Prioritise your now.
Mum to three beautiful children and Senior Marketing Manager at Westpac Foundation & Westpac Scholars Trust.
As I parked the car outside the trendy café in Surry Hills, Sydney, I could feel the knot forming in the pit of my stomach and my breath become a little shorter. I had been rehearsing my resignation spiel for my entire 45 minute trip, but as I sat there in the car no longer having to concentrate on navigating the city at peak hour, I started doubting myself and my mind went into scenario planning mode (a true sign of a mother!). What if my decision disappoints my boss or even angers him after he has waited 10 months for my return to work? Will I ever find another part-time job again? Is it worth going through the struggle of finding a job and then having to prove myself? What if he suggests I take more time to make this decision or entices me back with more money (unlikely but a girl has got to dream, right!).
On paper, my role ticked the return to work boxes – part-time, some flexibility with my hours and working from home when required, a decent salary, good people who respect me as a team member, and I didn’t feel marginalised for not being in the office five days a week. But here is the catch, while I had been on maternity leave, I had moved home and the office has moved location putting a significant distance between us. The logistics of managing my family’s needs and work commitments with the complicated commute was overwhelming. No matter how many hours my husband and I spent crafting possible schedules with his work commitments or contacting long daycare centres or nannies or au pairs, we couldn’t find a solution that worked for all five of us.
When returning to work with my second child, I learnt a valuable life lesson that was the key driver for my pending resignation. In short, I kept my first child in a daycare close to where I worked so that when I returned back for the second time, I would be all sorted with my care arrangements and logistics. It meant for the year I was on maternity leave, the kids spent a lot of their time ‘commuting’ 34km round trip, I missed valuable morning walks connecting with other parents and my baby missed sleeps in his cot. I never returned to that workplace because I got a great job offer elsewhere so all my long term planning backfired. BIGTIME. The lesson I learned was that I needed to make the decisions that worked best for now so that I wasn’t enduring life for a future perceived benefit, but living it. Of course, we all need to have long term plans and work towards those but not at the cost of your present circumstances. Each decision we make will take us on a path and sometimes the outcome is better than the one we planned for in advance. Revisiting this lesson reaffirmed that the best outcome for me and my family right now was for me to resign.
The café was buzzing with employed people on a mission to grab their caffeine fix and get on with their busy day. I saw my boss dressed in his signature open collared shirt casually reading the paper at a table in the corner. One thing I always respected about him was his honesty but now I was nervous to be on the receiving end of how he would take my news. To my surprise, he was supportive of my decision and shared his story of how his wife had also chosen to prioritise their family to allow him to focus on getting his business up and running. I left on great terms with him and I almost melted with relief as I slid back into my car seat to make the drive home. I was feeling lighter than ever before knowing I had made the right decision for now. Even though the future was uncertain, this was a better outcome than the stress and pressure I would undeniably inflict on myself and my family to make this work, work.
Ironically, not long after I resigned, I started working with FlexCareers as I am deeply passionate about flexible work to help families thrive. I spent the next few years working from home and now I work part-time at a respected Not for Profit within a financial institution which I love. I don’t think I would have been on this career path if I hadn’t made decisions along the way to make the best of the current life phase I was in. Instead of rolling with the punches, call the shots! With my littlest starting school next year, I feel like the level of unpredictability is starting to plateau and getting a sense of what it feels like to have more control over my time. I’m excited about what the next chapter holds for me and my family and enjoying this journey called life.
Note to reader: Thank you for reading my story. Another very important lesson I have learnt through three return to work experiences is that we are all different and our unique circumstances means we need different work and life arrangements. I remember once thinking to myself, ‘How does she manage to work full-time, and I can’t even manage 3 days of work’? But then I had a husband who did a lot of international travel, a daughter who needed significant educational support, an extra human to raise and different career ideals! We are all different. What works for us and our families is different. Do what works for you! Good luck.