Returning to Work with an Infant

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Returning to work - Coping with separation from baby

February 2003

Due to unforeseen (and lucky) circumstances, I've been able to stay at home with my now 10-month old. However, I'm soon to return to work full time. (Part time is simply not a viable option.) While I'm generally a strong, rational, not overly emotional person, I am certain that I'll be wholly grief- stricken upon separating from the baby. Any good books out there for coping with such grief? It's not guilt or juggling schedules that is my concern. It's simply finding a way to endure being apart from the baby as it has been such a honeymoon. Thanks in advance.
An anxious mom

I feel for you - I'm just back to work after my second, and with my first I stayed home til he was almost a year. It did feel as though a part of me was missing when I was away from him. What helped me was knowing that he was in good hands, he was with another child (we shared a nanny), it was part of the growing process, and for good or bad, humans can adjust to just about anything. It is a grieving process - and they all take time. Do allow for tears and hopefully you can have the option of starting at part-time, or at least leave early a day or two a week to help you with the process, rather than jumping in the deep end.

My son is almost 4, and socially comfortable in a way I never was, very affectionate, empathetic, and very attached to both his parents. Best of luck. Helen
I had pretty severe anxiety about going back to work, to the point that I had many negative fantasies about terrible things happening to me or to my baby. I would worry all day, and cry on BART to and from work. This lasted about six weeks. It got better over time and with help from a therapist. A co-worker had a baby a few months after me, and she had a hard time for the first six weeks as well. (crying, worrying, etc. although not as bad as I had it) I think the key is to expect a tough transition, and to get help if you need it. (Go part time at first, get a therapist, join a support group, call your child's caretaker several times a day if you need to) and then really listen to your heart. If you try it for some time and really give it a chance, and you still don't feel right about it, then find an alternative. After a couple months I felt really comfortable leaving my baby to work full time outside the home. And now I'm gearing up to do the same with number two, although, who knows? You just have to take it one day at a time.
I am quite sure that sooo many mommy's and daddy's on this list that know exactly how you feel! Doesn't make it any easier to handle right now, but I can promise you'll be ok. I, like you was lucky enough to stay home with my little girl for the first 6 months of her life, and going back to work to a career I love was very difficult. I'll never forget the first day we picked her up from her babysitter's house, and I got her home and changed her little diaper I started crying because she was wearing a diaper that I didn't put on her!! gets easier. Especially if you know they are being cared for in a way that is with love. I miss my little one all the time (lot's of pictures on my desk helps), but I know she is having fun where she is and loves playing with her 2 little friends. Picking her up is a joy each day. I don't know of any books you can read, hopefully other posts will help with that. I've also known people that have gone back to work after having kids, just couldn't do it, and quit!

My best to you!
a mommy who misses my baby!
Congratulations on having been able to spend the time you have had with your baby. I returned to work full-time when my daughter was 6 months old, and was amazed at how much I missed her, since, like you, I felt that I was not an overly emotional person. I dealt with those feelings in two ways: I made sure that I really loved the job I was going back to (and found I didn't, and so I found a new job almost immediately), and I made sure that I completely trusted the daycare my daughter went to, and called whenever I needed to to check up. The daycare (a small home-based daycare) understood and I was constantly reassured. But the most important issue was that I loved the job I went back to. That reassured me that I was doing the right thing for me, which made the time I spent with my daughter all the more pleasant, since I was happy. Good luck.
A happy mother and full-time employee
I just wanted to tell you my story with returning to work maybe it helps you. I went back to work when my first baby was 6 weeks old. We needed both incomes because we had a lot of credit card debt. I worked full time at the time from 6 am to 7 pm because I was on a 10 hour day in order to have every Friday off. I decided that I wanted to stay home so I concentrated on trying to make it financially feasible. I paid off credit card with half of my paycheck and in a year I only had one left. Then we cut down expense (it also helped that my husband got a raise). It can be done. However, you have to be very organized and responsible with your finances. My first baby is now 4 years and I have a 4 month baby and have not/will not go back to work until they are in school. I do odd jobs like at my gym to get a free membership. Good luck
I did not expect it to be this way at all, but I actually found that it was great to get back to work after a six-month maternity leave. Before I went back I dreaded the separation from my daughter but it turned out not to be so hard. For me, there was huge satisfaction in getting back to the kind of purposeful activity that was my whole life before I had a baby. I really needed that sense of accomplishment and productivity. Of course, taking care of a child is purposeful, productive, and an accomplishment, but it's of a totally different nature that what I get from my job. I'm overjoyed to see my daughter at the end of the day and I love weekends and holidays and vacations with her, but I don't usually miss her during a normal workweek.

As other posters have said, it helped tremendously that I trusted the folks at her daycare center and saw that she was happy there. I learned a lot from those caregivers, believe me. The acquaintance with all the other parents at daycare who were saying goodbye to their babies and going off to work and picking them up again at the end of the day also helped. I can also see many ways in which my daughter has benefited from going to daycare (and now preschool). My point I guess is that the work-day separation may indeed turn out to be difficult to cope with, but it also may be a lot easier than you expect. Good luck!
Happy working mom

Difficulty of Returning to Work

June 1999

I returned to work when my baby was 3 mos old. I wasn't ready to leave her yet, but there wasn't much choice if I wanted to keep my job. As it was, I was forced to give up one of my two part time positions, because I couldn't find childcare on the right day of the week (!) to allow me to attend the meetings for that department. This reduced me from 75% before the baby was born, to 50% after, an additional strain on our budget. But in the end, everything was perfect. I didn't start looking for childcare early enough (start more than 2 mos in advance!), so the first month my daughter spent in what we jokingly referred to as training wheels daycare-- for her and for us! She spent a couple weeks with her grandmother (who was happy to be asked to make the trip out to help), and a couple weeks with another friend of ours who lives near campus and had a flexible schedule at the time. This gave us all a chance to get used to the idea of being apart. At four months she entered Cedar Street Childcare (on Cedar between Oxford and Shattuck--549-3989), where she has remained ever since. In both cases I was able to walk or drive a couple of minutes to her to nurse her at lunch. This was a real advantage, and saved me from having to pump as much, too. Cedar Street has been great--they have very flexible hours, so you don't have to pay for early mornings if you don't arrive till after 9, for instance. And the cost is quite reasonable, although they recently raised their rates some for the first time in over 5 years. The shift from 75% to 50% was tough at first, but my husband got a new job shortly thereafter, and the money became less of an issue. And I have really enjoyed the split of time between home and work. I have plenty of time to spend with my daughter (we can go to the park, and take music class together), but I get plenty of time in the company of adults as well. All in all, it worked out perfectly for us. I wish everyone else such a happy ending to their search.

I went back to work with a 3-month old just about a year ago, and it was indeed difficult, but it's amazing how quickly one comes to terms with it if other options are not realistic. Most important: you MUST like and trust your childcare provider. It also helped me to know that I was geographically close to my child, even if I didn't go over to see him all that often during the day. My 14-month-old is happy, develops apace with other children his age (or even a bit better), loves me and his dad, loves his caretaker, likes the social interaction and never went through a stranger anxiety phase (or at least not yet.) Hang in there, it'll be fine.

Is there any way you could go back part time even for a few months? I did part time for 3 months after going back when my son was 8 weeks old. I also took him with me to work some of the time. both strategies helped to ease the heartbreak a bit. I also had family members, including my partner, caring for him when I wasn't there and bringing him to me to nurse--that helped a lot too. It's pretty hard at first, but it does get better. Human beings (babies AND grown-ups) are so adaptable when you get right down to it! I'd be happy to talk about how it was if you want to call. There must be support groups out there too--Neighborhood Moms?

I have two children, a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and I have arranged to work 90%. I take Wednesdays off so my kids are in day care Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This breaks up their time in day care to just two days in a row. I work at home four hours per week via a computer and modem provided by my department, (or I do paper work). I tried working full time. We all lasted about three months. We were all miserable since I never had time to do anything with the kids because my weekends were spent on household chores. The extra day at home makes a huge difference to all of us!

I've recently returned to work (this is my third week), leaving my 9 week-old son, who is my first child. Naturally, I was a wreck anticipating this moment but the transition went much smoother that I thought it would. THe key for me was having reliable child care for my son. In our case, that meant having a nanny in our home. As I left the house for work that first day, I had a great sense of comfort and felt that he was in great hands. As my husband reminded me he (my son) will be much better off than you, as he's in his own home in the care of a trustworthy, very loving caregiver whereas I have to deal with the emotions of leaving him. The first couple of days were a bit tough, but I was able to go home over my lunchtime and feed him. This made this easier, too and by the end of the first week I felt totally comfortable with the situation. The other key was having a friend who'd been through this that could help me. A friend at work was great when I had moments of guilt/regret or whatever. She reminded me that it gets easier with time and lended an ear when needed. Good luck.

One thing that worked for me when I returned to work when my first child was 2 months old was to work 1/2 time the first month, just to soften the shock (to me, not the baby, who was fine with a loving babysitter). Because it was very short term, it was acceptable to my employer, and not too bad financially. Then I worked out a schedule where I came in quite early. Since the baby ususally woke me up around 5:30 or 6:00 to breastfeed, I just got up and went to work afterward (which is what I do now, with my second child as well) and then I could come home that much earlier in the day and have some time to play and go places before dinnertime, which feels so much better than returning just in time for the dinner hour frenzy. Also, I arranged to take some work home, an hour's worth or so for the evening or a couple of hours' worth for the weekend, which would free me to come home even earlier on certain days when this arrangement was workable. This extra afternoon time has been really valuable for my older child after the second one was born. Good luck!