Returning to work after having a baby

Finding the right balance

Balancing work commitments with family responsibilities can be stressful and exhausting. But the reality for many families - both single parent and couple households - is that the primary care giver, often the woman, will work either full-time or part-time.

Here are some tips that may help you strike the right work-life balance.

Thinking of returning to work?

Returning to work after having a baby can feel overwhelming. There are many competing demands on your time and you may feel torn between work priorities and spending time with your family.

Set up clear expectations at home

Sharing the care responsibilities will help take some of the pressure off you.  If you are in a relationship, it's very important to discuss expectations about who will pick up and drop off your child at childcare and who will take leave when your child is ill. This might also be a good time to discuss domestic responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning.

Set up clear expections at work

Before you return to work, talk to your employer about how you can balance your care responsibilities with your work commitments. This is also a good opportunity to discuss the possibility of flexible work arrangements. For example, if you need to leave the office at 5.00pm to collect your child from childcare but really need to meet a deadline at work, you may be able to finish the task by working from home later in the day. 

Adjusting to a new income

It's a good idea to create a budget of your income and the extra expenses such as childcare that you might have so you know what income is coming in and what is going out.

Work out where your money is going.

Budget planner

Know your legal rights

There are a number of laws you may need to be aware of, including:

Non-government organisations, for example working women's centres and some women's legal centres, provide free and confidential information, support, advice and advocacy services to women on work-related issues. They can help women who are at work or thinking about returning to work. For more information or to locate your nearest Working Women's Centre.

Accessing child care

It is a good idea to place your child on a number of waiting lists, even if you have your heart set on a particular childcare centre. Keep in touch with these centres on a regular basis to see if any vacancies come up and to let them know you are still interested. Unfortunately, the decision to place your child in care close to your home or work is not always in your control and may depend largely on where a vacancy is offered to you.

For more information on a variety of childcare including vacancies and some fee information, visit the my child website.

Accessing government assistance

In Australia, government assistance for families with children in childcare is available as the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), which helps with the cost of approved child care by making payments directly to your child care provider. The CCS will not be paid into your bank account. The CCS replaced the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate from 2 July 2018.

Payments under the CCS are determined by your combined family income, the amount of time you spend working or studying and the type of child care service.

To estimate how much support your family is likely to receive from the CCS, visit the Department of Education and Training's online Family Child Care Subsidy Estimator.

Saving for your children's future

If you have any extra funds, you might consider making an investment to support your children's future, be it for university, for particular schooling choices or just to help them with a bit of a head start. See saving for your children's education.

Make a will and keep it up to date

Having a will is always a good idea but particularly if you have a partner and/or children. It is equally important that if you have a partner, he or she also has a will. Even if you don't think you have many assets to distribute, wills are a handy way to let others know things that are important to you, such as who you would like your children to live with. For more information see wills and powers of attorney.

You should also consider life insurance as a way to protect your family's future.

Superannuation for women

Women face unique challenges when it comes to retirement savings. Time out of the workforce to care for children or elderly parents is likely to affect your income and also your ability to accumulate superannuation. The good news is that by returning to work after having a baby, you will be contributing to your super giving yourself increased opportunity for economic independence and security in later life.

Work out how working part-time or taking a break from paid work affects your super in retirement.

Retirement planner

Whatever your age and no matter how much money you have, now is the time to start building your super.

Returning to work after having a baby can be stressful. Think through the different options and find what works best for you.

Related links

Last updated: 29 Jan 2019