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Life after children: tips for a successful transition back to work

Going back to work after having children can be a daunting prospect. Whether you’ve taken maternity leave or are returning after a longer career break, you may worry that your skills and knowledge have deserted you. Concerns about juggling work and family responsibilities are also common. There are things you can do however for an easier transition back to work.

If you’ve been a full-time parent for any period of time it can be hard to re-connect with the old working you. Dig out old appraisal forms and get in touch with ex-colleagues who valued your skills and contribution in the workplace. This can help you re-discover the capable professional still within. If you’ve taken a longer career break, look for suitable courses to ensure your skills and technical knowledge are up-to date.

It’s also important to recognise the skills you’ve developed through being a parent. Problem solving, people skills, time management and multitasking are all essential when raising children! You may also have gained skills through running playgroups or helping organise community events. Dealing with schools, hospitals and other public bodies can also provide insight into public services which may be useful in the workplace. If you’re job-hunting, ensure you present such skills in a way that are directly applicable to work.

Balancing work and family commitments can be a challenge when returning to work but flexible working can help. Flexible working is any working pattern outside of the traditional norm and includes compressed hours, annualised hours, flexitime, staggered hours, job-sharing and working from home. Employees in the UK with 26 weeks continuous employment service have the right to request flexible working. Requests can be turned down if there is a good business reason so ensure you present your case well. Looking for a flexible job can seem an uphill struggle as few are openly advertised. It may be possible however to build a business case for flexible working once you’ve convinced an employer you’re the right person for the role.

Choosing the right childcare can be key for a successful transition back to work. There is a wide-range of options including nannies, au pairs, registered child minders, crèches, nurseries, pre- and after-school clubs and any offers of help from trusted relatives or friends. Investigate these fully, remembering you may need a combination to get the right fit for you and your family.

When returning to work it’s even more important to prioritise and plan your time effectively. Sit down regularly and plan ahead and don’t forget to factor in some time for yourself every week. Consider paying for services like cleaning and ironing if managing household chores is an issue. Such steps can make for an easier transition and help you get the most out of both work and family life.

Visit the ICAEW Library’s resources Back to the workplace and Flexible working for more help when returning to work after a career break.

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