It’s tough to know for sure what you’ll do, or need, once your baby is here. But the more you plan for returning to your job post-pregnancy, the better equipped you’ll be to make the best decisions for your family when the time comes.
Here are ten things to know and to keep in mind about what it’s like for new moms to go back to work after baby’s arrival.
Going back to work has benefits for the mom…
Women who have multiple rewarding roles – mother and employee, especially – tend to be mentally and physically healthier than women who have fewer roles. You can start to read a bit more about this research here.
…and benefits for the kids
Researchers have found that in the United States, moms who worked had daughters who earned 23% more than the daughters of women who didn’t work. Compared to men whose moms didn’t work, sons of working moms tended to spend seven and a half more hours a week on childcare and 25 more minutes on housework. Working mothers are modeling for their children how men and women can integrate breadwinning and caregiving. There’s been a lot of detailed research about this topic, so if you want to read more, start here or here.
The numbers are on your side
In the U.S. alone, more and more mothers of young children are entering the workforce. The Pew Research Center reports that a little over a third of the US workforce consists of millennial moms. In 46% of two-parent households in the United States, both parents work full time.
Part-time isn’t the same thing as flexible hours
A lot of women think that they’d be better off doing part-time work once their baby is born. This isn’t necessarily as helpful as having a work arrangement where you can get a full-time amount of work done, but be flexible about when you do it. You could take a pay cut or lose benefits if working part-time, so make sure you think about this and whether part-time would work with your finances and scheduling needs.
It’s normal for working moms to be as career-focused as dads
According to Pew Research Center, among heterosexual parents who are working full time, roughly 62% report that mothers and fathers have equal career ambitions, and neither parent’s career gets prioritized over the other.
If you decide to work, your perspective will change
Certain problems – especially work-related ones – will get a whole lot smaller if you do decide to go back to work. Pre-baby, a prominent coffee spill on a white shirt may have turned your day sideways. Post-baby, some infant spit up will barely be a blip on the radar of your overall day. As time goes on, many working moms find that minor child and family issues seem less significant and overwhelming, which allows them to focus instead on the daily joys that come with parenting.
Everyone is happy and appreciative when they see the paycheck deposited into their account. There’s no statistical evidence about who tends to be happier on payday, but if you do become a working parent, the odds are good that you’ll feel an even higher level of joy when payday rolls around.
There’s a fourth trimester (but it’s not of pregnancy)
From birth to three months, your baby will be in the unofficial fourth trimester. During this period, it’s super important for parents to try and be around their baby as often as possible. Think of it as a transition period for babies to adjust to a whole new world outside the womb.
It’s an important period for new parents, too, who find themselves thrust into the world of parenting, quickly learning the ins and outs of caring for a new baby. For many, taking this time helps them adjust to their new role as a parent. Not all parents can afford to not go back to work, but if you can take any amount of leave from your job, take everything that you can possibly get to be around your little one during this time.
You might be incredibly happy and excited to return to work
Any fears you may have about going back to work (things being difficult, feeling like you will miss your baby too much or vice versa) aren’t invalid, but they aren’t necessarily going to play out. Many moms report that going back to work was super satisfying and welcoming after they spent so many hard hours alone with their newborn.
It could be easier than you think
This isn’t to downplay the work that a new baby takes. It certainly isn’t to downplay the effort it takes to have a new baby and go to work, either! But lots of real moms report that going back to work was easier and more manageable than they expected it to be. The decision to go back to work is completely up to what’s best for you and your family, but until you have a crystal ball that can show you what’s going to happen when you go back to your job, it’s best not to let your fears guide you into limiting yourself and your expectations about what you will or will not be able to handle after your little one arrives.
- “Working Mothers Issue Brief.” DOL. Women’s Bureau, US Department of Labor, 2016. Web. Accessed 7/25/17. Available at https://www.dol.gov/wb/resources/WB_WorkingMothers_508_FinalJune13.pdf.
- Eileen Patten. “How American parents balance work and family life when both work.” PewResearch. Pew Research Center, Nov 2015. Web.
- Carmen Nobel. “Children Benefit from Having a Working Mom.” HBS. President & Fellows of Harvard College, May 2015. Web. Accessed 7/25/17. Available at http://www.hbs.edu/news/articles/Pages/mcginn-working-mom.aspx.
- Rosalind Chait Barnett, PhD of the Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University. “Women and Multiple Roles: Myths and Realities.” Harv Rev Psychiatry. 12(3):158-164. Web. May/June 2004.
- Jayita Poduval and Murali Poduval. “Working Mothers: How Much Working, How Much Mothers, And Where Is The Womanhood?” Mens Sana Monogr. 7(1): 63–79. Web. Jan-Dec 2009.
- “The Kids Are All Right: Few Negative Associations With Moms’ Return to Work Soon After Having Children.” APA. American Psychological Association, Oct 14 2010. Web. Accessed 11/7/17. Available at http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/10/working-mothers.aspx.