When I was pregnant with my first baby I was in a permanent, full time job. I fully intended to go back to this after six months of maternity leave. OK, I knew this wasn’t ideal but I felt I had no choice. I thought it would be tough for a few weeks but that I would get used to it. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how naive I was.
The day after my baby girl was born, I was laying in a hospital bed thinking ‘I’ve got 5 months left before I go back to work and I don’t think I can do it so soon’. Within a couple of days I’d discussed it with my partner and we’d both agreed that taking the 9 months maternity leave would be better for both the baby and I. The next couple of months were the usual blur that any new parents would recognise, but the worry of leaving my baby in a nursery when I went back to work was always lurking at the back of my mind.
When my daughter was three months old I started visiting nurseries, hoping that once I got her signed up my mind would be put at rest. I looked around my first nursery which was perfectly OK with a good Ofsted report. There was very little to criticise but I knew right then that I couldn’t leave my baby there five days a week. In fact, I couldn’t leave her anywhere five days a week. It wasn’t a case of toughing it out, getting used to it, putting on a brave face. I simply couldn’t do it. And that was a shock, because I’m such a practical, down-to-earth type of person. That day, I felt that I stopped being a person who’d had a baby and became a mum.
This left us with a problem – we couldn’t afford for me to give up work. But I couldn’t work full time. I couldn’t see a way forward at all. Very, very stressful.
A quick browse through job websites and the local paper showed that part-time jobs were few and far between. And in most cases, the salary wouldn’t leave much after we’d paid for childcare. I’d been self-employed before and although this was the ideal solution in that I could choose my work and my hours, I knew just how much work was involved and how long it could take to earn an income. Could I really run a business and care for a baby? At this time Netmums was a lifesaver for me, giving me hope that there were some possibilities, even thought it would take a while to work it all out.
Eventually I realised that if leaving my baby in a nursery part time was hard, running a business from home with no childcare was going to be no picnic either. I’d be missing a opportunity if I didn’t ask my employer if I could return part-time, so I applied to work two days per week (see DirectGov for what you’re entitled to request in terms of flexible working as a parent). After one meeting I realised that reducing my hours was only part of the problem – I simply couldn’t do the travelling that my job needed any more. I couldn’t spend time in hotels, working away from home and leave my baby at home. However hard I tried, I couldn’t find an answer and reluctantly handed in my notice.
A month or so later, I was offered a part time job to cover someone else’s maternity leave with my old employer. This was perfect – I would have some income for six months while I got my business going. And I could cope with leaving my baby in the nursery part time. After juggling our budget a few times and cutting back a bit (OK, quite a lot…), we could cover the nursery fees and all the bills with me working two days per week.
I’ll tell you about what happened when I went back to work in my next post…