Thoughts: To work or not to work…

At least three times a week someone asks ‘so, when are you going back to work?’ and I have to stop myself from reaching out and smacking them upside the head. I can’t blame them really, as I have done two ‘Keeping in touch’ days in the last few weeks. KIT days are days that I am paid for at my normal daily rate of pay and are meant to enable me to keep in touch (duh!) with the business/my colleagues etc. I am allowed to use 10 throughout my maternity leave.
A bit of background: I work as a Hotel Manager and have worked for the same company for 11 years. There is no part time option, it’s all or nothing. I do however get to chose more or less what hours I work and can work weekends instead of week days (the joys of a 24/7/365 business). I prefer to start work around 7 or 8am and I now live a 30 minute train journey from work, so need to factor in travel costs/times in my plans. The other issue is that I am effectively on call 24/7. If there is a disaster I have to be there, this happens every so often (fire alarms, suicides, trashed rooms etc) and it’s been quite nice since having Athena to know that the only thing waking me up in the middle of the night is her, not a desperate night porter on the end of the phone. Also fairly often I have to do trips away to train people or to attend courses myself, which often include a night or two away. On top of all that my day-to-day job is ridiculously stressful, the general public are buggers to work with you know, as is managing health and safety for a huge hotel and restaurant… if someone does something stupid then I am liable for the fine/prison sentence because I ‘haven’t trained them’ correctly (or the manager who should have trained them…)
My husband also works in a hotel (now for a different company, although we used to work together) and does 5 nights a week, getting home anything from midnight –6am, with no specific shift pattern. He works in events so it all depends on what type of events are running and their requirements as to when he will finish. So although he is normally at home during the day till around 1.30 it wouldn’t be fair to make him get up and look after the baby if I toddled off to work at 7am as he would get no sleep. On the days he is off he would obviously love to have her, but if we had entered into an agreement with a child-minder or nursery we would be paying for it so it would be daft not to send her on those days. Sam only gets his rotas on a Wednesday for the week commencing the following Monday, so leaves us no time to plan, but that’s the nature of hospitality!
Oh dear, this is sounding like a sob story and I don’t mean for it to be like that! I’m just writing this to help make it all clear to me really! Officially my return to work date is 1/6/2014 as I worked up until the week before my EDD, however I have 5 weeks of unused annual leave from this year that I can add on to the end of that, so my options are:
  • go back after 10 months, i.e. tack my 5 weeks annual leave (at full pay) on to the end of my Ordinary Maternity Leave, effectively leaving me with no unpaid time off (although Statutory Maternity Pay isn’t brilliant it is something!)
  • go back in the 2nd week of July, so three months of my leave will be Additional Maternity Leave, which is unpaid but with my 5 weeks annual holiday added on to the end.
  • Not go back at all (Luckily, I am under no obligation to, I wouldn’t forfeit any of my maternity pay, and would get paid 5 weeks holiday pay even if I handed in my notice) and then either seek part time work/work from home or study.

I know nobody has a magical answer for me, and I am aware that only I can truly decide what is best, but I would appreciate any words of wisdom anyone has, or if you’ve been in a similar situation? I’m also working on a post about alternatives careers, so I’ll get that up soon.

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6 Comments

  1. 7th November 2013 / 9:18 am

    its a difficult one, because you both would work such odd patterns, and if you go back to work, you will have to figure out who is dropping off and picking up Athena. I know I am a SAHM, though it wasn’t planned. I was urged back to work early by my boss, then the economic downturn hit and he decided he wanted me full time or not at all, something I wasn’t willing to do. I didn’t want both of us working full time and our son to basically only see a parent at evenings and weekends. So I wound up jobless. So we were forced to see if we could cope on one income.

    You have to do the sums, especially if you do choose to look for something part time, and balance the costs of child acre over what you are earning. Do you work out better off? Another consideration is when Athena gets to school age. Because no-one warns you that they have 14 weeks a year off school, and you only have 8, maybe nine between you and your partner if you are working. So there will be some sort of child care to pay for during that time too. We are lucky, we can make things work on hubby’s income, so there I am always around in the case of holidays, sickness etc without a work place to answer to if one or other child suddenly needs to be collected from school etc. I am there to taxi to clubs, parties, events, even while hubby works. But frankly I need to be as we have no family locally to help out. We have to do everything ourselves.

    I know its not an answer, but these are considerations to think about. its a nasty balancing act and every family has to find the way forward that works for them. I wish you the very best of luck!

  2. Sophie Wearing
    7th November 2013 / 10:32 am

    What a useful post above!What I personally found useful to help me make my decision was to work out the precise financial details,what youd be living on without your wage etc and if thos is doable with the lifestyle you aprepared to have-for us this was a very quick one.But it isnt as simple as this,because obviously a massive factor alongside that is”do u even want to go back to work?”. I sat there and wrote down what we want as a family,as well as what I want. We then worked out a compromise whilst taking all those things into account. E.g I am the far bigger earner but dont want to miss out on too much of her life or have her in nursery etc too much. But as a family we want to buy a house,in order to get what we need, we need my wage. So the compromise is to hoppppe:that I can do compressed hours and one of her grandparents have her one or two days a week.that way we d only need childcare for two days AND id get to see her.Hopefully once callums wage goes up I can reduce my hours. As you say,ultimately its you and your family’s life and what works for you, we can only share our stories xx

  3. 8th November 2013 / 9:09 pm

    It’s really hard and you can only do what works best for you as a family. Personally i don’t think i could work full time but i know many people have to. I’m currently looking for part time work (3 days a week) as that’s such a great balance but it’s so hard to come by!

  4. 8th November 2013 / 10:50 pm

    Sounds to me like you’re leaning towards the “don’t go back” option, and I can’t say I blame you. Logistics aside, I can’t imagine there are many mothers out there who would rather spend time at work than with their babies (although, obviously, each to their own). And from what I hear about the cost of childcare nowadays, for some people I know it’s cheaper for them to not work at all then work and pay for childcare. Good luck making the decision xxx

  5. Liz
    9th November 2013 / 2:28 am

    Hmmm, it’s such a tough one… I guess ultimately only you guys know what will work best for your family. If it was me I’d sit down and properly work out the details of each of the options (exactly how much money will you have, factoring in childcare costs, etc) and see what’s viable… It sounds like you’re seriously considering the SAHM option and I don’t blame you… I guess any option you chose doesntt have to be permanent. If you go back to work, you could always hand your notice in after six months (or, stay at home then try to find a new job) if it doesn’t feel like the right choice. xx

  6. 17th March 2014 / 12:07 pm

    Oh it’s so hard! I’ve always said I’d have a year off as I know we can just about manage on Hubby’s pay but the three months of no pay, which started this month, will definitely be a shock to the system! I’m not sure whether we could survive long term on one salary. No luxuries at all, no new clothes, no contingency if the car breaks…!
    I hope that you end up finding a work based solution that fits in with your lives. If I win the lottery I’ll share 🙂 x

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