When I realised my maternity leave would be ending soon, I would have to return to work, I found myself feeling lost and hopeless. How could I go back?
This time it just felt so different; wrong, somehow.
There were days I would feel like I was in the midst of an anxiety attack for hours on end, I’d be so full of dread at the thought of returning to work that I’d have this urge to act because I didn’t have enough time, except there was no action to take, spiralling me deeper into my internal panic.
It was at this time that I realised I was meant to blog. I felt as though I’d finally found my calling, I finally knew what I needed to do with my life! And now that dream was being threatened, because how could I blog if I had to work? Where would I find the time?
I was terrified of becoming stuck in a never-ending cycle; if I couldn’t put in the time I needed to build an income from blogging, I couldn’t quit work, if I couldn’t quite work, I’d never be able to put in the time etc.
I must have rewritten our budget a hundred times, hoping I’d find some secret source of income I’d missed, allowing us to afford for me to stay home.
I spent hours searching the internet for viable ‘side hussles’ to keep us afloat. Repeatedly I found that the websites offering surveys for money, somehow never had ones that matched my demographic. The freelance writing sites I checked out were all the ‘you need experience before you can write for us, you need to write for us to get the experience’ kinda dead end.
I even briefly considered and attempted transcribing audio clips. *shudder*
In the end I was forced to accept the unfortunate truth. I had no choice financially but to return to work.
So I said ‘screw it’ and started my blog anyway.
I’ve thrown myself at blogging with such a passion since then because the more I write, the more I want to write. The more results I see from the hard work I’ve put in, the more I love this lifestyle. I truly believe this is my calling.
I may not be able to avoid going back to work, it may still take some time and effort before I can quit, but I have a goal now. How do I know I will reach it? Because there simply isn’t an alternative future in my mind.
I want to share a few tips I picked up as I was going through all of this. Looking back on the last few months I have realised some things, I believe that sharing them may help others. Maybe these tips will even make the difference between whether you have to go back or not!
Wouldn’t that be something?
1. Make a REALISTIC budget
- Write out your monthly budget twice; once with your working income included, minus any childcare costs, and once without your contribution at all, plus any benefit allowance.
Don’t forget to include the benefits you’d be entitled to if you didn’t work, that can actually make a significant difference for some. (You can check if you would qualify here)
- The next step is to consider any yearly expenses you have. For example, if your cars MOT is in September and you think you’ll need tires replacing, you can estimate at least £200 cost.
Look at what you have as backup in your savings. Be honest about whether or not you can afford to continue saving if you’re not working; how would a large upfront cost like that MOT affect you if you only had your single monthly income to cover it? Having a back-up fund in your savings account can make a world of difference, saving is important.
I have made a free downloadable budget planner printable for you!
It has been tailored specifically to tackle returning to work, try filling out all the sections and see if it helps you figure things out. Just be sure to print TWO copies, one for if you go back to work, and one for if you don’t.
Click here to download for free: BUDGET PLANNER
2. Figure out if it will be worth paying for childcare
It’s a sad state of affairs but for most people these days it is actually more economical to have one parent stay home with the kids, childcare costs are so high.
My son attends nursery three afternoons a week. That’s three half days, and that was costing us around £260 a month. That is a lot of money for 1 ½ days’ worth of childcare a week! Luckily he is now over three and entitled to free funding from the government, otherwise we’d really struggle on my reduced maternity wage.
A friend of mine wanted to return to work Monday to Friday 9-5, and to put her son into nursery full time would cost her over a thousand pounds a month. Over a Thousand!
If you have a very well-paying job and a career you love like she did, then it won’t be too much of an issue. But if you’re working for the minimum living wage, you would actually be losing money by returning to work full time.
One big mistake you must avoid is assuming your parents or in-laws will be your free childcare.
My in-laws help us out big time and have agreed to provide childcare when I go back for one day every other week. This might not seem like much, surely they could do more, right? They’re both retired! They have free time!
Wrong, even if they are in the retired stage of life, they are both people with friends, hobbies and commitments. Also they are both, unfortunately, not in perfect health.
An almost four-year-old is super active and demanding, and a baby having a bad day can be even worse. Just imagine the two combined at their worst! I am grateful for any help their Grandparents can offer us, we would never expect them to just give up their lives to revolve around ours, or risk their health.
Never make assumptions, remember, everyone has their own life to lead and struggles to face. Plan based on needing professional childcare, if you think a relative will be open to helping, make sure to talk through exactly what you need so you are on the same page.
3. Should/could you just change jobs instead?
If the problem you’re facing is a little more specific to the job itself, you may have to consider other options.
There are some jobs where the hours just don’t work around nursery (or even childminders!), they are just too antisocial. My workplace requires working late evenings but now that Husband has a new job which only requires morning shifts (yay!), this actually works out better for us.
Some workplaces get a little funny with Mums returning to work after maternity leave. Legally they’re not supposed too, but that doesn’t mean they don’t try it on.
I’ve heard of some workplaces refusing to consider allowing part time positions, so it’s either come back full time or don’t come back at all.
Others might only have shifts available that, as I mentioned, just don’t work with kids. Unfortunately, they will also be able to get away with refusing to be flexible with you, if that refusal is based on already bowing to flexible working requests for someone else.
If you find yourself facing an impossible schedule, your only choice may be to change jobs. This can extremely hard when you need flexibility and you may find yourself having to take a demotion or put certain career aspirations on hold. Unfortunately the working world doesn’t care about what we need, but what they need.
The one thing you must remember: when it comes to your finance, career and childcare in your child’s early years, everything is temporary.
You will not be in the same situation in five years when your child has started school. You will most likely not even be in the same situation in a year’s time, there are so many factors that can change everything!
So here is another free printable for you to download! A Pros/Cons work sheet to help you balance out what is the best choice for you.
To figure out if childcare and job flexibility are going to be a real problem, print out this worksheet and use it to list the pros/cons of all aspects of returning to work. Financial, childcare, job hours and so on. If one side of the list is substantially larger than the other, you will have a clearer idea of what you should choose.
Click here to download for free: PROS/CONS LIST
This leads me now to my most important point:
4. Is it worth it?
The last and most important point on this list. This one weighed heavily on me for a long while, I changed my mind many times.
You’ve already weighed if it’s necessary and/or worth going back to work based on
- Job flexibility
Now comes the really hard part.
Is going back to work worth it for your family’s happiness?
I knew having done it once already, that my sons would be fine. Kids can adapt. My boys will either be with their dad, grandparents or at a nursery we trust with a pleasant, engaging atmosphere. Going back part time lessens the blow even more.
The income I will bring in is necessary to ensure we are doing more than breaking even each month. It allows us to put money into savings for holidays, car repairs etc. It will also provide just enough of a buffer to cover us should other unexpected costs crop up month to month.
This includes the little things month to month, like if we decide to treat Gray to a day out at somewhere like a farm park or funfair, or if we’d like to have a meal or two out as a family. Things many take for granted but that not everyone can do whenever they wish.
For us, it absolutely is worth it, due to all of these reasons and also the most important of all: the Big Picture.
These short term reasons reflect on our long term goals. Savings build up towards big family holidays, home improvements, eventually buying a new car and new house and so on. I have already figured out a schedule to fit blogging in around work and have set myself a goal: Part time income in one year.
That means a year from now I want to be earning enough to quit my job and work from home.
But I will not quite before then, no matter how much I may want to, because:
- I want us to always feel secure financially
- I want our savings to grow
- Because my kids should look back on their early memories with fondness thanks to a relaxed home atmosphere, having adventures and taking fun holidays together, without ‘how are we going to make ends meet this month’ stress, or going without because we couldn’t afford what they needed/wanted
- And because I know that this is only temporary and will be worth it in the long term!
Take a long, hard look at the reasons you are returning/not returning to work. Make sure you consider the long-term ramifications of your choices. Whatever your choice, put your family’s long-term happiness first, everything else you can figure out how to adapt along the way.
Whatever your situation, there will always be a solution and even if it’s not exactly the one you want I promise you, this is only temporary. It will be worth it in the long run.
I have made you one more free printable. This worksheet is to help you really see the big picture by getting it all down in front of you.
For help figuring out if it’s all really worth it, try downloading and filling in this last worksheet. Be honest with yourself and your situation. At the end of the day, you will make things work no matter what comes your way. But! You need to base your choices around what is best for you as a family.
Click here to download for free: BIG PICTURE WORKSHEET
I hope the printables are helpful to you figuring things out. More than anything I hope you are able to find a solution that works for you!
In case you missed the links up there, here are those FREE PRINTABLES again:
If you’re feeling down about it all, to help you cope with those Negative Thoughts, try my other Free Printables over here.