Survey Results are in: Return to work is a mixed bag!
Each week (or I should say, the weeks I have time to!) I run a survey asking followers questions around life as parents. The last survey was about Returning to work. On average, 40 people voted on each question, so it’s not a huge sample size, but it gives some indication of modern parenting life.
How long was your maternity leave?
Under 9 months- 29%
More than 9 months- 72%
I took 7 months so I fall within the minority here. In the US standard maternity leave is around 3 months so I suspect the answer would have been quite different if American mums answered. Everyone has different needs, but I think a year is a good amount of time especially if you had a traumatic birth! I was able to return to work and gradually build up my hours from 2.5 days a week to 4 days a week and that really helped as well- would recommend doing this! I also found once I got over the initial shock of the first few months, I was keen to do some work, but didn’t want to commit to anything that required intense focus because… sleep deprivation! If you’re thinking of starting your own business or ‘side hustle,’ maternity leave can be a great time to do this to fit in flexibly around nap times and lack of sleep! Plus I also felt way more creative and motivated!
Did your husband/partner take more than 2 weeks parental leave?
My husband Nick only had 2 weeks- annoyingly Sky who he works for increased it to 6 weeks when Leo was a few months old. Two weeks just isn’t long enough to really settle into being a parent. It puts stress on the mother to cope alone if she doesn’t have family nearby as well. Luckily I was able to rely on my parents and the extended family, but going it alone after 2 weeks would have been really hard, and can see that it certainly wouldn’t help with post-natal depression.
Did you do any shared parental leave?
This still seems a relatively new concept even though it’s been around for a while and is pretty standard in countries like Sweeden and Norway where you see ‘papa lattes’ with the baby carrier on and coffees in one hand, changing bag in the other! We didn’t think it made sense for us since I’m a contractor so I was only on Statutory Maternity Pay of £138 a week and thought that meant we’d only get that if I worked and Nick took parental leave. We discovered only a few months too late that as I returned at 7 months, Nick actually could have taken 2 months paid paternity leave- PLEASE do check properly into what you are allowed!
Has your employer offered any flexible working options?
I didn’t define what ‘flexible working options’ meant but I assume people who said yes were working from home and / or doing hours outside of 9-5. Most respondents were based in London so I think this is higher than perhaps elsewhere in the country. I work remotely with the rest of the team spread out between Birmingham and Seattle with agencies in India and central USA, so I basically have to work flexibly to do my job (unless I work 16 hour days! Which I did do a more often than I should have pre-baby!)
Do you feel you generally have a good work/life balance?
I think that perfect balance is not possible- it’s always swinging between working too much / not getting enough work done / spending time with family. I am constantly making changes to my weekly schedule to ensure I have quality time with Leo and Nick whilst also enjoying my two jobs… Mumming and for Skype in the Classroom. Both of which I feel passionately about as they aim to drive positive change in the world and that’s really what motivates me to whip out my laptop whenever I can!
Did your salary reduce after you returned to work?
I don’t know here if the salary reduction is due to reducing hours worked- presumably so, but even if that is the case it does seem a recipe for stress… increased living costs, reduced earnings! One company trialled a 4 day working week and productivity increased 30% and turnover doubled! It’s about working smarter, not harder. I think we could deliver great results with less time, and salary shouldn’t be purely correlated to time necessarily.
Do you work from home more than 1 day a week?
With four in 10 mums working at home more than one day a week from the respondents, this is a good move towards flexible working! Yet also we are doing this without training for how to manage working at home- sounds like it should be simple, but actually if you’re doing it for more than one day a week, you need to be very disciplined and good at setting boundaries. Basically you have to act as your own HR department.
Is being a working mum harder than you anticipated?
Not surprised at this result- I think when my generation was growing up we were fed films and images that made ‘having it all’ the thing to do, that glamorised being ‘busy.’ We were told women could have great careers AND be great mums. It’s a hard expectation to live up to.
Did you change your job because you didn’t want to return to your old job?
I think this is getting more common as we realise we simply won’t accept crappy working conditions for a company that doesn’t really value us, and there are so many options now to work remotely as well as re-train- using maternity leave as a window to make a change you wanted to make anyway!
What was your experience returning to work- are you surprised by any of the above results?!