Returning to work after having a baby; advice to get you on track

22 Apr

Finding the perfect work-family-life balance – isn’t that the ultimate illusion?  Is there ever going to be the perfect balance?  Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strive for the best scenario that works for you and your family.  Penny Clayton and Wendy Reus are the authors of “Spinning Plates”, a book that has been written to help mums achieve balance with work, family and home.  Sometimes it does feel like the plates are literally spinning in the air; here is some advice from Penny and Wendy to give you the feeling that they won’t crash to the floor…at least not for now!

juggling family life work

“There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations”  Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

 Managing expectations is the key to handling our emotions when returning to work after having a baby. Returning to work usually requires some pretty amazing organisational skills. Before you have a baby this all feels reasonably straight-forward. However, after the life changing experience of birth, the emotional highs and lows, the physical changes and then deciding to leave the baby behind and return to work, feelings can be very different. You may have conflicting thoughts around your career, relationships, desire to stay with the baby, fear of loss of status and maybe money worries. Many lack confidence when they return to work possibly because priorities have changed. The feelings of separation can be very strong. It is so important to acknowledge all of this to cope with any emotional turmoil.

Tips to help you manage work-life balance


  1. Think about why you’re returning to work. It could be financial, independence, intellectual stimulation, career development or social needs. Identify the reason and then accept.
  2. If at times you doubt your ability to return to work, review your past achievements and strengths. You applied and were recruited to do a job so remind yourself of the abilities, skills and experiences that qualified you to do the job in the first place. Be kind to yourself.
  3. Look for support in helping to build your confidence from those that know and care about you. Tell them how you are feeling and ask for help.
  4. Don’t be surprised if you feel overwhelmed about leaving your child – or even if you don’t! You can experience a whole range of emotions from guilt, fear, anxiety and even pleasure. You may feel dreadful leaving your baby – and you may not. Your feelings are valid and are just feelings. Whatever you feel is fine, and whatever you feel will probably change – sometimes hourly.
  5. Prepare for the negative comments of others and have your response ready. Face it, accept it, take action and allow time to pass.
  6. Have a conversation with your partner about the changes that returning to work might bring for you both. What are your expectations of each other? Don’t assume that there will be an understanding of the implications. Some of the issues may also be relevant to discuss with older children.
  7. Take care of yourself. It’s a good investment and a way of modelling what you want for your child.
  8. Make the most of the gap between home and work to get ready for being at home. Use the journey to collect your thoughts before you go in.
  9. Tiredness and feeling low can be an issue for working mums as you adjust physically and emotionally. It is not a weakness.  Often we ignore how we feel in an attempt to prove that we are coping. Accept how you feel and get what sleep you can. However if you tend to sleep on the train do set your phone alarm.
  10. If you think you may have post-natal depression seek medical help as soon as possible.

new mums going back to work balance

 Handling your new workload whilst being a mum 

You may feel refreshed and reinvigorated about your work after a period of maternity leave. This means you could be more enthusiastic and more productive as a result. You may also have a different approach to work, maybe a new perspective that helps you with prioritising and decision-making, and some clear thinking about what is really important to you. At the very least, having a baby can certainly enhance your organisational skills.


  1. Encourage others to respect your commitments. Ask for plenty of warning of changes to dates and times.
  2. Some colleagues seemed to have no difficulty in taking two hours for lunch and then later commenting “Oh, going home now are you?” to someone who has taken a very short lunch and leaves on time. Ignore it, use humour, and know that you are quite comfortable with your contribution.
  3. If working late is an issue, perhaps work late one night a week and go home on time the rest of the week.
  4. It is common to feel that you might not be doing either parenting or working as well as you could. Accept this and focus on whichever one you are engaged in at the time.
  5. Changes at work will have taken place so give yourself time to adjust.

If you hold on to high expectations of yourself as a mother and employee and don’t succeed fully, beware of the enemy – guilt.

“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.”
Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

 By Penny Clayton and Wendy Reus, authors of “Spinning Plates”.

spinning plates book returning to work penny spinning plates

Share your experiences of going back to work after having a baby – how did you find it?



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