Going back to work after maternity leave is one of the hardest things for a new mother to do. You carried your bundle of joy for nine months and had time off from your job to bond with your child. It can be difficult to turn them over to strangers at a day care center and be separated from your child for an eight-hour period or longer when you’re used to taking care of their every need. And, even if you know the babysitter – maybe it’s your mother-in-law, a friend, or a trusted neighbor – new parents will still go through an adjustment period when maternity leave ends and mom return to their job.
The end of maternity leave means new routines and more work to do. Now you not only have to get yourself up and out to work, you need to get another person ready to go as well. There are clothes and toys, diapers, and possibly special foods or medicines to prepare and pack for the work day. The household chores still need to be done, not to mention tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, or trips to the pediatrician. Deciding which parent will take care of which tasks after the end of maternity leave can be a job all by itself.
Additionally, some new mothers go through postpartum depression. Returning to work can add to their symptoms of crying, mood swings, loss of appetite, the inability to bond with their baby, and the guilt that accompanies this type of depression. If your postpartum depression symptoms don’t lessen after two weeks or if they are getting worse, be sure to call your doctor. Postpartum depression can be successfully treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two.
Easing Back into your Job After Maternity Leave
Many working moms experience feel guilty when they leave their child with someone else. They may also feel inadequate for not being a “superwoman” capable of handling the stresses of a new baby, new routines, and a new “normal.”
Surprisingly, there are few resources that address the anxiety and emotions that going back to work after maternity leave can bring up for a new parent. This period has been called the “fifth trimester,” a term trademarked by Lauren Smith Brody, a former Glamour magazine executive editor. She struggled with returning to work and ultimately wrote a book that helps new parents manage their expectations. She describes the shift from maternity leave to working mom as “a monumental transition.”
One of the best ways to help ease this maternity leave transition is to set things in place before the baby comes.
- Research and arrange for childcare. If you have a babysitter instead of a daycare center, also set up a back-up plan in case the babysitter is ever sick.
- If you plan to breastfeed, talk to your boss to arrange a schedule and set aside a private area for pumping.
- Establish and practice your morning routine a couple of times, at least a week or two before going back to work. Actually wake up at the time you’ll need to get up for work, then eat, dress, and get your baby ready to go. Build in some “glitch time” for occasions like when the baby spits up just as you’re ready to leave or for the day you can’t find your keys.
- Decide on temporary compromises you can make when going back to work after baby. Maybe you can go to sleep earlier, eat prepared meals once or twice a week instead of cooking, or let that load of laundry go until the weekend when you’re more rested.
- Ask for help. Working moms are essentially doing two jobs: their actual employment job and the work of being a mother. It is not a sign of weakness to ask your spouse, family, or friends for help while you go through this transition.
- Avoid venting at work about the stress you may be feeling at home. That way, your boss doesn’t get the idea that you can’t handle the pressure and start worrying that you’ll quit.
- Be kind to yourself. Get in some exercise time to reduce stress (even a little goes a long way), get plenty of rest, and try to spend 15-30 minutes every couple of days just doing something for yourself.
It can be challenging to be a new mother going back to work after baby. Working moms must find the balance that allows them to hold a job and still maintain their pre-baby life, along with preserving their sanity.
Remember that the transition after maternity leave takes time. If you are finding this transition more difficult than you thought, give yourself an adjustment period. If you still can’t handle it after this interval passes, it might be time to try working with your boss to discuss other options (example: working from home a couple of days per week) that can allow you to have a realistic balance.
Concerns? We Can Help
If you have concerns about going back to work after maternity leave or if you are worried you may have postpartum depression, contact the therapists at the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.