How it Feels to Go Back to Work After Maternity Leave

5 stages of adjustment you’ll experience as a new working mom.

Your maternity leave is coming to an end. you’re Though your relationship with your baby will most likely need to adapt to your new schedule,  you’re probably also wondering how your role at work will change once you set foot in the office.

Did one of your mom friends start working part time or ask for more flexible hours? Did a colleague of yours end up switching to a career that seemed easier to balance with parenting? Regardless of what your peers went through, remember that you are in control of your trajectory, and if you’ve always been passionate about your work, there’s way to be both a successful professional and a good parent. You may just need a little bit of time to readjust to your role at work.

Here are 5 stages of adjustment that ambitious new moms can expect when they return to work after maternity leave.

1. Feeling Overwhelmed

As a working mother of two, I can assure you that you’re not the only one to feel overwhelmed while trying to balance mothering and working. Having and caring for a baby is physically draining and unlike anything you’ve done before. You’ll experience hormonal changes, too; and to top it off, your sleep patterns will change. So you’ll be more tired than usual, at least at the beginning. All of these changes may make it harder to navigate the usual stresses of office politics, client deadlines and meeting project milestones.

Not to worry though. This adjustment period is a finite one. Millions of moms have gone back to work and have ultimately managed to be good moms and successful employees. So rest assured that if things feel hard initially, they will get easier.

2. Experiencing Mom Guilt

Most moms I’ve spoken to agree: it’s not easy to go back to work and be away from your child — especially on the first day. Sometimes, the feeling of guilt persists and can be more intense and painful than you expected. These emotions are normal, however, and they will eventually subside.

So try to be kind to yourself during this period and think of what you can do to feel better. Find a support system at work, and check in with your daycare or babysitter regularly and as you need it. As you get used to your new life, you’ll get better at managing your feelings and the multiple hats you have to wear. You may even enjoy the time you spend at work, away from your kids — many women do.

3. Overcoming judgements

When you come back from maternity leave, your company will hopefully provide you with a supportive environment. They won’t judge you for being a mom by giving you less challenging work, and offering you fewer promotions. If you’re lucky enough to work for a company where many moms have successfully transitioned back to work, you will have role models all around you who can reassure you that it will all feel easier with each passing week and month.

If you’re not as fortunate and feel like you are experiencing bias at work, you should discuss the problem with your manager or HR. If the situation doesn’t improve or you don’t feel supported, you may want to look for a new job where you will be appreciated and get the work that you actually deserve. There are many highly rated companies, where women feel satisfied with their work and their employers’ efforts to make the workplace welcoming for mothers.

4. Being hard on yourself

If you are nervous about being treated differently as a new mom, you may  feel the urge to work harder than you did before (even if you already worked hard). But try not to overanalyze the situation. If you’re putting in your all, your employer and colleagues will recognize that, even if you are off at times. You don’t need to be a mom to be entitled to a bad day or even a bad week, and many employers understand that things like family illnesses, divorces or even messy break-ups can temporarily affect someone’s performance.

So while it’s understandable to feel the need to give your work a little boost, go easy on yourself during an already stressful time. Be confident in what you’re bringing to the table and make sure that people notice your efforts — don’t just put in extra hours and assume that others are aware of the sacrifices you are making.

5. Mastering Time Management

It sounds cliché, but it’s true: mothers are experts at multitasking and managing time. You might already think you are productive, but just wait until you get that mother juice flowing! When you go back to work, you’ll realize very quickly that you still need to get the job done on deadline before picking up your baby from daycare. It may sound daunting, but when you can’t extend the day, you learn to keep on track and prioritize — two very valuable skills in the professional world.

It’s OK to anticipate a rocky transition when you return to work as a new mom, but don’t let your nerves get the best of you. By thinking through the different stages you’ll go through to adjust to your new roles, you’re putting yourself in a good position to tackle any obstacles that may arise. Your work life won’t feel quite the same as it once did, but that doesn’t mean that it will be more difficult or stressful. In fact, it may be better!

Looking for a new job after maternity leave? Visit Fairygodboss to check out 13 companies looking to hire women in 2017.

Georgene Huang is CEO and Co-founder of Fairygodboss, a free, anonymous community where women share advice and hard-to-find information about what jobs and employers are really like. She’s obsessed with data and ideas about how to improve the workplace and lives of women.

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