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Return To Work: How To Make Your Support System Work The Way It Truly Should

Posted: July 22, 2019

For most working mothers, a support system for childcare doesn’t just ‘happen’ – it needs to be created and navigated.

A rising number of women today rejoin the workforce after motherhood, whether immediately after maternity leave, or after a break. However, the art of balancing motherhood and one’s career is akin to walking on a tightrope for a lot of moms.

As one of my friends puts it, “It is nothing less than a juggling act with nurseries, after-school care, early morning and late evening care options, holiday camps and much more.”

While there are various support systems available to help parents juggle childcare and career, ultimately every mom needs to identify and set up a system that works for her.

Support systems for mothers returning to work

Cultivate a strong fellow parent network

Having a strong network of like-minded parents can make a big difference in the way we cope with childcare routines. These could range from mothers in your apartment or neighbourhood to mothers you meet through Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups or local city groups.

Today, for many mothers, such support groups are the go-to group for advice on any issue, practical or emotional. They become our source of comfort, and a non-judgmental place where it is okay to share the problems you are facing.

It is also important to cultivate networks with other parents who can look out for your child in an emergency; for example, if both parents in a family are unavoidably held up at work, a parent whose child goes to the same school could be deputed as the emergency pick-up, while you do the same for her child when needed.

As a fellow mom told me, “I rely so much on this group of friends. Not only does it help me when I am stuck, but just to keep me sane.”   

Identify what you need in daycare

For a dual parent working family, it is ideal if the daycare is near either parent’s place of work and has flexible timing options as emergencies can arise with children at any time. Having early morning drop-offs and late evening pick up options even if at a slightly higher charge can help mothers manage work and childcare without undue anxiety. Here again, the parent network comes in very handy when identifying a suitable daycare.

Companies like Accenture have tied up with reputed daycare providers so that parents do not need to worry about the quality of care or about drop and pick-up arrangements. As Divya, Software Engineer Team Lead at Accenture Technology, Bengaluru says, “The daycare facilities are a true blessing. They offer full-day support for my children, while engaging them with activities that focus on age-appropriate educational milestones. My children’s daily progress keeps me motivated. I can drop my kids, come to the office and work. I do have complete focus on my work because everything is taken care of in daycare.”

You can hear more about Career Reboot here, which enables women to return to work with a host of supportive measures including daycare:

Setting expectations with your child’s caregiver

A fellow mom, who is part of the same local mom support group I am, says that she hired a nanny and had cameras installed all over the house but in a transparent manner – while informing the nanny as well. In the beginning, the couple would check in regularly to see the happenings at home but after a while when mutual trust was built, they didn’t feel the need to keep on monitoring. Setting expectations right in the beginning is important for such a relationship to work at both personal and professional levels.

Defining boundaries with family

As another fellow mom tells me, she is extremely lucky to have her parents do everything for her son whilst she is at work – especially since she is in a challenging, demanding and full-time job.  Many parents feel that there is no more secure and warmer place than one’s own family to raise a child. However, with families, there are no set rules or well-defined boundaries and so things can become uncomfortable at times.

Even with very close family, one must continue to thank them and express gratitude for putting in efforts to raise one’s child. Like everyone else, they need to hear appreciation and commendation for their selfless work. At the same time, help family members understand what your boundaries are – which aspects of childcare can be completely left to their discretion and which aspects you are particular about.

Flexible work options

Another big source of support for many working mothers, especially with young children, is flexible work schedules that allow them to work for part of the time from home, and come in as needed for work meetings. Having this discussion with your manager, and communicating how you would continue to handle work professionally, can be a big boost to your career.

Today, companies like Accenture are at the forefront of enabling mothers to work flexibly, and identifying arrangements that allow mothers to continue working productively while they raise families. These include programs such as Career Reboot, which allow mothers returning from a break to settle in smoothly.

In summary, while life does not flow uninterrupted according to set calendar schedules, there are always unforeseen circumstances that send our carefully laid out plans in a tailspin.

Some options work better for some people than others. As a fellow mom so aptly put it, “I have run the full gamut of options at various points in time—full-time nanny, daycare, live-in help, qualified childcare, in-laws, cooks, cleaners, and emergency backups.”

Identify what works for you and your family, and be flexible to make it work for everyone involved. The mantra is, whatever it takes!   

In association with Accenture

I have worked in the financial sector as a banking executive and in the field

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