This ‘helpful’ comment from a SAHM came just before I went back to work. I mulled it over, went home, burst into tears and spent the next few days worrying that my baby would be utterly traumatised at being ‘abandoned’ by his mother and would think that I didn’t love him enough. Once I had spoken to my husband (who is happy I am back at work but never put me under any pressure to return so soon) I realised that I had taken the comment too much to heart and that I needed to let it go.
I went back to work last September when my baby boy was just over six months old. Had I been teaching full-time before his birth and therefore qualified for full (and very generous) teacher’s maternity leave I would probably have left it a little longer and enjoyed a few more months of eating cake and drinking tea. However, having been out of regular employment since arriving in Germany (bar a couple of weeks of supply) when what appeared to be the perfect teaching job came to my attention I had to make the decision to either remain out of work until we moved again this summer or take the opportunity to get another year under my belt. With a fairly dodgy looking CV as a result of all the moves I decided to find out a bit more information about what the post entailed and then make a decision.
Having engineered a meeting (in Costa naturally so I could have more cake) with my potential new boss I wrote down what I was looking for in a job so that I didn’t get bamboozled into taking on more than I wanted to. At our meeting she asked me what hours I could offer. I took a deep breath and said “two-three days and it all has to be local to where I live”. The response was positive, we talked a bit more about what the job would entail and it was agreed that contracts would be sent out. It was the easiest teaching position interview I have ever had! No lesson observations, no need to produce endless amounths of evidence to prove qualifications and courses attended etc etc etc etc and a month later the job was mine.
My next step was therefore finding childcare for Teddy which is a lot harder out here in British Forces Germany than it would be if I was in the UK. Having established that only one British nursery did the hours I would need and that it was a thirty minute drive from home I decided to go down the childminder route. The next few weeks saw a round of visits to local British childminders before I found the one that I thought would suit Teddy the best. Just before I went back to work Teddy did a number of settling sessions with his childminder which were all fine and which made my actual return to work much easier! He has been unbelievably settled and has never cryed or been clingy on a single drop-off. This is partly down to the fact that he has always been a relaxed baby happy to be held and looked after by other people but is mostly down to the incredible care he receives from his childminder. It has been good for him on so many levels; he is very sociable and enjoys playing with all children and his mobility and speech have greatly benefitted from him being around slightly older children. We also have the option in Germany of sending children to German nurseries. We opted not to do this knowing that we wouldn’t be staying here past 2014 and that there would be little benefit to Teddy in terms of language as we would not be in a position to carry on speaking to him in German once we left. If we were staying longer term I would definitely have considered it as having a second language would be fantastic for him. The German nurseries are also considerably cheaper in that you pay an amount depending on your earnings and even if you earn mega bucks this amount is very low in comparison to the UK.
I feel that returning to work was the correct decision for me but recognise that it does not work for everyone. I have been extremely lucky in that Teddy’s childminder is fantastic and that he is happy to be there; watching his face light up in the mornings when he spots the other children there is fantastic and I think that socialising in this way has been amazing for his development. As a result of our experience, I will try to find childcare for him on a couple of days when we move in the summer as even though I will probably not be working I think it is important that he remains happy to be looked after by other people.
The decision to return to work is a tricky one for all mothers and it is not an easy one to make. We hope to have more children and I know that the cost of childcare for more than one child would make returning to work in the UK nonsensical for me. I am therefore making the most of being able to have the best of both worlds whilst I can. Childcare is very cheap in British Forces Germany (I pay €5 per hour dropping down to €2.50 per hour in the school holidays when I do not need the care) which means that even my part-time salary is worth working for. Having looked at nurseries in the area we will be moving to in August it seems that I will be paying quite a bit more than that and he therefore will probably not be able to do the same number of hours until he starts on the subsidised sessions. I very much feel that I have the best of both worlds. I have Mondays and Fridays at home with Teddy and take him to baby groups or spend time with friends with babies on both of these days. We also enjoy just having a bit of a chill out though and if the weather is truly horrendous are happy just to potter around at home enjoying each other’s company. However, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I get to have grown up time where I can use the few brain cells that haven’t been zapped by child birth and enjoy three days of teaching.
Most importantly (at least in my materialistic eyes) I have my own money and can therefore buy new things that I don’t remotely need whenever I want…… And that is the main reason I returned to work!