Every mom has their least favorite thing about maternity leave. For some, it’s spending several months covered in your baby’s bodily fluids (and often your own). For others, the worst part is the brain fog that sets in when your sleep schedule has been completely erratic for weeks and you start to lose track of what day it is. Having a new baby, as amazing as it can be, is also an endless tunnel of small horrors, which means maternity leave can be incredible and beautiful, but it’s not exactly a vacation — and it’s not experienced the same way by any two moms. 

That said, the one universally true aspect of maternity leave is that it comes to an end at some point. And when you’re approaching the conclusion of your leave, you will very likely have the following thoughts at least once as you face the prospect of heading back into the real world.

“OMG, where has the time gone???”

It doesn’t matter if you took 4 weeks off work or a whole year, there will inevitably come a point when you look up from your baby daze to see what day of the week it is and realize that your return date is rudely approaching so much faster than you expected. This realization will surely bring a lot of different feelings with us, but the first one will be shock. Always. Because what is time? When you have a new baby, it’s a loose concept that operates on principles outside the normal laws of space and time. 

“Aww, I don’t want to go back to work!”

Look, work is fine and all, but…have you seen a baby? More specifically, have you seen your baby? Work simply cannot compete with spending all day every day staring at your baby and watching them discover their hands and the dog and trees for the first time. It’s going to be such a bummer when you have to interrupt all that juicy baby-ness and go back to work! 

“OK, no, I can’t go back to work.”

There’s a line between feeling all mushy about your sweet maternity leave days with your baby and feeling actual anxiety — or even panic — about the idea of breaking the bubble, leaving them, and going back to work. And you might swing back and forth across that line multiple times a day towards the end of your maternity leave. Your anxiety might be rooted in fear of what it will mean for your baby to be without you while you work or you might just not feel mentally and energetically ready yourself to be back in professional mode. It might just be anxiety about yet another change coming your way during a season of relentless changes. It’s not fun, but it is totally normal. 

“Hell yes, I cannot wait to go back to work.”

On the other hand, if you don’t feel sad or anxious, and instead, feel totally excited and can’t wait, that’s also completely normal. Hey, you obviously love your baby, and those early days where you’re entirely focused on them and on yourself as you adjust and recover (if you birthed your baby) are beyond precious, but — we’ll just say it — those days can be boring as hell too. When you’re on maternity leave, the mom part of you becomes dominant while the other parts of you fall dormant for a while. This is totally normal, and it’s also totally normal to miss having those other parts of you engaged. You are a complex and dynamic person! You can think your baby is magical and be thrilled about the idea of getting to use other parts of your brain again soon! 

“Do I even remember how to do my job?”

But using those other parts of your brain…do they even still work? Have you been deprived of so much sleep that your mental capacity is permanently diminished? Sure, you used to kill it at your job every day just a few months ago, but that was a million years ago (or so it feels like). Towards the end of your maternity leave, you might start to wonder if you’ll even be able to do your job when you go back. The good news: you’ll be too tired to stress about it too much and also — we’ll just state the obvious — you totally can still do your job.  

“Are we ready for this?”

By “we” you mean “you, your baby, your partner, the rest of your family, everyone you work with” — everyone’s equilibrium can feel on the line when it comes to you going back to work. While it might be par for the course to worry about whether your return from maternity leave will derail you, your baby, your family, or your team at work, the fact is, you will all be more than fine. If having a new kid and taking time off from work has revealed one common thing about all of you, it’s your shared resiliency in the face of change. You might never feel exactly “ready,” but you always are perfectly able to handle it.

 

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