A mum’s perspective into switching careers after having a baby.
I can still vividly recall the many journeys I took inside my brain when still pregnant with my first child. Switching careers was never the plan. In my head, the plan was crystal clear: give birth, take a year off to be with my daughter, and then return to work, refreshed and ready to hustle.
I was wrong, of course.
I gave birth, applied for a year of parental leave, and five months in, I was itching to use my brain for something other than feeding schedules and Cocomelon. So I called in HR, told them I’d be back earlier than expected and literally signed off the remaining months of parental leave.
The identity crisis
There was something I missed in my planning pre-baby: nothing shakes up your identity as much as new motherhood does. So while I enjoyed my job, I didn’t enjoy it as I did before. I missed my daughter and the one business trip I took was pure agony. I absolutely hated the long commute to the office (this was pre-Covid) and how I was missing out on so much time with my daughter. My immediate superiors did everything in their power to support me, but it just wasn’t working out. As hard as that decision was, I knew it was time for a career change.
It wasn’t a decision I took lightly – I read A LOT about career changes and also reached out to other people in my field who had left and started something new. It didn’t help that my job had become part of my identity, and that’s the hardest thing I had to grapple with. The people I spoke to shared great advice, and I think it can be helpful to other mums considering a switch. Here are ten things to consider as you weigh your career options post baby:
10 Things to Consider When Switching Careers
1. Why are you leaving?
You should first identify why you want to leave your old job. Is it the hours? The people? Or maybe the lack of opportunities to work from home? It’s important to know what is really bothering you to ensure you don’t end up in the same situation a few months down the line.
2. What do you like about your current career?
It’s really challenging to think about what you love when everything feels heavy and you’re considering leaving. Looking back, what are your best memories about your job? What are you comfortable doing the most? In my case, it was easy. I loved it when my day was entirely focused on writing – speeches, policy papers, anything really as long as it didn’t involve meeting many people. Yep, I’m an introvert, and it’s only now that I’m comfortable admitting it.
What you love most about your current job is your primary asset – it’s what will drive you to really succeed in the career switch you make.
3. Why are you feeling unfulfilled in your current job?
Do you think you have so much more to give? Or maybe you’re feeling that you can’t give your all to your job and your kids, as much as you want to. What aspects of your current role do you not connect with? A list may come in handy here as it can help you realise what you don’t want in a new career.
4. What is your ideal career?
Hours, work days, opportunities for growth, bosses, and pay – what does your ideal career look like? Do you feel more comfortable in a hustle culture, or are craving balance? Would you like to work from home (which, as the pandemic has shown us, is not for the faint of heart, especially with kids around!), or love the interaction in an office?
5. Are you looking for a long-term career path, or something more temporary?
The kids are only young for a few years – are you switching careers for something calmer just to ride the babyhood wave or something more long-term? You should also consider if the career switch requires studying and retraining and if you’re willing to do both.
6. Do you have something lined up already?
As much as you feel like leaving asap, hang in there until you have something to fall back onto. Juggling a career you’re no longer comfortable in with the demands of new parenthood is tough. But so is juggling new parenthood under financial stress. There’s a considerable difference between leaving a job with nothing lined up and leaving a job knowing you’d be starting a new one in a month’s time.
7. How long is your notice period?
Before getting excited about leaving tomorrow, check with your HR what your notice period is. It increases according to the time you’ve been working with the company (or public sector). It also applies if you’ve been on parental or unpaid leave.
8. Have you already worked off your maternity leave?
It’s something we’re rarely told (unless you’ve been reading the fine print on your contract): if you resign from your employment earlier than six months following maternity leave, you must pay back part or all (depending how much you’ve worked) of your maternity leave allowance. If you returned to part time work after maternity leave, that period increases to one year.
9. How are your childcare needs changing?
Will you need more or less childcare? Are your hours different? Is the childcare location still ok? Don’t forget to check with your childcare provider if you can still use their services but at different days or times. There may be a possibility that you’d need to switch centres, in which case you should start researching your options at the earliest.
10. Are you at peace with your decision?
This is not as difficult as it sounds. If you know, you know. When something is right, it feels right. Getting there might be a lengthy journey, but the relief that accompanies a great decision is priceless.
I hope this list helps! Once you’re clear on what you want, it’s time to update your CV and put yourself out there. Whether as an employee or as a freelancer – it’s your story, it’s what got you here and owning it will empower you to take on the next step in your career with drive and determination.