On the 25th of July I was invited to take part in a careers discussion on the Guardian website on the topic of how having a family can impact your career and how to handle work-related challenges presented by the arrival of a new baby.
Here I would like to summarise the key points of the discussion, which resonate with my own experience of combining my career with being a mother.
- A high number of women coming back to employment after their maternity leave still suffer some sort of pressure (and often discrimination) from their employers, even if the employer agrees to allow part-time working, which some do not. Some end up being set full-time targets and objectives to be completed within a three- or four-day week. Some are automatically given less high-profile jobs or technical tasks that full-timers either don’t want or prefer not to do.
- To stay close to what’s happening in the office, it is important to make use of the so-called ‘Keep in touch days’. All women on maternity leave are entitled to ten KIT days under employment law, and these are opportunities to return to the office while on leave to catch up with colleagues and stay in touch with developments at work.. Try to coincide these with at least some of the most important meetings, conferences, training sessions organised during your absence. If you can to get a babysitter (or helpful husband), then why not pop down to evenings drinks with your colleagues too to keep your important work networks alive. You can use KIT days in a creative fashion too, such as arranging a catch-up coffee with your boss or lunch with your team. But do make sure to keep on top of all the latest developments as this will remind your bosses and colleagues that you are still a very valuable part of the team.
- There is a growing trend of men making flexible working arrangements in order to spend more time with their family. Generally, it is still quite rare to find men looking after their children full-time while their partners work but some do go part-time and others request compressed working hours so that once a fortnight, for instance, they can have a full day to spend one-on-one time with their little ones. I personally think this is very healthy and invaluable for both children and fathers to be able to spend undisturbed time together and build the bond between each other. Employers will hopefully grow more accepting of this practice as it grows more common.
These are just some of the highlights from an interesting and productive discussion on Thursday and if interested, you can read the discussion in full on the Guardian website: http://careers.guardian.co.uk/baby-career-cambridge-family-live-chat
But no matter what you do, remember that you are the boss of your own life and you are the one who will ultimately make a decision about your work-life balance, your career choices versus family and whether you would like to continue working for an employer or set up your own business.
I would love to hear your thoughts on work-life balance while being a parent and the challenges you may have encountered when returning to work after maternity leave.