Depressed About Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave?

Feeling depressed about going back to work after maternity leave? Here’s your pep talk and action plan to get through these challenging days.

Depressed About Going Back to Work After Maternity LeaveI had survived the newborn stage and was finally getting a hang of this parenting thing after months of adjusting to motherhood.

But then… it was time to face the first day back at work after maternity leave.

Just when my baby had fallen into a manageable routine and life became easier and more fun, maternity leave was over. Now I had to hand him to someone else to care for while I rejoined the workforce.

That was hours and hours away from him, missing the time spent sprawled on a blanket at the park or strolling around the neighborhood. While I welcomed time alone, I wasn’t exactly excited about working, either.

It’s easy to feel depressed about going back to work after maternity leave. You don’t want to leave the baby with strangers, worried that he might be scared in his new environment. You dread the stress of dropping him off at day care and making it on time to work.

And while you know you’re making a better life for him by working, all these emotions still get hard.

It’s even worse when you’re miserable at work. You feel like you’ve finally found your purpose by staying home with the baby, but circumstances (and bills) mean you can’t. You even find yourself crying with guilt and anxiety, like you’re handing him off to someone else to raise.

With your baby so used to being with you all day, you can’t imagine what a big change going back to work can be for both of you.

Chin up, mama. I hear you. Feeling depressed about going back to work after maternity leave is all too common. The adjustment can be rough for everyone, but thankfully, not permanent.

If you find yourself wishing you were back with your baby instead of at work, take a look at these insights that can cheer you up. You can find gentle reminders to keep you going, as well as encouragement to look at the hard truth about your circumstances:

1. Help your baby adjust to the change

Like many working moms, you’re likely going back to work when your baby is still an infant. It’s one thing to re-enter the working world when he’s a few years older. But you’re handling the emotional and physical challenges of raising a baby and going to work.

Start preparing now to help him adjust to your new schedule.

For instance, change your routine a few weeks before starting work, mimicking the schedule he’ll follow moving forward. Introduce him to the bottle around that time as well, if you haven’t already. If possible, do a test run with your child’s caregiver or daycare before the first “official” day.

And finally, encourage him to fall asleep on his own at night so you’re both better rested. If you’re struggling with putting your baby to sleep, you can teach him to self-soothe and sleep on his own!

Free email challenge: Feeling stuck in motherhood? Want to enjoy raising your kids again? Join my newsletter and sign up for the Motherhood Motivation 5-Day Challenge! You’ll get one actionable tip a day that can make you think (and act) about motherhood differently:

Motherhood Motivation 5-Day Challenge

2. Prepare the nights before

Returning to work can be difficult because you’re sleep-deprived and the morning routine can feel stressful.

The best way to cope? Prepare, prepare, prepare, especially the night before. This is even more important those first few weeks you’re back at work. Not only are you sleep-deprived and tired, but you’re also a little rusty about your going-to-work routine.

When I went back to work, I packed my lunch, chose my clothes, and made sure I didn’t forget my pump parts—all the night before. That way, come morning time, I didn’t have to think about them at all.

Newborn Sleep Deprivation

3. Remind yourself that everything is an adjustment

Let’s say you came home from your first day at work miserable. You wish had been with your baby instead, and dread doing it all over again the next day, and the next.

But remember when you first got your job? You had no idea what any of the terms your coworkers were talking about, or even where the restrooms were.

Or how about when you moved into your home? Remember how annoying it was not to have internet access yet, or figuring out where to place your kitchen equipment?

Any new change is a transition. We of all people should know that after having a baby. And as wild of an adjustment that was, the first few days back to work can also have its own set of challenges. You’re settling in, figuring out what has changed, and getting used to your new routine.

As with any adjustment, it can be difficult… up until you get your groove back and work becomes second nature once again.

4. Remember that the grass is always greener

Do you get jealous whenever you see moms taking their kids to the library while you’re dashing to grab your lunch between meetings? Do you wish you could come and go as you please, instead of coming in at 8am like how the boss wants?

Little do you know that some of those same moms are looking at you with envy as well. Wishing they could get a break from the kids or reminiscing about getting dressed and talking to adults. Wanting to make money and a contribution to something else besides kids.

Part of the unhappiness with going back to work might stem from assuming that all is rosy on the other side. It’s not. Every situation has its pros and cons, and going back to work is no different. While you may only see the cons right now, remind yourself you have many benefits other moms would envy.

Woman working on a laptop

5. Remember the benefits of being a working mom

One of the best ways to stop feeling depressed about going back to work after maternity leave is to remind yourself of its many benefits.

The most obvious one is earning money, which frees you from the stressful situation of not having much of it. You also get a break from the baby which, let’s face it, is important for self-care. And you have challenging and meaningful work that contributes to the world besides being a mom.

Let’s not forget that you’re able to hang out with other people and have real adult conversations and that work is (usually) easier than raising kids. You don’t have to worry about re-entering the workforce, and you’re more likely to share equal parenting duties at home with your partner.

I know it’s easy to forget all this when you miss your baby, but constantly reminding yourself why you’re here can make the work days go smoother.

6. Find a positive work environment

Feeling unhappy about returning to work might be traced to what new moms are going back to: work we don’t enjoy.

Long before your baby was even born, how happy were you about work? If you were miserable with your work to begin with, leaving the baby might be less bearable compared to going back to work you enjoy.

The work itself might be the biggest reason you’re depressed about the end of your maternity leave. If so, perhaps it’s time to find or even create a work environment that suits you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your work flexible? You might stress about having to take an impromptu day off when your baby is sick. Or maybe you need to leave work earlier than usual to pick him up from daycare.
  • How is your commute? Maybe your commute is long, adding extra hours away from your baby on top of the eight or more you’re already away from him.
  • How about pay? Does it justify the time away from your baby, or do you feel like you’re better off elsewhere?
  • Do you get along with your boss and colleagues? It’s hard returning to work when you don’t have your boss’ support.
  • Are you able to pump? Scheduling pump sessions and maintaining your milk supply can be difficult for breastfeeding moms returning to work. You might not even have a private space to pump (and no, a bathroom doesn’t count).
  • Do you like your work? Money is good, sure, but if you hated work to begin with, re-entering the workforce might be extra difficult when you’d rather be with your baby.

Point is, those first few days and weeks at work are difficult because you’ve had a taste of a different life, and maybe work just isn’t measuring up. You were on maternity leave, enjoying the time spent with your baby, only to come back to an unhealthy work environment.

If so, it might be time to re-evaluate what you want out of your work situation.

Check out these flexible work arrangements you can try.

Flexible Work Arrangements

7. Rely on childcare you love and trust


  • Worrying whether your babysitter understood your instructions about your 4 month old’s nap schedule
  • Wondering if your baby isn’t getting enough one-on-one attention at daycare
  • Feeling like you can’t be honest or direct with your mother-in-law

You need to be comfortable with your childcare situation. It’s hard to focus on work when you feel like your childcare provider, daycare staff, or your mother-in-law aren’t doing a good job.

Choose your childcare carefully. How is your relationship with this person (or people)? Do they listen? Do you trust their capabilities? Can you be open and frank without feeling like you’ve offended them?

When you feel confident with your caretaker, handing the baby off for several hours and going in to work won’t feel too terrible. And sometimes it just might even be a much-needed break.

8. Your child will remember you

One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes goes like this:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Kids don’t keep tabs. They won’t love you less because you’re home at six instead of at three. Instead, they’ll remember how you made them feel—the highlights.

Not whether you cut their sandwich into a dinosaur shape, but that you did little things to delight them. And not that you can’t always volunteer at field trips, but that you showered them with love from the time you came home until they fell asleep.

Maya Angelou Quotes About Parenthood


Transitioning back to work after maternity leave can be difficult for new mothers, but not when you come prepared mentally and physically.

Start with practical changes like helping your baby adjust to your new work schedule and preparing the nights before. Remember that everything is an adjustment and that the grass is always greener, not to mention the many benefits of being a working mom.

Make sure you have a positive work environment to return to, as well as reliable and trustworthy childcare you can count on. And finally, don’t forget that your baby will remember you, regardless of whether you went to work or not.

Going back to work after maternity leave can be a positive change in your life. And more than just finally fitting into your old clothes or getting a hang of this parenting thing.

Get more tips:

Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and sign up for the Motherhood Motivation 5-Day Challenge:

Motherhood Motivation 5-Day Challenge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.