You're Going Back to Work, Already?


The US has the shortest amount of paid maternity leave in the industrialized world. 

One of the hardest days for a new mom is the day she has to go back to work. For most new mothers in the US, maternity leave is way too short.  1 out of 4 new mothers return to work just 2 weeks after delivery. Most of these women return to work so soon after giving birth simply because the company they work for doesn't have paid maternity leave and they need the paycheck. Banking and insurance industries seem to have the best maternity leave policies. AMEX is now giving 6 months. Hopefully others will follow their example, but for now it isn’t looking good.

There are only 4 countries in the world that do not have mandated paid maternity leave. 

  • Swaziland

  • Liberia

  • Papua New Guinea

  • USA

The National Institute of Health did a study on maternity leave. This is what they learned: " A positive association was shown between the length of maternity leave and mother's mental health and duration of breastfeeding."

The idea of separating a newborn from his or her mother seems unnatural. There are many references to the importance of the 4th trimester, which is the the 3 month period after birth. It is the time new mothers need to heal and bond with their babies. It seems only logical that maternity leave should extend through the 4th trimester.

Many new mothers manage to cobble together 2 months of pay that they can use for maternity leave by putting together vacation time and disability leave or taking unpaid leave if their company permits it.

As heartbreaking and counter intuitive as it is to leave your baby, sometimes you have no choice. Whether you leave your baby with your mother or a nanny or a daycare center really doesn't matter. The fact that you are separated from your baby probably for the first time since she or he was born can be stressful. Some moms may feel guilty. Others feel loss and some feel both angry and guilty. This is understandable.

Leaving your baby may be inevitable. There are some ways to make this transition a little easier.

Plan ahead. Decide who is going to be caring for your baby. If you have a relative or a nanny, have them care for your baby for a short amount of time before you go back to work. That way your baby will be familiar with them and you will feel more confident.

  • When you are not at work, make sure your family comes first. Let go of nonessential commitments.

  • Going back to work part-time, if this is an option, may be helpful.

  • Accept help when it is offered and ask for help if you need it.

  • Remember that your house does not have to be spotless.

  • Breastfeeding before you go to work and as soon as you come home can reestablish the bond with your baby.

  • If you are not breastfeeding, holding your baby as you feed him or her will also reestablish the bond.

  • Join a working moms group. You will get tips and advice from other moms who are having the same concerns you have.

If you have to go back to work before you would like to, know that it doesn't make you a bad mother. By working you are providing for your baby. Make the time you spend with your baby quality time.

If you have questions about your maternity leave rights, this link has some good information.

How did you handle going back to work? What amount of time does your company allow? Please share your experience by leaving a comment below. I'm sure other moms are interested in your experience.