The transition from pregnant to new mom to returning to work is not easy. Whether you’re an in-person or a remote employee, there’s a big adjustment to going back to work after baby. You go from sleepless nights, constant breastfeeding, and poop-filled diapers to meetings, Zoom calls, and deadlines all in the blink of an eye. 

Research shows that 75% of women express a desire to return to work after becoming parents, yet a staggering 43% end up leaving their jobs. Navigating the return to work after having a baby can be confusing. Your body has changed, as well as your priorities, your energy levels, and your focus.

What Returning to Work Looks Like Postpartum

A mom’s journey to reenter the workforce postpartum requires a lot of adjustments. She has to essentially recalibrate her responsibilities and blend her maternal duties with her professional demands. 

Working mom advocate and writer, Christine Michel Carter says that a typical day may look like coordinating childcare logistics, planning lactation breaks, and addressing physical and emotional needs, while simultaneously balancing professional obligations. 

“A mom transitioning back into work might be dealing with fatigue, breastfeeding or pumping, and mental barriers such as anxiety or guilt,” Carter said. 

Adapting to a new rhythm of juggling familial obligations and workplace commitments requires moms to plan ahead and establish support structures.

“These unique challenges separate her experience from that of her colleagues,” she added.

The Barriers to Returning to Work

Moms encounter many unseen hurdles in the return-to-work process according to Carter. Some obstacles might include navigating workplace biases and negotiating accommodations for parental responsibilities. 

“For women of color, these challenges are compounded by our intersecting identities,” she added. “These challenges often manifest as subtle forms of discrimination or expectations for heightened performance.”

Overcoming these obstacles requires moms to advocate for equitable treatment. It also requires employers to foster a culture of inclusivity for working moms within organizational frameworks.

Working mothers may also experience a range of conflicting emotions postpartum, such as guilt, apprehension, and exhaustion. This cocktail of emotions can make returning to work difficult.  

“Moms may feel complex emotions as they navigate societal expectations and their personal aspirations,” Carter said. “Acknowledging and validating these feelings is essential to mom’s overall well-being.”

Advice for Moms Juggling Motherhood and Work

For a woman navigating the complexities of returning to work postpartum, it is important to prioritize self-care. Moms should also seek support from their community, whether that be medical practitioners, doulas, therapists, family, or other moms. 

Carter encourages moms returning to work to establish boundaries, delegate tasks, and advocate for accommodations. This will create a smoother transition. She also encourages open dialogue with employers. 

“Don’t be afraid to utilize available resources for mental health and parental support,” she said. “This can mitigate fatigue and enhance work-life integration.”