Careers advice

Real work stories: returning to the workforce

We talked to a working mum about her experiences of returning to the workforce in NZ after having children.

For mums, returning to the workforce after having kids can be tough, and you’ve probably got a million questions flying round your head. “Where should I start looking?”, “are my skills outdated?”, “will I be able to get the work/home balance right?”.

Sometimes, the best way to move forward is to hear from someone who’s been there and done it. So, with this in mind, we spoke to Trade Me’s own Tracey Robins, who’s successfully achieved the working mum juggling act for over a decade. 

Before children arrived on the scene, Tracey worked as a Home Loan Marketing Manager at ANZ. In the last 12 years, as well as bringing up her four kids (now aged between 2 and 12), she’s worked on and off for both ANZ and Trade Me.

Today, we’re very lucky to have her as a part-time Campaign Manager in our Consumer Experience department. Here’s what she had to say:

You need to find a job that gives you the unique balance you seek.

When did you know it was time to go back to work?

I was ready to go back to work when I felt like my kids were not entirely dependent on me. I initially gave up returning to my previous role after my maternity leave, which was a difficult choice. I just felt like I wasn’t ready to go back to my previous role. But everyone is different. Some parents I’ve spoken to have no choice but to go back, for others they need it. Staying at home with kids is hard work, and not for everyone.

How did you go about getting a job?

The first thing I did when I wanted to get back into the workforce was reach out to my network – some previous work colleagues and managers.

Getting that unicorn job is tough. Part time jobs for mums returning to work can be really hard to find. It’s great when people know you and your work style and can trust that you can do a good job, even at part time hours. Not everyone had work available but I wanted to be top of mind if anything came up.

What was the hardest thing to overcome?

For me the hardest thing to overcome was a fear that I wouldn’t be able to do the job, after being out of the workforce for around three years. Combine this with “will I be able to manage the home life and be there for my kids?” concerns, and you have some good old fashioned working mum guilt and self doubt. That’s a lethal combination.

However, I knew I’d also learnt things from being a mum. For example, I’d gained some mean time management, dispute resolution, event planning, multitasking and communication skills that are highly sought after in the workplace.

As a parent you'll have learnt a host of highly sought after soft skills.

What was the most important attribute of the job you chose?

The most important thing was finding flexible work. It makes life easier when you can leave earlier and make up the time later or work from home. For me, being a working mum is all about going hard while I’m working. Being super efficient. Sometimes at the cost of socialising or saying no to extra team activities.

One key thing for me, was being there to pick them up from school - this is when they share their day. I think it's an important bonding time – being able to finish in time or duck out is really good.

What did you enjoy most about getting back to work?

I must admit I really enjoyed the people side of getting back to work. Chatting about your day and catching up with adults. Also being able to pop out and treat yourself with lunch or a coffee stop. In terms of my role, it was great to be part of some exciting work – creating and making a difference outside of the family!

What child care did you use?

I was lucky with my child care options, which actually made it easier to get back to work. I had some family members that were able to help out. But I also used some creches, kindy and sometimes full child care at different times. I’ve tried them all.