let's be kind to each other, and not judge the decisions of other Mother's by our own needs and desires.

Pamela Weatherill is a Career and Life Coach.