baby

'What I wish I knew about going back to work after parental leave.'

HBF
Thanks to our brand partner, HBF

I visited a friend of mine on the weekend who has, just two weeks ago, given birth to a beautiful baby boy.

While we ooh’d and ah’d over his tiny toes and scrunchy face, the conversation turned, as it does with someone you met at work, to what the plan was for when her parental leave comes to an end.

It’s not something us brand new mums really want to think about, especially when you’re deep in the trenches of only two hours sleep at a time, or worrying about breastfeeding, hitting milestones, what percentile they’re in and whether you’ll ever leave the house again when you’ve suddenly been put in charge of an entire, very fragile human.

But eventually, those 18 weeks speed by in a newborn fog and you come out the other side wondering how long you can stretch the finances until you have to return to the workplace.

In the time BB (Before Baby), the only concerns I had financially were paying my mortgage and bills, saving a wee bit of my income and making sure I was satisfied in my quest for a bit of retail therapy from time to time. But when you add a very helpless, very dependent person into the mix, priorities don’t just change. They shift in a tectonic plate, earth-shattering kind of way.

I wish I knew… about the minefield of childcare.

There’s of course childcare to think about and with articles coming out recently about how it’s more expensive than private school tuition, you’re naturally nervous about how on earth you’re going to pay for it. So make sure you get yourself very comfortable with Centrelink, learn how to navigate myGov and ensure you always have access to your and your child’s CRN (customer reference number), they will be used… a lot.

You also need to spend some time finding a childcare centre that is not only convenient to your location, but one that feels right, smells right, has the right people in it and has the things that we need to feel confident enough to leave our priceless new arrival for some long hours.

I was lucky and found our recent daycare centre on the first visit but in the past I’ve had to roll through three or four places before I found one that suited us. Ask them some important questions: Do you supply nappies? Do you supply meals?

And one thing we found made a huge difference, especially with little kids who are constantly catching every damn bug that happens to waft in their direction, find one that will, with your permission, administer a dose of paracetamol when they get a fever.

Also something to consider is how far out you put your name down for a place. A popular centre that we liked when our baby was just weeks old, had us on a waitlist that ended up becoming free when our daughter turned 18 months. Needless to say that wasn’t an option so we had to go with our second choice.

ADVERTISEMENT

I wish I knew… that mother’s guilt goes both ways.

On returning to work from parental leave, you also need to consider your own mental health. Mother’s guilt may kick in at inopportune moments and leave you feeling gut punched that you’re not the one holding your baby when it’s time to be rocked to sleep at nap time.

Or the opposite guilt, that you’re enjoying being away from your baby because being a stay-at-home mum is a slog and it’s a relief to feel like a separate human for a bit. Talk to people about it, it’s not unusual so prepare for some feelings and maybe even a cheeky cry in the toilets.

I wish I knew… I need to think ahead (ahead not meaning tomorrow or next week, but like… years).

parental leave
Calculations, calculations... Image: Supplied.

There are also the long-term fears to consider. What would happen to your kid if something happened to you? How do you provide for your family if you’re not there to do the providing? It’s like having a baby changes how your brain functions and all of a sudden you can’t watch any videos of small children without crying and you become weirdly obsessed with things that may happen to your child in sometimes heart-stopping, worst-case scenario detail.

That’s when my husband and I, despite having been homeowners for 10 years, decided to make our first wills. We went to a lawyer to do this because someone told us that doing it yourself can not only be tricky, it can end up not really being a proper will so we did it this way and forked out the cash to do it right the first time.

We checked on our superannuation to make sure it was all rolled into one and not lying about for our child to have to seek if something were to (touch wood) take us away from her. I actually read Scott Pape's The Barefoot Investor and he advises to make sure you aren’t getting charged a bunch of fees on your super and that your money is being invested properly for the stage of life you’re in, so we checked into that and found my husband was getting charged heaps so a quick switch and we’re all good.

ADVERTISEMENT

We invested in life insurance for the first time in our lives. It’s funny how we were pretty confident that each other would survive OK if one of us kicked the bucket but now that tiny human is in the mix we finally became grown adults who also take care of ‘future us’.

Knowing that she would have money in the bank, enough to see her through to adulthood if used right, was reassuring in a way that I couldn’t quite fully explain to other people. The life insurance game has a few players to choose from so if you want to check it out, hit up HBF Ezicover Life Insurance for an idea on how the premiums and payments work - they're a not-for-profit organisation and they offer lump sum payments from $50k to $1.5 million depending on your age, paid out if you passed away or had a terminal illness with less than 12 months to live.

I wish I knew... that having a frank chat with my boss would help. A lot.

The last thing I did was sit down with my manager and explain where I was in my head and heart when I was back in the office. We discussed how having a sick kid might affect my time in the office but that I could work from home. That I could be flexible with my hours but ensuring that the impact on my colleagues and the business was minimal.

Having this frank chat with her was a great way to get back into the swing of worklife PB (Post Baby), it put both her and me at ease with this new and very uncharted territory for both of us and some time later, I’m still making this working mum thing work so we must be doing something OK.

There are about a million things that would have been handy to know when parental leave came to a close hopefully these few tips will make your transition just that little bit easier.

Good luck, mums and dads.

What's the best advice you have to share about returning to work from parental leave?

Feature image: Claire Murphy, Mamamia.

Disclaimer: HBF Ezicover is issued by Zurich Australia Limited ABN 92 000 010 195, AFSL 232510 of 5 Blue Street North Sydney, NSW 2060. HBF Life ABN 11 126 884 786 is a Corporate Authorized Representative of Zurich. Before deciding, consider its appropriateness and the combined PDS and FSG at hbf.com.au/life.

HBF

Disclaimer: HBF Ezicover is issued by Zurich Australia Limited. HBF is an authorized representative of Zurich. Before deciding, consider its appropriateness and the combined PDS and FSG at hbf.com.au/life

00:00 / ???