maanantai 24. elokuuta 2015

The month of firsts: I return to work

Initially I thought I'd be done with being a stay-at-home-parent after a year or so. In Finland you're entitled to stay home until your child turns three and then return to your work, no questions asked, but I personally don't think many of us really are able to choose to stay home.

First of all it's a question of permanent jobs: without one, you don't have a place to return to, so at some point during the family leave, which was designed with children's best interest in mind, guaranteeing one-on-one care at home for all Finnish under-three-year-olds, the parent staying at home will start to move their focus from the child to finding employment. Or building a new kind of idle identity.

Second, it's a question of money. Depending on how your workers' union has negotiated things for you, you'll get a few months of pretty good salary, or not. The state will provide you with maternity allowance until the baby is three months old, some paternity allowance as well, and then parental allowance until the baby is about nine months old, and the amount depends on your incomes, being, I suspect, about 70% of your monthly salary. After that it's child home care allowance, of which the amount is 342.53 € (minus taxes) a month for one child under three years of age, plus child benefit 95.75 € a month for one child under 17 years of age (further information on this - and the famous cardboard box - can be found on Kela's pages). To give some perspective on this, a teacher's base monthly salary before taxes is around 3,000 € at the moment, which isn't much regarding the required university degree, but enough to get by if you don't need luxury in your life. So. Unless the other parent is very well-off or you've done some brilliant financial planning in advance or happen to have good luck money-wise, the decision to stay at home with a child is also a decision to live on a budget.

Anyway, in the name of gender equality we decided on me returning to work when Veera was only five months old, while Husband became the stay-at-home-parent and loved it. I myself have deeply regretted the way things turned out, because there were other factors, like our employers, who did not see our situation as the parents of a small child as clearly as we did, nor our family life as the priority we thought we were entitled to. That's a long story I'm not in the mood of repeating, although one of the great life lessons I've learnt and thus will not want to forget.

All this in the back of my mind, the thought of returning to work after Kerttu's first birthday felt quite close to rebellion, and when things led to others, making me decide on staying home for yet some more months, I felt absolutely victorious when the summer drew to its close and I truly felt I had become a proud and comfortable Full-time Mum (which I thought would never be my cup of tea) but was also very ready to return to the world of a funny game called work, which also pays you money, which is nice when you're renovating a ninety-year-old house.

So it was time. I went back. In nearly two years nothing had really changed, although the organisation is in a constant state of change, but that's no news. As soon as I returned in the classroom it felt like I had never been away. In a good way. I've got these teenagers covered, and I like them.

What has changed is that two years ago I only had one child expecting my undivided attention after a day away from home.

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