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Parents share their stories about how their lives changed – and how they changed their lives – when they went back to work

Whether you choose to change your hours, change your career or go back to work full time, there’s no right or wrong way to manage your time after having a baby. Five parents share their experiences and work-life wisdom.

I started a business that could work around my kids

“I was on maternity leave with my second son when I came up with the idea for the ‘Ask the midwife’ – an app for pregnant mums that gives them access to a midwife,” says Hannah. “Albie was just 8 weeks old, and I thought: it’s now or never. I used to be a midwife myself – I still wanted to help women, but I also wanted to spend more time with my kids. I developed my new business so I could do both. Albie has been there every step of the way – he even came with me in a sling to meetings with developers!

“I like being my own boss because it means I can come and go as I please. I get to drop my eldest at school now and spend more quality time with them both. In the start-up world, I’ve found that most people expect you to have children. Whenever I’ve been to mumpreneur events everyone has their little ones with them. Sometimes ‘Ask the midwife’ feels like my third child because I’ve put as much love and attention into it as I have the kids!”

Hannah’s top tip: “My advice to parents thinking of starting their own business is to take the plunge. If it’s something you’re passionate about you can make it work. You can be more flexible with your time than you ever could with an employer.”

Flexible hours benefit me and my employer

“After my little girl arrived, I was able to change my hours so I could pick her up from nursery,” says Nick, who works for a bank. “I’m also able to work four days a week with one at home, which I feel is a good balance. I’ve changed the way I manage my time by working on the train and from home in the evenings. Flexible working really helps with childcare, but it’s good for my company too. Some of my work involves dealing with companies in different time zones, so it’s actually useful to be available in the evenings when other people aren’t. I don’t have a strict work-life divide, but I think being flexible on both sides benefits everyone.”

Nick’s top tip: “Nursery places can be hard to get, so you may want to start researching childcare before your baby’s even born, and get your name down early for your preferred choice.”

Childcare makes our routine possible

“I think it’s hard to achieve work-life balance with very small children,” says mum-of-two Jess. ‘Paying for childcare is like a second mortgage – so going back to work has to be worth it – and looking after a little one is basically a second unpaid job! We researched our childcare options carefully. It can make a big difference if a nursery or childminder will keep your child until 6.30pm rather than 6 for example. What worked for us was for my husband to do the morning drop-off so I could go to work early and then leave early to do the pick-ups. Having children is such a blessing, but no one should feel bad for saying it can be flipping hard work!”

Jess’s top tips: “If you and your partner both work, try to divide the housework equally between you. Evenings can get busy, so agree a time to stop working and meet on the sofa to spend some time relaxing together.” 

I left my ‘dream job’ and went freelance

“Before I had my little one, I was working my dream job as deputy editor of a magazine,” says Zoe, a freelance writer. “I went back after 6 months of maternity leave, but I just wasn’t ready. I felt like a rubbish team member at work, but also a rubbish mum and wife because I’d stretched myself too thin. It was a hard choice to make at the time – I had been at the magazine for six years and it felt like it was my baby too – but in the end, I took voluntary redundancy. I was much happier working freelance from home three days a week.”

Zoe’s top tip: “Don’t feel guilty if you can’t do everything. Sometimes, something has to give, and that’s okay. You don’t want to burn yourself out.”

I don’t do conference calls at bathtime (anymore)

“Ever since maternity leave, I’ve always worked full-time with one day working from home,” says Lara who works in marketing. “The day from home is great because you get a bit of extra time not travelling. Working from home can blur the boundaries between home life and work life. I spent too many hours working in the evenings – trying to do a conference call at their bathtime was definitely a low point. It’s worth trying to get the balance right, especially when they’re very little because once they’re older they’ll need you a lot less. I can honestly say I’m way more productive now that I have children!”

Lara’s top tip: “Make sure you’re not overworking if you choose to go part time. A lot of mums I know end up doing five days’ worth of work in three or four – it’s a trap!”

Back into the swing of things or thinking about going back? See if you recognise the 8 stages of returning to work

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