This is an article in our Pregnancy Week by Week series, a resource to help you manage your job and life, through and after your pregnancy.

Week 48: Not Sure About Going Back to Work?

Even the most die-hard career women have their moments of doubt.

Some of you get an early start and start thinking about what having a baby means for your career as soon as you see those 2 pink lines on your pregnancy test. For others, reality only hits when your baby arrives and you start investigating the cost of childcare. How much do you have to make in order for you to break even after daycare and taxes??? With the eye-popping price tag of outsourced childcare, staying at home can seem like a very attractive option.

Then there’s the emotional aspects of having a baby. It’s hard to leave your newborn to...well, do anything else. Things that you used to do no longer seem appealing. On the list are things like taking a shower, and going on a date with your husband so it’s no wonder you feel some doubt about going back to work...even to a job you love.

Of course, it’s that much harder to leave your baby to go back to work if you only feel ambivalent about your job or you even dislike your work. Whereas flying around on business trips with an expense account and clients used to sound (and feel) exciting, now the job you’d kill for looks like one where you can work in your PJs. Preferably flexibly, from home sometimes, or even part-time so you can spend more time with your baby.

Whatever your situation, it’s very common to doubt whether you’re going to go back to your job after having a baby. Blaming it on hormones is cliche, but the truth of the matter is that when life changes this dramatically, it’s normal, sane, and heck, smart to take a hard look at your life choices.

So what do you do if you’re thinking about making a change? Here are a few helpful tips we’ve gathered from women we know who’ve lived through this inflection point:

Don’t make any hasty moves. While taking action feels good, especially when you’re experiencing a lot of emotions, try to vent rather than act. This is one of those times in life where it’s important to talk about the problem with your partner/spouse, your best friends, your mentors and other women you respect / admire.

Check out your options. There’s no cost to checking out other jobs or positions out there, especially if you’ve been in your role for a long time and aren’t sure what other options there are. If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere where you’re valued, you may even be able to negotiate the job you want internally rather than look outside the company.

All it takes is some quality time with your laptop to figure out whether there are better jobs and companies for you as a new mom. This is one time when FOMO may actually be helpful.

Consider experimenting with different options while you’re on maternity leave.

It might sound like a feat for Superwoman, but that’s exactly what Danielle Greason did and says can make a lot of sense if you’re interested in trying out remote working opportunities. She says:

You’ve already made arrangements to have income coming in through paid leave for a fixed window of time, and active participation like showing up to work is not required...This is a ‘no-pressure’ time in which to try something new, and the removal of pressure can translate through to increased effectiveness in seeking out your ideal remote working opportunities.

Think beyond today, next month, and even next year.

Parenting a newborn is a very different thing than parenting a second-grader. It’s hard to imagine the future, but some job and career changes might take years to play out if you’re thinking of making a major change.

Consider the time and financial commitments you have to make both now and in a few years, and also whether you want to have more children.

Look for role models. Are there women who seem to have the work-life balance you’re interested in? What did they do? Get a coffee or ask them to give you their advice about what to do. Maybe you’ll find out they’re as happy as they seem...or that the grass isn’t necessarily greener.

Sometimes there’s no way to know whether something is right without just taking a leap into the unknown. Follow your gut after investigating and let your feelings evolve and settle down. We’re rooting for you!

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How can I manage my full-time job plus my new responsibilities without losing my mind?

I'm having trouble focusing on work since coming back from maternity leave. My job is very busy and pre-baby, I couldn't get my work done unless I was 100% focused on the project at hand for the full day. Now my mind wanders to thinking about the baby...

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