Checklist: Going Back To Work After Kids?

The big questions every parent should ask themselves before accepting that job offer.

When I finally made the decision to return to work after time off raising my two children, I had a thousand questions running on a loop in my mind and no real sense of how to get the answers.

Questions like: should I return part-time or full-time; how will I be perceived as a working parent; which childcare is best; am I crazy; replay loop.

After speaking to thousands of working parents in many of Australia’s top companies and small businesses, I came to realise there were actually only four questions you really needed to ask yourself when considering a return to work or assessing whether a job offer is right for you now that you have kids.

If you’re already a working parent but it’s not panning out the way you’d hoped, these questions are a great tool for you to assess and understand your current level of job satisfaction and identify where positive changes could be made.

Equally, if you’re a manager or working in HR and looking for ways to better support working parents, use this tool to attract, retain and engage working parents in your workplace.

So, what are the magic questions you really need to ask before you accept that job offer?

Can I Work Here?

This is ground-zero stuff. If you can’t check off every item on this first list, run far, far away from this job.

  • The company has policies, entitlements and procedures for working parents, as well as flexible work options and arrangements. (Check the company website, google their background and visit the Workplace Gender Equality Agency online for further information.)
  • Company policies and procedures are transparent – the interviewer openly shares information and examples of flexible work options.
  • I have childcare that works for me and my child.

Can I Perform Here?

Consider where you’re at and the qualities of your direct manager who, let’s face it, can make or break a great job. Can you confidently check off…

  • I have realistic expectations about my career, such as skills, experience and goals.
  • I have my head and heart around my new life as a parent.
  • I’ve accepted the impact being a parent has on my career.
  • I’m physically rested (seven to eight hours of sleep per night).
  • My mind is energised by this role – I feel alive with ideas and excitement about how I can contribute and what I’ll be working on.
  • There is open and regular communication with my manager – consider the interviewer’s communication style while applying for the job and how easily you build rapport.
  • There is open and regular communication with the team – ask to meet the team and take a walk around the office to assess the ‘vibe’.

Can I Belong Here?

This question helps you assess whether you can really feel part of the company now you know you can get the job done.

Time to get creative with your job-interview questions so you can dig up some detail…

  • How do you like to celebrate a big win?
  • Can you tell me about the people who work here and what it takes to be successful in this role/company?
  • Tell me more about the person I’ll be replacing…
  • Do you have a social club?

Look for telltale signs like pictures of kids and their artwork decorating office walls

Can you say to yourself…

  • I can be open about being a working parent.
  • The company culture supports and is positive about, working parents and flexibility.
  • My manager, team and fellow workers genuinely support working parents.
  • There are role models of success for me in the company.

Can I Thrive Here?

If you’ve made it to this question, you’ve likely picked a company that could be perfect for you. Here’s a final checklist:

  • I have a level of control over when and where I work (and rest and play!).
  • I work smarter not harder – I don’t fit a full-time week into part-time hours, and I have support systems in place.
  • I have my own identity as a parent.
  • Working parents are promoted and rewarded in this company.

By asking these questions you can become clearer about where you’re currently at work-wise, then develop a plan for getting the job that will really suit you as a working parent.

Words by Karen Miles / Photography by Lia Leslie

Guest Contributor