When should I return to work? Key questions to help you decide

It’s a really complicated, often-dreaded question. If you thought deciding when to have a baby was hard, wait until you need to decide on your return to work date. Unfortunately, we can’t give you your perfect return date or tell you what you should do – It’s a personal, major decision. What we can give are some thought starters to help you and your partner weigh up the pros and cons, and make the right decision for your family.

We find most parents are generally ready to return to work and possibly excited by the prospect. How many times have you heard a new mum say, “I can’t wait to go to the toilet on my own or enjoy a coffee in peace?”

But for every parent who eases back in — apparently seamlessly — another might struggle and find it harder than they thought.

1. Know you are entitled to return to your role
First of all, know that you are entitled to return to work (under the National Employment Standards) and you have the right to request flexibility to your role. Your company may refuse, but you have the right to ask, so we encourage you to have a read of our article: Do I have the right to return to the same job?

2. Ask yourself: Do I want to return?

It’s a simple question, but an important one. Does the thought of going back excite you or fill you with dread? The reality is, you know the answer to this question. Listen to your heart.

3. Finish this sentence: I’m returning to work because…

Think about what is driving your return and whether it’s personal or financial. If your driver is personal, then consider:

  • Are you career-driven and is the time right for you?
  • Have you had the conversation with your partner as to how you will manage the juggle?
  • What impact do you think it will have on the time you spend with your children, and the quality of that time?
  • Do you want to do this for you?
  • Are you looking forward to being intellectually challenged again in a professional setting?

If your driver is financial, then consider:

  • Does your current role meet your financial needs?
  • Can you afford to reduce your salary? If yes, how many days do you need to go back to support your needs?
  • How much will childcare cost?
  • Do you plan on having more children and, if so, have you a budget and plan for this?

4. How can you set yourself up for success?
Is working flexibly a possibility? Can you afford to work flexibly? Have you secured childcare? pYou want to ensure that when you do return, you’ve thought of everything and are giving yourself the best chance of making it work.

5. What role is your partner going to play?
Does your partner’s employer offer a shared parental leave policy? Has your partner considered working flexibly? Will your partner be available for pick-ups/drop -offs? What happens when the kids get sick? Can you share the load? You need to have this conversation and be very clear from the outset what each of your roles will be, and what you are both willing to do to support your return. We know from speaking to others, having this conversation early on plays a huge role in setting your return up for success.

6. Where are you at in your career?

Are you happy to continue in your current role? Many parents prefer to return to their previous role and have little stress while they settle back in. Others see that nothing has changed and they’re just as driven as ever. Think about whether the work will satisfy you or if you will crave something new. Simply, would you prefer to return to your previous role, do you want something new, or are you in need of a career relaunch?

Parents return at varying times. There is no right or wrong time and you can read a raft of real stories here at Circle In that showcase different perspectives and journeys. Hopefully, these various points will lead to a discussion that will help you navigate your return. Only you and your partner can decide what is best for your situation. We know that whatever you decide will be right for you.

Written by the Circle In team.

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