Have you made plans to return to work after your maternity leave? It’s OK to be excited about returning to work. For many women living and working in Sydney, returning to work after your maternity leave ends is a given. With Sydney’s high cost of living and astronomical property prices, there is little choice for many new mums. However, for a lot of new mums returning to work after maternity leave is not motivated by finance, but a desire to get back to work and their career. And that is OK. That is great!
At Talent Connect we are proud to be championing Mums who want to (deserve, need, can) have it all. The career and the family. It’s OK to work—to want to work and not feel guilty.
Times have changed
It was not that long ago that a woman choosing to return to work would be seen as neglecting her maternal responsibilities and it was assumed that her children would suffer. These days, however, it is not only the norm for women to return to work after having children, studies show it has its benefits too.
Kathleen McGinn is an author and a professor at Harvard Business School. Kathleen and her colleagues discovered that adult children of working mums are high achievers at work. Analyses relying on two international surveys from over 100,000 men and women across 29 countries explore the relationship between maternal employment and adult daughters’ and sons’ employment and domestic outcomes. In the employment sphere, adult daughters, of employed mothers are more likely to be employed and, if employed, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility, work more hours and earn higher incomes than their peers whose mothers were not employed.
What still needs to change?
There are still a lot of changes needed locally in the workplace and at a higher macro level from the government to make it more achievable for mums to go back to work. Unfortunately there are a lot of mums out there who want to return to work but find it is an impossible situation.
Working mums are now the majority. The 2016 Census, revealed that 53.4% of mothers are active in the workforce, yet the majority of workplaces and companies still offer outdated return to work scenarios and little flexibility. As a nation, we still have a long way to go.
The cost of childcare is huge - and rising. High daycare fees often make it financially impossible for both parents to work. In many cases, going to work would end up costing a family money rather than bringing home a wage. Usually, in this case it is the mother’s career that is put on hold until the children no longer require costly care. The risks and fears with this scenario are that a female’s value in the workplace greatly decreases the longer she is not actively working within her industry.
More organisations need to look at offering diverse pathways for mums returning to work after baby. This can be in any number of ways. Some options include companies offering flexible hours, working from home agreements and an overall change in office culture (there is nothing worse than slipping out at 4pm and having everyone look at you like you’re bludging - even though you arrived two hours earlier than the rest of the team to make up your set hours).
We no longer view the 9am to 5pm work day the norm - so why must so many employment contracts still demand a “bums on seats” attitude? While companies are working on changing their policies, the expectations of us as a society also needs to adjust to reflect the modern woman.
Make it fair
Almost a third (32 per cent) of Australian mothers report experiencing discrimination in the workplace when they requested or took parental leave, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission's latest review into pregnancy-related discrimination.
There is also the known gender pay gap issues regardless of whether women have returned post maternity leave that need to be addressed. Returning to work, while juggling kids and everything that comes with that can feel disheartening when you’re working with men earning twice your wage for the same job!
For this to still be happening in 2018 is not OK. Australian employers and the government need to be looking at how we can further support and encourage mums to return to work after maternity leave.
As women, we can get mental stimulation, pride and a sense of achievement from going to work. Add to that earning money to contribute to the household and the companionship of colleagues which can be lacking when mothering at home, are just some of the great positives!
Organisations that offer more flexible hours are reaping the rewards. They are not only attracting and retaining the top talent as an employer of choice, they are also getting the best candidate for the job.
Results matter. Hours do not. As a rule of thumb, mums who work rock (we know first hand)! They can multitask, and studies have shown that a part time mum can outshine a full time employee.
A study by Ernst & Young has found women working part-time are the most productive in the workforce. Or rather, they waste the least amount of time at work of all workers, just 11.1 per cent compared to 14.5 per cent for the rest of the workforce. (Interestingly, they also wasted less time than their male part time counterparts, who wasted 14.2 percent of their working time.)
Get rid of the Mummy Guilt
We now know that statistically children are no worse off if the mother works (some may say the child is better off). So it’s time that mums stop with the mummy guilt. If you want to work and want a career, it doesn’t mean you love your children less than the mum next door who wants to stay at home.
We are all different and have different parenting styles. Some mums are better mums because they go to work. Great. Some mums are better because they stay at home. Awesome. The shame of returning to work is unnecessary and women need to support one another. Have each other's backs and champion their decisions. Even if they are different from your own. There is no wrong or right way to go about being the perfect mum.
Women who are nailing it
In 2018, there are some women who are leading the way as working mums! We only have to look across the pond to the inspiring Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister who not only gave birth during her time in office but also returned to work when her baby girl was six weeks old. Her choice. Which has been celebrated. As it should be.
If you plan on having a baby or have recently had a baby, and plan to return to work, then we say that is great! Being a working mum is tough. So is being a stay at home mum. Do what you want to do and what will make you happy. A happy mum makes for a happy child. No judgement here. Now we just need the rest of society to catch up.