Kirsten Jansen is 38 years old, married and a proud mom of a (almost) 4 year old daughter. She works as Marketing & Communication Manager at Undutchables Recruitment Agency in The Netherlands.
How old was your child when you returned to work?
I returned to work when my maternity leave was over. My daughter was 4 months old.
Which type of childcare arrangements did you make?
I am lucky that my sister lives right around the corner. Her youngest son is a year older than my daughter so we decided to take care of each other’s children. My daughter (turning 4 this August) still goes twice a week to her aunt. My nephew plays twice a week at my place. At first I worked 3 days a week. So on the 3rd day my daughter stayed with her grandparents. When she turned 2,5 she attended peuterspeelzaal. Since then I increased my working hours to 3,5 days a week.
What was your experience of returning to work after your maternity break?
I was very happy to go back to work. But the combination of working and having a baby is demanding! But it made me appreciate the time that I spent with my daughter. I enjoyed that. It’s true – every moment counts.
Family and career. It is often challenging to find a balance. How do you do it? And what works best for you?
It is indeed a challenge. But I tried to be flexible because with a baby you never know what will happen. Personally I am a planner and love structure. So I planned ahead but left space enough to be flexible when needed. Thankfully I didn’t have to do it on my own. My husband is a big help. Fortunately he works around the corner while my commute is an hour. So he takes our daughter to and from school and my sister’s. For us it still works best to plan a week ahead. For example – dinner, appointments at night etc. In the weekend we write a menu for the whole week. And on Sundays we make healthy but easy meals. These are for the days we both work and are late at home. Preparation is key.
You work in the recruitment industry. What are the main obstacles that mothers encounter in the current job market?
The Netherlands is known for having a large amount of part-time jobs. One would think that it wouldn’t be so difficult to find a suitable job for a mother. Unfortunately reality is different. If you work and then become a mother, it is no problem to change your job to a part-time job. Always in consultation with your employer, of course. But if you don’t have a job and enter the market as a mother looking for part-time work, it is difficult to find a job.
What can be done to overcome this?
That is a difficult question Angela. It consists of a combination of factors – mindset of companies, mothers and daycare. In the end it has to do with flexibility of all parties. Companies must be open to hiring part-timers, mothers must be flexible in the working hours and daycares must be available on short notice. Once you have a job, you may find that there is a waiting list for enrollment at the daycare.
What is one piece (or two) of advice you’d give to mothers who are considering returning to work after a career break?
Be open and flexible as possible. Nice tip – you can apply for full-time jobs and discuss the option of part-time during the interview.
Make use of a recruitment agency like Undutchables. They often know upfront if the company is open for a part-time job.
Success for you is…
A healthy balance between work and home. Like I said before I love my child and I am very happy with my job. This combination is perfect – I enjoy being around my daughter even more on my days off whilst knowing I am able to work the next day.