Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

My child is 4 months old and I’m going back to work. How can I help myself adjust?

MOLLY: This came from a reader based in San Francisco. She added that she’s really worried about going back to work and isn’t sure how to handle it all.

Dr. Susan Rutherford (Molly’s Mom): First of all you’re going to have to understand you’re going to have a lot of anxiety.

And that there’s a conflict between working and being home with your kids. Both of which you want to be doing but it takes its toll. The good news is that studies have shown that women who work and raise their children often feel happier. The thing is you never really feel that you’re at the place where you should be –  when you’re home you should be at work and when you’re at work you should be at home. And that’s a conflict that most women carry throughout their work life.

MOLLY: One thing that you always told me that was really helpful when I was working was that it’s no longer a career, it’s a job when you have children. Because there’s no way you can put in the time that other people are putting in and you’re getting passed over for those positions that have that commitment, that full-time energy.

DR. RUTHERFORD: Those people don’t have that agonizing split of being with the kids and being at work.

MOLLY: That statement really helped because mentally you can be there and know it’s a job and maybe later on when you’re kids are older it can come back to being a career or maybe it’s going to be a job from here on out.

DR. RUTHERFORD: That’s right. Even if you’re doing higher level professional work, it’s easier to just see it as a job.

MOLLY: That’s the hardest thing, you’ve worked your whole career and then you have kids and it’s just a whole different story. You have so many other things going on besides work.

DR. RUTHERFORD: I remember I was in my last semester at graduate school and your sister was born and I had done really well up until then. And that last semester I got less than an “A”. But I knew why: because my heart wasn’t in school anymore. I had a baby so I didn’t have the psychological energy to put into schoolwork that I had before the baby was born. I think the same thing happens around work and it causes a lot of angst. It’s hard to make that go away because it really doesn’t.

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