Day 230: When Should a Stay at Home Parent Go Back to Work?

Today I had a coffee with a senior-level person in the Hong Kong branch in same the company I work for back in Sweden.  She had offered me a job in Hong Kong before, but I said, no, I wanted to take this time to take care of the little guy.  After all, we have parental leave in Sweden for a reason, and it is super special to be able to stay at home with him.

At the coffee, I heard about things in the local business, got updates about what is happening in the company, and then she offered me the same position she offered me back in January.  This is a great position, one that invigorates me and motivates me when I think about it.  It could also open doors I don’t even know about within the company and outside of the company.  After all, who can say they have high-level management experience in 3 continents?

It felt good to hear that even now, months later, this person still wants me to join the team, and can see my potential contribution as a positive one for the local and global business.  How cool is that?  But then as I walked away, reality set in: what can we do about this opportunity as a family?  What should we do as a family?

The reality is that in Sweden, things are a bit more “rosy” when it comes to having a child and going back to work.  You have your job protected when you are on leave, and you can ease yourself back into work however you want.  Being American, this is somewhat of a novelty to me, and I still find myself not trusting that it really is this way.  Anyway, all of this has made me ask the question: When should a parent go back to work after they have a child?

When is it time for the child?  3 months?  6 months?  1 year?  2 years?  Never?  When is it the right time for the parent?  When is it the right time for the family?  I guess it all depends on the personal circumstances and cultural norms, right?  Like in the US,  a lot of people go back to work after 3 or 4 months, whereas in Sweden it is usually 1-2 years.  But again, what is the right time?  When do I go back to work?

If I were to go back to work in the next few months, we would have a lot of new changes we would have to make.  First would be to arrange for childcare for the little guy.  In Hong Kong that would mean arranging for a “helper”, which I’ve talked about before.  The other practicalities that are special for us involve the contract agreement with the branch of the company I work with in Sweden, to make sure I am still protected under Swedish Labor Law for when we return to Sweden, and also dealing with my residency permits accordingly.  But that doesn’t answer what is right for us; right for the little guy.  Soon he needs more than me anyway, and will be going to “dagis” (daycare) part-time anyway, right?

My wife and I have a lot to talk about this weekend regarding all of this.  Of course the plan was for me to stay on leave while I am here, but now this opportunity is in front of me.  I am not usually one to pass up opportunities professionally, and that has always been a good policy – but I have a family now.  I have a child to think of, and we have a family to think of, to build and grow together.  That said, it does feel like passing up this opportunity is just delaying the inevitable, which is that I will go back to work in the future anyway – so why delay it if the right opportunity comes up?  It’s a good problem, but still a challenge to figure out.  😉

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