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To return (to work) or not to return – or maybe something quite different.

Posted by Nicole Highet on 2nd October 2016

The whole question of whether to return to work or not – is not always straight forward.

For me personally, being at home with no family or friends (my family lives interstate and husband’s family is overseas), staying at home was extremely isolating. I looked forward to the mother’s group meeting once a week to have contact with others.  I distinctly remember asking one of the mother’s – who do you fill in each day? The response was they had relatives, parent and in-laws that they strategically spread their visits out across the week – which was not an option for me.

I missed the buzz, activities and social connections that my work offered. I had also worked very hard to get to a point in my career and part of me felt like I was ‘losing ground’ by being off work for a long period of time.

I also felt that my mind needed stimulating.  I have never been a great reader, and loved my work, but at the same time I was torn as I didn’t want to leave my baby all week with someone else.

The days were long and lonely.  I would find myself going to shopping centres for something to do, I did not even try on clothes there but simply took them home, as I had nothing else to do the next day but bring them back.

It was at this point that I realised there had to be another option.

Returning to work part time was best for me, and making arrangements when I could work from home was critical. I’m sure many of my relatives had negative opinions of my decision – as all of my cousins had taken years off work following the birth of their children.  But keeping MY reasons for returning to top of mind was important – particularly in the face of criticism.

For some of my friends however, the thought of returning to work was filled with dread, and/or the thought of leaving their baby was too much to bare. For other mothers, they are not so fortunate that they can choose whether to work or not.

The golden rule here is that everyone and everyone’s situation is different. There is no right or wrong way.  The only right way is what is right for you – your needs and your situation.

Having children and the challenges that this question about work brings, forces many to think creatively about other options that may be available to them.  I know one friend of mine was informed whilst on maternity leave that her position was made redundant. Whilst shocked, angry and devastated at first, she completely turned this situation around, focussed on what she cared about and developed a new enterprise of her own.

The world of technology gives us a unique level of connection, flexibility and infrastructure that was never there before.  Asking yourself what matters to you, what you enjoy doing and what skills you currently have, may just be the beginning of a new opportunity that you never considered before. It can also bring great flexibility to enable you to have the best of both worlds.

Nicole Highet