Want to start a family but don’t want to give up your career? We round up our experts’ advice on having it all from our recent Q&A
Keep in touch
Dasha Amrom, founder and managing director of Career Coaching Ventures: “Make use of ‘keep in touch’ days – you usually get allocated 10 of these during a full maternity leave period. You may find it useful to come into work for important meetings, training days or just to have a quick coffee with the team or managers. This will help you stay on top of what’s happening at work.
“Also keep in touch via email and congratulate the team on major achievements. If you can find a babysitter, go out for team drinks one evening.”
Manage your personal boundaries
Mary Gregory, board and executive coach at Penna plc: “Part-time work is a valuable option when you return to work after maternity leave. One way of making sure you keep up to date is to consider a job share so that ‘your other half’ can keep you informed of what’s going on in your absence and vice versa.
“What often happens in reality, however, for mums returning to part-time roles is that they often work beyond agreed hours, checking emails in the evening and fielding calls out of hours, so managing personal boundaries around family and work can be challenging. Make sure you have positive relationships and open communication with key people to ensure you can manage this.”
Work out your own ideal balance between parenting and work
Geraldine Brannelly, career and quality coach for the National Careers Service: “Before you decide if you can have it all – by being a breadwinner and a primary carer – you need to decide what ‘all’ is. What’s your ideal balance between parenting and work? This is a very personal question and your answer will depend on countless variables.
“In most cases I don’t think it’s possible to work 40 hours a week, be the primary carer, and do both justice. Somewhere down the line there has to be a compromise, before one or both areas of your life start to suffer. The challenge is to examine your values and your life goals for both work and family. Paint an ideal picture of how you want this to be then look at ways to achieve it.”
Look for part-time work
Amanda Bolt, managing director of BoardroomMum: “Spend some time on updating your LinkedIn profile and CV, and participating in any industry-relevant groups. Research some industry specific recruitment firms who may have part-time arms. Speak to their full-time and interim departments and ask them to contact you with all relevant roles. It could be that you can propose to them a part-time solution, which they can then sell to their client. There are a few recruitment firms that address the part-time issue for mums. These include: Ten2Two, TimeWise and WorkingMums.”
Joanna Santinon is a tax partner at Ernst & Young: “My personal view is that you should do what’s right for you. As someone who had a lot of IVF before finally having my first child, I would never advocate delaying until you were 35-plus in favour of a career. It’s a fact that fertility starts to decline and this is noticeable as you go through your thirties. An easy way to test your own priorities is to think about getting to 50 and not having children, and think about getting to 50 and having a different career path – which would you regret more?”
Know your rights in case of an emergency
Natasha Joffe, an employment law barrister with a special interest in family rights at work and author of Babies: The Mumsnet Guide: “You do have a legal right to time off in an emergency situation, such as an unexpected illness of a child. You’re allowed an amount of time which is reasonable to deal with the situation, so usually enough time to sort out emergency childcare etc. There’s no right to be paid for this kind of time off, but some employers may be compassionate. And you need to let your employer know you need the time as soon as possible.”
Network during maternity leave
Dr Caroline Gatrell works at Lancaster University Management School: “Women combining motherhood and a career are often so time-pressured they feel unable to do much networking and are a bit isolated. Those with networks of female friends (not necessarily other mothers) feel more supported and are more likely to pick up on news like available job-shares. So it’s worth keeping an eye open for opportunities to meet and link up with women colleagues even if time is tight.”