Put your career ahead of childcare costs

Working mumAs for all new mums, the back-to-work-dilemma gave Gemma Wilford plenty of pause for thought. Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book, she was able to take a rational approach. Alongside her job, Gemma now blogs about her experiences as a working mother.

Half way into my maternity leave, I started to seriously consider what would happen when the time came to return to work.

My work circumstances were a bit disheveled – a project secondment had finished and I was due to return to a shift-work post that was no longer compatible with my new family life.

Several options were floating through my mind:

Do I look for a part time low wage job that I just settle for? One that brings in money to cover the bills and that’s it?

Do I pack in work completely to avoid any kind of nursery fees?

Or – do I look for a full-time job that has flexible options? A job that keeps me on a career path, doesn’t de-skill me and brings a work/life balance?

Inspiration from the woman who runs Facebook

It was at this particular time, on recommendation from a friend, that I started reading a book that would change my outlook completely; ‘Lean In’, written by the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg.

Rather than looking at the present, where returning to work equals childcare costs, Sandberg encouraged me to look into the future.

Where did I want to be when Ella started school in four years’ time, when I would no longer have such hefty childcare costs? Did I want to be stuck in a part time, lower paid role that was beneath my skill set?

Or did I want to be climbing the career ladder, working full-time in a role that matched the skills I had built up in the last sixteen years of my working life?

I acknowledge that everyone’s circumstances are different and sometimes it’s not possible to get childcare that works financially.

However, I think before women make the decision to give up on themselves they need to have faith that they too can still have a career.

Of course, more women would do this if they had flexible or part time options within the roles that they’re skilled in. That’s why I’m a strong supporter of Timewise’s Hire Me My Way Campaign.

Short term sacrifice, long term gain

I began to see my choice in terms of sacrificing a couple of years’ childcare costs while returning to work. And by doing so – it would pay off in the long run, keeping me in a career and enabling me to climb the ladder.

Rather than looking at my current salary and outgoings, I assessed them against what my future salary could be.

Therefore, I made my decision.

I returned to my current employer in a new role that I could transfer my skills across to. Albeit it’s full-time, it is flexible to suit my childcare arrangements.

There’s potential to develop with training courses and a career path to follow too.

Not easy, but worth it

I’m not going to deny – it is hard work and organisation is key. But I’m content. I have a happy work/life balance.

The next couple of years will be tight however, having just come off maternity pay; I’ve learnt how to be frugal and efficient with my money.

Every parent should have the opportunity for a career and a family.

Employers: give parents who want to work the option to be flexible and you avoid de-skilling the workforce at the same time.

And women: don’t give up on yourselves! You’ve got a sense of purpose to care for that small human. But you’ve also got a sense of purpose to take care of yourself.

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