Returning to Work after Maternity Leave

Where did the last months go? Maternity (& paternity) leave often goes very quickly. There is so much to learn & do that the days become weeks & the weeks quickly become months.

For most dads paternity leave is restricted to just a few weeks. Occasionally this can be longer, especially with a supportive boss & careful planning. Maternity leave in Australia is typically 9 to 12 months in duration. A component of this will be paid leave but there is almost always a component of unpaid leave. Unpaid leave coupled with the many expenses of a new baby often put the family budget under significant strain & so many new mums feel compelled to return to the work place.

The timing of returning to work is subjective & a mum (or dad’s) decision should be respected & supported. Some parents are only too happy to return to adult company & a structured day that requires detailed thinking beyond changing nappies. For others the thought of returning to work is filled with a sense of dread &, unfortunately, loads of guilt! Thoughts of how their child will cope without them are very real, especially considering that they have spent just about every waking moment together over the last 9-12 months.

So how can the transition from full time mum or dad to a working parent be made more easily? It really comes down to planning & priority setting. The first question is who will care for your child while you are at work? If both parents choose to work there are broadly 3 options: day care (or family day care), a home-based nanny or family & friends. All have disadvantages & advantages. Day care & a home based nanny are expensive, but in the absence of suitable family or friends, this maybe the only option.

Speak to friends & find out early about nannies & local day cares that are available. There may be a significant waiting list to get a place at a local day care facility. They can be expensive. The good news is that the rules are changing in Australia so that parents can access more help with child care. Find out early what your entitlements are as this will assist in deciding how many days of care you can afford.