Heading back to work after having a child is a difficult decision. For both mothers and fathers, working full-time (or even part-time) while raising a child is a balancing act that can take some time to perfect. While Hong Kong does offer paid parental leave, the time with your new-born simply flies by, and before you know it you’re out of your sweatpants and into your business suit.
In Hong Kong, mothers are entitled to 10 weeks’ maternity leave at 80% of their average daily wage, while fathers can claim three days leave on four-fifths of their usual pay. Civil servant fathers receive five days leave on full pay.
Many parents, we’re sure, would love to be able to stay home and not work during those precious newborn months, but unfortunately most don’t have a choice. In Hong Kong, women make up 44.7% of the workforce (not including domestic help) and 75% of women between 16-45 years old work full-time. Within six months of having a baby, 75% of new mums are back at work full-time.
So, it can be a hard situation that new parents find themselves in – especially wanting to give 100% to both their office job and their home ‘job’. To help, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest challenges faced, and how you can help manage them as a new mum or dad.
The biggest challenges
You're probably having so little sleep that you're pouring your lei cha into your congee in the mornings, nodding off on the MTR, and making mistakes at work. There's no doubt about it – sleep deprivation is a killer. While you may have gotten used to the broken nights, it’s a whole different ball game when you chuck in working a 40-hour week. Your brain likely won’t perform at its best initially – plus, you will spend a lot of time thinking about your baby at home and wondering how he or she is doing.
So many parents – both mums and dads – feel an enormous amount of guilt for spending all day away at the office instead of at home. While there’s no reason parents should feel this way, it’s a hard feeling to put aside. You worry that your baby is getting what he needs, you feel guilty for not being the main caregiver, and you feel guilty for perhaps not giving 100% to your work while you deal with these (very real) emotions.
Juggling too many responsibilities
Whatever your role may be, you will have a set number of responsibilities that come with it. With your role at home as a parent, you also have responsibilities. It can be incredibly difficult to meet your deadlines, hit your targets and reach sales goals while you’re also trying to pump milk at work, prepare nutritious meals when you get home, and keep your home in order. Even if you have a helper, you are still going to feel pressure to prove you can "do it all".
How to manage these challenges:
Talk to your employer
You won’t know if you don’t ask. Some employers will be flexible and generous in their allowances to help you care for your family. If you are struggling with the return to work, speak to your direct manager about what you’re finding difficult – chances are you can come to an agreement to help you better re-enter the workforce.
Additionally, at the point of signing a new contract for a job, make sure you ask about maternity and paternity leave and benefits. Some employers offer more generous leave terms than what is legally required. It can be a difficult conversation to bring up for many employees (for fear of being discriminated against for simply thinking about getting pregnant in the future) but it is your right as an employee to know.
Involve your spouse
Communicate with your spouse about what you’re finding difficult and come up with an arrangement that gives you both a break. Perhaps you can take it in turns to be the one who gets up to settle the baby in the middle of the night, ensuring you each get some full night sleeps during the week. If you are both working, you can both take on equal share of the child rearing and housework. There’s truth to the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” – but it starts with mum and dad being on the same page.
Stay connected with your child's caregiver
It will help hugely with your feelings of guilt to see that sai lo is happy, content and thriving in the hands of your chosen caregiver. Make arrangements to call them frequently, or set up a Whatsapp group so you are regularly getting photos and videos of what your child is up to throughout the day. As your child gets older, they can call you once a day themselves when they’re home from school and tell you about their day. It will make a world of difference to your mood at the office.
Don't try and be superhuman
Lastly, don't try and do it all. It’s simply not possible to maintain a schedule that has one parent doing absolutely everything. Know your priorities – some days putting in a couple extra hours at work is going to be more important than getting home to cook dinner, while other days making it to your child’s piano recital is far more important than working late.
When you’re at work, be present at work, and when you’re at home, be present a home. This will help you compartimentalise your life and commit yourself 100% to each role you hold at the time.
Finally, give yourself a break. You’re doing an awesome job.
Looking for a job that gives you flexibility to spend more time at home with the family? Check out these roles here