Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

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Returning to work after maternity leaveIt’s been over a months since I’ve returned to work after maternity leave.  I never thought going back to work would be as difficult as it has been. Before having my little guy I expected to walk back into the office as the firecracker that I was pre-babe.  After having him I discovered how profoundly unrealistic that was.  Expecting to walk into the office the same person I was when I left is the professional equivalent of expecting to wear my favorite pre-pregnancy pants out of the hospital. Ain’t gonna happen.

As the time approached to return to work I was filled with dread and apprehension. I completely under estimated how overwhelming and stressful this transition would be. I am thankful that I did a 2 week gradual entry into daycare because the separation anxiety I experienced being away from him after so much time together was staggering. Much to my surprise the first few days back were surprisingly easy. Everyone told me how great I looked and how cute he was. I was wearing something other than yoga pants and I didn’t smell like spoiled milk, and the shoes…for the first time in months I was wearing heels!  I was able to have a cup of coffee while it was still HOT, go to the bathroom on my own, and I was guaranteed one whole uninterrupted hour to workout during my lunch break.Life after maternity leave

But after a few days the allure of a quiet hot cup of coffee ended and I was forced to face the reality that I was leaving my child, every day…indefinitely, and this tore me up. I knew from my maternity leave that being at home wasn’t for me, it wasn’t enough. I crave the sense of self-worth that I get from working, the thrill of solving work-related problems, the challenge of leading others. But being back at work and away from my little babe left me feeling empty,  guilty and alone.

Some coworkers would ask how I was adjusting but in reference to organizational change rather than about how I was feeling.  While they are talking company changes, new employees and office restructures. I  am thinking about when my son will walk or say his first word, and whether or not I will miss that milestone. They are excitingly chatting about company social events and I am worrying that I only have and hour and a half to spend with my baby before he goes to bed each night.  This dichotomy  deepens my feelings of disconnection and isolation.

So how have I been getting through this? Well –

  1. It’s going to be OK: All big transitions take some adjustment.  At first I would think to myself, “But I am missing out on all these special moments every day.” The reality is during the course of any given day he would be cranky, overtired, fussing, pooping, teething, or napping and at some point during most days one of us was frustrated. It’s not all snuggles and ladies who lunch—being home all day is just a different form of work.
  2. I found a reliable child care provider that I feel confident with.  As luck would have it, I was able to get a spot in a fabulous facility across the street from my work. Granted it’s not the most convenient location,  however I am never worried about the safety or well-being of my little guy, and I don’t have to battling traffic to make the pick up time.Returning from Maternity Leave
  3. Learning to let go. Once we both had a chance to adjust to our new routine I start to notice a change in my little one.  He became more independent, he was learning new skills, making friends, and bringing home art projects. I see him having fun, but as soon as he sees me the water works start like, “Oh yeah I forgot. I was supposed to be missing you.”   He is OK without me and our relationship hasn’t changed.  At some point this transition has become harder for me than for him.
  4. Last but definitely not least, coffee- copious amount of coffee

In conclusion

For me, what’s been the hardest about going back to work isn’t “being a working parent” although, there are challenges associated with that too. It’s the fact that things that were familiar are now dramatically changed. The details of my life look similar, but their context has changed entirely. It feels weird, and it’s hard to get used to.

Have you returned to work after maternity leave? What did you struggled with the most? I would love to hear from you.


15 thoughts on “Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      Yes it gives you time to adjust and cry in your car so your not a mess your first day back. We are very fortunate to get a year off here in Canada. It must be even tougher with younger babes.

  1. Amanda Mason says:

    I know this is a hard thing for so many parents. For me, it wasn’t…but I think I’m not the majority for this situation. 2 week gradual entry was a great idea! Good for you for doing this the smart way!

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      There is always adjustment with change, I find being open and prepared helps with the transition.

  2. AlventureBlogs says:

    How I wish maternity leave in my country is as long as in yours!!! In the PH, we only have 2 months and then work calls up. There was a time I was away for 2 weeks and my kid hardly recognizes me anymore until he smelled me.

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      Oh my I can’t imagine! I feel very fortunate. This must have been incredibly hard for you.

  3. Tina says:

    I went through this as well when I returned to work and felt so guilty for putting my little guy in childcare. But now I’ve realised how much easier it is being at work as opposed to being at home looking after a baby. I actually get to scroll through Facebook uninterrupted, socialise with my peers and not make cooing baby noises all day that almost made me forget the English language, and YES… have my coffee hot!

  4. Camesha | Mama Motivator says:

    Going back to work after both of my kids was tough. It helped that I didn’t have to do drop off and pick up. My husband did it because he worked closer. The days whenI did it, I didn’t want to leave! LOL

    Still, it made it easier that I had childcare that I trusted and I knew my babies were in good hands.

  5. Catherine @ Ten Thousand Hour Mama says:

    Returning to work after having a baby is so complicated! I work from home for the most part (though I do travel, too), so my situation isn’t the same. But I have found that having check-ins with your kids while working (like FaceTiming during lunch or asking your caregiver to send pictures by text) really helps me feel more connected to my kiddos.

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      I have several coworkers that do the same. I’m sure Travel must be a bit difficult? It’s great that we can FaceTime these days!

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