While the grand plan might be to seamlessly return to your previous job, post-baby, once they’re old enough for daycare, the reality can be very different. The Mother Shift’s Jacinta Tynan spoke to primary school teacher Fiona Morrison about her shift from full-time teaching to a two-day-a-week job share arrangement, after her first child was born.
Fiona says her hankering to work fewer days once she became a mum caught her by surprise.
“Because I enjoyed my job so much, and obviously before you have children it’s a bit hard to understand how everything changes. You don’t really get that understanding until you’ve actually had your child,” Fiona told The Mother Shift.
“I did think I would go back more days than I did. And then after I had my son, I actually only wanted to go back one day because I was enjoying my time with him so much.”
Fiona said her boss was very understanding and they reached a compromise that worked for everyone.
“There was that negotiation, and my principal asked if I could do two days and I was able to organise babysitting for my son, and so I went back to two days.”
Missing precious moments with her little boy and a bout of postpartum depression meant striking the right balance between work and home was priority for this teacher mum. She sought professional advice to cope with these early – and very relatable – challenges.
“It was just that initial time with my son, seeing all of their milestones and things like that, and being afraid of missing out on some of those things. Especially when other people are looking after them and it’s, ‘Ah I don’t want him to walk without me’ or ‘I don’t want him to say words without me’ and things like that.”
“I did see a psychologist for a little while to help me adjust to going back to work because it was such a struggle to leave my son and to go to work, and for a while I really had this mentality of ‘I’m going to work to parent other people’s children, when I could be at home parenting my own.'”
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Following these early adjustments, she settled into her job-sharing role with another teacher mum in earnest and with plenty of common ground.
“It really is a great way to get back into the workforce, have a bit of flexibility and have that work life balance. And it’s great that I job share with another teacher who’s also a mother. So it’s really good that we can connect on that level and we both understand that our families are our priority. Even though we love our jobs, family comes first.”
“You have to let go”
The Mother Shift’s resident careers counsellor and psychologist, Kirsty Levin, says that having a more flexible approach to work and career is a vital part of making this kind of transition a success.
“In a part time or full time capacity, you really have to let go of a lot of the expectations and pressure you put on yourself to be perfect and to be present for everyone all the time.”
Kirsty advises women to start considering more flexible work hours before they head off to have a baby.
“[Have] the conversation with your manager before you go on parental leave. It’s great to have an open-minded conversation with your manager where you actually anticipate the possibility that you may not want to go back for the days that you think you will.”
Being on the lookout for potential job share partners, before you go on parental leave gives potential job-sharers more flexibility when they’re considering balancing work and baby.
“In any job share partnership, it’s really important to bring to the table someone who has a set of complementary skills and the same level of dedication to the position. And hopefully those people in the organisation already exist that you could potentially partner with.”
Kirsty also suggests dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s so that everyone’s expectations are met.
“You basically have to nut out every single aspect of the role, and you have to develop really solid systems and processes to ensure quality of output and consistency of communication.”
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