expecting twins and seeking advice on returning to work in first year - is it possible, madness, etc?!

(42 Posts)
mandasand Sun 26-Aug-12 23:24:36

(I posted this question in the Twins Club 4 and got some really useful advice and insights - thank you! - but thought I'd see if I could catch any other perspectives by creating a new thread...)

I'm expecting twins in Feb/March; no children at the mo. Just had 12-week scan and so I'm gearing up to tell my boss and discuss maternity leave when he gets back from holiday in 2 weeks.

I'm an academic in a research post with 18 months or so to work on a short-term contract once the babies arrive. Lots of stuff on my plate for next year involves writing/proofing books, papers and articles, research activity including data entry; no teaching; 80% of what I do can be done from home.

I love my work. When thinking about maternity leave it's not just a case of needing to go back to work (e.g. my forthcoming books are on a publication schedule and the proofs will need attention around the time the babies come; being so close to the end of the contract it's important for me to keep working so I stand a good chance of being considered for any future contract work; other general financial reasons) but also wanting to (I get a lot of satisfaction from my work; my whole life has been geared towards getting to where I am now aged 37 and I don't want to give it up or introduce a break which, in academia, can often be career-fatal).

Officially, I'd like to take 6 or 9 months of mat. leave through my university employer so that (if my boss agrees, although he's also able to replace me wholesale during mat. leave) my contract will be extended by that length of time at the end if there is no further work forthcoming. So, purely financial and pragmatic to take the mat. leave, esp. as it's quite a generous arrangement.

Unofficially, though, I will want to be starting to do a few hours of work-related stuff (from home) as soon as we get into a routine and I start to feel human again with some sleep under my belt! So, I hope I can do 1-2 hrs per week after months 1-2 (maybe at weekends when DH is home) and 6-10 hrs per week from 3-4 months, and to facilitate this DH may go down to a 4-day week for a year or so and I'd like to be able to find someone local (would this be a nanny?) who would be prepared to come to us and help to look after the babies for, say, three hours on the other weekdays. (Our families are nowhere close, unfortunately.)

Not sure what will happen after the period of mat. leave and the return to full-time work...!

Advice on the other thread helpfully emphasized the sheer unpredictability of multiple babies, and their sometimes very different natures / routines. There's also the fact we're first-time parents! I do understand there's lots of worst case scenarios which may throw any plans into the air (e.g. babies coming early, being sickly in hospital) and that I can't really plan this to the nth degree, but I do need to have a best case scenario plan in place - both for myself, as a way of trying, at least, to manage the necessary workload of next year, and for my boss so he doesn't completely freak out (there's only me and him on the project, and I'm the only one paid to do any work! Also, I want him not to replace me during mat. leave so that my contract will be extended by 6 or 9 months.)

So, to multiple mummies who have wanted to keep their hand in with active work or work-related projects in the first year … is this kind of arrangement even remotely possible, practically, emotionally, psychologically?

willow3006 Mon 27-Aug-12 12:58:47

You can definitely start work. It's all dependent on the right childcare. I went back to work when the babies were 5 months old and it has been fine.

mandasand Mon 27-Aug-12 15:31:47

Thanks, willow. Did you start part-time? And would you mind telling me a bit about the kind of childcare you were able to find?

And breathe...!

Ok, dont panic, you just need sone back up.

I was lucky and found a brilliant nanny/maternity nurse who cane in several mornings a week when my two were little as a type if mothers help/maternity nurse then when I started working from home at around 9 months she moved to two full days, then a few weeks down the line I added in some nursery time as they seemed to like a change of scene.
Worked very well for me - on nanny days I get baby clothes washed and feeds made up and I can give them a cuddle when I stop for a cup of tea, on nursery days I get a comPletely quiet house for when I want to write or do interviews.

Only thing I would say is don't plan on working too late. My waters went at my study at 30 weeks and I ended up finishing a contract while they were still in scbu!

mandasand Mon 27-Aug-12 17:40:55

Twelve I love your calm, no nonsense approach! Very reassuring!

Henceforth I am now going to be thinking of it as needing 'back up' - thanks!!

Good advice about not working too close to due date. (Not that I guess you were expecting your waters to break at 30 weeks - eek!) I am blithely ignoring the fact that proofs for the book I'm about to go to press will probably arrive around the time I expect to give birth - ho hum!

You sound very capable and I'm going to take inspiration from you!

Actually I think I was a Blithering Idiot for the first 6 months, but good to know I sound calm!

Seriously, think how your body handles deadline stress. I had s publication to finish by 31 weeks and I literally felt myself get that adrenaline kick of stress a few hours before my waters went. It may have been unrelated, it may have been I was actually sensing labour starting, but I'll always wonder if it was work and life stress which did it. I planned to stop around 34 weeks last time with the view that getting to 36 would be amazing. With hindsight I'd have been seriously winding down - not pushing a last big deadline - from 28wks and not plan to work a day past 32.
I think when you work from home the temptation is always to push it but you sound a bit like me so I would say definitely try and remove as many deadlines and pressures from the third trimester as possible!

Good luck. I don't know what advice you had on the multiple forum but this was my experience.

I have 2 yo twins and a 5 yo boy. When I went on mat leave I fully expected to return to work and wanted to do so. However I did the figures and for me it didn't work out, my salary after tax, NI and childcare was about £200 / £300 per month, this didn't take into account holiday club for 5 yo either, which works out at £200 per week for a 4 day week. I would have been working for a private healthcare and a car, I wouldn't have been able to make pension contributions. This was using the max childcare voucher contributions for myself and DH

Have a look at the figures, I know its just one factor but having two small babies at the same time is very expensive, childcare gets cheaper as they get older. The other factors in not going back to work were having DS1 starting school, I didn't want him to be shuttled from school to after school and then at 6 pm getting them all home and starting the tea / bed time process. The stress of doing that for my family in my situation was too high. I'm sure other families have ways of managing it fine, but for us it didn't work. Having a nanny at home would help, maybe consider a nanny share if anyone else is in a similar position.

I also didn't work to work in that field for the rest of my career but I am now faced with trying to decide what I want to do when the twins go to school and getting back into it.

Good luck with the pregnancy and birth.

mandasand Mon 27-Aug-12 19:19:39

Oh my, that's really interesting about the coincidence about the deadline adrenaline kick and waters breaking. Hmm, food for thought.

Yes, I too have a good capacity for deadline stress (often I don't get moving till the deadline!) and working longer (in a sitting-in-my-PJs-writing kind of way) than the average. But the older I get (now 37) the more I realise that I just can't cope as well with e.g. an all-nighter. I am going to warn my boss that I won't be very mobile from 28 weeks (I usually go down to London once a week which is a v. tiring day) so that could be a good point at which to think about winding down, although I should be able to work happily on some of my easy/boring tasks (which don't cause me any stress) from home for a bit after that. This means front-loading the deadlines!

Currently battling what I'm imagining is twins-related exhaustion and am needing to sleep much more and able to work fewer hours than normal, but I really am trying to follow what my body demands. I know it would be foolish to do otherwise. As my DH reminds me on a daily basis, I'm not in control of my body anymore - the twins are!

Thanks for good advice smile

mandasand Mon 27-Aug-12 19:30:26

Thanks so much for writing with your experience, trying. (We crossposted!)

It sounds like you did the sensible thing for your family (and yourself, too, given that you sensed a career change was on the cards). I'm lucky in that I can work from home a lot and this eases the pressure: I'm not sure I would be so keen if required to be elsewhere every day. Ideally I don't want to move careers. I thought about it and tentatively tried to make it happen when I was struggling to find the next job (my current one) back in 2009-10, but in the end the academic job I wanted came through and, with it, a change of discipline which has really invigorated my career and research profile in lots of exciting ways. So for me it's kind of a crucial moment to keep that momentum going - one of the reasons for continuing even if, as in your experience, the childcare costs make it financially impractical.

Best of luck with the career change: I hope you find something to suit your interests and talents that also allows you the freedom to be there for your family around schooltimes. I'm sure the right thing is just around the corner! smile

Good luck, its not that long a time that they are little and if its a career that you love it is worth it, especially when they go to school and you have more freedom.

I worked four days a week, with some travel but not a lot. I worked until 36 weeks or so, cannot remember precisely, but I went full term and didn't feel too bad, tired but I rested as much as possible. I think I'd have gone further if I worked from home.

In terms of routine once born, it wasn't that bad but I got them into a routine and tried to keep them both in sync, if one woke up in the night for a feed, I woke the other and feed them both at once. It saves on time and means that you get some chance to rest. It is hard work though, maybe get a night nurse for a night or two to give you a break, if you're not breast feeding?

toomuchpink Mon 27-Aug-12 21:21:15

I went back to work at a year, 3 days a week. I absolutely love it and wonder if I should have considered going back a bit earlier. We have a nanny. In some ways I think it would have been good to have her come in from the early months, so the babies knew her from early on. It would have helped me a lot too. (I have an older one as well.)
If at all possible I would try to avoid too much of a solid commitment in the first three months. Of course you want to get the babies into a routine, I did with mine, but it was about the 10/12 week mark when that happened. Getting the hour or so to work on the weekend from DH could be wonderful some days, but there will also be days when you are trying to work and can hear a baby crying and are wondering if it needs feeding, or you are so exhausted you just want to sleep, or you need to eat (b'feeding twins makes you very hungry). I imagine it would be good to have a goal of wanting to cope with the first three months and enjoy the babies as much as possible despite the sometimes very difficult demands, and then have a goal to start the work ball rolling on some level. But that is just me.
One thing you might want to do is find out all about nanny recruitment now, before the babies arrive. Unless you want to pay an agency a few hundred pounds it takes a bit of research and getting your head around - well it did for me. It would have been much easier if I had done that before I had 3 children to look after. Let me know if you want to know anything about my nanny recruitment experience.

ceeveebee Tue 28-Aug-12 00:39:03

I am returning to work part time in a few weeks time, my DTs will be 10.5 months old.

I have had a mothers help 3 afternoons per week since they were 12 weeks old and she will become their nanny. I chose a nanny over nursery because I am in a corporate job, 12 hour days, where it can be difficult to leave on time in the evenings and a nanny can be more flexible. Plus I prefer that they are cared for in their own home.

She has had sole charge of them for a couple of hours a day since about 5 months old on the days she is here. I haven't done much work from home, but I reckon I could have if I had wanted to instead I chose to go to the gym, get hair and nails done.

chutneypig Tue 28-Aug-12 07:10:05

I had an academic post when my twins were born and did manage some work at home, paper writing mostly. My work was largely lab based. It was pretty ad hoc, so I did manage to fit into nap times at 6 weeks or, but it wasn't predictable, I had to seize the chance. It got more challenging at 5 ish months, and I was due back at six months. I think it can work if you know when you will have support, and totally agree about the nurser/ mothers help type thing. I think you need to be sure you can work so you can relax and work, or maybe that's just me!

I also used my KIT days to get into the university and see my group, others, that may help your planning re your boss panicking.

MavisG Tue 28-Aug-12 14:32:23

Also, you can share your mat leave with your husband, so that he takes eg 6 months off after you take the first 6 months.

mandasand Thu 30-Aug-12 19:01:23

Sorry not to have checked in for a while but I very much appreciate all this advice.

I think what a couple of you say about getting them into a routine (if possible!) sounds very sensible.

And looking at the complexities of nanny recruitment before birth, rather than after. Am I right in thinking that you employ nannies, rather than them being self-employed, so are responsible for tax and such? Was that the case with your mother's help-cum-nanny, ceeveebee? I've been trying to read up on it and it sounds pretty daunting to get my head around. I'd be very interested to hear more about your experience of nanny recruitment, toomuchpink, if you've time to write more. Even a simply list of Dos and Don'ts would be great. And my initial googling for 'mother's help' in my area isn't coming up with much - are they called something else?

Thanks for sharing your experience, chutneypig: I've just agreed to serve as a chair and give a paper at a conference due to take place 2-3 months after they are due to arrive (if they come on time) so that will serve as my first public appearance - one of my KIT days, perhaps.

Really inspiring and encouraging, thank you all. On another thread I just got a lot of 'you don't know how you'll feel … you may never want to go back to work' - this is true and possible but right now I need a plan to take to my boss next week and it's been invaluable to hear from women who are making twins + work happen!

chutneypig Thu 30-Aug-12 19:45:32

One other thing which has been a big plus, is that my twins view me and DH as pretty much interchangeable when they feel ill/have a bump. Very handy when I'm at a conference etc. With two you can have one each. I went in for the day when my two were about 7 weeks, DH didn't blink and even managed to get some of his paper written.

Serving as chair sounds great. I found being in regular contact helped minimise impact on my research programme and smoothed going back too.

A lot of people told me I'd feel differently when they arrived. I was certain I wouldn't and was right grin.

ceeveebee Thu 30-Aug-12 19:52:23

Yes, nannies and mothers help etc are generally employed. I think some adhoc nannies (eg night nannies and babysitting) are self employed.

You could just look for parttime nannies and explain its not always going to be sole care.

There is a useful board on mumsnet where you can ask questions about setting this up, with some expert posters (Mr Anchovy and Nannynick). You can use a payroll company like nannytax to do the calculations and they can help with employment contracts etc.

As an employer you need to deduct tax and NI if applicable (my mothers help doesn't earn enough to pay tax or NI so I don't currently need to bother with this but will need to when she goes to 3 full days) and give them holiday pay, sick pay etc.

mandasand Thu 30-Aug-12 19:54:27

That sounds a great arrangement, chutney.

Though it's agreed that I'll be taking the greater part of parental leave, for a number of convenient reasons, DH is seriously looking at shifting down to a four-day week and/or working a day from home. I love the idea of him being really hands on with the day-to-day childcare from the start rather than just able to be around at weekends (it's a 12-hour round trip to and from work for him at the mo so he wouldn't see much of them on workdays). He is an ex-academic so understands completely the pressure/drive that comes with the territory and is v. supportive, already talking about taking days off when I have my conferences etc in maternity leave. Now, if I can just get my boss on side ... smile

mandasand Thu 30-Aug-12 19:56:39

Thanks so much ceeveebee - that's a bit clearer, and I'm grateful for the point towards the thread specifically on this topic. I'll look it up!

MavisG Thu 30-Aug-12 20:16:15

One other possibly helpful point is, if you're planning to breastfeed & express for when you're not there, get a double electric pump - Ameda's is brilliant, can use with batteries or mains, do both sides at same time.

mandasand Thu 30-Aug-12 21:11:42

Oh my word, the mere idea of breastfeeding at the mo is a lot to get my head around (I don't have any kids at the mo!) but two boobs on the go at once! I will, I think, feel like superwoman if I can manage that! Thanks for the tip Mavis!

Wigeon Thu 30-Aug-12 22:21:46

I saw your thread in Active Convos, and although I should say I don't have twins, I have had two babies (at separate times) and your post made me shock I'm afraid.

I totally get that you both want and need to continue your career. That's great, but I think you have very unrealistic ideas about what life with a small baby is like - or in your case, two small babies.

Starting to do some work after month 1 or 2 (even a tiny amount): I think this is bonkers! When both my babies were 4-8 weeks old, I was exhausted. Not only was I recovering from the birth (and in both cases, I had completely normal pregnancies, textbook vaginal deliveries with no intervention or any health problems afterwards), but every single night I was woken up every 2-3 hours to feed the babies, with no chance of "catching up" at weekends, or at any other time. Sometimes you are awake for 2 hours in the night because the baby just won't get back to sleep, or because it's just done another poo, or because it's feeding for 40 minutes, then burping, then won't go back to sleep for another 30 minutes.

Babies are relentless, and relentless 24 hours a day. Every single day. I am an educated person (Cambridge degree) with a professional career, and during both mat leaves I found that sometimes I literally couldn't string a sentence together. Partly due to tiredness, partly due to babies just being all-consuming. There is no way I would have wanted or been able to do any kind of paid work.

By months 3-4, in some ways the tiredness is worse, because you now have 3-4 months cumulative broken sleep. Even if (and it's a big if, as you have gathered) you have dream babies who go in a lovely routine, you will still have broken sleep. I am actually still pretty tired quite a lot of the time even though my children are now 4yrs and 15 months, in consistent routines and sleeping through the night: they wake up every day at 6:30am without fail, the baby sometimes wakes up in the night (teeth, temperature, just letting out a wail and going back to sleep).

On the routine issue: are you prepared to let your babies cry? To go with what you want, rather than what they want? Some parents are ok with this, some aren't. It can be very emotional leaving your own crying baby, even if you think you are doing it for the right reasons (and personally, I think that under 6 months is too early to be doing any sort of formal routine).

I think a lot hangs on whether both your babies are going to slot into a perfect routine as quickly as possible. Even if they do, I'm really not sure if you'd be able to predict regular times when you could, uninterrupted, get on with some paid work. Most new mothers (including me!) find that they can hardly manage to have a shower, do the washing up and get to the supermarket, let alone write a research report on top of that.

You haven't mentioned if you are planning on breastfeeding? I think that's relevant to some of the issues you are thinking about.

In terms of your boss, I understand you don't want to freak him out, but as a boss, I would potentially feel far more let down if a team member assured me that she would be working a bit a month after her babies were born, going to conferences soon after that etc, but then found that she couldn't commit to that once they actually did arrive.

Sorry for such a long post - I'm afraid I just read your OP and thought it sounded rather naive.

This all sounds like doom and gloom, but I absolutely think that it would be possible to resume work, but after a few (a good few!) months, rather than trying to pretend that your life really hasn't changed that much. And you will never ever get these early days with your babies back, whereas you will be able to resume your career after a few months.

Best of luck with the rest of your pregnancy and with deciding about what's best for you - it's great that you are thinking about these issues in advance and I'm sure you can come up with some possible solutions for your family.

In the words of Jones from Dads Army-don't panic don't panic!
Twins are hard but totally doable I knew feck all about babies but my dts have made it to 7 mo without too much bother. Have had a bit of help from the mil and dm who take them for the occasional day and night but honestly have just done most of it alone (I know this sounds like a stealth boast maybe it is a little but just trying to show you that it can be done and imo pretty well as long as you keep calm). I'm looking forward to returning to work in a bit and my childcare is family so i know I am very lucky there. But please just keep calm don't worry and enjoy your babies. i know I've not gone back to work yet but I'm sure it'll be fine. congratulations!

ceeveebee Thu 30-Aug-12 22:55:55

Wigeon - I have 9.5 month old twins and I don't think that it would be unrealistic to have returned to work on a very part time basis after about 12 weeks. I appreciate everyones experiences are different but with outside help and with a supportive partner it would definately be possible.

Thanks to employing a mothers help for 12 hours a week and having a DH who is perfectly capable of caring for them on weekend mornings, I have probably 8 hours a week where I have free time to go to the gym, go running, do a bit of freelance accountancy work etc. I also have 2-3 free hours a day when I am alone when they nap, and also they are asleep at 7pm each night until the next morning and this has been the case since 12 weeks old. So I could fit in 6-10 hours a week of work if I chose to.

chutneypig Fri 31-Aug-12 09:38:44

Wigeon - every mother of twins has to come to terms with leaving babies crying. It's not a matter of choice, it's a matter of logistics.

My two also slept through from 12 weeks, not all will, of course, but it's not that unusual. And we had no family nearby, just me and DH. With extra support, IME, it would be a plausible route to suggest to your boss. I know what you mean about momentum.

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