Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Returning to work with a child that needs extra care

By Charlotte Griffin, Client Services Director, Wolfenden

Having a child is one of the best, most exciting, but also terrifying times in your life. There are a thousand things you need to think about, read, and try to prepare for – but sometimes all the preparation in the world just isn’t enough.

Every baby needs a lot of care and attention, but when you are told that your baby has a serious health condition, that care and attention becomes 10 times more important.

When I was told that my child was born with a rare blood condition that means he will require a transfusion every 25 days, the last thing on my mind was how I would go back to work – Eddie became my priority 100%.

But I am a working mum and thankfully I am able to fit my work around my child rather than having to fit my child around my work. This is a privilege, but it should be the norm.

Every parent will need flexibility when they come back to work, but with my child’s health concerns I have needed to work from his hospital room before, and I’m sure I will again. Having remote and flexible working policies in place can make the world of difference.

I always try to ensure that any hospital appointments are scheduled for my days off, but my son’s health doesn’t always like to follow my schedule and I shouldn’t have to use all my holiday allowance on hospital visits and check-ups. Being able to spend quality time with my family in a positive setting, away from work is even more important when so much of our time together is spent around doctors.

Last-minute rushes to the hospital or late-night calls to 111 have become my new reality and so having flexibility with my work realistically isn’t just a benefit for me anymore, it’s a necessity. If I didn’t have a flexible working environment where I know I can take time off to care for my son, I simply wouldn’t be working.

There’s a mental load that parents take on when they come back to work – worrying about leaving your baby for potentially the first time, the exhaustion of having a new baby who doesn’t sleep through the night yet. But when your child has medical problems that increases tenfold.

If Eddie has a slight fever or is a bit unwell, I need to keep watch vigilantly to ensure he doesn’t need to see a doctor. I am lucky that I have a supportive family who can take some of this load, but that family extends to the workplace.

While I’m spending this time and emotional capacity looking after my son, I need a workplace that can look after me too. I have a strong team who will be okay if I need to take a few days off on short notice, and with flexible policies, I can be in two places at once: keeping an eye on my child and continuing to show up for my clients. This wouldn’t be possible without the empathy of my employer.

Having a child who requires this extra care has really changed my outlook on life in ways I never expected. I always knew my child would be my priority, but nothing could have prepared me for quite how much space in my thoughts Eddie takes up. Work provides me with an outlet to focus on life outside of this.

I enjoy having something to focus my attention on and I have been surprised by how work has helped me to worry less about Eddie and his condition. The unexpected benefit of this is that I’ve not got the mental bandwidth to be involved in silly disputes or office politics anymore, so when I am at work I’m focused on the important things and my productivity has gone through the roof.

My life is busy, and chaotic and involves a lot of juggling, just like most Mums. However, unlike most other parents I also manage my son’s health condition and that can sometimes feel like an additional full-time job. Before coming back to work I often worried that I would not be able to give either of them my full attention and instead of being fully present for either I would only be halfway there for both. Thankfully this hasn’t been the case at all and with the right support network I’ve become very good at juggling.

One thing I have been surprised by is how while work isn’t as important to me as it once might have been and that’s not a bad thing, in fact, it’s completely natural.