By Raising Children Network
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Mum on couch using laptop computer

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

  • In Australia, 60% of single mothers with children aged 0-14 years participate in the workforce.
  • Approximately 66% of mothers in couple families with dependent children aged 0-14 years participate in the workforce.
  • In about 5% of couple families, mum is the sole breadwinner.
Once you have children, you might like to consider family-friendly work options such as part-time or flexible hours, working from home and job-sharing. It’s a good idea to discuss these options with your employer as early as you can, perhaps even before baby arrives.

Going back to work

Many parents enjoy going back to work. It can help you reconnect with people and activities outside home, and add variety to your daily routines.

When it comes to your work arrangements, try to look at all your options and find what works for you. It doesn’t matter what your friends or people on TV do – choose the option that’s best for your family

Once you’ve looked into arrangements at work, it’s worth getting started with child care – for example, looking into child care types and child care costs and government assistance. It might be a while off, but it’s worth considering the main issues, because most centres have waiting lists. When will you need child care? Is it available locally? Does it make sense financially?

Organising things at work

Try to find out early what family-friendly policies your employer has in place. What options are included in your workplace agreement?

Some things covered by workplace agreements include the following:

  • pregnancy at work – there might be flexibility for women who are preparing to give birth
  • working from home (or telecommuting) some or all of the time. If you have the kind of job where you work on a computer and can keep in contact with the office by email, this can be a great way of working. Of course, if you drive a crane or work on a supermarket checkout, it’s not an option
  • job-sharing with a similarly qualified and capable employee – perhaps you know of someone who would consider doing this with you
  • regular part-time work
  • parental leave – check what arrangements your workplace has for parental leave. Australia introduced a paid parental leave scheme from 1 January 2011 and Dad and Partner Pay from 1 January 2013. You might like to check with the Family Assistance Office to see whether you’re eligible
  • work-based arrangements for child care, or even a child care service connected with your workplace
  • breastfeeding in the workplace
  • carers leave – this is days allowed for employees to care for a sick child or loved one
  • flexible work hours – for example, you might be able to arrive late and work late or vice versa, or work longer hours for four days rather than five days of the week.

Here are some ideas to make the first few months back at work easier:

  • Can you ask for flexible start and finish times?
  • Can you organise to work part-time for the first week or two after going back to work?
  • What about meetings and other commitments outside of normal working hours? Can you set limits on working out of hours?
  • If you want to breastfeed while working, what are your employer’s policies and facilities?
  • Do your workmates or friends know of any local child care and school holiday care options?
  • Would it make sense to change shifts to a time when your partner can be at home to care for your child?

Talking to your boss

You might feel a bit nervous about asking your boss for flexible arrangements. Here are a few ideas to help you out:

  • Think about exactly what it is you want. Then think about it from your manager’s point of view – does it seem practical? Try to come up with some reasons your suggestion is good for the business as well as for you. Consider any problems your boss might have with your idea, and try to think of solutions.
  • If other people at your work have flexible arrangements, talk with them about how it’s working and what they proposed to their boss. If their arrangements are working out well, you could talk to their boss about the best ways to approach your manager.
  • If you’re a member of a union, your union might have suggestions for you.
  • Try to approach negotiations calmly. If you’re very nervous or think you might get defensive or angry, think about writing to your manager instead of arranging a meeting.
  • Ask for a little more than you want. Leave yourself space to be negotiated down.

Changes to work and family life

The workplace has changed a lot in the last 20 years. These changes include longer working hours, more women with children in the workplace, more men taking part in child care at home, a rise in part-time and casual jobs, huge leaps in technology (especially communications), and an ageing workforce.

The modern family has evolved too. There are more single-parent families, separated families and dual-income families. Child care options are becoming more and more expensive.

Lots of options, lots of things to think about.

  • Last updated or reviewed 10-08-2011