I don’t want to go back to work after having a baby! – how to make that work for your family

I struggled to imagine how I would ever go back to work after having a baby. I could barely leave my first boy for a few hours – let alone for a whole day, every day.

From the sleep-deprived fog I couldn’t imagine how I would even function at work all day. The idea of dropping him to daycare each morning made me feel super anxious. How would my boobed-to-sleep baby nap for anyone else?

The way I felt about my work changed too. Before having kids I was a high school English teacher and (like most teachers) spent loads of my own time working as well. Once I had a baby though, I couldn’t imagine how I would possibly make that work. I barely had time to look after myself, how the heck would I add work into that mix as well?

Also, I just didn’t want to. (Which is a perfectly legit reason. Just as “I just wanted to” is all you need if you DO want to go back to work).

[But, before I go any further- let me just pause here to acknowledge the utter privilege of this statement. I realise that for many women, CHOOSING whether to return to work is not even in the realms of possibility.]

back to work after having a baby

I didn’t want to go back to work after having a baby, but I did want…

Okay, with that out the way – let’s also talk about the fact that while I didn’t want to return to teaching, I DID still want (and need) to earn my own money. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time I spent breastfeeding and googling things like “work from home jobs”, “how to afford to stay home after having a baby” and “how to make money as a stay at home Mum”.

But it wasn’t just about the money. I also wanted to feel purposeful and challenged. Which is not to say that mothering is not purposeful or challenging. It ABSOLUTELY is. Nothing is more challenging than being the sole person responsible for a baby who will not sleep, or the strong-willed “threenager.”

I also wanted something that was just mine, outside of being a mother. (Oh the irony of becoming a business owner who works entirely with mothers – go figure). I wanted something that worked my brain and let me think about things other than naptimes and the endless round-a-bout of dirty nappies and snacks.

How I made money as a stay-at-home Mum.

As I was a first time Mum in the boom of the Mummy blogging era, I started my journey into making money online by writing a blog (this very one you’re currently reading!). At the time, I knew people could make money out of blogs but I had no idea how. So I mostly just wrote about what I was interested in (read – personal ramblings about all the things I was struggling with as a Mum.) I also enjoyed sewing for my baby, so I started dabbling in making money online by selling baby boy’s hats and outfits that I’d made.

I quickly realised that a clothing business wasn’t it for me because of how time-intensive sewing is. I wanted to stay home with my baby, but more importantly I wanted time-freedom. If I was at home sewing 24/7 and not enjoying my time at home – what was the point? I also wasn’t overly passionate about the work and couldn’t see myself doing it long term.

All the while my blog just kicked along in the background. I’d write when the mood hit and then neglect it for weeks. I started writing more about yoga and motherhood as I was teaching a few yoga classes each week around my husband’s work.

After having my second boy, I decided it was time I finally got serious about turning this blog of mine into a business. I learnt everything I could about making money online. I tried lots of things. Some of them failed. Some of them grew very slowly.

I learnt how to make videos teaching yoga (verrry badly at first). I kept writing. I researched how to take payments and bumbled my way through building my membership community.

If I was your typical internet marketing “expert”, it would be at this point that I would tell you that I started making $10K per month and have never looked back.

If only it were that easy. Nope! I probably made $200 TOTAL in that first year.

I also want to be transparent about the fact that it took me about 5 years (from when I finally got serious about it) to grow my online work to a point that it pays me a proper wage. And during that time I did other work casually and sporadically to make it work for our family. No, I didn’t ever go back to work after having a baby in a full-time teaching capacity like I was pre-baby. But I have certainly still worked.

I tell you this because I work with a lot of Mums who feel like they’re failing because their online business doesn’t hit 6 figures overnight. Or they think online work isn’t right for them because they aren’t making enough right now to not have to take on part-time work (or even return their pre-baby job for a time).

I also see a lot of Mums who desperately don’t want to go back to work after having a baby, so they sign up for the “get rich quick” scams of MLMS and inevitably end up working MORE hours (and earning barely any money) than they would if they’d just gone back to their pre-baby career.

If you’re considering not going back to work after having a baby you’re going to have to think about more than just the money side of the equation. I also want you to consider your time spent working, commute and your energy levels. So let’s talk about what you should consider if you’re deciding whether to go back to work after having a baby and how you might be able to make that work for your family.

You NEED to consider these 5 things if you don’t want to go back to work after having a baby

Do the maths.

For most of us considering not going back to work after maternity leave, money is the most important factor. Before you even start the conversation, you need to know how much your family needs to survive. This equation also needs to consider childcare costs, commuting and the often invisible added costs that come with both parents working (like the extra takeaway you’ll inevitably eat because everyone’s tired and no one was home to cook!)

Depending on the type of work that you were doing pre-baby, you might find you won’t actually be adding much to the family income once you take out those extra costs. Of course, going back to work isn’t just about the money and childcare costs should be an expense against both wages. But if you’re already leaning towards not going back to work after having a baby, the actual numbers might persuade you to make changes elsewhere to make staying home possible.

Can you cut some expenses to cover the difference your wage would offer? Is there an option to earn that wage remotely and in your own time? Do you have a skill you could offer online to earn money?

Either way, you need to know exactly how much your family needs each week so that you can make an informed decision. Trust me, this is not something where you’ll just want to try and wing-it!

Work / life balance

How you feel working and balancing mum life is also an important part of going back to work that many women completely ignore. Again, privilege lets me add this to the equation, but I think it’s worth considering. If the daycare drop gives you crazy anxiety and you spend all your day wishing you were at home – is it the right time to go back to work?

On the other side of the argument, sometimes going back to your pre-baby work actually gives you a better work/ life balance than staying at home and trying to hustle in your online business. In the early days of my business I would have burnt out if I’d had the pressure of trying to make a certain amount of income from it. Instead, going back to teaching casually and teaching in-person yoga classes filled the gaps while I grew my business on the side.

Your babies are for such a short amount of time

I know when you’re in the tiny baby stage it feels endless and unescapable. But from the other side of parenting, my heart aches to go back to that time. Now, it feels like it went by in a flash and I wish I’d savoured it even more than I did. I don’t think anyone (in hindsight) regrets the time they spent nap-trapped.

I’m so grateful for all the time I spent at home with my boys, and while I definitely could have been earning more money over the last 12 years working full time – that wasn’t the right decision for me.

I’m also super grateful to the past version of me who worked in the tiny pockets of time around my babies growing this business that now lets me choose how and when I work. While it may not seem as important now that my boys are school age, this business gives me freedom to do only the work I actually want to do and gives me the time freedom to be at every footy training and game. Even though my boys feel BIG now, I know in another 10 years time I’ll be pining for this time too!

You can do both.

I’ve noticed this interesting pattern where we seem to only let ourselves feel “legit” when we do something full time. A lot of yoga teachers downplay their teaching as “just a hobby”, unless they’re teaching a full week of classes. Or you’re not a real business owner if you’re not making a “proper” income from it yet. We think we can only be a connected, attached Mother if we’re home full time. WRONG!

Becoming super black and white in our thinking makes a lot of things in life feel more painful than necessary. I’m often asked should I go back to work after having a baby OR should I start my own business? But it doesn’t have to be just THIS or THAT!

You can choose to go back to work AND choose to start a business. Both might be right for you. Or neither. Maybe there is a third option you haven’t even considered yet. Maybe you’re not even asking the right question?

Your energy is limited.

Finally, I want you to remember that while you can do all the things, you really don’t have to. And you probably shouldn’t try because your energy is limited. If you’re dreading going back to work after having a baby, so you’re also trying to get a business going on the side and you’re trying to compensate with your little one for the time you’re gone by being super-Mum; you’re headed for burn out.

Tackle one new challenge at a time. Get your head around going back to work after having a baby first and adjusting to all the changes that brings. Take your time getting good at self-care around work and family life first. (Sometimes going back to work can actually make this easier because you might have pockets of time for yourself like during a lunch break or before pick up).

When you first go back to work your baby will probably need extra you-time to recalibrate to the time you spend away. That’s okay! And it doesn’t need to be complicated. They’re probably just as happy having you close and doing something simple at home, as they are going out to activities. Keep it simple (and account for the fact that you’re going to be extra tired from getting your brain back into work-mode.)

Once you’ve adjusted to the new work-life balance you might want to find space to grow your business on the side. Can I suggest you do this slowly and sustainably and not chase get-rich-quick schemes. Trust me, they don’t work and just drain more of your precious energy.

Going back to work after having a baby is a HUGE transition in motherhood. Whatever you decide, is right for you. Sometimes the decision part can be the most exhausting part of the whole process.

If you decide to stay home and work on growing an online business, my course Presence will show you how to do this in a way that will give you time-freedom, so you won’t have to be perpetually posting on social media (yuck!). No six figure promises in sight. Just real, sustainable business. I’d love to see you over there.

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