Stay At Home Mum, Return To Work, Or Something in-between?

Many mothers have thought long and hard about the changes, challenges and priorities of new life with a baby, and how this will impact on their decision to resume paid work.

While many mothers take maternity leave, and happily resume work with their employer, some don’t.

Other mums, have the intention of returning to work, but once their little bundle has arrived, re-think their whole work-home-raising-children-life-balance challenge, and opt for something more flexible.

And of course, there are mums who settle into life at home with their first child, and don’t want to think about work until many years later.

There are some mums who realise, that going back to their old job could be the worst possible decision for them. This may be due to the stressful nature of their work, their workload, or a boss who seems to lack empathy for their emotional wellbeing. While other mums are eager to re-enter the workforce so that their ‘adult mind’ can be stimulated, appreciated, and challenged in ways they haven’t been, for quite some time.

Whatever work you do, and however you manage to make this work, this is your choice.

And whatever choice you make, this is absolutely okay.

This choice reflects your needs – practically, emotionally, psychologically and/or spiritually.

It seems that there will always be the pull from certain employers to have their maternity-leave-mums return to work. These are the employers who value your output, your thinking, your contribution and your presence at work.

Yet, the pressure to resume work can come from other places, too. There’s the financial pressure – paying your mortgage or rent, raising a child, maintaining your lifestyle that you’ve grown to enjoy with your partner. Those holidays, remember?… Yep, they all cost money.

There’s also the pressure that many of us mums are so good at putting on ourselves. Our need to contribute, to be valued, to be recognised, to be the ‘adult’ we’ve put on hold, to use our skills and knowledge that we have worked so hard to build over the years. Questions may arise such as, “What would I do, if I let these skills fall by the wayside?”

The struggle with personal identity is also real for many mums. Questions like, Who am I, if I’m no longer an accountant, marketing consultant or PR guru? …How could I no longer be a Sales Executive; I have always been so driven and successful in my job?…And then there are questions that may follow…. What kind of role model am I being to my children, if I’m not going to work? What will others think of me?

The reality is, you are being the exact role model to your children that you choose to be.

And, day-care / school drop off’s and pick-up’s need to be co-ordinated, school lunches need to be made, laundry piles up, the house needs to be cleaned, then there’s homework, after school activities, dinner, and of course, maintaining our connection with our partner and family. There’s so much to do. So much to maintain, and so much time and planning that this all takes. Yet the hours in each day are limited. Hello, stress!

You are doing your best, with what you have, the support and resources available to you, and what you know.

You may be considering your financial needs, alongside of your emotional needs, and your higher-level ‘life purpose’ needs. None of this is simple, or straight-forward.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to life after baby.

What you do have, is freedom choose – each little option that presents itself to you, presents with a choice to be made – and to make this choice, you’ll likely be weighing up what will work best for you and your family.

Perhaps, what may be helpful is having a firm understanding of what your needs truly are – particularly the emotional and psychological needs that keep you happy and motivated. Equally important, is understanding what triggers stress for you (and learning how to minimise or avoid these things). Once you know these needs and stress triggers, decisions can become easier to make.

If you hold firm, your beliefs and values, then these can guide you – whether you choose to return to work, start your own business from home, or remain as a stay at home mum, a little longer. This is, wholeheartedly, your own big decision to make; one that many other empathic folk, will never judge you for making.


Wendy Gilroy is a Mother of 2, and a professional Counsellor for women. Wendy has a degree in Psychology, a Masters degree in Addiction Studies, and a Diploma of Counselling. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and offers secure ONLINE counselling for women around the world, as well as telephone, face-to-face and home visit services for  mums.

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Disclaimer: This is for information purposes only. If you have any concerns about your physical or mental health, please consult your healthcare practitioner for medical advice.