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Going back: What fears and hopes do mothers have before returning to the workplace?

Woman working at a desk holding a baby

From being there for your kids to coping with the stresses of working life, Mumsnet users share their thoughts on returning to work after having children

Above and beyond the important stuff like HR policies and procedures, mothers’ fears and hopes on returning from maternity leave are often focused squarely on themselves and on those closest to them. We dipped into some of the many thousands of Mumsnet conversations about returning to work to see if we could identify some common themes. So here are Mumsnet users’ hopes and fears about going back to work – in their own words.

Fears: When will I see my kids? How can I be there for them when I need to?

“I'm going back to work tomorrow after 16 months off with my daughter. I'm only going to be working three days a week, but they're long days (9am-7pm), and although I know she'll be well looked after by her grandparents, I'm still really anxious about whether I'm doing the right thing by her. I'm a bit of a wreck right now!”

“I'm starting to worry about leaving my son. What if the people I leave him with don't treat him well? I wonder if he'll miss me or end up resenting me working – or even care at all. I feel like I'm being a bad mother to him.”

“I am really enjoying the job itself, but being full time is quite intense and means that I don't see my daughter in the evenings much. I feel slightly worried that we're a bit more distanced! My husband says I'm being paranoid…”

“I am really worried about going back to work; my second youngest is in the process of being diagnosed with autism and I would like to make sure I’m around for him.”

Hopes: Getting back into the swing of things

Woman and baby on a latop together

“It will be good to get back into work and use my brain properly again.”

“Mostly I am looking forward to having something mentally challenging to do and earning my own money again (even if it will go on childcare!).”

“I am sort of dreading first few weeks back, but I know that I am a better person when I am working.”

“I am bored of being on maternity leave. I really like my job, and I'm always looking to progress in my career and take new challenges, so I am feeling really stuck.”

Fears: Can I cope with the stresses of working while caring for very young children?

“I am feeling really anxious about starting a new job and being able to do well PLUS be a good mum.”

“I'm really worried about not doing a good enough job if I've been up the previous night with my daughter and had no sleep. Or her going to nursery if she's not feeling too good. Or me not having enough motivation if I'm exhausted or missing her.”

“I’m going to leave home at 6.45am and get home at 6.45pm. I’m also a single mum. Sometimes energy drinks are the only answer!”

“I’ve got twins and I’m just wondering how I'm going to get me and two babies ready and out the door in time.”

Hopes: Children cope just fine having a mum who works out of the home

“I want to set my child an example in life and teach them about going to work.”

“You and your children will really appreciate the time you get to spend together.”

“I know whether my little boy is happy. And he is. Once you're back you'll know too (but give yourself a couple of months – it's normal to have a bit of a wobble at the beginning). There are no right answers.”

“The best thing about going to work is coming home to a child who is so happy to see you!”

Fears: Should I retrain or change my career? What else can I do?

“I’ve been training for seven years but I’m so anxious about the end of my maternity leave that I’m thinking about how I can use my skills in other ways. I am a hospital registrar, and the hours and stress are insane. Irregular shifts, nightshifts, on-site weekends every four weeks, and my on-call days are never the same, so it’s a nightmare for childcare.”

“I want to work from home, but I don’t want to sell cosmetics or do surveys or be a mystery shopper!”

Hopes: There’s nothing to fear but fear itself

“The thought of returning was worse than the reality. I suspect that the longer you have off, the harder it is to adjust. But you’ll get there.”

“Don't let anyone guilt trip you or make you feel like you're failing somehow. I'm certain that everyone in our little family is healthier, stronger and happier because I work. It will be hard at first, but it gets better and much quicker than you'd imagine.”

“Becoming a parent was my best decision ever, and keeping my job was the second best.”

Mumsnet is working with HRZone and Womba on a special family friendly month, to bring focus to issues around flexible working and returning to work after parental leave. Check out the rest of the materials here.

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