While not everyone experiences it or feels the need to make an adjustment to their career after having children, a lot of people do make changes. I work mostly with female clients and although some women don't make any changes to their work post-baby, most commonly women go back to work on a part-time basis. And for many this works - particularly if they have a workplace supportive of flexible arrangements. However, sadly that's not always the case.
I recently worked with a client who was not so lucky, with management so unsupportive of flexible arrangements that she resigned. She's now trying to get a role in government, which she hopes will be more supportive. However, another client was encouraged to apply for a promotion while on maternity leave due to an organisational restructure. Not great timing, but at least they were encouraging her to apply for the more senior role!
I've personally had many career adjustments since having children. After my first child I worked three days, then went up to four days a week. But I found the management role I was in fairly stressful so I found myself a lower-paid, less stressful role at another organisation, negotiating a full-time role down to four days. This was very much a 9-5 job and a lot less stressful. It was perfect.
After baby number two I went back 3.5 days a week, working the half day from home, and this worked quite well for a while. However, before I left to have baby number three my role was made redundant. Despite the uncertainty, I felt grateful to receive a redundancy to allow me to take a decent amount of time off with the kids and consider a career/sector change. I took nearly two years off work and then started applying for jobs in a different sector.
I found a new role and negotiated three days a week, but found it increasingly difficult to complete my work in the time and I was also finding it stressful managing childcare/school/nannies and the never-ending illnesses and injuries (if the kids weren't sick it was the nanny!). I couldn't get through a week of work without something needing re-arranging. Yes, my partner helped out, but as the main liaison person with school/childcare/ nanny the bulk of the stress fell to me. Add the stress of getting to pick-up on time and then trying to sort dinner, it was all too much. It didn't help that my new job wasn't a great fit for me!
So, after seeing a career coach I took the plunge, quit my job and started my own business. I love the flexibility of working from home. I have time to go to the gym, time to get dinner sorted before arsenic hour, and when the kids are sick it's no longer a logistical nightmare. Of course there are downsides. Less money, unpredictable money and lots of work after hours once the kids are in bed. But I love what I'm doing, so don't mind any of this.
Know your rights
Flexible working arrangements can be requested by the parent or carer of pre-school aged children. See the Fair Work Ombudsman website for information and seek advice if you feel you have not been treated fairly.
If you've been out of the workplace or a seeking a new role, it might be worth seeking out a family-friendly workplace. Many of my clients are looking to move into government departments due to their flexible work arrangement policies, but lots of corporations now tout their family friendliness.
Moving sectors or even just workplaces will require an updated CV, focusing on the skills they are looking for. Remember that most skills are transferable across roles and sectors. Also remember to replicate the language they use in the position description in your CV and cover letter.
Work for yourself
I'm not the only one seeking a career change or tweak to make their job fit around family life. A friend who recently had her third child is about to start her own online business, to be able to fit work around the kids and her partner's erratic work hours. Her previous role in retail management required long hours and lots of travel that she just couldn't see working within her available hours. Of course starting your own business is challenging but definitely worth consideration if you are finding your old job is just not working with your new life.
A complete change of career
So, you want to re-train for a new career that you think will be more suited to your post-baby life? Before you enrol into a course to help you with your new career direction, make sure it's definitely what you want to do. Can you do some volunteer or work experience first to find out?
Also consider whether or not you could change your career direction without re-training. Most skills are transferable and you might just need to re-frame your CV for the new job/sector. And some work experience or volunteer work could be the thing that gets you over the line.