5 biggest barriers faced by return to work Mums

5 biggest barriers faced by return to work Mums

5 biggest barriers faced by return to work Mums By Meg Garrido at Playroom to Boardroom.

Whether it was part of a pre-pregnancy plan, it is a financial necessity or you have found yourself waving your youngest off to school at some point you will be looking to return to work after parental leave or an extended break from the workforce. The thought can be quite daunting and the planning and preparation can be time consuming and tiring, but it is possible to make a relatively seamless transition back to the workplace. Here are the top five things which may be standing in your way.

1.  Yourself

Yes, you read that right. The biggest return to work barrier is so often inside your own head. I work with so many highly skilled and competent women who have experienced a total loss of confidence while on parental leave. Instead of seeing all the new and complimentary skills which they have learned as mothers they see a gap which makes them feel exposed.

Despite the fact that you have had time away from your career, you still know everything that you knew before. You can still do all that you could do before, and possibly more. Believing in yourself is essential if you are going to put yourself out in the job market and try to find a role.

Underselling yourself, excusing your time out of the workforce, downgrading the roles that you are applying for are all self-sabotaging behaviours. Whilst it can be hard to work and parent at the same time, as soon as you get back into your job it will be like you have never been away. So often I meet with women who spend the first 15 minutes of our meeting telling me all the reasons that they can not return to a role equivalent to the one they had before. I would say that in 80% or more of these meetings the women leave acknowledging that they can indeed commence at the same level and they just needed to alter their own self-perception.

Try to ignore your own negative talk and instead focus on what you want. If you genuinely want to take on a lower level job to achieve balance then that is fine. But don’t believe that your skills and knowledge will have disappeared because you had a baby.

Meeting with a career coach or a recruitment consultant can be a great reality check. Walking them through your qualifications, experience and skills can inform them and also remind you. Being back in “work clothes” and a semi-formal environment can reignite some of your feelings and passion for your career.

If you are finding the thought of return to work very stressful or difficult to work through then perhaps you need to spend some time working on your own self-imposed barriers and beliefs.

2.  Finances

For some people the return to work is a financial necessity. Unfortunately for many others it is the financial aspect which provides them with the biggest barrier to returning.

Families with more than one child who will require paid childcare often realise that it is not financially viable for both parents to work. Factoring in childcare fees including those to cover unpaid travel times plus the cost of commuting to work simply prices some people out of the game.

Although there is a childcare rebate available for working families, this is capped and a full time return to work chews through the rebate fairly quickly. The salary level required to cover all these costs plus contribute something to the family financial situation can quite simply be too high for some women (and men) to consider making the return to work.

Seeking alternative childcare can sometimes be the solution. With slightly older children an au pair can be a cheaper solution, although that may come with its own set of issues. Looking at nanny sharing or mummy nannies is another option, although these are essentially exempt from the rebate. Looking to family and friends for child care support is another solution for those in a position to seek this out.

3.  Logistics

The logistics of being a family with two working parents can be overwhelming and can prevent return to work. For example here are some questions that you may need to address before committing to a role:

Who will look after the kids if they are unwell and unable to get to childcare?

Will you be able to make pick up time at childcare every day without fail?

Will your role require out of hours commitments? How will you manage these?

Does your role involve any travel? How will this work with your family?

Can you manage drop offs and still make it to work on time?

In fact there are too many questions to mention.

The complexity of your logistical challenges are likely to be based on the type of role you are returning too, the flexibility of your employer, the flexibility of your partner and the external support that you have available.

It is extremely important to work through the logistics and anticipate the problems in advance of them happening as it is much easier to have a logical discussion and put a plan in place when you are not under pressure than it is to have one at 7am when both you and your husband need to be out the door in 9 minutes time.

4.  Support

Time and time again I see people who have strong support networks making a successful return to work and those without struggling. Not only do we rely on these networks to help us out in a crisis situation such as being unable to pick up a child before the child care centre closes, but we also use them as sounding boards, for moral support and to ground us.

Some people are lucky enough to live near family and school friends with whom they have a life time of history. Leaning on these people when they are needed provides them with security, some additional confidence and also helps to relieve some of the inevitable guilt that most mothers feel at some stage in the return to work process.

Others, like me, have had to build their own support networks. Families that I met at ante-natal classes, my next door neighbours and parents I have got to know through daycare and school now form the majority of my support network. Whilst I may not feel comfortable enough to leave my children with them if I was traveling for days at a time, I know that if I need help with a drop off or a pick up or a one night sleep over for the girls then they will have it covered.

Working to put these networks in place is so valuable both in the return to work process and also in family life in general.

5.  Perceptions and Opinions

Feeling that you are making a selfish decision to return to work can be a huge barrier. If your husband, mother, sister or employer thinks less of you as a person and a mother for doing so then chances are your own confidence will take a bashing. You may also face conflict and arguments around your plans to return to work.

Unfortunately even in 2016 we are faced with many people and organisations which do not believe that a return to work mother can be good at both roles and that either her work or her family will suffer at the hands of her decision. Thankfully this is the minority thinking, but if you experience this then it can be very demotivating and damaging.

If it is with someone around you then talking it through can sometimes make the difference. Talking through your plans, your contingency and your reasons can be enough to help others to understand. Sometimes though we need to accept that other people’s judgement and opinion is none of our business and we need to crack on as planned.

Facing an employer with these views is extremely tough. Although they are breaking the law, on many occasions it is simply easier to look for work somewhere else and spend your time in an environment where you are supported an valued.

Returning to work is a life change and impacts on you, your family, your relationships, your finances and your time. Thinking through your decision, communicating with those involved, having plans and more plans and believing in your decision are the fundamental steps to making it a success.

You can follow Meg on her blog, www.PlayroomtoBoardroom.com

Read next:

5 biggest barriers faced by return to work Mums by Meg Garrida at Playroom to Boardroom - lovefrommim.com #MyFiveThings Parenting Maternity Leave Returning to work after maternity leave
Image Source: Pixabay


  1. Rachel
    / 12:01 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I see a lot of articles about how difficult it is emotionally to return to work. This is a nice change of pace to talk about the actual logistics of the situation.

  2. Tracey
    / 9:34 am

    Great article. Working in recruitment means this is something I come across every day. The logistics is certainly a big part of the challenge but so is the internal dialogue that women experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land I work and live on, the Awabakal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I thank them wholeheartedly and express my love and gratitude for the privilege to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and for the opportunity for my family to be part of this vibrant and supportive community.