Returning to work in Hong Kong after your first child? Take tips from Meiping Zhao of Freshfields
I returned to work after the birth of my first child with a strange mixture of feelings.
On one hand, I felt a sense of calm, knowing exactly what to expect at the office. When you become a mum, you don’t know what to expect at any given moment, and so I appreciated the ability to return to familiar circumstances.
On the other hand, I felt guilty about leaving our child to be raised by our helper.
I also had feelings of doubt. Was I doing what was best for our family by returning to work? Fourteen months on, I still haven’t found the answer. But, along the way, I’ve learnt a lot. Here’s my advice:
● Don’t capitulate. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve thought about how easy it would be to quit working — especially on days when I’m running home from the MTR station to kiss baby Emma goodnight, and then getting back to work online.
A fellow mum once admitted to me that, although the time spent with her children felt priceless, she wishes that she tried harder to find a compromise instead of capitulating and leaving the workforce altogether.
It’s hard to find that compromise in my life as a corporate lawyer, but I’ve been lucky to have a supportive employer willing to offer flexible working arrangements.
● Lean in. Author Sheryl Sandberg is onto something with this concept. ‘Leaning in’ at work – or taking initiative – made it much easier to ask for support from my employer when I needed it.
● Ask for help. Don’t feel like you have to bear full responsibility for everything — at work, or at home.
The debate between working and stay-at-home mums could go on forever. Ultimately, it’s a deeply personal decision. Think about what route would be best for your family, and don’t be afraid to take it. For all new mums out there — especially those about to return to work — there is a balance that can be struck. It just takes a while to find.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Finding the balance.