When you are well into your career and you find out that you’re pregnant, many thoughts will cross your mind. When will you tell your boss and co-workers the news? How does maternity leave work? How will you navigate the many doctor appointments in your future? And, of course, what will you do when maternity leave ends?
Maybe you already know the answer to that last question, so it’s not something you’re overthinking, but for many moms, this is a tough decision. Even if you are convinced you’ll return to work when the time comes, you might find it much harder to leave your baby than anticipated. Similarly, today, you may not doubt that you want to take a mom pause after your baby is born, but going from full-time worker to stay-at-home mom isn’t always an easy transition. Ten weeks into maternity leave, you might be itching to get back into your routine.
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether to return to work or take a mom pause after you have your baby, and what’s right for one family may not be what’s best for another. It’s a personal decision that deserves time and attention, and if you ultimately decide to take a mom pause, you have the added task of resigning with professionalism and grace.
Choosing What’s Best for You
No matter which direction you go, it will be a big deal. If you return to work, you’ll have to cope with leaving your baby’s care in the hands of someone else (it’s never easy, no matter how excited you are to return to work) and the juggling that comes along with working outside the home. On the other hand, if you opt to take a mom pause, you’ll have to do some serious adjusting, and if you plan to return to the workforce when your baby is a little older, you’ll need to accept that it may be more challenging than you anticipate.
So, how do you determine the best option for you and your family? Here are some things to consider:
Your mental health. You might find it incredibly hard to leave your baby with someone else for 8-hours a day while you work, or your mental health might struggle if you feel trapped at home with a baby.
Your budget. Child care is not cheap. If what you bring home after paying for child care isn’t very much, you’ll need to decide if it’s even worth it. Child care might eat into your income, but you love your job enough that you’re okay with it. Or, it could be the push you need to decide to take a mom pause. It’s also possible that your budget makes it clear that your family needs your income, even if much of it covers child care.
Your family goals. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, your partner supports this, and your budget allows it, then the choice is pretty straightforward. However, if you’re trying to save up a lot of money to purchase a house or if your partner wants to stay home, this is an essential factor in making your decision.
Your career goals. Frustrating, we all know that taking a mom pause can significantly impact a career and make re-entry difficult. Depending on where you are in your career now and where you want to go, an extended mom pause may not be the right choice.
Your baby’s health. Babies born with chronic health conditions often require a lot of special care — as a parent, that can mean you need to stay home to devote time to them, or you need to keep your job because of the health insurance benefits.
Meet in the Middle
In some cases, you can have the best of both worlds with a schedule that allows you to work part-time and stay home part-time. For this to work, however, your employer will need to be on board, so it’s a good idea to start exploring the option before you go on maternity leave. Otherwise, you may be disappointed if a new schedule isn’t approved, or your employer could be blindsided since they were expecting you to return full-time.
When to Make Your Decision
Again, this is a big decision, and the last thing you want is to announce that you won’t be returning to your job before the baby arrives, only to realize you want to return to work after the baby is born. If you’re sure you’ve made up your mind before the baby comes, then there’s nothing wrong with proceeding accordingly (whether it’s resigning or coming up with a return-to-work plan with your boss). However, if you’re on the fence, there’s no rush to decide after the baby is born. Taking a mom pause is the best choice for you. So it’s essential to resign respectfully and professionally.
Tips for Resigning Professionally
First, ensure you’re well-versed in your company’s maternity leave policy. Some organizations require employees to pay back anything paid out to them during their leave if they decide not to return to work. A company might also cut off insurance (and possibly make you pay back premiums paid during your leave) or mark you as ineligible for rehire if you don’t return for a specific time after your break.
Assuming there are no penalties for resigning, if you wait until the last minute, you’re putting your boss and team in a bind because they were counting on you to return. It isn’t a good look, and these people may not be willing to serve as a reference or advocate for you down the road when/if you’re ready to return to the workforce. If you’re not going to return, give a minimum of two weeks' notice (check your company’s handbook, too, because they may require more information than that).
When you resign, offer to do whatever you can to make the transition as smooth as possible. If you aren’t returning, chances are they won’t need you to do much since they’ve been operating without you for a while anyway, but it’s still essential to make yourself available for calls or meetings so that you can pass off work as needed.
If you return to work after leave because of your company’s policies but plan to resign after your required time is up, follow standard best practices for resigning from a job. If possible, avoid volunteering for extra projects or taking on more work during this time so that the transition when you leave is easier for your boss and the team.
There Are No Wrong Choices
Whether you return to work full-time after your baby, decide to stay at home, or opt for a part-time schedule, all that matters is that your situation works for you and your family. The good thing about this decision is that it’s not permanent, so if you change your mind down the road, you can simply reset and change course.
Join The Mom Project Talent Community
Whether you want to cut back to a part-time job after your baby arrives, or you’re ready to return to the workforce after a mom pause, join The Mom Project community to browse the many mom-friendly job opportunities in our marketplace.