This is a five part blog series focused on the finan­cial aspects of hav­ing chil­dren.  Specif­i­cal­ly, the issues one should con­sid­er pri­or to bring­ing a child into a fam­i­ly.  This is part three, Are You Going Back to Work. To read the first, Hav­ing the “Seri­ous” Talk, click here.  To read the sec­ond, Bud­get­ing for a Baby, click here. The last two blogs will be pub­lished at one week intervals.


Going back to workThe deci­sion to go back to work after hav­ing a baby is a per­son­al one, and often depends on many fac­tors.  Maybe you want to work because you enjoy your job, or maybe you have no choice but to work because it’s the only way you can sur­vive finan­cial­ly.  Or per­haps you want to stay home and you’ve spent the past few years shoring up your finances.  What­ev­er you decide, know that your deci­sion isn’t etched in stone.  Women, much more so than men, tend to move in and out of the work­force to accom­mo­date chil­dren.  So what­ev­er you do this year might not be what you’re doings two, five or ten years from now. 


If you don’t plan to return to work:

  • Find out if you employ­er will pay you for any unused vacation/sick time.
  • Be up-front about your plans and remain on good terms with your super­vi­sor and col­leagues in the event you change your mind about work­ing or need a ref­er­ence in the future.
  • Pay down debt where possible.
  • Try to live on one pay­check before you leave work, which can help you cut non-essen­tial spending.
  • If you have fed­er­al stu­dent loans, a defer­ment or for­bear­ance request can give you a six-month reprieve from pay­ing them.
  • Con­tin­ue to save for retirement—you can estab­lish and con­tribute to your own IRA (tra­di­tion­al or Roth) based on your spouse’s earn­ings under the spousal IRA rules.
  • Keep your pro­fes­sion­al skills up-to-date by tak­ing occa­sion­al cours­es, net­work­ing, read­ing trade pub­li­ca­tions, and so on, and be on the look­out for new opportunities.


If you plan to go back to work:

  • Con­firm your mater­ni­ty leave with your employ­er.  In cas­es of adop­tion, does your com­pa­ny offer leave? Is the leave paid leave?  Can you extend your paid time off with unpaid leave?  Can your part­ner take pater­ni­ty leave?  Make sure you know your rights under the law—the Fam­i­ly and Med­ical Leave Act requires 12 weeks of unpaid for cer­tain employees.
  • Talk to your super­vi­sor about your cur­rent job respon­si­bil­i­ties and plan for your leave as much as pos­si­ble.  Who will han­dle your work when you’re out?  What can you expect when you come back?
  • If you’d like to mod­i­fy your cur­rent sched­ule, think about your ide­al work arrange­ment, then request a meet­ing with your super­vi­sor to dis­cuss your well-thought out pro­pos­al.  Would you like to work full-time, but with two days telecom­mut­ing from home?  Four longer days instead of five reg­u­lar days?  Part-time?  Flex hours, like 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.?  Every par­ents sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent in terms of part­ner avail­abil­i­ty for child care and out­side child arrange­ments.  Some­times, a flex­i­ble work arrange­ment can mean the dif­fer­ence between being able to stay in the work­force or hav­ing to leave it, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.  And clear­ly, flex­i­ble work arrange­ments are the wave of the future as more women (and men) request them in order to bal­ance work and fam­i­ly.  If your boss has con­cerns, pro­pose a tri­al peri­od, for exam­ple 3 or 6 months, where both sides can come back to the table and eval­u­ate how things are working.
  • Start research­ing child care options now.  Com­pare facil­i­ties, qual­i­ty, cost, and avail­abil­i­ty.  At work, con­tribute to a depen­dent care flex­i­ble spend­ing account (if avail­able) so your child care costs won’t become part of your tax­able income. 


If you return to work, try to keep every­thing in per­spec­tive as best you can.  Work­ing out­side the home with young chil­dren requires a sig­nif­i­cant amount of men­tal and phys­i­cal sta­mi­na.  For some peo­ple, it’s the hard­est, busiest time of their lives.  At work, you may face super­vi­sors who are skep­ti­cal of your ded­i­ca­tion to the job or assume you can’t or don’t want to take on chal­leng­ing, high-lev­el assign­ments, which can lim­it oppor­tu­ni­ties for rais­es and promotions. 


At home, women in dual-earn­er house­holds often face pri­ma­ry respon­si­bil­i­ty for a seem­ing­ly end­less to-do list of house­hold and child-relat­ed chores.  If you’re mar­ried, make sure your spouse is an equal part­ner in these respon­si­bil­i­ties and that you’re not try­ing to “do it all”.  Encour­age open com­mu­ni­ca­tion and real­is­tic expec­ta­tions.  Even then, be pre­pared for times when it’s hard to bal­ance every­thing.  In those moments, take com­fort in the fact that you are pro­vid­ing for you and your child’s finan­cial future and doing the best you can.


Final­ly, remem­ber that no arrange­ment is per­ma­nent.  You might stay home for a while and then decide you want to go back to work, or vice ver­sa.  Try to keep an open mind and be flex­i­ble when fac­ing the real­i­ties, finan­cial and oth­er­wise, that come your way.


Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy all those moments with your child that you can’t put a price on!! 


Read Part 1 — Hav­ing the “Seri­ous” Talk 

Read Part 2 — Bud­get­ing for a Baby

Read Part 4 — Finan­cial Plan­ning for Adop­tive Parents

Read Part 5 — Becom­ing a Step-Parent