Any mom who has taken time off from her career to focus on the little ones knows the struggle of having to go back to work after maternity leave. Even if the maternity leave was only a couple of months long or if the time away took several years, it's never easy to simply get back into the work grind, especially while juggling a new baby.
These mothers all shared what they wish they could do differently on the first day back to work post-maternity leave. From mamas who admit they needed more (or even less) time than they got with the baby to those who regret being so anxious or hard on themselves, you’ll be surprised to hear what these women wish they could do-over.
If there’s anything all of these experiences have in common is that going back to work after maternity leave is anxiety-inducing and stressful. This is likely the first and longest time you’ve left your baby since giving birth. You might feel guilt over leaving your baby or worried that they’re being given the best care and attention possible.
The most important thing is to make sure you’re not being too hard on yourself. All that matters is that you’re trying your best and doing what’s right for your family!
20 Where’s That Smell Coming From?
Aspen* made a big mistake when she forgot to throw a dirty diaper out that was already a few days old!
“I use the same large purse for a diaper bag and my work bag. When I went back to work after my mat leave, I didn’t fully clean out the purse I guess. A few days earlier I’d changed a diaper and had nowhere to throw it, so I wrapped it up in toilet paper and stuffed it in the pocket of the bag.
I totally didn’t remember until I was in a meeting on the first day and my bag was stinking up the whole place! Thankfully my boss is a mom, too.”
19 Style Has High Standards
Liv* had a bad first day back at work when her boss criticized her post-baby outfit.
“I felt so insecure about my post-baby body on the first day back that I wore a dress that was three times too big and looked like a trapeze (I work in a high fashion store).
I was only on the floor for 20 minutes when my boss came up to me and said my outfit wasn't working and I’d need to change (in other words, it wasn’t stylish enough). She let me borrow some clothing from the store if I promised to purchase it later. I was so embarrassed.”
18 Coffee Can’t Solve Everything
Zahara* admits she regrets bringing everyone coffee and donuts on her first day back for the way they treated her!
“I was feeling really insecure about going back to work after my maternity leave because I worked with some pretty crazy people- like one lady told me I should have never gotten pregnant when I first announced!
Anyways, I decided to bring coffee and donuts for the office to try and re-introduce myself to everyone after my 8-month absence. What I thought would be a nice gesture turned into a debate over whether coffee is safe for breastfeeding moms.
I had like 6 co-workers trying to tell me why I was harming my baby by having a half and half!”
17 Words Can Cut Deep
Justine* admits she wishes she said something to her inappropriate co-workers who were making comments on her appearance the first day she came back from maternity leave.
“I had a few co-workers at my old job who would always make comments on my appearance (mostly unwanted compliments and advances).
But when I come back from mat leave, those compliments turned into insults. The same guys started telling me how much worse I look now that I’d put on so much weight. They kept asking me when I was going to get my ‘old’ and ‘better’ body back.
I finally reported them. But then my superior asked me why I waited so long. Truthfully I know I should have said something the first day I was back.”
16 This Isn’t The Babysitter’s Club
Cindy* said that hiring a teenager versus an experienced nanny to provide childcare was a wrong move, considering her boss gave her a pretty serious ultimatum.
“For my first day back to work, I decided to hire a local teen girl to babysit my toddler instead of a nanny (it was way cheaper). However, I should’ve gotten someone with more experience.
The girl was calling me every hour with different questions that should have been easy for her to answer. My boss told me I needed to get different childcare or he’d have to let me go.”
15 This Isn’t Tabloid Gossip
Michelle* regrets the way she addressed rumors at her office when she came back to work post-baby.
“Before I left for maternity leave, my co-workers were spreading rumors about who my baby’s father was (since I wasn’t married or seeing anyone seriously). It was actually a friend who was involved with the pregnancy. But someone I didn’t want to be with, though I didn’t think it was anyone’s business, so I never told.
I kind of regret it now, but I had a huge blow-up in the lunchroom my first day back from mat leave when I heard people continuing to speculate when I was right there! I told everyone off and threatened them with a libel lawsuit if they continued to talk about me.
Now all they say is I’m a huge drama queen.”
14 No Photo Ops, Please
Amber* says she felt insecure that she didn’t have any Instagram-worthy photos of her baby. So she flat-out told her co-workers ‘no’ when they asked if they could see pictures of the newborn.
“I’ve always been insecure about Instagram moms who have the perfect photos of their newborn babies and they always look good, too. I felt so bad that I could never get an attractive picture of my baby that I refused to show anyone photos when I went back to work.
After months of saying no, I’m pretty sure some co-workers thought I’d lied about the whole pregnancy.”
13 The Not-So-Anonymous Caller
Raelynn says that giving her toddler her work number was a big mistake in hindsight!
“I guess I was a bit overly anxious before leaving the toddler and newborn with my parents so I could go back to work… I gave the 3-year old my work number to call if he missed me at all.
I thought he’d call only once or twice, but he wouldn’t stop dialing the number the first week. Every hour I’d get a call- my parents couldn’t stop him, I think he memorized it! We ended up having to change my office number it got so bad.”
12 What Are You Looking At?
Gillian* regrets wearing a skimpy outfit to work on her first day back because (as you’ll see) things didn’t go as planned!
“I’m a waiter. Going back to work post-baby, I felt so self-conscious about my body because it wasn’t what it used to look like. I really thought my tips were going to be affected by it.
So, on the first day, I tried to distract from my weight gain by wearing a really revealing outfit. I showed off a ton of the goods. At one point, a table of all male customers kept looking at my chest, so I thought they were checking me out.
Then one of the hostesses pointed out I was leaking, and the low cut shirt made it more obvious. Guess I should have breastfed once more before work.”
11 If Only They Knew The Truth
Tanya* says she wishes she told off her co-workers who were saying unkind things about her after she returned from maternity leave.
“I work in a male dominated-industry. When I went back after my maternity leave, I got a lot of comments from male co-workers who thought I was being lazy for taking ‘so much’ time off.
What they didn’t know is that my daughter had complications at birth, so she spent some time in the hospital. That’s why they let me take extra time off. I wish I told off my co-workers on the first day so I didn’t have to listen to them.”
10 But Guys Can Do It
Odessa* says she regrets letting her mother’s mean words make her feel guilty about taking a short maternity leave.
“My mom really disagreed with me going back to work after only a few months. On my first day back, she actually sent me a text telling me what a horrible mom I was.
She was angry that I chose my boyfriend’s mom to watch her and not my own mom, but I did it to avoid this sort of drama.
I let her words affect me the rest of the day, and ruin how happy I was to be at work (and the great party everyone threw for me). Never let anyone make you feel guilty for wanting to work and be a mom. Guys can do it, so can you.”
9 Go With Your Gut
Jordan* admits that she was too burnt out after having her baby to go back to work when she did. She stressed herself out for months before going to her Doctor to see what was up.
“I should have listened to myself before going back. I was already so burnt out before having the baby. And maternity break is no real break, either. I was sleep deprived, stressed, and anxious. It took me months to see a doctor and get diagnosed with post-partum.
The first step to getting better? Taking more time off of work.”
8 All I Want To Do Is Sit
Aniya* admits she put too much on her plate on her first day post-maternity leave, and it sounds like she almost had a meltdown before the day was fully over.
“I took way too much on, even just on my first day back to work. I told my husband I was okay taking all three kids to school and daycare, getting myself ready for work, and then picking all the kids up and taking them to their grandparents later on my lunch break.
I hadn’t sat down in 9 hours when I picked them up again to take them back to our house. I knew right then that he’d have to pitch in a lot more.”
7 Someone Grab The Tissues
Hazel* says she didn’t make sure that her husband was prepared for her to go back to work after welcoming their baby.
“I didn’t make sure my husband was ready the first day I went back to work. He actually got super emotional the morning of when I was getting the baby ready for daycare. He started crying and telling me how we should have another baby to do this all over again… our son was only 6 months!
I think he liked me being home when he came home from work and keeping the house clean, organized, and full of food. Oh, and him not having to do much re: the baby.”
6 It Feels Good To Be Back
Lana* admits she knew her first day after maternity leave that she shouldn’t have taken so much of a break from work in the first place.
“I knew on the first day back that I honestly regretted taking so much time off. So much had changed in my office- old employees had moved on, we had different clients, and the office had a new routine.
I feel like I sacrificed way more of my career than my husband did is, simply because he thought me staying home was ‘better’ for the baby vs. a nanny.
I couldn’t have been happier to be back.”
5 Love Begins With Trust
Angie* says she wishes she had more faith in her husband when she went back to work.
“I didn’t trust my husband enough.
I was so worried he wasn’t going to be able to take care of the baby properly, I bribed my sister to visit my place while I was working. She said the baby was fine, but he knew what I’d done.
It caused a lot of issues in our relationship because I struggled to trust him. I’m still not completely comfortable leaving her alone with anyone for more than a few hours, even though she’s 3.”
4 I Was Trying To Avoid Home
Ireland* says she allowed her relationship problems to make her work overtime any chance she got so she’d be out of the house longer. Looking back, however, she realizes it meant she also gave up spending time with her baby.
“We’d been having relationship problems since the baby was born. Starting the first day I went back to work, I took every chance to stay at the office late just so I wouldn’t have to be around my now-ex.
But this meant that I sacrificed precious time with my son as a baby, which I’ll never get back.”
3 Mom Guilt Is A Real Thing
Whyler* says she wishes she didn’t let herself feel so guilty for going back to work after only a short maternity leave. It caused her so much anxiety that she had to get her doctor involved.
“My biggest regret is being so susceptible to mom guilt. I only took half a year off, and instantly questioned whether it was bad I was putting the baby into daycare at such a young age (or at all, even).
It made me so paranoid and anxious about going over it in my head so much that I eventually had to go on medication to help soothe myself.”
2 Set It To ‘Do Not Disturb’
Willow* admits she had a lot of anxiety the first day she left her baby to go back to work. Even though her boyfriend was taking care of their daughter, that didn’t stop her from calling the house one too many times.
“I was so nervous the first day I went back to work (my boyfriend was at home with the baby because he works nights)!
I called home like 20 times to see if she was all right… of course, she was every time. I actually got in trouble though for being on my phone so much. My manager had to take it away for the rest of my shift.”
1 Trying To Prove A Point
Karla* admits she didn’t want to end her maternity leave at all. So, when she inevitably went back to work, she had a meltdown on the first day because she felt so much regret over leaving her baby for the workday.
“I think I took on too much to handle just to prove something. My first day back at work, I started breaking down in the women’s washroom because I felt in over my head and just wanted to be home cuddling my baby.
I don’t think I wanted to end maternity leave at all. I just thought that’s what I was expected to do.”
*Names have been changed.