When Christine Sivak returned to work after her three-month maternity leave, her overriding feeling was guilt.
"I was truly torn," Sivak says. "I had a job I really liked and wanted to get back to, but at the same time I had a little person who needed me that I wanted to
So she grudgingly went back to work at KeyBank in downtown Cleveland. She told herself she'd give it a try for two full weeks before making a decision about whether to stick with it.
"At first, it was really hard. I cried every day driving to work," she remembers, "and I called the daycare constantly to check in on Nathan. But it did get better."
By the end of the two weeks, Christine and Nathan were both doing fine. In fact, they were actually quite happy. "I realized he was having fun with the other babies and he really seemed to like being with the teachers," Sivak says. "And I was having fun, too."
What did Sivak do right? A lot of it had to do with choosing child care with which she was comfortable. "The right child care can keep both moms and babies happy through this difficult transition," says Dr. Lilian Gonsalves, vice chair of the department of psychiatry and psychology at The Cleveland Clinic. "Also, be sure to get your partner and family involved in all aspects of making the situation work," she adds. This includes help with household chores and transportation. "Don't try to do it all yourself."
At work, Gonsalves says new mothers may have to be prepared to work fewer hours and have a more flexible schedule than before the baby. "This may cause some new moms to relax their ambition for a while," she notes, "which should be easy, as you've already relaxed your social life and your need for uninterrupted sleep."
"Many moms who go back to work have guilt feelings about missing out on milestones," observes Mary Ann Hassing, a registered nurse at Parma Community Hospital. "They feel emotional, overwhelmed and anxious."
To overcome those feelings, Hassing suggests checking in with daycare regularly and asking detailed questions about what the baby is doing there. She also recommends that new moms bring photos and a baby item to keep close by at
When you find yourself really struggling, talk to other moms who are in the same situation. Though your time for networking will be limited, even a phone friend who understands what you're going through can be extremely helpful.
If you're just not ready to leave your baby after the standard three-month maternity leave, consider extending your leave by adding family medical leave. The extension could provide an additional three months to a year. "After the extended leave, a new mom might feel more ready to return to work." Gonsalves says.
"This can be a happy, fulfilling situation for everyone," Sivak says. "It never really gets easy, but it does get easier. Just give it a little time."