To work or not to work?

For many of us being a working mum is not a choice.  It’s financial.  Work or starve.  Or career orientated.  Work or be relegated.  Or sanity related.  Work or go mad.

But for others it’s more of an actual choice.  To work or not to work?  And when to return?  This can actually be more difficult.  Having real choice usually is.

Recently, I’ve wondered whether there’s an understandable lack of symmetry between non-working mums and the working world.  If you’re thinking of returning to work after a break, you might not know where to start.  But perhaps I can help you consider where not to start.  Let me elaborate with a not entirely fictional letter.

Would you apply for a job like this?

Dear Sir/Madam,

I saw your job ad and am writing to apply. 

Well, I think I’m applying.  To be honest, I’m not totally sure.  I’m toying with the idea of returning to work, you see.  I might be interested.  I haven’t attached a CV because I haven’t got one but I can knock you one up no problem.  If you let me know the salary first.  So I don’t waste my time, you understand.  Oh, and how flexible is the job?  I might like to leave early some evenings.  I have other, pressing commitments. 

I look forward to meeting you at the interview.  Which, I’ll probably come to.  If I’m not too busy.

Yours undecidedly

Returning to work mum

No, of course you wouldn’t.   I’d suspect that if you did, you didn’t really want the job in the first place.  So why apply?  Perhaps your children are a little older now and you think you ought to work.  Perhaps the idea of working is more appealing than the reality.  Going for a wee on your own.  Having a coffee and actually getting to drink it.  That sort of thing.

I get it, I do.  I’m a part-time working mum.  And those are perks.

But they are not reasons to work.  Being a working mum takes determination, organisation and, most importantly, commitment.  Hell, so does being a stay at home mum.  But on those working days when you’re struggling to get slow-moving small people out of the door it will take ALL your resolve to remember why you’re doing it.  On days like that, not even a wee on your own makes it feel worthwhile.

And then of course, there’s your employer who though hopefully more tolerant than a toddler still demands your full attention.  When our worlds are centred around children it’s easy to forget that other people’s worlds aren’t too.  But they’re not and why should they be?  If we’re being paid a fair wage, we should deliver.  It’s just not reasonable to expect employers to flex constantly whilst we manage our childcare dilemmas, school runs and Christmas plays.  That’s one of the perils of being a working mum.  Unfortunately.

So if you’re thinking of returning to work, be tenacious about it.  Show your potential employer what an asset you’d be.  Don’t sit on the fence like Peter and Paul.

If, on the other hand, you’re having a lie down after reading this, then perhaps it’s not quite the right time for you.  Yet.

So what?  Be confident in your choice to be at home now.  For however long that might be.

And shut the toilet door.

Surviving Motherhood Tip#2 – Returning to work

  1. Make sure you really want to work BEFORE you apply
  2. Have your childcare arrangements already in place
  3. Ask a working friend to check your CV
  4. A part-time position is as important as a full-time position.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it means part-commitment.  Employers hate this.
  5. Research the company you’re applying to and show an interest in what they do
  6. If you’re invited for interview, be early, be enthusiastic, be tenacious
  7. Good luck!


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    10 thoughts on “To work or not to work?

    1. Suzanne

      It’s a really tough choice and one thankfully I had. Many, many working mothers don’t have that choice. I’m wanted to go back to work (VERY part-time!) for my own sanity. Thankfully, I have a husband who runs his own business, so once my eldest started nursery school, I signed up for one school day per week. I have to say that it did save me from the madness but gave me the best of both worlds. I now do just 2 school days per week and that’s enough too, for now. I am very grateful for the flexibility I have and for anyone else who does, you should never take that for granted. Thought provoking post Amy 🙂

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        Thank you Suzanne. I feel strongly too that we are very lucky as mums to have some flexibility. I find it frustrating when this isn’t always realised. We can’t have it all our own way. If we work we have to accept that we’ll have to compromise our home needs, sometimes. I’m not sure everyone is prepared to do that.

    2. Mama and More aka Zaz

      Interesting take on this subject. I’ve written about it a few times, having gone back to FT work 3 times now, and agonised over my choice, and the fact that I was lucky enough to have a choice, and the fact that I was choosing to not stay at home, and all the guilt that saddles you with. I realised eventually though that it was more a fear of being crippled by that guilt that was stopping me, or more to the point, frightening me. I probably would go mad being a FT SAHM, that’s just the way that I am hardwired, and also I am fairly career minded, and love the buzz I get from my job and the environment. It all made me feel very selfish, but realised too that I am a better person, and therefore better mother, by choosing to be a working mum. And your point about expecting employers to be endlessly supportive is a very good one too. Neither side of the coin is completely rosy, whether the bathroom door is shut or not.

      Popped over from #PoCoLo

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        I have never been a SAHM either. Went back full-time after Beaver and now am part-time after Godivy. Staying at home is the one thing I haven’t tried and I occasionally think I will. One day. Then I go to work and change my mind. I like being in both worlds and keeping some perspective. Thank you for popping over ;0)

    3. Nikki Hamilton

      I enjoy reading your blogs, Amy, and find myself agreeing with a lot of what you say. I had to return to work full-time for financial reasons after each of my two children (now 4 and 6) but unfortunately for me I had an extremely demanding job which I did not enjoy (long story!). In the end I had to give it up earlier than planned (which was when my son started school), as it was affecting my health, but otherwise I doubt I would have made an active choice to be a SAHM, not least because we did struggle a bit financially. Now I’m unbelievably lucky to have found flexible part-time work and the only disadvantage I can find is that it can be tricky switching more frequently between the work role and mummy role. What I have learned though is that there is always guilt whichever way you end up doing it!

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        Thank you Nikki. Couldn’t agree more with switching between roles. It takes me a while on a Thursday morning to become ‘Mummy’ again and by Monday I’m definitely ready to go back to work. Nothing is perfect, as you say. Thank you for following my blog. You can subscribe now from the homepage.

    4. Amummymuses

      I’m back to work in three weeks time and a part of me looking forward to it but apprehensively.

      Like most of the people above, I’m hard wired to work outside the home and so being a full time SAHM is not part of my plans.

      Will bear the line about approach to my employer when I get back.

      This is a good post I will keep in mind on my return.


    5. Verily Victoria Vocalises

      I’ve been sporadically working ever since I had Grace and as the years go by I really don’t find it any easier – thank goodness for self employment though! I am quite lucky in that respect but it is hard when there is no one else in your business to take over! Thanks for linking to PoCoLo xx

    6. Xandi | The Mummy Scripts

      Great post. I have been uming and ahing about this very subject. My three are on the cusp of being at school/preschool (most of the time) and I have been thinking I might like to go back to work. But that “might” is the problem. I think unless I can commit myself fully – mentally and emotionally – to it, it will be a big fat flop. x

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        Thank you! I think you definitely need to commit 110% to the idea before you start applying. Employers sniff out the uncertainty in an interview ;0). But of course any transition is going to be hard so sometimes you just need to force yourself to do something without over thinking it. There’s no right answer and that’s why it’s such an agonising decision. I have to say, I’ve never regretted going back to work. It’s always worked out one way or the other, so have faith, whatever you end up doing and try not to worry about it. Perhaps one day you’ll wake up and just know. x


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