Feeling guilty going back to work? Ways to cope

You wouldn’t be human not to have a few twinges of guilt when leaving baby for the first time to return to work. There are ways to make it easier

Managing guilt of returning to work after having a baby

Guilt management after maternity leave ends

Mum at laptop working

Going back to work after maternity leave can be tough. Leaving your baby with a childminder or even a family member can be heart-wrenching - especially if you’ve had several months off and have spent most of that time in each other’s company. Your baby may not be used to other carers and there’s nothing worse than floods of tears as you head off on the train to the office (theirs or yours!)

As well as the exhaustion, organisation and costs of going back to work - and the logistics of childcare - the guilt factor feel like the toughest. Sometimes you feel like you’ve not spent enough time with them and you go to bed thinking - could I have done more?

Working parents often complain that the evenings are spent cooking, cleaning, getting organised for the next day and trying to get everyone to bed. It can be overwhelming. You need to learn to manage your time carefully so that neither you nor baby feels neglected in the midst of the new routine.

And when the guilt strikes - and it will - bear in mind that it’s quality of time that matters more than quantity. Work doesn’t mean your baby has to miss out - as long as they feel loved, there’s no need to be consumed in guilt.

Here are some tips for a guilt-lowering return to the workplace.

1. Preparation is key: Do a trial run before you go back and try out the creche or childminder. See how baby gets on and if there are glitches you can work on them for the next time. Work out how long the journey takes in rush hour and ensure you have a back-up minder available just in case of illness.

2. Make life easier: Don’t stress about housework when you get in from work. Try and have dinner sorted (slow cooker, or batch-cook in advance and freeze). Sit down with your little one - they’ll be too young for you to ask how their day went but you can get into the routine of having a cuddle together after a long day and as they get older you can chat about the daily happenings.

3. Don’t beat yourself up: If you have to work to pay the bills and mortgage, then that’s the way it is. Your baby won’t resent you or hate you for it, as long as they feel loved and appreciated, they will develop and thrive. 

4. Organise fun stuff for the weekend - a walk in the park, a trip somewhere. It doesn’t have to be expensive. A picnic or feeding the ducks gets you out and about for quality time.

5. Ask for help: If a friend/mother/mother-in-law/partner offers to do something to help – e.g mow the lawn, make a meal, give you a night out, accept, accept, accept. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s easy to want to control everything but recognise your limitations - and see the guilt factor fall as you delegate tasks and accept favours.

6. Put down your phone/iPad/gadgets when you get in in the evening. Don’t check work emails or chat to friends on social media the minute you get in. Spend one-to-one time with your little one - they may be testy and tired but a cuddle will do wonders. After all, who doesn’t need one of those?

7. Rest when you can: It goes without saying but we all need our sleep. With a good night’s rest, we can’t tackle the following day with greater ease. Babies can be night owls and that doesn’t mix well with returning to work. Exhaustion can make the guilt factor worse, so try and get some early nights. The old adage of rest when the baby sleeps has some merit. Nobody will blame you for heading upstairs after the soaps!

8. Talk to other parents: Friends who are also working parents are invaluable when you’re experiencing guilt - because they will understand exactly how you feel. Having a cuppa and a moan about your boss could be just what the doctor ordered - a problem shared and all that.

Feeling guilty going back to work? Ways to cope