Back to Work
In light of the pandemic, the first thing you think of when I say “Back to Work” is probably about current events. Today, I’m talking about when to go back to work after you have kids.
My best advice? You do you. Really. Do what feels right for you and your family.
If you have the ability and the paid time off available to you, stay home with your baby for at least 3 months if you can. Those special Baby Time months are so precious, and fleeting. And getting as close as you can to your baby sleeping through the night before you go back to work will help you keep your sanity once you have to get dressed and do your hair and makeup every day again!
When our oldest was born, I loved my job, loved everyone I worked with, and had a great daycare situation fall into my lap. My husband wanted me to stay home with our daughter at that time, and I didn’t want to. I was in a great job, and was able to do a combination of work from home and using up all of my sick time for the first few months. I think I went back to the office full time – working from home on Fridays – after 3 months.
Finding the right work/life balance is a completely individual thing. When you add kids into the mix, you have to re-evaluate that balance. Your life becomes totally different, and you are sleep deprived for months. I happen to think that the magic balance equation with kids should be decided as a couple, and that “balance” is something with give and take on both sides over the years. My husband and I have both acted as the primary parent with our kids at different points in our careers.
The advantage today is that – unlike 17 years ago (how has that passed so fast???) – many companies today give employees a lot more flexibility than they did even two decades ago. And with the forced rise of telecommuting with the pandemic, I think many companies have had a paradigm shift in their thinking on the subject. Which parents can use to their advantage, if they want it. Some of you probably can’t wait until you can be back to your actual offices – and that’s ok!
For those of you who have loved working from home – like me – think about whether you want to continue doing so as more of a permanent thing. Explore the possibilities with your employers. Figure out what has worked and what has not. Maybe the answer is a combination of time in the office and working from home. We all know – especially after the last year – that Working From Home…With Kids is no joke.
Think about whether you want to keep working for someone else or if starting your own business is really your thing. I won’t lie to you: being an entrepreneur is hard. There are not full benefits and the buck stops with you. It is also super rewarding and I love it!
Or, think about a third option: something in between. I know a lot of women who stayed home with their babies and then chose to become consultants as the kids got bigger. There are great part-time services out there for professional women who have fantastic skills but don’t want to work full time. Check out 10til2 in Denver, or do a search for similar firms in your area.
When our second child was born (he is now 9), I had started my consulting business and was working from the home office mostly full time. I had clients to support, reports to send out, and deadlines to meet. The advantage of being my own boss is that I set my schedule. The disadvantage? I am the only employee and I cannot delegate tasks to someone else. I think I did have a young staffer in our sister organization in Wyoming who did some of my reporting for a few weeks after our son was born. But, I kept up with the necessary tasks and did the needful after that. I basically was back to work within the first month after he was born. I worked on projects and pursued new clients with my son home with me until he was just shy of two.
Then, I found a home daycare lady who was great, and I paid for him to go there 5 mornings a week to keep his spot, but I usually only took him 3 days. This was the perfect part time daycare answer for me. She would feed him lunch before I picked him up, and I would bring him home for nap time here so I could get some more work done before picking up his sister at school. On the days he was home with me, I let him watch cartoons sometimes if I really needed to get things done, or have free play, or we would have fun time at the park or just play. I still had some good Mommy Time with my son, and he got socialization and a more structured schedule while at daycare.
I am a huge advocate for entrepreneurship and doing your own thing. Running your world and coming up with creative ways to live your life. Many of my friends own brick and mortar businesses, and have kept a pack n play in the back room of their business for kids to sleep while they were little. Other friends have hired a nanny or nanny share in order to get through those toddler years and have a little help. It is ok to ask for help! (See Can We Do It All?)
With our third child, my husband had just started a new and bigger job. I had transitioned away from several clients and was kind of at a crossroads with my businesses (I had been a clothing consultant for a California-based designer for seven years, in addition to my LLC), and I was basically a Stay at Home Mom. And it was hard. But, I don’t regret stepping back and focusing on my kids for a couple of years at all! I was able to be home for them, to be the primary parent and make it to all of their activities when my husband could not.
Our baby refused to take a bottle for seven months, so she went everywhere with me, even more than usual. We tried to get a babysitter during a business dinner while on a trip to New Orleans when she was two months old, and I had to rush back to the hotel before the second course because the sitter called and she wouldn’t stop crying. She was home with me until she was at least two. We did a few days of daycare here and there (we had a new daycare center open in town around when our son started preschool at 3, just before our baby was born), and she had massive separation anxiety when my mother-in-law would drop her off. So, I started taking her a couple mornings a week after that to try to work through it. And for my own sanity!
I did love working in an office early in my career, and I don’t regret my decision to go back to work after our oldest was born. Our daycare lady was a friend, and she watched our daughter and one other friend’s son, as well as her own daughter. Her husband and I worked together, and would carpool into the office many times together. Working from home with my son home with me early in my consulting career worked for me. I like juggling all the things and rolling with the day to day. And being a SAHM with our youngest was also the best fit for us as a family at that time.
Work/life balance changes as life changes. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer, ever. And the decision you make when you have one child can change when you have more kids. We all have different seasons in our life, and we take each one as it comes. Remember, you do you. Live your best life, for your family. Make the best choices for you and your partner. Do whatever you need to do for your own family, career, and your kids. None of us Are Perfect.
When you go back to work after having kids is completely up to you. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.