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Going back to work or not yet - sleepless nights over the decision


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Hello, a newcomer here (not new to ED though :) ). Would love to participate in this forum, hope you don't mind me starting by asking for opinions and personal experiences :-$

I have a toddler and a nearly 6 month old and am about to go back to work. Haven't signed the contract yet but have been offered a job after not working for over 2 years and am getting VERY nervous. Should I go back to work while my youngest is still a baby? Whenever my toddler has a difficult week or two (general whining etc, you know those days/weeks) I really can't wait to go back to work. But whenever she's back to normal I generally enjoy being at home with both kids.

The job is for 4 days a week and during those 4 days I'd hardly see my kids (due to relatively long hours). It doesn't pay that well - after nanny and travel costs we'd gain ?250 net a month from me working. So it helps a bit but it doesn't make a massive difference and we can afford to wait another 6-12 months. (and I'm quite confident I'd find work again after those 6-12 months).

It feels wrong to not see my baby 4 days a week (except for 10 minutes in the morning and 20 in the evening) if all we technically gain from it is a couple hundred pounds. I'd go back to work for egoistical reasons: to get out of the house and do something "intelligent" with adults. Which isn't to be underestimated, I do crave it from time to time and it's probably true that a happy mum is a better mum, but I think this is more true for toddlers than for babies. And it's not like I'm that unhappy now. Just sometimes :-S

We've found a lovely nanny. I'm 99.9% confident she'll give our kids lots of love. But I keep thinking that the mother-child bonding will be affected by me not being there 4 days out of 7: a 6 month old is still such a little chimpanzee, so instinct driven, so much of a little animal... and a baby animal just needs to be with its mum if it is to get the most out of its emotional development (right?). Of course babies of mums who have to go back to work sooner all turn out just fine but if you CAN stay with them longer, should you do so? It'll be harder for them if you start work when they're bigger (separation anxiety etc) but doesn't that almost prove that right now they really don't know what's going on in the world around them yet? And should the mum therefore ideally be with the child until the baby stage is over? "They're only young once", as lots of sentimental grandmothers will say. We're not having any more kids so yes, the baby days will soon be over.

Am I absolutely nuts? My husband says "release is peace" but I still don't know what to release.

Why do you do what you do (i.e. stay at home or go to work)? And what would you do in my case?

Sorry for the book :-$

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paperina.. I am facing a very similar dilemma and can strongly identify with your concerns. The difference is I work from home, so my dilemma is really whether to scale up again (so that I need a nanny or similar to help) or whether I should just plod along, economise and try to enjoy my little ones (and not go completely insane on the bad days).

For now, I am holding myself back. I think I was too hasty to get back to work with my first and I don't want to have the same regrets twice. There is something very poignant about having your last baby. I don't know about your personal circusmtances, but it does seem being up ?250 a month means the financial incentive isn't significant. I believe more and more in the importance of that mother / child closeness (including lots and lots of time together) in the early months - up to a year really, so as long as you don't believe this job is a once in a lifetime opportunity that won't be there in 6 months, maybe you should let it go? Are fewer days an option?

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Personally (and it's just my opinion) I would stay at home for that little bit longer. You say you are confident you could get work in 6 - 12 months time, the financial gain isn't huge, so really what difference would waiting 6 months make... other than you would gain 6 months more with your baby and perhaps not feel so bad about going back to work once your youngest is over a year old.

I work part-time, but it's 100% from home and done in the few hours a week my kids are at creche or sleeping in the evening. It's not much, but enough to make me feel like a different part of my brain is functioning again. That said, I didn't take it on until quite recently and my kids are now nearly 4 and 2.5, so I've had a few years being "just" a Mum which I enjoyed.

At the end of the day, they don't stay babies for long. If you have the option to spend time with them at this point in their lives I say go for it - a lot of people don't have the luxury of choice so you're lucky (although it does mean you're faced with this dilemma!).

Good luck with whatever you decide.

P x

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Thanks so much for your feedback so far. I hope I didn't bias my post too much towards not working (at least not to a point where working mums think they'd be talking to a wall if they shared their view).

LittleEDfamily and Pickle, I can't do fewer days/hours at the job I'm being offered. I'm also interviewing for a much better paid job but am not far enough in the process to know whether it'll be offered to me and I doubt I can do it part time. Maybe working from home is an option (not for either of these two companies but by doing some freelancing - not necessarily well paid but I wouldn't have the nanny and commute costs. ?250 extra would make life easier but it may not be worth the stress of performance, commute and babylessness whereas I may be able to make that net amount with some translation or consulting work).

If I'd be a bit more careful with what I spend on the bloody groceries each month I'd probably also make ?250 - in savings!!!!! :-$

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Hi Paperina - I just wanted to give the other side as I went back to work full time when each of my girls was 6 months. It's hard - I can't deny that, and for the following reasons:

- you miss them so so much, with eldest DD I was even getting taxis back from work so that I could get a few more minutes with her each day

- work now has very strict childcare boundaries - it might be different with a nanny but I have to dash out of the door on the dot every day to make the one train that gets me to the nursery on time (something that i find hard while colleagues are working conspicuously long hours)

- illnesses (again it might be different with a nanny) almost never fall when there is a lull at work, so you end up shuffling meetings back, cramming them into the next already heaving week, while feeling desperately guilty that you haven't been there when your child was not feeling great, or not reading the signs while you rushed out of the door to join the daily rat race.

Things that aren't so bad though are:

- the money obv (but don't forget to offset lunches, travel etc)

- childcare vouchers (every little helps)

- the loss of the quality time with your children - I have 2 hours in the morning and about 2 hours most evenings which is completely family (no emails, errands etc - that's what lunch breaks are for)

- loss of relationship with them. we have loads of cuddles, talk about their days (with the eldest obv), plan our weekends and yes they love their nursery staff and friends, but I think that's quite healthy and just like the fact that more people get to love them (and they them).

I do worry about not seeing their 'firsts', but I think the nursery staff know this about parents so strongly deny having seen any (which is sweet).

I obviously haven't been at home with them full time, so can't give a balanced perspective. But just wanted to say that it's not all bad, especially from the children's perspective who seem to be having a ball!! xxx

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I went back to full time work when my eldest 2 were 4 months old, (I cant beleive I did that now!) and have been a SAHM since having numbers 3 and 4. From the childrens point of view, I think their experiences have been equally rich whether I was the primary carer or not. I feel equally connected with all of them, and feel confident that they all have had a happy babyhood. I really enjoyed a fulfilling career, and have also really enjoyed being a domestic mum.

Funnily enough, I think that in some ways, leaving them as they get older can trickier - their needs are more complicated than when they were infants (no longer just food, rest and love)and it takes more work and time to be tuned into them and understand what they may need help with (friendships, learning, self worth etc etc)

It sounds to me that you want to go back to work but the hours of the job you have been offered are too demanding...surely there are other jobs out there - couldn't you hang on until something with shorter or fewer days turns up?

Best of luck with your choice, you sound like such a loving mum that I'm sure your kids will be fine with whatever your decision - just make sure that it works for you too.

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Thanks Ryedalema, what you say at the end ("just wanted to say that it's not all bad, especially from the children's perspective who seem to be having a ball!!") is something I've been thinking about too - would staying at home mostly benefit me or my baby? Not that it's bad if it benefits me, but if I stay at home I must do it for the right reasons ;)

I'm never sure if it's a case of chimpanzee needing to be attached to mum or if it's good for the baby to be looked after by other people (a loving nanny could have just as well been the baby's auntie after all) as we are community animals after all.

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Hi paperina...?

This is such an interesting thread to me as it mirrors a dilemma I have (albeit my son is only 4 months and I'm considering a job opp that starts next year when he'll be just over one). I too have done the maths and worked out that we'll be only ?250ish a month better off if I go to work 2.5 days a week from?September. And that's with nursery or childminder care rather than a nanny which I'd much prefer. My dilemma is that the opportunity for work ok September is almost too good to miss - I'm starting out following a career change and the job is working with my fabulous ex tutor and good friend and the role is local and to die for in terms of experience (something I'm especially grateful for given I'm a new mum and need something family friendly). But I think in your position I'd agree with previous posters and wait for something better suiting your lifestyle with two little ones unless it really is the job of your dreams... I have my own little chimpanzee and I'm loving this stage so much I feel grateful that I can stick at home with him for another 8 months at least (realise looking after two must be a lot more demanding though!).?

I'm also very lucky as I do some freelance work (couple of days each month) from home which I would recommend as I find I can just turn my brain on for a few hours in the evening when my husband is home and it feels nice to make a bit of money without compromising on time with my son while he's little. The freelance work I do is sadly from my previous career life so that's why it won't satisfy me to just do that longterm. In fact it makes my own dilemma harder as I can probably net the same profit per annum doing my marketing freelance work as I will doing this job in September, which I'd love but will ?will take me away from my son for 2.5 days a week... I'm afraid I don't know what my answer is yet which makes the fact I'm offering advice slightly comical!!

Argh it's all so difficult! Good luck with your decision (sounds like you've already made it really!) and sorry for hijacking your thread a little and mixing your dilemma with my own in my response!

Lx ???

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Don't know if this will help, but my experience was;

With No. 1 stayed at home with her until she was 9 months old, then had to go back full time, 5 days a week 9-5 in the city and really wasn't happy with it. After 2 years I left and went self employed working from home/locally and felt so much happier.

Had No. 2 when eldest was just over 4 years old, took almost a year off with her, going back just 1 day a week when she was coming up to a year old....this ramped up to 2 days per week fairly quickly, then when she got to about 18 months old I went up to 3 days....now she is 26 months and I've just gone up to 4 days a week. This gradual increase has felt really perfect to me, each time I have ramped the days up it has been when I felt I wanted to, rather than being under pressure to do so, and it has felt so much easier than just hitting that dreaded day when you suddenly switch from Mummy to working woman again, which was so hard first time around.

I work school hours so I am able to (mostly) do the school run, now and again if I really need to work late I will ask another Mum to do pick up for me and have eldest for a playdate. Youngest is with a childminder and can be there up to 6pm which means I can have some time with my eldest for homework / reading etc. which works really well.

I know I'm really, really lucky to be in this position...it has come at some cost - I had a much bigger income back when I worked in the city, but I feel that what I am doing now is way more important, and frankly, I cannot imagine ever going back to that now, even for the money, I really love working locally and being self employed.

I have a really strong bond with both my girls, so I don't think my eldest missed out, though I do think the little one has been much more 'mummified' for longer - it has taken longer for Daddy to really start to get a look in with her, but then maybe that would have been the case anyway - who knows?

I feel my eldest benefits HUGELY from having me there doing the school run with her, not only in terms of me feeling more connected with what is going on at school, but also being able to go on the odd school trip, see all her assemblys, have her friends back for play dates after school, which I think smoothes the whole going to school process.

If you can work from home I'd definitely recommend looking into that option more. You may still need some child care (trying to fit it in around nap times and in the evenings is very stresseful....I did it for 2 years and now try very hard to mostly work out of the home and during the day when children are at school/childminder). Depending how many hours you plan you may be able to arrange something with another Mum, or a nanny share, or childminder, but at least you have control over things.

Good luck with it, and hope this helps a bit.

Best wishes, Molly

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Molly thanks so much for sharing your experience. Working from home is ideal. It looks like I'll be offered a big fat freelance job soon so I may be heading down the same path. Fingers crossed...

New mother, it happened to me between 12 and 16 months. Thought it would happen sooner with #2 but clearly not, or at least not yet :)

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