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Ask the Experts: Deciding when to return to work Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts: Deciding when to return to work

I planned to stay home for a full year after my son was born. But he’s only 3 months old, and I already find myself daydreaming about returning to work. I love my baby, but honestly, I’m bored and suffering serious mom-guilt as a result. What should I do?

A: First, kudos to you for being honest about your experiences and seeking support— because the “mom guilt” you mentioned can be brutal! Please know that you’re not alone. Making a transition from career to full-time stay-at-home mom is significant. Plus, the demands of motherhood are much different than the demands of the workplace. No one is going to send a memo acknowledging your fantastic diaper-changing skills or latest naptime win, working lunches are now measured in ounces, and business-casual means you might wear your pajamas for 36 hours straight. So, it’s not surprising that you miss your job, especially if you truly enjoyed your workplace. Keep in mind that this has nothing to do with how much you love your baby or your role as a mother. It just means that you’re longing for time to be the person you were before you gave birth. It means you’re human, and there’s no guilt in that.

In order to make a decision regarding your career, it may help to list out exactly what you miss about working. If the things you note are specific to your career, such as time spent on projects or using your skills and training, then you might seriously consider finding a way to transition back ahead of schedule. Seeking out opportunities for part-time or contract work is a great way to start. This gives you more flexibility and allows you to practice balancing work and home life before diving in headfirst and having remorse about being away from your baby.

On the other hand, if the list you made contains things that relate to self-care and socialization (think grown-up conversation; never wearing the same thing two days in a row; or hours on end without reference to burps, bowel movements or spit-up), then your daydreams might be urging you to take more time for yourself. Try to prioritize catching up with friends. Give yourself permission to find and use a babysitter, so you can do things you enjoy. And set aside 10 minutes a day to do something that’s important to you—whether it’s a few yoga poses or simply making sure your shoes match before you leave the house.

The bottom line is that a child’s well-being is connected to mom’s well-being. You’re feeling unfulfilled, and it’s important to take care of yourself by finding balance. Trust me, this is the best way you can take care of baby … guilt-free!

—Stephanie O’Leary, PsyD, clinical psychologist and author of Parenting in the Real World