The Emotional Roller Coaster of Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

The hardest thing for me to do was leave my six week old daughter to go back to a job I hated.

Hate is a strong word. But it accurately fits my emotions towards my job as an overworked case manager. Before I got pregnant, I was adamantly trying to leave. Between putting several applications in, finishing up my master’s degree, and trying to start a business on Amazon, you couldn’t tell me I’d still be at the same job by fall. Once I became pregnant, I gave up on trying to find a new job as I was convinced no one would hire a pregnant lady.

What was even sadder for me aside from the crappy six week leave I received with half pay was that I only got to spend a month with my daughter. Born at 34 weeks premature, she spent two weeks in the NICU. Those two weeks were a seriously trying time for me (which I’ll address in another post); however, I was grateful for the time I did have with her. It was a nice break from work for the most part. And while I missed being able to sleep through a whole night, I didn’t feel overwhelmed and super sleep deprived like I heard from so many moms.

What did kill and overwhelm me was the stress of trying to find a work from home job that didn’t involve direct sales. (Yes, this works for some people and I’m sure they make great money, but it just isn’t my cup of tea.) I stressed and stressed trying to find ways to stay home including contemplating taking a loan out against our house to buy me more time. My mind went from being angry with the nurses and doctors holding my baby girl hostage in the NICU to dwelling on the impending doom of eventually having to return to work.

As I look back, I don’t think I was able to fully enjoy every moment with her those four weeks. Every time I tried to relax and simply be with her, I felt this blanket of fear smother me, knowing our time together would be cut short. In a sense, my brain wouldn’t let me be TOO happy because there was always something to worry about. That’s the way I’m wired I guess.

While dropping off a rental car, I found out that companies like Enterprise give you 3 months off. And when you do return, they let you ease back into it by letting you work a few hours here and there. I wanted to scream! I know most decent companies give 3 months off paid or unpaid and do FMLA, but here I was busting my butt at an agency where an actual degree is required, and I only got a measly six weeks. And even though I explained my situation of my daughter being a preemie, I still was only allowed four weeks to bond with her. What I wouldn’t give for 3 months!

The upside is that my mom, whom I trust with my child more than anyone, was able to watch her everyday while my husband and I went to work. Daycare was completely out of the question and probably will be as long as I can help it. I know she’s safe and in good hands, but that only makes it about 2% easier to be without her all day.

If you’re going through something similar, all I can offer are words of encouragement. Hang in there. It’s hard. But it’s even more motivation for me to get my act together and find something that allows me more time with family.

How did you deal with returning to work after having a baby?

About Joni

Joni lives in the Gentilly area with her husband, Donald, their dog Stella, and cat who’s name is also Cat. They spend their days doting over their first child, Lily. Joni is finishing up her Masters in Social Work. Joni’s blog, The Well Balanced Mom, explores her new life as a mom while coping with depression and anxiety.


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