For some, it is an easy decision to stay at home with their children, while others facing financial pressures feel they have no other option but to work to boost the household income. For others still, returning to work is seen as a way to retain some normality in their life. In the 21st century, there are many options for new parents to consider before making the final decision.

To make the best decisions you need to start researching and planning before you finish work to have your baby. Find out from your employer what leave you are entitled to, e.g. paid parental leave, unpaid maternity leave. If you are returning to work after 13 weeks paid parental leave you will need to enrol with a childcare centre in advance, as many have a waiting list.

Full Time Versus Part Time
If you worked full time before having children you may be able to look at part time work options with your employer, and possibly job share options where full time hours are split between two employees.

It may be that you can find work in the evening or early morning before your partner goes to work, meaning you do not have to pay for childcare.

Casual employment or one off jobs such as stock takes offer additional income without the ongoing cost of childcare. If you have family and friends close by they are more likely to agree to a few hours or the odd day babysitting.

Childcare is a growing industry and as demand grows so must the standard of care offered. There are centres where your children are dropped off and care for on site, or home based care options where a carer (many of whom are stay home mothers) has a limited number of children in their own home. Income tested childcare subsidies are available through Work and Income to assist with the hourly cost of care. For children aged 3 and 4 there is the 20 hours free scheme offered through some centres.

Make Money From Home
There are a lot of opportunities available to make money without leaving home. Home based childcare involves taking in a small number of preschool children and you are paid to look after them, mystery shopping allows you to be paid for inquiring about and/or buying everyday item, online work opportunities such as writing content for websites, or selling things on online auction sites including books, clothes, shoes, DVDs and pretty much anything in half decent condition you no longer have a use for.

If you decide not to return to work keep you brain active by enrolling in a course either a night class or home based study through institutions. This will look good on your CV when you do return to work.

Budget Boosters
Try growing your own fruit and vegetables to supplement your grocery bills, plan your trips out in the car to save on short trips and petrol, cook your meals from scratch to reduce takeaway costs and the higher price of more processed meals.

List the Pros and Cons
Weigh up the pros and cons of working or staying at home for you. Look at the whole picture and remember that if you do return to work and are paying for childcare the net increase in your bank each week may not be as much as you expected.

Extra Help
The Working for Families programme offers financial assistance based on your family situation. Contact IRD and find out what you are eligible for if you stay at home, and what the change would be if you were working. These payments are there to assist you in raising your family, and may mean you can cope on a part time second wage instead of a full time one.

Whatever decision you make, it can be changed later if you reconsider or your situation changes. There is no right or wrong answer; simply what is best for you and your family at the time.