For the first eight years of our children’s lives, my wife and I played our stereotypical gender roles. I was working long hours, first in banking, and then building FlexCareers. Emily had wanted take on the primary caring responsibilities for our kids, leaving a senior role in human resources to be a full time mum. It worked for us individually, as a couple, and as a family.
And then, after an eight-year career break, something sparked a fire in Emily’s belly – she wanted to return to work.
Hearing about all the women FlexCareers was helping to get back into work, speaking to her own friends, and seeing the broader social wave of women’s participation in the workforce on the rise definitely played a part, but perhaps more influential was that for the first time, Emily was seeing a large number of organisations offering genuine career opportunities on a flexible basis and she’d started to think, “what if?”.
Suddenly, having a young family and having a career didn’t need to be mutually exclusive.
Emily was over the moon to find a great role on a full-time flexible basis, as a HR Leader with an offshore technology company. It allowed her to pursue a career she loves, and continue to be there for our kids in the way that she wanted. And, after helping so many women return to work with FlexCareers, it gave me my first, real-life experience of the process!
So this one is for the husband’s and partner’s out there, a few things I (very quickly) learned.
- Get good at listening. Yes, your partner will be excited about getting back to work, but there will be lots going on that isn’t immediately evident. Emily was experienced, confident and capable, but she still had a fear of failure, and experienced gut wrenching guilt at ‘abandoning’ our children. It’s a time of mixed and complex emotions. You don’t need to have all the answers, you just need to listen.
- It’s time to re-evaluate the household tasks. I thought I did my share of work around the house, but when Emily started back at work it quickly became apparent that she was still doing the lion’s share – and she was exhausted. We were both working full-time now, so it was time to re-evaluate and get everyone to do more.
- Go easy on yourselves. You’ll both be tired. All anyone wants to do after a long day at work and the treadmill of getting kids home from school, to and from sports classes, fed and put to bed, is flop on the couch – and that’s ok. If the kids don’t wear matching socks to school tomorrow, and the dishes don’t get done, the world will keep turning.
- Negotiate flexibility at work. If you BOTH have flexibility around your working week, life will be so much easier. Figure out what will work for your family, and take a proposal to your boss outlining how it will work. Emily finishes her work day early so she can pick the kids up from school, and I do the school drop-offs in the mornings. I structure my days so that I can never see a client before 9:30 and I am yet to encounter this being an issue. People get it. If you need help to negotiate flexible working, you can download a handy tool-kit here.
- You will be shocked at the cost of childcare! It’s better to consider childcare as a family expense, rather than a cost of one parent returning to work. You just have to accept it and move on – it’s a short-term issue, and a career is a long-term investment that will yield greater future returns.
After an 8-year career break, returning to work was a huge event in my wife’s life – and I’m incredibly proud of her. Yes, it’s been difficult at times. Losing a full-time CEO of the household has changed the way our family functions, we’ve all had to become more flexible and more independent, and we all contribute more – even the kids. But it’s had nothing but a positive impact.
Has your partner returned to work recently? What have you struggled with, and what have you done to make it work for your family?
Joel McInnes, Co-Founder of FlexCareers, is an entrepreneur and business leader with 15 years experience in investment banking and financial services. Prior to founding FlexCareers, Joel was Head of Equity Derivatives at Citigroup for Australia/NZ, and was previously the Founder and CEO of IIT Capital, a startup proprietary trading firm. Joel has strong insight and a passion for the startup industry and is enjoying introducing disruptive innovation and technology into the jobs market.
Joel is a proud husband to a wonderful wife, with whom he shares three beautiful daughters.