I remember very clearly sitting at my desk in a large open-plan office and being asked if I was planning to come back to work.
Six months pregnant with my first child, I gave an immediate and confident answer to the effect that I couldn’t see myself hanging out with a baby for more than six months – that would be boring, wouldn’t it?
Another 18 months down the line and when it came to it I couldn’t bear to leave my beautiful daughter, so me and that company parted ways based on a mutual agreement that anything less than a full-time committment to them wasn’t going to work out.
Having reasonably specialised skills and a good fit of seniority and experience allowed me to negotiate a full-time job offer down to a compressed 3 day week which at the time worked well for me and my family, with my fabulous and supportive partner taking up some of the slack when it came to pre- and post-nursery care.
I have had positive experiences with employers through both my pregnancies and maternity leaves, but at the same time I have also heard many horror stories from friends and acquaintances on the difficulty of negotiating the emotional and practical minefield which is the return to work if you want to insist (as all women should) on the work/life balance that fits best for your own family circumstances.
Enter the book that should be made standard-issue for all pregnant working women and their employers – Jessica Chivers’ new release, Mothers Work!: How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work.
Each chapter of the book contains key ideas and action points to help get you in the mindset of a return to work, and there are good solid sections on hard negotiating with employers, home organisation, guilt and how to be ‘good enough’ rather than reaching for the impossibly airbrushed versions of working parenthood we see in tv and film stars in the media every day.
The chapter on preparing for a smooth return has a fantastic day-by-day or blow-by-blow action plan to follow if you are feeling unconfident or unconvinced about working again, but by far the most valuable and powerful thread running right the way through the book are the voices of around 200 working parents who illustrate Jessica’s narrative and confirm the key truth of her book: that there is no one right way, that the key things are to be clear on what you want, to be strong enough to ask for it, and to make that decision work as a family.
With this book in your hand, you should be able to do just that, and find yourself not only making a smooth transition to the form of work that suits you, but also thriving in that environment.
Find out more about Jessica Chivers.