Returning to Work After Maternity Leave – Again

Leaving your baby to go back to work is really freaking hard. Here's a list of rules to get through the process of returning to work after maternity leave.

Tomorrow morning I am returning to work after maternity leave—again. Actually, since this post will publish in the morning, by the time you read this it will be Monday and I will be fighting to get myself and two kids dressed and out the door, fighting the traffic on my commute, and fighting the tears that are inevitable. Say a kind thought for me friends, this week is going to be a doozy.

I’ve written about returning to work after maternity leave before. Several people have made comments that this time should be easier, since I’ve done it before. But here’s the thing: having experienced something challenging once doesn’t always make the experience less challenging the second time. Giving birth a second time was hard. 4am feedings on no more than two hours of sleep are hard. Breastfeeding my new baby has been hard. And leaving your baby to go back to work, regardless of how many times you’ve done it, is really freaking hard.

I have made a list of rules for myself to help me get through the process of returning to work after maternity leave.

  • Rule 1: I will not allow anyone to make me question my decision to work. I know, with certainty, that being a working mom is what’s right for me and for my family. Throughout the next few weeks someone will say something critical about working moms, about child-care centers, about how I will never get these years back. My decisions are my own and I have spent countless hours making sure they are the best decisions for my family. I will not let these statements hurt my feelings or upset me, because the people making the comments don’t know my family and my heart like I do.
  • Rule 2: I reserve the right to change my mind. Today, right now, this week, being a working mom works for us. That said, if it stops working for us – for whatever reason – I will reevaluate. If my career stops being fun, if my children are struggling, if our economic situation changes, if it’s just not working…I will make whatever decisions I need to make to fix it. Because that’s what moms do.
  • Rule 3: I will ask for help and support. My village of working mom friends will be working overtime in the next few weeks to support me. They will hug me tight and check on me often. They will listen to whatever I need to talk about. They will make me laugh, they will allow me to be vulnerable, and when the tears start to form in my eyes they will tear-up too…because the memories of leaving their own babies are still very raw.
  • Rule 4: I will be patient with myself. I have a big learning curve ahead of me (like figuring out how one gets a toddler and a newborn and a car seat and two bags and four bottles and binkies and blankets and extra outfits out of the car…all at the same time). When I do get to work, I will probably be late, and my clothes will be stained by something (hopefully not poop…please God, don’t let it be poop!), and my eyes will be red from crying. This week isn’t about doing it all perfectly, it’s about survival.
  • Rule 5: I will squeeze and snuggle my girls. When I get home, the dishes can wait, the laundry can pile up, dinner can be whatever is quick and easy, the cell phone is unimportant. From pick-up to bedtime—I’m going to smell that sweet baby smell and just soak up the giggles.

What am I missing? What helped you get through the transition back to work?

18 thoughts on “Returning to Work After Maternity Leave – Again

  1. I just went back last week, and I also have a toddler and a newborn. I actually think it was HARDER emotionally this time around. Hang in there! I’m trying to remember that I’ll hit my stride again soon enough…

    1. Stephanie Tsales says:

      Cristin – glad to hear I’m not the only one who found it harder the second time around. I was talking to someone today who made the “you’ve done this before” comment (meaning it should be easier this time). My response was: “I’ve broken my foot twice and it hurt just as bad the second time.”

      1. I love that! I’m three weeks in now. Some days it feels great, others I really struggle. It’s like I’m bipolar.

        Hope you’re doing well! Re-reading your article helped. 🙂

      2. Mel In NZ says:

        I’m back at work 7 months since I had my second they are now 15 months and 6 years respectively.
        I actually feel worse now than I did the first week.
        I had a customer complain about me today and I’m not sure where my self confidence went but it deserted me. Don’t want to go back tomorrow

        1. You can do it Mel!! It’s an emotional time plus being hormonal and sleep deprived. Try to make room for recharging your battery through the day, deep breaths, talk lovingly to yourself and talk to women who will listen and support your decision to work!

  2. Hire some help (if you haven’t already) for things like cleaning your house, laundry, grocery shopping, whatever you can afford. Then you’ll be able to spend more of your precious non-work time smelling that sweet baby head.

    1. Stephanie Tsales says:

      Susan – great idea! I’m learning quickly that I need help.

  3. Stephanie, I love and appreciate your honesty. It IS FREAKIN’ hard to go back after any number of babies. I have two girls as well and I told myself that it will take a YEAR to fully feel comfortable in both work and home lives. I help moms to prepare to go back and we talk about the 3 Bs. You gott prepare your Baby, your Boss and your Brain before you to go back to work. The guilt will creep up and sometimes you GOTTA cry, just cry. Go with the flow, be kind to yourself as you said so beautifuly above. A deep breathe heals all…take a moment for three deep breaths before getting out of your car to center yourself so you can enter work life and beforeyou enter your home life. I’m proud of you and YOU CAN DO IT!

    1. Stephanie Tsales says:

      Elaine – the three B’s…that’s brilliant! Thanks for your support. I read your comment after a long day and I really needed the encouragement.

  4. Thank you! So very true! I have 3 kids now, and will return to work soon. It’s difficult each time, each baby is still a baby. But it gets better! I work not for financial reasons, but because I love what I do, and it’s as big a part of who I am as is being a mom. It took a lot of guilt for me to realize this.

    1. Stephanie Tsales says:

      Christina – thanks for commenting. I hope your return to work goes smoothly.

  5. Thank you for the article. I’m pregnant with my second and already not looking forward to the first few weeks (months) after maternity leave ends – it was really hard the first time around, and I don’t anticipate it will be any easier the second. But it did get better eventually. So good luck to you and your little ones!

  6. Oh my goodness. I can’t tell you how much this article resonates with me. First, I just returned to work after my second baby about three months ago. And this time, I think it was harder. I’m not really sure why but I didn’t feel as ready to go back this time as I did the first time.

    I totally agree with Susan that it helps to hire someone to help if you can. We FINALLY hired someone to clean our house once a month and it’s been a god send! The amount of satisfaction and peace of mind it brings to know that someone else is going to do the deep cleaning makes so much difference and is well worth the cost (at least for our family).

    Further, I worked three days a week after my first baby was born and, by choice, elected to switch to almost full-time just a few weeks ago. So while I used to spend two days a week at home with my kids, they now go to daycare five days a week. Honestly, bringing them that first day that I would otherwise have been home with them was harder than the first day I brought either of them after maternity leave. And it was definitely the guilt that set in that I was choosing work over my kids…

    My husband and I both agree that it’s the right decision for us, but it is NOT EASY! And you are not alone at all!

    Thanks for sharing. I totally love your rules and am going to pin them to one of my Pinterest boards so I can come back to them.


  7. It is impossible to feel guilty about something unless you aren’t convinced you are doing the right thing.

    If you can reevaluate and change your course, then you are more fortunate than many families who have bitten off more than they chew and actually have to work. If the stress/guilt is too much, stay home.

    Choose not to wallow and winge with friends. You do not help each other – you simply create a never-ending pity party which is of no interest to anyone but yourselves.

    Everyone, no matter what their position has ups and downs. Having patience with yourself is not the answer. Even stay-at-home moms have days when the laundry piles up and dinner is simple – it is not a state unique to working parents. Knowing that you are not unique in this aspect and just dealing with it is the answer.

  8. I return to work in two days. It’s harder the second time around. I don’t feel it’s fair right now to put all the financial pressure on my husband. It’s not that my family has bitten off more than we can chew, it’s about sharing the responsibilities. SJCCD8 – no offense but your response is exactly the attitude I hope to avoid when I go back to work. Just because it’s the right decision doesn’t make it an easy decision.

  9. Gloria McCann says:

    These are exactly my same rules!! And they’re damn good ones! It’s comforting to know that other Moms have the same feelings, values, thoughts. I can’t see the date this post was written but, based on the comments, I’m assuming it was October 2014. I hope you’re all settled back into work and everything is working like clockwork. I look forward to that day myself, after having just returned to work this past Monday. It’s definitely harder the second time around.

  10. This is the reason females are kept down in the work environment – in light of the fact that they’re made to feel it’s “wrong” to put their family to start with, and it’s “out of line” to your boss since it’s “a considerable measure of stuff around” for them. It’s BS!

    You have your explanations behind arranging your family along these lines, and that is what is important. As different notices have stated, individuals will state things in any case. On the off chance that anybody says anything all you have to state is that you need your kids to be shut in age. The vast majority comprehend that.

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