Pregnancy Week 53: Tips For Your First Week Back From Maternity Leave

new mother back to work after maternity leave

Adobe Stock / Iryna

June 15, 2024 at 1:19PM UTC
There are a lot of things that can be said about your first week back, but to be blunt about it: It will probably suck. You’ll feel a lot of things. Many of us cry, but it is also normal to feel relief to be back among adults after hours of isolation with a newborn (even one you love dearly). 

It’s a brutal cocktail of feelings, so this week we’ll explore some of the most common things new moms go through during their first week back from maternity leave. First, however, we want to share three tips, which are short and sweet, since you’ve got a lot on your plate:
  1. Carry tissues with you.
  2. Take a partial week (or reduced hours week) if you can. 
  3. Write a letter to your baby.
The tissues are mostly self-explanatory (see more below). As for taking a partial week, it may be easier for you and your newborn to “practice” a full separation than taking on a full five-day week from the get-go. Some moms have told us they went back to work on a Wednesday or Thursday so that the weekend would be closer around the corner. 
Finally, we have heard that writing a letter to your baby (like this one), may make you feel better about the reasons why you are going back to work. Separation takes practice and time, but it’s good to write down the reasons you’re going to work and why work is still important for you and your family.

1. Crying.

For many of us, the first week back at work involves tears. Even if you keep it together at the office, you may cry during your commute, before you walk out the door or right after you’ve rushed back through said door and ascertained that yes, your baby is indeed alive and kicking.
If you thought maternity leave felt hard, tiring and dishevelled, the transition back to work is filled with a storm of new feelings and challenges that can momentarily knock even the best of us down.
It’s sad to leave your baby. Even if you’re leaving your baby with your husband, mom or a really amazing caretaker, you’re still leaving your baby, the one you’ve just met a few weeks or months ago and who you’ve come to love more than you thought humanly possible.
And hello, hormones! You can blame it on them, too, because in fact, there are hormones and biological instincts surging through your body, and it takes a very tough cookie to wade past it all without having a breakdown. 
Go easy on yourself this week, and know that the tears will pass. If you have any close friends at work or trusted colleagues you can talk to, give yourself the chance to vent if you need it.

2. Feelings of relief.

For some of us, especially those of us who’ve been lucky enough to have a long, paid leave, there’s sometimes another feeling brewing. The chance to be among adults? Showered? With a hot beverage in hand? All three in one morning can feel like winning the lottery after months of incubating with your baby in relative solitude.
But what about the tears? Can you feel relief and sadness at the same time? Oh, yes: That’s the hallmark of this special time. It’s a confusing brew of emotions, and for some of you, there’s a great sense of relief, even while you’re also feeling sad and anxious about leaving your baby at home. If you’ve been worried about your job or your career, getting back into the thick of your “old” life can feel like walking into a familiar place after months in Never-Never Land. 

3. New torture devices and routines.

This week you’ll be trying out new products (especially if you’re pumping breastmilk at work). You’ll be testing the ropes and quickly learning all about pumps, bottles and the monstrous-sized bag you now need to carry all this new equipment in. Not to mention how to discreetly take 20 minutes out every three hours to disappear into a lactation room (if you’re lucky) or a converted broom closet/bathroom (if you’re unlucky). This topic merits an entirely separate discussion in itself — which we will tackle in Week 45.
You’ll also probably be trying out a new commute and morning/evening schedule. The hand-off of your munchkin to daycare or your nanny (and back) is going to require some serious clock-watching. Never before has being punctual been so important, and an unpredictable commute been so wretched. Again, that’s another topic in itself — which we’ll tackle soon.
Believe it or not, it will get easier. To some extent, it simply takes practice to get used to so many new things. Also, the physical toll and fatigue will ease up for most people after the first few month. But finally, if all else fails, according to Rob Bravo of Talking Talent, a consultancy specializing in maternity leave coaching, there are [exercises you can do to build up your emotional resilience].
Until then, keep those tissues handy and your fight song on repeat, girl!

Don’t miss out on articles like these. Sign up!

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always