Back-to-Work Anxiety

A mom faces a return to work with deeply mixed feelings.  Some advice on how to navigate this transition.


The original poster writes....

"Hello PSP

I just had my first child at the end of July and am due to go back to my full-time job in November. I am having horrible anxiety and depression about going back to work and being away from my baby. I work in the editorial field and need to return not only for finances but also because I strongly believe that taking a year or two off of work would result in having a very difficult time getting back into my career. Although we could live off of my husbands salary for now, we would like to have more children and I keep hearing that I should wait to take time off until we have our second child. I do miss the office life sometimes, but at this point not enough to make it any easier when thinking about leaving my child at home for 45+ hours a week.

My question is, does it get any easier? Is the anxiety of it worse than when you get there? For stay-at-home parents, are you happy with the decision you made to stay home?

I am still looking for a nanny and hoping that finding someone great will ease the worry. But still, any advice or words of wisdom that you have, whether you work or are a stay-at-home parent, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!"




"I felt similarly awful about the prospect of going back to work. I dreaded it, and thought through all sorts of dramatic and unrealistic scenarios in which it might not have to happen. Ultimately, I did go, and it was fine. The first two weeks were really hard, but it's gotten progressively better. My daughter no longer minds when I leave, though she's excited when I return, and I enjoy using my brain and being in the company of adults during the workday. I'm gone for about 50 hours a week with the commute, and that seems to be reasonable for both my daughter and I. Remember that you can always go back and then change your mind. Happens all the time."


"I feel for you! I was a sobbing mess when I went back to my job in publishing at the end of May, leaving my 4-month-old in daycare, but the anxiety leading up to it really truly was much worse than being at work.
As soon as you get to the office you are SO busy getting caught up, showing off pictures of your little one, and if you're pumping a couple of times, and probably leaving at least an hour earlier than you did pre-baby, the day truly flies. You just can't think about what you might be missing with your baby.
Still, the first three months were definitely hard. I'd have the best weekends with my little girl, and then want to cry again on Monday mornings. As the baby gets bigger and more independent you start to see that it's probably good for them to interact with others, and good for you to keep your career going (if that's ultimately what you want to do). And the biggest bonus is you are happy and appreciative of every moment you have together... None of the "please please take a nap so I can do the dishes/ check my email" that you might have felt during your maternity leave. Or "what on earth are the two of us going to do today?" It's easier and more fun to fill your time when it's such a precious commodity. Even nursing took on a whole new value--
doing it every couple of hours felt overwhelming and a little boring, and I was counting the weeks til we could wean. Doing it three times a day feels special and now I'm afraid I might still be nursing her when
she's 3 years old (personal choices! no judgment! but let's just say... I never would have understood that impulse at 3 months).
This is kind of a collection of things other moms told me but they've been right.
To be completely honest, I will say I wish I'd figured out a way to stay home for 6 months... Leave of absence or whatever. I don't think that was even an option with my employer but I wish I had at least explored it. Walking away from your tiny baby is heart wrenching and feels, as another editor/mother of two I really respect and admire put it, "biologically wrong." I bawled walking to the subway every day that first week, clutching her little blankie, looking at pics on my iPhone waiting for the train. Torture!
One thing that makes a big difference is a sympathetic boss and good communication with your managers. You need to occasionally go in late, and leave early, and take random days off whenever you possibly can.
Working from home is not really possible, for me at least. I'd have huge stacks of manuscripts which I planned to read through every nap, but it's so hard to get much done that way.
I hope this is helpful, please let me know if you have any questions. Be brave, be a good model for your child, and... try not to think about it!"


"It gets ALOT easier.  First,once you have a nanny -- and I can recommend a great one if you'd like -- it stops being an abstract concept, and it is a person, whom you have picked, who is with your child. Second, if you have a great nanny, your child will have a better time on a day-to-day basis with your nanny than with you. I know that sounds Pollyana-ish, but think about it.  You have all of your stuff to do all day, errands, work stuff, cleaning up around the house, making dinner, whatever.  This is your nanny's job.  She spends the day doing things for your child.  When I was with my kids when they were babies, I congratulated myself if I made it to a song or story time or a play date.  With the nanny, they went to song time, had a playdate, went to music class, the playground and another playdate, all in one day.  Every day.  My kids have an amazing network of friends through their nanny. And, finally, though you're not there yet, when you have another child it gets much easier, because you are leaving them together, so they are building their own relationship separate from their parents, which is invaluable."


"I'm not sure if this will help you or not.
My first child was born in June nine years ago. I had the same anxiety about going back to work but did anyway because I couldn't imagine not working and thought we could use the extra income. Also I had already signed a contract to work that year. I was teaching third grade.
For a lot of reasons it was really hard for me. I just felt too overwhelmed with trying to parent and also grade papers, write lessons etc while home at night. I loved spending the summer with my baby and then just missed him so much all day. I cried every morning I went to work.
He was also in a daycare that was not great so then I began looking for a nanny. Once I started that process I realized that I needed to be home with him. Nannies cost about the same as my own salary. But also I felt like I would miss too much of his babyhood. And I didn't know of any nannies I trusted. So I left halfway through the school year. I was a much happier person once I had that weight lifted! It was just too stressful.
We figured it out financially and went without some things for a while. It was so worth it and I feel grateful I can stay at home. It is not for everyone and there are days when I dream of escaping to an office life. I love being with them, though it can be isolating at times and I am not great at cultivating mommy friends. But I want to be with my kids and I feel lucky.
I have four kids now so I probably won't go back to work anytime soon. I still have days when I think it would be nice to go to the office, but then I have to help a sick child or chaperone a field trip and I am happy to be at home.
Good luck to you!"


"Yes, I had a ton of anxiety as I prepared to return to work after my maternity leave!! My son was 11 weeks old when I went back to work.  I will say that for me it got a lot better.  The first few months are rough, I will not lie .... I remember missing him so much, but I tried to focus on the positives. I happen to love my job, so i really leaned on my coworkers and focused on appreciating my successes at work. I will say that especially after my son started sleeping through the night (at around 9 months), I was really back to my old self and totally happy that I went back to work full time. Also, we were very very lucky to find an amazing nanny who we respect and compensate fairly. My son loves her and my mind is at ease that he is well cared for. My son is now 16 months old and a sweet well-adjusted toddler. I am always striving for balance, but my career is thriving and I am content. I am sure you will make the decision that's right for your family, but I can vouch that it is normal to be anxious and even scared!"


"The first few weeks are tough and it's okay to feel happy about being someone other than mom while simultaneously feeling guilty for feeling that way and sad that you're not with your child.The first few weeks are about trial and error; learning about what routine works.

-- Allow yourself to be somewhat flexible about whatever routine you work out.  Being half an hour late to pick the baby up, assuming that's not a problem for your caregiver, is not the end of the world.
-- Make sure you have a caregiver you trust so that you feel confident that your child is being well taken care of while you're at work.
-- If you have a nanny, have the nanny text pictures of what the baby is doing during the day (I love this idea!).
Do as much as possible the night before because mornings are hectic.  So set out your clothes, prepare baby's diaper bag, etc.
-- Be kind to yourself and realize that this is not an easy transition and that it may take some time before it works smoothly.
-- Recognize that you have options if you don't love your job (for example, starting your own business).
-- If you're still pumping, have spare parts so you can wash one at night and pack up the other set.
-- Implement a 5 PM routine with your nanny in which she leaves everything ready for the next day: diaper bag, bib/wash cloth, ready for dinner or for breakfast, bottles ready with warm water for formula, overnight diaper and pajamas, shades down, white noise CD ready, etc, etc."


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