Returning to work after maternity leave can be a rollercoaster, with many ups and downs, twists and turns. When you think about it (and experience it), some parallels can be drawn to the 4th trimester:

  • It can hit us harder than anticipated.
  • It can be a rollercoaster of emotions, where we are trying to find our feet with this new balance and this new world we find ourselves in.
  • Perhaps we feel others around us have it together more than we do and are more capable than we are at balancing it all.
  • Perhaps we feel overwhelmed, anxious, uncertain of what we are doing or how we are doing it.

The difficulty of this transition of returning to work can often be underestimated and under supported.

What does the research show?

Research shows just how challenging it can be for Mums returning to work. In a recent poll of 50 Mums who had previously returned to work after having their baby: 

  • 88% said they suffered with guilt when returning to work
  • 75% said they suffered with low confidence as they returned to work
  • 98% felt anxious ahead of returning to work after their maternity leave
  • 74% suffered from imposter syndrome

Mums, more often than not don’t speak out about their challenges for fear of judgement or that they will appear vulnerable/weak in a work setting. Mums worry that by opening up about how hard they are finding it; it will give an impression that they aren’t able to manage at the same level as previously.

From personal experience of returning to work after my first 3 babies, my eyes were truly opened to the rawness and challenges of this transition. My confidence was through the floor, and I constantly felt like I was doing half a job in work and half a job as a Mum.

As parents, we want to feel confident and empowered both professionally and personally during this transition. So how can we help to make this transition back to work smoother?

How can we help make the transition smoother when returning to work?

There are 3 areas that you can begin to focus on, along with practical preparation, which can help to make the transition back to work smoother and reduce the anxieties around the return:

  1. Building your confidence

Whether its personally or professionally, recognising when we are telling ourselves something that is a self-limiting belief (SLB) is crucial. And by turning these into empowering beliefs, it will support you to build a more positive mind-set and build your confidence.

For example, a SLB could be “I am not good enough at…”, however, ask yourself, what evidence is this based on? It is important to change these SLB to empowering beliefs such as “I am really good at …”.

  1. Identifying & Reducing your guilt

Mums tend to hide the guilt that is weighing so heavy on them. One Mum described to me how she quietly sobbed into her bedroom wardrobe, trying to hide her guilt she was feeling about everything from her husband. She felt like she “should” be able to cope better and felt like everyone else seemed to be managing so she “should” be able to as well.  

A lot of guilt comes from things we feel a “perfect” mother/partner/employee “should” be or do. Awareness of whether it’s a genuine guilt or a guilt based on “should” is very important. A few steps you can take is:

  • Write out the things you are feeling guilty about
  • Think about how you can re-frame that guilt 
  • Take steps to lessen the guilt


3. Setting work / home boundaries

returning to work

Identifying and setting boundaries for work/home balance can be an important part of helping make this transition a little smoother. Your boundaries won’t remain exactly the same as time passes, but coming back round these to identify what you need, or what might push your values or beliefs can really support you overall.

If your values are broken or pushed too much, it can cause you negative feelings (like anger or resentment towards work or home things) so it is key to identity and set your boundaries so your values are not repeatable broken.

Whether practical or emotional, support is key.

Whether it is supporting ourselves, partners, colleagues or organisations supporting their employees, there is no denying that specific support during this unique time in a parents career and home life is critical.

Communication is fundamental to a smooth return also, letting those around you know how you are feeling, at work and home, and what they can do to support you during this transition.

It’s a time to be kind to ourselves, and lean on those around us.

“There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one” Jill Churchill

☎️📧 If you would like to understand more on how my 1 to 1 coaching, online or in-person workshops or corporate programs could support you or employees within your organisation please get in touch to arrange a free discovery call. 

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