Feeling depressed about going back to work after maternity leave? Here’s your pep talk and action plan to get through these challenging days.
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.
When you feel depressed about going back to work after maternity leave
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’ll be scared in his new environment. You dread the stress of dropping him off at daycare 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 and feeling horrible, 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 will be for the 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 will cheer you up. You’ll find gentle reminders to keep you going, as well as encouragement to look at the hard truth about your circumstances if you truly want things to change:
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 another thing to handle 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 nights 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 download: Whether you’ve tried to teach him to self soothe in the past or are just now considering it, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid. Join my newsletter and download this amazing resource below—at no cost to you:
2. Prepare the nights before
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, 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.
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 just 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 just as crazy of an adjustment that was, the first few days back to work will also have its own set of challenges. You’re settling in, figuring out what has changed, and getting used to your new daily routine.
As with any adjustment, it’ll 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.
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 conversation and that work is (usually) easier than raising kids. You don’t have to worry about re-entering the workforce down the line, 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
When moms are unhappy about their first day back after maternity leave, most of that unhappiness can be traced to what they’re going back to: An unappealing work environment.
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 will be less bearable compared to going back to work you enjoy.
If the work itself is the biggest reason you’re depressed about ending maternity leave, perhaps it’s time find or even create a work environment that suits you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is your work flexible? For instance, you might stress about having 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 day care.
- 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? One of the difficult transitions on the first day back after maternity leave for nursing moms is scheduling pump sessions and maintaining your milk supply. Even finding the privacy to do so can be a challenge.
- Do you like your work? Money is good, sure, but if you hated work to begin with, re-entering the workforce will 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.
7. Rely on childcare you love and trust
Imagine going to work worried whether your childcare provider understood your instructions about your 4 month old’s nap schedule. Or you wonder whether your baby isn’t getting enough one-on-one attention at daycare, or you feel 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 the nanny, 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
“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.
Transitioning back to work after maternity leave can be difficult, but not when you come prepared, both 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—more than just finally fitting into your old clothes or getting a hang of this parenting thing.
Get more tips:
- How to Work from Home with a Baby (And Actually Get Things Done)
- Top 16 Books for Working Moms
- How to Conquer Working Mom Guilt
- What You Need to Do when You’re Stressed about Money
- Raising Children on a Tight Budget
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