I knew I wanted to go back to work part-time from before Little H was born. A couple of weeks before my maternity leave started my boss and I even had an informal conversation about what I was thinking and he told me that he could not see any reason why a formal request would not be accepted. Early in my maternity leave I had some moments where I missed my job. Then later, as I had adapted to caring for Little H, I had moments where I doubted my decision. But once I was back in the office in January 2016, I was pretty confident I had made the right decision for me*.
I have been back at work for 15 months now and, despite some ups-and-downs during illness and the like, it’s actually gone well. I feel I have the balance I wanted and I have come to terms with the slowing in my progression because I get so much one-on-one time with my awesome Little H! So I was understandably shocked and concerned when my job, and potentially my career, were suddenly under threat.
I’ll pause here and give some context. I work as a Solutions Architect in the IT department of a large retail company. I am based in London along with the second division of my company. The third division is based in the Home Counties, but no where near where I live. For years the divisions have run mainly independently. But the economy has changed and the company need to be more efficient. So in November my department was merged with the other two equivalents. Nothing much changed and we had to carry on until Spring this year when we were told we’d get an update. So we did.
A few weeks ago, the first utterings of the update were mentioned. We were told to keep a day free in our diaries. Then the week before that date an official meeting invite came out…for an ‘Announcement’. So much more formal. The invite said very little. Inevitably the rumour mill kicked into top gear. By the end of that afternoon we had considered all and everything:
- A re-org to centralise some of the skills.
- Relocation of part of the team to the Home Counties office.
- Relocation of all of us to the Home Counties.
- Redundancy for all of us with our jobs being 100% outsourced.
- A lot of other crazy and ridiculous ideas which I’ve subsequently forgotten.
From that moment forward, every time I was left alone with my thoughts, I started to fear the worst. (The blessing of having a toddler in this situation is you don’t get much time to think!) What would it mean if I was made redundant? Would I manage to get another part-time Solutions Architect role? (A quick assessment on a couple of jobs websites showed plenty of full-time vacancies but no part-time ones. Thumbs up to industry for embracing flexible working!) If I could only find a full-time role would I be willing to go back full-time for 6 months and then try requesting flexible working? Or would I let go of my current career and stay at home with Little H permanently, taking her out of the nursery that she loves? Or find a new career…even though nothing came to mind? As you can imagine my brain was in overload!
In reality, my employer is genuinely very people focused. As I walked into the room for the announcement on that long-arriving Thursday morning, I knew whatever I was presented with would be a balanced between company and employee needs as possible. But all those questions sat at the forefront of my mind. That morning, all 70 people in my department entered consultation. Some roles have been re-defined and some are being relocated. I am incredibly fortunate to be one of the 30 people deemed ‘Not at risk’ – my role maps into the new organisational structure in my current location. When I heard that news, I breathed a genuine sigh of relief. I had the realisation that I am genuinely happy with the set-up I’ve got; I’m fortunate to have the flexibility that I do! (It should be common place for everyone but that’s the topic of a different blog post.)
We now have a period of uncertainty and I have team mates going through some difficult times. The new organisational structure is also not finalised until the end of consultation at the start of June. Until that happens nothing is 100% for me. But one thing is for sure, any doubt about whether going back to work part-time was the right decision for me have been finally wiped from my mind.
How did you reach a decision about what to do after your maternity / parental leave? Did you struggle to make your decision? Have you ever regretted what you did?
[*To be clear, all comments in this post are about my personal thoughts and experience. Absolutely nothing I have written is intended to cause offence to parents in a different position. I have friends who work full-time in a job, part-time in a job and the rest at home and some who left their jobs to be full-time at home (both by choice and necessity). I believe each to their own and the important thing is to do whatever is right for you and your family!]