Anyone who wants to get back to work after having a baby will often seek tips from those who have done exactly this before them. What happens to family life when the time comes to rejoin the workforce? How do you approach this juggling act? Gaining words of wisdom from those around you is one step to take or you can also go with your gut. Deciding the model that fits you and your family best is key.

Becoming a mother most likely creates a shift in your perspectives and your priorities in life. Like with any other major life change it offers the possibility to reflect on the path behind and provokes the question of ‘what next?’ While both mother and father are facing a new era, it is especially challenging for the one who pauses a career and becomes the major caregiver. In this blog post, I reflect on the different family models that are out there and how to decide what’s best for you.

Someone said to me that the timespan between being 20 and turning 40 feels like the highway of your life. There is a lot of traffic on the road for those two decades: deciding for a career path and exploring different levels of responsibility within the professional world, while becoming a parent, juggling the two different worlds of high priority emails and exploded diapers.

Which family model is the one for me?

child at home

There are a couple of different models to cope with the traffic on this highway. Some families decide for external help while others are using the so-called ‘nacheinanderprinzip’ (German for one career after the other) where the role of the caregiver is handed over like a baton after the children are a bit older. Other couples are aiming for the concept of becoming a ‘dual career couple’ creating a major support network around them.

Working part-time is another scenario where a mix of both is aimed for. Interestingly enough, part-time working has very different connotations in different countries. Germans, for example, are huge part-timers while Americans are more rooting towards full-time.

The public opinion ‘model’ is a special creature. I imagine her as a small, hairy and very curious little monster who shows up in your life: unexpected and uninvited. People share their beliefs and experiences out of generosity, the wish to help and support – but also out of jealousy and envy. It needs a good instinct to assess the motif correctly.

Finding your own model – the 5 Cs

Listening to all the different advice out there can be very helpful to brainstorm your options. Looking beyond your own social bubble will help you to see options that you haven’t ever thought about before. It can also help to look at other countries around the world to see how they are dealing with mothers rejoining the workforce. I clearly remember that for US women it was no question at all to return to work early on, while German mothers tend to evaluate staying at home for more than 1 year as totally appropriate.

To come to this point first: there is no right or wrong! It is just not written in stone. For every study that tells you that returning to work early will harm your child, there is another study showing that career women raise more self-confident daughters. In the end, you will find those statements and studies that will underpin your own beliefs and that is totally fine as long as your own beliefs are aligned with what you want in life and are not built solely on the world and opinions around you.

The tools of the 5 Cs that you need to make up your own mind are: Curiosity, Creativity, Communications, Courage and Community. See the visual below for details of what each of these tools can bring you.

the 5 Cs

Finding your very own family model is a complex one and for sure nothing that is set in stone but something that is adopting again and again to your changing needs. It is helpful to have people around you that support you, who nourish your wish to create your own model without judgement or unwanted advice – a community that provides a can do atmosphere and develop a growth mindset. Seek out what inspires, with space for courage and creativity to explore all your options and see what works for you as a person rather than focusing only on motherhood.

I would love to hear from you and your personal story of juggling family and business life! Let me know in the comments!

Explore all your options and see what works for you as a person rather than focusing only on motherhood

First published on Share the Love.

Katarina von Knobloch