I have heard this same line uttered by many bright and intelligent women I know: ‘After I deduct the childcare costs, I’m barely earning anything so it is not worth me returning to work/working part time.’
This sentiment used to ring true for me too as I am (and always have been) the lower income earner in our household. When my son Toby was born I had these exact same thoughts as during the sleep-deprived phase of early parenthood, I had not had time to fully form my own feelings about this issue.
Once the fog lifted and I started to think about returning to work however, it became clear, our house consists of two parents and so both of us are responsible for childcare and how we choose to manage it; costs and all.
An article out today on Women’s Agenda with the headline: ‘Rising childcare costs: Let’s stop subtracting it from women’s salaries’ literally made me cheer out loud. I shared it from my social media accounts and in minutes it garnered comments from friends along the lines of ‘yes!’ ‘Here here!’ ‘Agreed’.
Watch Madeleine West on her best tools for working mums. (Post continues after video.)
As writer Angela Priestly points out in the article, ‘children put a significant strain on relationships and escalating child care costs and stereotypes on who is responsible don’t help.’
The whole concept that it is the lowest income earner’s sole responsibility to pay for the family daycare bill is preposterous, and something that I soon came to realise not long after I returned to work in a part time capacity when Toby was one.
It was hard at first doing the thrice-weekly drop offs then driving to work but the payoff was overwhelmingly fabulous. I felt like myself again. Dressing in smart clothes, talking to adults, having coffee breaks, thinking strategically, having my opinions heard.
What are your tips for going back to work after your baby is born? Post continues after gallery.
While my salary as a part time marketing coordinator was very average, the benefits of working and being a part of the workforce outweighed the downsides.
The benefits for my son were clear too. He started his life in daycare unsure and clingy and by the time he was old enough for preschool at three, he was independent, confident and happy to make friends or simply play by himself.
My husband and I have been married for nearly 13 years and we have controversially always had a joint bank account to deposit all monies and pay for our combined and solo expenses. We do not divvy up who pays for what.
We are a great team and this system works for us. I know some women who don’t work or work part time and are paid a sort of ‘salary’ by their husband into a separate account for treats and stuff for the kids, as if the husband ‘owns’ the money to be distributed as he sees fit. Not in our household thank you.
Studio 10 presenter Sarah Harris returned to work 4 months after giving birth.
‘When you’re a parent the days are long but the years are short.’ My friend @9melissadownes passed on this golden nugget of wisdom and it’s something that’s really stuck with me over the past four months. Mindfulness has been my friend while on mat leave. So too has activewear, activewear. And tomorrow when I start back at @studio10au I’ll miss the soft embrace of well-worn Lycra almost as much as my lovely son. A photo posted by Sarah Harris ???? (@whatsarahsnapped) on
I no longer work part time but I work for myself during school hours from a little office in the city. I drop Toby to school then drive to work for what I like to call ‘four hours of power’, then I head home in time to pick Toby up and help with homework and prepare the dinner etc.
My husband works hard and he works long hours, but he has always been excellent around the home and aside from the usual gripes of married life, he acknowledges that what I do hours-wise, is equivalent to what he does in the office.
All of us lower income earners/part time heroes who run around like headless chickens between work, loads of washing, the supermarket and school pick ups enable our partners, male or female to just do the solitary business of going to work.
I often put to my husband, somewhat cheekily, that if it wasn’t for me and my lowly income and flexible working, he could not work the long hours or earn the income he does! As I said, we are a team.
British actress Naomi Watts is another mother who returned to work at the time that suited her, 3 months.
While I sometimes wish I could just head out the door for work in the morning and not have to think about the multiple things I need to do before I get there, I am happy with our arrangement and the way I still get to work and hang out with my son.
Ultimately I never feel guilty about earning less or feeling that any money I do earn has to line up with outgoing costs related to childcare or family based expenses.
Working for me and for many other part timers, entrepreneurs and freelancers has so much more meaning than purely financial, and in a healthy partnership raising children, this really should be considered well ahead of who earns more.