Returning to work after maternity: what are your options?

office space / baby in bouncer

If you’re pregnant – or a new mum – and feeling panicked about returning to work after maternity leave, this advice from Ruth Roan, detailing the various options, should ease your anxiety… 

Ruth Roan has run her own consultancy business for 11 years. Now, using her skills as a marketing consultant and previous experience as a start-up business advisor, she is helping mums to get back into work and, in her words, create their own destiny…

Going back to work after maternity leave is a big step for every woman. Not only is it challenging to get back into the swing of working life again, but being away from your baby can leave you feeling anxious. Juggling the demands of parenthood and a job is tough, but what is the alternative?

Request flexible working hours
If you felt like you had a busy life before kids, it is a whole new kettle of fish when it comes to working a full-time job and looking after a small child. It is not a case of slotting a child into your usual routine. It is more like the other way around. Many new mums adjust their working hours when they return after maternity leave.If you’ve been working at your organisation for at least 26 weeks, you are entitled to request changes to your working arrangements. Options include flexi-time, job sharing with a colleague, working your whole week’s hours over a couple of days (known as compressed hours) or going part-time. A formal written application should be made to your employer detailing the change you are seeking, any affect it may have on the business and how this would be overcome or dealt with.

Work from home
Depending on the nature of your job, you may be able to carry out your duties from home. Many businesses now supply employees with phones and laptops, giving them the ability to work remotely. Working from home may still require childcare, but it will give you much more flexibility. In fact, many people are far more productive when they work from home. If your job does not rely on you being contactable between office opening hours, it is possible to work in the evenings when your child is in bed. I follow a ’24-hour wheel’ model which sees me work ‘in my business’ between the hours of 9am and 3pm. This could be working in the office, out delivering training courses or attending meetings. Between the hours of 3pm and 8pm I am mum to my two boys, Elliott and Sam. This allows me to do the nursery/school runs and spend valuable time with them. Once they are in bed, I work between the hours of 8pm and 11pm ‘on my business’, catching up on emails, doing my invoices and creating plans for my business.

Becoming a mum is a big deal. It turns your world completely upside down. Despite this, work is still a big part of our lives

Retrain in a new career
This could be exactly the right time to retrain in a completely new career doing something you really want to do. Take time to review your life and career goals and research what could work well for you before you decide to return to work. I know many people who have ditched the corporate life to run home-based ventures. Some have even purchased franchises they can run from home where training and support is provided by a head office.

Start your own business
Starting your own business may seem daunting, but it can also be incredibly empowering and liberating. You could turn your hobby into a career, or use your skills to go freelance – the options are endless. Think about what you are good at and what motivates you. Could you earn money doing this?

I started my own business in 2006. I used to have a busy job working in London as a business advisor for a Government funded organisation and commuted every day from Northampton. Then I was made redundant. Shortly after, I had my son Elliott. I decided to set up my own business. It was the best thing I ever did! It’s hard work but I am able to work it around my family, which is perfect. Now I help people set up their own businesses. I run courses covering everything you need to know about self-employment and starting your own business, such as business planning, finance and marketing. I also offer a 12-week coaching and mentoring service to businesses that need additional support. Together we carry out a business review and create an action plan. This is then followed up by bi-weekly calls from me to monitor performance and offer support.

I am also about to launch ‘Create Your Own Destiny’, a course designed to encourage individuals to explore and develop ideas, regain self-confidence and identify opportunities for career development.

Becoming a mum is a big deal. It turns your world completely upside down. Despite this, work is still a big part of our lives. Whether this is to bring money in to survive each month, an escape from the chaos at home, the chance to speak to other adults for a few hours a day or to retain a sense your own identity. Whatever your reasons for working, being a mum shouldn’t mean that you lose all ambition, skills or the ability to make a vital contribution to a company. Go on, be brave! Find a solution that works for you and create your own destiny.

Follow Ruth on Twitter at @BB4Growth