Coming back after having a baby is a time fraught with anxiety for many women. Women who return to work quickly tend to breastfeed less, experience more physical and emotional challenges, and feel more anxious than women who can take more time off to care for their newborn. Therefore, balancing career and earning needs with parenting decisions tends to be more difficult for new mothers than new fathers.
A 2012 study of over 2,800 American women found that 25 percent returned to work just two weeks after giving birth. Women with degrees were able to take more time off, according to the survey. Eighty percent of women with degrees took six or more weeks off after giving birth. Women with more education and more earning power are more likely to have paid maternity leave, according to the study. More than 1 in 5 of the top 10 percent of earners received paid family leave, compared to 1 in 20 in the bottom quartile. A recent U.K. survey found that 85 percent of working mothers felt that having children made it harder to advance their careers.
Maternity leave does not have to be an all or nothing proposition. Consider negotiating a part-time schedule that allows you to ease back into your role. And don’t forget that there are ways to remain connected while taking time off if you do decide on a long absence.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself if it takes you time to adjust. For instance, you may be feeling emotional about leaving your child. Do give yourself some private time to master your emotions if you need to. You may be feeling fuzzy from sleep deprivation or the physical effects of childbirth, so put some systems in place to double-check your work and your decisions.
The decision when, or whether, to return to work is a very personal one for most women. If you can find a way to return that works for you and your family, you’re more likely to retain your earning power and promotion potential. It may be challenging to return now, but many women find it much more difficult to come back after an absence of several years.
Find colleagues who are also parents and ask them for advice. You’ll find plenty of wisdom and support from people who have been there and done that, and have the formula stains to prove it.