Date: July 28, 2016

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Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program

Returning to Work

This page was reviewed or revised on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 9:14 AM

Just when mom is becoming familiar, adjusted and comfortable with her role as a new mother, it may be time to go back to work. However, her return to work can be difficult for both parents.

Becoming a working family is a time when parents must balance their personal needs with a baby's needs, and their need to nurture and be with their baby with a need to work. It is at this time, some mothers reconsider their decision to return to work, while others re-evaluate their options.

Being away from your child, may cause a variety of feelings:

  • Unsure about leaving your child with someone else.
  • Guilty for wanting or needing time away. Others may not agree with you working   because society places an emphasis on the mother/child relationship.
  • Worry. "Will baby miss me?" "Will my absence harm him?"
  • Jealous that someone else is with your child and may see first-time events. Or, will the baby love them more than me?
  • Anxious. "Is this person competent?" "What do I tell them about caring for my baby?"
  • Sadness about leaving your baby.
  • Distracted. You may find it hard to concentrate on work.

Personal time away

Parents need to pay attention to their own needs. If ignored, negative feelings can harm the relationship between the parent and child. If parents respect their own needs, the child will learn to respect the needs of others. Parents can feel more loving and giving if they have time away or time for themselves. Parents need time alone individually, as well as time away together to nurture their relationship.

Having work time away

Feelings about returning to work depend on the reasons behind it. In today's economic climate, many families need two incomes, so there is pressure on women to work. For some, work can be personally satisfying. A woman, accustomed to working, or who has a career she enjoys, may feel more fulfilled by returning to work. Generally, if mother is happy with her work, the family does not suffer, if their needs are being met. So, when it comes to work and childcare, every family must decide what's best for them.

There are several steps to help you prepare for your return to work. Some suggestions may help you to decide whether you want to return to work and when, while for others it may help smooth the return for you, your child and your family.

Before baby arrives

1. While you are still working, check your company policy options for:

  • length of maternity leave
  • benefits
  • paternity leave
  • family leave
  • use of sick leave when you return to work

Ask your employer about a gradual return to work, part-time work, job sharing or flexible work hours. You may not decide what to do until after the birth, but if both parents know their options it may help with your decisions.

2. Consider and research child care choices ahead of time to determine advantages and disadvantages. Find out what resources are available locally. Most types of care require some legwork by you in terms of contacting agencies, checking out waiting lists, and checking on subsidy eligibility and availability. Visit the people or places you are considering before the baby is born and think about what will work for your family. Try to decide on the basics - type of care, cost, distance, a smoking or non-smoking environment.

3. Find out what babies need, what is "good care" for an infant and what is important to you.

  • A one-on-one relationship?
  • caregiver who will mother you as well as your child?
  • A very clean, safe environment?

It may be difficult to set up care in advance without knowing your baby's special needs. It is important to do preliminary work and to keep your choices open.

When you have decided to return to work

1. Give yourself plenty of time to find care. Choose what feels right for you and your baby. What works for another family may not be right for yours.

2. Leave your baby with others occasionally and increase the amount of time as your return to work nears. If possible, choose care that allows you to start your baby gradually so both of you can adjust to the new situation. If possible, return to work slowly by working a shorter day or on a part-time basis.

3. If you are breastfeeding, discuss options and alternatives with your health-care professional ahead of time.

4. Give detailed information to the caregiver about your baby's wants and needs.

5. Make sure both parents share the new family responsibilities of caring for the child and in making child-care arrangements.

6. Plan to be involved in your child's care by talking with your child's caregiver: call, set up a joint log, meet regularly. On occasion, drop in to see how your child is adapting. Some children may be confused and upset when mom comes and goes outside of the usual routine. Base your actions on their reactions.

7. This is not a time to change regular routines. Do not plan other new activities until you and your child have adjusted.

8. A child may have distinct reactions to being separated from mother.

  • He may seem angry with mom.
  • Ignore her when she comes to pick him up.
  • Say "no" and push mom away.
  • Refuse to make eye contact.

Mom needs to accept the child's reaction and spend extra time with him when first home after work. Do not overcompensate by changing your normal behaviour limits. Be consistent. Do not let guilt be your companion.

9. Arrange for backup care in case of emergency situations, such as when your child or caregiver becomes ill. Introduce your child to these arrangements.

10. Plan ahead and simplify your life for the first few months. Stock your freezer, set up routines.

11. Have realistic expectations. It will take much of your time and energy to adjust to being a working family. Convey a positive attitude to the child.

For more information, contact County of Lambton Lambton Public Health at 519- 383-8331 extension 3817 or toll free 1-800-667-1839.


Resource Sheet developed by the Canadian Child Day Care Federation and the Canadian Association of Toy Libraries and Parent Resource Centres.

Ross, K. A Parents' Guide to Day Care. Self-Counsel Press: Vancouver, 1990.