I found returning to work after 11 months of maternity leave difficult.

I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my baby for so many days in childcare – reducing my time spent with her so drastically and her constant colds just reinforced it.

The work I was going to back to was a very different place to the one I had left, and I felt guilty all the time – I wasn’t spending enough time at home, I wasn’t spending enough time at work and so the guilt went on.

So is there a way to make it easier?  I can give you lists of reasons why I shouldn’t have felt the way I did and how you can try to avoid feeling the same way but realistically, change is difficult and re-adjusting is difficult and we feel what we feel.

And no – I’m not being defeatist, I’m being realistic.  And frankly, I think that is the trick. Be realistic.

So in the spirit of realism, here are some thoughts that I hope will help you find your feet quicker and easier.

Babies and daycare sickness

It doesn’t matter what time of year your baby starts childcare there is always something going around.  And a newbie is going to get it all. It is part of the process.

If you can avoid starting childcare at the beginning or middle of winter you will need less time off from work. But you will not avoid it all together.

You can try starting baby 1 or 2 months before you start work but realistically, particularly during the winter months, baby will bring back every cold that goes around.

Set up a roster system with your partner, establish some working from home arrangement and have family or friends on standby to help carry the first year or two of illnesses. But ultimately, we have carer’s leave and sick leave for exactly these situations.

Make the most of workplace flexibility

If your workplace is flexible and you can work do fewer days for at least a 6 months period e.g. 3 days, before you change to 4 /5 days, make use of it.  It will ease the pressure around flu season, with you able to be home for longer stretches of time.  And it will also mean that you ease back into the workplace.

Work out a transition plan with your boss.

Returning to work plan

Be prepared.  Outside of who picks up and drops off, there are other things to consider to keep the home running:

  1.          Food preparation, cleaning and shopping.
  2.          Back up plans if you are running late for pick up.
  3.          Baby care rotation if bubs gets a cold and needs to be at home.

Who can you rely on and what are their restrictions?

Outside of home and baby, have a plan at work.  Have a frank conversation with your manager about how to best transition in – ensure you have sufficient support, hand over and clarity around your responsibilities upon your return.  And have a plan to expand your responsibilities and days with time if that is what you want.

Have a plan that works around both of your schedules

For some reason I have found that most women think it’s their responsibility to do all things baby.

It’s either just assumed by one or both parents.  Talk about sharing the load, how things will work in different scenarios and what part of the load each of you carry.

For some fluidity is required as workdays and nights can change week to week.  Taking time to compare diaries on a Friday or Sunday might be your way of making it work.

From personal experience, don’t try and take everything on yourself – there is not enough of you to go around!

Set realistic expectations on yourself

Everyone wants to do as much as they can for their family. It’s absolutely “normal.” But you also need to be realistic about what you can do in the time that you have.

Pushing yourself to breaking point doesn’t do anyone any good.

Set priorities – for the week, the month the year – that keep you grounded in what is important.  Don’t take on too much.

Give yourself a break

Lastly, before you start back at work, book yourself into a spa treatment the day after your first salary comes in. Don’t wait until you get it, do it before you start so that you have something to look forward to.

It is exhausting – and will be for a while – so give yourself a break. And if hubby is partial to a massage book him one as well.

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  • I was fortunate enough to not have to leave my babies to return to work, very lucky indeed. My son and his fiancé are expecting their first baby shortly. They’ve already worked it out they can only afford 3 months of maternity leave, 6 at an absolute pinch. Which is sad


  • This is really interesting! Thank you for sharing this!


  • I thought I would go back to work full time just as before. I was so wrong. I didn’t want to go back after my baby was born and I ended up working a 2 day week which I’m so grateful for now. My employers have been wonderful!


  • I’m nervous about this. Life feels chaotic enough now so I can only imagine how it will become. I also can’t imagine being away from my Bub for so long!


  • My maternity leave is quickly coming to an end and I must say I am not looking forward to it, I am already feeling guilty about having to leave my baby with a day care mum.


  • Good tips, I am going back to work next year after being a stay at home mum for last 6 years.

    • good on you, that is amazing. hope the transistion is good


  • Thank You to everyone who wrote in. It’s such an important topic and it is so different for everyone. I think finding the path that works for you and your family is the priority. It’s not always the road most travelled.


  • I was a stay at home Mum, but didnt sit on my laurels either – I took up delivering newspapers and junk mail (sorry, but you have to get them) and that covered some of the short fall in my not working – but I figured, why go to work to pay someone else to mind the kids, (and I worked out I would only have as much left over after that, as I got walking round delivering mail,) so I opted to stay home until the kids were in school. It was a struggle sometimes, but worth it.


  • I am currently on maternity leave with my first bub. Recently I have begun making arrangements to return to work in a couple of months time. Unfortunately, my hopes to return to work part time instead of full time have been now been dismissed by my employer. I can either return as a casual with no job security, return full time as before or quit. They will not accept a part time position because of a new Award that will be introduced in 2015. The new Award restricts the amount of hours I’m allowed to do and does not give any room for flexibility in regards to work/home life balance. Now my partner and I will be a difficult situation financially depending on my choices. Do I look after my son or do I return to work?

    • It is tough to be in that situation. If you do return to work full time don’t think of it as not looking after your child. I work and I consider being financially stable to be so important for my daughter. By providing you are looking after them. It does suck being away from them but sometimes you need to do what you have to. Hopefully you can figure something out that works for your family. Good luck it’s tough but it always works out in the end.


  • Some great points and the ones about illness are so very true


  • With everything I’ve heard about how people can’t be trusted I’m so scared to leave bubs at childcare of get a in house nanny but we are beginning to struggle on one wage. But then if I do go back to work all the money will just go on a babysitter so whats the point??


  • I hadn’t considered how much time I would need off because of illness. Working with children in day care and schools for so many years has built my immune system a bit but I hadn’t thought about how bub would cope.


  • I also went back when my daughter was 11 months old and was lucky to have a boss who let me start back 3 days a week to start to get the transition happening for the whole family. I also have a hubby who is not averse to sharing baby chores & housework or I think it would have been a lot harder. Great article with valid pointers & tips.


  • It really is such a tricky time to juggle all the changes & readjust to new routines & schedules.


  • When I decided to go back to work, my child suddenly developed separation anxiety! Would scream and throw up (9months) it took another 6 months with a really good family daycarer before I could happily leave him. By the time he hit kindergarten he went on the bus by himself and hasn’t looked back.

    • You put a child on a bus on his own?? or did he go with others you knew and trusted?


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