Go Back to Work -- Or Not -- Without the Guilt

Shanell Mouland
July 7, 2017

Whether you spend your days working as a stay-at-home mom or you raise your children while managing your career, here's how to feel great about your decision.


Your maternity leave is drawing to a close, and you're faced with a tough decision. Do you go back to work or stay at home with your baby? For months, you've dreaded this moment. You've considered the options, but you feel guilty either way. You want to stay home and soak up every moment with your baby, but you're not ready to put your career on hold -- and frankly, another paycheck will come in handy.

"Just about every parent who returns to work after leave feels some kind of guilt about leaving their new baby in the care of others while at the office," says Susan Wenner Jackson, co-founder of Working Moms Against Guilt. And even parents who stay at home to care for their baby can feel guilt about foregoing previously flourishing careers. Though it can seem like a no-win situation, there are ways to cope with the guilt that comes from making either decision.

  • Banish the Anxiety
    Does the thought of leaving your baby at home with a caregiver make you anxious? That's a normal feeling to have, but it's important to remember that it will get better over time. You know that your first week back to work will be full of worries and panic moments, but remind yourself that your baby is in capable hands. Once you've gotten a week under your belt and the baby is just fine, you'll feel better about your decision.

    Alternatively, if you've chosen to stay at home, don't feel like you've completely thrown in the towel on your career. Having a newborn is temporary, and you can choose to return to the workforce when the time is right for you. You can ease your way back into your career by working as a freelancer or consultant in your industry. You can fit in around your downtime (the little that you have) and it keeps your work skills fresh.

    For tips on nixing the anxiety, read Getting Over the Guilt
  • Talk About Your Decision
    Sometimes talking it out can help you organize your thoughts. Talk to your partner about what the pros and cons are for the family, factoring in financial and emotional considerations. The financial impact of your decision will be a big talking point, so go over your budget and factor in any new expenses (or savings) that arise from being at home or paying for child care.

    You can also bounce your thoughts off other parent friends who've been in both situations before. Be sure to ask questions about a typical day and what changes they've made to be productive, either at home or in the office. According to Wenner Jackson, "Just seeing how things got better for others can ease any negative feelings. The more you tell yourself it's normal, healthy and positive to work or not to work, the less guilt you'll feel."
  • Be Confident in Your Choice
    Everyone may have an opinion and that's okay. Maybe your friends can't fathom the idea of not staying home with baby, and maybe your co-workers are shocked you're even debating not coming back into the game. Though some may question your decision, it's important to stay focused on your family's unique needs. "Sometimes parents enjoy their jobs, but worry that others will think they're choosing work over their own children," says Aviva Pflock, co-author of "Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids." Likewise, parents enjoy devoting their time to their families and worry that others think they're abandoning their careers. Block out the naysayers -- you've come to your decision after months of careful consideration and are doing what's best for your family.

Being a parent is a tough job, and you're doing great! Whether you go back to work or stay at home with your baby, remember that your choice is right for you and your growing family.

Shanell Mouland writes for Huffington Post as well as her own blog, which is dedicated to telling stories of the care and raising of her autistic daughter, Kate, and her super sibling, Grace.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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