Fitting in both family and career

Information about qualifications, experience and the typical career path
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Fitting in both family and career

Post by miriam » Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:47 am

It is possible!

Different people find different things suit them, or happen to them, in the order of life events. I put off having kids until I felt established in my career, but I know plenty of people who had kids before their first degree, as assistants, as trainees, and as newly qualified CPs. Each found a way to manage the work-life balance that suited their circumstances. The great thing is that the NHS is really good about maternity leave, career breaks and ensuring that women of child-bearing age are not descriminated against when employing. The NHS gives plenty of paid leave with the option of a career break of up to two years without damaging your career, along with the options of part-time work or job sharing whilst kids are small.

So, if I take maternity leave in the NHS what am I entitled to?
If you have at least a year of continuous service by the time you become pregnant, you get a really good package of maternity benefits from the NHS. This includes being entitled to take time off as required to attend antenatal appointments, being entitled to have your job plan changed to make the work safe and appropriate for a pregnant woman, and then a better package of leave than most other employers. This is currently 8 weeks full pay, then 18 weeks of half pay plus SMP, then 13 weeks of SMP only, followed by a further 13 weeks of optional unpaid leave. You can ask your trust to calculate the total for the year and then divide it into 12 even payments to make it easier to budget if you wish. Importantly, you accumulate continuous service, increments and annual leave during the whole of this year. You can also negotiate to work up to 10 paid days during the year to keep in touch with work - for example to attend team away days, to present at a conference or training event, to meet with managers, etc.

So, for example, I took a year off work to have my twins. My time off started with a period of being signed off sick as I was unable to walk and was on crutches, then became maternity leave the day the babies arrived prematurely. Over the course of the year I worked a few KIT days (including some to take union advice and meet with managers about TUPE arrangements as our service was taken over by another trust) and I returned to work with lots of leave in hand that allowed me to effectively begin back on a part-time basis for a few months whilst still being a full-time post :)

What about getting pregnant during training?

I don't think courses are biased against parents, but I do think it can make the path to training extra challenging. If you get pregnant during training, the typical thing is to take a placement out (if you want 6 months off, and can manage to access the teaching sessions and otherwise keep up) or to drop back a year. You should get paid maternity leave, and most courses are fairly sympathetic, as this isn't a rare phenomenon.

Don't forget that if you are working you can get working parents tax credits, and many hospitals and universities have creche facilites that are of good quality and not always as expensive as private nurseries.

But how about earlier in the career path?

Not all jobs that would count as relevant experience have difficult shifts, or are impossible to get, or require volunteer work. In fact I have never done shift work, or voluntary work, and nor have many of the trainees and assistants I meet. Think about support work, care assistant posts, work for social services, work for voluntary organisations, home carer, ABA worker with a child with autism, nursing assistant, audit/research, etc etc. But also think about things that your child is the way into - working at a nursery, or mums and tots group, as classroom support for a child with special needs, running a local parent's group, etc.

Sally added
I would very much like to encourage more parents to go into clinical psychology - they are still very much under-represented on training courses. However I think that the tone above is perhaps a bit too up-beat about how easy it is. In many areas there is intense competition for suitable jobs, and paid work in daylight hours can be very difficult to come by without previous experience in the area. Most parents are not geographically mobile, so are further restricted in the jobs that they can apply for.

I got my 'foot-in-the-door' job by doing evening admin work for a private psychology group. I'd also add that my children look back on my time at a community project with some fondness, and think that mixing with the service users there has taught them some valuable life skills and brought them into contact with some interesting people, so don't rule out e.g. voluntary work because you can't arrange childcare. Not everything will be suitable for children, but creative thinking in this area might be good for you and them.

I found it terribly isolating not knowing anyone else in the same position, and would have appreciated knowing that someone apart from me had tried and succeeded!

Astra added
I agree. I don't think we should underestimate how tough it is for parents to get on in this career. I was lucky to have two AP posts under my belt before taking mat leave, and then was quite lucky to get an AP post shortly after I was ready to return to work. But then it took a lot of negotiation and a major family crisis (child diagnosed with disability) to get the job down to part-time. This is not normally an option for clinical training though. I struggled valiantly through my first year of training but nearly had to quit when my child appeared to be developing a serious health problem related to the disability, however the issue fortunately disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. Nevertheless the course then offered an option to go part time which gave me a "day off" every week. this just about gave me time to do most of my coursework within the working week without using evenings and weekends and gave me more flexibility for dealing with hospital appointments. However, the demands of the course just escalated and by the third year I was really struggling even with this arrangement. Luckily I'm married to a teacher and I was able to capitalise on the school holidays by literally working 10 hours a day seven days a week on my thesis for most of the school holidays that year, while he did, well, everything! I know my circumstances may be a little more tricky than most but my child's issues are not that major on a day to day level, and I do only have one child, the thing is you never know what life's going to throw at you and when you have kids sometimes it throws a little more than you'd like. I have to add that I had a great childcare provider based in school and great support at home - not everybody has that. As I am now enjoying a period of unemployment I'm looking back and wondering how the hell I ever did it. I suppose I would like the take-home message here to be that it is do-able but it is terribly hard to get through and you do need to be pretty lucky with the availability of AP type jobs, the flexibility to go part-time and the support you get from the course.

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Content checked by Workingmama on 24/6/19
Last modified on 19/04/2012
Last edited by miriam on Wed May 02, 2007 7:20 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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