CATCH UP POST NUMBER TWO – GOING BACK TO WORK
…Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’
WHOA Dolly! 9 to 5 is no longer enough to make that livin’ that’s for sure! However, the rest of the song speaks some uncomfortable truths. Singing about the man standing in her way, not getting any credit and putting all the money in his pocket: This is shockingly still the case for many and it appears to be taking a hell of a lot more than that well-known 9 to 5 to make a living nowadays. With overtime or flexi-time there are many of us who don’t work those well-known hours anymore. Even though some work alternative hours flexing around family or social life, there are some who don’t have a choice but to work every hour possible just to get on the same level as others. Luckily for me, I work for a company that has done absolutely everything they can to make my maternity leave and return to work an easy and comforting transition and have been more than understanding regarding my newly found life balance. I’ve been very fortunate and it makes it very hard to believe that currently some women are still fighting for equal rights in the work place. Between the stories of inequality in the media over the past, give or take, 12 months and stories of women who’ve lost their jobs for being pregnant and wanting fair maternity leave, we as a country need to get a grip on how we are treating our ladies: equal pay and equal rights are just the beginning.
It’s no secret that having time off with your beloved new baby is an absolute must not only for physical recovery but mentally too. It’s important on so many levels: for bonding, for the baby’s development and for mama’s recovery; after all, having a baby is a major life event. However even with UK maternity leave being fairly generous across the board, with varying amounts of leave offered depending on company policies, in all the world countries ranked it doesn’t even reach the top 10 – quite shocking right!? I used to spend my days wondering ‘HOW THE HELL DO YOU GO BACK TO WORK, MAKE MONEY, PAY FOR CHILD CARE, SPEND TIME WITH YOUR CHILD AND HAVE A LIFE ALL AT THE SAME TIME!? ‘Working Mama’ can seem like a daunting title and for some it can cost them with losing money or even their jobs.
Statutory Maternity Leave was created to cover the working mother who isn’t covered by their own company’s policy. It’s made up of two lots of 26 weeks, Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave. You don’t have to take all of this; the minimum is 2 weeks (4 for factory workers). This can start approximately 11 weeks before your due date and automatically starts if you’re ill within 4 weeks of your due date or starts the day after your baby is born if they are born premature. If you change your return to work date mid-leave you just need to give 8 weeks’ notice. It pretty much covers all bases and is what I was entitled to. The pay part of this is pretty sucky but is a lot better than nothing. So Statutory Maternity Pay entitles you to 39 weeks of pay out of the 52; this is broken down into two parts. The first 6 weeks which will be 90% of your normal pay then the other 33 weeks at 90% of your earnings or 140.98 per week depending on which is the lowest. This was a very difficult adjustment for me. With bills that had to be paid and needing to buy necessities it was just about manageable. It’s even harder for the last 13 weeks should you chose to take them as this is when the money stops. Obviously if you’re planning on getting pregnant and know statutory pay is what you’re entitled to SAVE – it’s an absolute life saver to have savings! I wasn’t so organised but managed to save throughout my pregnancy so went into maternity leave with at least a little cushion. I decided to return to work 4 weeks early as I found my money was slowly disappearing and didn’t think I could make it stretch much further. This meant that I would return before little man’s first birthday but that was always the case. I now have a definite start date and a million and one things to do before said day. From organising little man’s stuff to finding work clothes – it’s become nothing short of a minefield of moments that usually start with ‘shit I need to do that’. I’m going to break those down as it’s far easier subcategories as to tackle them one by one:
- Money: ‘Makes the world go around’ – As I said, really consider your money. Think about your outgoings and whether your wage is going to benefit or hinder you. Make sure you look at your wage when returning part time too! For the first month-ish back at work I will have absolutely no money. As I’ve been on statutory maternity leave & pay, my pay finished mid-December (bummer!) and despite saving a lot of money up in preparation but for this there is very little left (damn you January sales!). Do think your maternity leave through better than I did – you’ll probably have not got pregnant a week into your new job either so you probably will get company maternity pay so you’ll be alright! If you are like me and very money conscious (most of the time) then make a spreadsheet and document your spending so you can see where your money is going and where you can cut back. This might just save you a few pennies and maybe some arguments too!
- Nursery/Day Care: ‘DAMN that’s more than I earn!’- Yes, nurseries are expensive but do not pick one based on this alone. You will need to be able to trust them 110%! Do your research, go and look at a few, get a prospectus, speak to other mamas at clubs or the local children’s centre – make sure when you walk through the door it feels and looks like a place you want to leave your baby. We’ve just chosen a wonderful nursery just a few miles away which is half way between both our places of work. They open early and close late and have the most incredible facilities. As soon as we stepped through the door, we knew this was a fantastic place for our son to be. The price is high but one we can cover so he has the best care available.
- Weaning/Pumping/Feeding: This one is my biggest worry – pumping at work scares me half to death on its own but as little man still likes his milk and is not into letting it go just yet, it’s my only option. He’s down to a feed once in the morning and once in the afternoon so being brave, I’m thinking I could sneak that into a coffee break easy. I know that eventually our breastfeeding journey will come to an end it feeds will be dropped as he is weened further and turns one and can have cow’s milk so it’s only temporary. We’ve had a great journey even though it started off so rocky. On the food front, we are quite fortunate. He eats well and isn’t particularly fussy about what it is but more of when it is or how he’d fed. He likes to think he can feed himself but so often ends up feeding the dogs! We are rather lucky in that respect so have little worries here – yay!
- YOUR EMOTIONS: It’s more than ok to feel emotional about going back to work and leaving your baby with someone else. Whether this comes in guilt, sadness or relief, you’ve spent such a concentrated amount of time with your baby that to be apart now is bound to stir up some new emotions. This is the one that has stirred deep down in me for a while in anticipation of returning to work but I don’t think it will really become apparent until my first day back. Again, I am fortunate to be returning to work on a part-time basis so at least I have a four-day weekend to look forward to. It’s all about bringing the positives back into focus and taking on those emotions. Never hide them because that’s unhealthy but accept that it is normal to feel this way and it will get easier as it becomes the new normal.
No one expects this time to come around so quickly. It only seems like five minutes since you left the hospital and now you’re heading back to work and your baby is almost turning 1 – How did that happen!? You know, someone once told me that ‘the days will feel long but the years will fly by’ and boy weren’t they right! Whatever decisions you make whether to go back to work or not just make sure it’s the right one for you and if you ever feel like you made the wrong choice you can always change it. With little under two weeks until my return to work, I’m both looking forward to it and nervous.
Wish me luck!
Love to all,
One Curious Mother x
– Photo found at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dolly-parton-wrong-working-9-5-way-make-living-shane-kilboyle/