So, you want to be a Mum AND work?

“Social Media tells me it’s possible but HR will probably say no.”

It kind of feels like it never ends. You prepare for pregnancy and give yourself a huge pat on the back when you get through that (scars and all). Sleepless nights they said? Yup, nailed it (nailing it) and I can now function on 30%-50% less sleep than I previously had. Return to work? Yes, did that. Took a lot of deep breaths through the guilt and baby withdrawals but I managed it.

The world now begins to paint a picture for you. Apparently, the new “norm” is a mother who works, manages the kid(s) and the home all while maintaining her own sanity- #tooeasy.

No, this is not another mum blog. I am simply here to tell you this:

Your plans to return to work at six/nine/twelve months etc. and work full time or part time with a potential commute, might not be as achievable as you once thought. And, should you at some point sit back and think “I cannot do this”, you are absolutely entitled to re-evaluate your availability and arrangements to best suit you, without an ounce of guilt or shame.

Changing arrangements (in a respectful way) to suit you and your family are completely normal. It does not diminish your dependability or your loyalty.

From a mother who has navigated the return to work path, while implementing changes and managing employees throughout the years, here is my advice to you.

Workplaces and commitments can change post baby. Not all, but some do. Remember, the best-laid plans often go awry. What was once on paper looking manageable, in reality might not be.

In walks your friend FWA(Flexible Working Arrangements).

Flexible working arrangements is not a fluffy-story, heard about in far off lands, it is a legal right to request these working arrangements in Australia.

As per the Fair Work Act 2009, employees are eligible to request flexible working arrangements in the following circumstances:

the employee is a parent, or has responsibility for the care of a child who is of school age or younger.
It sounds great, right?! You need something more suited to your current life schedule and responsibilities, and you have a legal Act backing you up. Here comes the plot twist…your request can be refused.

According to Fair Work, an employer can refuse it based on “reasonable business grounds”.

Here is where you will likely be met with two scenarios.

Your company genuinely cannot facilitate this. It can happen and although with technology changing and the fact it will inevitably happen less, it is still very much a possibility for some businesses.
Your company have refused your request without genuine reason. “Reasonable” business grounds are a very grey area and not easily defined.
What can sometimes happen next?

Be prepared for your work relationship to change if it is refused, especially if it is not for a valid reason. I have worked with many individuals who have experienced a negative change in their work environment following these requests/refusals. This can be from team members or management and both are completely unacceptable.

On the flip side, I know quite a few businesses that have either helped to implement these requests or created alternatives for staff if they cannot commit to the entire proposed changes, and compromise is a great starting point!

Your relationship with your employer when returning to work is HUGE. Much more than anyone will ever realise. It can affect mental workloads and stress, and when you mix that with the emotions of having children, it can be a different ball game than you once knew.

Be very aware of what you can change and request. If your employer says no and you understand and accept the reason, take time to think if the current requirements will genuinely continue to work for you. If your employer says no and you feel it is unfair, contact Fair Work for ways in which you can move forward. Being valued for your contribution is a necessity in a work place and you need to challenge any situations where you are not being fairly treated.

Time to wrap it up…

So here is where you can start. Hack into your work mindset now and in a firm voice tell yourself things might change, and be okay with that. When or if that time comes, be firm with yourself in what you can and cannot do. Know that depending on your location, legislation and certain organisations are there to empower you to get that balance, and that you may have to make some changes and reach out to some new faces to establish yourself within a team that values your input and can meet you half way, at the very least.

*For a full breakdown on the Fair Work Act 2009 regarding Flexible Working Arrangements, from requirements to assessing outcomes, follow this link. All advice in this article is based on information provided by current legislation and it it not intended as legal advice.

About the Author

Mum to three year old Mr. T, attempting to master the ever-changing #mumlife while working on my little biz encouraging others to seize opportunities at work. Big believe in achieving balance!
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