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Mums: Time to go back to work?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Back to work. Image: Getty
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By Hannah Nicholas,
MSN NZ Money writer

These days it seems to be the mother of all decisions, whether or not to return to work.

Mums go back to work for many reasons — some for self–fulfillment, others out of financial necessity. But whatever the reason, the reality is that working mums don't take the decision to return to employment lightly.

Here's a quick look at some of the pros and cons to get you thinking about what's involved.


  • Financial stability: Going back to work means having the chance to contribute financially to your family's income.
  • Adult interaction: Returning to work provides great opportunities for adult interaction and building social networks.
  • Being a role model: Many mums feel returning to work gives them the chance to be great role model for their children.
  • Confidence: For many mums, returning to employment supplies a much needed confidence boost.


  • Childcare: One of the biggest barriers for women returning to work is finding available, and good-quality, childcare positions. Plus, the cost involved can be another obstacle.
  • Juggling act: When it comes to going back to work, many mums find that life becomes one big balancing act. Finding the right balance between motherhood and their professional lives can be difficult.
  • Inflexible employers: Unfortunately in this day and age, some employers are still inflexible when it comes to working mums. This may be an issue when fitting around school/childcare hours, school-holiday periods and if your child is sick.
  • Separation anxiety: Many mums find it extremely difficult to put their child's care into another person's hands.

Going back: how to make the move

As mentioned above, perhaps the biggest hurdle when it comes to returning to the workplace is finding the right type of childcare. And in many instances you will need to place your child on a waiting list well in advance of your return to work.

There are many options available ranging from permanent centre-based care (costs $45-$70 a day) to family daycare (from $4 an hour), a home-based daycare system, or even a private nanny (costs $12-$20 per hour). Government subsidies are available for some families. Many parents look to extended family members to take over some of the care.

There are positives and negatives to all of the above types of care but it's important to make sure the type of care you choose fits in with your parenting and family values.

Working out what suits you
Think about the type of work available and what is going to suit: full-time, part-time, contracting and job sharing are just some of the choices open to mums in the workforce today. If you are returning to a position, talk to your employer regarding what options may be available to you. For example, could you work from home part of the week to save on childcare costs and commuting times?

Getting started
If you're not returning to a position, then it's time to dust off your CV and begin job hunting. Start by registering with job websites and agencies aimed at mums returning to work. Not only will you find positions with family-friendly and flexible workplaces, there are lots of tips and advice on offer, too.

If it's been some time since you last worked, consider taking a short course to refresh your skills or boost your confidence levels, ie, a "mums' back-to-work" program aimed at building self-esteem and self-knowledge. Remember, there's lots of help out there.

In the end, only you and your family can decide whether going back to work is the right decision.

User comments
I have long thought that us women have been silently bullied into feeling as if we have to make a choice to be facing our reality of having had a child OR join the rat race to make the dosh OR have it all? From observation,something has to give & it's usually us. Nowadays,we are silently being bullied into buying into this pathetic idea of equality. Once a year you may feel you worked for your children, mostly it is for other less important things- mainly like the opinions of others. My first child I worked right up to 5am in the morning & had him in the afternoon & went straight to ft work 3 days later (& BF for a over a year exclusively),I had the attitude "equality huh beat that men?" sort of attitude..Now, 13 years later - I have my daughter & I love love love being home oh you have no idea. Its safe to say that I have now had it all. Think how much love & how much money do I need to feel & give to live?
Be Happy with What you have... if not change it! I think we could all take a leaf out of Solo Mum of two's book! We are lucky to have good daycare providers, 20 ECE hours offered, the chance to work... and be employed. To spend weekends with our children and have family time. How about looking at the positives! Life is too short to sit and whinge about how hard things are. Be happy !!! look at where we live our health system and education system and employment policies are pretty damn good if you ask me!
Hi All I think some of us want to do the best by our children and sometimes a view of staying at home with them is percieved as the best thing to do - but for who?. I have no idea what is best. So if we take the money out of the equation lets look at what is best for the child. I have done a considerable amount of research and an outstanding proprotion of research actually supports children in childcare. The children who have gone through childcare are more likely to have better social relationships, finish school and pass exams and usually end up in better jobs. Dont get me wrong, I dont believe you shouldn't stay home with your child just make sure you are clear why you are. I stayed home with mine - I needed to I was so worn out - was that good for her tho? I also sent her to childcare and she is still growing so no verdict supporting the research yet. All I am saying is look at the possibilities for the childs future outside of the money or self-fullfilling factors.
Ok ,so apart from the fact that every one of the comments complaining about people on benefits have multiple spelling and grammatical mistakes, leading me to believe that their education levels alone mean they do not have a clue what they're talking about, and the fact that they have their "facts" wrong, tells me that their comments are not worth the space given to them and I hope in future they learn exactly how hard it is for any parent, whether they are in a relationship with working partners or are single parents trying to do their best. Whether you make the decision to have a kid or it comes as a surprise, it is going to be hard, nothing prepares you for a baby, even if you are financially stable, have managed to earn enough to have assets, and are in a stable relationship, it is going to be hard. Some people don't have those opportunities. And all the parents that are trying to do their best for their kids should be able to get some sort of help. Btw,I'm not a parent or pregnant
It is sad when mothers are constantly told to "go to work" after having their children. When my first child was born I returned to work after my maternity leave was up. My first conversation with my boss was that my work was my priority - not my 10 month old baby. A bit hard to swallow when it was already hard to leave my little baby home. I was expected to work from 8am through to 7pm - and later if my boss had his own way. The times I rang to tell my boss that my child was very sick and may need to be taken to hospital, would result in insufferable misery when I returned to work. Then came my wages being docked for any days I took off for my child (forget the 5 days allowable - what a joke)! Then when my husband's eldest child died, I took the day of the funeral off and the next day - again I returned to work to suffer my boss's wrath and wages docked. At the end I quit. Doesn't really give you encouragement to go to work....
I can't believe the negative comments i'm reading about mum's staying home to look after their kids. I have a daughter 6mths and are a stay at home mum and I get a benefit from the government. I have worked the past 20 years and paid taxes, so why shouldn't I spend her first 6mths at home. Sure I can go back to work and earn alot more money, why, so I can put her in daycare and pay someone else look after her. Everyone deserves to be treated equally regardless of their choice to stay at home or return to work. For most Mum's it is not an easy decision and it is made more difficult by others who are so quick to judge and label without knowing individual circumstances.
To the negative people who made comments - Did you go to school here? Do you use the health system? Have you been off work on ACC? Do you drive to work? There are lots of places 'your' tax money is going - not just to parents (who have also been tax payers at some stage) Both my partner and I have worked consistently and paid thousands in tax. We have a 5 month old daughter and have struggled financially. Our daughter was in intensive care from birth, which hit us financially. We asked WINZ for temporary help and were declined. Not because of what we were earning when we needed help, but because of what we will earn in the future. We are not entitiled to any form of goverment assistance. I returned to work 2 months ago and we are paying $200+ in childcare per week. I pay taxes, and I'm quite happy for them to go towards schooling, healthcare and to help other parents. P.S. I'm guessing the people giving nasty comments don't have children - please don't start.
I am an at hm Mum with 2 children and while I do receive tax credits and in work payments which is very little my partner and I weighed up the pro's and cons of my going back to work but we decided that to pay for childcare I would be using pretty much all my wages earned so Instead I work through porse as a child carer at home so I earn money and have my children at hm also. And I also do casual work in the weekends through a temp center which certainly does help with those unexpected bills and keeping my children feed and clothed etc. so I say to all you at home mums out there do what you think is best for your family and don't feel pressured by society . But if you do feel ready to go back to work you could always start by doing casual work then going to part time then later on full time.
Its a tricky situation, no matter what income you are on. With my first child it was quite straight forward going back to work - but after I had my second child, I found myself with two sets of day care fees - even with one of them receiving 20 free hours, it was not easy. Almost half of my pay was being spent on day care, then after I took travel expenses into consideration I found I was not left with much at all - leaving home at 7am and not getting home until after 6pm - it didn't leave me much quality time with the kids. Now working part time - 5 days (school hours) so that I can have some adult time - but have had to take a massive pay cut and dont earn much more than the day care fees for my youngest. Now a single mum, I am loving the balance I get - but it was not easy finding employers that were so flexible. Personally, I worked very hard to get my university qualification and do struggle from time to time not being able to use it!
I don' know where you got the idea that as a full time mother I get $29,000 of tax payers money. I got absolutely zero tax payers money, as up until I stopped work I was self employed and therefore was not even eligible for the 12 weeks maternity benefit from the govt despite being in the highest income tax bracket and having coughed up load of tax during my years of paid employment, (the rules have changed now but too late for me) and I get absolutely zero other financial assistance from the government. I do send my eldest daughter to kindergarten, and thanks to the 20 hours of free childcare I don't have to pay for that but I seriously hope that nobody in NZ would begrudge a child their education, when so many of them got their own education at no cost (even up to degree level which is something my kids will not get). I do not feel after the literally thousands of dollars I've paid in tax over the years that I'm sponging in any way by not going back to full time work.

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