Mother holding her baby, depicting the close bond they've developed during her maternity leave before she has to return to work.

9 Tips for a Smooth Transition: Returning to Work After Maternity Leave


The transition from maternity leave to work can be both challenging and emotionally taxing for a mother. The end of maternity leave can evoke a myriad of emotions, ranging from excitement to sadness.

The idea of being away from your child can be difficult to grasp. You’ve probably been with your child almost 24/7 and have developed such a tight bond with them.

On the other hand, going back to work might be something that you’re looking forward to. You might be missing that social aspect of your job or you might crave a break from parenting duties.

To make the transition a little smoother, here’s a guide to help you through this critical period.

1. Acknowledge & Validate Your Feelings

A mother holding her baby nice and snug against her chest; a depiction of a mother feeling sad that her maternity leave is coming to an end and that she's having to go back to work.

Embrace all those feelings and emotions, whether it’s sadness, guilt, nervousness, stress, excitement, happiness, or relief. Whatever it is that you’re feeling; acknowledge those feelings.

Acknowledge these feelings and give yourself space to process them. Remember, all emotions are valid and normal during this major adjustment.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

It’s better to be prepared for the unexpected. Things might not go as smoothly as you had probably predicted or wished. Your new schedule might need a little tweak (as may your clothes, haha); some adjustments might have to be made.

3. Plan Ahead

To avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed, start planning your return to work early. Discuss your return date with your employer and caregiver and see if gradual returns are possible.

4. Develop Your Childcare Plan

Research childcare options such as daycare, family members, or a nanny.

Planning this is advance will allow you to prepare other things before returning to work. Advanced planning can give you some peace of mind.

Also, in some areas in Canada, spots in daycares are so limited that parents have to register their child to a daycare before they’re even born! So, planning this in advance is key.

5. Establish a New Routine

You can start thinking about establishing a new routine a month or two in advance to make it resemble one that will be implemented once you go back to work. Gradually changing your routine might be helpful, so it’s not too abrupt of a change. Consistency is key in establishing a new routine for both you and your child. You will both acclimatize to this new routine, just give it time.

Maybe you were used to waking up and eating at certain times during your maternity leave. Mornings are probably the part of your routine that need the most adjustment. When you’ll be starting work again, mornings might be much busier than they were before since you’ll be having to pack and leave at a certain time.

6. Stay Organized

Staying organized through the whole process will alleviate a lot of the stress that can come with your return back to work.

One suggestion is meal preparation. The first few weeks back at work are a huge adjustment, and thinking of having to make dinners and lunches can be stressful. You can do dinner/lunch meal preps on the weekends for the whole week or just to get you through some days.

Preparing everything the night before can also be helpful; to make mornings as smooth as possible to get you out of the door on time. You can prepare the clothes and lunches the night before for the next morning.

7. Create a Support Network

Creating your own little network of support with friends, family or fellow working mamas can help make the transition back to work easier on you emotionally. Having a support system can really help you feel less alone in this next chapter. Hopefully some people in your support network will be willing and able to help you in some of your preparative work before returning to work.

8. Establish a Self-Care Plan

This may sound annoying, but it’s pretty essential. The transition from maternity leave to work can be quite stressful. So, it’s good to have some self-care practices in place to try to reduce the stress.

  • Meditation & deep breathing exercises;
  • Prioritize sleep & rest;
  • Schedule personal time (bath, reading, journaling, etc);
  • Eat well to keep your energy levels up & maintain a good immune system.

9. Stay Connected With Your Child

Ease the transition back to work and the new childcare routine by creating ways to stay connected with your child. For example, if it’s possible, you can video call your child in the middle of the day or create morning/evening rituals with them (packing/unpacking their bag with them or listening to a special song together on your way to daycare).

To Conclude

The transition from maternity leave to work can be challenging and exciting for moms. Planning ahead, staying organized, having a support system, and practicing self-care can make the transition smoother. Embrace all feelings and emotions during this time, and remember that you’re doing your best. You will get through this next chapter, mama!

Was your return to work challenging? Or if your maternity leave is about to end, how are you feeling about it? Comment below?

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