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From professional to parent: can work and family be balanced effectively?

Is it possible to have it both ways and balance career and family effectively without jeopardising either?

The decision to start a family is now being made later and later in life, with recent figures showing that – for the first time ever – more women over 40 are giving birth than those under 20. Part of the reason for this is that many women, and indeed couples, are delaying having children for fear of it having a detrimental effect on their careers.

The first thing you need to think about if you are considering starting a family is what your ideal work-life balance would be after the baby arrives. For some families, part-time work for one or both parents is the right solution; others might opt for childcare, allowing them to return to full-time work. Whatever works for you as a single parent, couple of larger family will often boil down to your location, profession and finances, with these three things usually the main determining factors.

If the plan is to work reduced hours, you may find that suitable part-time positions are hard to come by. Rather than focusing solely on these, experts suggest broadening your job search to include full-time roles and negotiating flexibility once you have established that you are the right candidate for the role. Many employers are happy to have this discussion as long as they feel that you can do the job.

As already mentioned, finances play a big part in what happens once you have a family. Many people under or overestimate just how much money they will need to meet their financial obligations when they return to work; therefore, taking time to go over all your essential outgoings and the extras you would like to maintain your desired lifestyle will be time well spent.

Also bear in mind that once your child starts formal education in their reception years, the cost of childcare will significantly reduce. Although things might be a little tight in the early years, this will not be a permanent situation.

Another major consideration for many parents is their career. If you are career-focused and want to progress in your chosen field, look for family-friendly employers such as those open to job shares in senior roles. Remember that starting a family does not equate to an automatic demotion and don’t lower your expectations when there is no need.

Finally, it is important to remember that what appears to work for one family may not necessarily work for yours. The things that make you and your family unique will determine the best path for you and if your plan A does not work out, there is always plan B, C or even Z!

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