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Going back to work after having a baby

After having a baby, going back to work might be the last thing you want to think about. But the better prepared and supported you are, the easier the transition will be.

Becoming a parent can directly affect the way you feel about your job. You may find that your focus shifts away from work entirely. One study showed that mothers in particular tended to let go of work-related goals and focus more on family-related goals instead [1].

This may not be the case for you and, even if it is, it won’t necessarily be forever. By the time children are approaching school age, many parents start to take more of an interest in work, and often reconnect with old ambitions [2]. Some parents really look forward to going back to work after round-the-clock baby care.

Going back to work after having a baby is a major life transition. Rather than just seeing it as part of the overall experience of having a baby, try looking at it as its own event. Even just on a practical level, having a baby may mean that your working patterns have to change. You might go back to work on a part-time basis, or work from home more, and this could end up being on a more long-term basis [3].

You’ll also have to figure out how to balance your role as a parent with your role as an employee. These two roles can sometimes get in the way of each other – an unavailable childminder may mean you have to work from home, or a shift that overruns may mean less time at home before your baby goes to bed [4].

Talk to your partner about how you’re going to manage work and family life. There’s going to be a period of adjustment as you adapt to any changes made at work while you’ve been away, which might include new colleagues, a new organisational structure, or a different way of working [3].

Parenting skills at work

But it’s not all bad news. Becoming a parent means you have to learn lots of new skills and these skills can be useful in your work life – not so much changing nappies or mashing apples, but the more transferable skills that come with being a parent, like time management, patience, multi-tasking, and being super-organised. As you add the parenting string to your bow, you may find you get better at dealing with the stresses and strains that work throws at you [5].

The three most important people in supporting your transition back to work are your manager, your partner, and yourself. Your manager should offer support such as ‘keeping in touch days’ and flexible working options, and your partner can provide valuable emotional support. Finally, you can give yourself the best chance by making a plan for how you’re going to return to work [3].

Have a think about your job and what you want to get out of it, bearing in mind that even if success at work is not your immediate priority, this may be temporary. Ask yourself what you want from the role, and go back in with clear goals in mind. The transition will be a little smoother and you’ll soon get into the swing of this next phase of your life.


[1] Salmela-Aro, K., Nurmi, J. E., Saisto, T., & Halmesmäki, E. (2000). Women’s and men’s personal goals during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology: JFP: Journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 14(2), 171–186.

[2] Evertsson, M. (2013). The importance of work Changing work commitment following the transition to motherhood. Acta Sociologica, 56(2), 139–153.

[3] Wiese, B. S., & Heidemeier, H. (2012). Successful Return to Work After Maternity Leave: Self-Regulatory and Contextual Influences. Research in Human Development, 9(4), 317–336.

[4] Perrone, K. M., Wright, S. L., & Jackson, Z. V. (2009). Traditional and Nontraditional Gender Roles and Work—Family Interface for Men and Women. Journal of Career Development, 36(1), 8–24.

[5] Barnett, R. C., & Hyde, J. S. (2001). Women, men, work, and family. An expansionist theory. The American Psychologist, 56(10), 781–796.

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